Learning guitar can be tough. It takes years to master and plenty of time to get good. However, there are a number of proven methods that will help you learn guitar faster...
We all need to make the most out of our practice time and use absolutely every advantage that we can. It`s rarely discussed in the music world, but there are plenty of proven ways to learn and master the guitar faster and quicker than ever.
Practice in the ideal learning environment
The room you choose to spend much of your time practicing and learning the guitar in will make a big difference to how easily you learn.
Researchers from the University of Washington and UC Berkeley combed through scientific literature to find the physical components that mattered the most to students in a classroom setting.
They found that there were multiple important factors that make a big difference to their quality of study. These are:
Light – daylight is crucial. Make sure you learn in a room where there is plenty of it and keep the curtains and blinds open in the day
Noise – Not surprisingly silence plays a big part in concentrating. If you live in a noisy household, find a quieter room, ask your family members to politely hush or do a Bob Dylan and go electric – this way you can use headphones. Do what you can to make sure your practice time is ideal for you.
Temperature – Students learn best in environments between 20°C (68°F) and 23°C (74°F). It`s wise to keep on an eye on the thermostat or air conditioning unit you use and don`t let the room get too hot.
Layout – How tidy the room you learn in makes a difference as well. It should be fairly organized without clutter. This may be difficult for some of you younger readers but what you mom always says about tidying your room will actually help your guitar playing!
Plants – Having plants in the room you learn in makes a positive difference too. The presence of plants has been shown to have a calming effect on people, regardless of age or even whether you like plants or not.
Workout and exercise regularly
A lot of guitar playing for newbie’s and experts is about spatial awareness, remembering a lot of things and the ability to think clearly in the moment. Great news, there is a whole host of research that shows exercise helps in large amounts for all of the above.
Ever wondered why so many guitarists who are superstars look in decent shape?
Well, most of them have a good old workout every night up on stage. Look at guys like Angus Young, 60 years old and still running around like a maniac with an axe. He is doing great for his age without a doubt.
I`m not recommending you do impressions of Angus at home in your practice room, there would be a few broken windows for sure if you did, but start doing a bit more training.
It`s good for you health in general and will make you a better guitarist.
Know your chronotype and practice accordingly
A Chronotype is a person’s propensity to sleep at a particular time during a 24-hour period. It`s basically our body clock. Many of us describe ourselves as either `night owls` or `early birds`.
Over recent years there has been a number of articles in the press that claim school times start too early as people and young people in particular learn better later in the morning.
This study from the University of Toronto have disproved this theory. The researchers showed how test participants learn better at their own particular chronotype.
Therefore if a person is a night owl, he or she will indeed learn better later on and if someone is an early bird then yep, you guessed it, they will learn better in the morning.
Don`t listen to the over-generalizations of others who tell you what and when to practice, but instead tailor your practice time to your own personal needs.
I say to students it`s better to practice twice daily – ideally once in the morning and once later on in the evening if possible.
For many this isn't possible (apart from on weekends or days off), but picking up the guitar before work can be very handy especially if you are an `early bird`.
If you can do the early and late practice times, then that's great, you can make it even more powerful by making one a `primary` practice where you will be very focused and one a `secondary` practice which can be a bit more relaxed and fun.
Choose whichever your chronotype is to make that one the primary practice.
You might not believe it but those little breath fresheners can actually help your guitar playing.
So, not only will you have minty fresh breath to help mask the smell of all that festival beer and wine you may have been guzzling this summer but you will also be improving your guitar playing too.
How does it work?
Well, according to a study in 2009 by Baylor College of Medicine, researchers found a positive effect of chewing gum on academic performance as gum stimulates the brain by increasing blood flow.
When learning anything new, chew some gum as we all know how difficult it can be to process, store and retrieve any new information. Every little helps.
Researchers have also found that chewing can help reduce stress, improve alertness and relieve anxiety.
Wow. Along with improved memory that`s pretty awesome.
It also might explain why, so many musicians claim that chewing gum on stage makes them feel a little bit more at ease when playing gigs.
Not only is sleep good for our bodies and health in general but it is absolutely critical when learning anything new.
Many researchers agree that time `lost` by having an early night is more than made up for by the advantages that our brain gains in return.
In other words, if you`re are really keen on learning/improving your guitar playing quickly, staying up late into the night to get more practice is counterproductive.
Instead, have a quick, highly focused ten minutes of practice and then put the guitar down and get some quality sleep.
If you find that you can`t get to sleep, maybe put on some nice relaxing ambient music.
Ensure a good night's sleep because it is a priority.
Get Your Playing Level Tested by a Professional Guitar Teacher
One of the major benefits of having a good, experienced guitar teacher is a benefit that no one ever mentions.
It`s the fact that they will test you and assess you regularly. I ensure I do this all the time, always in a fun (mostly informal) way of course.
Sometimes it will be done very casually like asking a student to play a piece, chord progression, riff, scale patterns, etc.
Other times it will be done in a slightly more formal way, such as when using something like a 3 month period checklist.
Testing is very powerful because it gives the student something to work for and some direct motivation. Once you try it, you'll notice just how powerful testing is for any student.
This is one of the reasons doing a structured guitar course is so powerful.
It's not so much the content that is going to rapidly super charge guitar playing as it is the formal setting of having to learn all this stuff, and then work through a review of the material afterward.
If you get the chance and want something to work for, go on and start doing a structured guitar Course, just go for it. The difference it will make will be impressive for you!
Remember it`s not the content that will make you a great player but it is the desire and motivation gained from the testing and review work of a guitar program.
Test Your Guitar Skills Yourself
The affordability of a guitar teacher or paid graded exams are unfortunately not within everyone`s financial reach, but there is another solution.
That is to test yourself.
I have always enjoyed testing myself as a guitarist especially with things that are measurable.
Even if you can and do have a guitar teacher who tests you, you should still test yourself as much as possible.
There are plenty of ways to test yourself.
You can see how fast you can play a certain technique.
For instance, you can:
- take a simple fingerpicking pattern
- set up a metronome to a tempo you are comfortable with
- play the pattern repeatedly at this tempo
- start increasing the tempo by small increments (about 5 b.p.m.) until you reach your maximum speed
Then in your notebook, (yes, I`m old school) create a page called testing, write down your comfortable speed and then next to it your maximum speed – aiming to beat it by small amounts (even just 1 or 2bpm) every day.
Another way to test yourself apart from speed is repertoire.
If you can play scales or barre chords, a great little thing to do is test yourself playing them in all 12 keys.
Most guitarists get a bit lazy and stick to the common keys of G, D, C, F for anything Major and Em, Bm, Am, Dm for anything minor.
What about the other eight keys?
One way to test yourself playing in all twelve keys is to get a piece of card and divide it into twelve equal sections.
Then write each of the 12 keys in each section. Cut all twelve sections up and turn them over.
Any time you practice anything that is movable or changeable into all keys such as scales, barre chords, arpeggios, simply turn over one card and play that scale, chord or arpeggio, then turn the card over and pick another.
Repeat until you have used all of the twelve cards.
You will then have played it in all twelve keys and your knowledge of the fretboard and your ability to play that scale, chord or arpeggio seamlessly in all keys will greatly improve.
You can be strict as you like with yourself when it comes to personal testing.
My recommendation is to self test the things that are measurable – speed, repertoire, theory, accuracy, listening skills, etc... as much as possible.
Self testing is a huge study area and one that every serious guitarist should focus on.
For now, use the above ideas and discover what other areas of your practice routine can be self tested.
Getting tested as described above and testing yourself are both very powerful and will have a positive effect on your guitar playing – in many different ways.
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