Unexpected practice things along the way while learning guitar that really helped you?

I’m a couple of years in to learning guitar now, and it strikes me that there are a couple of things that I’ve learned along the way that have either been important far longer than I expected, or were under-emphasized, but I’ve found them really useful.

I have so, so many, but I’ll share three. What are some of yours? Might make for an interesting thread.

One Minute Changes are still useful two years in

Justin introduces OMCs right at the beginning of grade 1 for the open chords. It seems they might not be useful forever. But I keep coming back to OMCs when I learn songs with new-to-me chord voicings and fingerings.

A new chord can be challenging, but daily OMCs, and after a while the new chord will become automatic. Even a couple of jazz chords now (but not for jazz songs :rofl:).

Even when you know a chord, getting there from a new one can be a challenge

You think you know easy chords right, like D major? But then transition there quickly from a brand new chord you’ve learnt with new-to-you fingering, where the fingers are in a new starting position… and mess up the D. One of the fingers in the wrong spot. Whoops, ugly…

It seems that the start of the change matters as well as the destination when it comes to how intelligent fingers are. Practice, practice, practice.

Hand stretching is so important, and so slow to improve

When I started learning, I had really, really bad hand flexibility. I did some of the initial stretching exercises and then stopped. Somewhere along the way I reintroduced 5 mins of daily hand stretching, and it’s been so valuable. When I first tried to play La Grange - which needs a mini-barre on 2nd and pinky on 5th - I couldn’t reach. I came back to it after a couple of months, and I could do it. That was a while ago. Stretching is oh, oh, so slow - but over time, it makes a huge difference.

So share - what are some of your learnings that have been unexpectedly important to you?


Interesting topic JK and looking forward to reading the replies. I am just over 4 years in and still use the One minute changes pretty regularly especially with barre chord changes. There are definitely other techniques I keep coming back to but the OMC has been invaluable especially when learning new songs.

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The number one thing I learnt almost 50 years ago was to listen. Not just hear truly listen. The suttle little things that make the differences between a good performance and a great performance. Every body has hear someone play a simple song and went WOW. Suttle differences in rhythm, note placement, pauses and phrasing make a huge difference and to learn these techniques you need to listen.

The number one thing I learnt from Justin that made a big difference in my playing was the Minimum Movement Exercise. Not just in my soloing but made everything thing smoother. Mostly fingerstyle chord changes in songs like Tears in Heaven.

I also learnt a version of Justin’s One Minute Changes early on in my journey and still use it when learning new chord voicing.


@jkahn - all I can say is “yeah - that’s for sure” to your three items. :slight_smile:
@stitch - I notice that some days I have robotic sounding play, and others have emotion. I haven’t figured out how to call upon the emotional feel at will yet.

A recent learning for me was curious. I started to really dive into transcribing. Now that I see I can do it, I have a great deal more confidence in my ability to learn a song. I no longer feel the need to find tab because I know I can create it.


Find your own voice on the instrument, even if no one else gets what you are doing. Zig when everyone else zags. Practice at different volumes, don’t always practice playing clean. Muck around with tone early and often. Don’t dig into a rut, become style agnostic. Practice what you don’t know.


I’ve never really focused on technique improvement (apart from necessary stuff to be able to play whatever my current project is). It’s been much more about the music and for that, the single most useful tool for me has been The Circle of Fifths
It’s like a skeleton key for popular music. Simple/complex, beautiful and useful… :open_mouth: :grinning:


This will be an interesting topic to keep eyes on JK, good question.

Completely agree with OMC and your second point about moveing to a known chord from a new one, I use it pretty much with most songs I know, even if they are both chords I know already it happens often that I’ve never encountered those chords back to back. She’s Electric was a perfect recent example of this for me with A to C#m and C#m to E.

Outside of that it’s always do things simply at first, one strum per bar when learning songs to get to know the song first before complicating things with strumming patterns etc. For me at least slowly building is the key to success.


Hey JK! Nice topic!
For me it’s got to be…

Does this sound familiar?
“What??? You’re playing that same song AGAIN???” :see_no_evil: :hear_no_evil: :speak_no_evil:

Sometimes it even drives ME crazy listening to myself play House of the Rising Sun over & over & over… ad nauseum! That seems to be the only way I can internalize learning though. Also, writing my own TAB seems to help along with saying the chords/progression/strum or picking pattern out loud. If a stranger heard me practicing, I very well could be carted off in a straightjacket!!!

OMCs are very helpful & it’s funny you specifically mentioned the D Chord! That D is the one I screw up the most if I’m changing to it from a “new” chord shape… not the C, not the F, no it’s the lowly & really pretty easy D that capsizes the boat! Throw me a lifeline!!! I’m sunk by that pesky D again!!! :crazy_face:



Yes I agree that changing back and forth repeatedly between two chords is something that will probably always be necessary when learning a new song that contains a new combination. However to be honest I’ve never done this as OMC. I’ve only ever practised changing chords at the speed required for a particular song. I’ve never really seen the point of trying to see how many changes I could do in one minute.

