How to Get Back Into Guitar After a Long Break: Bite-Size Guitar Podcast Episode 47

Episode 47 of the Bite-Size Guitar Podcast looks at how to get back into guitar after taking a long break.

Everybody will at some point have to take a long break from guitar (sometimes not by choice). This episode helps ease you back into playing and getting a regular practice routine back up and running.

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Useful Resources

Here are some helpful resources to get a practice routine up and running:

Podcast Episode 47 Transcript

Hi, I’m Aaron from and this is episode 47 of the Bite Size Guitar podcast.

Before I start this episode, I just wanted to say sorry for the lack of episodes over the last two years. If you were a regular listener to this podcast and wondered what happened, my wife had our first baby and it became pretty much impossible to find time to record anything. I really wanted to keep the podcast going, but it just didn’t work out. Now that my child is older and I don’t have to worry about a screaming baby in the background while recording, I’m excited to get back into regular podcast episodes.

Thank you to all the listeners who have sent me feedback about the podcast and my website over the years. I’m glad people have been enjoying these episodes and hopefully you’ll get a lot out of future episodes. If there are any topics you would like me to cover in future episodes, contact me on the website and let me know.

Okay, so in episode 47, I think it’s fitting for me to talk about how to get back into playing guitar whenever you have a long break from it.

Just like my experience with this podcast, sometimes life gets in the way and your usual routine gets thrown out the window. Or it might be as simple as you went on a long holiday and after getting back home, you feel a bit stuck with your guitar playing.

At some point, everybody will experience this. So even if this doesn’t apply to you right now, it will at some point.

The challenge with getting back into guitar after a long break is that it can feel hard to kick-start a practice routine again. Depending on how long the break was, your skills and muscle memory may have taken a step backward. The longer the break was, the harder it will be to get back into regular practicing.

This can be frustrating as you may find yourself having trouble playing or even remembering how to play songs or licks that used to be effortless.

I’ve heard of stories of guitarists who used to practice daily without fail then suddenly giving up guitar completely because they had a long break and couldn’t get back into it. It can happen to the best of us, so let’s have a quick look at a few things to do to kick-start your guitar playing. Keep these points in mind for any time in the future when you can’t stick to your regular practice routine.

Take it easy at first

The first thing to keep in mind is to accept that your skills have probably taken a step or two backwards. If a marathon runner took an entire year off, it should be no surprise that when they go out for their first run in over a year, they’re probably going to struggle compared to a year ago. Athletes know that they need to ease back into training after a long break or after illness or an injury and it’s the same with guitar.

The first time you pick up your guitar after a long break, don’t expect to be able to jump back in to where you were before. Take it slow and easy. Get used to how your guitar feels again under your fingers.

See how much you remember and don’t get frustrated with yourself whenever you feel stuck or have trouble playing something that used to feel easy. It’ll all come back in time.

Go through some of your favorite songs and just enjoy playing guitar without any expectations on yourself. Whenever I have a long break from guitar, the first session back always feels weird. I’ll throw on a jam backing track and just improvise. I don’t know if it’s some sort of placebo effect, but it feels like the first improvisation after a long break feels fresh and creative. I feel like I come up with licks and try things that I never usually play. Whether it actually does sound better or more creative than usual is another story, but the point is that a long break can temporarily change the way you feel about guitar.

So take it easy and play something that feels fun. For me, that’s improvising. For you, it might be playing your favorite song, strumming a few chords, or just messing around with effects pedals.

Don’t set any expectations for yourself and just enjoy your first session back playing guitar. Think of it as a shake out run an athlete might do to loosen up and get ready for a race.

Think about your goals

After your first session back, you’ll probably have in your mind a few areas you feel you need to work on. You might be frustrated about some things you had trouble playing or remembering.

Again, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’ve only had a week long break from guitar, you shouldn’t notice much of a setback in your skills and it won’t take you long to get back to where you were.

