Last Updated on May 12, 2019 by Klaus Crow
Somewhere down the road in your guitar learning journey there’s a chance your playing gets stuck in a rut. You might play the same things over and over and find it hard to get out of that vicious circle. You need a boost and get outside of that box. So how do you do that? How do you get passed that bridge and get to the next level?
Today we got 11 ways to get you out of that rut, juice up your skills and skyrocket your playing.
Let’s take off!
1 – Get the right tools for the job
First, make sure you’re playing the right guitar. Some musicians stick with a guitar just because…. But playing the right guitar is not to be underestimated. Your appreciation for a guitar is a personal thing. Your personality, your taste and style of playing needs to resonate with a guitar. That’s no bull. The way a guitar feels, sounds and fits is really important. The right guitar can motivate and boost your playing enormously.
We all have different preferences and specific needs for a particular guitar type (classical, acoustic or electric), body shape (Acoustic: Dreadnought, Grand Auditorium, Orchestra Model, Jumbo, etc. or Electric: Fender Stratocaster, Telecaster, Superstrat, Gibson Les Paul, Gibson SG, etc.), neck shape/width, string gauges, and so on. You need a guitar that feels right against your body, right in your arms, hands, fingers and one that fits your frame.
Adjusting the action of your guitar can also make a huge difference to your playing. “Action” is simply how close the strings are to the fretboard. A lower action can make your guitar a lot more comfortable and fun to play. Be careful, a very low action can cause fret buzz, so make sure it is done correctly.
If you’re playing electric guitar, your amp (with gain/distortion) is just as important as your guitar. Your sound and playability will fully depend on it. The sound of an amp is also very personal. The choice of your amp will depend of what style of music you’re playing, your preferences (distortion, effects, analog or digital) and whether it’s for practice, studio or stage use.
2 – Build an awesome chord vocabulary
Most people know a dozen chords and stick with those same chords for ages. While you don’t need a lot of chords to play songs, knowing a decent amount of chords will definitely speed up the amount of time it takes to get a song under your belt, it increases the fun of playing, and expands the range and level of songs you can master. Make sure you learn chords and apply them to songs straight away. Keep implementing the chords in songs you play. This is the best way to master, maintain and keep expanding your chord vocabulary.
3 – Build and improve your repertoire
Playing guitar is all about playing songs. You want to learn songs by heart and have a small repertoire in your back pocket. If somebody would come up to you and ask you to play something, you want to be ready. You don’t want to go like “Huhh, No I can’t play right now, I don’t have my music sheets with me”. You want to feel confident and ready, so work on your repertoire!
4 – Learn scales and how to use them
Learning scales has multiple benefits. Scales are important to understand music theory, they’re great for improving your dexterity but above all scales are the foundation and tools to learn solo and improvise over songs and chord progressions.
While learning to solo takes time and determination, learning, practicing and working with scales (blues/pentatonic, major, natural minor, harmonic minor, dorian) will broaden your understanding of music and improve your soloing skills tremendously.
5 – Learn to play fast and slow
Everybody wants to play fast, but in order to play fast you need to learn to play slow. It sounds boring and obnoxious, but it’s a vital key to become a
fast and fluent player. First learn to play clear and fluently slow and feel comfortable at the same time. Only then gradually increase your speed. Play slow and gradually faster, slow down, slower, slow, less slow, a tiny bit faster, gradually faster, bring it up, and slow down again, pause, really slow, slow and faster, slow and faster. That’s the key to speed.
6 – Get into music theory
When I started playing I was only focused on learning songs, fingerpicking and solos. While that worked out fine in the beginning I soon started asking questions. How do you build a chord? What chords fit best together and why? Why is this called a sus2 chord? Over what chord progressions can I play the minor pentatonic scale? And a lot more questions came up. The answer to all these questions can be found in music theory. It’s not just the answer to the questions but a whole new world opens up that makes playing guitar so much more fun and interesting. So learn as much music theory as you can. It’s worth the investment.
7 – Improve your aural skills.
One of the most valuable things that skyrocketed my guitar playing is learning to transcibe songs by ear instead of reading the TABS and watching lesson videos. It’s good to learn from TABS and video lessons but I urge you to also learn to transcribe by ear. It will change everything! Check out these tips to really develop your aural skills along with these tools that will help you figure out songs by ear.
8 – Improve your speed and dexterity.
Practicing scales and exercises are the best way to improve your speed and dexterity. Developing a good alternate picking technique is beneficial for your entire guitar playing. Your riffs, licks and solos will all run smoother and more fluent and you will feel in control of your playing. The more you develop your dexterity the more effortless your playing will be.
9 – Find your motivation
Find what motivates you. Play songs, fingerpicking chops, riffs or solos from your favourite band. Be inspired by your favourite guitar player. Play things that really get you fired up. Listening to the right song can get you excited to play and practice. Go to a concert once in while, read guitar magazines, buy a new guitar, keep energised to play (run and work out). It will all contribute to keep you inspired. Motivation is the key to long term skyrocketing.
10 – Find the right guitar teacher
Finding a guitar teacher alone doesn’t do the trick. You need to find the right teacher. A great guitar player doesn’t make a great teacher. You need someone who can bring it across, so you can understand and feel confident in your study. A guitar teacher needs to listen to your goals and plan accordingly. You need a teacher who motivates and inspires to get the best out of you. If a teacher doesn’t do it for you, move on and find until you do.
11 – Practice daily
Practice daily and practice with a plan. Just rambling daily on your guitar doesn’t count. You need a plan and you need to be focused and determined to reach your guitar goals. Don’t matter how much time you have 5, 10, 20, 30, or 60 min, as long as pick up that guitar. Practice every single day!
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle