You are currently viewing Intermediate Guitar Practice Routine That Will Level Up Your Skills

Last Updated on March 5, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Author: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).


If you want to level up your skills you are in a right place right now…And it doesn’t matter if you have only 15 minutes or over 1 hour of time per day, I got you covered.

But remember, more you put in, more you get out.

I’m first gonna lay out the structure of this routine for you and then we will look closer at what you should actually do.

Let’s go!


Intermediate Guitar Practice Structure

image reveals structure of Intermediate Guitar Practice Routine
If you do all this every day (takes about 1 hour) and pair it with learning theory for 15min/day, it’s perfect. You will make progress REALLY FAST.

You can see the overall structure above. Let’s go through each one of these (plus some bonus stuff). I also give recommendations of specific drills and exercises you can insert into your practice routine!


Intermediate Guitar Practice – What to Do?

Warm-Up

When I started to warm up before every practice session, playing started to feel really smooth. I filmed myself playing without and with a warm-up, and the difference is huge!

Muscles need warming up before you use them if you want to make playing smooth.

I have developed my own perfect 15-Min warm-up routine and I’m soon ready to share it with you guys. But you can also build something by yourself. Here’s how to do it:

  • Ideal length 3-5 min. Less than that doesn’t get your muscles warmed up and more is just boring.
  • Find 2 exercises that warm-up your hand (this video has some)
  • Find 2 stretches that you can do to your hands (this video has some)
  • Find 2 exercises that require accuracy and stretching your fingers

Boom! Do each of those for 30 seconds and that’s 3 minutes of awesome warming-up. Also, this is not only for warming up, it also improves your playing every time you do it!

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Be at one with the fretboard

A dear friend of mine, the bass player from one of my first bands, had a stroke (a complication from heart replacement surgery). When he came round he could remember nothing. It took months of us all sharing our favorite stories for him to find his way back.

After his recuperation he posted a question on Facebook? How do I learn to play bass again?

Once I had gotten over the fear that he had lost his music (he was the best bass player that I ever played with, he could find things in my writing that I had never seen and made me feel like I had created all of it!), I gave him one of my oldest practice techniques.

Fret hand string skipping practice.

This is something you can do whilst you watch TV. You won’t even make a sound, this makes it a great bonus workout for your fretting hand.

Place your hand in a comfortable position on the lowest string (low E). For me it is the 5th fret to the 8th fret. Then you walk your hand across the strings and back. Moving alternate fingers in pairs. 1+3, then 2+4, then 1+3, then 2+4 until you get to the highest string. Then you go back again.

Getting good at this? Try 1+4 then 2+3.

Still too easy? Skip strings, move over 2 strings rather than to the next.

Do this until it becomes 2nd nature. You will notice this when you next practice. It has allowed each finger to move independently and give you flexibility and dexterity.

Learn Improvising

The ability to play good-sounding licks and chord sequences on the fly is awesome! And that’s why improvising is a skill that can really lift you from the intermediate skill level to the advanced.

If you have never really paid attention to improvising. Start off slow. You can simply just play around with one string and try to figure out a short, good-sounding lick.

Also, learning scales help. A lot. But just playing the scales up and down doesn’t really sound great. How to make great-sounding licks out of scales? This video explains it perfectly:

How to Start Improvising on Guitar – Improvisation 101 – Learn To Solo

That video is literally pure gold when it comes to learning improvisation. And now…you just need to take action.

One other thing that can unlock the world of improvising for you, is to get to know your fretboard. This video will get you started with that…fast:

Memorize the Fretboard in 3 MINUTES!

An old friend of mine, a legendary blues guitarist in Italy and Thailand (odd combo, I know), always complained about guitarists coming to the bar on a jam night and playing solos EXACTLY how they are on the original song.

The funny part about this is even the guitarists who wrote the solos rarely do that. They grow the solo, make alterations and make playing them a new experience for themselves each time.

Try playing YOUR solo over one of your favorite songs. Play a solo how you would like. After all, that is how the original solo came to being. It wasn’t copied from another solo. It was new, it was improvised and then improved on.

Practice Something Hard

image reveals Guitarist Comfort Zones

If you want to make progress fast, you have to expose yourself to the hard stuff. Every day.

You know…that stuff that just feels impossible to you. You have to pound the pavement. But you know what?

”Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

Jacob Riis

Consistent repetition of hard stuff eventually makes you…well, amazing. So, attack the hard feeling stuff. Every day.

