Streamline Your Progress on the Guitar - 046

It’s all about Progress! Today I share my Guitar Practice Guide




Playing the guitar is something that so many people want to do, and do well. And playing the guitar, on the surface, is something that seems very easy to do. But, as anyone who has really put forth the effort to learn the guitar, it takes quite a while to really get good.


The way guitarists are leaning now has changed and I’m not sure that it lives up to its potential. We consume lots of bite sized pieces of information, that we may play for a bit. Those bite sized pieces lead you to other non related exciting bite sized pieces of information… and the cycle starts.


So, what we end up getting is a skill that is easily put aside for life’s more important happenings, and by its nature, and is difficult to master any one part because the student is constantly distracted with promises of being able to play another cool skill.


In this age of self guided “a la carte” learning, where you learn a little of this and a little of that, real progress becomes very difficult.


An element of luck starts to become involved. You hope that the videos that you picked to learn will all come together and build the musician that you really want to be.


Not only is it so hard to focus on the things that will bring us real progress, but it’s rarely seen any more. It’s definitely rarely shared. We see all of these guitar players sharing their best playing, but very few are bold enough to share their progress.


So, today I’m going to really focus on, what is to me the core of the guitar problem.. Severely limited progress. And then, about the ways to regain and streamline your progress.





Let’s start with progress itself. You hear things like “I’m moving forward, I’m getting better, I’m achieving my goals, and hitting some milestones.

Let me ask you: “How is your progress on the guitar?” Do you feel like you are getting closer to your goals?

If yes, that’s great! But….
…What if your guitar progress is:


  • slow
  • or, non existent
  • or, you feel like you are going the wrong direction
  • or, you don’t understand where you’re going (like I was).


You might want to start taking some steps toward bringing some regular progress into your musical life.
Guitar learning progress takes a lot of different shapes.


For the beginner, sometimes it could be just making a chord sound right that will give you a great sense of achievement, where you know that you are moving forward, and in the right direction. Each step of the way, early on, when you are following a good method, can be an achievement. It’s a very fun time in the life of a musician and the things you learn, the fundamentals, stay with you your whole life.


For the intermediate guitarist, progress is a different thing. You are up and running. You are already playing or you are ready to play. The focus is on using the fundamentals you have learned for a reason. Developing your own style and finding the things to round out your playing are a big focus of the intermediate player. There are still a lot of milestones that occur on a regular basis. And, as your playing moves from mainly in the practice room, out to performance, there is a lot of excitement and new experiences.


For the advanced guitarist, this is a much different experience. The new experiences slow down a lot and the main progress is in development of your craft. Taking your playing in new directions and discovering how your personal style fits in different musical situations are big wins for the advanced guitarist. Also, tackling new areas of guitar playing that you may not have worked on before to further round out your sound.Helping advanced guitarists, I have found, is best accomplished in a coaching type setting, rather than a structured music lessons.


So, understanding what progress on the guitar should look like, this can give you something to look towards to see if you are on the right track. If you aren’t experiencing some of these type of “wins”, it may be time to change things up a bit.


What Does progress on the guitar feel like.


One of the strangest things about learning the guitar is how we feel about it. I can’t tell you how many times that a student who is clearly progressing has come to me saying something like “I just don’t feel like i’m getting any better. I just feel like i’m spinning my wheels.”


And that’s the deceptive thing about progressing on the guitar. It’s not a smooth feeling. If you are putting in the time and working on the things that you know will move you forward, a lot of times you are too close. You are so focused on what you can’t do that you completely miss the solid constant progress that is going on. And, this lack of a steady “good feeling” can be demoralizing.


I say this a lot, but it’s true. It feels more like steps than a ramp. As you are working these skills, you can feel as if you are staying on the same level, not moving up. Like you have been on the same step for a long time just waiting to move up to the next. The truth is that just because you are putting in the time, you are steadily getting better. It just doesn’t feel that way.


