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If you’re anything like me, it’s kind of intimidating to hear about professional guitarists that practice for 6-10 hours a day. When you hear numbers like that, you may be wondering to yourself if one hour a day of practicing the guitar is actually enough.
Practicing the guitar for an hour a day is completely sufficient for most guitarists’ goals. More time is required if you have goals to be a master guitarist or if you are playing extremely challenging music in a band on a consistent basis.
So, where is the line? When do you know if you are falling behind or if you’re ahead of the curve? When is one hour not enough practice time?
Why One Hour Daily of Practicing the Guitar Is Plenty
Guitar is one of the most popular instruments. However, that doesn’t mean that most people who play guitar play in a band. Many people play the guitar just for fun or for their own personal enjoyment or to socialize and jam out with their friends.
With that in mind, one hour of practicing the guitar everyday is more than enough to meet most people’s goals. If you don’t have aspirations to be a professional guitarist playing in several gigs a week then one hour of practice time should be more than sufficient to accelerate your learning into becoming very proficient in just a few years time.
That’s right… years.
One of the reasons why I love the guitar is that it’s such a dynamic instrument. You can study the instrument your whole life and still have things to learn because it’s so versatile. Plus, even with a few months of practice, the guitar can be really fun to play.
If however, you want to be good enough where you can pick up most songs and be able to play the chords without a guitar tab or being able to improvise and make up your own melodies–then it’s going to take a few years of deliberate practice.
How Far Can You Get With One Hour A Day
I recently did an experiment where I tried to practice the guitar one hour a day for 30 days straight to see if I could really improve if I focused on the instrument. I was very pleasantly surprised to see how much I could improve with just a little bit of focused practice.
Previous to these 30 days, I was able to play the open chords and many barre chords (that don’t sound super great, I should add). But with deliberate practice I was able to pick up an aspect of the guitar I had no idea about.
If I had started with this level of focus and daily time from the beginning I’m confident in just 6 to 8 months of practicing the guitar I would be way better than I have turned out today.
The key difference was that instead of just jamming out and playing songs I liked, I focused on hard things that improved my knowledge and skill.
If you practiced consistently for around an hour a day you would definitely have decent chops and be able to comfortably jam with your friends. If you do this for 2 more years, you will have the chops to learn most songs and even be able to play without sheet music or tabs.
At 1 hour a day, within only 6 months of that level of practice you would be able to really have fun playing the guitar and making up songs and melodies and being able to jam out relatively quickly.
Are You Guaranteed To Be Amazing At Guitar If You Practice An Hour a Day?
Well, no, because it’s not just about amount of practice it’s the amount of quality practice.
It’s easy to get lost and just trying to play songs that you like but an important part of practice is to do focused practice that requires a lot of focus and that is not necessarily as fun.
It’s kind of like eating carbs and protein. Carbs are easy and fun to eat and are downright delicious, but protein is what our body needs to build muscle. Similarly, practicing songs is fun and it’s necessary to have fun and love playing, but you need that tough practice to really improve!
When One Hour a Day Of Practicing Guitar Isn’t Enough
So, I just tried talking about how 1 hour of solid, focused practice is all most people need. But what about the rest? There are several reasons why one hour a day of practicing their guitar will not be enough.
The first reason is if you are a professional musician and you are playing multiple gigs per week. If you are this type of musician then it’s likely that you are practicing multiple pieces and memorizing many different songs and trying to master new techniques constantly. With just one our a day, that may not be possible. At this point, you may find that you need anywhere from 1 to 3 hours a day of focused practice.
The second reason why 1 hour a day of practice may not be enough is if your practice time is not very effective. Many guitarists will tell you that you need to keep your practice fun, and I completely agree with this because if playing in the guitar isn’t fun then it’s going to be hard to be motivated to practice.
It’s super hard to convince the rat to run the maze if you never give it any cheese… or peanut butter, or whatever it is rats like to eat.
The truth is that fun practice isn’t always effective practice.
How To Know If Your Practice Isn’t Effective
If you ever feel like you’re on autopilot and your brain shuts off or you can focus on something else while playing, then it’s likely you’re not learning as much as you could be with that time.
Learning is uncomfortable, but this uncomfortable section of your practice is going to be the most valuable because that means you’re stretching yourself.
This is a great barometer. If practice is super comfortable, then you are probably not learning as much as you could be.
One huge thing to know, though is that doesn’t mean that you have to only practice scales. Good practice doesn’t mean boring practice. You can definitely find melodic and creative practice that is difficult that will stretch you just as much as running up and down scales.
So, Is One Hour Really Enough?
In actuality one hour of practice might actually be more than sufficient for many guitarists simply because their practice time may not be as effective as it could be. If you kept your practice time effective you’re going to accelerate your learning and be able to get more done in less time.
I will say that an important part of any guitarist’s time though is to play unstructured once in a while. When I say unstructured, I mean whatever you want because that’s where you can really experience the joy of the instrument. If it’s a joy, than it’s time well spent. The time that is easy to spend just flows and is pure fun.
Is It Possible To Practice Too Much?
Contrary to what it is easy to think: you can definitely overpractice the guitar.
There are a few reasons for this that I’ll briefly mention:
- The most important reason: Your Physical and Mental Health
- Bad Habits
Good posture takes a long time to develop, and good posture means you are using muscle instead of your joints to hold your body just right. Even with the best posture, repetitive motions while holding still will cause health problems.
I learned recently that guitar players have one of the highest rates of injury among other musicians (source)–and there’s a lot of reasons for that.
So, even if you have good posture, over time as you practice that good posture will degrade as you get tired, which can lead to bad posture habits.
Furthermore, your brain will get lazy as it gets tired and starts to take shortcuts and gets impatient–all these things make your practice less effective and perhaps even may set your skills back.
Lastly, if you set too ambitious practice goals for yourself, you risk burnout–which is a tragic way to put down a beautiful instrument. Always put your health first and you’ll be okay.
I talk about many of the reasons why over-practice can actually hurt your guitar playing and what you can do to combat some of those in my post , here. Make sure to check it out.