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.
Ear training is the act of developing your musical ear in order to be able to quickly interpret what you hear in your head and what you hear in the world. Likewise, ear training will also help you to quickly figure out how to play your favorite songs and will greatly increase your overall musicianship. The following is intended to help you develop your ears and work toward the ultimate goal of mastering your guitar playing.
1. Learn to sing what you play.
You may have heard the old saying "if you can sing it, you can play it." This is absolutely true. Being able to sing what you play reinforces the connection between your brain and your fingers and leads to more accurate guitar playing and faster interpretation of musical passages.
2. Play by ear.
This is an obvious one, but a very important one. Be sure to spend some time each day learning riffs, solos, or songs by ear. Sometimes I like to sit with my guitar while watching TV and try to learn the music I hear during the commercials. It can get pretty challenging!
3. Learn the vocal melodies of your favorite songs.
This is a great ear training exercise and not only develops your musical ear, but can lead to interesting licks and phrasing that you can add to your guitar playing repertoire.
4. Quickfire note identification.
Start by singing a random note. Then try to find that note as quickly as possible on your guitar in as many different octaves as your instrument allows. The idea is to be able to instantly play a pitch as soon as it enters your mind.
5. Learn to identify musical intervals by sound.
This one is a bit more academic, but comes in handy as you increase your knowledge of music theory. For example, being able to hear the difference between a major and a minor 3rd will give you the ability to distinguish between major and minor chords.
These are just a few of the many ways you can develop your musical ear. Remember, a good ear is your best asset as a guitar player. Have fun with it and try to come up with other ways you can work on your ear training.
When learning scales on the guitar, it is important to understand the concept of whole steps and half steps. These are the fundamentals of scale construction and they are absolutely crucial for building scales across the entire fretboard. Master these 2 basic concepts and you'll discover a whole new world of freedom when it comes to executing your scales.
First of all, a basic explanation of half/whole steps. These fall into the category of musical intervals, which are simply a measurement of distance between 2 pitches. Half steps (the smallest interval) equal the distance of one fret on the guitar. For example, when you play the 5th fret of the first string and then play the 6th fret of the first string, you have played a half step. If a half step is one fret, then a whole step must be 2 frets since 2 halves make a whole. In the previous example if you played the 5th fret to the 7th fret, you would have played a whole step. A scale is simply a preset pattern of half steps and whole steps. Below I have laid out the whole step/half step patterns for a major and a minor scale. The numbers represent the scale degree (or note), a "w" represents a whole step, and an "h" represents a half step. "8" is the octave which is the same note as "1", just an octave higher. I recommend working through this concept on a single string for a while, at least until you have mastered the major scale.
Major: 1 - w - 2 - w - 3 - h - 4 - w - 5 - w - 6 - w - 7 - h - 8 (1)
Minor: 1 - w - 2 - h - 3 - w - 4 - w - 5 - h - 6 - w - 7 - w - 8 (1)
Once you have mastered the single string concept, it is time to begin to learn what these intervals look like when you change strings. This can be difficult and frustrating at first but it is well worth the trouble. Begin with only one string change per scale and gradually work in more changes. Play the scale on a single string first, then use your ear to match the pitch where the string change occurs. The most important idea is to memorize what each interval looks like when changing strings and to develop a strong sense of muscle memory for each. This concept takes a lot longer to master but it will ultimately give you the ability to construct your own scale patterns on the fly rather than relying on memorizing dozens of predetermined scale patterns. Hint: the intervals will look different when changing between the 3rd and 2nd strings due to the standard tuning of the guitar.
The single most important element of playing the guitar can be summed up in just one word - synchronization. Synchronization deals with training both hands to work together in perfect harmony. The picking hand must strike the string at the exact time that the fretting hand fingers a note. Strike the string too early and the note is muted or muffled sounding. Strike the string too late and you end up with separated notes which will make it impossible to achieve a smooth, uninterrupted musical passage. Achieving perfect synchronization with both hands will lead to much more clean, efficient and seemingly effortless playing, especially when your goal is speed.
