Learning the guitar is a never ending journey and effective guitar practice involves learning new things on a daily basis.
This includes new techniques that you can use while playing and most importantly, new songs that you can use to master those techniques...
What is the best type of Guitar Study?
Learning fresh new material is hands-down the "best" type of guitar practice. During the initial stage of teaching yourself to play anything new on guitar, it will more often than not feel quite demotivating. This is generally because at the start of learning new stuff, almost everything to do with the new material will feel foreign. However, this unfamiliarity is actually a good thing.
Almost every new chord shape, scale run, riff, chord change, technique, etc. that you encounter when learning a new piece will be a struggle within the new material. This is why over 60% of guitarists hardly practice any new material when they sit down to study. Instead they re-hash old material each time they sit down to jam. This does next to nothing for skill building and technical development. The best type of guitar study, is the study of new ideas that are completely unfamiliar.
New material is very important in keeping yourself motivated during every stage of your career as a practicing guitarist. Playing material that you know, is just going through the motions already programmed into your muscle memory. New material is different. It stretches your mind and it forces you out of your comfort zone.
The best way to keep the guitar player in you motivated is through constant learning of new songs on the guitar. And, it doesn't have to be exclusive to playing and learning extremely challenging or really difficult musical concepts. You can get plenty of new ideas through learning; easy guitar songs, moderately difficult songs and the really difficult ones. Across the learning curve you will always be practicing something you don't know and you'll be making real music, (which will expose you to new ideas and motivate you to practice guitar even more).
There are a lot of guitar courses that will have you doing rigorous exercises, music reading drills, practicing scales, arpeggios, learning rhythms and all of that good stuff. And, don't get me wrong, that stuff is vital to learn. But, that is only one part of the musicians learning curve. Every serious player will also need to learn a lot of songs along with the academic training. Songs combined with academic material will provide a player with the most vital aspect of learning guitar, which is exposure.
In my opinion, to have rapid progress, all guitar players need to constantly be learning popular songs along with songs within specific musical genres (like; funk, metal jazz, etc.), and if you aren't doing that, it is important to get going on this as soon as possible.
The reason behind the "power of song learning and skill development" is the basic motivation all players will have for writing their own songs. Composing is directly correlated to the quantity of material that you currently know. If your knowledge is limited, your skills for composing will be limited.
If you never give yourself the opportunity to learn new songs you will not reach a rapid level of progress as quickly as you possibly can. Learning songs will help all of the academic material that you are studying stay with you longer.
If you have no reference to any "real music," then, what you study on the academic side will quickly get boring and unfortunately fade away from memory. If you only do guitar exercises, scale runs, and the like, you won't form all too clear of relationships to how the academic concepts are applied musically. Learning songs demonstrates options for the materials application.
Because it can take a lot of effort to learn every new technique in the early days, guitarists tend to struggle with the new chords, new fingerings, and each new skill to no prevail. However, when a guitarist is given the chance to use their academic skill and ideas in a musical context, their relationship to the material gets stronger and it becomes more complete in its understanding.
The fact is that while those guitar exercises and guitar text-book studies are great, on their own, if they are not taken into context they forever remain plain and simple. However, if you learn to apply a new technique in the context of a song, you will be more motivated to keep on practicing and perfecting every musical technique. The application of music theory and music technique will give you the satisfaction of being able to make real music. And, that is extremely motivating because it results in "Rapid Progress."
When you are given the chance to practice chords and melody by playing a real-world, well-known guitar song that applies those ideas, you enter a whole new world of learning.
Lets take a popular guitar song like the Beatles, "Day Tripper," for a real-world example. The song uses a great blues-based boogie riff over a fairly common I-IV-V harmony. There are also several basic power chords used in the chorus. To learn this song you need to:
- learn the main riff across three different chord harmonies
- develop the power-chords and their rhythm
- change in between the chords, strum them, and nail down the basic groove.
- develop a short 4-bar guitar solo
Note: almost any level of guitarist could perform the solo in "Day Tripper" quite easily.
It is much more satisfying to learn and practice a song like "Day Tripper," rather than to just practice each change alone in some stale exercise, or in a drab academic drill that relates to nothing you've ever heard before. Academic study by itself has its place, but alongside of a real world (popular) song, you've got a great combination for learning at a whole other level.
There are tons of very popular guitar songs that are perfectly suitable for beginners as well as intermediate and advanced players. If you find that your practice sessions aren't that exciting anymore, try learning some easy guitar songs as well as some harder ones to get yourself back on track, and to increase your overall motivation.
Remember why you started learning the guitar in the first place. For fun! And, as with most things, if you aren't having fun, you probably aren't learning!
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