If you want to learn the guitar quickly and effectively, you will have to master the art of separating guitar practice from guitar playing. Due to the highly accessible nature of the guitar, it is extremely easy to slip into 'playing', rather than 'practising' mode. Playing is all very well, but if the aim is to improve it is not an effective use of time, and, at worst, it is a means of cementing bad habits and falling into tired old patterns – and you will become a poorer player as a result.
How To Practice Guitar
Ten Tips For Learning The Guitar Quickly
Guitar Practice Tip 1 - Make Every Note Count
In rock, jazz, acoustic and classical guitar, there are always parts of a piece that fall naturally under the fingers, and likewise parts - perhaps bars, perhaps just single notes, or parts of phrases - that present difficulties. These are the parts that need practising, not the bits you can already play. Only spend your practice time on areas where the time needs to be spent. Every note is important, so make sure you play every note perfectly.
Guitar Practice Tip 2 – Practise With A Metronome
Practising with a metronome is a great discipline, and one of the best ways of improving the speed and smoothness of your playing. Another bonus is that the results are quantifiable - you will know how fast you can play, therefore will be know how much you have improved (you will improve) and you will be able to set yourself targets. Always refer to tip 1, though, and make every note count.
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Guitar Practice Tip 3 – Set Aside A Time For Practice
... Even if it's just ten minutes. Be strict with yourself, and concentrate. You could even use a timer. If your eyes glaze over and you start to 'noodle' or if you find yourself going over just the bits you enjoy playing, stop immediately and return to the task in hand. Once the allotted practice time is up, you can get back to your playing.
Guitar Practice Tip 4 – Know What You Want To Achieve
If you don't know where you're headed, you won't go anywhere. Perhaps you want to improve a certain technique - sweep-picking, for example, or, if you're a classical guitarist, perhaps you want to perfect a certain bar. Before you start to practise, know what you want to achieve with your time.
Guitar Practice Tip 5 – Set Yourself Targets
Closely related to practice tip 4, but with a more 'long-term' view. Work out where you want to go with your playing – are you aiming for stardom or do you just to be the best you can be? Do you want to take a solo at the local jam night or do you want to be a proessional seesion guitarist? Once you know what the ultimate aim is, you can start to make the necessary steps towards it.
Guitar Practice Tip 6 – Visualise Yourself Achieving Your Goals
Imagine yourself getting appreciative looks from your fellow musicians at the jazz club, or performing your exam pieces flawlessly. Whatever it is, get used to seeing it – it makes it much more likely that soon it will actually be happening. Say out loud 'I can play xxx', or 'I know this chord', etc, – play mind games with yourself – positive thinking is a powerful means of creating success.
Guitar Practice Tip 7 – Be The Teacher
No matter how much or how little experience you have as a guitarist, teaching, or pretending to teach someone else, will lead to you having a better understanding of the subject. At first it will cause you to analyse the subject, then, by explaining it and perhaps by being questioned about it (or imagining yourself being questioned about it), you will tie up any loose ends you may have, and the concept will become completely clear in your mind. This, ultimately, will give you absolute confidence in the concept and your ability to use it in your playing.
Guitar Practice Tip 8 – Use Other People
Not so much a practice tip, but a very important one nevertheless for quick improvement. Perform in front of other people whenever you can. Bolster your confidence with the praise you will receive, and if you receive any criticism, use it positively, then forget about it. If any aspect of your playing does need work, be happy that your attention has been drawn to it – correct it and move on. Keep pride and ego far away, simply solve any problems and move on. Seek out other guitarists, and listen and learn from them – not just their playing, but their entire approach to the instrument, how they handle themselves, their instrument and equipment (how and when they tune up, playing posture, over-reliance one one technique or style, etc.). Be inspired, not intimidated – take emotion out of the equation and learn from any source you can.
Guitar Practice Tip 9 – Buy A Tuner
Whilst it's important that you can tune by ear, and something that should be learned as soon as possible after taking up the guitar, you should use an electronic tuner whilst you are practising. Over your entire career, you will probably save yourself hours, if not days, of valuable practice time.
Guitar Practice Tip 10 - Be Selfish
During your alloted practice time, be narrow-minded and totally focused. Don't answer the phone, don't look up if someone enters the room, etc. Be selfish, give your guitar practice top priority. Not only will you get the job done faster, your playing, and ambitions, will be given more respect by everyone else.
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