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I’m always in for finding new ways to make faster progress in different areas on the guitar.
Not so much because I’m in a hurry, but just for the fun of experimenting and see if practicing can be done more efficiently.
If you practice it’s nice to make progress instead of running into the same wall over and over again.
If you are really conscious of your guitar playing you get there much faster than spending a zillion hours of practice without real observation.
Some guitar players feel they get stuck at a certain level, that’s because there is a point where you need to observe and change what you’re doing. That’s when the magic happens.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to make faster progress:
– Start everyday
The one thing you need to do everyday is start! If only for 5 minutes. If you spend more than 5 minutes on your guitar that’s great obviously, but the point is to get you started. 5 minutes will get you started.
Don’t think about practicing for 30 minutes or an hour. The thought causes you not to stick with it. That’s too big a leap to make it a habit. And certainly don’t think about how hard it is, how tired you are, how stiff you feel. Eliminate thinking about all that stuff.
Just think: “5 minutes of practice”. Grab that guitar out of the stand and start practicing. It works!
– Track your progress
Make notes of your practice session. What chords, progressions, songs, scales, patterns, licks, triads, intervals or arpeggios are you practicing? Analyze your guitar playing. Observe your hands. Listen to your playing. What are your flaws? What is missing and what can be improved?
Do you hear notes that shouldn’t be there? Where are they coming from? What can you do to avoid them? Play slowly and gradually speed up to figure out where things go wrong.
Or are you missing notes that ought to be there? Again pay close attention to your hands and fingers and make little changes in the way you place or move your hands/fingers. Experiment what you can do to make it work and if it does, write it down.
If you are aiming for speed or dexterity then measure it! Practice with a metronome starting really slow and watch the movement of your fingers, hands, wrist, your pick, arms, shoulders and check your posture. Write down the BPM (beats per minute) when you start off.
Once you play accurate and clear and you feel comfortable playing at a slow speed then gradually increase the tempo. (write down the BPM!). Again watch and analyze your movements.
Each time make sure you play accurate, clear and feel comfortable before you take it up to the next level. (Write down the BPM).
The BPM of your fastest lick or riff is when you’re still playing accurate, clear and feel comfortable enough. When you pick be aware that you let go of too much tension. Don’t strain yourself.
Write down the results: Your BPM from start to finish, what did you notice about the movement of your fingers, hands, wrist, arms, shoulders and your posture? Did every note sound accurate and clear?
Once you’ve analyzed the details for a few days in a row you will get insight of what you are actually doing and you can see what you’re doing wrong and right.
You can change and experiment with your movements, your posture, the way you hold your pick and you will make progress much more faster!
– Make videos.
Make a video of yourself practicing your most bad ass riff, giving your best blues improvisation on the spot or bluegrass fingerstyle performance. It’s a really effective way of analyzing and measuring your progress and turning it into fast results.
Watching yourself playing guitar on video you’ll see everything from different angles and you’ll notice things you otherwise wouldn’t have. You’ll discover new things about the placement and movement of your hands, fingers, wrist, arms, etc. You will see if your playing is rigid or smooth.
Observe what needs to be improved and if necessary change your posture, the angle of your pick, movement of different body parts, release tension. Try and experiment and find out what works and what doesn’t.
Play, observe, measure and track progress!
If you want better phrasing, listen to your favorite guitar players. Learn to play their solos, study and analyze their phrasing, how they bend, hammer-on, pull-off, use vibrato, pause between notes, the length of notes, rhythm, accents, dynamics (hard, soft, tender, aggressive, smooth), legato, staccato and so on. Copy them and incorporate the way they use phrasing in your own playing.
Video yourself. watch it and find the comparisons and differences. What needs to be improved? Fix it. Work on it.
– Make it public
Post your progress on Facebook, Twitter, 43things.com or your own personal blog (e.g. Tumblr or WordPress) and let people see how you evolve. It puts some healthy pressure on you to stick with your habit. Make friends with other guitar players online and they will share tips, insights and encourage you to keep going.
You will see it’s fun and definitely pays off to track your progress.
How do you progress on the guitar? Let me know in the comments.
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