Guitar players need to form a daily and weekly learning pattern that involves developing effective, logical ways to manage their guitar practice time...
No matter what stage you are at with learning guitar, there are always better learning approaches and study techniques that will help you get into a more structured frame of mind.
By implementing new strategies you'll develop yourself faster by providing a better structure to your guitar learning system. You can then apply this concept when you set out to learn any new aspect of guitar.
#1). Learn Guitar At Your Own Pace:
If you only take on board one of these guitar tips, make it this one!
Never feel rushed. Learn guitar at your own pace and dedicate yourself to just one primary goal during a given practice session at first. Don't overwhelm yourself with too many directions at the same time or you'll just end up frustrated.
Keep focused on one realistic attainable goal at a time when you're working. For example, you could spend a week or two really getting to know say "5" chords (pick a realistic number for that window of time and go with it).
In the next week or two, practice changing between those chords using different combinations. In the next week, work on your strumming or picking. Use the chords and chord change combinations you've learned to enhance new directions. Stay focused and always build on your new material.
Stack your progress in layers and keep track of what your specific focus is for the current week and stick to it. Don't get side-tracked or distracted into a new direction. This will cause you to abandon your focus prematurely. That's what causes big problems to a players practice routine.
You'll be surprised at how quickly you progress if you focus your learning time and put the blinders on.
What seriously slows guitarists down, (and causes them to hit brick walls with their learning), is constantly switching between learning different techniques and playing directions. Any bad habits or half-learned techniques will follow players until the guitarist rids those bad habits from their playing permanently.
#2). GUITAR PRACTICE: How Often - How Long?
An hour per day devoted to practicing guitar is, in my opinion, a good benchmark. Perhaps you can practice more on the weekend if you have more free time? If so, great. If not, don't worry, just aim to get that hour in on the days that you can.
Remember that regular practice is more important than the amount of time per session. For example, 30-40 minutes 4-5 days a week is far more effective than four hours on the weekend and nothing in between.
Be prepared for each practice session. That means, know what you learned in your previous session and whether you're satisfied you accomplished your goal for that session. If you still need time on your previous session's goal, spend another session on it. Don't move on until you have it nailed. If you feel like you're not making progress with a particular technique or concept, book a Skype lesson with me. I'd be happy to help.
#3). STUDY: The Practical and the Theoretical
There are two types of learning - the academic /theoretical side and the physical /application side. It's important to distinguish the two, as you may find it easier to focus your practice sessions on one or the other, as opposed to mixing them together.
Theory study will be devoted to investigating how the fret-board works, how strings and notes relate to each other, (intervals), what chords are made up of, etc.
A lot of theory time will be spent reading and analyzing diagrams and your guitar's fret-board. This aspect is for understanding how music works on the guitar, to map out the fret-board in your mind (so you can later apply the physical techniques with confidence). If you're serious about getting good on guitar, you need time devoted to learning it's theory.
These sessions will involve exercising your fingers. For example, fingering new chords would fall under this category, (as the focus will be on getting physically comfortable with positioning and changing between chords, or experimenting with new strumming patterns). With lead guitar, the physical side covers techniques such as legato, string bends, speed drills and anything that involves the physical side of playing guitar.
The two do go hand in hand, but I recommend you clearly separate these two aspects during your practice time. Devote a separate session to each. Most often, the theory will come before the physical. Below is an example...
Week 1 - theory - new patterns of major 7th chords
Learn how major triad chords you have learned in previous sessions can be altered to create major 7th chords. What notes do you add? What unique sound do maj7 chords offer? How does adding this major 7th alter the sound of the original major chord? Can you build a chord progression that makes good use of a major 7th chord?
Week 2 - physical - chord changes and rhythm guitar
Focus on the new chords you have learned and get physically used to changing between "these" and "other chords" you've learned in previous sessions. This is where you can use a metronome or backing drums to develop your rhythm and timing around these chord fingerings. Try and strum a simple sequence using these chords. Create a simple 3-4 chord song. This is about putting the theory you have learned into context.
