Setting Goals: How to Improve Your Skills as a Guitar Player, Musician and Song Writer

Most students who contact me, with the request for taking up lessons with me, have all one thing in common: They want to get better at playing the guitar. Most of them do not know how to achieve that goal. There are too many small steps to be taken and they simply cannot see the choises they need to make.
When it comes to playing the guitar, and making music in general, there are a lot of choises you need to consider: Do I play guitar just to entertain myself or should I play guitar infront of an audience? Am I going to join a band or do I want to be a soloartist?
The questions above are just a sample of the choises people need to look at, but most people who start out with playing the guitar will simply not have a clear idea of what it is they want to do. As you travel along the path of making music it will become clearer what you like and it is you need to do to achieve these desires. Setting yourself clear short-time goals will speed up the process of improvement in your guitar playing. Any good guitar teacher can help you with this process. For today’s blog I will guide you through the process of settting yourself goals, explain what kind of goals there are, give you some typical examples of short-and long term goals and will give you advise on how to monitor your own progress.
As with anything in life, when it comes to setting goals for yourself, it helps if you are a Go-Get-It-Now kind of person. Students with a quick mind and a positive response to actions/ideas will achieve results quicker compared to people with a laid-back mentality. However people change over time, the once laid-back student may become all of a sudden very motivated because he enjoys the kind of riffs he is introduced to.

                          —Short Term Goals—

Short term goals are achievements which can be reached within in short space of time, it could be a matter of two weeks, a month, two months or half a year. A typical example for a short term goal for intermediate students of the guitar could be: Learn to play barrechords of the A-shape chord.

                                 A                     C

           E    ————————————————

           B    ————2——————5—————-

           G    ————2——————5—————-

           D    ————2——————5—————-

           A    ————0——————3—————-

           E    ————————————————-

                    Open A chord                 C chord based on fingering of the open A chord

     How to achieve this goal? Play songs you already play, but change the fingering of the chords based on the fingering of the A-shape barre chord. Use songs which only use major chords. Take as many songs as you like, stick to them and try to get the barrechords to sound as smooth as you can. Take a handful of songs you really like and say to yourself: “I should be able to play these songs very well within four weeks from now. After four weeks you will see how well you have done. Can you play those songs smoothly without struggling too much with the new fingerings? If you cannot, do not worry, maybe you did not get enough time to practise, maybe you got distracted by other, new ideas to play or…………………
Whatever the reason is for not achieving your goal, at least you know where you stand. No need to feel bad about yourself as you will have plenty of time to get those chordshapes under your fingertips. At least now you know how to go about it.

                          —Long Term Goals—

A long term goals is a skill which should take you a little longer to achieve, maybe within the space of seven or eight months or one year or maybe even longer. An example of a long term goal could be: Take the songs you have played from the previous example of a short-term goal and say to yourself: “I want to play three of these songs in front of an audience for the next open mike night six months from today”
After you have played your songs during the open mike night you know now where you are: Were you nerveous? How could it be that you messed up that second song? That song was the one you liked most of all, but still………………..
Performing songs is about a lot more than just knowing how to play a handful of songs very well. Yes it does help if you know your songs, but that is only one part of the game.
Anyway, the open mike event taught you a lot of lessons, lessons which will probably open up doors for your next new set of short-and long term goals.

                           —Guitar Player—

No matter how long you have been playing the guitar, there is always scope for setting yourself some goals to achieve new skills. Typical examples of short term goals could be:
                           @ I am going to learn to play ten new cover songs
                           @ I am going to play guitar in a band
                           @ I am going to experiment more with distortion and my guitartone for the band
                           @ I am going to learn how to use time-based guitar effects such as delay and flange
                                for my band.

Stick to your short term goals, monitor your progress, and observe from time to time how well you are doing with your new skills. Some short-term goals are more concrete than others, the example of the ten cover songs is much easier to monitor than for example the time-based effect goal. Keep your goals as concrete as possible. The clearer they are the easier they will be to achieve.

                            —Song Writer—

Within your songwriting you could set yourself short-term targets such as:

                         @ I am going to write songs based on what I hear, not using my knowledge too much with
                             what I know about harmony and melody ect.
                         @ I am going to learn to arrange my songs for a band/orchestra.
                         @ I am going to write songs which are based on a groove.
                         @ I am going to start the songwriting process thinking from a melodic idea rather
                             than a chordsequence.

Goals can be cruel towards yourself, especially when you are not achieving them. Maybe you have set your goals too high? Break them down into small steps, be realistic towards yourself, but at the same time stick to your goals. If you are driven enough and you enjoy making music, you will achieve whatever you set out for yourself to do. It may take time but be patient and enjoy the process in the meantime.

Catch you soon,