How To Get Better At Guitar Much Faster
by Tom Hess
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Until you know exactly what keeps you from quickly getting better on guitar, your musical goals will always seem out of reach... leaving you frustrated every time you pick up your instrument. This is like to trying to drive a race car, but not realizing you have a brick under the gas pedal that is keeping you from fully accelerating towards your goals. To get better fast, you must become aware of the biggest problems that are slowing you down and take action to eliminate them.
Here are 5 obstacles that get in the way of you progressing as fast as you'd like (and the actions you must take to turbocharge your guitar progress:
1. You Practice Guitar For The Sake Of Practicing
You’ve likely heard statements such as: “practice makes perfect” or “perfect practice makes perfect”. Truth is, neither statement tells the whole story about what it means to get better on guitar. Fast guitar progress is all about practicing not just perfectly, but also STRATEGICALLY.
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When you practice for the sake of practicing, you compile tons of tablature or exercises or random guitar lessons you find online and try to practice them as best as you can, simply trying to get better. This leads to the following:
- You become overwhelmed and frustrated as you quickly accumulate more practice items than you know what to do with. This is because random videos, tablature or exercises are not centered around a strategy for reaching your musical goals as quickly as possible.
- You have no way to measure your progress, since you haven’t established a long term overarching goal for your practicing (hint: a vague desire to “get better at guitar” is NOT a specific goal!) So you end up going through the motions of practicing guitar month after month, year after year, having no idea if your practicing is really getting you anywhere.
- Your guitar playing skills get way out of balance, without you realizing it (more on this below).
Note: even if your practicing habits are highly effective, your lack of overall strategy makes it impossible to improve your guitar playing fast. Practicing the wrong items correctly is just as bad as practicing the right items incorrectly.
In contrast, strategic practicing starts by focusing on the specific musical goals you want to reach. You must then find out what to practice on guitar to reach those goals, and not let yourself become distracted by practicing random items that do not relate to your goals. Thus, your guitar playing goals act like a filter that only allows relevant items to pass into your practicing - ignoring all the rest.
2. You Don’t Know HOW To Become A Better Guitar Player Every Time You Practice
Knowing what to practice is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to making progress on guitar. To make fast progress, you must know both what to practice and how to practice it. Even if you have the right strategy and a full list of correct items to practice, they will be of limited use to you if you:
- Practice guitar mindlessly.
- Don’t know how to solve your guitar playing problems easily and with minimum frustration whenever they come up (and they WILL!)
- Don’t have a highly effective guitar practice schedule to follow with the practice items you have.
The easiest way to learn how to practice guitar is to work with a guitar teacher who A.) has already accomplished the same musical goals you desire B.) understands exactly how to get you from where you are now to your guitar playing goals fast and C.) has a proven track record of helping countless other players become awesome guitarists.
3. You’re A Self-Taught Guitarist
Many guitarists decide to learn guitar on their own, because they think they can make progress just as fast teaching themselves as under the guidance of a great teacher. This belief could not be any further from the truth! Here are just a couple of reasons why this thinking is dead wrong:
Random videos, tablature or disorganized/amateur lessons you find online can NOT correct you when you practice ineffectively, build bad guitar playing habits or waste countless hours working on things that take you in the WRONG direction from your musical goals. They also cannot answer your questions, give you feedback on your guitar playing and cannot tailor themselves to your skill level and your musical interests. So you are left on your own to figure everything out and reinvent the wheel of guitar playing, using yourself as your own guinea pig.
On the other hand, an expert guitar teacher will design a highly effective learning strategy specifically for you, will hold your hand every step towards your guitar playing goals, and give you tons of support along the way. This saves you years of wasted time and unnecessary frustration - allowing you to not only make faster progress on guitar, but also enjoy every step of the process of reaching your goals. This leads me to my next point:
- Guitar players who try to learn on their own, often make slow progress after they lose motivation to practice (because they aren’t seeing big results). Working with an expert guitar teacher solves this problem. Not only will your teacher help you understand exactly what and how to practice, but he will hold you accountable for the progress you make and will continually push you to make the fastest progress possible. Without someone to hold you accountable in this manner, you create a MASSIVE slowdown in your progress.
To illustrate this point, compare the process of getting better on guitar to going to a gym to lose weight. Learning guitar on your own is equivalent to following some general exercise program you found online and becoming unmotivated after 4 weeks, when you notice that you lost a tiny amount of weight…or even GAINED weight! This can be disheartening and cause many people to stop coming to the gym.
Now imagine working with a personal trainer who will
- Hold you accountable for coming to the gym every single week.
- Explain that your initial small weight loss is normal, as your body is adjusting to the training regimen and that the weight you initially gained after working out is actually lean muscle (a good thing!) In fact, something very similar occurs in guitar playing, as your skills temporarily seem to go backwards, when you begin the process of reversing bad guitar playing habits.
- Design a highly effective program, personalized to you, that is easy to follow and takes into account your physical fitness levels, your goals and motivation.
In the first scenario, you hold yourself back from ever reaching your goal of losing weight. In the second scenario (working with a trainer), you have the highest chance of not only reaching your goals, but doing so in an enjoyable way with minimum risk of injury.
4. Your Guitar Playing Is Out Of Balance
Another way you will drastically slow down your guitar playing progress is by spending too much time practicing areas you are already strong in, while ignoring (or being unaware of) your weaknesses. This causes your playing to become unbalanced, as you become strong(er) in some areas and remain very weak in others. The worst part of this, is that your ability to apply your musical strengths is going to be severely limited by your musical weaknesses.
For example, I get e-mails all the time from guitarists who are frustrated because they can’t play great lead guitar solos (despite spending a lot of time practicing technique). I have to explain to them that technique is only one aspect of playing guitar solos. In order to get better, they need to develop their guitar phrasing, knowledge of music theory, fretboard visualization, ear training and many other skills. Even if you aren’t interested in playing guitar solos, it’s likely that your guitar playing is unbalanced in various ways due to years of learning on your own (and picking up bad habits along the way).
Learn more about how your guitar playing can become out of balance by reading this article about what to practice on guitar.
5. You Aren’t Aware Of (And Don’t Know How To Fix) Your Bad Guitar Playing Habits
Even if you know what to practice and how to practice it, bad guitar playing habits can slow down your progress to a crawl, until you learn how to diagnose and fix them. Read the seven points in this article about solving guitar playing problems to learn how to quickly correct your poor playing habits.
Stop Believing These Myths About Slow Guitar Playing Progress:
In addition to knowing the 5 things that make it very hard to get better on guitar, here are 3 things that most people blame for their lack of progress that have NOTHING to do with this problem:
- Lack Of Talent: Many guitarists believe they can’t improve at a faster rate because they lack natural talent. Truth is, every great guitarist sucked at one time or another, and it was NOT natural talent that helped them become great. They became awesome players because they worked hard at it every single day (and did not make any of the mistakes described in this article). If you do the same - you will get the same results.
- Being Too Old: Your age has nothing to do with your ability to make fast progress on guitar. Learn more about why this fear is nothing but a myth in this article about becoming a better guitarist.
- Having Limited Practice Time: No matter how much time you have to practice guitar, you CAN make tons of progress, as long as you aren’t making any of the mistakes described above. To learn more about this topic, read this article on how to practice guitar effectively with limited time.
Now that you understand why so many guitarists struggle to improve their playing, read this page about online guitar lessons to learn how to massively speed up your guitar playing progress.
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