"The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you." - B.B. King
Practice. The word itself rarely launches the human psyche into immediate action. When we hear it, our usual response is one of avoidance, similar to when we hear "taxes," "housework," "staff meeting," or "colonoscopy."
But practicing guitar doesn't mean it can't be fun. In fact, with the right approach, it will be enjoyable and something you look forward to.
For those short on time, here are my two main bits of advice:
- Play difficult parts slowly. Really slowly. No, half that speed. Like. This. Slow down and give your fingers a chance to learn their new motions and get stronger. Conquering challenging parts requires repetition and the correct technique. Most of all, it requires us to play s-l-o-w-l-y.
- Play a little each day. This is better than lumping it into one or two long sessions. It's a lot like exercise; your fingers, wrists, and arms will benefit from regular use and develop muscle memory.
Here are a few more suggestions:
- Be in the moment. Try to forget about everything else and focus on the guitar. Playing music is great "alone" time and can be very therapeutic - enjoy it.
- Relax. You're not being watched or evaluated. Have your favourite beverage beforehand.
- Warm up by playing a few songs that you already know well.
- Play along with the song that you're currently working on. This really helps your timing and rhythm, and also develops your ability to play along with other instruments and voices.
- Listen to the song on headphones while you play along. Adjust your headphone volume loud enough so that you can clearly hear both the song and your guitar. In a lot of cases, headphones allow you to hear details and nuances that might otherwise be missed.
- Change it up. Play guitar in a different room (the hard reflective surfaces in bathrooms and kitchens can make your guitar sound nice), or play outside.
- Play while watching TV. Just having your fingers moving on the fretboard while you're focusing on something else is beneficial.
- Strap on your guitar and walk around while you play. One of the coolest things about the guitar (and IMO, there are so many), is that it's portable (try lugging that Steinway to the campfire). Sling it over your shoulders and play - it feels (and looks) great.
- If you have an electric guitar and amp, experiment with different settings (go wild and twist the knobs!). You may be pleasantly surprised at how many neat sounds you can make. If you have pedals, even better. Have at it.
- Record yourself on your smart phone. When you play it back, you'll probably hear things you like and conversely, you'll notice areas that need some work. Don't worry, it's all part of the journey.
- Practice in front of someone. Find an encouraging, non-judgmental, sympathetic ear (i.e. not a spouse). Instead, choose the pet.
- Play music with other people. It's fun and will sharpen your senses.
- If you don't have a guitar with you, try visualizing the fretboard and "play" the part in your mind.
- Air guitar along with your "homework." It's great for practicing strumming as it requires rhythm and in many cases, a good pendulum strum. You can tell when watching someone air guitar whether they know how to play or not.
I hope you find these tips useful. Play on and have fun.
Roland Nipp is a self-professed music junkie, knob-twiddler, and song addict from Canada. When not playing music, he is usually thinking about guitars, amps, pedals, songs, and CDs. Roland has written and produced six albums of electric guitar music.
Nipp's solo CD, "Ragged Hearts", is now available. Here's the video of the title cut.
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