Many guitarists say that practice is key to getting good, and you get out of it what you put into it. While they’re not entirely wrong, they’re not entirely right either.
Becoming good at guitar is not about how long you practice each day, but the quality of your practice. It’s important to understand that practicing and playing are two different things. Good is a relative term that depends on your personal ambitions, and doesn’t mean you need to be better than other guitarists.
If you work your way up to practicing for 2 hours a day, have a progressive goal, and learn techniques properly before moving on – then you will become good at guitar much faster than others who practice guitar without clear goals.
Can You Get Good at Guitar in 1 Year With 2 Hours Practice a Day?
The short answer is, yes, you can get good; the bigger question is how? That looks different for everybody.
Learning the guitar comes through reaching various milestones. Starting out, playing 2 hours a day is unrealistic, you’ll be lucky to play 30 minutes.
Think of training for a marathon. On day one, you wouldn’t run for two hours. You have to condition and build up. The same applies to new guitarists; you must condition. If you’ve never played before, you’ll experience extreme finger soreness and maybe even blisters.
The phrase, “No pain, no gain,” couldn’t be more true than when learning the guitar. However, with quality practice, you’ll be “good” in no time. Learning while practicing is key.
Practice requires focusing on specific skills that make you better, whereas playing is time spent doing something you already know.
Playing for two hours and practicing for two hours will yield very different results. Quality practice involves focusing on isolated skills like learning new chords, strumming patterns, chord transitions, or minor and major scales.
Think about a baseball player. Their practice would focus on batting, fielding balls, turning outs. It wouldn’t just be playing the game every day. They’re practicing specific skills to improve overall gameplay.
Guitar practice is the same way, specific skills to improve overall play.
Practice should be tailored to your specific goals. Many guitarists speak of “balanced practice,” doing a little bit of everything. However, using the same baseball analogy, if you play centerfield, you wouldn’t spend two hours pitching every day because it wouldn’t improve your gameplay.
The same holds true for guitarists, there’s no point practicing skills you won’t use. If you’re only interested in playing sing-along songs at social gatherings, then there’s no need in practicing pentatonic scales or chord progressions.
In setting your goals, you have to decide what you want to accomplish. Otherwise, your practice sessions are inefficient, and you won’t see much improvement.
Guitarists also face the Law of Diminishing Returns. On average, our brains only have an attention span of 15-20 minutes. Anything beyond that, and the mind drifts. With guitar practice, that means longer practices are less efficient. Your brain simply won’t remember.
Many guitar mentors suggest longer practices actually do more harm than good. The argument is, shorter practices speed your rate of progression, thereby committing more to your long-term memory.
The concept is very similar to learning math facts in grade school. You probably had daily math drills until math facts became rote memory, but you only worked on them a few minutes each day. The same is true with guitars. Short, concise drills, and then move to the next skill.
How Should You Practice?
Like learning anything, repetition is key. Your brain has to do something a minimum number of times before it stores to long-term memory. Practices should focus on repetition. While longer practices help you feel like you’ve accomplished something, they’re not effective.
Just like building muscles, you have to give the brain time to rest before you do it again. Poor practices impede progress, so it’s important to develop one that works well. It’s imperative to think through and design an efficient practice.
Start by deciding what you want to learn and what you want to improve. Break those things down into specific skills and create a list. You should update your plan at least once a month to monitor your progress.
Your practice sessions should only focus on those skills that are on your list. Limit your practice to 15-20 minutes of targeted skills. You can always play longer. Practices should be consistent and reflective of your personal goal.
Also, give yourself short breaks between drills to allow your brain a chance to reset. A simple 10-second break allows your working memory to process information and store it away.
How Motivated Are You to Get Good at Guitar?
Your motivation level directly impacts your progress. The purpose of practice should be to continue learning and progressing forward. Becoming a true guitar master can take a lifetime.
Sooner or later, every budding guitarist plateaus. It’s important to have an avenue to get through those dry spells. That could be an instructor, instructional videos, or just hanging out with someone that knows more than you. It could be intermittent, short-term, or ongoing.
Sometimes you have to push through the frustration of learning. Your motivation directly impacts your resolve, but shorter practices help.
When you’re frustrated, it’s much easier to swallow a short practice than a two-hour practice. Not only is this beneficial from a mental standpoint, it also creates better performance in less time.