When practicing synchronization of the hands, it is important to remember to begin with a slow tempo and to use a metronome. I know not everyone enjoys practicing with a metronome, but it really is the most efficient way to practice the technical aspects of music. You'll want to use guitar exercises that are very easy and effortless for you to play. This will allow your attention to be focused on whether or not your hands are in sync rather than worrying about playing the exercise correctly. As you play through your exercise of choice, pay close attention to the sound of the notes you are playing. Listen for muted notes or unintentional rests between the notes as this will be an indication that your hands are out of sync. Once you can play the exercise cleanly and smoothly, you should begin to increase the tempo of the metronome. Ultimately the goal should be the ability to play clean passages at any tempo. The real challenge of synchronization, as with many other guitar techniques, will be to play clean sounding notes at blazing fast tempos. Remember to pay close attention to the sound of each and every note you play and set reasonable goals for your skill level. As your synchronization improves, you will be amazed at how much less effort you have to put into those difficult and fast passages.
Absolutely! As a guitarist, learning music theory will help all aspects of your playing; from creating exercises, to playing covers, to expanding creativity. Believe it or not, I have had guitar players tell me that they refuse to learn theory because it hinders their natural creativity. I suppose I can understand this logic. There is a certain creative advantage to just sitting down with your guitar and playing without thinking. But what happens after you come up with a cool riff or song idea. Chances are you involve yourself in a grueling trial and error approach to expanding on that riff or idea. This approach often leads to extreme frustration, not to mention it is horribly time consuming. This is where learning music theory becomes a huge advantage!
Just because you know some music theory doesn't mean you have to use it for everything you do. You can still sit down and play creatively without thinking about what you are doing. But armed with a bit of theory knowledge, you can now more easily expand upon that cool riff and turn it into an entire song. I often use this approach in my own song writing. I will sit down and mindlessly start cranking out riffs and lead lines until I find something that sounds cool. Then I will take the time to analyze what is going on musically: the key, the chords, the scales, etc. Once I have a general idea of what is going on, I can then use that knowledge to quickly expand upon the idea and come up with a vast quantity of usable material in half the time.
Another huge advantage to learning theory that should be obvious to all of you lead guitarists out there, is knowing how to intelligently construct a guitar solo. Sure, you can learn a few scale patterns and try to move them around the neck until you think you found what key the song is in, but that is very time consuming and often leads to dull and boring guitar solos. Not to mention you'd be completely lost and unprepared if the song changes key or uses a secondary chord function. Knowing theory allows you to thoroughly analyze what is going on with the chord progression you are soloing over and make deliberate and intelligent choices that will completely dictate the emotion of the song during your solo.
But what if you are just learning guitar to have fun playing cover songs? Music theory still provides a great advantage in this situation as well. Ask any seasoned guitar player that knows a little theory and they'll all tell you the same thing; having the ability to analyze a song musically will enable you to learn songs quicker, and greatly increase the efficiency of memorizing the song. It also allows you to have a bit of creative freedom with your interpretation of the songs you choose to play.
So if you still think music theory hinders creativity, I challenge you to research some of your favorite guitar players and try to find out their take on learning music theory. I can guarantee that the vast majority of professional guitarists know at least some theory and this is how they are able to develop their unique sounds and playing styles.
I am often asked by my students how long, and how often they should practice their guitar. The truth is that practice time will vary greatly among guitar students. Beginners will require more time to learn and interpret new information than intermediate players. Intermediate players will be able to physically play for longer periods of time without fatigue than beginners will be able to. And more often than not, life gets in the way and practice time gets cut short or all together skipped over.
Regardless of your level of guitar playing, their is one aspect of practice that remains constant...the length of your practice sessions is not nearly as important as the frequency of your practice sessions. Simply put, just 20 minutes of practice done every day can be more beneficial than 2 hours of practice done 3 times per week. The key lies in being able to positively identify your strengths and weaknesses. Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can use that information to set unique goals for each practice session. By narrowing down your practice session to 1 or 2 goals, you can actually be more productive in less time. You can use this strategy to create weekly or monthly cycles of practice sessions. Rather than trying to fit everything into one practice session everyday, spread everything out into shorter practice sessions throughout the week or even the month.
Finally, a word on how to handle your individual practice sessions. I like to divide my practice time into 3 categories; Warm-up, Needs Improvement, and Playing For Enjoyment. Since the length of practice session varies among guitar players, I advise my students to break the 3 categories into percentages. Your warm-up routine should be roughly 10% of your practice time, things that need improving should be roughly 50% of your practice time, and save the remaining 40% for enjoyment (after all, what is the point of all that practice if you can't enjoy playing guitar). Surely each category can be defined in many different ways depending on your specific goals for playing the guitar, but follow this general idea and your practice time productivity is sure to skyrocket.