Are you a beginner guitarist who wants to improve your skills as quickly and easily as possible?
Maybe you have played a while but have hit a plateau with your progress?
Do you want to increase the speed and ease with which you learn and improve?
I have discovered that there are two very simple rules that, when applied to learning to play guitar, will accelerate your progress and minimise any discomfort and frustration. They will help you to progress with your guitar playing as quickly and easily as you are capable, so read on, before you waste another moment trying to learn in inefficient ways.
These rules might sound like common sense at first, but as we all know, common sense is not common practice. The first rule deserves constant reminders to students and the second rule can be applied in ever increasing quantities as you discover deeper levels of learning. Also note that these rules are NOT just for beginners. I regularly see students who’ve played for more than twenty years and the most beneficial thing they can do is to apply these two rules to their practice routine. I could show them all the techniques and give them all the content in the world, but without the strong and consistent application of these two rules, it would lead to only minimal progress.
Rule #1: Start Slowly.
This is THE most powerful strategy you can apply to learning to play guitar. The number one mistake that amateur guitarists make is trying to do everything too fast. They don’t even notice that their technique is sloppy and the sound is bad, they are making the same mistakes over and over again and their progress is being so severely arrested. They need a good teacher to help them understand the damage they are doing to their progress and see that if they learn to start slowly, their progress will increase rapidly and their playing will sound better with less effort.
Practical Application: Notice that I did not say go slowly. I said, start slowly. You should begin with the understanding that there is a time to work on building speed in your playing and it is NOT a long time away, after you have spent years mastering the basics. You will want to include fast playing in your practice from the very beginning and that is perfectly fine, as long as you understand and apply the following:
- When learning something new or trying to improve at something you “already know”, begin by playing it as slowly as you need to go, to get it one hundred percent accurate – if you make a mistake you are playing too fast.
- Once you have the entire section that you are working on memorised and can play it through with zero mistakes, then you can gradually increase the speed, until you start to make mistakes again. Continue playing through the mistakes for a little while – that means try to go on as though the mistake never happened. When you can no longer go on, stop. Start slowly again.
- Note that this is not an entire speed building process and a good teacher will take you through a much more thorough system if you want to build significant speed in your playing. This is just a starting point, not only for beginners, but for anybody who struggles to play fast consistently and accurately.
Rule #2: Break It Down.
Break It Down means to take a whole and break it into smaller parts or into its separate components. Coupled with the first rule, together they become even more powerful for helping you to overcome guitar playing challenges. Again, this one may seem like common sense, but don’t let that cloud your ability to really thoroughly apply this rule. Just because it sounds like common sense does not mean that you are doing it well. As a teacher, I am constantly finding new ways to break down challenges into smaller pieces and ways to break down a lofty understanding into its component parts so that it can be understood and applied by students.
Practical Application: Break It Down can be applied in several different ways:
- A series of picking movements can be trained repetitively in isolation.
- A series of finger movements can be trained repetitively in isolation.
- A rhythm pattern can be learned and trained in small parts.
- A riff can be learned and trained in small parts.
- A song, solo or composition can be learned, memorised and trained in small parts.
- A technique can be examined to identify the various physical movements involved.
- One bar of music can be broken down beat by beat; small repeatable motifs can be drilled to develop dexterity and muscle memory.
Break It Down is a very large topic, but for now, we will just touch on it briefly. If you keep this general rule in your mind as you tackle increasingly difficult material and more significant challenges, you will see the many ways that you can separate various elements and moving parts throughout the learning process. This will help to make learning more fun, effortless and effective than if you tried to achieve all of the parts at once. Always be looking for ways to break a larger challenge or concept into smaller parts so that it can be better understood and applied to learning situations.
These two rules should be simple and memorable enough to pop into your mind when they will benefit you. Whenever you are struggling with a challenging piece of music or a new technique or idea, these rules can help to simplify and increase your progress. So remember to begin new challenges slowly and break them down into manageable pieces. Gradually increase the speed of your playing and the integration of new concepts and understandings into your practice and, most importantly, enjoy the journey without focussing entirely on arriving at the destination.
About The Author
Nick Tschernez is the owner of Australian Guitar Academy. For the best guitar lessons in Brisbane, contact us through the website.