Learning Guitar Riffs | How to Practice guitar

This content was created for Curtis Music Academy


Hi, this is Andrea with Curtis Music Academy. I am a music instructor here at the studio and I love teaching students how to play the guitar and I teach a wide variety of students during guitar lessons. My youngest student was three who has just turned four, and then my oldest student is an adult. And so I teach a wide variety of anything from classical music to pop, rock, contemporary and music theory and all kinds of things like that. So I kind of touch base with a lot of different areas of the guitar and I have noticed something that’s really important in all of my students and it’s the area of practicing at home. And so I do have some thoughts to share about practicing some strategies that will help students maximize their practice time at home. 

First of all, it’s really important to practice as often as possible when learning guitar riffs. So what I say with that is it’s better to practice 10 minutes every day than an hour long practice session twice a week. And so the reason for this is it’s very scientific, but it creates a habit and the consistency will take you farther along than if you just practiced a longer period of time a couple of times a week. So even if it means sitting down at the guitar 10 minutes a day, I would recommend that getting that daily practice I saw another guitar teacher recommended that her students just play a few minutes at a time as they’re passing the guitar. And it’s understandable that most people have busy lives, especially adults. 

And so it’s hard to just sit down and play the guitar. But I would recommend every time that you’re sitting down, every time you’re passing the guitar, rather, that you just pass and you play for a couple of minutes. And that’s actually what I do at home, to keep myself fresh and keep myself polished as well. It’s hard for me just to sit down and play for 30 minutes, although that is my daily goal. What usually happens is I sit down and I do my warmups for five minutes and then I go do the dishes and I go vacuum or just whatever else needs to be done during the day. Later on in the day, I come back and I work through a new song that I’ve been working on and that might take five to 10 minutes as well. The same thing applies to learning guitar riffs

And then I’ll go about my business and do other things later on and I’ll come and learn a new lesson in the guitar lessons that I am working on to better myself as a musician, personally and as a teacher. And so you see, just in those little examples, I usually attack the guitar practicing a few minutes at a time throughout the day, and that really works for me. And I’ve noticed that my finger strength in my finger muscles are more able to go the distance. I notice that I have some really difficult pieces of music that if I’m not playing the guitar consistently on a daily basis, I’m not able to play those high parts with a lot of fast movements. And so that is really key for me. 

I’ve noticed that when I have been learning guitar riffs daily and building up my finger strength, when I sit down to play a difficult song, I’m able to do it. And so that is just confirmation for me personally of practicing in consistency. So no one is consistent and it’s better just to practice a little bit at a time. Secondly, I would recommend splitting up your practice into at least three areas, which would be learning guitar riffs, scales, arpeggios, and anything of that nature. I often assign my students finger exercises or Hanon’s. All of those are really great to build up your strength. 

And so you might reach a certain level of the guitar where you don’t want to go farther you like. I have reached as fast and as far as I want to go, I’m playing the difficulty level. I want to play out even still, when you’ve reached that level, it’s really important to continue your finger strength. It’s like if you were playing basketball and you’ve reached the NBA, but you still have to keep your muscles functioning. You have to keep running, you have to keep doing drills in order to stay sharp. So I recommend for any student at any level to continue the scales. They arpeggios, the chord inversions, the hand warm ups. This applies to both learning guitar riffs and taking lessons.

And I have a whole list and that’s probably for a different podcast, but I do them every day just to keep fresh. Ok, so the second area that you could work on is new material, whether it’s something that your parent teacher has assigned to you or like for myself, I am pushing myself onward. I’m learning about extended courts right now, and so everything right now that I’m learning on the guitar is about extended chords, about the 7th, the 9th, the 11th, the 13th, the 15th. And so I really like working towards that goal. And so that’s the new material that I am learning. So that is the second part. The third part could be playing through some fun songs in your repertoire. 

That could be something as well, like songs that you played in the past. Maybe you played at a Christmas recital or a spring recital. And there’s that one song that you love and it’s important to keep that fresh as well. So those are just some different ideas when it comes to practicing the guitar. Furthermore, I usually tell my adult students that it is really important to strategize your practice time because I actually read. I am a student and just continuing learning more and more. And one of the most important things is how you consistently maintain learning guitar riffs. 

And so there have been numerous studies of the brain and it shows that you can actually like let’s just say you’re in college and you’re preparing and studying for a test. Well, there’s different ways that you could go about it. And some strategies actually work better than others. And so let’s just say you’re a student studying for a big test and you sit down and you study for like one hour, two hours, three hours. And it’s just you are just really digging in and studying. Well, people who have studied that and how the brain works, they say it’s actually not as effective. There’s other strategies that you can use to make the time that you spend studying much more beneficial. 

And so they would recommend studying as hard as you can for 30 minutes and then taking a 15 minute break, doing something totally different, going outside, walking for 10 minutes, entering another room. It’s so weird. But people say that entering another room actually helps you kind of like feel like your brain has had a break. And so long story short, the people who did this study had figured out that you can spend less time studying and get more out of that time. And so it’s the same with guitar. I want to help my students achieve that- whether they are learning guitar riffs. So I usually recommend when you’re practicing a new song instead of just let’s just say you have a song that’s 32 measures.