7 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Guitar Practice
- 1Practice slow. This bit of advice right here will solve most problems beginners and intermediates face when learning the guitar, but unfortunately many people do not heed this advice. I think this is in part because many people do not know HOW to practice slow. Let’s say you want to play a riff or chord progression at 100 beats per minute, b
?????ut you can’t yet do it. Most people will just practice at that speed in the hopes that one day they will eventually get it. This is a slow and frustrating way to go about it, as you will almost certainly make lots of mistakes. Instead, try practicing it at 50bpm, and make sure you can play it 10 times without making a mistake. Got it? Good, now move up to 60bpm and do the same thing. Keep moving up in speed until you are at 100% of your target speed.
- 2Play along with recorded music. This is much more beneficial than just practicing playing music by yourself. It helps you develop a much stronger sense of rhythm, it helps you learn song structure, and your technique improves because you have to be able to change from one musical idea to another, oftentimes without taking a break. The best benefit of this is it is more fun than just playing alone. If you’re struggling to play along with a song, then combine this tip with the advice in point 1.
- 3Don’t overwhelm yourself with learning lots of chords. If you are just starting out on guitar, you do not need to learn a lot of chords to start to sound good. A lot of songs only use four chords, so when you learn what four chords you need to know, you are on your way. Some songs only use three chords, and there are a few songs that only use two. Yes, you will want to learn a lot of chords over the long term, but right now we want to get good at just a few basic chords. This leads me to my next point…
- 4Practice changing chords. Here’s something I see nearly every week. Someone has been teaching themselves guitar, or watching free YouTube lessons, they come in for a lesson with me and they can’t string a simple chord progression together. What’s going on? It’s not that they can’t play chords, because a lot of the time they can. It’s that they haven’t learned how to properly change from one chord to another. What is the point of knowing 20 chords when you can’t even play a simple four chord progression? Make sure you are spending time changing from chord to chord, and track how fast you can do those changes.
- 5Do not keep your guitar in a case. This is not to say that you should just leave it around the house where anyone could trip over it. You can buy guitar stands which will keep it safe, and will look cool in your lounge room or bedroom. This will encourage you to pick it up more often, which will lead to faster results.
- 6Break up your practice if time is short. You might want to do 30 minutes of practice a day, and that’s great. But sometimes life gets in the way, and it can be hard to find 30 minutes of uninterrupted practice time. If that’s the case, then simply break it up into smaller sessions. Maybe you can do 15 minutes in the morning, and 15 after work. If you are working on different items, use this to practice one item in the first session, and the other item in the next one. This will ensure you keep making progress, and you are developing skills in all areas.
- 7Know the difference between playing and practicing. Playing the guitar is a lot of fun, but playing isn’t always practicing. Do you find yourself playing that riff that you love over and over again? If so, you are not practicing but playing. If you can already play something proficiently, there isn’t much need to practice it (unless you need to practice it to perform it). When it’s practice time, work on areas that need improvement. This might be a riff that you love, but can’t yet play. It might be chord changes, it could be scales. It could be a lot of things, but make sure you know what things you can already play well, and only play them when it’s “play time” and not during “practice time”.
About the author: Greg Trotter is a musician and teacher who does guitar lessons in Melbourne