Tired of spending so much time practicing without ever seeing big results? Do you feel like there's nothing you can do to get better and finally play guitar the way you want to? If so, you're like many other guitarists who are extremely frustrated...
Before I reveal to you how to figure this problem out and play guitar like you want, you must know and believe that you can achieve your musical goals, just like your favorite players. However, if you struggle with problems in your guitar playing, it doesn't mean you lack talent and will never become a great guitarist. It just means the following:
1. You never understood the right steps to take while practicing to play anything you want on guitar (more on this below).
2. This is difficult to grasp for most guitarists (in particular, self-taught ones) because it requires a great understanding of practice guitar effectively. It's simple to understand what to practice (since these things are often rooted in common sense), but implementing them correctly is not so simple.
The 1st thing you need to do is see your guitar playing as a battle between two forces: the practice you do to make your playing feel easier, and the challenges that make your guitar playing much more difficult than necessary. Whenever one side wins over the other, your goal splits into two halves:
* To continue practicing in the most efficient way possible, in order to make fast progress (I've explained many approaches to this in other instructional rock guitar articles).
* To move beyond certain challenges that keep you from playing the things you want to play as well as you'd like to play them (this is what I'll show you below).
To help you totally understand the practicing process explained below, first check out this video that shows how this method makes your guitar playing better. Do this now before reading anything else below.
Although the video above shows how to effectively practice guitar in a single circumstance, the general method for fixing problems can be applied in the same manner to any technique/style (from tremolo picking to blues guitar double stop licks to chord switching for acoustic guitar).
Start playing whatever you want on guitar by following these steps:
The fundamental mistake guitarists make while practicing is attempting to solve symptoms (things they believe to be problems) in their playing, instead of focusing on root causes (the real problems). This applies in particular to the majority of self-taught guitarists, who were never shown how to effectively practice guitar. As you observed in the video above, it's easy to misdiagnose a problem and falsely assume you know its cause, only to waste tons of time practicing the wrong things (all while making slow progress at best).
The most effective way to keep from wasting time on symptoms of problems and really take your guitar skills to the next level, is to apply the advice you get from an electric guitar teacher who knows how to analyze your playing and tell you what keeps you from achieving your greatest potential. In addition to giving you fast solutions to your musical frustrations, studying with an expert teacher will help you be your own guitar teacher and figure out your guitar playing issues by yourself. This is easily the greatest benefit of guitar lessons, and is the reason why guitar players who learn with a great teacher quickly become killer players.
This is not unlike going to a doctor with some symptoms of not feeling well or having certain aches in your body. Rather than prescribing medicine for the top level symptom of any issue you have, a great doctor tracks every symptom down to its root causes and treats it, causing you to feel much better (getting rid of all the symptoms at the same time). Of course, doctors aren't born with knowledge of how to solve health problems - this knowledge is gained and learned. The exact same can be said about your guitar playing: even if you have a difficult time correctly pinpointing the causes of big guitar playing problems now, you can figure out how to fix them and be your own guitar playing doctor.
Once you've identified the problem that is preventing you from playing what you want on guitar, your next move is to find out how to correctly isolate and fix it. As you observed in the video above, spotting the specific issue (the hammer on and pull off in that particular example) was not enough on its own. The next step is to place the problem into the original context to transform it into a self-sufficient exercise. "Self-sufficient" = you don't need to look for any additional =good guitar exercises to overcome it - the problem becomes your exercise.
To understand more about how to perform this step of the process correctly, read this article about how to practice guitar more effectively.
As soon as you identify the correct issue that must be fixed to move your guitar playing forward and correctly made it into its own exercise (as explained and demonstrated in the video above), you now have to practice the problem until it's taken care of.
The error that most guitarists make in this part of the process is not performing enough quality repetitions of the exercise in order to start good guitar playing habits to replace the old ones.
Version One: Some guitarists simply give up on practicing the exercise too early - they get disinterested after practicing for only a few minutes... never to practice the exercise again. In the end, they just don't do enough repetitions of the exercise to improve their guitar playing to begin with.
Version Two: Others will move forward through strong discipline and willpower to end up practicing the exercise for many hours at a time. Although they perform many repetitions of the exercise, the quality of each repetition begins to decline as they play the exercise over and over, eventually losing focus. Read this article about mindless guitar practice to learn more about this.
The right way to create a good habit is by continually practicing guitar in bursts of concentrated effort for several minutes at a time. Instead of practicing the same exact exercise for many hours on end, practice it for several minutes at a time, many times throughout the day, gaining tons of volume (repetitions) over the course of a week.
Version one of the mistake above frequently happens with guitar players who never use practice schedules. Their practicing is cluttered and random (and it shows in their playing).
In contrast, version two of the mistake above happens frequently to guitar players who don't know the nuances of correctly training the body and the mind to play guitar. Instead, they attempt to build their practice schedules using linear guitar practice approaches with a text file on their computer.
To steer clear of both mistakes, you must be aware that teaching a human being to play guitar is much different than programming functions into a computer. It's for this reason that you must use effective guitar practicing schedules that are created for attaining big results.
Now that you know what is required for playing whatever you want on guitar, begin applying the advice provided in this article (and in the additional resources given throughout) to make your practicing more effective and your guitar playing much more easy.
If you still have a hard time attaining the results you desire from your practice time, you will achieve your guitar playing goals faster by working directly with me. Read this page about rock and metal guitar lessons and tell me about your guitar playing challenges that you struggle with.
Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.
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