Improving your guitar skills takes time, dedication, and the right approach. Whether you're just starting out or you're a seasoned player looking to take your skills to the next level, there are a few key strategies that can help you reach your goals faster.
1. Set specific goals
Before you begin practicing, it's important to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve.
- Do you want to learn a particular song or style of music?
- Improve your fingerpicking or lead playing?
- Develop your strumming technique?
Whatever your goal, make sure it's specific and achievable.
- For example, instead of simply wanting to "get better at guitar," set a specific goal like "learn to play two new songs by the end of the month."
- This will give you something specific to work towards, and you'll be able to track your progress more easily.
2. Practice regularly
Consistency is key when it comes to improving your guitar skills. While it's important to have dedicated practice sessions, it's also helpful to incorporate shorter practice sessions into your daily routine.
- Even just 15-20 minutes of daily practice can make a big difference in your progress.
- Regular practice will give you better results than cramming an hour or two just before your lesson.
3. Use a metronome
A metronome is a device that produces a steady pulse (or beat) to help you keep time while practicing. It's especially helpful when learning new songs or techniques, as it can help you develop a sense of timing and rhythm.
- Many guitarists find that using a metronome helps them play more accurately and consistently.
- Also, there are numerous apps that will produce a drum beat or percussive pattern.
- With a varied rhythmic pulse, as opposed to a single sound such as a clave or wood block, it’s harder for the brain to ignore.
- It’s more fun to play along with a full drum kit than a single percussive sound, so be sure to check out drum tracks to fuel your practice.
4. Get quality instruction
There’s no substitute for leveling up with personalized instruction.
- The right instructor will help you identify and correct any bad habits you may have developed.
- They can also provide personalized guidance to help you reach your goals.
- Most online guitar lessons lack this crucial aspect of teaching (except for ours – we give personalized video feedback to our students!)
5. Break things down and practice slowly
When learning a new song or technique, it can be tempting to try and play it at full speed right away. However, this can often lead to frustration and poor results.
- Instead, try breaking things down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
- Practice each part slowly and consistently, gradually increasing your speed as you get more comfortable.
Try to achieve a slow enough practice tempo to allow you to play each note and chord cleanly, but not too slow so that playing becomes tedious.
6. Experiment with different practice techniques
There are many different ways to practice guitar, and what works best for one person may not work as well for another. Some popular practice techniques include:
Repeating a specific section or passage over and over again until it becomes second nature.
- All too often there’s one particular part of the tune you’re trying to play that’s tough to get clean.
- Sometimes there are several challenging sections.
- If you always start at the beginning of the tune and play through to the end, you only attack the complex sections once per run through.
- If the tune is 5 minutes long, then, over the course of an hour, you would have played the tough sections 12 times each.
- If those sections by themselves added up to 30 seconds, and you only concentrated on them and not the whole tune, you would be able to attack them 120 times in the space of an hour!
This involves focusing on a specific aspect of your playing, such as your strumming or fingerpicking and practicing it separately from the rest of the song.
Scales and exercises
Practicing scales and exercises can help improve your technique and finger dexterity. The key to making these fun is to practice them with a backing track that’s in the same key as your scale so you can get a sense of how it sounds in a musical context.
Play along with recordings
Playing along with recordings is a great way to improve your timing and feel for a particular style of music.
7. Get feedback from others (and yourself)
Getting feedback from other musicians can be a valuable way to improve your guitar skills.
- This can be as simple as asking a friend or family member to listen to you play and give you their honest assessment.
- Seeking out constructive criticism from more experienced players is a powerful way to identify weak areas as well.
- It’s also a great idea to record yourself playing.
- You’ll be amazed at what you can learn by listening back to your playing – there are a ton of little mistakes that we miss in the heat of the moment.
There will be times when you simply don’t have access to your guitar.
- These times are great for going inside your head and imagining certain playing techniques.
- A lot of research has been carried out to assess the value of internal practice.
- It turns out that it can be a very powerful addition to physical practice.
- To visualize your fingers on certain frets, traveling to other frets, and moving up and down strings, while the phantom strumming hand inside your brain performs rhythmic patterns and cross picking, can really help cement ideas.
It can have as powerful a result as practicing in the real world. It’s also a great way to identify material that you need to practice more. If you can’t clearly visualize it in your mind’s eye, chances are that you need to solidify it with additional practice.
One of the most important things to keep in mind, which will help improve anyone’s playing, is to keep at it! Don’t be discouraged.
Learning the guitar can be incredibly challenging and focussing on the goal ahead is vital. As long as those goals are realistic and achievable, you have a good chance of progressing at a steady pace.
If you’re looking for the best online guitar learning experience, check out a 14-day free trial to Pickup Music. With personalized video feedback, plenty of jamming opportunities, and lessons from the world’s best guitarists, our guided Learning Pathways will show you exactly what to work on at every step of the way.
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