Top 4 Reasons Why You Can't Slay It on Guitar

Music is creative. Playing an instrument is not. Playing an instrument is all about slowly building a daily climb towards mastery and it must be viewed as a tactile endeavor...

Taking this climb without a map will lead to nothing but being lost, so know what you want, know how to study it, and know what is important to learn and how you can formulate a plan for a top-notch study system to achieve it.

Guitarists are famous for wasting time at the practice space, where 99.9% of guitarists strap on the guitar, turn on the amp and just play! But, what the heck are you playing? Even better question - what in the world are you STUDYING???

If you practice without intent, the results will be utterly pointless. However, if you instead practice with a goal and a clear map - well planned out to achieve specific results... to achieve your goal - you'll discover huge - no massive progress.

The way to do it is to first stop practicing in a manner that wastes your time, and find another goal for practice that revolves around real STUDY and then reach that study goal. The second thing is to form a plan that gets you focused on your goals daily, weekly and monthly. Then you'll really begin to see incredible progress from your guitar playing.

Below are four reasons why you are not totally slaying it on your guitar. Fix these elements by including them in a solid study system and you'll step-up to the next level of playing.

Everybody wants to play faster. Playing fast is cool, it makes all of your greasy-haired bros think you’re the dude, makes all of the other guitar players in the world think you’re the Messiah, and it makes you feel bad ass.

Some players have built much of their fan base from blazing the heck out of their guitars and melting the faces of much of the first three rows of every concert.

So yeah, we all get it. We like to play fast. Now, the bottom line with speed is there is absolutely no secret to playing faster. None. Musical technique is purely physical and therefore has nothing to do with anything but time, dedication and obsession. Period.

Like all techniques, playing fast guitar licks deserves absurd quantities of repetition for mastery. Your muscles, your mind and your hands must NOT THINK. Your brain should be completely devoid from the process. It’s not about thought or art. It’s about the cold and perfect execution of a technique, nothing more.

To get to this point you need a lot of time and a lot of dedication. From the ages of 12-18 most dedicated speed guitarists (Steve Vai, Satriani, MacAlpine) practiced nothing but scales for 12 hours daily with no breaks, with no time for anything except sleep for 4 hours nightly. For 6 years. That should give you an idea of what it takes to play fast.

I can think of 20 versions for playing the “E” chord off the top of my head. Can you? How about scales, I know the entire neck in every key - do you? What about arpeggios, know any?

Learning all of your chords, scales and arpeggios all over the neck will make you utterly invaluable as a side man and as a composer. Plus, it will land you every single gig that you can think of. ...Why?

Because when somebody says, my song is “E-A-C#min-B” and you go “Sure, cool” and bust out some seriously beautiful, tasteful, voice-lead, grooving awesomeness, and then they go “Whoa man, you’re a flippin' guitar genius” you’ll be thinking to yourself “I hope this band gets on Conan with my awesome playing so I can play all of my sick, tasty chord inversions and passing licks for all of America."

But really… It’s a tragedy that guitarists don’t know this stuff… Don’t be one of those guys. And while you’re at it, it wouldn’t be harmful to be able to read some music off of a chart either. You know, to be a musician, you should have a little experience there. These things will lead to MD (Musical Director) jobs. That’s when you stop asking Mom and Dad for cash and buy some furniture for your own cool pad.

You know your hand moves, right? You know it’s not some sort of immovable, Sword in the Stone type of thing, glued down for all of entirety, yeah? Move that thing. Your hand and subsequent pick position have massive effects on the sound of your playing.

Play a chord and just move your pick from the bridge to the neck position of your pickups, slowly so as to hear the difference between the two and all of the variations between. Hear that? Sharper near the bridge, warmer and more bass responsive near the neck? That’s because as you move closer to the neck pickup the overall tension on the strings reduces, which creates a softer, warmer sound.

Now play a groove and do the same. Hear how something this simple can have such a tremendous sonic effect? It seems almost stupidly obvious, but an incredible amount of guitarists never do this, choosing instead to think that pedals are the only way to change sound. Consider this always.

The hippest harmonic stuff played out of time is worthless in 90% of the gigs you'll ever play for good take home pay at the end of the night. The most basic stuff played with unshakable time and groove is undeniable. It will get you solid gigs that pay the bills, pay the rent and allow you money to spare. The hippest stuff played with unshakable time and groove is transcendent, and it's palatable for the bulk of the public to enjoy.

Nobody gives a hoot about your technique, your sound, your guitar, your look, your 6-pack abs or your awesome voice if you can’t do any of this rhythm stuff over a groove and lock into it. Sadly, this is something that most guitar players are horribly lacking for ability in.

And, by “time” I don’t mean sort of time. Or playing aimlessly, kind of, like, you know, whenever you’re not paying attention to something else while practicing paying attention to time, the metronome just on in the corner of the room while you pump out your licks like you’re on a job interview for Guitar Center or Keyboard City.

No. I mean practicing the ability to be inside of the music, to be an integral part of what is happening around you, to be able to play even the simplest thing with a laser-like, knife-sharp groove that needs to not one other band member to make people want to get up and move on the dance floor.

Either Nail Your Rhythm or You Will Always Loose Out...
You should have the metronome on, eyes closed, standing up and getting inside of that pulse like you could eat it, chew it, punch it, sweat it. Feel it like it’s right there, like it’s tangible.

To do this requires that you never practice chords, scales or soloing without a metronome or a drum machine on in the background. For a long long time... roughly 15 years.

Every amazing player I've ever met never picks up a guitar without a metronome or a drup loop or drum beat on in the background. To every phenomenal guitarist, the sound of the metronome /of the BEAT, is the sound of practicing.

Great musicians love that sound. It sounds like home, like progress, like movement. It’s the sound of a friend. That’s where you want to be, because once you’re there, you’ll have a time feel that will crush all others around you.

And once you have this, a simple equation arises: Drummers and bass players get way more gigs that guitar players You have a time feel that drummers and bass players love When people ask their drummer or bass player “Know any ripping guitarists” they go “totally yeah” and they call you.



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