Guitar Practising Tips
Getting the Absolute Most out of Practising
As an experienced guitarist, I would have to confess to spending a great part of my early guitar practising days playing things I could already play because - well... because I could! It took me a while before I realised I should be spending my time practising things I couldn't play so that I was continually stretching my education.
Getting into the Practice Mindset
It's so important to get into the right mindset when practising and setting a schedule so you'll improve and stretch yourself every time you pick up the guitar. Aimless practising can add years to your learning!
If you can, plan a time when you can practice for at least 15 mins, 5 days a week; if you practice longer, make sure it's quality practice and that you don't get physically or mentally tired as that usually means that you standards will drop and you will finish the session with negative thoughts. Ideally, you will need a music stand as it's important to be able to see your sheets at the right angle without having to look up and down and divert your attention.
Secondly, get a guitar tuner! If your instrument is out of tune, practice will become tortuous and you will not develop your ears to appreciate and understand pitch.
Thirdly, get yourself a metronome (you can use online versions for free!) and practice along with it. The metronome will shape your timing and rhythm ways in that will stay with you throughout your musical life. Tuners which have built-in metronomes are also available and provide good value for money.
Headstock Tuner - Tuners come in many forms but the headstock variety are both cost-effective, accurate and efficient.
Metronome - There are many types of metronomes available but the cheapest ones are the ones you can use for free online!
Technique, Timing, Tenacity & Egg Timers???
Structuring your practice session is essential as you need to maximise the time in order to examine your technique, timing/rhythm and the rudiments of music which will include chord shapes, harmony, scales, arpeggios, modes etc. One tool you would be wise to utilise in the armoury of a musician would be the egg timer, yes, egg timer!
Set the timer so you will spend an allotted period of time on one discipline so that when it goes off, you move onto the next. Perfect for time management and a great way of ensuring you get through your practise schedule.
Music Stand - A decent music stand will last you a lifetime and make practising a much easier experience.
More Tips to Consider when Practising on the Guitar
Here's a list of tips which can help with your practising, it's not definitive and lots of other teachers will have good ideas that work for them and their students - put together something that works for you. You don't have to employ them all upfront to the point where it becomes restrictive and boring, get the fundamentals working first. Here's a list of pointers that ensure you stay on the path to becoming a guitar God:
Break down problematic sections into segments, practice putting them together seamlessly
Practice playing pieces and exercises slowly and gradually speed up when you can do them correctly
Practice regularly, at least five times a week (min. 15 mins), more is good only when you use the time constructively
Be self-critical but not too critical – you’re learning for goodness sake!
Don’t make the mistake of spending too much time playing what you’re already capable of playing, push yourself to what you can’t play yet, challenge yourself.
Use your mind’s eye to visualise what you’re trying to achieve, don’t rely on your eyes, if you can see it in your mind's eye, the chances are, you can do it
Focus on perfecting your rhythm working with a metronome
Play exercise scales, arpeggios etc. along with a metronome
Practise everything with a metronome!!
Use an egg timer to ensure you spend the allotted time on disciplines
Experiment with different strumming and fingerpicking patterns
Learn scales, arpeggios and modes which will open up a whole new world of musical understanding
Listen to music you like and try to use your ears to work out what chords, notes and techniques are being used
Don’t be afraid to record yourself (a mobile will do), it may throw light on what you thought you were doing well but aren’t.
Don't be afraid to experiment with your own ideas, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to creativity, it's all down to you!
Don't practise when you feel tired, feel inspired to practice
Watch local bands and feed off the enthusiasm they provide
You will only improve your guitar playing in leaps and bounds by practising, and you will only practise if you don't see it as a chore. A sure way to keep up the enthusiasm for practising would be to structure your practice time, practice regularly, improve as a consequence and therefore have irrefutable evidence that you are becoming a guitar player.
"Music is the soundtrack of your life."