If the break was somewhere from two to ten months, it’ll probably be obvious what areas you need to work on. Your fingers probably won’t move as accurately or as fast as they used to and you may even find some chord or parts hurt your fingers. That’s all normal and nothing to stress about. Two weeks of short but consistent daily practice can be all that it takes to bring you back up to speed and feel good about your playing.

If you’ve had a long break measured in years, the chances are you’re a different person than who you were when you last played guitar. Your music tastes may have shifted slightly – or may have shifted a lot – and what used to be fun to play on guitar may not feel the same way to you anymore. That’s okay and it happens to everyone. If you try to play a song that you used to love playing on guitar ten years ago and it doesn’t really speak to you today, it doesn’t mean you should give up guitar. It just means you need to do a bit of a search to find what does speak to you now.

Coming back to guitar after a very long break is a great opportunity to try something new. Go through the music you listen to that you’ve never tried to play on guitar and think about what songs you might want to set as a challenge to learn. Go watch some guitar covers of those songs on YouTube and get inspired. Seeing another guitarist perform those songs helps you imagine yourself playing those songs. I do this whenever I’m thinking about learning a new song. I’ll watch a few covers of the song on YouTube and imagine myself playing it. Just watching the guitarist’s hands playing the song can give you a good enough picture of what it would be like to play the song. It can help you decide whether you want to learn the song or not. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but I know whether a song will be fun for me to play or not after watching somebody else cover the song. Try it out and see if it helps inspire you to learn some new songs.

Write a short list of songs you’re interested in learning. It’s okay if some songs are songs you used to play on guitar, but I recommend adding at least two songs that you’ve never tried on guitar before. Trying things you’ve never tried before on guitar is a good way to keep it fresh and make sure you keep growing as a guitarist. You don’t need to wait until you’ve had a long break from guitar to do this, you can do it right now if you want. Set yourself a goal to learn two completely new songs that you’ve never tried to learn before.

Commit to a practice routine

Okay, so you’ve had a relaxed jam session after a long break and now you’ve had a good think about what songs and skills you want to work on. The next step is to commit to a realistic practice routine that you’re confident you will be able to stick to.

This is really important for anybody who has had a very long break from guitar. The time you used to spend practicing may not be realistic in your current situation. For example, as a teenager, I spent up to four hours practicing guitar a day. Today, I’d be lucky if I can get four hours of total guitar playing over an entire week. Some days I’m lucky to pick up the guitar to play an entire song before I need to go do something else.

Everybody’s lives are constantly changing and it’s okay if sometimes you don’t have as much time to dedicate to guitar. If you have plenty of time, that’s great. But you can still make it work if your free time is tight.

Just don’t automatically expect that you can jump straight back into the same practice routine habits as before. I’ve covered this topic in other episodes, especially episode 32, so have a listen to it if you’re having trouble finding time to practice.


So let’s quickly go through the key points to remember from this episode.

First, at some point, everybody finds themselves having a long break from guitar. Whether it’s a health issue, a holiday, career or family changes, or something else, the chances are at some point you may find that you’ll have a break from guitar.

Getting back into guitar can be tough and it does catch people by surprise. That’s why I wanted to record this episode. Too many people end up quitting guitar just because they had a break and couldn’t get back into it.

If you do find that you need to take a long break from guitar, when you get back to it, be easy on yourself. If your skills have taken a step backwards, that’s okay. You can recover that ground and continue enjoying guitar. Just take the first few sessions easy and accept that it takes time to get back to full speed.

The final point to keep in mind is that our lives are constantly changing and you may need to reassess your guitar routine and practice habits. Take some time to figure out how you can stick to a regular practice routine and you’ll be fine.

While this episode may not be directly relevant to you right now, it may in the future, so keep it in mind if you find yourself coming back from a long break from guitar.

If you want to read more about this topic and how to reassess your practice routine, I have a few useful guides on that can help you. I have a couple of guides explaining how to set up an effective practice routine as well as advice on how long your practice sessions should be. There’s also quite a few lessons with simple finger exercises you may want to add into your practice routine.

I’ve listed links to all relevant guides and lessons on the page for this episode at

Thanks for being a listener to this podcast and I’ll talk to you next time.