How Often Should Guitarists Practice? | Best Advice For All Levels

how often guitarists should practice

We guitarists spend a lot of time wondering how much practice is truly enough. No matter how much time we put in, we always hear about someone who plays more. Are they practicing too much? Are we not practicing enough? It’s easy to get a little anxious.

On the one hand, any routine that involves consistent practice is totally respectable. It’s not easy to keep up a practice routine; they say most new guitarists quit within a year.

On the other hand, we often hear stories of how so-and-so master player used to practice 4 hours a day or more! Most of us don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to the guitar. But even if we could set aside those hours, is it really necessary to do so?

I’d say it all depends on you. Take a moment to ask yourself who you want to be as a guitarist. If you’re mainly playing guitar to accompany yourself as a vocalist, you can get away with less than an hour a day. If you’re looking to become a world-class player, you’ll need to put in more time.

Exactly how much time you’ll need depends largely on the quality of your practice.

Consistency and Quality Are Key

it's best to practice guitar frequently and in shorter sessions

All told, no matter what your level, you should strive for consistency and quality. If you have 20 minutes of high-quality practice every day, you’ll be way better off than someone who messes around for three hours once a week.

Also, given what I noted about how many beginner guitarists end up quitting soon after they start, you should do your best to stay on the ball.

In the long run, you’re definitely better off playing a little bit every day for years rather than 2 hours a day for six months and then giving up. Do everything in your power to stay with it! You’ll face adversity, but that’s totally normal (and necessary).

If you’re considering giving up the guitar, or you feel like you’re in a rut, be sure to check out this post. I hope it helps!

With all of that said, let’s break down my recommendations across a few different contexts. However, instead of giving you my thoughts based on experience alone (e.g., beginner, intermediate, advanced), I’m also going to factor who they might be as a guitarist.

Which is to say, I wouldn’t advise all beginners to practice the same amount of time every day (or in the same way).

Suppose one beginning player was looking to accompany singers around the campfire, while another was hoping to learn challenging fingerstyle guitar solos. Obviously, the latter player ought to adopt a more rigorous routine than the former right from the start.

How Do You Know What's Realistic for You?

Many beginners on the guitar, especially adult beginners, believe that their potential is fundamentally limited. They’ll often lament that they only picked up the guitar at 60, instead of being taught as a child. Therefore, they don’t believe they can “catch up.” Well, I’m here to say that narrative is absolutely untrue!

You can definitely pick up the guitar at 60 and become an excellent player. You can do the same at 20, 40, or 70. Basically, as long as you’re physically capable of playing the guitar and you have at least a year to practice, you can get to a very high level.

I’ve seen a number of guitarists write about how you can’t learn this or that in less than five or ten years, but I say that’s nonsense. The 10,000-hour idea has become a popular myth of our time. It’s simplistic and wrong. I believe quality determines quantity, not the other way around. Practice well, and what you do in 1 hour will be worth another guitarist’s 10 hours.

I know from personal experience that guitarists can improve by leaps and bounds if they have a good method and put in the time. In other words, don’t underestimate your potential. Don’t settle for being average when you could be phenomenal. The sky’s the limit!

In short, what’s realistic for you depends on your perspective and dedication, not your age. For more discussion on this topic, check out this wonderful essay written by the great classical guitarist Ricardo Iznaola.

Practice Recommendations

Let’s examine a few different kinds of players and how they should practice. I won’t pretend to be exhaustive here, but I will try to cover a lot of ground. Even if you don’t see yourself represented, I hope you pick up some useful ideas along the way.

1) Beginner Guitarist Lacking Direction

how often should beginner guitarists practice

This player has just started learning (or relearning) guitar, and they don’t know what they’re hoping to achieve.

Maybe they really like a few famous guitarists, but they don’t think they have a chance of getting to a high level. They probably don’t see themselves as “natural” musicians. Unfortunately, this kind of player is likely to quit before long if they’re not careful.

I would tell this player to take it slow and try to enjoy the process. They should be working on (or toward) music they love, rather than anything that feels like a chore.

I think they should put in a little bit of time every day, but not push too hard. Even 15 minutes to 30 minutes is infinitely better than 0 minutes.

Above all else, they should focus on building a connection with the guitar. They should learn first and foremost to love playing music, and to love the feel of their instrument.

Once that connection is established, it will be easier for them to put in more time, and to develop their own personal goals. Here’s a post I wrote recently that should be useful for this type of guitarist.

2) Beginner Guitarist with High Hopes

what ambitious beginner guitarists need to know

This type of player is close to my heart, because I was in this position not long ago.

More than anything, this guitarist is characterized by a strong desire to improve. They’re hungry. They want to improve quickly, and they’ll do what it takes to make that happen. Normally, this player has a clear vision of what they’d eventually like to play on the guitar.

Here’s what I wish I had heard 3 years ago:

  1. You CAN become an excellent player. You won’t believe this right away, but as you learn to believe it, your playing will improve. Progress on the guitar follows learning to believe in your potential, not the other way around.
  2. Play slowly. The slower you go, the faster you’ll improve. When in doubt, slow it down. This is the golden rule of guitar progress.
  3. Start sight-reading daily. Aim for multiple sessions every day, or about half your total practice time. Info on sight-reading here!
  4. Drill your technique daily. This should occupy the other half of your practice time. Work on each hand separately.
  5. Mental practice works. You should incorporate it right from the start. Refer to my post on mental practice for help.

