How can I improve accuracy more efficiently

This has been an issue for me for me since I started. I finally had my fill of poor accuracy over the weekend and am looking for advice.

I am coming up on three years since I first picked up a guitar. I get no less than 30 minutes a day in and often more like 60-90. My practice the last 6 months has been focused on songs rather than technique. I am seeing that I struggle with getting a song to play well because I make so many picking and fretting mistakes. I’d like to get the picking ironed out and that is the goal of this query.

I am not trying to do anything terribly fast. I’d say “typical” tempos for blues and classic rock. I seem to do well enough with power chords. I can play along as long as I am not trying to pick individual strings. I do better with fingers than a pick by a significant measure, enough that it is low on my list of things to fix by comparison.

II know the basics of “it will come” and “practice more”. If that is all there is, then I guess I am doomed to wait decades of snail’s pace improvement before I can hope to play a song without dozens of missed strings. I have tried some common exercises like running scales up and down, string skipping exercises, and just playing songs.

However, I have seen occasional information making a difference that lets a skill grow quickly to a new plateau. That is what I am hoping to see here.

good example of a difficult song is “I’m Tore Down” rhythm part as Justin teaches it. This seems like something I should be able to get working after three or four months of daily practice. It is still pretty rough due to clipping the string being skipped or just missing the string I want to hit.

Since this is a core skill, there must be something I can do to change my practice so I learn this. I am a bit concerned this is going to be a chronic problem because even after 45 years of typing, I still cannot do it without errors and looking. These seem like a similar learning issue.

So, what have you got that is different than the standard stuff to recommend?

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Are you anchoring your little finger on the guitar body, so that you’re consistent in where your pick hand is starting from? If you’re moving your whole hand freely, it’s going to be more difficult to hit your target.

It’s like Army marksmanship training. They teach you to make sure you put your cheek in the same spot on the rifle stock to get a consistent sight picture.


I do anchor heavily at my palm and corner of the bridge.
For pinky, I will sometimes hook pinky around either the bridge pickup corner, or touch the neck pickup corner depending on where I am picking (which is dependent on the muting needed).

For the song example, I seem to be doing both (just tried it).

I am actually an excellent marksman. Sigh… And I hit a good golf ball too! my fingers are rebellious!

I do think I am a little scattered on position tho. maybe that is part of it. From day to day, or even strum to picking, I am probably in a different place. I do need to hunt for the ideal muting position for my palm from time to time.

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Hey Michael,

I was in a somewhat similar situation about a year ago. I’d been around for about 3 years, going pretty well, and starting to play some more advanced stuff etc, etc.
I was however, becoming a little frustrated, particularly with things like string skipping moves, faster melody lines, and in general, my physical connection to the guitar.
The upshot is I’ve been doing 2 structured sets of exercises via 2 books; one on Hand Synchronisation, the other on Alternate Picking. Essentially it equates to a 10 minute routine for each in my daily practice. Have been at it for about 7 months now. Has been extremely beneficial across all my playing, and you utilise musicality into the routine, so its not dry, boring exercises. I didnt realise how out of sych my hands actually were.
Still much development necessary, but I can see much improvement.
I note on Youtube etc, there’s a billion ‘experts’ on this stuff, so discernment I’ve found is necessary, and you can find what you need.
People like Troy Grady etc get right into this stuff in a big way, but for me, he goes way over the top, and gets in his own way. Others however, worship him. Each to their own. Anyway, you’ll find your own way.
I think the most important thing is to detail very explicity what your specific issues are, then find the specific appropriate resource to first fix, then develop them.

Cheers, Shane



I think all there really is to playing guitar is hitting the right string, at the right time, at the right speed, with the fretting hand in sync… if we could do all that all the time, we’d be world class players.

This is the hard stuff.

You’ve analysed your own playing for picking accuracy - but we’re just stabbing in the dark with advice. This would be a really good thing to post a video for, so the group can have a look and suggest advice. You’re a pretty active member of the community, but I don’t think we’ve seen a video to have as a reference point for what your playing is like.

