How to practice the electric guitar
Every guitarist eventually runs into the proverbial wall. The callous on our fingers has stopped building. You’ve practiced that Jimmy Page solo a hundred times, but still, there are no females lining up at your door to hear you jam out everyday. Never fear, friends. Consider yourselves my Hercules…and I’m Phil…that weird goat thing that whips you into shape.
Sometimes we get caught up in the daily playing routine, and don’t feel like we’re making much progress. This is okay, and is only a sign that you’re getting comfortable with your playing. Not a negative or a positive, but growth can only happen when we push ourselves into breaking our habits. So lets get started and take a look at how to practice the guitar effectively, and get the most out of your playing time.
Wanna get faster?
Every guitar player’s dream is to get faster and smoother, with every note being so sharp and precise you would make Eddie Van Halen proud. Well I can guarantee if you are currently trying to play above your normal playing speed you need to practice right or you wont get any faster. What’s the solution on how to practice the guitar to get faster?
In fact play as slowly as possible. This will force your brain to think about every tiny step down to the millimeter. The problem when trying to practice the guitar is we get caught up in wanting to learn new skills too quickly. But when we do this, we miss out on most of the smaller nuances that really reinforce these action in our brains. Remember that all the mistakes you make on the first go around of practice are now engrained, and you spend each consecutive practice trying to reverse those wrong fingerings and missed picks. So take a chill pill and take it slow on the first go. Remember that this is how every great player get fast.
Once you get the hang of a song, try playing it above tempo if it still feels un playable. When you get back down to normal speed it will feel much easier, but don’t play too fast for too long – usually just once will do.
How to Practice Guitar Chords
It’s good to have a versatile set of chord voicing up your sleeve. Hitting your basic C-Chord gets boring after a while. Try playing it somewhere else on the neck to give it different characteristics, and add to your unique style. Take time to learn where the different placement of the voicings are so you can jump to them at your leisure.
When learning new chords, just like anything else, take it slow. Pick two or three new chord shapes, and practice transitioning between them with some other chords you already know. When you do this in practice, focus on creating the shape. Don’t worry about strumming. Just move your hand back and forth between the shapes.
Press down hard. A great technique that I use is to press down harder than necessary on the chord shape. This really reinforces the muscle memory. When you land on the shape really dig your fingers in there. Just imagine you’re Andre the Giant: Crusher of the tiny ants. Practice should be fun after all.
Here’s more tips on practicing chords if you’re feeling overwhelmed by that chart over there.
Stubborn pinky finger. One last quick tip on chords. I’ve found that the pinky is usually the trouble maker. So start with the pinky (when forming a new chord) and the other fingers will follow suite. If you can nail that pinky every time, the rest will be a piece of cake.
How to Practice Picking
Getting you’re right hand and your left hand to sync up is no walk in the park. This is one area where I definitely recommend a metronome for practice. Just google “metronome” and you’ll find one that’s free and easy.Set the metronome for a pace that you feel comfortable with. Then practice your downward stroke for 3 minutes. Really concentrate on syncing up with the rhythm. You should feel a little tired afterwards, but not dying or anything.
After that, practice your alternate picking – up & down strokes. I’ve found that most people are a little weak on the upstroke and really forceful on the down. Make sure you’re applying smooth consistent pressure on both upward and downward strokes.
When holding the pick, your grip should be just tight enough that you can’t pull it away with your other hand. This allows for greater flexibility in sound. If the grip is too strong then all the notes will sound a little sour, and forced. So, loosen that grip, Hercules.
How to Practice Scales
(This requires good scale knowledge, but is designed for fun.)
Scales can be done with a metronome at first if you want to warm up your hands. But, I find that gets way too boring way too fast. So after you warm up, try this activity to increase your scale awareness all around the fretboard – not just in one “box”
Play the notes up and down, but force yourself to jump around. Make stretches with your hand you wouldn’t make by just going up the scale notes in order. It doesn’t have to sound like music or anything. The important thing is that you don’t stay in one “box” or section of the scale.
You’ve seen those shredders just fly around the fretboard, and here you are playing boxy type leads. This will definitely break you out of that habit as you focus more on moving up and down the neck. If you find there’s an area of the neck you tend to avoid because you don’t have that part memorized yet, go play it in!
Like I said it doesn’t have to sound like music, but you’d be surprised how all of a sudden you get sucked into a really sick jam based off some random hook you made while playing around. Don’t be afraid if you gravitate towards something. Just keep the fingers moving during this exercise constantly and you’ll feel a good stretch.
What have we learned
If you remember anything from this article, remember this: practice slow and precise. If you think something will be difficult for you, just take your time and make sure your hitting notes properly and fully. I guarantee that if you take time to practice right you will see yourself improving much quicker than before. Take a few minutes to do the picking exercise every day to make sure your right hand is nice and tight with the rhythm
An old band director of mine said “If you sound good when you’re practicing, you’re not practicing”
It’s important to push yourself into trying new things, that’s how you progress as an artist.
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