Seven Habits That Will Make You a Better Guitarist
05. Take Lessons: As a guitar instructor by trade, I am clearly biased, but the most obvious and productive thing any guitarist can do to improve their playing is to take lessons. While there is an ever-expanding universe of Internet resources, books, instructional videos, etc., available, nothing can compare to the one-on-one interaction with the expertise of a skilled guitar teacher. A teacher will identify your strengths and weaknesses, sharpening your skills and eliminating your flaws. A good teacher also will help you save time in your development by helping you sift through all of the information out there and lead you on the right path toward quickly realizing your goals as a guitarist.
Guitar teachers get paid to make you better, and spending the money will make you take your study seriously. Every story of a “self taught” guitarist still involves some part where they learned a lot from someone they knew who was more proficient and knowledgeable than them who helped shape their development, and even the extremely educated and virtuosic Randy Rhoads (who was a guitar teacher himself) was known to seek out guitar teachers whenever he had available time while making history touring and recording with Ozzy Osbourne, so break out of your rut, accelerate the evolution of your playing to the next level and get some lessons!
06. Focus your practice time: We’ve all heard stories of guitarists with marathon 12-hour or daily three-hour practice sessions, but for most guitarists, a tight, focused 10 to 30 minutes of consistent daily practice will prove more efficient. There is a difference in “practice” and “playing” time, and oftentimes the two get confused.
Practice should involve (after warming up) maintenance exercises to keep up your chops and emphasize your strengths, and focused work on specific goals that deal with integrating new knowledge and technique. Keeping the time spent on practice to an intelligent minimum, breaking up the topics to be addressed into small chunks, will help avoid wasted effort and will leave time to play.
In an ideal world, we’d all have three to six or more solid hours each day to spend with a guitar in hand, but for most of you reading this, the time you have available is substantially less. Oftentimes, setting out to practice for an extended period of time becomes a chore for some, and then the practice gets put off if something else comes up. Planning for at least 10 minutes of consistent daily practice time isn’t much of a chore for anyone, and if you get into the habit, you’ll find that you find ways to make more time to practice more.
Break up your practice regimen into skill sets and techniques, practice them daily, and then use them more efficiently when you’re playing. Let a guitar teacher mentor you through the process of designing a suitable practice routine for your schedule, or do your best assessing yourself and create your own. They key is consistency and brief, yet physically and mentally intense sessions.
Twenty minutes every day of truly focused practice is tremendously more conducive to development than a two-hour session every once in a while. And if you keep up with a reasonable, steady schedule, you’ll find that those occasions when you have time for an all-day practice session are all the more fruitful for it.
More importantly, keeping a consistent, intense practice regimen will leave all of your other free “guitar time” available for jamming, improvising, recording and experimenting, all of the while being able to do so with your skills at the highest possible level.
07. Track Your Progress The growth of any guitarist can be greatly improved by the simple awareness of the development of that growth. As you develop the discipline to be learning and practicing on a daily basis, it is extremely important to keep a log or diary of the process of your improvement in order to further maximize growth. The easiest way to do this is to keep a consistent log of your daily routine.
While this may seem a bit obsessive, you’ll find that keeping track of your daily practice will help you focus future practice sessions, maintain and continue awareness of steady progress, and also locate particularly fruitful practice phases in your past that can be replicated and upgraded when you feel your growth has stalled.
Create your own daily “workout log” or click, save and use the example below:
Scott Marano has dedicated his life to the study of the guitar, honing his chops at the Berklee College of Music under the tutelage of Jon Finn and Joe Stump and working as an accomplished guitarist, performer, songwriter and in-demand instructor. In 2007, Scott developed the Guitar Strength program to inspire and provide accelerated education to guitarists of all ages and in all styles through state-of-the-art private guitar lessons in his home state of Rhode Island and globally via Skype. Visit Scott and learn more at www.GuitarStrength.com.