Playing guitar and making music with other musicians can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. And nothing compares to the satisfaction you get when you can take what you hear in your head and reproduce every detail on your guitar. Whether you're goal is to write your own original songs or jam some of your favorite songs with a few friends, it is important to never lose sight of who you are and what you are trying to accomplish as a musician. Here are a few tips for finding your voice as a guitarist and keeping a creative flow in your playing.
1. Trust your instincts
If a particular passage of music is typically played played with a clean sound and no vibrato, but you absolutely love to play it with distortion and crazy amounts of vibrato, then by all means do just that. Every time you play your guitar you should be making a statement and communicating to your audience (whether it be a few close friends or 30,000 strangers crammed into an arena) who you are as a guitarist. As long as you play your guitar like it sounds in your head, you will be emotionally invested in what you are playing and people will notice.
2. Don't be afraid to try something new
Sometimes you get the feeling that you're stuck in a rut. This could be with a particular song, or with your general approach to playing the guitar. When this happens, it is important to forge ahead with an open mind and begin to experiment. Try playing that new verse riff you've been working on with some chorus and delay. Maybe add a touch of reverb and some overdrive, or whatever you can think of that gets you one step closer to the sound you are hearing in your head.
3. Phrasing is king
How you play something is more important than what you play. Music as an art form allows you to express a variety of feelings and paint a picture through sound. Just like you can say the same sentence ten different ways and express ten different emotions, you can play the same 3 note phrase on your guitar ten different ways and express a different emotion for each. If you aren't quite happy with the way a certain song or passage sounds when you play it, think of all of the different elements that you can tweak to get it to sound exactly the way you want it. These can be subtle differences such as a faster vibrato on a specific note, or using a hammer-on instead of a slide. They can also consist of more noticeable changes such as increasing the tempo, or changing the key of the song. Once again, don't be afraid to try something new. Remember, "its all in your head," and you have to use any means necessary to bring it into reality.
As always, feel free to comment or email me directly if you have any questions or concerns about improving your guitar playing.
Have fun playing what you know! The most important thing for a beginner guitarist is to have fun playing the guitar. If you get caught up in the overwhelming thought pattern of worrying about everything you don't know and haven't learned yet, you are setting yourself up for failure. Beginner guitarists need to simplify their guitar playing and become familiar with what it feels like to make music. After all, making music is the name of the game and believe me, it can be a very rewarding experience. And the best part is, you don't really have to understand music to be creative with it. Just follow the golden rule...if it sounds good, it is good.
I have helped many beginner guitarists get started playing the guitar, and over the years I have found that the best thing for beginners is to just play music. Early in my teaching career, I would often try to teach too much theory and technical jargon to beginning students. I bet you can guess what happened next. Most often they would become overwhelmed with thinking that the guitar is just too hard for them or they just don't have the natural talent to play the guitar, and they would quit playing all together.
In the years since, I have learned that beginner guitarists just need to play things they can have fun with right away (be it their favorite songs, a popular riff, or an easy solo) so that they can immediately become familiar with the rewarding side of playing the guitar and most importantly have fun with it.
Feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions about getting started playing the guitar. I'd be happy to share a few tips and point you in the right direction.
How many times have you tried to learn to play the guitar, only to quit just a few weeks or months later? I'm willing to bet that for most of you, your answer would be more than once. This is a very common story for most beginners, but you can break the cycle by being aware of certain roadblocks that will end up sending your guitar back to the closet for another 6 months. Here is a list of common pitfalls and some words of wisdom followed by the ultimate secret to guitar motivation.
Life Happens - Learning to play the guitar requires a consistent time commitment. The busier life gets, the more you have to prioritize your time, and the guitar slowly slips down toward the bottom of the list.
Words of Wisdom: Yes, playing the guitar does require a consistent time commitment. However, the key word here is "consistent." You can still make progress on the guitar while practicing as little as 10 minutes a day 3 to 5 times a week. So when you find yourself in a pinch for time, all you need to do is reduce the length of your practice sessions, not the number of sessions. Consistent and dedicated practice is the fastest way to improving, which brings us to our next pitfall.
Creatures of Habit - I'm sure you've heard the saying, "human beings are creatures of habit," and there is no arguing with it here. In order to truly learn something, you have to make it a part of your regular routine.
Words of Wisdom: I've heard several numbers as to how long it takes for something to become habit; 21 days, one month, two months, etc. I believe that this is different for everyone, so to be on the safe side we'll go with 90 days. If you can break the 90 day hump, you'll have a much greater chance of sticking with it. Next time you decide to pick up the guitar again, give yourself a fighting chance and get over the hump.
Fear of What You Don't Know - As a guitar teacher, I'm very familiar with beginner (even intermediate and advanced) students becoming far too overwhelmed with all of the things that they don't know. This mindset can be extremely detrimental to your motivation and will exponentially increase your frustrations with each practice session.
