This post comes to us via Raelyn Tran.
If you’ve ever wondered how to improve as a guitarist, this post offers some great tips.
Let’s learn about the wonderful instrument that is the guitar.
Guitar is a complex instrument.
As such, making progress can be a challenge. As a beginner, you don’t know wrong from right. So, even when you think you’re applying yourself to practice, you could be making mistakes that are holding you back.
Here are 10 do’s and don’ts that should help you stay on the right track as you begin to develop your skills.
#1 – Don’t Ignore the Basics
It takes time to master an instrument, and there are few things more important than setting a solid foundation for yourself.
Beginners tend to do one of two things wrong: Either they get too distracted, or they simply don’t practice enough.
For instance, if you sat down to practice for 40 minutes, but you don’t focus on the material you need to work on for 20 minutes, you only practiced for 20 minutes.
And, if you don’t work on the material your teacher assigned you, you’re not practicing the right things.
The first step is to work on the rudiments. Then you can begin exploring other aspects of the instrument.
The basics might seem boring when you’re learning them. But you will benefit from the time spent learning them. Focus on what you’re going to accomplish, not the sacrifice it’s going to take to get there.Focus on what you’re going to accomplish, not the sacrifice it’s going to take to get there. Click To Tweet
#2 – Don’t Just Learn Bits and Pieces of a Song
What’s the most exciting part about playing guitar? Generally, it’s the riffs and solos. But when you’re learning a new song, you shouldn’t just skip to the best parts and learn those.
Imagine how frustrating it would be to find yourself among other musicians at a jam session and not be able to play a whole song through because you’ve only studied bits and pieces of 50 different songs.
Think of what your friends will say when they ask you to play something for them, and you have to stop every 20 seconds because you don’t know the rest. You can probably imagine their disappointed faces already.
Moreover, learning entire songs helps you gain an understanding of how songs are structured. It will also give you the tools you need to compose your own. Wouldn’t you love to write your own songs?
You don’t need to learn every song under the sun. But knowing a few never hurt anyone.
#3 – Don’t Rush
There’s no way you’re going to play along to every Yngwie Malmsteen song overnight.
Before you can develop the speed to show off at a blistering 200 bmp, you must learn to play with perfect phrasing and tone at 60 bpm.
There’s a nice saying that sums up this idea nicely: “we must learn to walk before we can run”.
#4 – Don’t be Ashamed to Use a Capo
A guitar capo is a clamp-like device that you can use on the neck of the instrument. It holds down all the strings at once and changes their pitch.
By using a capo, you can change the key and pitch of the open strings without having to adjust the strings with the tuning pegs. Moreover, by using a capo, you can avoid having to play those pesky barre chords.
Capos are sometimes regarded as accessories for beginners, but in fact, many experienced guitarists use them for practical reasons. You don’t have to barre everything up to prove you’re a master.
#5 – Don’t Sacrifice Expression for Technique, and Vice-Versa!
The most unexpected (and unpleasant!) remark I’ve heard about my playing came from a friend who is a guitarist I admire. He told me my solo was too mechanical and the notes were “too exact, on time”.
Many guitarists have gone through this, I’m sure: At first, there’s the tendency to play perfectly, like a MIDI instrument that syncs perfectly to the beat every single time.
Who can blame us?
We’ve been taught to do things that way. And there’s no denying that working on your rhythm makes you a better player. But, remember, when it comes to music, don’t be rigid. There are times we just need close our eyes and play.
But don’t ignore techniques either. Accept this from the start: Your music should be a mélange between expression and technique, so seek to maintain the balance between earth-shaking passages and mellow notes that “flow” rather than punch through the mix.
Don’t ever fall into the trap of ignoring musical theory and pretending that “too much guitar technique kills the emotion” – balance is the only key!
#6 – Do Record Yourself
Record yourself and listen back to your playing. This will help you identify what you’re doing wrong, whether your phrasing is off, and if you need to be playing more dynamically.
This is also how you learn to monitor and evaluate your playing in real time, and this method never gets old.
After every three-to-five-minute fragment (not more, because you’ll get too caught up to see the bigger picture afterward), press STOP, listen back, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Are these the correct notes? Do they “flow” right?
- Did I pay attention to the rhythm and tempo?
- Am I using the right picking techniques?
- Are there any unwanted noises on my playing, such as buzzing?
- Am I playing the accents correctly?
- Am I conveying the message of the song/musical piece?
- Am I expressing a feeling or just showcasing technique?
- While I’m listening to my recording, did I recall/visualize the chords and positions I used?
After a while, these recordings will be the undeniable proof of your evolution and constant development of your guitar style. When in doubt, it’ll be enough to play them back and realize you’ve come a long way.
You don’t need a recording studio to record tracks unless you want that. You can record your playing through your smartphone, tape player, or anything that has sound recording capability.
If want to record a better sound using your PC, you can take advantage of a piece of software like Audacity, Tracktion, Adobe Audition, or Guitar Rig.
#7 – Do Meet and Learn from Many Musicians & Sources
You can learn something from every musician. Don’t limit your progress by only utilizing one source.
First, go to guitar forums, find the answers to your beginner dilemmas, make friends that share your musical interests, and discover interesting websites recommended by other members. Forums and social media are excellent for exchanging ideas and asking questions.
Second, find a partner to practice with. Improvise with him/her and talk about your setups, guitar accessories and the technical issues you’ve come across. Learning together is way more fun and effective than learning alone.
Last, meet fellow artists in small live clubs. Create opportunities to get inspired, learn to play, coordinate with others using only your eyes and your guitar; try playing in a band.
#8 – Do Improvise
Take inspiration from other players. Try learning their parts. Then, reinvent them or put your own spin on them.
Study the greats. Observe how they play and learn their licks, riffs, and solos.
But don’t settle there. Once you’ve become familiar with their works, try playing with the structure. Change up the notes. Play with the tempo, phrasing, or key signature. Try playing the piece backwards.
You can download free backing tracks and try your hand at playing scales and short riffs/melodies over them. The best training for a musician is using his/her imagination and listening skills.
#9 – Do Listen to Many Styles of Music
This might seem like trite advice, but the diversity of the songs you’re listening to will influence your and style and creativity.
Don’t just keep listening to the same genres you’ve listen to your whole life. Don’t dismiss any artist or album until you’ve given it a chance. Open your heart to music, and remain open to new experiences.
#10 – Do Attend Live Concerts
A great concert is a strong source of inspiration, and it can teach you a great deal.A great concert is a strong source of inspiration. Click To Tweet
Sitting in the front row of a live show is an awesome feeling. You can watch as your favorite guitarist play the riffs and solos you’ve come to love so much.
While attending those concerts, I always imagine myself playing just like my heroes, and observe them so I can learn to play just like them.
And you know what?
Even as you pay attention to every move the musicians make onstage, it doesn’t detract from the music. You’ll end up enjoying both aspects of the experience – studying and listening.
Buy your ticket to all the shows you can get to and, most importantly, go to see international artists play when they visit your city.
Those tips helped me a lot, and still do. I hope they are useful to you like they have been for me. Happy learning and playing!