Becoming a better guitarist doesn’t happen by accident. Goal setting helps you focus your efforts and stay motivated in your musical journey while leveling up. That said, it’s much easier to talk about your goals than it is to actually accomplish them. In this blog post, we’ll break down a tried-and-true method for how to set and achieve guitar goals. We’ll also give you a specific example you can follow to get you on the right track.
Effective ways of setting guitar goals
Step 1: Dream big
Your first step in setting a guitar goal is to shoot for the stars. Think about what you want to achieve with your guitar playing.
Do you want to:
- Learn how to play like Jimi Hendrix?
- Improvise shredding solos with a live band?
- Play intricate jazz solos that follow fast-moving chord changes?
Whatever your ultimate goal is, make sure it's something that motivates you and keeps you engaged.
Example goal: ‘I want to play like John Mayer’
Step 2. Break it down
Here’s where we come back down to Earth. It's easier to stay motivated when you know that you’re making progress, which is why breaking your ultimate goal down into smaller measurable goals is so important. It can help you stay on track and avoid getting overwhelmed.
To do this, take an inventory of all the skills required to achieve your goal so you can determine what you need to work on.
Breaking down our example goal: ‘I want to play like John Mayer’
In order to play like Mayer, you have to dissect how he plays:
- John Mayer is a master of the pentatonic and blues scales
- His lead guitar phrasing is heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
- The jazz-adjacent chord voicings in his songs are more complex than the ones in your standard pop tunes
Once you determine what’s behind your big goal, you’ll need to do a self-audit of your current skillset and identify any foundational gaps to fill in.
- Pentatonic & blues scales: Have you mapped them out across your fretboard?
- Hendrix, SRV, & Mayer: Have you transcribed any of their licks?
Jazz voicings: Are you familiar with chord shapes John commonly uses in his songs? (ex. maj9, add9, #11, etc)
Track your progress
Once you find out what you need to work on, it’s time to create a practice plan. It’s important to include a mix of technical exercises, songs, and other activities that will help you improve and stay inspired. It's also a good idea to set aside a consistent time each day to practice, as this will help you stay focused and make progress more quickly.
Example practice routine: Playing like John Mayer
Based on the above goals, a practice routine to get you closer to Mayer’s sound could look like this:
- 15 minutes: Blues scale improvisations – practice soloing within 5 different positions of the blues scale across your fretboard. Stick to one position at a time until you’ve internalized each one.
- 10 minutes: Lick practice – Learn one John Mayer lick per day.
- 5 minutes: Practice switching between Emaj9 and Am9 chords.
- You definitely do have time to practice. Even 10 minutes a day will yield incredible results.
- While practicing, remember that you’re always making progress – even if you feel frustrated.
- Keeping a practice journal is key to staying motivated and getting the most out of your practice sessions.
- Eliminate distractions while practicing – put that phone away!
Achieving your guitar goals can take time, and it's important to stay motivated along the way. Deadlines can help you stay on track and make sure you're making progress toward your goals. For example, you might set a deadline to learn a certain number of songs by a certain date.
Of course, it’s easy to let deadlines pass without meeting them. Consider:
- Linking up with another musician to act as an accountability buddy.
- Committing yourself to perform what you’re working on at an open mic.
- Sharing your progress and goals on social media on a regular basis.
- Reward yourself for achieving guitar milestones
Example goal motivation:
There’s no better way to show off your John Mayer progress than playing one of his songs. After you’ve made progress in your practice, you could play one of his songs at an open mic or share a video of yourself improvising some Mayer-esque blues licks online.
Keep it fresh
Your practice routine has to evolve alongside you in order for you to make lasting progress on the guitar!
Example goal practice evolution:
Let’s say you’ve been hard at work for two months on playing like Mayer. At this point, your practice routine might evolve to the following
- 15 minutes: Blues scale connections – Practice soloing through all five positions of the blues scale.
- 10 minutes: Transcribe a FULL solo – Learn how to play John’s expressive blues solo from his song Vultures.
- 10 minutes: Learn all the chords to John’s song No Such Thing
By following these steps, you can identify and accomplish your guitar goals, and become a better musician in the process. Remember to be patient and consistent, and don't be afraid to adjust your goals as you make progress. With time and dedication, you can achieve your dreams on the guitar.
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