When was the last time you revised what you have learned?
If you are like most aspiring guitar players, you spend majority of your time learning something new. Learning new stuff can be really exciting because you feel like you are growing, you feel like your guitar progress has accelerated.
But what if this is not true? What if this is just an illusion? What if the real progress is hidden somewhere else?
Don’t get me wrong, learning new things is great. The problem is that we usually do not spend enough time applying what we have learned. I am the first one to admit that I am guilty of that. Jumping from one thing to another, constantly searching for the hottest lick or learning three songs at the same time are not the best strategies how to become an extraordinary guitar player.
I believe that most guitar problems come from our desire to become good as fast as possible. But this tendency usually produces mediocre results. If we try to progress very fast, there is a great danger of neglecting the fundamentals. And without solid foundations, we cannot build a skyscraper.
Moreover, if you move too fast, you don’t have enough time to master what you are learning. Most guitar players believe the false notion that if they know something theoretically, they have already mastered it. Nothing is farther from the truth.
Let’s say you want to learn a D minor 7 arpeggio starting from the 7th fret of G string. If you play through it few times, you can have a rough idea how to play it. You know which fingers you need to use and maybe also how would you pick this arpeggio.
However, if your learning process stops here, how helpful would be this information during your next gig? It is quite obvious you wouldn’t be able to use it when the opportunity arise. Yet most knowledge of aspiring guitar players is this shallow. They know a piece of this, a piece of that, intro to one song and beginning of the solo of another one. All together this has almost zero value if your musical ambitions are little bit higher than being mediocre.
How to become a better guitar player easily?
If you want to really move forward, your knowledge has to go much deeper. You need to take that arpeggio and practice it until you are blue in the face. You need to find every way how you can use it and then remember those that you really like. You need to practice it in different musical styles and different keys and see if you are able to use it. The goal is to play it without even thinking about it. That’s how you know you have mastered something. It has to feel as natural as brushing your teeth.
I think that most guitar players would become much better, if instead of learning something new, they would revisit some of the material they have already learned. Freshening and revising the old stuff is as important as learning new. That’s how you move information from short-term into the long-term memory. And it is also the only way how you can be able to play songs, licks and riffs you have learned years ago.
Your guitar practice routine should help you build skills and knowledge where all the pieces fit tightly together. It should be an organic structure where every piece of data has its place and you know how does it fit into the bigger picture. You have to connect scattered pieces of information so you have a solid foundation for new material.
I’ve got a challenge for you.
For next week don’t learn anything new. Don’t search the web for some more tasty licks or tabs of new songs. Shut everything off and start refreshing old materials. Throw away what you don’t need anymore. Below are few suggestions what you can do with the rest. The goal is to have a knowledge that you are able to use in real life and that can serve as a springboard for your further improvement.
Try to apply some of these strategies into your guitar practice:
1. Create a repertoire of all the songs that you can play and dust them off.
2. Create your own dictionary of licks, phrases and progressions categorized by style, difficulty, players etc.
3. Get together your notes on music theory and see what needs to be refreshed.
4. Find a way how you can improve your fretboard orientation in 5 minutes a day.
5. Examine chords and chord progressions of tunes you like to play.
6. How many guitar techniques can you easily use? Make a list of all of them and see which one needs improvement. Make Monday your “bending day” and bend the hell out of your guitar.
7. Do you like to play different styles of music? Then incorporate jazz licks into your rock playing or vice versa. You know what I mean.
8. Play the same lick over different backing tracks in different styles.
9. Take 3 guitar techniques and 5 licks you already know and create a solo over simple chord progression.
10. Find 3 ways how to play your favorite chord progression with different chord forms.
11. Go over your own songs and find a way how to play them smoother.
Now, I would like to hear your thoughts. How often do you revisit old materials? What are your favorite ways to incorporate old and new stuff into a practice session?
Image courtesy: dncnmckn
If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe: