Have you been playing guitar recently after taking a long break away from playing? It doesn’t matter if you were away from guitar for several weeks, a month or more – you were surely in for an unpleasant surprise after noticing a drop in your playing skills (when compared to how you used to play).
I’m on the same page with you... years ago I completed a big tour, and wanted to take a break away from guitar playing for a little while. Although I only planned to take this break for a little while, I ended up not practicing at all until many months later when I needed to record a new album. Needless to say, I was not too pleased with the way my playing sounded once I began practice again.
If you have ever stopped playing guitar for a long duration of time (or you haven’t held a serious practice session in many months), you will get your skills back again by using these 5 approaches:
1. Don’t Overcompensate By Practicing Too Much
A lot of guitar players overcompensate for their lack of practice by practicing tons of hours each day. This generally causes them to practice ineffectively in an unorganized manner. On top of that, it makes it easier for them to become frustrated and/or injury themselves. Here is what these players don’t know, and what you need to understand: More guitar practice does not necessarily make you a great player. Fact is, you can make a lot of progress in your guitar playing by practicing in short, highly-focused bursts during the day. This is an effective method because it helps you practice with maximum focus since there is only a small amount of time being used. So instead of working on playing with clean sweep picking technique (for example) for a few hours at a time, you’d practice in intervals of 15 minutes per session. It’s a lot less difficult to practice for 15 minute periods than for many hours.
Follow this effective guitar practice schedule to get your guitar skills back in exactly two weeks.
2. Practice Using Your BRAIN 1st And Your Fingers 2nd
Don’t fall into the trap of practicing guitar with a mindless approach! Not only should this be a general rule for all guitar practice, but it applies even more strongly for practicing guitar after taking an extensive break. Here’s why: After a break, it’s much more likely that bad habits have crept back into your guitar playing. If you use poor focus during your guitar practice, you’ll probably develop poor playing habits (even in places where you didn’t have them before!). The following are the most effective ways to prevent this from happening by making sure you remain focused:
-Use an effective guitar practice schedule to quickly get your technique back on track.
-Utilize “focus rotation” so that your mind is always switched on during your practice. I explain this in greater detail throughout this guide to easily doubling your guitar playing speed.
-Practice guitar techniques that have the highest guitar playing exercise transferability. This will prevent you from becoming bored and help you get your skills back faster.
3. Rebuild Your Foundation Of Technique First
After not playing guitar for a long while, you lose your playing skills at varying degrees. Your guitar technique is often the first skill to leave you. That said, after an extended break, you need to place guitar technique practice as your first priority for the first couple of weeks.
Notice: I’m not telling you that you should “always” work on technique during your guitar practice. I'm merely saying that the first couple of weeks of practice “after a long break” should be mostly spent on technique. Additionally, even when you don’t have a guitar in hand, you should be practicing away from guitar so that your musical skills are not lost.
4. Start Crawling Before You Walk
In your first week back after a long break, you won’t be able to play everything you played before in a flawless manner. At this point, you do not possess the same level of control over the movements in your fingers. If you quickly rush into playing with high speed or working on complex guitar licks, it will be very unclean and you might even hurt yourself by using unnecessary tension (that comes from inefficient movement). This is like attempting to run a marathon when you having exercised in a year... Everything that is needed to make your body finish the race (muscle stability, cardiovascular endurance, etc.) has been unused for a lengthy amount of time, and thus is highly underdeveloped for the task at hand. Running under these conditions will prove to be impossible, and you will likely injure yourself in the process.
To guarantee that you return your playing to the level it was at before (without harming yourself or becoming frustrated), focus mostly on perfecting the basics of your technique throughout the first week of practice. While you are practicing, make sure to pay extra close attention to the unneeded tension you are feeling in your body and reduce it as much as possible. Don’t let yourself play very fast or technical guitar licks during this time. By working slowly to regain your coordination in hands, you will grow a solid foundation from which you can play with greater speed and accuracy.
The effective guitar practice schedule that I recommend to use for getting your guitar skills where they need to be is fundamentally based upon this concept.
5. Control Your Frustration And Take Advantage Of Your Mistakes
It’s hard not to get frustrated when you know you used to play guitar at a much higher level than where you are at now. However, don’t allow this frustration to control your playing and destroy your motivation for continuing to practice guitar! If you do, it will be very difficult to get your playing back to where it used to be.
No matter who you are, you will make countless mistakes in order to become a better guitarist. With that being said, most of your practice time will be used for identifying and solving your guitar playing mistakes. So if you really enjoy playing guitar, there’s no point in getting frustrated by mistakes. A better approach is to focus on turning mistakes into tools for improvement. Once you take away the negative emotions you associate with mistakes, you enable yourself to directly address any issues in your playing – making much faster progress.
After reading this article, you now know how to quickly regain your guitar skills after not playing for a long while. Now you just need to take action to implement these ideas.
After you can play as good as before, keep your playing on track with an effective guitar practice schedule based on your musical goals.