NOTE: Theory practice lays the foundations, physical study puts it into use.
#4). Develop a Personalized Practice Schedule
Most guitarists find that they make the most dramatic progress when they have a practice schedule designed around their specific goals.
Noodling is just a silly word (I, and many guitarists use), for "messing around". It's far less regimented and focused than a typical practice session, yet, in my opinion, just as important.
"Messing around" might sound a bit chaotic and unproductive, but it's often the breathing space you need to be at your most creative. Noodling often brings to the surface ideas you've formed, consciously and sub-consciously, during your practice sessions.
Let me just clarify though - noodling time is NOT part of your main practice time. During practice time, you want that "hour plus" to be devoted to a specific technique or theoretical element. Noodling time is extra, and should remain outside your more focused sessions.
Noodling is simply about having the urge to pick up the guitar and experiment with some raw, freestyle playing. No rules. No "right" or "wrong". Anything goes. This is time for you to discover those more unusual chords around the guitar neck, to improvise, to deconstruct and relax your playing. To truly be yourself on guitar!
Of course, if you've not neglected solid practice time, your noodling won't sound that spontaneous, but let's just say that hitting a few bum notes during this sacred time, in the name of experimentation, is not the end of the world.
It might also be useful to note down any weaknesses in your playing discovered during this time so that you can plan your future practice sessions more constructively.
#5). Loop Out Of Your Weakest Parts
If you're playing through a piece of music and you keep stumbling at the exact same place - (maybe it's a chord change or something you're doing with your picking hand) - try creating a loop of just that one section to gradually iron out your playing mistakes.
This is much more effective than simply approaching it with that feeling of dread every time you start the piece from the beginning.
So instead of seeing the entire piece of music as an accomplishment, see little pieces in the song as accomplishments and break it up accordingly.
#6). The Best Learning Experiences are Designed
If you're like a lot of guitarists, you have a short fuse for mistakes - cursing to yourself when unable to nail something on guitar. Indeed, you might get so frustrated that you feel like, literally, nailing something into the guitar. If you do get to this point, it's because you're trying to move too far, too quickly. Your mind and fingers will struggle to keep up with your expectations if you're too ambitious or impatient with material.
When you hit a brick wall, take a small step back. Are you trying to play too fast? Have you been using a metronome to start slow and gradually speed up? Are you giving yourself enough time? Are you progressing in incremental stages rather than trying to take huge leaps in an attempt to "short cut" your progress?
The important thing is not to feel hopeless, and feel like you'll never accomplish what you're stuck on, because with practice you will accomplish it. Time and persistence is all it takes. You set and design your deadlines for every guitar learning experience.
Be clear on what you've accomplished in your previous sessions so that you have a safe point of confidence to step back to, take a deep breath, and begin your creeping progress from that point once again.
#7). Learn from Different Styles Of Guitar Playing
It's good to listen to a wide variety of music, even if you're not particularly into certain genres. Each genre has its own unique qualities when it comes to guitar, so spend time listening.
Listen to how rhythms, chords and solos are used. You may not know how they're doing it just from listening, but you might like the sound of something which you'll then be inspired to go and investigate independently.
Investigating new styles helps a guitar player learn more about how the guitar operates across various genres. This "research work" enhances your inspiration, your investigation ability, (ear training), as well as your sense of musical accomplishment. The added benefit to all of this, is that you'll learn far more than what originally inspired you.
#8). Enjoy Music
Above all, enjoy playing guitar and enjoy the journey! Look forward to 3, 4, 5 years down the line when, if you've been persistent with your practice time (and allowed plenty of time for noodling), you'll have accomplished so much.
Learning an instrument like guitar is all about freeing up your creativity, bit by bit, so you can express yourself on guitar as naturally as you can with speech. Doors will open all throughout your progress. Each new door that opens is like a new outlet for your creativity.
The more of these doors you open over time, the more creative options you'll have at your disposal and the more your music will have the chance to be unique to you - and that is, in my opinion, the ultimate purpose for learning guitar, or any instrument.
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