broken“Don’t practice the guitar”


The words came out of my mouth during a lesson with a student a few weeks ago.   I found myself repeating them to other students as well.   At first, I’d get a quizzical look – like I’m luring the student into a trap.

Then, I’d explain myself…

Why Practicing (or trying to practice) Is Stalling Your Progress

The problem has to do with barriers: both physical and psychological.

I won’t lie – I didn’t make this up.  I’m not sure who did.  I will tell you that I’ve stolen it from a lot of sources – one of the best sources is probably Nerd Fitness: Check out this excellent article about removing barriers to get in shape.

An easy  – and popular analogy – is that of the person who wants to get in shape.  They know they need to exercise and eat healthy – but they don’t.  Why?  Not because that don’t want or desire to, but because they’re setting up barriers that make it easy for them to fail.

Things like:

  • Leaving junk food in the house.
  •  Stashing their workout clothes/shoes in the back of the closet

They’re physically making it more difficult to achieve their goal – AND – that influences their choices as well.  In other words they’re putting more steps in the path of their goal – making it more difficult to attain.

So what does this have to do with playing the guitar?


For someone (like me and a lot of my students), the goal was never to be the most awesome guitar player who ever lived (at least not at first).  The goal was to be able to play a few songs and impressive my friends (or to be a rockstar, but whatever).  It was always about having fun.

Practice is not fun.

The idea of practice meant:

  1. Getting the guitar out from under the bed.
  2. Getting the guitar out of it’s case
  3. Tuning the guitar
  4. Pulling out the sheet music or song book
  5. Finding a song to play
  6. Reviewing the chords
  7. Looking up chords I didn’t know
  8. Muddling through the song (that didn’t sound ANYTHING like the song)
  9. Giving up and going to watch TV.


Nine steps? Not fun.  Not easy.  Not good.  No wonder nobody practices.  Just thinking about all of the steps involved is exhausting.

So how can I play the guitar without practice?

Easy.  Remove the barriers.

First thing: keep the guitar out of the case, and out in the open where you can see it.  No exceptions.  Leave it on your bed.  On the sofa.  By the TV.  By your computer.  I don’t care.  Just make sure it’s accessible.

Second thing:  Pick out a few chords to learn.  Like three chords.  G, D, and C are a good start.  Memorize them.  Print out the chord chart and tape it to the back of your guitar.  Or just memorize them.  “Memorize” doesn’t mean “play them proficiently” it just means, “memorize where your fingers go”.

Third thing: Whenever you’re just hanging out, watching TV, posting on Facebook, or whatever – pick up the guitar and practice those chords.   Don’t look at your hands.  Just move them from chord to chord.  Get your hands and fingers used to making those shapes and positions.  You don’t even have to listen to it.

So how many steps is that?

I don’t know.


One and a half?

Just pick up the guitar and play around.  (Not practice).


Here’s what happens… you start to get more comfortable.  It goes from being work to being easy without any effort.  Then you start adding a chord here and there.  Then you start actively picking up the guitar instead of watching TV or playing on Facebook.  It starts to become more fun.  More addictive. And before you know it – you’re a guitar player.

Will you learn more if you spend 30 minutes a day devoted to deliberate focused practice?  Absolutely.

But if the thought of practicing for 30 minutes really means that you won’t practice at all… yeah… you get the idea.

Ok?  Agree or disagree?  Feel free to hit us up on Facebook or leave a comment below.