If you’re looking for a sure-fire way to take your playing to the next level then read on. There are many factors that influence how fast you progress on guitar so here are 10 ways to increase your proficiency on the instrument without having to sell your soul at the crossroads…
10. Spend Less Time with Your Girl/Boyfriend
First things first; if you devoted as many hours to playing guitar as you do to your other half you’d be a virtuoso in no time. Think, ‘Red House’.
9. Treat Yourself to a New Guitar
Go on, you deserve one. And besides, a new guitar will give your playing a much-needed boost if only for the fact that you probably won’t put it down for a month.
8. Get a Teacher
You may be surprised to find this way down the list but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had, ‘But you should see my teacher play…’, type conversations knowing that great players don’t always make great teachers. In fact, the more naturally gifted a player is, the less likely he/she will able to explain to you how to get to the same point. You’re much better off with a great teacher who can provide you with all the necessary tools and methods to get to where you want to be with your playing. Failing that, there’s always YouTube ;)
7. Practice Smart
If your plan somewhere along the line is to become a working guitarist, you’ll spend about 50% of the time playing rhythm and the other 50% of the time learning or creating parts, sight-reading and coming up with the occasional solo; your practice routine should reflect this.
6. Study a Great Guitarist
Choose a great player and make it your mission not to emulate but to absorb their influence on a deeper level. Listen closely to what they do, watch interviews and try to get something from the way they approach the guitar, improvising, chord work and so forth. If they’ve done an REH video, this will give you a ton of insight into how they think about the guitar.
5. Forget About the Tricks
Sweep picking, tapping and wang-bar antics are all well and good but could probably be left aside in favor of practicing more useful techniques, unless your particular style of playing calls for a lot of high-wire stuff.
4. Set Some Goals.
Having something to work towards can only be beneficial to your playing. Make sure the goals you set yourself are realistic and achievable in the short term otherwise you’ll lose interest. Set specific goals such as, ‘learn the other 4 patterns of the pentatonic scale’, rather than general ones such as, ‘become a guitar virtuoso’.
Regular jamming is great way to improve your overall musicianship as a wide skill-set is involved. You need to use your ears, you need to come up with parts and you’ll need to work out how to apply theory on the fly. Make sure you bring ideas to a jam session otherwise they kind of deteriorate into silliness after the first two or three numbers.
2. Project Oriented Practicing.
I’ve found this to be an excellent technique for improving your guitar-playing in many areas. You first need to create a project whose goal should be either a live performance or doing some recording. For example, at the moment I’m working on getting a good blues repertoire together for a live performance. My motivation to sit down and learn some good blues tunes is high because I know that I’ll be performing them at some point. Your project could be to finish 5 songs for an EP or start a tribute band; the possibilities are endless.
1. Ear Training.
It’s no secret that great musicians have a great set of ears. Over the years I’ve found ear training to be the thing that noticeably improves my playing in the shortest amount of time. Any kind of ear training, be it transcribing, learning intervals etc. will reinforce the connection between your ear and your fingers, which allows you to gradually transition from following the dots to letting your ear dictate what comes next. You’ll need to consciously shift you attention from the pattern to the sound of the pattern to make it happen, but it will certainly have a dramatic effect on your playing in a relatively short amount of time.
What's been the thing that has most improved your playing? Let us know in the comments.
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