Fingerpicking

With fingerpicking, you can make your guitar sing like nothing else. Possibilities are unlimited, check this amazing piece from Jon Gomm for example:

Jon Gomm – Passionflower

I bet Jon went out of his comfort zone a couple of times when practicing…

But back to us. We normal mortals should start practicing fingerpicking every day. And here’s a video that gives you really powerful exercises that you can include in your practice today/the thumb exercise is my favorite)!

Top 5 Fingerstyle Exercises | Fingerstyle Guitar Tutorial

I started with guitar playing with classical fingerpicking. I did not want to play classical, but it was all they had at my school. What was interesting is how it became a hybrid picking style later.

Having moved on and been able to play a solid-body with a decent teacher I was using a pick all the time. Then I started to 2 handed tap and learned to move the pick into my palm to be held by my 3rd and 4th fingers to free up my 1st and 2nd for tapping.

Then it happened. I started to alternate between picking, tapping and fingerpicking. Eventually I even started to use my 3rd and 4th fingers whilst I was also using my pick.

I’m not Mark Knopfler, but I can access some of his tonal control and produce more unique sounds than many rock guitarists I know.

Left & Right-Hand Sync

No matter if you are fingerpicking or using a pick, the goal is to play notes as cleanly as possible. That’s one key thing that makes you sound good. Really good.

The simplest way to hone your hand sync, is to start including open strings to your scales and licks. That way you detect mistakes easily and have to force yourself to play cleanly.

This video walks you through this exact progress:

Best 5 MIN Alternate Picking Workout! (Hand Synchronization and Speed)

And yes, if you are fingerpicking, you can follow this same progress. Just add open strings to your licks and melodies.

Learn New Songs, Riffs, Licks

This part is the easiest in my opinion. Just learn some new stuff.

  • Complete songs
  • Riffs
  • Licks

But you can be strategic here to make sure that you make progress fast as possible…

You should on purpose learn pieces that get you out of your comfort zone. This ensures that yes, you increase your repertoire as a player, but you also increase your skill level.

Because here most players make their progress really slow. For example, they like Metallica-style metal riffs. So they only learn Metallica-style metal riffs. And by doing this, they limit their growth and end up being kind of a one-trick ponies (done that).

So learn new pieces, but go out of your comfort zone and learn something different. You will at least 2x your learning speed.

Bonus: Theory

I didn’t include this in the routine itself, but it doesn’t mean that theory is not important.

Music theory can work as a roadmap for you as you practice.

  • It can guide you and make things easier/clearer
  • It can improve your improvisation skills
  • It can enable you to play smoothly with other musicians
  • It can enable you to create your own music
  • It helps you to really understand music

That’s why I would recommend that you spend 15 minutes per day learning music theory.

Use this guide to understand notes on guitar fretboard.

If you are a newbie to music theory, starting to learn can feel intimidating… But this video, it’s awesome. Watching it is the best way to get your feet wet with music theory:

Your Very FIRST Music Theory Lesson on Guitar

You Have The Power

You have an amazing structure for your practice. With this, you can gain serious skills.

Great thing is that nothing in this is set in stone. You can change a few things if you want. You don’t have to follow the exact exercise I recommended. You know you better than me, so you should decide exactly what you include in your practice. But the danger lurks here…

You must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

You have to be honest and a bit ruthless here. Don’t overestimate yourself and detect weak spots.

But the great thing is that this is simple. You suck at fingerpicking, do that more. You suck at theory, do that more. Getting great at something is simple, but it’s not easy.

Check our favorite fingerstyle acoustic guitars here.


How and Why This Works?

If you go through this article and do this routine once, and then repeat it after a couple of weeks…you might make some progress, but it will be super slow.

The trick here is to follow this routine consistently every day. For years. Make it part of your day. So that this routine becomes automatic for you. You just do it.

If you do this for a year or two and look at the results, you will be shocked by how much progress you have made. Results will compound and you will be a beast at guitar playing.

Great things consist of several small things. “Small things” are every practice you perform. And as a result, you will gain a skill set that makes people call you a great guitar player.


Too Busy?

This is not a problem. First…

No one has time for everything, everyone has time for most important things.

So prioritizing might help. Take some time from watching TV, playing video games, or scrolling on your phone.

If you are really short on time, do this:

  • decrease the practice time to 15-30 minutes
  • detect the things you need to work on the most and practice those
  • practice different sections of this practice routine in different days
  • take advantage of lunch and coffee breaks

There is always time for little practice, you just need to prioritize and plan things. As a result, you can learn guitar even if you are a busy person like most of us!

There are even things you can do without a guitar to improve your skills when you do have the time. Having a squash ball in your pocket to allow you to exercise your fingers is a great way to improve finger strength and dexterity.

