A Not-So-Obvious Progression

I originally was going to name this article: "An Obvious Progression," quite sarcastically.

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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

35 comments sorted by best / new / date

    BigBall
    great article, personally i just keep track of what speed i am keeping on the metronome. I always start a little bit under my top speed thoug....
    guitarkid2113
    I totally agree with your comparison to child growth. My dad only sees me once every month or so, and I'm going this weekend (it's been two months, maybe three since I played guitar for him...) so I was just thinking that he'll think I'm godly or something... when in reality. I'm not. I wish, but no.
    Mihyaeru
    I actually found learning bass helped withm y guitar playing too as the wider frets forced me to extend my fingers further than i normally would on guitar thus giving me a greater reacher and the playing with the fingers has helped with my finger picking on the guitar...yes the instruments r very simialr and its not the same as learning keys/drums as well as guitar but its a little different. different role in the band. But anyway yes i also expected chord progressions but found a nice article that wil lcome in handy, as ive recently been trying to find ways to improve my practising, and make it more unified and focused, so thanks for the tips I've always learnt keys a lil...and ur lil noteo n dont feel like a traiter made me smile cos whenever i do play bass ork eys i miss the guitar lol
    GodbowstoMath
    Inf1n1tY. wrote: i thought i was going to see a "not so obvious" chord progression =)
    hah, me too.
    uRizen
    Good suggestions, I stopped playing years ago because I wasn't getting too far. I've gone with the log method and record my exercise speeds and songs I'm working on. I've made more progress in the last two months then I did in my entire high-school playing days. I think it also helps to learn a real challenging solo, then continue learning new songs, doing your excercises, etc, then play the solo every few practice sessions to see how much better you can make it.
    guitargod21136
    dannycruz wrote: Thanks for all the feedback. I kind of figured people would think it was a chord progression article. Hehe. As far as multi-instrumentalists go, Dave Grohl would have been a great example. Others would have been... Travis Barker (learned to play keys), Josh Homme (can play drums too.), Ray Luzier (drummer, plays guitar too), Lenny Kravitz (drums, guitar, and much more), Billie Joe and Tre Cool (they can both play guitar and drums) and well, the list does on and on...
    You really used them to show how playing other instruments make you a better guitar player?
    dannycruz
    guitargod21136 wrote: dannycruz wrote: Thanks for all the feedback. I kind of figured people would think it was a chord progression article. Hehe. As far as multi-instrumentalists go, Dave Grohl would have been a great example. Others would have been... Travis Barker (learned to play keys), Josh Homme (can play drums too.), Ray Luzier (drummer, plays guitar too), Lenny Kravitz (drums, guitar, and much more), Billie Joe and Tre Cool (they can both play guitar and drums) and well, the list does on and on... You really used them to show how playing other instruments make you a better guitar player?
    Well, no, not necesarilly. Somebody, brought it up somewhere in the comments.
    Velvet Roses
    Good article. I have been pondering the same thing for a while now. It's nice that someone put it into words.
    thundrstruk891
    this article was a great inspiration. i was just about to resign myself to a life of mediocre skill as a guitarist, but then i saw this haha. thanks!
    Brenden Yule
    It's not too much really new to me. But it does reassure how i think correct practice should be done.
    hhsspur27
    I was looking for something like this i feel like i've leveled out in my ability lately and this is just what i need to get back on track. Thanks alot.
    Auals
    Inf1n1tY. wrote: i thought i was going to see a "not so obvious" chord progression =)
    I did too, i was hoping on tips on writing not so obvious chords.
    berrutti
    The same here, I thought the article will talk about a chord progression, but it was very cool actually. Saludos desde Argentina
    stangconv
    I realized how much I have grown as a guiarist by going back and looking at some of the songs I havent played since I was just begining. Some songs I used to struggle on, that I have "forgotten" over the past year I can go back and pick it up right away. Good article
    Esric
    Me myself i practice daily, but lately i have been practicing but i haven't been progressing. And one of the things that has always helped me to get back on track is to go and open what i listen to. Largely i listen to alternative because there is a lot of fingerpicking involved because that is what i'm good at. I also need to remember to practice chord transitions because i notice that if i don't practice them then i go back and i can't play as fluently. I also transition between instruments, largely the flute and bass, so i can stay in practice with everything.
    zoomzoom
    its also extremely important to learn piano too. piano and guita go hand in hand and almost all great musicians write their music on pianofirst. Great article =)
    Jondy
    Great article. I'm far too lazy to keep a journal but I'm a recording junkie. My rec equip is pure crap, though it's better now than it used to be, but just going back and hearing some of the stuff I recorded 2 years ago make me go holy crap i was really that bad? sometimes you just don't feel like you're going anywhere. I think this article stresses and important concept.
    E-dogg66
    This is so true I have some stuff recorded from 2 years and I am like a rock god now, compared to that crappy player from 2 years ago. Thanks for reminding me About my old recordings good job!!!
    iron_maiden93
    Inf1n1tY. wrote: i thought i was going to see a "not so obvious" chord progression =)
    lol so did i
    Tenacious D'er
    Inf1n1tY. : i thought i was going to see a "not so obvious" chord progression =)
    yep same! anyway, i kinda knew about how progress isn't obvious to ourselves but this article is good for tips. cheers \peace/
    BPrice
    I picked up the guitar about 1 year ago. and filmed a little for my brother because he wanted to know how my playing was coming along. in the past couple of months i have felt like i wasn't gaining any ground, so i recorded myself again, playing the same thing as the first time. i found that i had progressed a great deal. i still suck but if i would not have done that. i might have gave up all together.
    pandora_grunt
    iron_maiden93 wrote: Inf1n1tY. wrote: i thought i was going to see a "not so obvious" chord progression =) lol so did i
    Same here However good article man. I recognized the 5 year old 10 year old anecdote. People that haven't hear me play were like, wow, you've become way better, while think my development wasn;t all that much
    Guitarfreak777
    I think most of us came here seeking chord progressions...lol Anyhow it was a surprisingly nice read. Definatly good for people who feel they arn't progressing.
    dannycruz
    Thanks for all the feedback. I kind of figured people would think it was a chord progression article. Hehe. As far as multi-instrumentalists go, Dave Grohl would have been a great example. Others would have been... Travis Barker (learned to play keys), Josh Homme (can play drums too.), Ray Luzier (drummer, plays guitar too), Lenny Kravitz (drums, guitar, and much more), Billie Joe and Tre Cool (they can both play guitar and drums) and well, the list does on and on...
    Greendrag92
    Don't forget prince at the age of 17 made his first album recording every single instrument
    MusicalMinority
    Very nice indeed. It'll get me thinking about how to make fresh my guitar playing, which has gotten rather old and stagnant... Judging by the responses, someone should write an article or two about uncommon chord progressions...
    amistyali
    I loved the comparison at the beginning relating guitar to child growth. You're definitely right. I'm new at guitar, but I am using my blog on this site to record my progression. Hopefully your technique works out =)