Updated: Feb 25, 2021
All the time we hear from our teachers and coaches that if we want to get better at something, we need to practise at it. They’re right, but how exactly should we practise? Is one way better than another? Absolutely, and we’ll get that shortly.
When it comes to guitar, the way in which you practise will make all the difference when it comes to how quickly you learn and how long it takes you to reach your goals. One of the most important things you can do is to develop good habits and a consistent routine early on, so even though the*what* in your practise changes, the *how* remains the same.
First Things First
Before you start your guitar practise session, here are a few things you can do that will help you want to practise more:
#1. Keep your guitar in sight
That’s right, keep your guitar out in the open, on a stand or hanging on a wall in the room that you practise in. When your guitar is out in the open, you’ll be reminded that your guitar should be in your hands and being shredded on and not just sitting there collecting dust. The ONLY reason your guitar should be in its case is if you’re taking it somewhere!
#2. Keep your strings fresh
When your strings are fresh and new, your guitar sounds better and stays in tune better, and that promotes playing. NEVER let your strings get old and rusty. While you’re starting out, changing your strings every two months or so should be fine. On a similar note, (pun intended), keep your guitar at least fairly clean and dust free, and the pride you show in your instrument will translate into you wanting to play more.
#3. Decide what you want to achieve before you start practising
Before you start, decide what you want to get done in the time you have to practise. It can be simply to learn just one chord and be able to play it cleanly, or it can be learning the entire Free Bird solo note for note! It doesn’t really matter what it is, but it should be a bit of a challenge and it should be something that you believe you can do. If you fall short of your goal, that’s okay. You’ll have gotten further by stretching to complete your goal than you would have by not having any goal at all. Conversely, if your goal was too easy you can simply add another achievable goal onto your practise and crush it with your remaining time. In summary, if you have a specific goal for every practise session, you will achieve “small victories” that will keep you in a positive mindset that is crucial to keep you motivated and excited about learning your guitar!
When it comes down to it, playing guitar boils down to muscle memory. It’s the repetitive action of putting your fingers on the fretboard over and over again and playing the chords you’ll learn that will get you the musical success you want. Once or twice won’t do it…you’ve got to fret the chords literally hundreds of times before they become second nature. This is when guitar lessons really come in handy; sometimes it can be rough getting through these initial phases without someone there to help you along! What happens next, though, is almost magical: your fingers start to move to where they’re supposed to go without as much effort, and then, eventually, they go where you tell them to automatically, just as easily as can be. Yes, I’m making it sound easy, but it truly is easy when you take it in small steps.
The Hot Air Balloon
Finally, there is one more analogy I’d like to use. Imagine you’ve got a deflated and wrinkly hot air balloon in front of you, and you need to iron it out. How do you do it? Do you iron out the whole thing quickly, so the wrinkles are slightly less and then quickly again so they’re slightly less, etc.? No, you take a small patch and you go over it with your iron methodically until it is wrinkle free, and then you go to the next patch and do the same. Repeat the process. It’s the same with your guitar practice: instead of learning a lot of stuff half-heartedly, learn a small amount of stuff well, and then repeat the process. You’d rather be able to play one or two things that sounds great rather than four or five things that sound below average.
Now, if you implement these strategies that I’ve written about you will find success. The only thing you have do now is to get started. Grab your guitar and get ready…I’m giving you all green lights!