UG editorial team. A group of people who are passionate about guitar and music in general.
While I may be delusional, I'm not that delusional, right?
My Wife Finally Talked Me Into Taking LessonsShe comes from a very accomplished family. Everyone plays at least one instrument, and most of her siblings play 2 or more instruments. (They should have started their own band).
Considering the fact that she is accomplished at both the cello and the piano, I figured she might know a thing or two, and it couldn't hurt to try.
I've got to say, I was pretty impressed. Knowing that twice a week, I would have to perform my piece in front of someone else, really drove me to practice more than I was apt to on my own.
The real-time feedback was also nice, and my instructor picked up on several bad habits I had developed.
Instructors Are Not Always FeasibleThey cost a lot of money. And you have to meet with them at specific times. Very cool.
I found it eating up a lot of my free time.
At the same time, I really appreciated the real-time feedback the instructor offered. I was also amazed at all of the handy tips he had to provide, that really sped up my learning. I felt like a young magician learning at the hut of a wizard.
Alas, as it so often happens when working with an instructor, life moves on and I had to quit. But the secrets he had imparted were mine to keep! And if you stick around for a couple of minutes, I'll share them with you.
These Secrets Will Supercharge Your PracticeSome of these "secrets" will "go against your grain." You are going to read them and think they are absolutely crazy. And some of them you will be surprised at how hard they are to do. At their heart, they are designed to eliminate distractions, and optimize your practice time so that you get the most learning potential out of every second you spend playing.
So, no matter how crazy these ideas may sound, I encourage you to incorporate these steps into your practice. I think you will be surprised at how much it speeds up your learning.
Scattered Practice Is Not PracticeThere is a TON of free information out there about learning how to play guitars. Just hop on YouTube and you can find tabs or chords for just about any major pop song.
What I learned while taking lessons is that this can be a very inefficient way to learn how to play guitar. You end up with gaps in your training. This leaves you fighting and fighting to learn the fingering on one specific chord, instead of learning a few intermediate chords or fingerings as you "work your way up."
You also end up spending most of your practice time hunting around on the internet for the information you need.
With my instructor, we learned slowly and build on that knowledge in a very linear fashion. This left me feeling a lot more successful and sped up the progress. I also didn't have to hunt around for the knowledge.
What I learned was that it is very important to have a good program to follow.
Finger Drills Are the Bomb-Diggity for Supercharged LearningMaybe you already know about finger drills, but I didn't.
Most of the instrument playing relies on neuromuscular development. There are some finger-shapes that will simply take hours of practice to train the body to consistently form.
A lot of people expect that as they play, their fingers will learn the patterns. This is true. However, what really accelerated my learning was spending 15 minutes everyday warming up with finger drills.
It was amazing how, after a few weeks, I was so much more accurate and could make faster gains. It was just like I woke up as a new person and my body could do things that I never knew it could do. Truly an out-of-body experience.
Don't Learn What You Already KnowWe all practice our drills and songs from "the top" or start of the song. We play until we mess up, and then we start over (or we quit and go play a song that we love more).
What happens with this method is that we get really good at some parts of the song and really bad at other parts.
Instead, what you should do is focus on practicing the problem areas. Hone in on those difficulties and spend the time you need to become proficient in those areas.
We even got to the point where we would play songs backward just so that we could learn to focus on notes instead of what our ears were expecting to hear. It was a little weird, but it is amazing how dramatically changing up the practice music changes your time helps to push your development into new areas of brain growth.
Make Practicing EasyMy third lesson with an instructor was really embarrassing. I didn't know the music, and as I stammered my way through the lesson (you'd think that for a $40 session I'd have gotten better prepared). My instructor finally stopped me. "How much did you really practice this week?"
It is hard to carve time out to practice. So stop thinking of it as a time that you must practice.
Instead, make practicing your guitar as easy as getting on Facebook. Leave it sitting on your bed. Leave your music out and on its stand (it has been proven that people who use music-stands practice more).
And then just pick up the guitar every time you walk by and spend 2 minutes playing with it.
Sure, the longer practice sessions are key. But what I found is that 2 minutes would become 5 minutes and 5 minutes would stretch to 10 as I lost track of time.
Suddenly I was practicing an extra half-hour a day with no effort. And I also found myself more motivated to set aside the 30 minutes I needed for the more intense practice sessions.
Practicing doesn't have to this big, intimidating thing.
Learning to Play Songs Is Easy and Inspires You to PracticeThere are a lot of easy songs that even a beginner can learn how to play. They only require knowing a few chords and you are singing along in a matter of minutes.
There are few things that will increase your enjoyment as a guitarist more than knowing even just one song that you can play with friends. It gives you such a feeling of accomplishment.
While I think it is important for a beginner to spend most of your time learning the fundamentals and working on your drills, you've got to start seeing some real-life benefit, or you will quickly lose motivation. My instructor used the last 10 minutes of each session to run over simple chords and help me work on a simple pop song.
It made me feel good, inspired me to play more, and gave me something to show off to the buddies.
My only caution is that you do not get so distracted by learning new songs, that you don't have time to learn the fundamentals that will greatly speed up your overall success.
Hold Yourself AccountableOk, here's the least-fun part of learning anything.
It's probably the biggest reason that most of us fail.
We don't want to be publicly humiliated if we fail, but we can't find the inertia within ourselves to push forward and do the work we need to do.
An instructor is an excellent "accountability partner." If you don't have an instructor, you need to find your accountability partner somewhere.
In the bluegrass circles, weekly jam sessions are a big part of the culture and kids are rapidly brought up the ranks simply by grabbing an instrument and hopping in.
So you might re-create that. Grab a few friends who play, or use a site like meetup. Com to create a group that plays your genre. Jam once a week, and you guys can swap tips and inspire each other to improve.
On top of that, you might find an occasional instructor session to be helpful. If you look online, you can find many instructors that will teach you over Skype. While that does help save the frustrations from commuting, it does not reduce the cost - or negate the fact that you still have to find a time to practice.
The upside of Skype lessons is that you can actually (with a little digging) find professional stage guitarists who give lessons. Try searching for your genre + professional stage guitarist + Skype lessons. Especially for those who dream of being a stage musician one day, this can be a real opportunity to learn from professional guitarists who offer lessons online.
This article was given to us by the lovely people of Trusty Guitar.