3 Tips to Expand Your Guitar Skill & Ability

Courtesy of Andrew Wasson... 

Let's face it, we've all been there, acting like a lazy couch-slouch guitarist. Wasting time, doing nothing new with the instrument, feeling bored but yet not doing anything to push ourselves to the next level... 

Why do we do this... too many of us just sit around performing a traditional song or two that we've played for years and years? What a waste of time. Shouldn't we instead be constantly driving ourselves to be in the process of researching new songs, learning new techniques, and learning new musical concepts? That would be more beneficial... But instead, we choose to be lazy.

Unique guitar styles and having your own signature sound to keep audiences enthralled, isn't common-place in the music world. Unique sounds spring from the most dedicated players who devote hours to honing their craft. Let's explore a collection of unique traits that if pursued will push any guitarist past the point of boring and into new zones of creativity...

1). Listen hard and train your ears 
In the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of it all, this "playing music thing" comes down to training your ears, (which you have to do if you're going to play any type of traditional music).

You've got to train your ears to hear musical sound and understand musical direction. Just think, years ago there weren't any kind of guitar teachers around, and there was no Google and no YouTube. And, years back, there was no such thing as tablature.

In a way tablature is actually harmful to our ears development, because it teaches players to do something exactly the same as the recording – and so the player comes to rely on the TAB as a crutch and their ears are never trained.

So, listen to music and work hard at lifting off guitar parts from recordings. Learn to understand rhythms. Know what an 8th-note, a 16th-note and what triplets look and feel like. Develop a sense for how music sits upon your fret-board. Be able to sing pitches and get used to finding them on your neck. Over time, this will turn into a fantastic skill and learning this will help you play the music that in your head much easier.

2). Understand the Origins of Music and Do Research
It's easy to give up before you even start. It's easy to say, "well, Hendrix couldn't read music, so why should I learn it." I hear this all the time, I'll even have students say that this player or that guitarist couldn't do such and such. But, keep in mind, a lot of those players were doing what they did a long time ago, and what other players from 40 years ago could or couldn't "play or do" generally has very little bearing on what is going on today.

Aside from keeping us inspired, the skills of players from decades past tends to reflect quite little on what is going on right now. We're living in the year 2016. Standards are a lot higher and even generally decent players in a local music scene are ridiculously educated and skilled today compared to those legendary guitar players of the past.

For this reason, the "Modern Day" Guitarist needs to be better read, better researched and better at playing than ever before in history. Today, your average local professional player is an incredibly skilled, and versatile musician. They're capable of playing Blues, Jazz, Rock or Folk. They can read charts, they can sing, they're excellent at improvising. Compare that to a lot of the guitar players who were at the peak of the craft 40 years ago and it's quite shocking. Many of those players from back then couldn't even read music.

This is where research is so vital. Once you understand how you need to study and pursue modern playing skills, you'll give yourself the information to organize a proper practice schedule and a modern approach. Placing a focus on ear training, scales, improvisation and techniques for versatility will help you to pull-up your chops to where you'll need them to be in order to compete in today's marketplace of highly skilled and educated musicians.

3). Be Open Minded and Open to Study
When you watch someone doing something that looks complicated on guitar, and you feel blown away - what goes through your mind? Are you excited? Or, are you angry, jealous and envious? Do you think that it's one of those things that somebody invented or developed that you'll never be able to do? Or, when you watch someone doing a great job with a guitar part, and doing it easily - with little effort, do you get motivated to try and learn it as well?

The way you perceive musical and guitar oriented challenges says a lot. If the initial reaction is one where you get immediately dismissive saying something like, "I don't care about playing like that - I'll never bother learning that on guitar," Or, if you come up with an instant reason to shut the whole thing down, saying something like; "the whole point of soloing is just about showing off - I hate guys who play solos." Or if you say, "well I don't need to know how to read music because Hendrix never read music." All of these attitudes close down your mind and that places a ceiling on where your skills could potentially rise up to.

So, be open minded. Instead of shutting down and putting up a wall, try doing some study on an area you need to improve upon. Especially if it's an area that almost every other guitarist in your local scene is capable of. Rather than resorting to a "put-down" get a leg up on the idea and find out how hard it might be to study and learn how to do for yourself.

Whether it's scales, improvisation, music theory or music reading you'll always benefit from trying something in your practice routine rather than instantly shutting down, making excuses, or ridiculing it.

I'll be running through these ideas in this Sunday's release (Oct. 30, 2016) of my next "GuitarBlog Insider." Watch for it on my 2nd YouTube Channel "GuitarBlog UpDate."


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  1. Actually most tab out there I find is horribly inaccurate and full of really really bad mistakes. Maybe speaking to the tabbers own ear training shortfalls I don't know. But I find if I really want to learn the song and the all the tab I find is that much of a let down I have to bare down dig in and figure out the right way myself. Which would actually be a positive thing right ? lol