Hello all. While working on the third installment in this series, I decided to divert from my original plan and write a mini lesson containing extra tips. Some of these appeared in the first two lessons, but refreshers never hurt.
The guitar can be a very frustrating instrument to learn, and the higher your goals, the more frustrating it can become. Learning a few basic songs to impress your friends can be difficult, but working to become the next legendary shredder can seem nearly impossible. The level of frustration is directly related to what I call the Level-Goal gap. Walking up a small hill is not nearly as daunting as climbing Mount Everest. The following tips may make your expedition a little easier.
-Play every note clearly and evenly. Don't cheat yourself by playing sloppy or uneven notes, because it will just lead to problems further down the road. This may seem to make your progress slower, but trust me, a slow solo played with precision is much better than a fast, sloppy one.
-Relax! Excessive tension can cause discomfort, repetitive strain injuries, and it can greatly limit your playing ability. I'd also recommend that you stretch before practice to prevent injury. Unless the action on your guitar is incredibly high, it doesn't take much pressure to fret a note. Just as someone who is light on their feet can move faster, the lighter the pressure you use when fretting, the faster your hands can move. If you feel any tension at higher speeds, slow down until the tension goes away. Then, work your way back up, ensuring that your playing is relaxed before moving on.
-It helps to have regular practice every day. I'd recommend at least 30 minutes a day, though more is usually better. If you're going to be practicing for hours on end, be sure to take at least a 5 minute break every 30 minutes. During this break, lightly shake your hands, stretch your forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers, then lightly shake your hands out again. After you've done that, relax for the remainder of those 5 minutes. Don't try to be Mr. Tough guy who thinks he doesn't need to stretch, because then you just learn the hard way like I had to. Tendinitis is not fun, and it's not your friend.
-As guitarists, we need to build strength, speed, and coordination in both of our hands, not just one. You could have the best fretting hand in the world, but it doesn't matter if your picking hand can't keep up with it. Always make sure that your hands are working together properly.
-Practice with both clean and distorted tones. Practicing with a clean tone ensures that your articulation is nice and smooth and that you're hitting all of the notes correctly. Practicing with a distorted tone helps you keep your playing as noise free as possible. You may not hear extra noise when you're using a clean tone, but gain has a way of making that noise more pronounced.
-Be sure to keep your practice well organized. This will make your progress much faster. If you're practicing a bunch of random things on the same day, then you're most likely not giving enough attention to any of those things. I recommend picking 1 thing to practice each day. Also, be sure to set aside a little time each day to just jam. There are backing tracks all over the Internet, and they are a great way to learn to apply the techniques that you've learned. Below is an example of my practice schedule. Each area gets 1 day, and after I've gone through the list, it starts all over again. The first two have already been introduced in this series, and the others are coming soon.
-Picking Exercises and Rhythm Playing
-Arpeggios and Sweep Picking
-Legato (tapping, trills, etc)
-Any of the above that needs extra attention, or just resting
-Always keep your goals in mind. This one is pretty self explanatory. If you keep your goals in mind, you'll be more likely to keep up on your practicing.
And now for one of the biggest issues that guitarists face: THE DREADED PLATEAU. It happens to everyone. You're making great progress, and then you hit a wall. Many people advocate taking a few days off and then starting again. This usually works, but I have another idea for you guys and gals to try.
-When you hit a plateau, go back to practicing your techniques very slowly. Get your metronome out and put it on the slowest tempo that you can. Really analyze your playing and try to economize your motion, relax as much as possible, and make sure your articulation is as clean as you can get it. Once you have it all polished back up at slow speed, gradually work your way back up ensuring that you maintain that efficiency and precision. Usually, you will be able to overcome your plateaus with this method. If you still can't seem to get past a certain speed, then try taking those few days off and try it again, but try to make that a last resort.
That's all for now. If I think of any more somewhere down the road, I'll put them together in another lesson. If you're having any issues that weren't covered in this one, feel free to message me. I'll try to help you out as much as I can. See you in the next lesson. Until then, Shred it up!