There’s a lot that goes into learning an instrument, especially if you’re new to that instrument or just plain new to playing music altogether. After the first rush of excitement that comes with picking up an instrument for yourself, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and even sink into a kind of remorse or despair. Learning the guitar can be a fairly challenging instrument: the six strings don’t naturally fit well with our five fingers, and memorization and fine motor skills will need to be developed if you want to get to a place where you are truly comfortable with the instrument. Instead of giving in to this fear and anxiety, we’ve organized a list of six top tips to help you learn how to practice the guitar. Read on to see how you can make the most of your time with this classic instrument!
Tip 1: Organize a consistent time for you to practice
Learning a new instrument takes time and dedication, and all too often our lives feel busy and even downright unmanageable when it comes to organizing our time. The key trick with learning any instrument isn’t to simply replace one obligation with another – putting off something important will inevitably lead to you breaking any kind of practice schedule. Instead, look to find spare time around existing obligations. It’s better to have an enjoyable ten minutes playing the guitar (a realistic goal) than try to find a day when you can fit in two whole hours (not so practical).
For that matter, practice is better when it is consistent. Finding fifteen minutes each day, even if it’s just before bed after brushing your teeth, will make for better progress than doing two to three hours once a week. If your practice involves playing with an orchestra or in a band, make sure those meet-ups are consistent and focused with your time spent.
Tip 2: Set Goals that inspire you to succeed
Probably one of the most difficult aspects to figure out with playing the guitar is the ‘why’ of it. Why you want to learn the guitar for most of us boils down to ‘it sounds cool’. If that’s your goal, fantastic! But practice means setting specific goals so you can have a benchmark for success and give yourself a sense of accomplishment with your learning.
Goals can be anything from learning specific chords to playing the solo to a song you love, to being broader like ‘perform in a live show’. Set yourself a strong goal to work towards, then smaller goals along the way. If mastering the entirety of Ride the Lightning is your goal, then set smaller goals like mastering the first side and then the second, then break it down to individual songs like For Whom the Bell Tolls, before breaking it down to individual segments of that song. By breaking your larger goal down into smaller ‘chunks, you can have a better idea of what you need to be practicing, instead of aimlessly playing.
Tip 3: Create an environment for practice that suits you
Many of us find that creativity strikes at odd times and places, but it never hurts to set yourself a dedicated space to play the guitar. When practicing, it’s important that not only are you playing at a time and place when your distractions are at a minimum (streaming reruns of your favorite sitcom is a no-no) and your mental energy is on the music in front of you. Finding the quietest part of your home, or the one that most relaxes you is a first. Give yourself something comfortable to sit on that has room for the guitar and your arms comfortably. If you’re using sheet music, prep your music stand and music in front of you where you can easily play and read, and for electric guitar players, grab that amp and aux cord.
Tip 4: Practice at Your Own Pace
Progress doesn’t come from setting unreasonable or unfulfilling goals, but from reaching that success through dedication. If your only goal for a practice session is to ace a single chord, then do it! Slower progress is infinitely more rewarding and more achievable than attempting something out of reach of your current skillset. Take it slow with your practice, as once you become more comfortable with smaller ‘chunks’ like hitting the right chord or learning a scale, you’ll be more comfortable with putting them all together. The old expression holds true – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your inner rock star is going to need your help, one practice session at a time, to see the light of day!
Tip 5: Monitor your Progress!
It may seem unnecessary or tedious, but finding the right way to monitor and record your progress is ‘instrumental’ (bad pun, sorry) to your practice and overall improvement. Record your sessions with a video or an audio tape, or simply write down your session notes on a sticky note and pop them on a calendar. You should ideally keep track of what your main goal is, what smaller goals you achieved or made progress towards in that session, and what the next thing to work on is.
Plus, you can use this as a chance to make more personal notes, such as identifying which sections of a song are hardest or easiest for you to play, or whether your particular time to practice the guitar is working out for you. Maybe 6 pm for half an hour isn’t feasible if you have to cook dinner for your family by 7. Maybe you only feel a desire to play the guitar right when you wake up in the morning, so you should get up an extra fifteen minutes earlier in your day to make sure you’re playing when you are at your most comfortable.
Tip 6: Practice playing music that you enjoy!
The biggest difference between someone who enjoys playing the guitar and someone who does not is all in the kind of music they play. It also stands that the difference between a productive, enjoyable practice session and a frustrated, unhelpful one is in playing the kind of music that YOU want to play!
At the end of the day, practicing the guitar should be fun – and your goals should be enjoyable too. If you’re a Metallica fan, pick an album to master, or a handful of your favorite songs of theirs, and make those your goal to learn. Whatever your preferences in musical genre, it is almost assured that you will be able to find the sheet music or chord progression for that kind of music. Playing music you aren’t passionate about is only going to hinder your progress and your ability to retain the skills you develop while playing. There’s not enough time in the world for you to spend it playing music you don’t enjoy, no matter what anyone else says.
The guitar is a wonderful instrument that’s beloved by the world over. If you follow the above tips, you’ll find your practice sessions with the guitar to not only be more creative and productive but more fun for you as well! If you’re looking to purchase only top-quality instruments at an affordable price, head on over to ashthorpe.com to browse our wide selection of instruments today.