Today I would like to share with you my approach to practicing guitar. Lately I got quite a few questions from my guitar students about how do I practice guitar so I thought it would be a good idea to share it with all of you.
Firstly, let me say that my approach to learning and practicing guitar is probably different from what you see in books or on youtube. Over the years I realized that I have to find my own learning style if I want to get somewhere with my playing. Very often I found other people’s approach to learning useless for me. It’s not that their approach is bad and mine good, the difference is that I don’t process information in the same way as they do and I definitely do not have the same musical goals and dreams as they have. That’s why I cannot use their methods.
Here is an example:
Some people say that it is necessary to learn scales in all 12 keys. But I don’t think it is necessary for me or for the most guitar players that I know. Again I am not saying that it is a bad exercise, I just think that there are more beneficial things for me to do. It is all about doing the right things at the right time. As Tony Robbins puts it: If you do right thing at the wrong time you are just wasting your time.
The problem with books and youtube guitar lessons is that even though they provide good quality information, you need to know if this information is right for you. You don’t need general advices on how to do something, you have to know what specifically is the best thing for you to do right now. Knowing how to play G phrygian scale has no value for you, if you don’t plan to use it.
Right know we are overloaded with information of all kinds, so we have to be very careful about what we pay attention to. I wasted few years jumping from one scale to another, from sweep picking to alternate picking, from rock to jazz. None of that did I learn properly.
I tried to learn all scales and arpeggios, all chord inversions in all keys and all the guitar techniques possible. The only result was that I felt stuck, frustrated and overwhelmed. I did not enjoy practicing guitar and my playing sucked. I was not able to use any of that stuff in a real world playing. I had to find my own way. And you have to do the same.
What works for others, doesn’t have to work for you.
One of my guitar heroes Tommy Emmanuel said in our recent interview that songs are the most important part of our playing. And I totally agree. Songs that we love are the reason why we play the guitar. All great guitar players are known because of their music and not because of their technique or theory knowledge. Don’t get me wrong – technique and theory are important. But they are only a mean to an end. And the reason why we learn them, is to create music.
After few years of struggling I came to a realization that the only thing that really matters to me is to play what I think is a good music. This is the main reason why I pick up guitar everyday. I don’t practice scales, arpeggios and techniques anymore. I practice music. I play songs. I learn how to use musical material to express myself. I like to analyze songs in terms of theory but I also try to analyze them on an emotional level. I study bass players, drumers, singers and all good musicians. I compose. I use my ears to navigate me through harmony. I work on my groove. I play what I love.
I don’t want to be able to play all chords and all scales in every position and every key. I just want to learn how to play things that I deeply love. That is all that matters to me. Right now.
Let me know how do you approach practicing guitar.
Photo by: Rudolf Baranovic