Learning to play the guitar is a mixture of getting used to particular motorskills and using your brain: Your fingers need to get used to making particular movements and your mind needs to become aware of what you are doing musicwise, the kind of rhythms you are playing, what kind of notes you are playing, you need to memorize particular parts, you need to become aware of the fretboard ect.
All in all most of these skills can be learned fairly quickly, however I meet a lot of people who struggle, and some of them keep on struggling because they do not ask the right questions to themselves, and also they may not practise as efficiently as they could. Today a short overview for all of you who feel they can do with a bit of improvement in this department.
No matter on what level you are, you do need to practise, to improve your playing, to get it smoother, to deepen your horizon and to grow musically. Spending time with your guitar helps you to get engaged with music. A lot of people do find it hard to find time to practise, most people want to play, but still it seems to be hard for them to find the time to play. Why is it so hard? Because of the distractions around us, and how we get conditioned from a young age onwards. I was brought up with the attitude that hard work rewards, and you will need to make choises about what it is you want to do and stick to the choises you have made.
Childeren do not have a mindset of their own yet, often they go with what their parents tell them what to do, or their teachers or their peers. Of course every child does have his/her own character and talents but usually childeren will copy and just go along with whatever they are told to do. This is fine as long as they are shown the right example. Parents can tell their childeren they need to practise their guitar at particular times of the day. Follow a particular habit with regards to practise and you will see the results.
For adults things are pretty similar: Try to set yourself a particular time of day when you practise your guitar, try sticking to this as much as you can, of course there will be moments when your habit will be broken up by your environment, be flexible at those times but also stick to your regular habit of playing the guitar. What time is good for you is different from what is good for me, I can only give guidelines here, but I can guarrantee that a good habit of practising your guitar regularly will pay off.
Okay so you play your guitar regularly but you are still not improving, what is up then? Well there is another matter: What do you actually do during the time when you are playing your guitar? Do you play what you already know or…………………….. Let us have a look at this now in greater detail.
Again, a habit may be good, but these habits may need to change from time to time, all depending on the goals you have set for yourself. A good habit is to start with some warm-up playing, this could be particular fingerexersises [see one of my early blogs from late Oct. 2010 for more details] or some scales, or even chordsequences, or rhythmic exercises. How long should I do this for? Depending on your time. [in an ideal world I,myself, will play about 2 hours of warm-ups, I will develop songideas from this and then go into other activities, but this is ideal, often I get less time or more……………]
After warm-up time you should go into what is new for you, what is hard to play, what it is you need but is not yet smooth. Whatever this is I do not know, it could be a new song, a new song you create yourself, it could be material from a book, something of the internet, something from a CD or ….. but it should be something new and something you can not do yet. It is a good habit to learn new things all the time. In my own case I do spend an awful long time on technique, one of my early goals was to be able to play whatever it is I wanted to, or what I could hear, or what people wanted me to play. This goal is wide and never-ending, however it does pay-off to practise all kind of techniques and to stick to this routine.
Do not only play techniqual exercises, it is a good habit to turn these ideas into songs or songideas you can later use for compositions or whatever.
Finally you should reward yourself with playing whatever it is you like playing, and play this really well. Tell yourself there is an audience watching you so you really have to play well. Get up and play, dance around and make it fun! Do not be like “Oh I play this little part of this song and then go to another part which I know well” No, play the whole song, get it down as well as you can, if you are struggling you know what it is you need to do!
This is the hardest for most people, and most of us do not like to admit this. Do I know myself? Well I do know what I want to achieve in the short term, and the long-term ideas change from time to time, has been like this for quite some time. Once you feel you know what it is you like to do, be proud of it, do not be shy, do not think it is silly you want to play, for example Metal, no if this is what you want to do, fine, let the rest of the world think whatever they want to. At least you know what to do, stick to it and grow and make it loud and play it proud.
Once you know what you like doing stylewise, find out what kind of techinique you need to play this style of music. There is a core set of techinques any player of any level needs, but from there on it gets quite specific. Find out what it is you need, and what you like and work on this, as much as you can, as your playing will start to sound like the style you want to emulate.
Enjoy your Journey!