I won’t say this routine isn’t demanding. However, I certainly wish I had encountered this information earlier, and I want to give others that opportunity. Timewise, I’d say this player should aim to put in 1-4 hours a day. They should split their practicing into short sessions, no more than 20 minutes at first, and ideally more like 10-15 minutes.

If they play slowly and focus on sight-reading and technique work, they won’t need to play more than 1-2 hours a day to see tremendous results in a few months.

3) Stagnant Intermediate Guitarist

3) Stagnant Intermediate Guitarist

I believe a good majority of guitarists out there fit somewhere within this category. They’re not beginners (even if they’re not playing difficult music, they have good technique and plenty of experience). However, they’re also not advanced players.

Often, this type of guitarist isn’t comfortable on the higher register of the neck. They know all the chords they should know (A, C, G, D, etc.) but they might not be able to fret a less common chord, such as B-flat major. Maybe their knowledge of music theory is somewhat spotty. In many cases, they have a few songs they’re comfortable playing, but don’t necessarily take to new material very quickly.

I don’t want to ignore the fact that there are many degrees between beginner and advanced. Yet, I think all mid-level guitarists have a lot in common.

So, how should the stagnant intermediate guitarist practice? I’d say they should challenge themselves a bit more. They might try putting in more time, or setting an ambitious goal like playing every day for a year. I’d also have them mix up the way they practice.

If they normally work on chord changes during practice, then maybe it’s time to learn some scales. If they usually play popular music, then maybe they should jazz it up some by adding some seventh chords or learning to improvise.

Online guitar courses can also be great, and if you’re not taking lessons, whether online or in person, then maybe you ought to start!

How Much Time Should Intermediate Players Put In?


If any guitarist is determined to improve quickly, I think they should aim for at least 1 hour every day. 

That hour should be broken into multiple sessions: at least 2, but ideally more like 4 throughout the day. They should keep their playing slow, and never go faster than the speed of total ease and accuracy.

Bear in mind, this recommendation is for 1 hour of practice, not 1 hour of playing. Undisciplined playing does not count as practice! If you mindlessly play through your repertoire for two and a half hours, you’ve practiced zero hours.

That may seem harsh to you, but if you need to be honest with yourself about the quality of your practice if you want to see real improvement. Quality practice is focused on solving problems (isolating a difficult section or chord change), learning new material, or carefully improving upon old material.

Believe me, I made this mistake more than anyone. The unfortunate truth is that not all playing leads to improvement. If you repeat poor playing, you’ll only “get good” at making the same mistakes.

4) High-Intermediate, Wind-at-Their-Back Guitarist

4) High-Intermediate, Wind-at-Their-Back Guitarist

This kind of guitarist has been playing for a long time, probably years. They love the guitar and they know how to practice properly. In many cases, they’re already performing or starting to teach beginner lessons.

More than anything else, the high-intermediate guitarist needs to keep pressing forward. Stagnation is always a danger, and that applies to all areas of our lives, not just guitar.

We want to be comfortable; we like our routines. If I were teaching a guitarist at this level, I would figure out exactly what they were most afraid to do, and make them do just that.

They don’t do much sight-reading? Well, I’d encourage them to change that. They’re great at hammer-ons but can’t sound a decent harmonic? Then I’d say it’s time to work on the latter. I think you get the idea.

To really push into the advanced level, I think this player needs to attack their weaknesses. Everyone has them, but few of us address them.

I would suggest that you see your weaknesses as future points of strength, not as natural deficiencies. For example, if you’re a poor improviser, I’m willing to bet anything that you don’t spend a lot of time improvising.

How much time this player puts in completely depends on them. If they practice well, they shouldn’t need more than 2 hours a day. They should be looking to maintain their technique while breaking new ground.

5) Advanced Guitarists and Beyond

advanced guitarists are on a totally different level with their practice routines

These guitarists don’t need practice advice. By this point, they have an established practice routine that works for them, and probably a lot of experience sharing their music with others.

I think the time they put in totally varies by style of guitar and by their personal preferences. Obviously, without exception, they’re putting in serious hours.

If you want to get to this level yourself, my best advice to you is to foster a good relationship with your guitar. The outstanding fingerstyle player Sungha Jung once said that when he was growing up, his guitar was his best friend.

Think of yourself as a child. Did you limit yourself to 1 hour a day with your best friend? Did you count how many hours per month you were spending with them? Of course not. You were with your best friend all the time. You didn’t count the hours!

So it is with your romantic partner. Imagine telling them that your relationship is expert-level based on the amount of hours you’ve spent together. It’s ridiculous, right? What matters is the quality of the time, not the quantity. There’s no need to reduce your guitar journey to a number, or even a set of numbers.

If you cherish your guitar and your music-making, you’ll be well on the way to mastery. If your guitar becomes your enemy, you’ll almost certainly quit. Choose wisely!


As you’ve probably noticed, my most general recommendation for anyone looking to improve is to strive for at least 1 hour of quality practice every day. 

That said, you can definitely improve on 30 minutes or less. I would do your best to play daily, and to have multiple short sessions throughout the day rather than one long session.

I think of short sessions as a kind of guitar hack. Your brain almost believes that you’re playing more than you are. That is to say, two 15-minute practices can “add up” to 45 minutes worth of single-session progress.

Overall, I would focus most on having a good experience every time you play. Great musicians love making music; it’s as simple as that.

So make those hours count, but don’t bother counting them. Thanks for reading, and best of luck with your playing!

Are you looking to upgrade your gear or browse some awesome guitar learning materials? Check out my recommendations page to see all my favorite stuff. 

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