I’ve found there are two kinds of “picking” accuracy, and they need different techniques. One is picking individual notes while strumming, which is faster, looser, slower, and has a melody-over-chords feel. Justin has a good lesson for that in Grade 3 (that you might have encountered). The other is picking, as you might pick a solo or a picked lead line.

I found a while ago I was struggling with accuracy on picking. As @markr31 suggests the body needs a reference point. For me the turning point was analysing Slash play the intro to Sweet Child of Mine live when I was desperately trying to absorb information and tutorials about how to get my picking more accurate. I was struggling with accuracy and I felt it wasn’t getting better. I noticed he floats his hand, gently touching the guitar, as well as gently touching the bridge. The key for me was trying to ensure I was always doing something like that, just gently, to allow my brain to build the map of where the strings were. Hard “anchoring” wasn’t working, and neither was completely floating (a real mess), but slowly with this just-touching, it started to work.

I hope that helps. It would be good to see a video as well, that might help with better advice from the community.


I was going to say exactly the same as @jkahn - I agree that this is the fundamental difficulty we all face. For me it might me playing happy birthday at 60bpm, for someone else it might be playing Eric Johnson’s Cliffs of Dover at 198bpm. We tend to see practiced and polished performances at a tempo within the players range - occasionally you’d see someone like Jeff Beck fall off the edge but it’s rare. That doesn’t mean these players are always accurate in their practicing though.

I’m assuming there’s something at some tempo you can play accurately. I have become really good friends with my metronome and I try to practice at a tempo where I’m not making mistakes (or not many at least!). The temptation I have otherwise is to push the tempo to a point where I am repeating the mistakes and just getting frustrated.

Another thought that comes to mind is Justin’s advice of trying to make the mistake and watching what you do. You either (frequently) stop the mistake or you get a good idea of why it’s happening.

A video could help if you’re up for it.


I’d agree with @jkahn regards the 2 forms of picking and from reading the OPs opener, I guess Michael is talking about picking during rhythm playing, adding fills between strums. As already pointed out Justin’s how-to-pick-individual-strings-while-strumming is a great exercise but I have also been flat picking Justin’s 4:4 Fingerstyle Patterns from Grade 3 as well.

I’ve also recently discovered a guy called Simon Candy in my pursuit of more fingerstyle development but also came across a couple of lessons on picking and strumming techniques and incorporated them into my practice. You may find this helpful.


Yesterday, having made good progress in this area, I completely stuffed up and just could not hit the right strings and got more and frustrated before putting the guitar down, I then recalled and exercise I have not done for 20 odd years. And its simple spatial awareness and teaching your hand where the strings are and its quick and simple, just pick the strings as below.

6-5-6-4-6-3-6-2-6-1-6-2-6-3-6-4-6-5 and loop.
5-4-5-3-5-2-5-1-5-2-5-3-5-4 and loop
4-3-4-2-4-1-4-2-4-3 and loop

Do this very slow to start with, its boring but effective. Doing the 3 different patterns orientates your hand and mind to picking individual strings in respect of the common “root strings”. Having done this today before doing my chordal picking session, everything clicked into place. But your mileage may vary.



Toby @TheMadman_tobyjenner
Michael @sequences

Quite few coincidences in this the thread and your post Toby for me

I am just trying to work through Justin’s lesson on strumming and picking, far from perfect but just getting to the stage of changing chords. But like you Michael I do don’t have a good feel of where the strings are, Lee @LeeMB called it “proprioception” the ability of the body to perceive its own position in space.

So a couple of weeks ago I started to look around for some practice lessons and came across the website you mentioned Toby, and intend to have a go with those patterns when I have cracked Justin’s


PS I like the look of your practice sequence Toby.

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Its from a book I picked up when I started in 96, what it was or who it was by is long gone. But it came to mind when I started the Module 17 lesson. There will be a whole host of stuff from back then that could emerge when prompted. :rofl:

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Keep at it Michael

Plenty of good advice so far so I’ll just pick two specifics that I found helpful

  • learning solos and licks - I can’t seem to keep ‘exercises’ up consistently (they are just a bit dull) but leaning licks and lead lines has helped my fingers learn where each of the strings are.

