Have you ever felt like not making any progress, despite playing a lot? In this post, I am going to tell you the secret of how to become the guitar player you always wanted to be: You have to practice guitar to get better. That is it. That is the secret of how to get better at guitar. Well, we all know that it is not as easy as it reads.
Even if you play a lot, playing by itself without direction, clear structure or thought behind it will not get you to the level you want to achieve. You will hit the wall just like I did at high school: Playing the same snippets, of the same old songs over and over again, making the same mistakes over and over again, in the end not progressing at all. So we know the secret is practice, but how do you actually practice?
Practice and play in equal amounts
If you are working on some songs anything is permitted. Take strumming patterns as an example: When learning new rhythms, you do not have to be quite so militant about avoiding mistakes. While simplifying and slowing down is helpful, learning rhythms also involve the mysterious process of "getting into the groove." It requires that you relax, stop worrying about sounding bad and try to feel the beat. Once you take the strum pattern in, you have plenty of time to get rid of the mistakes as you strum that pattern over and over again.
When you practice, on the other hand, you have to follow a good routine for lasting success. Make sure you have a checklist to follow and mark each task as completed. Our Fretello app can take care of this for you. I know, practicing sounds like work, but it will help you reach your goals whether you want to learn easy acoustic songs or become the next Joe Bonamassa.
Practice guitar consistently
You have to practice consistently, preferably daily, for ongoing progress and lasting success. The more you do something, the faster your brain can instruct your muscles to carry out a task. In this process, you need to understand that there is an optimal amount of time to spend on any problem per practice session. In general, it is enough to spend 5 to 7 minutes on average per exercise. But the most important thing is to stop practicing before you get tired, lose focus and get sloppy in your execution. Instead, practice daily and twice a day when possible. Consistent practice not only makes perfect, but it also makes permanent.
Keep in mind that your brain remembers mistakes the exact same way it remembers the correct technique, so be sure to get it right. When you repeat mistakes again and again, you build muscle memory with those mistakes, which makes it even harder to overcome them later.
Practice slowly to play fast and accurately
We have already seen that speed is important. This continues to be true for learning riffs, licks, and solos. Do not try to learn them at full speed, not even at the maximum speed you can play them. Start slow to avoid mistakes. You actually learn what you do, not what is correct. The more you try to rush the process, the greater your chances are that bad habits form and ultimately frustration will set in.
Repeat licks and riffs with a metronome at a reasonably slow tempo until you can play them cleanly. Only then, gradually increase the tempo. A slow tempo has no absolute value. It refers to a tempo where awareness of finger movements and mistakes is guaranteed. That is why our Fretello app measures your maximum tempo before you start practicing and sets the correct slower practice tempo.
Divide songs into sections
Do not try to learn entire songs in one sitting. Divide them into manageable parts of several measures and focus on the individual parts before you start connecting them. Practice each section individually at a reasonably slow tempo and increase the tempo only gradually. Watch your hand as you practice guitar. Because repetition creates new neural pathways in your brain, you will not only learn songs faster by dividing them into sections it will be easier for you to remember them. Our Fretello app uses this method to teach you commonly used building blocks and patterns you find across any genre.
Practice routines naturally evolve
Practice routines are not set in stone. It is necessary to tweak things here and there. For example, the amount of time you practice guitar is up to you. You should just keep in mind to stop working on your technique if you start to get tired. But you still can add some ear training into your routine, work on some theory lessons or do some songwriting. You can also break your schedule into several sessions during the day. Make sure your schedule works for you. If you are just practicing for a few minutes a day, it is fine! The worst thing you could do is to overdo it and quit.
One thing I used to forget myself is that playing the guitar is supposed to be fun. The proper technique enables you to learn and master your favorite songs and write your own music. Use backing tracks to apply the techniques you learn. There are many sources on the Internet where to find proper backing tracks that suit your style. One of them is our backing track catalog. It allows you to practice to pop, rock, blues, heavy metal and classical music backing tracks in any key for free. Check out the following examples:
- Jam to Twelve Bar Blues Rock in A Minor
- Jam to Clear Rock in C Major
- Jam to Epic Synth Pop in E Minor
- Jam to Blurred Rock Metal in Bb Minor
It is also okay if you hate to practice guitar. If you do, shorten your practice time and focus on the few technical aspects that you need to play your favorite kind of music. Our Fretello app might be helpful there. That said, practice is the only way to get better.