There comes a point for every guitar player where they feel they need to go up a level. In fact, you will have several of these moments on your journey to learning to play the instrument. You’ve seen some major gains but have reached a plateau. As progress slows, finding ways to kickstart you’re learning again is important, whether you’re a beginner or an expert.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to ensure your guitar playing continues to improve. Practice and lessons are probably the best starting point, especially if you can find online lessons from a company like superprof.com. There’s no doubt connecting with a qualified teacher can help improve your guitar playing.
If you want to take a more DIY approach, there are some things you can do to up your guitar game. Below we will discuss some of those ideas, and the great news is the following techniques will help you whether you are a novice or an expert.
Sometimes cliches are correct, so when someone says, “practice makes perfect,” on guitar that is completely true. Even the most gifted virtuosos need to practice and develop their abilities. Even if you are only able to pick up the guitar for a few minutes each day, use some of your time for proper practice.
What does that mean? Well, a good practice session will involve trying new things, or at least playing techniques that you find a challenge. It’s easy for guitarists to get stuck in a rut by only playing what they already know. Practice helps you dig yourself out of that hole by focusing on playing more challenging techniques.
Focusing practice is also hugely important. Sure, you have probably read interviews with your favorite guitarists where they point out they would practice 8 hours each day when growing up. That is extreme dedication and by all means if you have the will and time to match that level of immersion, go for it.
The more realistic scenario for most guitar learners is they have much less time on their hands and may not even be quite that dedicated. That’s fair enough, you don’t need to be the next Eddie Van Halen to enjoy playing this instrument. With that in mind, try to be consistent with your routine, even if your minutes with the instrument are limited.
Daily practice is ideal because it will help to build your muscle memory. As noted, practice does not always mean playing. Playing is picking up the guitar and doing what you already know without challenging yourself. There is definitely a time and a reason to simply play, but if you set aside time for practice, it should be something different.
Firstly, you need to start a practice routine with a warmup. Next up, maintenance exercises are little bits of playing that help you retain muscle memory from previous sessions. You are literally maintaining your base level of skill and knowledge of guitar techniques. When it comes to the meat of your practise time, try to focus on individual techniques that will broaden your skill set.
Learn Something New Every Day
Perhaps the most efficient way of expanding your abilities on guitar quickly is to use practice sessions to nail new skills. Instead of jumping all over the place during practice, pick one technique and stick to it until you have it in your toolkit. For example, if you struggle with bending strings, use a practice session that is dedicated to the technique to train yourself.
Next you can move on to something else, for example hammer-ons and pull-offs. It’s worth noting you don’t have to purely practice the technique, instead look for a riff or lick that continues this technique. Talking of songs, chords, and scales, you can dedicate practice sessions to these aspects of playing too.
Importantly, while the idea of learning something new every day is nice, we know that it’s not always possible. Sometimes that tricky scale or difficult technique takes longer to build into your knowledge base. If that’s the case, dedicate as many practice sessions as needed to perfect it and then move on to something else.
There will come a point for most guitarists where they record themselves. Whether it’s ego or just wanting to know how you sound, video and audio recording are fundamental tools for the guitar player. Don’t delay this inevitability and instead embrace the idea of recording yourself early in your journey.
Recording is an amazing way of charting your own progress. You will be surprised how listening to yourself playing afterwards can help you to be more critical. In fact, it can help you clearly hear where your playing is getting better too. What areas do you need to improve? A recording can help you find out.
If you add a video element to recording, that also has some clear benefits. Chief above them is allowing you to see your form when playing the guitar. As you holding the pick correctly, is your strumming hand in a good position? There are plenty of players who get by simply fine with poor hand technique, but if you can build proper posture it will help you improve. Video can highlight those weaknesses for you.
When you finally become a good guitar player, those recordings will also serve as a wonderful way to chart your development.
Here’s the thing, guitar lessons are not necessary to become a good guitarist. Many of the best of all-time never took a single lesson in their life, although many top players did. It’s a personal choice in many ways, but there are a few clear benefits to finding a guitar instructor to help you on your journey:
- It helps you learn faster: By connecting with an expert, you get a fast track to success because the teacher can put you on course earlier. Many self-taught players will admit there’s a lot of trial and error involved in practice because of a lack of knowledge. Teachers can provide that knowledge and get you on the ladder to better playing more quickly.
- It gives you more focus: When you practice on your own, there’s no one to please. If you miss a session or don’t practice that song or technique, there’s no one to hold you accountable. When you have a teacher, missing practicing goals is ok but simply not even trying is embarrassing and costs you money. Having an instructor provides that focus of real goals to meet.
- You can progress naturally: Many self-taught players will admit their early life as a guitar player was defined by a jumble of knowledge. Maybe they learned to solo before chords or could play Sweet Child Of Mine before they could even play a scale. At some point, the self-taught guitarist must sort all this random knowledge into a concise understanding of the instrument. With an instructor, your lessons will be focused on progression in a meaningful way. Your teacher will know the best pattern of learning to build a skillset sooner.
Don’t Forget to Just Play
Ok, I get it! All the tips above have been about active learning and rigid focus. What happened to rock n’ roll and the idea of freedom on the guitar? Don’t worry, I have saved the best until last. Yes, practice and focus are hugely important, but sometimes nothing beats just picking up your guitar and playing.
As important as it is to set aside time to practice, you should also have time to just jam. As a complete beginner, those jam sessions will surely be messy, but that’s part of the fun. When you are just playing, you are essentially simply doing what you already know while sprinkling in some techniques that you may not fully possess just yet.
Either way, it is these free play sessions that will help to make the hard work and practice worthwhile. In fact, I would recommend recording some of your jams so you can see exactly how your practice translates into real playing.
What does jamming look like? Well, that depends because it could range from just plucking notes as a beginner, strumming away while watching TV, going all out to play your favorite song, and even if you mess up. A best scenario jamming session would be to gather some other musicians and play… don’t be afraid, even as a complete beginner there can be a lot of value in playing with other people.