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How To Get Good At Playing Anything On Guitar - 3 Step Process For Effective Guitar Practice
By Tom Hess - 08/18/2014 - 12:54 PM EDT

Have you ever been practicing something on guitar (a solo, specific technique, song, etc.) for many months without seeing any results? Despite your hard work, you just canít seem to get any better... Then you eventually become disappointed and begin wondering if youíll ever play guitar like you want to.

Before I reveal to you how to figure this problem out and play guitar like you want, you must know and believe that you CAN achieve your musical goals, just like your favorite players. However, if you struggle with problems in your guitar playing, it doesnít mean you lack talent and will never become a great guitarist. It just means the following:

1. You havenít learned the proper steps to follow while practicing what will give you the ability to play whatever you want (Iíll tell you these steps in a moment).

2. No one ever correctly taught you HOW to practice the aforementioned steps. This is hard to understand for most guitarists (specifically, self-taught guitarists) because it requires knowledge of how to practice guitar with great effectiveness. Itís simple to understand WHAT to practice (since these things are often rooted in common sense), but implementing them correctly is not so simple.

Think of your guitar playing as a struggle between two forces: one side being the practice you do to make your guitar playing feel easier, and the other side being the problems that consume your playing (making it harder than it should be). Whenever one side wins over the other, your goal splits into two halves:

  • To keep practicing in the most effective manner possible, in order to make speedy progress (Iíve talked about many approaches to this in my previous electric guitar columns).
  • To move beyond certain challenges that keep you from playing the things you want to play as well as youíd like to play them (this is what Iíll show you below).

To help you completely understand the practicing process explained below, watch this video that demonstrates how this approach makes your guitar playing better. Do this now before you read the rest of this article.

Although the demonstration above shows how to effectively practice guitar in a single circumstance, the general approach to correcting problems can be implemented in the same manner to all techniques/styles (from speed picking to bluesy double stops to heavy rhythm licks).

Here is how to use the steps from the video you watched to find out how to play anything you want on guitar:

Step One: Act As A Doctor While Practicing Guitar

The fundamental mistake guitarists make while practicing is attempting to solve symptoms (things they believe to be problems) in their playing, instead of focusing on ROOT causes (the real problems). This applies in particular to the majority of self-taught guitarists, who were never shown how to effectively practice guitar. As you saw in the video demonstration above, itís very simple to incorrectly diagnose a problem and falsely assume that you know its cause, only to throw away tons of time practicing the wrong things - making almost no progress at all.  

The best way to avoid spending time on symptoms of problems and to really get better in your guitar playing, is to get feedback from an experienced electric guitar teacher who can analyze your technique and tell you the exact things that you need to work on. In addition to providing you with the answers to your guitar playing issues and frustrations, studying with a great teacher will help you be your own guitar teacher and solve your guitar playing issues by yourself. This is definitely the largest benefit of guitar lessons, and is the reason why guitarists who work together with a great teacher quickly become better players (while self-taught players make extremely slow progress).

This is not unlike going to a doctor with some symptoms of not feeling well or having certain aches in your body. Rather than prescribing medicine for the top level symptom of any issue you have, a great doctor tracks every symptom down to its root causes and treats it, causing you to feel much better (getting rid of all the symptoms at the same time). Great doctors werenít born understanding how to correctly diagnose health issues Ė they gain this knowledge over time. The same thing can describe your guitar playing: even if you have difficulty identifying the main causes of any significant guitar playing problems you have, you definitely WILL be able to solve them and be your own guitar playing doctor (over time).

Step Two: Transform Any Problem Into A Self-Sufficient Guitar Playing Exercise

Once youíve identified the problem that is preventing you from playing what you want on guitar, your next move is to find out how to correctly isolate and fix it. As you observed in the video above, spotting the specific issue (the hammer on and pull off in that particular example) was NOT enough on its own. The next action to take is to put the problem into the original context to make it into a self-sufficient exercise. ďSelf-sufficientĒ means itís not necessary to search for any great guitar exercises to solve it - the issue transforms into your exercise.

To discover more about how to properly perform this step of the process, study this article about how to practice guitar for better results.

Step Three: Donít Give Up Drilling Until You Find Gold

As soon as you identify the correct issue that must be fixed to move your guitar playing forward and correctly made it into its own exercise (as explained and demonstrated in the video above), you now have to practice the problem until itís taken care of.

The mistake that most guitar players make in this part of the process is not performing enough quality repetitions of the exercise in order to form better guitar playing habits to get rid of the old ones. This mistake shows up in one of 2 versions:

Version One: Some guitarists simply give up on practicing the exercise too early - they get disinterested after practicing for only a few minutes... never to practice the exercise again. So they simply never complete sufficient repetitions of the exercise to improve their guitar playing.

Version Two: Other guitarists will discipline themselves to practice the exercise for many hours without stopping. Although they perform many repetitions of the exercise, the quality of each repetition begins to decline as they play the exercise over and over, eventually losing focus. Study this article about directionless guitar practice to learn more about this.

The right way to create a good habit is by continually practicing guitar in bursts of concentrated effort for several minutes at a time. Instead of practicing the same exact exercise for many hours on end, practice it for several minutes at a time, many times throughout the day, gaining tons of volume (repetitions) over the course of a week.

Version one of the mistake above happens often to guitar players who practice randomly (without any kind of schedule). Their practicing is completely unorganized and messy (directly affecting their guitar playing).

In contrast, version two of the mistake above happens frequently to guitar players who donít know the nuances of correctly training the body and the mind to play guitar. Instead, they try to build their practice routines using a linear guitar practicing approach with an Excel spreadsheet or a calculator (big mistake!).

To steer clear of both mistakes, you must be aware that teaching a human being to play guitar is much different than programming functions into a computer. Itís for this reason that you must use a guitar practice routine that is created specifically for getting major results.

Now that you know what is required to play anything you want on guitar, begin taking action on the tips given in this article (as well as the resources offered throughout) to make your practice sessions highly effective and your guitar playing less difficult.

If you still have a hard time attaining the results you desire from your practice time, you will achieve your guitar playing goals faster by working directly with me. Read about electric guitar lessons online and tell me your guitar playing challenges so I can help you fix them.



About The Author:
Tom Hess is a successful professional guitar player, composer and international guitar teacher. He also helps musicians learn guitar online and reach their guitar playing goals. Visit his rock and metal guitar lessons site to read more articles about guitar playing, plus get free guitar tips and guitar playing resources.

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