Guitar Practice Techniques
By Jerry Lunsford
Have you spent months and months or possibly years practicing the guitar only to realize that you're barely any better now then when you first started? After all of your practice time do you have at least one song that you can play all the way through fairly well? Or do you have a collection of songs none of which you can play very well other than bits and pieces of it? If so, this can be remedied if you have a desire to succeed.
The inability to play even the simplest of songs scales or licks can be summed up in three things:
Not understanding how the brain learns something new
Improper practice techniques
Lack of concentration
Lets take the first one. Not understanding how the brain learns something new. Whenever we begin to learn something new our brain develops a pathway for that new information. The more you reinforce that new thing the more ingrain that pathway becomes, to the point that whatever we learn becomes second nature to us. Early in our lives we learned to walk. Since then we have done it so much that we long ago stopped thinking of how to do it. In other words we just do it.
But lets say we want to alter the way we walk. In other words instead of walking left foot right foot, left foot right foot, and so on, we want to walk two lefts then one right then two rights and then one step back with the left foot and so on an so forth. It should be easy, right! Besides we have been walking for twenty or thirty years it should be a piece of cake. But it's not because we're asking our mind to do something we have been doing most of our life in a different manner. So we have to go at it in basically the same manner as when we were learning to walk. By making mistakes, trial and error.
Learning to play the guitar is the same way. Most of us can move our fingers (of our fretting hand) in all sort of ways. We can move them fast or slow. Two or three at a time or each one individually. So why can we not just grab a guitar and go to town with it? Because we are requiring them to move in a prescribed manner rather then in a series of random movements. Therefore we must start the learning process once again. Which leads me to our second point. Improper practice techniques.
Improper practice techniques are the second thing that cause a person not to progress with their guitar playing. What is the proper technique? The first is to start very slow. The second is go slower than you can stand. The third is to go so slow people watching think you have fallen asleep. Why? Because to many people practice faster then their mind can record it. Let me say that again. Many people practice faster then their mind can record what they are doing. You must first put in your brain a perfect pathway for the thousands of repetitions you will be performing for just one movement.
Let me give you just one example. Put your first finger on the first string eighth fret. We will perform a very simple movement. Your third finger which should be dangling in the air will come down on the first string tenth fret. Easy right? But I am willing to bet that many don't do it perfectly. That's the key to playing like a pro. To not only look relaxed while you're doing it but making it sound perfect. That's where slow comes in. You must play a guitar like your reading a book. And how do people who read well read. A person who reads well looks at the word ahead of the one they are reading. This allows for you to read smoothly (without breaks between words) and fluently (smoothly at the desired speed.).
You must do the same with the guitar. While your first finger is on the first string at the eighth fret you pick the string. At the same time you pick the string your eyes are already looking at the tenth fret preparing the way for your third finger. At that moment you are training your mind in what it should do. Instead of your fingers flailing about with no reason, you're instructing your mind what to tell your fingers what they should do. And however and whatever you tell your mind what you want it to do, it will do it. And once it is in your mind, then with much practice it will become second nature. If you practice with a perfect style you will play perfectly. If you practice in a sloppy manner you will play sloppy. This leads me to my last point. Lack of concentration.
If you do not concentrate while you are practicing you will not be laying a pathway in your mind. Lack of concentration will cause your progress to be slow. What will greatly increase your abilities almost overnight is a metronome. This beeping wonder will do this. You will be forced to listen to the beep which will force you to think about where your finger is going. Hence, it helps with your concentration. I always start at 60. At 60 you have a lot of time between beeps to know ahead of time where your next note is, what finger you will use, and the shortest path there.
My best advice would be to fill your practice session with scales in the type of music you will most likely be playing. Start out at 60 and even if you can go faster resist the urge to do this. Force yourself to go the slow speed. Continue at this speed until the sound of each note is perfect. The movement of your hand glides smoothly over the fretboard. And your arms, hand and body are all relaxed.
If you follow the advice in this article you will in just a very short time notice a considerable difference in your playing. Remember. Play slow. Know what your next note is before you play it. Use a metronome. And above all relax and concentrate.
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