We all want to become a great guitar player, but what does it really take? Well first and foremost, you want to become the best guitar player YOU can be. You have to focus on your own path, and not somebody else’s. While that might sound obvious, for many it isn’t.
A lot of guitar players have the tendency to compare themselves with other musicians and follow their journey instead of their own. The fact is, we are all destined to become different kind of guitar players. Your mind, taste, anatomy, emotions and daily life are all unique. These things determine how you play, what you play, and the musical path you will follow. You will only succeed if you do that.
Second, you’ve got to stop making excuses! Stop telling yourself or anybody else why you can’t do it, why don’t have the time, why you’re not fast enough or why you’ll never be a badass. You are unique, and if you cut all that shit, you can become the best guitar player you can be. And that is pretty darn good!
Now, here is the guideline that will take you on this amazing trip, no matter what kind of guitar breed you are. Here are the keys that will improve your playing to the max and make sure you become one hell of a guitar player.
Follow the keys and you’ll be on your way!
Figure out what you really want
Grab a pen and paper and write down what you want to accomplish as a guitar player. Why do you want to learn to play guitar?What song or songs do you want to be able to play? What kind of music makes you feel good? Do you want to play like John Mayer, Eddie van Halen or Tommy Emmanuel? Do you want master a repertoire of songs off the top of your head or do you want to write your own songs? Do you want to play in a band or become a solo artist? No limits here.
Write down all your favorite songs, guitar players, songwriters, guitar techniques and skills, riffs, solos and dream goals that get you excited. Once you’ve got everything down on paper, narrow it down to the five most awesome goals you want to achieve. Then get really specific and choose one or two goals that you’re going to focus on.
Now for each goal, break it down into smaller chunks. Write down what small steps you can take each day to come closer to your goals? What is it that you need to practice? What skills do you need to develop, work on and improve? Who and what do you need to get to the next level? Write it all down and take one small step every day. Each day will get you closer to your goal. One step at a time.
Find the right guitar teacher
The internet is an awesome tool and without a doubt can help you achieve big things in many ways, but the combination of good online guitar teachers and a personal guitar teacher that is right in front of your nose is the best short cut. A good guitar teacher can point out clearly what you need to improve, work on and what path you should follow to get where you want to be.
Make sure you have a connection with your guitar teacher and that he or she feels and understand what you want and where you want to go with your playing. If you’re not happy, find another teacher.
Take weekly guitar lessons. It will be a driving force that keeps you in the saddle at all times.
Schedule your practice time
Set a fixed time and place for each day to practice. Put practice reminders in your mobile phone, computer or write it on your wall calendar.
Regular practice keeps you motivated and creates solid progress. If you don’t schedule the time to practice, you won’t keep at it, you’ll skip a few days and before you know it your guitar playing is going down hill.
Also find a place where you can practice quietly without getting interrupted. Put a “don’t disturb” sign on the door and make sure you turn off all electronic devices to avoid any distractions. You want serious progress? Practice serious.
Look on your calendar and schedule your practice time now!
Besides your fixed practice time, there are always more minutes in a day, the minutes you waste time. Practice when possible or when you think it’s impossible. Play guitar before school or work, play after school or work, before lunch, after lunch, before dinner, after dinner, play when you’re watching TV or better turn off the TV. Practice your music theory in the dentist or doctor’s waiting room or when you’re dozing off to sleep. Play when your family has gone off to bed. Wake up earlier to practice some more. Practice when you feel tired or when you can’t sleep. Play every minute you can possibly spare. Play more guitar on weekends.
Guitar playing is a lifestyle. Stop making excuses and practice!
Put your iPhone, iPad, computer or any recording device in front of you and start recording yourself. There’s a big difference in listening while you’re playing and listening to what you’ve recorded. Listening back to your recording can be confronting, but it also points out exactly what you need to work on. You can also make a video of yourself which reveals the positioning of your fingers, hands, arm, shoulders and back.