Most importantly, know when to put it down. Playing the guitar fatigued or frustrated is a good way to develop bad habits. When practice becomes mindless, or your frustration creates a block, put it down.
This is one of the biggest reasons longer practices become ineffective. Your mental status eventually reaches a point where it stops progressing.
How Fast Do You Want to Improve?
Dedicated practice requires self-discipline and a solid routine. Not only will this improve the quality of practice, but you’ll also develop better skills and learn faster.
Create specific lists of techniques and exercises so your practice has purpose and your maximizing efficiency.
If your goal is to learn a new song, maybe that comes with learning new chords, learning to transition those chords fluently, learning a new strumming pattern, and applying some palm mutes.
So your practice might include five minutes of chord practice, five minutes of strumming pattern, and five minutes of chords and strum patterns simultaneously taking a 10-second break between each skill.
Continue daily until you’re fluent with chords, then scratch that skill off your list, and replace it with the next skill, in this case, palm mutes.
Designate a certain amount of time for each skill but also allow flexibility. If you’re struggling in an area, it makes sense to spend more time on that skill.
As you improve, your goals will change, so review them frequently.
2 Hours Noodling Each Day vs Targeted Guitar Practice
There’s some controversy as to whether noodling is a good form of practice. Noodling is freestyle play that’s more exploratory. Rather than focusing on targeted skills, it involves more spontaneous play and creative moments. So which is better?
Both are useful, but noodling is more beneficial to those that have experience under their belt. If you’re just starting, targeted practice is essential to building the foundation of becoming a good guitarist. Noodling will have very little benefit during this stage.
Noodling can help you become more comfortable and familiar with the guitar. It can also help build muscle memory, but mostly it’s a mindless act and not very efficient in the true sense of practice.
However, it’s important to embrace spontaneous play and creative moments when they arise.
Spend a good solid 15-20 minutes of targeted skill practice, then noodle as long as you want. But don’t noodle instead of practice.
Just like athletes have scrimmage games, noodling is a type of scrimmage for guitarists. It’s a good evaluation tool, but it won’t help you get better all by itself.
Targeted drills are the quickest way to improve.
How Long Does It Take to Get Good Practicing 2 Hours a Day?
Every guitarist starts with a different skill set, but the necessary knowledge can be learned within a year. Applying that knowledge and making it sound good can take much longer.
If you stick with short, quality practices, it won’t take long.
Within the first 3-6 months, you’re learning essential fundamentals like basic chords, strumming patterns, fingerpicking, and transitions. You’ll begin learning chord charts, tablature, rhythm, tempo, and a little music theory.
You’ll fight through finger soreness, develop callouses, and build finger strength and dexterity. You’ll probably even have several songs under your belt.
Within an additional 3-6 months, you’ll progress into advanced chords learning sharps, flats, bar chords, and minor scales. You’ll likely learn basic riffs and leads that complement your chord play.
With commitment, you’ll be a decent guitarist.
For some, that’s all they want to achieve. For others, they desire more mastery. They’ll delve into chord progressions, chromatic scales, and pentatonic scales. This is usually one of many plateaus for guitarists as it’s difficult to teach yourself.
Having a mentor is most beneficial when learning technical applications of music theory.
With proper practice, dedication, and good habits, you can be a decent guitar player within a year. Progressing beyond the basics depends on your aptitude for learning and your perseverance to work through plateaus.
You can become a good hobby guitarist with about 100 hours of quality practice time (not playtime). For the casual musician that plays gigs and works with other musicians, you’re looking at about 1000 hours. To reach elite status, playing professionally three to four hours a day, it’s closer to 10,000 hours.
How Many Hours Guitar Practice is Effective Each Day?
Recognizing the Law of Diminishing returns, the most effective practice regimen consists of 15-20 minutes of daily practice. If you want to add on some additional noodling, feel free, but trying to do too much too soon leads to burnout.
Remember it’s not about how long you’re practicing, but rather how much you’re learning in the process. Shorter practices prove to be more efficient.
Shorter skill-based practices are much more efficient for learning the guitar in a decent amount of time. Consider what you want to accomplish, break it down into a list of skills, and practice consistently. With only 15 minutes a day, you can become a good guitarist within a year.