Setting Guitar Goals for 2015

Improve guitar playing and avoid getting stuck in a rut by setting guitar goals. Break them into short, medium and long term to make them achievable.

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The start of a new year is a good time to reassess your guitar playing and where you want to take it in the upcoming year. One of the best ways to improve guitar playing and to avoiding being stuck in a rut is to set goals.

There are 3 main types of goals short, medium and long term. Breaking up your goals into these types will make them more achievable and less overwhelming. Depending on your playing level and style of music you like to play your goals will vary greatly. For ideas of what your own guitar goals can be for 2015 check out these examples.

Short Term - 1 to 3 months

Beginners:
  • Learn to change smoothly between all the open string chords;
  • Learn single note technique by mastering 2-3 scales or simple riffs like "7 Nation Army" by The White Stripes;
  • Be able to strum along in time with a recording of a simple song like John Lennon's "Stand by Me" or "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan.

Intermediate:
  • To be able to play bar chords cleanly and consistently. Work on a song with bar chord or two in it. An example would be "Hotel California" by the Eagles;
  • Being able to master new techniques such as palm muting for metal ("Enter Sandman" by Metallica) or finger picking for folk/country ("The A Team" by Ed Sheeran);
  • Learn an intermediate guitar solo such as the intro solo in "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd.

Advanced:
  • Learn new positions for chords using the CAGED chord system and apply them to songs. An example of this is the riff to "Substitute" by "The Who" which uses just the chords D G and A but avoids the regular chord shapes;
  • Develop improvising with a new scale/mode such as the Mixolydian mode over the dominant 7th chord;
  • Learn a complex solo by players such as Van Halen, Joe Satriani or Wes Montgomery.

Medium Term - 3 to 6 months

Beginners:
  • Develop a repertoire of 5-10 songs that you can play all the way through either by yourself or with the recordings. Songs ideas include "Hey Jude" by the Beatles, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day, "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival;
  • Learn the notes on the neck up to fret 5. This can be done by learning to read or playing scales while naming the note;
  • Work on songs that incorporate techniques such as arpeggios and melodies with chord strumming. Examples would by "Californication" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (arpeggios and strumming) and "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones (riff and chords).
Intermediate:
  • Develop new strumming rhythms and styles using muted strums such as funk and reggae;
  • Learn the minor pentatonic scale and how to improvise with the 12 bar blues;
  • Learn a solo or more complicated song note for note such as "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix or "Day Tripper" by The Beatles.

Advanced:
  • Write your own songs or solos incorporating challenging chord changes, rhythm and scale changes;
  • Memorize and record yourself playing 3-4 challenging songs. If you're feeling confident in your playing you can even film yourself and upload it to YouTube.

Long Term - 6 to 12 months

Beginners:
  • Learn how to sing and play simple songs at the same time. Choose a song with simple words and melody such as "Knockin' on Heaven's Door;"
  • Play a song incorporating more difficult elements such as the F chord and arpeggios. "House of The Rising Sun" (The Animals version) is a great tune to learn as it contains both these elements.
Intermediate:
  • Learn to play a more complicated technique such as Travis Picking if you're into folk/country music ("Country Roads" by John Denver) or sweep picking (Yngwie Malmsteen) if you're into shred guitar or metal;
  • Memorize 10 songs from start to finish including the solos such as "Sweet Home Alabama" by¬†Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin, "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple, "All Along the Watchtower" (Hendrix version);
  • Get your sight reading up to a level where you can read melodies at 100 bpm with no mistakes. Jazz standards such as "Summertime" or "Autumn Leaves" are good examples of this reading level.
Advanced:
  • Be able to improvise over chord changes at a medium to fast speed while outlining the harmony with arpeggios. Jazz tunes such as Charlie Parker's "Billie's Bounce" or "Blues For Alice" are good examples;
  • Transcribe solos by advanced players such as Van Halen, Steve Vai or Frank Gambale;
  • Be able to play chord/melody solo guitar like Martin Taylor, Chet Atkins or Tommy Emmanuel.

These ideas are all about developing your guitar skills and technique. Other general music goals to consider maybe to join a band, perform live at an open mike night or play at a local blues or jazz jam. These larger goals will motivate you to work on the smaller technique goals that will be necessary if you want to play live or with other musicians.

Whatever you're guitar goals maybe for 2015 good luck and please comment below letting me know what you want to achieve on guitar this year.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    guitar/bass95
    My top two goals are to get my technical skill to the same level as my theoretical skill, for example I come up with song ideas that I'm not good enough to play, so I'd like to advance to the level where I can play my own stuff. I'd also like to compose and record full concepts, maybe a demo EP or something along those lines. My songwriting and arranging skills are not on the desired level yet. I'm working with semi-regular 2 hour practice sessions, as well as recording/tone chasing sessions on my Pod HD. I'll see if it works in a few months.
    weclark4th
    Oh man, right there with ya! I can play some good riffs, but putting what I have in my head on a day-to-day basis down on track is easier said than done. I'm actually going to take your goal and make it mine too, anyone else want to join in? We'll all do it together!
    KeepingTabsIO
    Hey, great article! I think goals is one of the most effective ways to really focus your practice sessions and help you become a better guitarist. I also like how you mentioned creating short and long term goals. In my application, http://keeping-tabs.io I've just added a goal tracking application feature that ties in with the core practice tracking portion so that users can track their goals as they go along. It ties in nicely with what you mention here so if you get a chance, I'd love to hear your thoughts!