Try both options separately, because watching can distract the ears. Watch, listen, study, learn and fix your weak spots. Then record again and again until you’re satisfied. This will really improve your playing big time!
Once you’ve done this a couple of times, you will listen with new ears, and you’ll be more aware of your playing. You now see how small changes in your playing can make a huge difference.
Play along and jam
Learning to keep time is one of the most important skills you need to acquire as a musician. You can practice and improve this by playing along with jam tracks and songs on Youtube. Learn to play along and lock in with the beat. Play along as much as you can.
When learning scales, use a metronome to practice with. Start slow, I mean real slow, and once you feel comfortable playing clean and clear in a certain tempo, gradually build up speed.
Find other musicians to play with, hang out and jam together. There is so much to learn from playing with others, it’s indescribable. Ask to meet up for regular jam sessions and play your favorite songs.
The next step is to join a band. Can’t find a band who needs a guitar player? Start your own band. Find musicians that have similar interests and skill level and get ready for the real thing. Playing in a band is the ultimate learning process for musicians. You will learn and develop, along with trial and error, many important skills that you need, to become an accomplished guitar player and musician.
Now you have other musicians to play with, find a gig. Start small. Learn to play in front of a live audience is a skill you have to cultivate. You will make mistakes, it’s part of the deal. Face the fear, play your heart out, build and improve your performing skills, and learn to become a better musician. If you don’t have musicians to play with, play solo. Learn to play in front of people as much as you can, no matter how small the audience. Gaining experience is the best teacher.
Repetition is good, but don’t just stick with what you already know. Get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Learn songs from different styles of music. What guitar magazines haven’t you read yet? Check out a different guitar book that will expand your skills and horizon.
Learn new scales, chords, fingerpicking patterns and rhythm playing, that don’t fit your particular style of playing. You might be surprised how it will improve your chops. In the end all styles of music are interwoven with each other. Also try different guitars, picks, strings, amps, effect pedals, teachers and musicians to play with. It will all enrich your playing. Challenge yourself constantly!
Evaluate your progress
Every day write down what you are practicing. What songs, scales, chords, riffs and solos are you working on? During practice observe your playing carefully. What is improving and what needs improvement? What are your flaws, struggles and challenges? Find a way to solve your issues. If you’re using a metronome, write down your beats per minute every time. Make notes of your progress.
Are you still on track? Are you meeting your goals? Do you want to change course or are you still determined?
Evaluating and reading back your progress keeps you focused and aware of what and why you are practicing. Seeing progress is what keeps you going and gives you the confidence to achieve your guitar goals.
Make it fun
Whatever path you choose to become the best guitar player you can be, make sure you’re having a lot of fun along the way. Fun is what keeps you going, making you long for more and giving you the fastest progress. If you don’t like practicing scales, chords, triads and arpeggios, find a way to make it fun. There’s always a way!
Playing along with a metronome, gradually increasing the bpm, often makes practicing scales a lot more challenging and fun. With everything you practice, there is a way to make it more desirable. Find the right guitar that suits you, learn songs from a great songbook, enjoy a nice cappuccino while you’re practicing and make your practice space inspirational.
Reading how your guitar heros have built their skills and achieved their goals can also be a trigger and motivation for you to practice whatever is necessary. Think creative and out of the box and make practicing exciting and exhilarating.
Guitar playing is all about enjoying the path you are on right now, because the musical path is infinite.
Find out what makes you tick!
Now and then, there are setbacks in guitar playing. It’s two steps forward and one step back, and things in life don’t always go the way you planned. Don’t worry about it. Just keep listening to your heart. What is it that makes you feel good about guitar playing?
There is a path for you and you’ve just got to stick to what you believe in. Believe in your playing, in your progress and in your goals. Believe in yourself as a person and a musician. And believe in what you feel is good and right for you. Opportunities will find you and life will lead the way to your musical goals. Just keep at it!
“I believe every guitar player inherently has something unique about their playing. They just have to identify what makes them different and develop it” ~ Jimmy Page