  • Slow it right down - for tricky bits and lines that I mess up regularly, I will slow things right down (to a painful pace) and redo the tricky transition over and over. It does help, think of the one minute changes from earlier on in the process. Some lines I must concede, however, do need to ‘flow’ as one sort of move. Let me know if you find a trick for those ones.

Don’t despair, the better we get, the more we notice and can be quite hard on ourselves as a result. For the casual listener the mistakes won’t be that obvious. And yes, it will all get better with time.

PS: I don’t mind ‘cheating’ if a move or chord is too much I’ll just replace it with an alternative.

Good discussion. Seems we’re all swimming in the same sea of imperfection - but still afloat! @jkahn described what I am trying to do now: Hard “anchoring” wasn’t working, and neither was completely floating (a real mess), but slowly with this just-touching, it started to work.

Like Justin, I have a really short pinky finger, so hard anchoring scrunches my fingers too close to the strings to play. Sometimes I touch my palm to the bridge, sometimes it’s just my forearm lightly pressing the body. It takes conscious effort, but makes a difference.

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The lesson you cited from Simon Candy is terrific. Very clear and easy to follow. Thanks.

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Hi Shane - If you have an example to highlight, that would be nice. When I sit down to practice a scale, using it as “target practice” for picking and timing, I get sleepy. :slight_smile: I’ve been thinking that arpeggiated song segments might be useful. For example the beginning of ‘Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress’.

That’s due to this problem. :slight_smile:
I only had one in the riff/lick thread a few months ago. Thanks for slapping me with my own complaint when helping - the need to see what’s going on. I’ll see if I can make a video that captures the problem at its worst.
I have been through the individual notes lesson. I tried it for 3-4 weeks with poor success and postponed it thinking I had a more fundamental problem to fix. I’ll re-examine that one.
I took a look at the Slash video you posted and may need to ask you more. He really does go back to the same place consistently. I need to figure this out.

The old problem of hurrying? Probably. I really try not to. I can usually get good pick accuracy at about 40-50bpm. The problem changes to timing sync or mind drift at that pace, bit it is quite acceptable though.

This is what I think is missing. It sure seems like it should come from playing, but it hasn’t for me. I’ll try to avoid sleep by doing this first thing in the morning. yes… I have fallen asleep with my guitar in my lap. :sleepy: Wife hasn’t taken any pictures I know of, so I haven’t been caught yet!

I was thinking just this as I was reading through the comments. I think this will be a practice item - more of a mind/motion practice than anything directly playing.

Thanks for the ideas. The only one I dread is Toby’s!
I do not set up video because it is a pain to do, so I need to figure out a way to video my time regularly. I get 10-15 min in several times a day, so setting up for 15 min means I don’t pick up the guitar at that time. I need to find some way to keep the setup in place. I do think a video will help me as well as give y’all something known to comment on.

Off to make breakfast, then try out that horrible practice :wink: I’ll get to the others as the day progresses.

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Try playing w/o playing along with anything. Just you playing.
This will surely bring and deficiency’s to light. Then you work on what needs more effort.
Kinda simplistic, but this is what I do. If I want anything to sound just this way, any backup only covers up the errors of my ways. I easy find what I need to work on this way. Then I go work (and it may take much work too) on playing what I think I’m doing poorly on.

Take a video of your playing mate, and maybe a few of us can take a look and offer some advice :ok_hand:

Which books???

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Is it not one of the exercises in the old classic intermediate course under picked fingerstyle? I think Justin covers it at around the 6 minute mark in the video.

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No its definitely from the mist of time as it was certainly E to e to E. Watching that video just now rang some vague bells, so I’ll be giving that a go as well. As Tesco says/said, every little helps. :wink:

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Just watched that whole lesson again, as there are some good patterns to master.

I then searched through Grades 4 to 7 and then did a search and there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent lesson following everything being rewritten. Could be just my bad search skills but a valuable lesson for all players.


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Cool exercise. It’s less annoying to listen to if you palm mute every second note. Practice two skills at once.