What I find funny is that most feel like they have moved up to the next level when they get some sort of applause or positive feedback from others. An “attaboy” if you will. Once that happens, you feel like you’ve progressed up to the next level. But, are you really that much better than the minute before you got that compliment…The truth is that you have been progressing smoothly all along, but now you have been acknowledged for all of your hard work. What a great feeling!


Average Guitar Progress


I went over how important communication is when learning the guitar. So let’s have some.


Here’s the progress that you can expect as you learn the guitar. This is great for helping that all alone feeling and that nagging thought that you might not be even working on the right things.


This is by no means the last word on this. Just something that you can go by to keep on track if you feel like you are lost or spinning your wheels.


After a few months, a beginner should be able to tune their own guitar, play the majority of their open position chords, play a few easy songs, and be comfortable holding and playing the guitar without finger pain.


In the next few months, beginner guitarist should finish out their open positions chords, be comfortable using a capo, understand and be able to play multiple strum patterns, play open position scales, and have a good repertoire of songs that they can play at a moments notice.


Intermediate guitar starts off with bar chords. Just starting to play them and working on hand strength is great at this stage. It’s a whole new way of holding your hand and it takes awhile to get used to. Also understanding the basics of guitar theory and scales.


Getting your five pattern Big 4 scales down, mastering bar chords, and building an extensive repertoire, and understanding and using modes follows along with increased progress with musicianship and rhythm.


The upper end of intermediate works on incorporating tension sounds into their chords and solos, seven patterns scales, very challenging songs and chord melodies.


Advanced guitar deals mainly with taking what you have built and steadily progressing into the future. Also, keeping your playing fresh and enjoyable while adding to it in a way that is musical and exciting.


This is my very general guideline for progress on the guitar. This doesn’t take into consideration the style of music and the specifics of what a player wants to achieve on the guitar. These skills and their timing are different depending on the player.


Common Hurdles For Guitar Progress


Staying on point with guitar can be very difficult. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to progress. Here communication is also the key, as well. If you know ahead of time the things that are coming, you have time to avoid them and stay on track.


The biggest hurdle that I have seen, by far, when it comes to learning the guitar is distractions. And distractions come in many different forms. Earlier, I went over the distraction of so much different cool content that keeps you from focusing on the best thing for you. But, there are a lot of other distractions that can keep you from moving forward. In my next section, “Streamlining Your Progress”, I’ll go over some ways to set you up to remove distractions.


Another hurdle I see a lot is avoidance. Avoiding something because you think it is going to be too hard is usually not a great way to go. Especially if you really want to be able to achieve that at some point. In as early as learning the F chord, avoidance becomes very commonplace in guitar students. Then, with bar chords, it seems that there is always something at each stage that gets avoided at all costs.


Confusion is a big hurdle for guitarists. Not knowing what to practice or how to go about it is super common. Mostly because of the lack of having a teacher of mentor to guide you. Also, confusion happens a lot because new guitarists are missing very important skills they need to perform the songs that they want.


Practicing ineffectively is a huge hurdle that you will find with new guitarist. Just spending your time playing the things you already know over and over is fun, but not effective. This is where you can really feel like you’re spinning your wheels and going nowhere fast.


Not working on Rhythm, is the last hurdle I’m going to mention. Being able to play very complex passages is awesome, but if you rhythm is off, all of your hard work is for nothing.


Streamlining your progress


So, by now, you must surely be understanding that steady, consistent progress is the goal. It doesn’t matter what level you are at, it doesn’t matter what style you are playing.

If you are not progressing you are stuck and the frustration sets in. We need to set ourselves up for success and keep in mind that consistent progress beats intermittent practice every time.

Meaning, you will get much farther, faster with a smart effective practice routine than not picking up your guitar for long periods of time and then doing marathon sessions.


Let’s talk about ways to make this easier. Here is my super easy Guitar Progress Guide!


Guitar Progress Guide.


Moving forward on the guitar is tough to keep up. We have gone over a lot of the things that can keep you from this path. But, how about some best practices. Here are some things to keep in mind so you don’t find yourself frustrated and confused.


