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Photo by Robert Bejil
Practicing is the whole key to becoming a good guitar player, but a good practice workout is not just about playing songs, riffs and solos.
It consists of some important elements.
Of course like a lot of guitar players I also started out practicing songs, riffs and licks of my favorite guitar heros, it’s why I started learning guitar in the first place.
But to let your skills and creativity reach it’s full potential there is a lot more to learn.
It doesn’t matter whether you play rock, country, jazz, blues or classical guitar, practicing all the aspects below on a regular basis will motivate you and make you grow into a good skilled guitar player.
Be sure the include every aspect into your overall workout. You don’t necessarily need to put everything in one workout, but spread out over a day or week.
You’ll benefit for the rest of your guitar playing life!
1 – Warm up
Always start practicing some scales, rhythm or exercises for a good blood flow and circulation to get your hands warmed up. Warm up for 5 or 10 minutes.
Warming up prevents your arms and hands from injuries. It releases the tension in your finger muscles that will make your guitar playing run more smoothly. A good way to start.
2 – Repertoire
Build a repertoire depending on your goal and taste to perform before a live audience. Write down the songs on a piece of paper and start practicing and learning your repertoire by heart.
Each practice sessions mark the songs you’ve mastered and which you still need to work on. Make sure the repertoire you want to perform is within your capacity so you feel confident enough when it’s time to really hit the stage.
Tip: Building, practicing and memorizing a repertoire makes you feel confident as a musician.
3 – Chords & Chord progressions
Learn new chords and apply them to chord progressions and your favorite songs. New fresh sounding chords will bring your music more flavor. It will spice things up and make your guitar playing more interesting.
Tip: Speak new chords out loud while you play them through the chord progression, it’s the best way to memorize them.
4 – Building vocabulary
Part of each practice session needs to be focused on building a vocabulary of scales, scale patterns,
arpeggios, triads, intervals and licks.
Building an extended vocabulary is important because it allows you to express yourself freely on the guitar. The bigger your vocabulary, the more creative ideas come to mind.
5 – Applying vocabulary
Apply your vocabulary by improvising over a backing track or ask a fellow musician to accompany.
Applying your vocabulary is as important as building a vocabulary. One is of no use without the other.
Learn how to play melodies out of scales, intervals, triads, etc. Creating melody on the spot is the hard part and takes a lot of effort, but work hard on it and you’ll get there.
Start small. Try to create melody out of 2, 3 or 4 notes, use phrasing and pauses in between. Try to avoid sounding like your playing scales.
Tip: Work on melody, timing, feel, dynamics, articulation and diversity.
6 – Music Theory
Make sure studying music theory is part of your guitar education. Learn to understand the theory behind scales, intervals, chord structure, cycle of 4ths and 5ths, etc.
A good knowledge of music theory makes you a better skilled and more confident guitar player.
Note: Music theory can be put into practice! It will open many doors to improve your playing.
7 – Ear Training
Learn to sing and recognize scales (major, minor, harmonic minor, pentatonic, blues, etc.), arpeggios, intervals, etc.
You can use ear training software to develop your aural skills. (Note: I am not being paid to endorse this software in any way)
Practice transcribing songs. Train your ears to recognize chords, rhythm, notes, guitar techniques (hammer ons, pull offs, slides, etc.) and then translate it to the guitar.
8 – Fun
The number one most important thing is to make your practice workout as enjoyable as possible.
If practicing is fun and motivating you want to do it all the time and there is no need to discipline yourself.
Here are some ways to motivate your playing:
~ Practice songs you love.
~ Search for ways to make things fun if you find difficulties or boring aspects in your practice.
~ Apply every thing you’ve learned to your favorite songs, solos, rhythms, etc. Applying makes it fun.
~ Use good materials: A good sounding guitar, a tuner, a capo, picks, a comfortable chair.
~ Wear comfortable clothes.
~ Practice in a private, quiet room with fresh air and good lightning.
~ Make your practice space inspiring. Put up posters, pictures or quotes of your favorite guitar players.
~ Adopt and maintain a positive attitude while practicing or thinking about practicing.
~ Think about what makes you want to practice and incorporate in into your workout.
~ Pour yourself a cappuccino, some hot tea or a nice smoothie.
~ Think about your dream goal.
When people are learning instruments, they should be encouraged and advised: if they say they don’t enjoy their practice, I always say, well, FIND a way to enjoy it.” ~ John Williams