Guitar Exercises: Are They Boring, Tedious, Endless?

Photo by Caspar Rae on Unsplash

Half of my social media feed is ads promising relief from “boring, tedious guitar exercises”.

I’ll be frank and use equally strong words: this is a thoughtless perspective. If you find ANY of your guitar exercises “boring” or “tedious”, I have news for you. You’re not accomplishing anything. Maybe you already know this, or you’re aware of your lack of real progress.

It’s not that life is too short to be bored practicing guitar, although I’ve heard this expressed by some students. 

If you’re “bored”, your execution, tone, and fluidity had better be flawless.

I don’t know about you, but after 40-plus years of playing, I haven’t reached that point yet. And I’ve been a professional musician for 30-plus of those forty years. 

Perhaps it’s the emphasis on guitar gymnastics or just the mistaken idea that only “hard” things are hard. The internet guitar universe is full of flashy clickbait that gets attention but delivers little. Blanket indictments are unfair, of course, but let’s face it, it’s hard to cut through the noise and find where the real value is. Of course, this is the great advantage of curated platforms like JamPlay. 

With that said, you still need to approach your practice with the right mindset. So let’s address the loaded words in my admittedly clickbait-y title.

1. Boring

If you’re bored, you aren’t paying attention.

Think of the details that go into executing anything well. There’s the obvious accuracy part, landing your fingers in the right place. There is the sound of the resulting notes. There’s the overall picture of maintaining relaxed flow and concentration. And then, if we’re talking exercises, of course there’s speed. 

I don’t think it’s going too far out on a limb to suggest that you could ALWAYS be more accurate and confident. The “confidence” part of this is important. You might know the notes, but can you nail them every time? Are you in control of your hands or is there an element of uncertainty and hope when you start down that black diamond run? 

If you can’t find any element of a particular exercise or passage that could use improvement, congratulations! Pat yourself on the back and move on to the next. But in my experience, there’s nearly ALWAYS something you could do better.

2. Tedious

This might just be a synonym for “boring”. Let’s say the tedium is repetition without new information. 

So, IS there any new information? As mentioned above, is there anything you observe regarding your execution or tone? Is there a buzzy note that stubbornly won’t ring clearly? A shift that’s a little uncertain? Muddiness or sloppiness in your picking? Do you need a compressor in order to play a scale with consistent tone? These are all questions you can ask yourself. 

Great players are in command of their touch first and foremost.

The purpose of exercises is to practice your touch, and to recognize how different finger patterns make different demands on the hands. Are you aware of any tension, or worse, pain or strain? These are signals that demand your attention, but too many students accept them because “it’s supposed to be hard”.

Well, yes, it is, but it’s not supposed to be painful, physically or mentally.

“Tedious” exercises are meant to be divorced from their musical context so you can concentrate on pure mechanics. Even a passage from a song can be broken down to a finger exercise that will help you play the song better. But you need to treat that passage as an exercise and not be thrown off because it “doesn’t sound like the song” anymore. Out of context and slowed down, it won’t! But isolating a specific movement or sound lets you focus purely on its execution. THEN we work to increase the speed and integrate that movement into the flow of the song.

3. Endless

I hate to break it to you, but this one is accurate. It IS endless. But that’s part of the beauty, isn’t it. I can’t play everything I want to play as well as I would like, but it’s not because of a technical deficit. It’s because there is so much to know, and always something new to absorb. If this weren’t the case, then Hendrix, Van Halen, Malmsteen and Vai wouldn’t have had the impact they had. These players broke new ground and showed us something more was possible. They took their influences and foundations and elevated them to the stratosphere. (No pun intended, but it does apply, doesn’t it?)



Dropping the names above does sound like proof one can fully “master” the guitar, and mastery is clearly on display in their music. But I believe any one of them would agree with my main point here. Even at the dizzying heights of skill these players attained, it’s unlikely any of them would have said they were finished learning and improving. 

Don’t believe the hype. There’s no “one weird trick” or “secret that guitar teachers won’t show you”.

There is only you, your guitar, your mindset, and the music. So don’t be bored. Pay attention and be amazed by how much you find. 

Did you know JamPlay and TrueFire merged their video lesson libraries to form the industry’s most comprehensive guitar learning platform? Learn more by clicking HERE and check out the 70,000+ video guitar lessons on TrueFire

Dave Isaacs Avatar

Dave Isaacs has established himself as a guitar teacher extraordinaire, having built a strong set of educational curriculums for beginner, intermediate, and advanced guitar players alike. Dave shares his expertise largely through video platforms, but also through his thoughtful writing. You can take guitar lessons from Dave Isaacs via his comprehensive video guitar courses on

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