Getting Better at Guitar - A Correct Way to Approach Big Goals

author: daniel.kPL date: 02/12/2014 category: practice tips
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Getting Better at Guitar - A Correct Way to Approach Big Goals
Nearly every guitarist wants to become better and better, all the time. Practicing is not an endeavour that you come up with once a week, but it is a discipline, which uncontrolled can be quite chaotic and lead to a heavy workload and lack of progress though. In this lesson I'll try to show you a very good way to get rid of problems with motivation through your practice. Let's use an example guitarist to describe this situation. His name will be Tim.

Hello Tim.

Tim is a young guitarist and fancies Joe Satriani. He desires to play like Joe, so he bought a guitar, impressive amount of books and DVD's and googles the internet through, finding hundreds of lessons and exercises, just to get better. Woah. He is getting pretty good, and he gets a lot of support from his friends and family, but anyway, he gets depressed quickly - after few weeks his motivation is over. Exercises are more and more complex, so is theory. There is chaos in his practice and learning songs doesn't go the way he thought it will. It's getting really messy, and he doesn't play that much as he used to, which eventually leads to giving up the guitar and staying on a "intermediate" level for ever. Oh, that sucks.

This scenario is really popular one, and majority of my students suffered from this kind of problems. And there is a really easy way to completely negate all the depressive emotions and get productive with guitar. It's all about big and small goals.

Tim has got a desire to play like Satriani does, which is a pretty big goal. To be exact, getting to "Satriani Level" can take up not months, but as all we know - many, many years, and its not only a matter of technique, but overall musicianship. So how can Tim do it? That's really simple. Time-consuming, but simple.

The big goal is "to play like Joe." Playing like Joe can be divided into few smaller* parts, as:
  • Getting the technique chops together
  • Learning a lot about music theory and harmony
  • Learning to sight-read music**¬†
  • Developing a very good relative pitch
  • Building a big repertoire¬†
  • Developing composing skills
  • Learning how to play piano**
* I know they are not so small, I know, read on and don't panic.
**Joe Satriani fancies standard music notation, as well playing keyboard instruments, but remember it's only an example of what you can do - your goals have to be entirely chosen by you.

Ok, lets cut again. These seven big goals can be divided into smaller ones, we'll pick an example of the first one.

"Getting the technique chops together" can be divided into:
  • Picking
  • Sweeping
  • Legato playing
  • Tapping
  • Vibrato
  • Bending
  • etc.
And the next one: "Developing relative pitch" can look like:
  • Knowing the sound of every interval, melodic and harmonic
  • Being able to sing scales and arpeggios
  • Recognizing chord progressions and chord qualities¬†
  • etc.
All the categories above can be quite intimidating, but after you divide them into smaller exercises, you will start seeing that all this skills and knowledge are more manageable when you deal with them that way. These categories can be named as "smaller goals", and the smaller goals can be divided into exercises. You will probably need a good teacher to help you with the exact and well-balanced material to practice. And if you will see progress in small exercises, one by one, its much more motivating, which was proven scientifically.

Let's show how this method can work on a example of legato technique.

First, you can start with simple moves - learning how to properly hammer on, and pull off. This can take few days to master. Then you move on to some flutter exercises, and play some trills. After that you will probably try some scalar exercises, and after that - you can add tapping with your right hand, to perform arpeggios. This has got to be done really slow and jumping straight ahead from practicing hammer-ons to two-handed tapping will result in a spectacular failure.

This method is based on hundreds of interviews with musicians, articles by John Petrucci, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai and my personal experience. And as we all know - every journey starts with a single step, so make every day a new step, don't hold back and don't practice what you already know - you don't want to run in circles. Give yourself few weeks of that kind of practice and enjoy the results, I promise you - it works really good. Remember that practicing for the sake of practicing is a straight way to get stuck, so use musically everything you learn. "Use it or lose it", as they say. I hope that everyone who had Tim's problem will quickly get rid of it. Be patient and clean, and you will be surprised how fast you will improve. Divide and conquer.

I really hope that this concept will help you, as it helped me.

Thank you for reading!

About the Author:
By Daniel Kaczmarczyk.
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