Practice These Things!
There are many things that a guitarist needs to practise, although there are three main areas that need to be focused on if you want to play well. If you neglect any one of these areas, your guitar playing will suffer.
The text in this blog post has been taken from my recent YouTube video for those guitarists who would rather read than watch. Prefer to watch and listen? Click on the video below.
The first area that needs mastering is the easiest to work on and is often the area that a guitarist will dedicate much of his or her practice time.
Good technique is easy to achieve with repetition and the use of tools such as a metronome will soon get your technique up to speed. Technique will improve just by regularly picking up your guitar and playing it, although thinking about how you are playing things and if you are using the most efficient method will certainly help to improve technique.
Many guitarists have great technique and can play some pretty impressive stuff, although they don’t really know what it is they are actually playing. This can be a big problem.
Music is a language and good aural skills are essential for any musician. Being able to reproduce what others are playing by listening alone is an incredibly useful skill.
Every guitarist can improve their listening skills by training their ears. It is easy to do, although it does take time. I will be recording another video soon with an easy method to improve your relative pitch, so hit that subscribe button and don’t miss out on that video.
Great technique and great ears are pretty useless if you don’t know where all the stuff is laid out on your guitar fingerboard. The 3rd essential area that every guitarist must work on is fingerboard visualisation and this is the area that is often overlooked.
Every time you play something, you should understand what it is you are actually playing. By doing this, anything you play will be understood at a much deeper level and you can use this musical information again in other situations.
If you do understand what it is you are playing, you will also be training your ears. Using the painting by numbers approach of learning music from guitar tablature will allow you to physically play the music, although you will miss so much learning potential. If you understand why every note is played and how it functions against a given chord, you will soon remember the sounds. Ear training exercises might have you recognising musical intervals such as 3rds and 5ths of chords, although if you are aware of the all the musical intervals whilst learning a piece of music, you will be drilling those sounds into your ears in an actual musical situation. Ear training exercises are a great way to improve your ears, although if you have good fingerboard visualisation skills, you will be constantly ear training!
Your technique will also improve the better you can visualise your guitar fingerboard. Once you can hear what it is that you want to play and you know where the notes are on the guitar fingerboard, your technique will soon catch up. Mindlessly blasting scales and arpeggios up and down your fingerboard to improve technique is not really a musical exercise. You could do this without even hearing what you are playing. If you play what you hear, your technique will be much more solid as you will be focusing more on the notes rather than trying to play the exercise as fast as you can from start to finish.
So, how do you improve guitar fingerboard visualisation? As mentioned previously, you should always be aware of what it is you are actually playing.
When learning a guitar lick, what chord is it being played over? What intervals of the chord or scale are being used? Can you sing the notes of the lick whilst you play the chord?
When learning the chords to a song, what key is it in? What degrees of the scale are the roots of each chord? Can you sing the root note of each chord and hear the intervals between each root note? Have you played this chord progression or part of this chord progression before in another song?
All these types of question will add more time to what it is you are learning, but this small amount of extra time will have huge benefits to your guitar playing. Not only will you know what it is you are learning at a much deeper level, you will also be less likely to forget what you have learnt and you will be able to use what you have learnt in other musical situations.
There are many other skills a guitarist can work on – sight reading, ensemble skills, tone production, etc. although to play the guitar well, I strongly feel that the 3 areas mentioned in this video are the most important.
Do you have weaknesses in any of these 3 areas and if so, can you see how working on these weaknesses will improve your guitar playing? Please let me know in the comments.
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