How To Practice Guitar Like the Pros
There are so many videos and magazine articles showcasing great guitar players. It starts to seem as if these guitar players are and have always been perfect. It seems like they never play a wrong note and have no flaws in their technique.
The truth is that these guitar players do have their technique polished and flawless. The reason it is that way because they put in the time to be able to play that way. This is the piece that is so seldom talked about but is the most important part.
How does this apply to you and your guitar playing? It is an example of what you can do if you put in the time and effort to get you to the level of guitar playing you want to reach. It doesn't mean that you have to practice for 10 hours a day. You can but setting a specific amount of time isn't going to guarantee a certain result. It is how you go about practicing that brings about the result. The time is secondary.
What to focus on:
Have you ever practiced a scale by playing up and down the scale? Then, when it comes time to improvise a guitar solo all you do is play the scale up and down? What is it that is the missing piece here? How can you go from playing a scale to using that same exact scale and making it sound musical?
There are many answers to that question. The most important part is that you ask yourself that question and then go about finding the answers. A question that always helped me was "what else can I do with this?". At first it might seem like you don't have any answers for the question. Keep asking yourself and keep looking for answers. When you start doing that, you will find that you come up with all sorts of cool ideas.
Examples of practice items:
Scale sequences (playing notes in a certain order and repeating it all the way up and/or down the scale)
Double picking notes of the scale
Using hammer ons and/or pull offs to play the scale
If you started practicing any one of these examples today you would see a change in your guitar playing. The scale that seemed so dry and technical now sounds more musical and fun to play.
Progress, not perfection:
When you think of or learn a new technique or approach for your playing, do not focus on getting it perfect to start. Focusing on trying to be perfect right away is going to lead you to frustration when you make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the process. Focus instead on improving your skill level each time you practice. Even if you make only a small amount of progress on any given day you are still better off than when you started. Use that to keep you moving forward each time that you practice.
Set a goal for the day or week:
Make a goal for yourself for the week. For example, it could be to play scale sequences more comfortable and natural. What setting a goal does is it helps you lay out how you are going to reach it. Naming the goal by itself doesn't do very much. If you think about what you need to do to reach that goal and do it, you will find that your practice time is more focused. You will get more out of the practice time that you put in.
A great way to make your scales sound more musical is to improvise over backing tracks. You can either make your own, buy some or find them online. Find or make backing tracks that are in the style(s) that you like listening to and want to play. Once you have your backing track(s) you can use them to help you work on a specific technique or lick. Don't start flailing away hoping to come up with something cool. The backing track is there to give some musical context. They will also help you develop your ability to make your guitar playing sound and feel more musical.
Add these things to your practice routine and it won't take long to notice improvement. Keep asking yourself "what else can I do with this?" and you will see all kinds of possibilities open up for yourself. You will stay inspired to improve your guitar playing. You will see yourself moving forward. Have fun and happy practicing.
About the Author: Byron Marks teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced guitar lessons in Manchester, NH