I agree with Brian about the circle of fifths diagram. Although there is a lot about it I don’t fully follow, in its basic form it is so useful when trying to transcribe songs or when learning a song as so many songs stick to the format.

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We’re on the same page about this Gordon. That’s why I said I learnt a version of Justin’s OMC.
I think the way Justin teaches it makes for learning sloppy changes because people fixate on the number of changes and not the quality.


Also agree with this. If I do these then it’s PFC’s because as noted by @stitch going too quick leads to sloppy changes. According to Justin ‘practice makes permanent’


Oh yes, there’s something that I’ve found unexpectedly important - developing my ear!
Unexpectedly important because I largely dismissed it at first. I’ve come to realise how important it is.
Ear training isn’t just about recognising intervals, it’s about everything music. Being able to really hear what I’m playing and hearing how it fits with a backing track and, hopefully someday, playing with others.
It was the re-active listening lesson in the Major Scale Maestro module that really got me into developing my ear. When I first saw it I thought “ no way will I ever be able to do this “. Well, after a while it started to happen and the importance of it really sunk in.
Developing my ear will be a long ladder and I’m only on the first rung. From what I’ve learned so far, I’m excited about what it might lead to! 🎸


Absolutely. Practice Sloppy, Play Sloppy. I’ve went with the motto practice slowly and accurately and speed will come in its own time.


Great post @jkahn

I’ve been playing for well over a decade and just recently the one minute changes helped me with a chord change that was giving me grief.

2 other things from me.

  1. Slow it down. I have a real challenge song that’s complicated. Was struggling with progress on it and had forgotten to slow down first before going at normal speed.

  2. Just show up. It’s said that 80% of parenting is just showing up and being there. Same for guitar, there are days were I don’t feel as much like playing. Yet I show up, grab the guitar and put some time in.


Echoing the sentiments of others, this is a great thread to start @jkahn!!
Most of mine unexpected practice bonanzas have been said already by others but just to reinforce them, I’ll list my main three (in no particular order really):

*One minute Changes/Progressions – a forever tool for every level. . .
*Understanding intervals – want to be able to play across any key?? (not that I can. . .yet :slight_smile: ) Then learn how intervals work, how chords/scales, etc, are constructed/structured. This gives you the freedom to move things into new keys and really opens up the fretboard. . .music theory is often seen as “boring” but I am learning that it’s kind of a magic bullet (that takes a long time and some serious discipline to get under the fingers) but it’s fun making progress using theory stuff to help.
*PRACTICE SLOW – can’t emphasise enough how important this is and has been for me. So many hours wasted by trying to go to fast, only to find that when I went back, slowed down and played through with no mistake I actually learned things faster with less frustration. Slow is FAST. Now I start SLOW and finish at tempo.

Those are really the big three that I would say have been very useful which I either underestimated or avoided because it seemed “hard” (theory) or “lame” (slow practice).

Looking forward to following this for others contributions!!

Cheers JK!!


Interesting topic. While many things have both surprised and delighted me along the way, and still do, one stands out above all.


What I initially thought was just a detour into alternate and interesting ways to play chords, turns out to be the single most important thing I think I’ve learnt on the guitar.
It really opened up and taught me the guitar fretboard in a musical way, and has become the glue between harmony and melody, rhythm and lead, scales and chords. It has been the basis of me seeing and utilising intervals in a musical way, and a framework for connecting many, many things. From arpeggios, voice leading, all the extended chords like 7ths, 9ths etc, sus chords, altered chords, CAGED etc. All has its basis in these triads. It is the basis of my lead/ improv playing, and also the framework for generating endless chord progressions. I dont think I’d go 10 minutes on a guitar without something specifically triad related in there somewhere.

Above all, they been enormous conceptual teachers, and have allowed me to discover many things - and undoutedly many more.

Cheers, Shane


Another one that has made a difference is playing amplified. I normally play acoustic unplugged. I like it that way and don’t use special effects so no need really to plug in to an amplifier.

When I plug into the amp, it really highlights my mistakes, where I’m not being tidy is made really clear by the amplifier.


Great topic @jkahn :+1:

There have been a lot of really great responses already, but one thing I would add that made a big difference for me personally is learning different ways to mute strings.

As someone who plays electric with various levels of distortion on a regular basis, I underestimated in the beginning how important muting would be. I’m certainly no expert at it now, but I have spent some time trying to learn different muting techniques and it has been very helpful overall. I feel like I will continue having to learn this and get better at it all throughout my guitar journey :guitar:


I too still find the PFC’s very important after just over two years and cannot see that changing in the future.

Not a Justin one but a Richard one, learn song, songs, songs. It is amazing how that helps you improve.

Third for me is muting the strings when practicing a strumming pattern. I still find this one really useful.

Nice topic JK. :+1:


What was unexpected was using arpeggios when soloing over blues (probably other music types as well) an absolute game changer, can’t stress enough how much better it makes the solos sound, start with the 7ths and then half diminished.