I originally was going to name this article: "An Obvious Progression," quite sarcastically. Mid-project, I decided to keep the title straightforward referring to a guitarists' progress. This process of improvement as a guitar player could very well be compared to a growing process.
Imagine you meet at a 5-year-old kid and don't see him again for another 5 years.You end up meeting that kid again when he's 10 and you're like, "Wow! You've grown!" But, if that same kid happens to be your brother or son, and you live with him and see him everyday, the growth and development is not as surprising and obvious. he same thing applies to your growth as a guitarist.
The only way to improve is to spend quality time with your instrument. Just owning a really expensive guitar is not going to help.Neither is reading guitar-related books, magazines and articles if you don't pick it up and practice. This means you will be seeing yourself everyday and the results of your labor are not going to be obvious or dramatic for the most part. This in turn causes many players to lose hope and get bored.
What I'm trying to get to here is a way that you, as a growing guitarist, can see the fruits of your labor and be encouraged.This way you don't lose hope or motivation. You can then feed off that motivation to continue growing at a faster and steadier rate. Here are a few ideas:
01.Film yourself: These days, most of us own or have access to a video camera. Even a webcam will usually do. Take video of yourself practicing and working on ideas.If you are working on a particular lick or solo, or if you are trying to acquire more speed, putting your progress on video is an excellent way to log your growth. You can look back a the videos and see exactly how far you've gone and pinpoint exactly where the improvements have happened. Not only that, but you can catch your mistakes easily and use the video to correct your technique. If you have a simple video editing program like iMovie, you can edit the clips and put them together while organizing them by date. I used this method recently with excellent results. I was working on speeding up some 16-note chromatic exercises and kept a video log of my progress. I can now look at how I was playing the exercise at 80BPM (Beats per minute) and with some technique improvement I went up to 130BPM and now 160BPM and counting...
02. Keep a journal: The idea of using a journal works great in conjunction with the video. You can log your progress as you go. Using a dated calendar, even a software organizer type like Outlook or iCal, will let you log your progress, set future goals and even schedule practice time so you don't forget.The cool thing is, if you keep a log long enough and look back a few months ago, you'll feel a great sense of achievement as you see your goals completed.
While the world is out trying to make as much money as humanly possible, you can feel content in the fact that you're completing much more significant goals.
03. Record your playing:Recording yourself playing can be just as good as video.While video will let you identify technique issues and improvement, music is all about sound.How well you sound is the most important thing. If you record a song you are learning, whether it's a cover or an original piece, you can do the same thing again in a few weeks and compare the two. You could even use this as a tool to improve your recording and mixing skills. Recording rhythm parts can be a very useful tool to practice lead guitar. Once you've recorded your rhythm part, play it back and solo over it.
04. Photos: While photos will not really give you too much feedback for improvement, the key is motivation. So, if taking a few photos of you rocking out and keeping them in your newly built "guitar log" keeps you motivated. Have at it then!
05. Learn a new instrument: Most guitarists have no idea that learning a new instrument can really help your guitar playing.Learning key, for example, can really help you musically and theory-wise. Learning drums can give you a whole new approach to rhythm and will help you immensely when playing guitar with a drummer. You will have a much better understanding of how the two work together. You will ultimately have a better idea of the big picture: The entire song. Don't feel like a traitor. The bottom line is: You will become a much better guitarist in the end
In conclusion: I've always used recording as a key tool for my improvement. And, well, I also have photos of me playing. They are always fun to look at.
It wasn't until recently that I started using video and a journal to log progress. This was thanks to a suggestion I got from my teacher. I, in turn, am now suggesting the same thing to my students. This is something that can be of extra help to any guitarist no matter the skill level. Beginner to Pro!
At the same time, I've been playing drums for ages. All I can say is that it opens a whole new world when it comes times to play with other musicians.
Danny Cruz is a guitarist, drummer, and songwriter. He is currently involved in various guitar-related projects and also on the drum throne. His is writing most of the music for an upcoming release. His website is Sixstringsensei.com