Written by Sebastien from GuitarEndeavor.com
Learning to play the guitar takes time, unfortunately most of us can’t afford to spend all day practicing. That’s why it’s crucial to make the most out of the limited occasions we have to refine our craft. Here are a few tips for having efficient practice sessions and learning better.
Start Slowly Then Build Up the Necessary Speed
It might seem simple but I believe this is the main reason many people give up on learning a new instrument. Learning a new scale, a solo or even a chord change can seem almost impossible at first but slowing things down makes it way more accessible. It will also help with precision and prevent you from practicing a mistake over and over again.
Use a Metronome
A great way to slow things down is to use a metronome. It helps develop a greater sense of timing while tracking your progress. They are easy to use and very cheap. Many smart phone apps and websites offer metronomes. Even Google has one right from the search results (just type in : metronome).
When learning a scale, you can start at a very slow tempo and play the notes straight on the click. You can then accelerate progressively and play quarter or eighth notes to achieve more speed.
Play Over Backing Tracks
While metronomes are great, they can also get boring and are not so musical. A great alternative to this is to use backing tracks. They help put context to the scales or solos you are trying to master.
Some YouTube channels offer great quality tracks. I recommend creating a playlist of the ones you like so that you actually play guitar instead of going down the YouTube rabbit hole.
Slow Down Your Favorite Records
Another popular solution is to use a software that slows down music without altering its pitch. It’s a great way to tackle complex songs from your favorite guitar players. In fact, I find it’s the easiest way to learn those very fast solos that sound almost impossible to play. When taking things at very low speed anything seems possible. Furthermore, you might find that you hear more subtle but important details that you did not notice at full speed.
Amazingly, many apps offer this functionality and a handful of websites do this for free. They often make it easy to loop the targeted parts and create markers so you can identify different sections of a song.
Practice What You Don’t Know
Time being limited you should focus on what you don’t know. When learning something new, avoid starting at the same point over and over again waiting to stumble a little farther every time. A great way to do so is to divide content into small pieces. It makes it more likely that you learn the full song or solo.
Furthermore, you might fall in a common trap of self-deception. When taking a step back, chances are you can identify your “blind spots”. This is particularly true when learning scales. For example: you may find that you can’t play certain scales on specific parts of the neck. This can usually be fixed in a few practice sessions but you might find it more appealing and easier to refine the patterns and shapes you already know.
Identifying and tackling weakness will accelerate your learning curve and make you a better overall player.
Keep Your Focus
Mindlessly blazing through scales for hours might help build muscle memory but it’s not a very sound use of your practice time. In fact, a mindful practice for a limited period will give superior results then a long and undisciplined session. A good way to keep focus is to set a timer for a few minutes (preferably at least 15) where you play nothing else but the material you seek to learn. You can then take a small break before repeating the process.
Apply Your New Knowledge Rapidly
One powerful way to ingrain a new knowledge is to use it in a musical context. You can play it with others or play it over a backing track. It will force you to truly understand it.
Moreover, understanding something makes it more likely that you will remember it forever. Doing so will expand your musical versatility and creativity by making it “your own”. One simple tip is to try different chord voicings when learning a new song or playing a line somewhere else on the neck.
Listening to your own recordings helps become more self-aware. It draws attention to the feeling and sonic quality of your playing. Also, it will keep you from practicing the same mistakes over and over again. Another benefit of this is it will force you to perform and give it your best. When hitting record, you automatically feel a certain pressure making you more accountable.
Plan Ahead for Practice Time
Identifying and planning your practice material makes it more likely that you progress faster. It prevents you from searching for lessons when you should really be focusing on getting your practice done.
Many players have a detailed practice routine but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming.
Simply having a limited list of specific lessons you want to learn will help move the needle whenever you have a short period of practice time. You can use a paper sheet or a solution like Trello to easily change your priorities and keep track of the work you have done.
Finally, the most import thing when learning guitar is to enjoy the process. If practice is a pain, reconsider your goals to align them with your interest. After all, you are putting all those efforts so you can later create music that resonates with who you are.
About the author:
Sebastien is the founder of GuitarEndeavor.com a site where he seeks to help others to make the best out of their guitar learning journey.