My 9 Essential Guitar Practice Tips

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My 9 Essential Guitar Practice Tips

Learning the guitar is just like learning to swim, you make time and practice
otherwise you may drown. The questions I get most are 'how long should I practice for, and what do I practice? These 2 questions come up in every conversation that I have with new students about learning the guitar.

That answer is really dependent upon what sort of guitar player you would like to
become. If you just want to play a few chords, then you may not want to put in the thousands of hours, it would take to master the guitar.

Regardless of the type of player, we all need structure in our practicing, and we need to discipline ourselves to make it happen on a daily basis.

Below are my 9 essential tips for creating a better guitar practicing routine.

1) Goal Setting- This is by far the most underrated practice and should always be
the first thing you do before you practice anything whether it be the guitar or
anything else for that matter. Being able to state what you desired outcome will
be prior to achieving your goal is an absolute must! Start by setting an
intention for your practice session. This will help you stay on track if you begin
to wander into the noodling town of ‘Meanderville’.

2) Focused Practice- If your intention today is to practice chord changes &
inversions, then make sure you stick with it. It’s all too easy to just practice the
things you are already good at and leave the intention behind because you will
justify to yourself that you have picked up the guitar today and that’s enough
validation. However, it takes Discipline to practice those things that are
challenging and difficult, this is the only way you really do get better at them.
Discipline yourself to achieve what you set out to do. Focus is the key here.

3) Slow-and Steady Wins the Race -  Always start slow. It never ceases to amaze me at how students practice an exercise, scales or other techniques, doing them at break-neck speed, or just glossing over an exercise once or twice thinking they're done, but then wonder why they still struggle without really improving.
Starting out slow allows you to fully understand the lick, or scale, song, or
whatever concept you are looking at. In fact, it's much harder to practice

slowly because it requires all of your attention & discipline to stay at the slow
tempo. If you start slow, you will improve quickly and then you can speed up

4) Use A Metronome- If you don’t own one, buy one, or download one from the
internet. Practicing rhythm, time, scales etc. without a metronome is recipe for
disaster down the track. As in ‘Practice Tip #3’ above, make sure that you
practice with the metronome at a slow tempo to start out.

One of the tricks I have used successfully to better my rhythm and enjoyment of using a metronome over the years is to use work with core tempo and then practice sub-dividing the time rather than just incrementally raising the metronome by 5 or 10 bpm.
Now this might sound contrary to pretty much every other guitar teaching method on how to improve your technique and speed, but try it out, you may just find that if you practice in this way you will gain a better understanding how to play fast, and how to lock into a beat, in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise.

5) Accountability- Don't just mindlessly practice a scale or passage of music
without addressing the mistakes. You have to make sure that you are correcting
& refining a musical phrase, technique, scale, or lick every time. Please
remember, ‘practice doesn't make perfect, it makes permanent!’ So be honest
and make yourself accountable!

6) Track Your Progress- Keep track of your progress with a progress tracker,
logging the practiced component, the tempo you start the session at, and the
tempo you finish the session at. Hopefully you have improved greatly on your
previous session, and with that add a little note about any insights you gained
from the practice itself. You will be surprised how motivating it can be to
remind yourself of how good yesterday felt when you finished that song you
have been working on for 3 weeks, or finally got your head & your hands
around that tricky arpeggio lick.

7) Practice regularly- It really is beneficial if you practice 15 or 20 minutes each
day rather than single practice session of 2 hours and calling that the weekly
practice. When it comes time to find the time for practice, I know what the
complaint is: there is too much going on in my life to practice, or I’ll practice
tomorrow. Well, you chose to learn an instrument, and like I said at the start of
this guide to practicing, if you wanted to learn to swim you would find the time
to practice swimming, otherwise you will struggle & potentially drown. I
realise that is a pretty drastic line to draw in relation to practicing guitar, but it
really comes down to this; forget about excusing yourself from practising,
because spending quality time with the instrument, to learn about it, music and
your relationship to both, is what will help you to improve consistently, and
become the guitar player/musician you want to be.

8) Visualisation-  Visualisation is one of the most effective practice tips that I can give you to better your guitar playing quickly. Set a time each day that is yours. Make sure you will not be disturbed in any way for 15-30 minutes. Switch the computer off, the phone, close the door, sit and focus on your goals.

See yourself playing the guitar effortlessly& elegantly and with confidence. Don't
let any negative thoughts penetrate the positive visions that you are focusing
on. At first, some of you may find this challenging, but stick with it, it will pay
off handsomely.

I remember when I first started trying to really improve my
playing I came up against all sorts of road blocks, and I really wish somebody
had told me then to get rid of the negative thoughts I was having and only
focus on the good ones.

There is an old saying about 'keeping your eye on the prize', and there is also another one that says 'thoughts become things, so choose the good ones'. 

9) Sing What You Play- Yes!! Singing what you play is the best technique to
improve your guitar playing that I have found hands down. There is nothing
quite like the feeling of playing melodies on your guitar whilst you are singing
those melodies with your voice at the same time.

Most students buck me on this because they will insist that they
signed up for guitar lessons and not singing lessons. However, the truth behind
that sort of defense is that it really shows what they are afraid of, which is to
EXPRESS themselves FREELY.

You know, it really doesn't matter if you believe you're a good singer or not, but if you try this, you will soon begin to understand the power of forming what I call the ‘Guitar Players Holy Trinity’.

  1. The music that you hear in your head
  2. Your actual human voice, which allows you to bring into three dimensional time and space, that music you hear in your head. 
  3. The voice of the notes played on the guitar, which allow you to express in another way the music you hear in your head.

It is this connection between the 3 voices, and your discipline in holding yourself to account for practicing using this and all the other tips mentioned that allows you to become a better guitarist/ musician you are using to make music.

Rock On



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