Want to become a better guitarist quicker? Incorporate these 5 tips into your practice routine and see the benefits!
1) Skip the noddling
There’s no denying that guitar players love nothing more than to grab a guitar and immediately play through their repertoire of well-trodden licks and riffs, over and over. In other words – endless noodling.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is certainly nothing wrong with noodling. It’s loads of fun and we all love to hear ourselves play lines and phrases that we have down pat and play with ease. But you need to separate fun time with practice time and “practicing” what you already know is essentially time wasting. Before you even pick up the guitar you need to clearly lay out what it is you plan to practice – scales, technique, a new song etc – then go right to the new concepts you are learning or problem areas/sections that need the most work.
Just playing the easy parts may be fun but ultimately far less productive. Tackle the hard stuff FIRST!
2) Slow down
When learning something new it is easy to become impatient and try to speed things up as soon as humanly possible. The sooner you get up to speed the sooner it’s learnt right? Well, not necessarily. Quite often when playing things too fast too soon you play with sloppy technique and with notes not fully articulated or missing all together. Therefor your high-speed practice may be full of mistakes that you are not fully aware of. And remember – if you practice mistakes you learn mistakes.
Slowing down allows you to highlight problem areas not only in the specific music you are practicing but in your overall playing technique and style. You can then focus on erasing the bad habits and reinforcing the good ones. And contrary to intuition, playing slowly, cleanly and mistake free can be difficult.
A very effective way to test if you have REALLY learned a piece of music is to play it slow!
3) Practice at the same time every day
How many times have you said to yourself “I’m going to sit down today and have a productive practice session!” only to see the day slip away along with said practice session? Unless a task (whether it is guitar practice or something not guitar related) is prioritised and scheduled in you are more likely to treat it with less importance. Playing guitar can be loads of fun however focused practice can be tougher, almost to the point of feeling like a chore. Unless you have set aside a specific time and duration for your practice you tend to procrastinate and fill you time with other activities some of which are far less productive.
Sure, you keep telling yourself “Yep, I’m DEFINITELY going to practice…at some point…after lunch….after I check Facebook….after I watch my favourite YouTube guitar channels….”. And before you know it, the day is gone and you once again assure yourself that TOMORROW you will practice! For sure!
Assigning a time each day for practice will place greater importance on the task. Humans are also creatures of habit and knowing the time and duration that you have set aside will help you get into a consistent routine that will, overtime, become second nature.
Pick a convenient time whether it be before work, after school, after dinner etc and lock it in!
4) Use a metronome
It’s easy to cut corners when practicing by not using a metronome. While learning and playing through a challenging piece of music your tempo may be fluctuating and this could be happening without you even realising. A metronome doesn’t lie. Using one will quickly let you know when and were you may be struggling and what parts of the piece you are working on needs more practice than others.
Remember, always start slow and gradually build up the speed!
5) Take breaks
Sure, if you only plan to practice for 15 or 20 minutes then you will most likely not need to take a break. But sometimes we really get in the zone and want to practice for hours. Great! But remember focused, productive practice can require a lot of concentration and like any mentally demanding task you need to take time out to let your brain relax and absorb the new information that’s been fed to it. You’ve probably experienced the frustration of practicing something over and over for long stretches of time that just won’t work or come together.
Taking a break to grab a coffee, get some fresh air or have a snack can go a long way in refreshing the mind so that when you return your focus is clearer and your practice more effective!
There you have it. Some simple but effective suggestions to fast track your guitar playing skills. So what are you waiting for? Get practicing!