12 Things You Can Do To Be A Better Guitar Player Right Now

By: John McCarthy

All musicians want to get better with their instrument as quickly as possible. Whether  you play guitar, bass guitar, drums, keys or tambourine here are 12 things you can do to be a better musician right now.

1.  LISTEN….Everyone wants to become a better player but most sit and play their songs and exercises over and over but don’t really listen to what they’re playing they just play the same mistakes and sloppiness over and over. By taking your time and slowing things down and really listening to your self play you will start to realize the elements you need to improve your playing. You need to know your weaknesses to improve them

When your ears hear what needs to be done your fingers will react

2. PRACTICE SMART….Don’t practice what you already know practice what you don’t know and what you need to improve on. In all my years of teaching the one thing I’ve seen that most students did that curved their learning process is this, they learned a few songs and when they went to practice they played these song (that they already knew) over and over. You need to think of the techniques or musical pieces that you are not proficient at and set your goals to learn these in your practice sessions. 

Save your pieces that you play well for performing and practice your weaknesses. By making your weaknesses strengths you will become a better player

3. WATCH YOURSELF…Sit in front of a mirror and watch your hands, your fingers, even your shoulder and arms. Look for tension and economy of motion. Make sure you are not causing tension by the way you are sitting and holding the guitar. To play great you must be a relaxed player. Make your arms and shoulder loose and even if you are playing an extremely hard piece don’t tighten up, even the fingers gripping your pick, keep your grip loose and relaxed.

Tension will create stiffness in your playing and cause you to be less creative.

4. RECORD YOURSELF….After you have practiced a piece or technique for some time record yourself playing it, it doesn’t have to be a recording studio session just a small recorder or boom box so you can hear yourself back. By listening back you will hear things a bit different then when you are playing, it’s almost like you are hearing from the outside looking in instead of the inside looking out, a new perspective.
Recording yourself will open your ears up to your playing weaknesses

5. LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES… Be your own worst critic and when you play something that is not completely correct know what it is and learn from it. I don’t like to call them “Mistakes I think of them as “learning experiences” and consider them as chances to grow as a musician. 

Don’t pretend learning experiences (mistakes) don’t happen just embrace them as learning opportunities and you will grow as a musician. Find the cause and plan how to create a different result

6. HAVE PERCEPTION… when you are playing think about and imagine your next three or five notes or chords. By envisioning your future moves you will have total control of your playing.
Don’t chase your notes be ahead of them looking back. This kind of perception takes some practice but will give you total creative vision.

7. BUILD SPEED IN SMALL INCREMENTS…Build your speed up gradually don’t try to shred through pieces or songs as fast as you can before you have clean technique. Everyone wants to have speed but with out technique you are just playing fast and sloppy. Try to play to a metronome or drum beat as much as possible this will give you an external rhythm to play to and will prepare you to play with other musicians in a band fashion.

Music is not a sport it is an art form and it won’t get judged by how many notes you play but by how much you can make a few notes have meaning.

8. USE YOUR BODY CLOCK…Practice moving your body to the music as you play, whether you tap your foot, move your head, jump up and down, or sway back and forth. By getting your body to be the rhythm keeper you will vibe more as a player, it will show in your phrasing and creativity.

Feel the music throughout your whole body and you will make other feel it too!

9. LISTEN TO OTHER GENRES OF MUSIC…Don’t be closed minded to other styles or genres of music. Almost every great musician has taken a few influences and combined them to create their own style. I often listen to other instruments to find new ideas for my leads for instance I’ll take a sax solo and listen to the way that he phrases his notes and try to add elements of this into my own playing, not doing exactly what he did but taking his ideas and using them in my own way.

You don’t have to reinvent your instrument just look at it a different way.

10. PLAY FOR OTHERS…I know this is difficult for some but this is a very important part of getting to the next level. When you have a song or piece completed start with a person you are very comfortable with and perform it for them. Make sure to put the strap on and stand up while playing to get the whole vibe going. Next try to get a few others to jam out to.

This is where you start having fun and you WILL begin to love the attention, trust me.

11. CREATE A PRACTICE ROUTINE AND PLAY CONSISTENTLY…Soooo important, this may be the most important thing on this list, set a daily practice schedule with a well thought out practice routine. Have a well balanced diet of exercises, scales, techniques and challenging musical pieces. Some students think that they can miss four days of playing and practicing and practice 3 hours one day to make up, this is a misconception. Set up a daily practice schedule that you will be able to keep.

Repetition is the mother of skill and with daily practice you will become a great player

12. DON’T GET FRUSTRATED…Guitar is not and easy instrument and there will be times that you will want to throw your instrument out the window (I lost a few good instruments this way) I have found that the best thing to do when you are feeling defeated by a piece or techniques is to take a break and either play something that you can do well for a few minutes or just put the guitar down and allow yourself to clear your mind and give your fingers a break. When you came back to that particular problem you will have a “fresh perspective” and will have a better chance of mastering it.

Space and perspective will help you not get overwhelmed and frustrated.

Need tools, ideas or lessons? Check it at www.RockHouseMethod.com

©2009 - 2013 Fred Russell Publishing, All Rights Reserved. This article can not be used without permission from the Author. To Contact the Author email jm@RockHouseMethod.com

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