7 Harmful Habits Sabotaging Your Guitar Technique – Rotem Sivan

As a guitarist and musician, I’ve come to realize that technique is a crucial aspect of our ability to express our musical ideas and bring them to life. However, I’ve also observed that many guitar players, myself included, often fall into harmful habits that hinder our progress and limit our potential. In this session, I’ll share with you seven ways you might be damaging your guitar technique and offer practical tips to help you overcome these obstacles.

Habit 1: Inconsistent Variables

One of the most overlooked aspects of guitar playing is the importance of maintaining consistent variables. When we play, we’re dealing with a multitude of information, from the position of our fingers to the velocity of our picking hand. To optimize our technique, it’s essential to reduce the number of variables we have to process.

Tips for Reducing Variables

  • Use a consistent strap height
  • Stick with the same pick once you find one that works for you
  • Develop a sense of where things are on the fretboard, even with your eyes closed

Reducing variables will allow your body and mind to develop a strong sense of muscle memory, making it easier to execute technical passages with ease and precision.

Habit 2: Underutilizing CPU Power

During a recent tour in Mexico and Europe, I had the opportunity to conduct workshops and clinics at universities. In one exercise, I asked students to play a simple note in time with a metronome. Many of them initially struggled, not because the exercise was difficult, but because they weren’t fully focused.

The Power of Presence

  • Be fully present and engaged when practicing
  • Dedicate your entire CPU power to the task at hand
  • Make a conscious decision to focus and nail each exercise to the best of your ability

By harnessing the full power of your attention and focus, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can improve your technique and master even the most challenging passages.

Habit 3: Viewing Technique as Separate from Music

One of the biggest misconceptions among guitar players is the idea that technique is separate from music. We often think of scales, arpeggios, and technical exercises as boring, disconnected from the emotional and expressive aspects of playing.

Embracing Technique as Music

  • View scales and arpeggios as beautiful melodies and musical fragments
  • Connect emotionally with the sounds and colors you’re creating
  • Get excited about the musical potential of each technical exercise

By shifting your mindset and embracing technique as an integral part of the musical conversation, you’ll find yourself more engaged and motivated to practice, leading to faster progress and greater enjoyment.

Habit 4: Neglecting to Break Down Complex Phrases

When faced with a challenging musical phrase, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. However, the key to mastering complex passages lies in breaking them down into simple, clear fragments.

Analyzing a Complex Line

  • Identify the scale or tonality being used
  • Break down the phrase into smaller, manageable chunks
  • Isolate specific techniques, such as legato or string skipping
  • Practice each fragment slowly and deliberately

By dissecting a complex phrase into its component parts, you demystify the process and create a clear roadmap for mastering the technique required to execute it flawlessly.

Habit 5: Ignoring Color and Sound

As guitarists, we often become fixated on the mechanical aspects of technique, forgetting the importance of color and sound. When practicing technical exercises, it’s crucial to maintain a strong connection to the emotional and expressive qualities of the music.

Cultivating Awareness of Color and Sound

  • Focus on the unique tonal qualities of each note and interval
  • Imagine the colors and emotions evoked by different technical patterns
  • Strive for intentionality and purpose behind every note you play

By keeping color and sound at the forefront of your mind, you imbue your technique with a sense of musicality and expression that sets you apart from players who merely go through the motions.

Habit 6: Neglecting Time and Rhythm

One of the most common mistakes guitarists make is neglecting the importance of time and rhythm in their technical practice. Playing in time, with a strong sense of pulse and subdivisions, is essential for developing a solid and reliable technique.

Tips for Incorporating Rhythm into Technical Practice

  • Always practice with a metronome or drum groove
  • Be aware of the subdivisions you’re playing (quarter notes, eighth notes, triplets, etc.)
  • Strive for a clear and honest connection between your playing and the underlying pulse

By prioritizing time and rhythm in your technical practice, you’ll develop a strong foundation that allows you to execute even the most challenging passages with confidence and precision.

Habit 7: Failing to Understand the Meaning and Flexibility of Technical Exercises

Many guitarists approach technical exercises as static, inflexible patterns to be memorized and regurgitated. However, the true value of these exercises lies in understanding their underlying concepts and being able to adapt them to different musical contexts.

Embracing Flexibility and Creativity

  • Analyze the core concepts behind each technical exercise
  • Experiment with variations and modifications to suit your musical needs
  • Apply the ideas learned from exercises to your own improvisations and compositions

By grasping the deeper meaning and flexibility of technical exercises, you unlock a world of creative possibilities and develop a unique and personal sound on the instrument.

Bonus Tip: Patience and Persistence

Improving your guitar technique is a lifelong journey, full of challenges and triumphs. It’s essential to approach this process with patience and persistence, understanding that growth and development take time.

Embracing the Journey

  • Celebrate small victories and incremental progress
  • Accept that setbacks and plateaus are a natural part of the learning process
  • Maintain a positive and growth-oriented mindset

By embracing the journey and trusting in the power of consistent, focused practice, you’ll continue to evolve and refine your technique, unlocking new levels of musical expression and creativity.


Q: How can I maintain consistency in my guitar setup to reduce variables?

A: To maintain consistency, use a consistent strap height, stick with the same pick once you find one that works for you, and develop a sense of where things are on the fretboard, even with your eyes closed.

Q: What does it mean to utilize my full CPU power when practicing guitar?

A: Utilizing your full CPU power means being fully present and engaged when practicing, dedicating your entire focus to the task at hand, and making a conscious decision to nail each exercise to the best of your ability.

Q: How can I break down complex musical phrases into manageable fragments?

A: To break down complex phrases, identify the scale or tonality being used, isolate specific techniques, and practice each fragment slowly and deliberately. This process demystifies the phrase and creates a clear roadmap for mastering the required technique.

Q: Why is it important to focus on color and sound when practicing technique?

A: Focusing on color and sound helps maintain a strong connection to the emotional and expressive qualities of the music. By keeping these elements at the forefront of your mind, you imbue your technique with a sense of musicality and purpose.

Q: How can I incorporate rhythm and time into my technical practice?

A: To incorporate rhythm and time, always practice with a metronome or drum groove, be aware of the subdivisions you’re playing, and strive for a clear and honest connection between your playing and the underlying pulse.

Wrapping Up

As we’ve explored, numerous harmful habits can sabotage your guitar technique and hinder your progress as a musician. By addressing these issues head-on and implementing the tips and insights shared in this article, you’ll be well on your way to developing a more robust, expressive, and reliable technique.

Remember, the path to mastering your instrument is a holistic one, requiring a balanced approach that combines technical proficiency with deep musical understanding and emotional connection. By breaking free from the habits that hold you back and embracing a mindful, intentional approach to practice, you’ll unlock your full potential as a guitarist and artist.

So take these lessons to heart, apply them diligently in your daily practice, and watch as your technique and musicianship soar to new heights. Happy practicing!

Visit my website: rotemsivan.com.

Join me on Patreon: patreon.com/Rotem/Sivan

See you guys soon! Peace Out

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