In my last article, I wrote about the 10 questions you should ask a potential guitar teacher before taking lessons with them.
So, after you have found your teacher and started lessons, then next thing you need to focus on is how to start to improve on the guitar.
As a guitar teacher and performer, I often get asked about how to effectively practice to improve more quickly. And there seems to be a lot of information up there on the web on how to do this for a variety of styles and types of guitar.
However, here are my own personally road tested methods for really practicing effectively so you can save time and improve more quickly.
Please feel free to leave your comments below as I’d love to hear your feedback, ideas and questions.
So, without further ado…
1) Leave your guitar out of its case
Here’s a simple trick for reducing guitar practice procrastination: leave your guitar out of its case and place it on a guitar stand. This way, it’s much easier to pick up anytime and will actually encourage you to play more. This really works for me and it just feels much easier to grab the guitar and play whether I’m doing a serious session or just have a few minutes to play. Try it out.
2) Have a weekly plan
I’ve found it very effective to have a weekly plan to practice to. It could be learning a certain portion of a song or perhaps repeatedly practicing one technique you want to master everyday from Monday to friday. Having weekly goals is more manageable than planning, say, in months and it gives your daily routine a little more focus. Of course there will be times when you can’t play, but if you can, weekly goals are nice unit of time to plan a guitar practicing goal.
3) It’s not how long you play but how regularly
It’s much, much better to play only 10 minutes a day rather than 10 hours only on one day. Constant regular practice is the most effective way to make progress. When beginning, you should be looking at an average of at least 20 to 30 minutes of practice a day. Even if you can only play five minutes on a busy day, try to at least play a few chords or riffs to maintain your level. Remember, Jimmy Hendrix used to even sleep with his after passing out after another long session. He wasn’t good just by accident.
4) Practice effectively
Again, if you practice effectively, you don’t necessarily have to practice for hours on end. A short effective 30 minute session is better than 3 hours of just messing about on the guitar. Practicing effectively involves systematically identifying and working on your weak points or repeated mistakes. You want to be able to make reasonable measured progress. If you aren’t, you might need to play more slowly and break down difficult pieces into more manageable sections.
5) Use a metronome
If there is one common mistake beginner guitar students tend to make, it is not practicing with a metronome. Using a metronome is absolutely essential to internalizing a solid sense of rhythm and practicing effectively. It allows you to learn to play in time and greatly improve your sense of music and rhythmical accuracy. At first it can be a little challenging to synchronise what you are playing with a beat. However, if you start slow and play something easy you will quickly learn to coordinate what you play to a beat. This is also great for anyone who wants to practice to play in a band where timing is essential. If you aren’t regularly practicing with a metronome…why the heck not?! Go get one now! Or else!
6) Play slow and play loud
My students have the understandable urge to want to play their favorite pieces as fast and soon as possible. And ironically, to do that, you have to play slowly. If you rush, you will end up making more mistakes which will take more time to fix. Trust me, I’ve been there. Play slowly and confidently and the speed will come naturally. Also, practicing loudly, especially with classical guitar is good way to increase your confidence, accuracy and strength. It’s better to play something well slowly, than a string of mistakes at 1000 mph.
7) Play scales like songs, and songs like scales
Musicians sometimes have the tendency to put a lot of musical feeling and expression into their pieces, occasionally a little too much. However they sometimes play scales quite robotically and without dynamics, expression or feeling. When playing scales try to add some music expression to them. You can try changing the dynamics from soft to loud as you play the scale. You could speed up or slow down. There are many different techniques you can try but they should sound more musical so they are more relevant to playing pieces. Mix it up and experiment and have fun!
8) Record yourself playing
Recording and then listening to yourself playing is a great way to hear more clearly what mistakes you are making and how you sound . I warn you, you may not like what you hear the first time! However the insight into how you really sound will help you to work on your weak points and improve dramatically.
9) Practice as soon as you can after your lesson
The quicker you can practice what you have learned after your guitar lesson, the more you will remember. You should try to practice the second you get home from your guitar lesson, or at least as soon as you can. This will help you to really consolidate and remember what you have learned. If you leave it to late you will start to forget what you covered in the lesson. So get the most you can out of your guitar lessons and practice right after them.
10) Play what you really love
I guess this is pretty obvious advice but it’s worth saying. The more passion you have for the music you play, the more quickly you will progress. Again, it’s good to have goals with a liberal sprinkling of patience and hard work. However, love and passion for the music you are playing will trump everything and keep you moving forward when your practice sessions get tough. It’s all about the love man!
What to do next?
Get in touch with me and leave a comment or question below. If you are interested in taking guitar lessons in Tokyo you can get more information here.
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