Words of Wisdom: When you notice this thought creeping in, you must ignore it and remove it from your mind immediately. Learn to focus on the things that you do know, and do them well. There is no shortcut to learning guitar and everyone's path is different. Over time, as your personal style and tastes develop, you will surely learn everything you need to accomplish your goals as a guitarist.
The Ultimate Secret To Guitar Motivation:
Play What You Love
Sounds simple, right? The truth is that a lot of guitarists do not take the time to really think about what their goals are, what inspires them, and ultimately, what kind of guitarist they want to become. "Play What You Love." Keep this thought in the forefront of everything you do as a guitarist and it will do the following for you:
Many beginners need help defining their goals and identifying their true passions as a guitar player. I will sit down with you for free to discuss what motivates you and outline a personalized guitar lesson strategy. Contact me through email or fill out the Free Trial Contact Form to schedule a time.
I know, the mere mention of a metronome will put many guitarists to sleep but this is one area you simply can't afford to neglect. The metronome can be a powerful tool in helping you develop your skills and plays a crucial role in your progress from day one. Let's look at a few scenarios...
Scenario #1: Tracking speed progress
This is probably the most common use and is most likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think of practicing with a metronome. You would choose a riff or exercise to work on, start slow, and then gradually increase your speed on the metronome. The key here is to have patience and be honest with yourself so you do not increase the speed before you are ready. You should only increase the speed when the excerpt you are working on begins to feel effortless. And remember to always record your progress in a notebook of some sort.
Scenario #2: Developing a good sense of rhythm
This one may be fairly obvious as well, but good rhythm is probably the most important asset for any musician, especially if you want to play with other musicians. The metronome is invaluable for developing flawless rhythm. One of the best routines you can do for this is to play familiar music at different tempos. First choose a song, riff, or whatever that is familiar to you and that you can play fairly easily. Play through at the intended tempo, and then bump up the tempo 10 clicks each time you play through it until you are struggling to play it. Once it is out of your range of speed, go back to the original tempo and this time move the metronome down 10 clicks each time you play through it. You'll be amazed at how difficult it is to play something accurately at super slow speeds.
Scenario #3: Subdividing the beat
Subdividing the beat can be fairly difficult to comprehend for some, so I will do my best to simplify it as much as possible. Start with your metronome at 60 beats per minute. Each beat will represent a quarter note. In order to subdivide the beat, we have to divide the value of one beat into two equal beats which means the tempo will feel twice as fast. In reality the tempo is not what has changed. We have simply moved from playing quarter notes to eighth notes. What I recommend here is to play quarter notes at a medium paced speed, 80bpm for example, and practice subdividing the beat in two ways. First, practice getting a feel for moving from quarter notes to eighth notes. You can always check your accuracy by doubling the speed of the metronome (quarter notes at 80bpm becomes eighth notes at 160bpm). Second, practice going from quarter notes to half notes. Play one note for every two beats of the metronome. This will make you feel like you are playing at half speed. Once you get a feel for the basics you can move into sixteenth notes, triplets and beyond. Being able to subdivide the beat is crucial for counting and playing more complex rhythms.
Scenario #4: Learning music by ear
Incorporating a regular and consistent metronome routine into your guitar practice not only develops your chops, but it also develops your ear. Hearing and matching pitch is only half the battle. Once you master the metronome, you will be able to hear and repeat a rhythm with greater ease and accuracy. And just like everything else, the more time you put in, the greater the reward. In this case, being able to hear a song and play it back after hearing it only once.
As a guitar player, or any type of musician for that matter, you need to set both long term and short term goals for yourself. Setting goals gives you something to work toward, and more importantly helps you better understand yourself as a guitar player and a musician. Being aware of your views and interests as a guitar player gives you a clear insight on what goals are in your best interest and prevents you from practicing and learning material that may not be relevant to you. In order to set positive, relevant, and motivating goals for yourself, you need to ask the right questions and be completely honest with your answers. After all, you will surely know if you are lying to yourself.
7 questions to ask yourself when setting goals...
1. What inspired me to even pick up a guitar in the first place?
2. Do I ever want to perform in front of an audience or just play for my own enjoyment?
3. What genres of music do I enjoy?
4. Is playing fast important to me?
5. Do I want to write my own music?
6. How much time am I able to invest in practicing?
7. Do I want to become a professional musician?
If you are a beginner, it can be extremely difficult to answer some of these or to even know where to begin setting goals for yourself. In this case, it is always a good idea to seek the advice of a qualified and professional teacher to put you on the right path and outline your goals as a guitar player. Get expert guitar lesson advice for free in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Click here to fill out the Free Trial Contact Form and sit down with a trained professional to outline a personalized guitar lesson strategy.