This article is for those of you who cannot afford to take lessons at the moment, or if you can't afford them at all. I once couldn't afford them and wanted you to know that you too can teach yourself. Before I go any further, I must say that it is my strong belief that getting a good teacher, not just any teacher, will help you progress much faster. In fact, my learning while taking lessons has blown away everything i learned in the first decade and a half, by light years. Although this may not be true for everyone, it was for me. In other words, what I learned by taking good lessons has propelled me to a higher level ten times faster than what I could do on my own. That being said, let's move forward. There are several things you can do every day. In part 1 of this article I will be showing you a couple of ways to get your skills to a higher level and to ensure you are progressing. A great mentor recently said: "Progress equals Happiness." It is one thing to just play the guitar. It is another thing to practice for results.
There are lessons all over the internet that you can look at and that can inspire you to get started. Just yesterday I found a lesson with a bunch of very cool warmup/finger exercises that has me playing with a renewed vigor. Honestly I can't wait to get back to them. As I am writing this article I am thinking of them now and how much they have helped me. Such simple little exercises have helped me with my speed and my technique and also have given me ideas for leads in my songs. You can also turn these lead ideas into rhythm ideas by playing them an octave or two below.I have been trying to play scales and lead parts for a while now and these exercises are invaluable in getting your fingers strong enough to be able to do what you want to do with your songs. For example, if I want to really go nuts on a section my fingers would need to be able to do that by being strong enough and having enough dexterity to pull these ideas off. Warmup exercises also known as finger independence exercises can be anything from technical stuff to actual musical stuff such as a scale with a few extra added notes incorporated within that scale or lick. These exercises can work wonders for you. They have for me. Challenge yourself by trying to find the most effective warmups. What you think you can't do is probably not true at all. There is magic in slowing things down and breaking them up into small chunks such as 2-4 notes at a time. Challenging yourself will keep you moving forward instead of growing stagnant with mundane exercises. Again, some of these can be very fun and fun is important in keeping your inspiration levels high.
Application is key. It is very important that you are able to play these scales and exercises like a champ but when it comes to real music it can be a bit challenging so always incorporate it and apply it to a piece of music whether it be a backing track or a song of your own. Recording a few chords and then playing lead over them is an excellent way to get started in applying what you learn to real music. If you don't have anything to record with then look for a backing track. They are all over the internet. You can search and play to any track you want but there are some that are better than others. For example, if you want to train your ear then it is good to play with tracks that you don't know what key its in or what the chords are but if you are new to improvising and soloing it is a good idea to get some tracks where the chords are given to you. Do your research and you should find some pretty cool stuff!
Another thing you want to practice is your chord vocabulary and your ability to change chords smoothly. These chords include basic open chords, power chords, barre chords and other such as 7th's, dominant 7th's, Major 7th's, ninths and a variety of other chords. These are only a few of the many that you can practice. There are two specific ways in which you can practice these. One is to strum them or down pick them and the other is to arpeggiate them. A good idea is to get two chords at first and be able to change smoothly from one to the other. Two that you can use that are a good example is going from C Major to B7. This is quite a tough change when doing it at the lowest part of the neck in First Position. First Position simply means that your index finger is on a string on the first fret. Once you have these down you can add chords. Start with 3 and see if you can work yourself all the way up to 10. Both strumming them and arpeggiating them. Make sure you use a metronome and start slow. The habits that you form with your fingers will stay with you so if you play them too quickly and your technique and articulation is not solid your habit will carry over when playing faster or when playing other things. Start at a very slow speed such as 40 bpm if you are a beginner. It will only take a few seconds before you realize that you can speed your metronome up.
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About the Author
Mike Socarras is a guitarist, songwriter, lyricist and instructor. He teaches guitar in Miami, Florida and has a debut compilation CD out which will be available soon for release.