Playing is fun and practising your guitar can be fun too but there is a difference between working on things you cannot do and playing just for fun. For this article a few tips and highlights about what you can do to get yourself more focused on what your own playing needs at the moment.
If you are a beginner it makes sense to play as often as you can to improve your guitarplaying but also to reinforce your relationship with the guitar. As guitarplayers get better and more experienced there is a tendency to play just for fun: Play during bandrehearsals, have the odd blast at home through the amp etc. Great, but there may be a lot of issues you may need to work on to improve your own playing, work you may not get time for when you play with your band. The time on your own with the guitar should be well-spend-time since you do not want to spend your time too much on things you can already play.
Okay, so how do you find out what your playing needs? Here a few ideas which can get you into the zone:
What Does My Playing Need at the Moment?
This question can be anwered from different angles, let me focus on the playing you do at the moment, not on the things you would like to learn for the future. No, practise-time is daily work, so what your playing needs (or lacks) is anything you do at the moment which is not that smooth. They are the riffs and solos which sometimes sound great and flawless, but not always. Would you not like to make them sound good all the time? What is lacking at the moment may be certain techniqual issues with your stlye of picking, your stringskipping or…………………
To find out how your playing sounds and what it may lack, play spontaneous for a little while, record yourself and have a listen and be honest to yourself about what you hear. Listen out for stutters, broken up phrases which should be smooth. All sounds perfect? You are God! Do it again, there will be things you can not do very well, and that is what you should try to overcome.
At the moment you may work with Scale excerscises, fingerexcercises ect. all material which you may have collected from the net, material which comes from someone else. Good, really good stuff, as it may all be material you do not know yet. You own playing will give you feedback. In your own playing will be the answer to what you need today. Most of the material you practise from other people is good for tomorrow, the long term goal, but have a look at what it is you cannot do today, the things you can do but which do not flow smoothly.
Once you can see what it your playing needs your next step should be to find a way to iron out those issues. You may be able to do this yourself, you may have some friends who can offer help, maybe someone who has more experience than yourself, or maybe you can contact a local teacher to help you overcome some of those issues in your playing.
If you can help yourself you are probably experienced enough in your playing, but you may need to be honest with yourself that your playing could benefit with a little work at home from time to time.
Most of the well-known players will admit that they play excersices or particular ideas which they do not really use in their day to day playing. All good and well, but maybe you should work on things you use daily. Even the well-known guys do admit that some of the things they practise may not be all the relevant to what they need.
Andy Summers mentioned in an interview at one point something about speed and the state of guitarplaying at the time (it was around ’93) His comment was along the lines of: “You can spend a lot of time of getting faster and faster, but at the end of the day you have only achieved one goal: Getting faster. But you have no songs to play these fast solos over, you could have spend your time on making songs and working on unusual chordvoicings etc.”
I think anyone, if you are honest, can see the point of this remark. It really pays off to work on different things in your playing all the time. Start with what you really need for now. Keep it fun and light, no need to run yourself in the ground, especiall if you have been playing for some time, but at same time, be honest and dilligent on what it is your playing needs right now.
Next to your daily practise routines there is something like bigger,longterm goals. One of those goals could be: “I would like to play faster solos” Usually these goals are not something you can do right now, they are something you may want to work toward to be able to do it at a later stage.
For next article I will look into speed, oh yes, we guitarplayers cannot get enough of it, and you can never overdo it, but there are quite a few things you can do which will speed up your progress with getting on the speed-highway.
Catch you soon,