Guitar Chords | Finding the Time to Practice

This content was created for Curtis Music Academy 


This is the most amazing place to find your interest in music. Most people who are new at music after their guitar lesson think, “Okay, I’m going to practice for 30 minutes today.” And so they sit down at the guitar and they play that song from start to finish, maybe five times through. That’s actually it’s not that it’s wrong or it’s not that it’s bad, but it’s actually not maximizing the most out of what could be. So as a student, when I was a teenager, I would always take guitar chords apart three or four measures at a time, and I would play those three or four measures and I would really get that going. What that does, it develops muscle memory and you actually learn a song much, much quicker. This is like the secret sauce to my guitar playing as a student all throughout my teenage years. 

During my music lessons, I would learn all sorts of guitar chords. I accomplished so much more doing this method rather than just sitting down and playing through a song. So I would recommend that. And I tell my students that, you know, tests take four measures at a time or depending on the song that might not work out, it might be six measures, or maybe if the song is easier, maybe eight measures. So it doesn’t have to be necessarily a rule. I mean, even if the song is very difficult, it might just be two measures. So just depending but just a sure enough area that you can really work through. And my number was five. I always did it five times through, so I’d work through something five times through. 

Then I’d go on to the next section of measures and I work through that five times through. And then I might put those two areas together. And I’ve noticed that when I’m in the studio in a lesson teaching guitar chords with somebody and I’m doing this method already, by the end of it, just practicing it five times through in a little short area, they’re already starting to do it very confidently and very well where it sounds really, really good. 

So I would recommend my one of my number one strategies for practicing guitar chords after a music lesson is this- taking a song apart a few measures at a time and you’ll maximize your time. What you would have taken you maybe a week to learn would actually take you maybe a couple of days to learn. So it is one of the most important strategies to use. So anyway, I will come again with more strategies for practicing, but that is one of the biggest and the best strategies.


Another very important part of practicing is to use a metronome as your are changing chords. So articulation in the Hanon would be smooth going up, staccato going down, and it’s actually a little bit tricky to play. And so there’s that when the next day he plays, he does the next one where its dynamics and so it’s decrescendo is going up, crescendo is going down, something like that. And so each day he does the same hanon, but he does a different form of it. The hardest one, obviously, is transposing and transposing to myself, like obviously to a beginner. Transposing is new and it’s hard, it’s challenging, whether during piano or guitar lessons. And I totally get that. For me, transposing is something I’ve done for years. And so it’s not that hard, but transposing a Hanon, I think would actually be hard. This is especially true if you aren’t playing guitar chords. And so that is something on my to do list to go home and try to transpose Hannan’s. This could be done in piano or guitar lessons.

And of course in the Hanon it’s written out where all the flats and all the sharps are and everything. But still I think that is one of the best things you could do. That’s actually one of my strategies, is like when you’re a little bit tougher on yourself behind closed doors, in your own private piano playing in your warmups when it comes to playing in a performance or playing or teaching or whatever it is that you do, it just flows a little bit more naturally. So I’m always a little bit that’s always the way Eileen is, like pushing myself a little harder privately so that when I play publicly, it just flows a little naturally. So I have really loved playing with him in Hanon. 

The good news is he has grown so much as a pianist over the last month or so because of these really rigorous finger exercises. This can apply to guitar chords as well.

And that gets me really excited. It gets me thinking and dreaming about all my other students and what I could do for them as well when it comes to Hannon’s and challenging yourself now, obviously. And I told him there’s no rush to get through these finger exercises at all. And so we’re just really honest with each other sometimes. 

Like yesterday, I think he said, you know, I think I want to do it. I think he’s on Hanon three and he wants to do it another week and he wants to work on the transposing. I think he got all of the articulation and dynamics and swing time. He did all that, but then he didn’t do the transposing. So this will help focus on transposing Hanon three, which I think is fabulous, because if you can transpose finger exercises, you can transpose any song. So that is wonderful to do during a piano or guitar lesson.

I am going to begin to use that with all of my students, with the transposing, with the articulation, with everything. Lastly, before this podcast ends, I want to mention that warm ups are the best way to add a metronome to your playing. And you can start off slow, you can start off media and then work yourself up to a higher speed. And so that is something I’m going to begin encouraging my students as well, playing with the metronome, playing your warm ups with the metronome. And so it might be challenging at first, but it’s one of those things like if you can play guitar chords with a metronome, you reach a new level of confidence in your piano playing. So it’s worth a lot of benefit. Thank you for tuning in to this podcast about piano and guitar lessons. We’ll see you next time.