This article is about how much time professional guitar players spend practicing, and strategies you can use as well. If you’re interested in how long it takes to learn guitar, see our article here. You can also view our guitar courses here.
Let’s pull back the curtain and take a look at how many hours a day professional guitar players practice and what they do during this time.
So, how much to professional guitar players practice each day? Professional guitar players average between four and eight hours of practice per day, including rehearsal and performance. However, the genre of music being played determines the type of practice used during this time.
Let’s take a closer look at how much the pros practice, and what they are practicing on.
The Question Behind The Question
This is a question that most guitar players are interested in, especially younger players. Why is this? Well, it is a logical question. If you want to excel in a field, it is reasonable and prudent to find out what professionals did to achieve their professional status. So far so good; however, the other equally important part of this equation is to realize that each of these professionals is a unique human being, as are we, and that this aspect is just as important to our own success as the methods these professional used to achieve their mastery, i.e. Know Thyself.
Many of these professionals will tell you what they did to achieve their mastery, e.g. practice routines, specific exercises, etc.; furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, they also reveal that, first and foremost, they pursued their own interests, and that their practice routines were an organic outgrowth of their desire to play the guitar in their own way. In other words, for them, the pursuit of their own interests and goals defined their practice routine. So, the question behind the questions is this: How can I play as well as a professional guitarist? This is very important to keep in mind as we look into the practice routines of some professional guitar players. We should learn from them, but not artificially impose what worked for them upon ourselves unless they serve our own musical goals.
Warning! Don’t Overdo Your Practicing
A warning to the strong of will. (Type B personalities- you are good here!) It is always a good rule of thumb to use common sense and recognize when you may be over doing a practice regimen. Be conscious of soreness and muscle or joint discomfort and do not try to play through it. Let your body recover with a day of rest and resume your practice routine.
If soreness or discomfort lasts well beyond your practice session, you are most likely doing something incorrectly from a technical standpoint. I speak from experience. If you try to play through soreness, it only gets worse and the problems take much longer to resolve, even to the point of not being able to play the guitar for months or longer. Again, know thyself. If you typically approach things zealously, with an all-or-nothing approach, you are a candidate for long-term injury. (This actually is a good quality when properly used.)
The Musical Goal Determines The Type Of Practice
For the sake of argument, let’s divide music into two opposite poles: composed and improvised. Between these two poles will be a spectrum, e.g. the middle would be a blend of both. Determining where your musical interests fit on this spectrum will determine what type of practice is the most practical. The closer you move to the improvised side of the spectrum, the more live playing and jamming will be your main mode of practicing. The closer you move to the composed side of the spectrum, individual practice on small modules of guitar technique will be an important method for practicing.
Of course, this is not to say, that one side of the spectrum does not require individual practice and the other side does not require live playing. It is to say, however, that certain modes of practicing are more useful than others for the goal that is desired. Typically, a blues-rock oriented professional guitarist will explain that their practicing consists mainly of playing and performing, e.g. Slash, Santana, etc.; whereas, a professional musician leaning to the composed side of the musical spectrum, such as John Petrucci, Steve Vai, etc. will have a much more intricate and detailed individual practice routine.
These professional musicians use practice routines that support their musical goals. Whereas John Petrucci and Steve Vai, etc., may practice six to ten hours a day in their studio (as well as live performances), other professional musicians will rack up the same amount of practice time while playing live, because this is the best way for them to achieve their musical goals.
Lastly, many professional musicians, who share their rigorous practice routines for interested interviewers and fans, will also note that these routines ebb and flow and adapt to their ever-evolving musical goals. So, take this information with a grain of salt and realize that these are not absolute statements. They are simply insights into one professional guitarist’s journey at a point in time. Take what is useful and discard what is not useful for your own goals.
Let us state for the sake of argument, that a professional musician averages between four to eight hours of practice a day, including rehearsal and performances. Let’s see how this might break down into a daily routine. I am going to use the practice routine of Andres Segovia, the world famous classical guitarist, as a case example.
Case Study: Segovia
Segovia is a good case study because the music he practiced was music composed by other individuals. Because it was necessary for him to learn music that he did not create himself, the practice routine he used and the results he accomplished, can be evaluated more objectively. Also, Segovia practiced and performed well into his later years. This is a testament to his practice routine in terms of longevity and remaining healthy and injury free. Segovia, on average, practiced about five hours a day. He practiced for one hour and fifteen minutes, four times a day.
These sessions were spaced throughout the day, two in the morning and two after his afternoon siesta. Within each of these sessions he further divided his time. He took a short break after fifteen minutes to stretch or get a drink of water. After the third fifteen minute session, he would take a longer fifteen minute break in between the last two fifteen minute sessions. This type of practice routine incorporates two important elements.
First, regular breaks to stretch and let the body relax, which helps to avoid injury; and secondly, regular breaks create many small practice sessions. This supports how our brain most effectively learns. We remember the most at the beginning and at the end of our learning session, with the middle being blurry or altogether forgotten. This is called the primacy/recency effect. Of course, the proof of the effectiveness of this practice routine is in the results that Segovia was able to achieve on the guitar.
Applying the Segovia Method To Our Own Playing
Let’s review the facts. We know that Segovia was a world-renowned professional guitarist. We also know that he used a practice routine, and we know what that practice routine consisted of. Of course, results will vary, as they say, because the variable of natural ability will always exist. However, this type of routine and the underlying principles can be used by anyone, and it will build upon the natural abilities that are present in the individual. Now, the definition of a professional musician is one who makes a living playing music.
If your job is to be a musician, and you are being paid so that you don’t have to work at something else, you can also practice like Segovia. If you were to add the amount of practice time and breaks together, you would be looking at about an eight hour day. Since many musicians are amateurs, which means to play for the love of music, this is not realistic or prudent. However, this system is scalable.
Use the principles to fit whatever time you have to practice, e.g. if you have time for a half-hour a day, do two fifteen-minute sessions with a small break in between. What you practice during the fifteen-minute sessions will be determined by your musical goals. Therefore, it is important to start with the end in mind and work backward, e.g. it could be a song, a new technique, improvisation, etc.
There is much insight to be gained from professional guitar players in terms of their practicing habits. However, remember to set your own musical goals and take from these professionals what supports your goals and discard what does not.