Thanks for all the comments on my recent beginner New Year’s transformation series of lessons.
In today’s blog post we are getting really practical and it’s a really important topic – it’s about the way you practice.
I’ve had so many emails so far from you guys telling me how motivating they were and how you are feeling really inspired for 2016.
It’s great to know you are all so excited about what’s coming up and that you are so excited to become the guitarist you dream of being.
I’m excited to help you get there.
I’m fed up of seeing way too many frustrated guitarists out there who give up due to:
- bad methods
- bad teaching
- bad advice
(Delete as appropriate)
So many lack the time to practice, but instead of optimising their practice routine they just try to fit practicing in wherever.
Having a great practice routine can shave years off your guitar playing and it doesn’t require you to have the organisation skills of a politician’s P.A.
Just a few tweaks to how you practice will go a long way and it all starts with making sure at all costs you don’t make these 8 deadly mistakes….
These mistakes will hijack your progress and take you right off course.
You don’t want your guitar playing to end up like a disaster movie – it could be like Airplane! but without the humour. (Imagine Leslie Neilson playing guitar, I bet he’d be ace.)
Anyway, wherever you are, make sure you don’t make these crucial mistakes.
Avoid all these mistakes as much as possible and you will be a much better guitarist in a much shorter space of time.
Ok, so here they are…the typical mistakes many guitarists make when learning…
Mistake #1) Not playing along with the original recordings
When you have learned a song, sticking the original song on and playing along is one of the best things you can do for your guitar playing.
It will ensure that you play the song with:
- The correct rhythm
- Accurate and steady tempo
- The all important groove
- The understanding of how the guitar works in relation to the other instruments
- Knowledge of how to understand and apply the dynamics of the song to your playing
When I was learning, back then, I’d have to go out and buy the cd or get a mate to record it onto tape for me.
These days playing along with the original recordings is so much easier as we have almost instant access to nearly every song ever recorded.
Use Spotify, YouTube, your own music collection or your favourite streaming site.
It has never been easier in the whole history of music than it is now to listen and play along with the songs you learn.
Doing so will make you a better guitarist.
Mistake #2) Not listening back to yourself
When playing the guitar many guitarists are concentrating so hard on getting the physical elements correct that they often forget the important thing – how the music coming from their guitar actually sounds.
Too many guitarists focus on getting their fingers in the right spot, strumming the correct strings, not pausing on a chord change, accenting the correct beat, keeping a steady rhythm, etc, that they actually forget to listen to the sound they are creating.
Their brains get overloaded with things to think about so there is literally no room left to really listen and hear the sounds they are making.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s essential to work on all of the above.
Working on the technical details is what gives us the important incremental improvements.
Just don’t see the forest for the trees. By that, I mean you want to regularly look at the big picture.
Hear how the music you create sounds as a whole.
Your audience doesn’t care too much if your G to C chord change is smooth.
They care about what sound is going down their ears.
After all, the point of playing is to make beautiful (or ugly music if you like death metal) music that you and everyone else enjoys listening to.
It’s so hard to focus on the sound coming from your guitar when you are actually playing it, so the best way to listen to yourself as your audience hears you is to record yourself on camera.
It doesn’t have to be a fancy recording, like a Christopher Nolan Hollywood film.
Just grab a smartphone, point it at yourself and hit record.
Record just a few minutes or a few bits and pieces of certain songs you know, and listen and look intently at what sounds good and what doesn’t.
Make a note of these things. Praise yourself for the good areas and isolate the weaker areas and get to the root of the problem.
You may notice mistakes with your strumming, with your chord changes, posture, timing, etc. There are a lot of variables that will be recorded.
Once you know what the problem is, it’s so much easier to fix.
It can be tricky to film yourself, so either get someone else to do it, balance your smartphone on a desk between two books and point it at you, or get a little smartphone tripod like this.
They are pretty cheap and so easy to use.
All you need to do is put the phone in the tripod, point it at you, hit record.
Honestly, if you don’t have anyone giving you feedback, doing this a few times a week will teach you more about your strong and weak areas of your guitar playing than you might learn in months.
Even if you have a teacher who gives you lots of feedback, seeing yourself in action is quite eye opening,
When playing, you might find that sometimes something isn’t quite right but you’re not sure what it is.
A video of yourself will help massively.
You can even slow down your playing or the video. It’s easier to highlight errors in slow-mo.
Mistake #3) Not playing and jamming with others regularly
Without a doubt, one of the most fun, inspiring and enlightening things a musician, especially one who is fairly new to playing the guitar can do is jam with others.
If you wait years before you leave your bedroom with the guitar you are hampering your progress.
As soon as you feel good about playing a couple of songs, try jamming with someone else.
It doesn’t matter if they have played for more of less time than you, you will still learn a thing or two.
Sometimes the thing you will learn won’t be a piece of music, sometimes it will be a new belief.
If my friend can play, “why the hell can’t I?” I remember thinking many years ago.
This really inspired me and made me realise that yes I can do it.
The more guitarists and other musicians you jam with the better you will become.
It’s as simple as that.
Even the best guitar teacher in the world won’t know every single song you like, but your friends probably will know one or two.
They can teach you a little piece or song that you both like, that a teacher might never have heard of.
There are so many benefits to jamming with others.
How about just for the pure social fun? Or the joy of making music with others?
Have fun and jam with all your musician friends. Share the love of music together.
Growing up, me and my pals would jam together in what was a primitive version of our first band.
This jam would take place every Saturday night in my mom’s garage.
We had a drum kit, some half decent amps, and we had a great time.
My mom would love it as she would bring in plates of food (often curry) for everyone. (Always the hostess :))
All in all it was a great experience and one I urge you to replicate in your own way.
Make 2016 the year you jam with others.
Mistake #4) Not practicing without the guitar
Yes, I’m actually saying you can practice without the guitar.
Well, it’s so simple.There are loads of ways to practice the elements that make up your guitar playing even when a guitar isn’t around.
For instance, when you are on the train, you can work on your rhythm skills by tapping out the various rhythms for different strum patterns, and working on your sub-divisions.
You can use visualisation to help you remember the fretboard and how to play chords and scales.
You can grab a blank fretboard diagram and start writing the notes down from where they are on the fretboard.
You can grab an ear training app, stick in some headphones and train your ear which will help you learn songs by ear for yourself.
Read ‘Slash’s biography, or Ed Sheeran’s or Justin Bieber’s if you want, just don’t start dressing like him, or we can’t be friends anymore. 🙂
When making the dinner, you can sing along to your favourite tunes, (it helps your aural skills which makes you a better guitarist). I wouldn’t do this one on the train though!
You can read a book on music theory and learn the ins and outs of the essential bits theory.
As you can see, there are so many ways to practice the guitar without actually having the guitar present.
Of course, nothing beats having the actual guitar there to practice with, but sometimes you will be away from your guitar all day, and want to practice but can’t, so get practicing without the guitar.
It’s a secret method that can sky rocket your playing.
Now, how many of the above cardinal sings have you committed or do you commit on a regular basis?
If lots, don’t beat yourself up, now is the time to make a couple of changes.
These changes will allow you to reach your guitar playing goals.
Today has been part 1 of the most painful guitar playing mistakes and in the next post we will learn the next 4.
These next 4 that you can read in part 2 are equally as important (if not more) than today’s, so make sure you read it.
Leave a comment to let me know what you think of these 4 mistakes or if you have any questions.