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July 25, 2017

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How to practice guitar efficiently

July 25, 2017

Learning any musical instrument is difficult and the guitar is no different. As long as you give your body a chance to get used to a particular action, you will always learn and improve. People are not born with inhuman dexterity and you don't have to learn it by knife fighting monks in Tibet. 

I'm hoping to share with you what I've learned  from my own experience and others to help you understand it's importance.


It's like riding a bike

Can you walk? Talk? Ride a bike? All these things took a lot of practice and determination to achieve. You're teaching your body to do something new using repetition. By applying the same discipline to the guitar (generally) and understanding that you're not supposed to get it the first time, or the second. It will get easier the more you do it.




Brain Vs body

Think about what you want to improve. It could be a particular picking style, improvising or an open D major chord. The fact that it's difficult means that your brain hasn


't sent the signal to your hand enough to be clear and concise and your hand needs more time to decide what to do. All you have to do is keep sending the signal over and over again to improve it.



There is a lot more to playing guitar than moving your fingers and some things only get better with time, such as aural awareness. You can't read a book and instantly be able to recognise a chord sequence by ear. This comes from experience. Learning songs, singing the notes you play at the same time. All these things help you get to the point where you can play what ever you hear inside your head.



Remember remember the 5th of November?..... Neither do I, but I can remember lots of songs. Your brain retains information that it uses. For example, babies learn so fast because they are plunged into a world full of danger and they have to learn everything before deciding what is useful and what is not. That's why I've forgotten my teachers name in year 3 but I can remember all the words to Elinor Rigby because I sing it almost every weekend.


What's the plan?

I regularly write practice plans for all of my students and I find different ages, abilities and ultimate goals need different practice plans. Here are some examples -



Warmup - Finger exercise

Rhythm - Chords, strumming

Lead - Scales, improvising

Listening - Listen to Blues music



10+ minute warmup - Stamina exercise

15+ minute Rhythm - Play a particular chord progression in varying styles and elaborate                                            using chord extensions.

15+ Lead - Improvise using modes (try avoiding certain notes e.g. the root.

5+ mins Theory - Write a chord sequence then transpose

5 mins Listening - Work out a particular song by ear



If you would like your own personal practice plan written up, just get in touch or book your lesson.




Big tips


Always use a metronome

People may thing that metronomes are for people with a bit more of a professional aim for their guitar journey but I can assure you, it is essential for everyone learning. Sometimes it's only apparent that you've developed quite a lot when you compare your previous metronome times.






Little chunks

If you have a particular lick that you're struggling to pin down, isolate the part that you find tricky and drill that section over and over again. Also, It's better to practice little and often. Even if it's 5- 10 minutes at a time, that's better than an hour once a week.







Play with friends

If you have any friends that play, get together and have a jam. If you have younger children who play, organise a practice party. Find a local jam night and learn from others. If you give purpose to what you're learning, you will enjoy it more. 






 What do you find difficult?

Whatever it is that you tend to avoid while practising. Theory, Diminished chords, sweep picking or using your little finger. That's what you need to do more of. It's pointless only playing the techniques that you are already comfortable with.






Break the box

Try and approach practicing the guitar differently. Play in the dark, with your eyes closed, try to imitate songs you hear on TV or video games and if your budget allows, invest in a looper. Even if it's just for practicing, I have found mine invaluable and so much fun! (more on this looping stuff in future).





Have an ultimate goal

If you want to play in front of start a band, complete grade 1 or learn one particular song. Keep that in mind when your practicing, it's the reason why your started after all.



Authoritative figures

I consider myself lucky to have learned a lot from the following guitarists personally from attending clinics held at Nidum Arts Centre. I highly recommend anyone with any interest to look them up:

Frank vignola

Guthrie Govan




"Practice makes perfect"

This phrase is used so much that it's easy to forget that it does hold a lot of weight. These days, there are a lot more distractions than when I was learning. With the internet being instantly accessible, everyone has the whole world in their pocket. Remember, you get back what you put in.


Have fun!



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