3 Guitar Hacks You Need Today

Guitar hacks

Learning guitar is challenging for everyone. Many players take up the guitar with high hopes only to quit after a brief period of struggle and disappointment.

Apparently nothing worth having is ever easy to get, and that applies to guitar skills. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t make our lives easier with a few time-saving guitar hacks.

Below you’ll find my top 3 guitar hacks for anyone who wants to improve fast. If you take some of these hacks to heart, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration and wasted effort.

1) Play Slowly

playing slowly is a great guitar hack

Slow playing is the ultimate guitar hack, the hack of all hacks. It enables you to to practice with almost superhuman accuracy and sensitivity. When you play a piece of music slowly, you build a foundation for speed down the road. That’s why, counterintuitive as it seems, the slower you play, the faster you’ll improve.

If you read books on learning guitar or other guitar blogs, you’ll find that most of them advocate slow playing, especially when you’re learning a new piece of music. Unfortunately, they tend to only mention slow playing in passing, as though it were an insignificant suggestion. My view is that slow playing is singularly important. It’s basically the most powerful guitar-learning tool at your disposal.

But it’s hard to see the value of slow playing up front. Anyone who watches guitarists online will see a ton of fast playing and basically no slow playing. This creates the idea that everyone who’s any good can play fast, or can even play fast right away. Of course, what goes on behind the scenes doesn’t make it into the video, and for all great players, that usually includes a lot of slow practice.

How slow is slow? You don’t find it on the metronome. “Slow” is the speed at which you can play without mistakes and with total comfort. Basically, if you’re making mistakes or feel rushed in any way, you’re going too fast. Pretend you’re performing in slow motion and aim for accuracy and musicality. That, in a nutshell, is the ultimate guitar hack.

When Should You Play Slowly?


The short answer is, as often as possible. Most guitarists agree that the best time for slow playing is when you’re learning a new piece. If you’re just getting your fingers used to a new sequence, there’s nothing more valuable than slow, accurate motions. You’ll learn new music much faster using this method than any other.

However, I believe you should also play slowly when you’re playing music you already know. This will help you improve both technically and musically, making your performances feel more secure and effortless. Even simple exercises such as scales should be played slowly, at least at first, in order to develop a basis for controlled speed.

You might think of slow playing as the guitar equivalent of eating your vegetables. It’s not easy to do, but it sure is good for you!

2) Practice Mentally

mental practice is a guitar hack

Mental practice is another great guitar hack. You might be surprised to realize not only that mental practice works, but that it’s often just as effective as physical practice. I even wrote a full post dedicated to it right here.

Essentially, we can consider any type of practice you do away from the guitar to be mental practice. This means that we can practice on the go, away from the guitar. It also means that we can continue to improve as guitarists while we rest our fingers.

Types of Mental Practice


The easiest type of mental practice is something you probably already do: listening to the music you’re hoping to learn. Repeated and focused listening will help you form a detailed mental conception of how your playing should sound. Once you form that conception, you’ll be driven to recreate those sounds in the practice room.

Another key type of mental practice is studying scores away from the guitar. You just take any sort of notation you’re using, be it chord progressions, tabs, lyrics, or sheet music, and read through it a few times. Inevitably, you’ll notice all sorts of things you tend to miss when you’re sitting with the guitar. This practice can also help you memorize music more quickly.

The final type of mental practice I’ll mention here is visualization. Basically, you should try to imagine yourself playing through the music you’re learning. If you can mentally “play through” the entire thing, great! If not, don’t be afraid to visualize section by section. You can do this with or without the notation in hand depending on your comfort level.

If you’re like me, you’ll discover that there’s less of a difference (in terms of the end result) between mental and physical practice than you may think! For more information on the surprising effectiveness of mental practice, check out this article.

3) Learn Fearlessly

learn guitar fearlessly

I think we’re all somewhat afraid of things we don’t know. We’d usually rather avoid something that seems challenging than confront it and work on it. With that in mind, the last hack I’ll mention is to systematically remove your guitar-related fears.

In a sense, this is just another form of mental practice, but a less well-defined one. Conquering your fears takes both emotional and intellectual work. It sounds hard and it is.

I think all of us, no matter our level of talent or experience, find some aspects of guitar playing to be a little scary. For many players, it’s practicing barre chords. For others, it’s learning music theory. For still others, it’s improvisation.

Obviously no one person can know everything, but my point is that we all need to consider what fears are holding back our development and address them. I’ve found that the more you know about something, the less intimidating it usually is.

Adjust Your Attitude


One approach you might find helpful is to try to shift your attitude little by little. For instance, if you generally think of ear training as discouraging or hopeless, you might try to see it as a fun game.

Generally speaking, you want to replace negative narratives (“I’ll never learn this,” “I’m not a natural like Lucy,” “Why am I so bad?”) with positive ones (“I’ll get this in time,” “If Lucy can do it, so can I!” “One step at a time.”)

At the end of the day, the fear and pessimism you’re fighting will give way to courage and optimism. Anything you give attention to will become easier in time, so just try to stay hopeful and trust the process.

The less you fear, the more you can learn. And if you’re ready to amp up your studying, head to my recommendations page for great learning materials!


Guitar isn’t an easy instrument, but it can definitely be made easier or harder depending on your learning method. I hope these 3 guitar hacks give you more direction in your practicing routine.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to try to implement all 3 guitar hacks at once. I want you to feel empowered rather than overwhelmed. Plus, these ideas, assuming any of them are new to you, will take time to digest.

I’d suggest you start by slowing down your playing whenever something feels difficult. An added bonus of slow playing is that your practice sessions will feel more peaceful, and you might even frame them as a kind of meditation.

Good luck with you playing!

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