1. Set yourself up for success.  


Setting yourself up for success is all about one word: Routine. You can’t avoid it. Just practicing here or there whenever you feel like it is great, it’s enjoyable. But, it really works against progress. Something about the daily overturn of practice is just magic. Even if it is not for a very long time. It works your memory. It works your hand eye coordination. It keeps concepts and new skills fresh in your mind, allowing your subconscious to sort out problems when you’re not playing. Have you ever struggled with something one day, and then woke up the next, tried it again and it was no problem at all. The brain is a very powerful thing. Use this repetition to your advantage. Also, take a listen to my practice space setup (#38) and my 10 minute practice routine (#41) episodes for great tips on how to really get efficient with your practicing.


2. Avoid distractions


Distractions are the guitar progress killer. They really are. Earlier, I went over how free guitar content can derail your progress, and “a la carte” learning is a very slow way to see progress. Keeping focused is tough to do when there is so much to learn. It’s important to keep this in check. But, I don’t really think that that is the number one distraction for guitarists.

I’ve got something else in mind, something that you carry around with you all of the time: your smartphone. It’s a mini sized distraction powerhouse that’s one sole purpose is to get your attention. Notification:  new cat videos just uploaded. You just can’t focus when you hear that beep. Even if you try to ignore it, your brain starts wondering. “What is it? Is it something important?” I’ll just check it for a second. And, before you know it, Bam! Your time is up!


Definitely turn off your notifications when you practice. I’ve gone one step further a few times…I did the unthinkable. I turned it off. “You what? You turned it off! You can’t turn it off. You are going to miss everything and then your life will be meaningless!”


Just remember to turn off notifications if you are using it as a practice tool or turn it completely off while you practice if you can. In the long run, you will be glad you put this into practice.


3. Don’t avoid the tough stuff.


Make it a practice to work on the uncomfortable stuff first. Yes first! Get it out of the way. And set a time limit. Don’t just work it to death.


Give your problem task 5 or 10 minutes and move on. Even if you think you just might be able to get it with a few more minutes practice. Just stop. Let your brain work this problem out overnight. Later on in the day, really think about what about it was giving you such a hard time and sleep on it. Return to it the next day and see what happens. Keep this up for a while and I know that you will start to see results.


When you avoid foundational skills that you know will help you in the long run, you are doing a lot of damage. You are tempted to move on to something easier and more fun. The problem is that a lot of what we do as guitar players rely on the basics. And if you are missing a part of the basics, you will start to struggle. This is something I stress a lot, and it is something that definitely bears repeating. Why, because I’ve seen it over and over as the big stumbling block to my new students. And finding and correcting those overlooked skills always produces huge results and lots of smiles!


4. Do your research. Someone has to drive!


Spend some time away from the guitar doing some research. If you are using self-guided practice, you need to become a great guide. And how can you guide yourself or anyone else without knowledge of the path you are working on. Typing the phrase “how do I“ and then your ultimate goal never fails. You will find many helpful people who have provided the steps to achieve your goal. Write them down and work on each step, one at a time, until you reach your goal. Slow and steady daily practice with a direction. My favorite way to progress on the guitar!


5. Structure your practice


I recommended working on the tough stuff first before. But, don’t stop there. Plan your practice session in advance. Find out the things you need to be able to do to achieve your goal and split your time between them. Harness the power of a daily practice routine over several skills. Not only will you be able to work each problem, you will start to see how these skills work together to achieve your ultimate goal in a shorter time period.


In Summary

Today, I made progress the focus. And really spent the time to understand what progress looks and feels like on the guitar and by understanding its nature, took steps to streamline the process for steady quick achievements on the guitar.


  • I went over what progress really is on the guitar.

  • What does progress on the guitar feel like.

  • Average guitar progress for different levels on the guitar

  • The common hurdles of guitar progress

  • And streamlining your progress with my Guitar progress guide


Sometimes, spending some time thinking about these things and taking action can really help put your playing in a whole new space. And a whole new level of fun can be had with the guitar that you may not have realized was possible.


I had a great time bringing this to you today and let all of us know any changes  you make in your own playing and practicing that have helped you progress on the guitar in the show notes.


Your information is kept safe. It's never shared with third parties.