How do you get better on guitar?
Just keep practicing right?
Practice mistakes are normal when learning an instrument. But if you want to improve your guitar playing you have to do more than just practice you must know WHAT to practice and HOW to practice. There a lot of ‘old wives’ tales and myths floating around about practicing music that basically goes like this “if you lock yourself away for a couple of hours a day you will become an accomplished player!
The real world version goes more like this “if you lock yourself away for a couple of hours every day without a definite practice strategy and clearly defined goal(s) there’s a good chance your guitar playing could be going around and around in circles, you may lose your enthusiasm and motivation and possibility give up guitar and music altogether”. It’s true and unfortunately, it’s already happened to thousands of players. I don’t agree 100% with the “practice makes perfect” phrase, rather… “perfect practice makes perfect!”
Mistake 1: To just keep on practicing – You know the old saying “if you find yourself in a hole the best thing to do is stop digging!” Good advice but something that is not often applied to guitar practice. If you find your guitar playing going nowhere it means your making practice mistakes. I recommend you stop doing that and take the time to get your playing back on track.
Solution: STOP! whatever you are doing on guitar and take out a blank piece of paper draw a line down the middle of the page, on the left-hand side of the page make a heading “things to work on” then on the right-hand side of the page make a heading titled “why”. When you have finished your page should look like this:
Things To Work On. Why?
The idea is for you to: (a) identify the areas of your guitar playing that need work and (b) have a reason for working on these problems. Once your brain has something definite to work on your whole body will take on a different attitude to practicing and playing the guitar and you will find yourself moving towards your goals rapidly. The trick is to write things down on paper so you can look at the problem without the guitar in your hands; otherwise, there’s a good chance you will send a lot of time working on aspects of your playing that actually don’t need work. Essentially a lot of practice time is literally thrown out the window. These are practice mistakes to avoid and if not, it’s wasted time. Once you get a laser beam fix on your targeted ‘problem’ areas you will soon overcome your guitar playing obstacles.
Mistake 2: practicing too fast – everyone does this but only the best players learn how to control and discipline themselves to overcome this hazard.
Solution: Understand that “speed comes as a by-product of accuracy” not the other way around. It’s not an achievement to say that you are a “fast and sloppy player” there’s no great skill involved there, in fact, anyone could do that… … you could give your guitar to the postman and he could run his fingers up and down the strings as fast as he could but you wouldn’t call that a memorable musical experience would you? … of course not! Write that down in BIG letters and carry it with you in your guitar case “Speed is a by-product of accuracy”. Learn to practice everything in s-l-o-w motion in the same manner as people practice the martial arts.
Mistake 3: not making the distinction between data and motor skill practice.
Solution: Before you begin a practice session be clear which type of practice mistakes to avoid to achieve your current musical goals. Basically, there are two types of guitar practice: Data memory training – this is where you are learning something new; these sessions must be kept short 2-5 minutes maximum. Motor skills training – this is where you are practicing something you already know; practice sessions are typically 20-30mins in duration It’s possible to learn something wrong and practice it until the mistake becomes ingrained and very difficult to re-learn, often the player lacks the sheer determination to overcome the musical ‘banana-peel’ and the mistake becomes a fatal one. Don’t let this happen to you, understand the concepts above and apply them to your next practice session on guitar.
Conclusion: When approaching guitar practice always be sure to be aware of these 3 deadly practice mistakes. Learning to play guitar is a journey. Some a few months, some a few years, some a lifetime. No matter your situation, always remember to stay focused!! Focused on your learning, practicing and most of all, Why you are doing the work. Also, have no doubt. Learning the guitar is work, but it can also be quite enjoying work. And you know what they say, “if you love what you do, it’s not work”, So follow these tips and have some fun. That’s what learning guitar is all about, having fun!!
And if you have any questions about what your learning, feel free to reach out. Leave a comment or contact me. We’ll be sure to get you moving in the right direction.
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Until our next lesson, take care.