3 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Guitar Playing

The plateau.alphadark guitar lesson

Easily one of the most demotivating experiences a guitar player can have.

Most of the time a plateau comes from lack of discipline and failing to have a plan, the latter of which cannot be stressed enough.

Every guitar player has been there. You grab your guitar, eager to play. Then you spend 15 minutes noodling around, playing a few licks or riffs from a song you know. Boredom begins to set in, and you hang it up accomplishing very little in the allotted time.


Let’s look at 3 ways to smash through the wall, continue toward the peak, and improve your guitar playing.

1) Have a plan of action

Know what it is you are going to play for the next 20-60 minutes. Don’t just grab your guitar without planning your attack.

For example, your regiment might look like this:

  • 10 minutes – Finger exercise warm up
  • 10 minutes – A Major Scale in 5th position
  • 10 minutes – A Major chords, 2 different positions
  • 30 minutes – Learn a simple to intermediate song in A major

This is a practice regiment that will bring results.  You will train your brain to actually care about what it is that you are playing, rather than just randomly firing off licks or general fretboard nonsense.

2) Exercises.  Exercises.  Exercises.

When an NFL wide receiver spends an hour running through tires, he is not preparing to jump through tires in an actual game situation.

He is training his muscles to respond with agility and strength when he needs them.  This is the kind of mentality you should have when you warm up with your guitar.  The payoff is immense.

Here is an outstanding picking exercise from a book I have called Guitar Secrets by Joe Satriani.  I have this one memorized and in my back pocket, and I bust it out every time I warm up.  If your alternate picking approach is downright atrocious, look no further. Essential for any metal guitar player.

Riz ninja tip – Try using Jazz III picks.  Smaller, thinner, faster.

joe satriani guitar lessonDo the damn exercise.  It will be friggin’ impossible at first, but after awhile you will start to fly through it.

Here is a video of me doing the drill (tuning is Eb).

3) Know the notes

Another bit of advice that I can’t stress enough.  Knowing where the notes are on the fretboard will help you navigate and find the key of a song or jam more easily. If you are playing a song in E minor, you should know the location of at least 3 E notes on the guitar.

Eventually you will want to know more than this, but for a beginner/intermediate player 3 should be an absolute minimum.

Here is Satch again with a great tutorial on how to do this, brilliantly named “Finding the Note.”

joe satriani guitar secrets

Look, you either suck at guitar or you don’t.  Listen to the experts on this and maintain a good practice schedule.

Choose to be great by adding some organization that will easily reap benefits within a few weeks.

A few weeks is too long to wait?

Sell your guitar, some kid is dying to give it a go.


  1. You’re the man Riz, I had my best practice this morning.

    I did 10 min warm up.

    20 min A minor pentatonic scale.

    20 min practiced my picking (with a modified nirvana rape me)

    15 min I practiced rhythm

    You’re the man. Thank you so much.

    There’s a BIG difference between getting advice from someone who’s been practicing since 4 years old and everything you say.


    1. Imagine what you’ll be doing a few months from now…

      Use the same approach as your fitness routine. Small wins add up over time.

      What’s your favorite band?


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