ALWAYS carry a pick with you. I have one in my wallet. This way I can take advantage of any guitar at any time. I can also put it in my hand and fiddle with it absentmindedly. I have developed techniques that surprise even me.

I don’t really know how I palm my pick with my 3rd and 4th fingers to allow my 1st and 2nd to two handed tap. I can move the pick back into the picking position in 1 beat without thinking. I accredit this to my endless fidgeting with my pocket/wallet pick.

More for intermediate guitar players:


Conclusion

To be honest, this routine is pretty awesome. Most people would probably charge money for this…

But it’s worthless to you if you don’t use it. So plan a little and start implementing this routine every day. That will make you a great guitar player!

If you find that life has got in your way, carve out a moment intentionally to sit with your guitar again. No goal, no pressure, just get reacquainted with it. You’ll be back in your routine in no time. There is no judgement, no need to feel guilt. It happens to all of us.

I hope that this article helped you, if you have any questions you can go to my Youtube channel and ask in the comments.

I wish you all the best and keep rocking!


Intermediate Guitar Practice FAQs

What should I practice as an Intermediate Guitarist?

Your practice routine should be varied to keep you interested and focused throughout:

  • Warm up: Muscles need warming up. Otherwise playing can feel clumsy.
  • Learn Improvising: Guitar players need to have the ability t improvise some cool stuff!
  • Practice Something Hard: Practice something that feels too hard right now.
  • Fingerpicking: No matter what style you play, being effortless at fingerpicking is a skill worth having.
  • Left and Right Hand Sync: Learn to play notes and chords cleanly, no matter how fast you play.
  • Learn New Songs, Riffs, Licks: Increase your repertoire and impress everyone.

What is an intermediate level guitarist?

An intermediate level guitarist has proficiency in moving between a decent range of chords (major, minors, 7s, power chords) and can play a range of scales well across the neck (major, minor, pentatonic).

They will also be able to play a small range of songs in time.

This is to give them the platform to move forward to become a great guitarist.

How many hours of guitar do you need for intermediate?

There really is no set amount of time for learning anything. It would be a reasonable expectation for somebody who can commit a minimum of 1 hour per day to achiever this level in around 1 year.

However, life is real and we all have different ways of learning. Steady practice at a level that you can sustain is better than burnout. Chasing timescales is not what playing the guitar is really about. Be kind to yourself and have fun.

How to learn guitar for intermediate?

Regular, sustainable, and well structured practice is key to becoming an intermediate guitarist. Though it is possible to learn online, it is advantageous to find a guitar teach to support your learning.

Learning online can allow for bad habits to become compounded. Having a teacher regularly work with you allows you to be confident that you are learning good techniques with great form.

As with all teachers, make sure you are comfortable with this person and that they are working towards your goals, not theirs.

What is a good practice routing for guitar?

A good practice routine can vary from person to person, yet there are some fundamentals that all practice routines should have:

  • Regularity: Practice with regularity, even if it’s just 30 minutes. Daily is optimal, yet life is real. Find a routine that allows your regular time that you can achieve.
  • Timing: Always use a metronome or rhythm track. When you end up with a band, you won’t get far if you can’t play in time.
  • Look after your instruments: Make maintenance a part of your practice routine. You will benefit greatly from practicing on a good instrument that you know intimately.
  • Focus: Understand the difference between practice, noodling, jamming and playing. You should be practicing. This might not involve learning a whole song. Sometimes you need to work fastidiously on one part to get it right every time.
  • Be kind: Failure is the key to success in life. Every time you fail you learn a valuable lesson. Each of those lessons brings you closer to your goals.
  • Keep it fresh: If you bang your head against the same wall every day, you will get disillusioned. So, mix it up. Chords, scales, a song, fingerpicking, slide, whatever. This is your time, to find your way.

Is 30 minutes of guitar practice enough?

Regularity is key. If 30 minutes a regular intervals is what you can achieve and commit to, then 30 minutes is perfect for you.

Never set yourself up to fail. If you turn it into a chore, then you will soon learn to dislike it. Be kind, be realistic and remember that you are learning to play the guitar to make yourself happy.

Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I also noticed that most guitar websites don’t do a really good job, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website. I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar. I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog(I guess that went the right way…). Expertise: guitar learning techniques, electric guitars, and guitar amplifiers. You can connect with me on LinkedIn or just email me.
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Guitar Storage

I’ve been looking for ways to elevate my guitar skills, and your suggestions provide a clear roadmap for improvement. The balance between technical exercises, theory, and creativity is spot on. I can’t wait to incorporate these into my daily practice sessions.
Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and helping us guitar enthusiasts take our skills to the next level. Keep up the excellent work! 🤘”