It's possible to do less but get more you know.
Do less practice but learn to play guitar great that is...
It sounds like wishful thinking doesn't it? It's not.
You're about to learn why practicing smart and not just necessarily for longer is one of the invaluable tips coming up that'll help you achieve impressive playing gains on your guitar.
The only caveat is this: to reap the rewards, you have to make sure you follow the tips in this article when you practice your guitar from today onwards.
So, if you want to fast-track your improvement on guitar there's no big secret to how you get great: It's simply about making the most out of your practice sessions.
Let's dive in.
Nothing sounds more terrible than someone banging away on an out of tune guitar. Before you start learning to play guitar you need to master how to tune it properly. This is one of those things that isn't up for debate.
Your ears need to start recognising pitch in order for you to start your learning journey off on the right foot. If you don't get into the groove of tuning your guitar from day one, you're missing out on the chance of sharpening your ear training skills in the future.
From tuning peg quality, to how hard you strum, to the temperature of the room your guitar is in, there's lots of variables that affect the tuning of a guitar. The good news is, even though it takes some getting used to, you get better and quicker at tuning the more you practice doing it.
Holding your guitar comfortably will feel awkward at first.
The first top posture tip you need to know is to sit on a chair or stool rather than a sofa when playing. This helps you avoid slouching which is a posture no no.
The next tip is to raise your lead leg slightly when sitting down playing and rest your guitar on this leg. For right handed players this will be your right leg, the opposite for lefties.
Useful To Know: Classical guitar players generally choose the opposite leg to rest the guitar on.
Moreover, you don't want to tip your guitar neck downwards when you play which is a bad habit I see many beginners falling into. The guitar neck should be at a neutral straight angle if not slightly raised upwards.
A footstool helps you achieve this.
Invest in an adjustable guitar footstool in order to nail perfect posture. Because after all, good posture helps you to develop good playing techniques, which means you'll progress your playing abilities quicker.
Speed should never be your prime goal at first when learning the guitar. Get into the good habit of slowing down whether you're practicing a chord change, riff, or scale.
Great guitarists from the early stages of their learning journey concentrate on accuracy, perfect timing and good technique.
Don’t make the common mistake of being focused purely on how fast you can play something. If you do, your playing will be messy and inconsistent.
Once you nail good technique, faster speed will be a natural by-product.
To help you develop a good feel for timing and speed it's vital you use a metronome when you practice. Practice slowly until it sounds good, then increase your speed gradually.
Skip this bit of advice and you'll risk being one of those guitar players who's never bothered to use a metronome, are convinced they play in time, but in reality sound dreadful.
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If you have your guitar out of its case and in view you’re more likely to pick it up. If it's hidden away under your bed gathering dust, it's easier to forget to (or put off) practice.
And how better to show off your new six stringed pride and joy than to have it out on a stand for all to see anyway?
There are a few different types of guitar stand to choose from.
I'm not going to lie to you: your fingers will hurt when you first start learning to play guitar.
Nearly all beginner guitar players are surprised to find it's not just their fingertips that get sore either. No, muscles and tendons in your hands, arms and neck will often feel the burn too.
It's not just drummers who get a workout during practice!
Don't throw in the towel and take up crocheting just yet though. You'll be relieved to know that the soreness goes away surprisingly quickly once your fingers get stronger.
You'll develop calluses (hard skin) on your fingertips and when you also use correct playing posture (see tip 1), playing will get easier by the day.
The huge proviso to all this is that you have to practice regularly for sore fingers to become a thing of the past.
You see, if you don't commit yourself to regular practice, your fingers will never have the chance to toughen up.
Unfortunately, now you're learning to play guitar you'll notice how you start to attract stupid comments like a light-bulb attracts moths.
Stupid questions can range from the harmless, un-informed (but annoying), to downright snidey and negative.
It's shameful but true that any negative comments you get may likely come from fellow guitar players peacocking.
All you have to do is remember it's no mean feat learning an instrument to a decent standard. Too true. In fact it's a real achievement you've started learning to play guitar in the first place.
You deserve a pat on the back.
Never be overly critical of yourself either. It takes time to master even the basics of guitar playing.
So if your co-worker or so called mate takes the **** saying something sarcastically like - "You're learning to play guitar? Why?" either ignore it, or fire back a witty comeback. We've got three corkers you can use. You're welcome:
Never let negative comments bother you my friend.
Hopefully you'll be lucky enough to always be surrounded by positive and considerate people and you'll never hear a cynical word uttered. If you ever do however, you'll now be fully empowered not to let it bother you.
Afterall, negative comments simply reveal how insecure and resentful the person saying them feels inside. Poor things.
A standard question I ask my pupils at the start of their lesson is how their last practice session went, and to outline what they went over.
Can you figure out what one of the worse answers is they could give?
If you guessed something along the lines of: "I went over everything we've ever gone through in half an hour", you win first prize.
You see, to get the most out of your practice sessions you need to develop a less is more approach. This is because you improve faster when you concentrate on less things per practice session.
For example, playing over that tricky chord progression in a song you're learning for twenty minutes straight will help you advance much faster than if you went over twenty different things for an hour (see tip No 8).
Trust me on this one.
When you focus on less components to practice, magical things happen.
You'll build up significantly more finger strength and control devoting more time to less things. Furthermore, not only does that one element improve quickly - all areas of your playing improve too.
Try it. You'll be amazed.
Make your practice sessions structured and always outline the elements you want to practice before you pick up your guitar.
When you have purpose and structure to your practice sessions you improve faster and in less time to boot.
By the same token, guitar practice should always be goal based to help you achieve your objectives quicker. Never sit down with no idea of what you want to go over. This only leads to problems and isn't a bright move.
When you practice in this smart way, all kinds of great things happen:
So now you know that when you cut down on wasted time your practice sessions become more productive. Here's an exercise.
Get a piece of paper and write down the first 3 things that come to mind you need to improve about your guitar playing.
Example ideas include a slow messy chord change with that tricky new chord extension in, the timing on a riff you're learning or the rhythm on a strumming pattern in a song you can't quite nail.
Next, what you want to do is concentrate on practicing these three things and only these three things (after you've warmed-up) during your next few practice sessions.
9. Know you'll have good days and bad days practice. Learn to accept that mistakes are part of the process.
10. Repetition is key. Think you've practiced it enough? Do it another 100+ times.
11. Make learning songs all the way through your top priority to avoid becoming one of those "I-only-know bits-and-bobs-of-songs" guitar players.
12. Always warm up with scales.
13. Use a practice diary / log. Think old school notepad, Word, Google sheets or app of choice .
14. Try practicing at the same time each day to help you easily fall into a practice routine.
15. Turn off distracting notifications on all your devices during practice sessions.
16. Create a nice dedicated practice space in your study / bedroom / lounge / den.
17. Organize your practice space so that your practice tools (metronome, timer, notepad, tablet) are in easy reach.
18. Play with other musicians. Don't know any? Look for music jam groups or workshops in your local area.
19. Keep a well maintained folder with all chord sheets, scale exercises and the like in.
Now it's over to you.
Go grab your guitar and start putting into action the valuable guitar practice tips you've just learned.
Once you start structuring your practice time and use the steps outlined in this article your enjoyment and improvement on guitar will skyrocket.