Playing music has got to be one of the greatest joys in life. Listening to music is one thing but then being a musician and actually learning and playing music brings endless joy for a lifetime. For me playing guitar is my vice. As a teacher I’ve been asked what the best advice I can give to a player is, and truth be told there isn’t just one absolute piece of advice I could give. Instead here are 10.
1) Using a metronome or drum machine-a guitar player that cannot play to a click or a drummer won’t last a day in the music world. It is imperative as a musician that you practice playing to a click. Whether you’re playing a chord progression or practicing scales dust off that metronome and use it!
2) Practice slow and clean-Guitar players are notorious for trying to play faster than they actually can. So SLOW DOWN. This means when learning a new piece of music (a song, scales, or a solo) play it very slowly concentrating on technique and playing it correctly. When you can play it perfectly at a slow tempo, you can start to speed it up. Using a metronome will help. Practicing this way will help you play better but also learn new material faster.
3) Ear training-Once you have a good grasp of basic guitar playing, it’s a good idea to start trying to learn songs by ear. Learning this way will develop your ear to a point where you will be able to recognize chord progressions from something you hear on the radio and automatically already know how to play it on guitar. This might seem intimidating at first, but just like with playing guitar it takes practice. Now don’t go on trying to learn “Stairway to Heaven” right away, start small and work your way up. Learn some Bob Dylan or some songs by the Beatles.
4) Play with other musicians-playing with other musicians whether it be a drummer, bass player, piano party, or other guitar player is both fun and educational. It forces you to play in time with each other and puts to work the stuff you’ve been learning.
5) Learn different styles-what I mean by this is try and learn new/different styles of playing on top of the things you are trying to learn. Learn a reggae tune, or a blues song you can jam on. Maybe even learn a jazz song. Stepping out of your comfort zone, though challenging will make you a better musician in the long run.
6) Learn the notes on the fretboard-learning the notes on the fretboard will help you recognize scales and chords a whole lot better. It’s good to know where the different roots of chords and scales are that way you aren’t confined to just one spot of the neck.
7) Learn the whole song-when learning a song learn the whole thing. Aside from the structure of the song (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) learn the names of the chords you are playing, the key of the song, what scales are being used. This will help you memorize the song much better and improve over musicianship not to mention, get you into the head of the writer and will hopefully inspire you to write your own tune.
8) Practice-this goes without saying but some people underestimate the power of practice. Sometimes life gets in the way and we can’t practice as much as we want. While this may be the case for some people, it is possible to get in a good practice session in small increments of time. Try setting aside maybe three 10min. practice sessions throughout the day. First 10 mins focus on a certain technique. Other 10 practice parts of a song, last 10 mins is just for noodling fun.
9) Music theory-yes it may be boring learning this stuff or may seem pointless, but learning even just a little bit of music theory can go a long way. It helps you understand what you are doing on the guitar and ultimately leans to wanting to learn more theory which in turn makes you a better musician.
10) Write a song/ start a band-Writing music is very helpful to the learning process. Even if you know only 3 chords, it’s possible to write a hit song, look at Greenday. Writing a song makes you use the stuff you’ve learned and really makes you know it. When you finally start or join a band, that’s where stuff really gets fun and puts your skills to the test.
These are just some of the concepts that I think are important for any aspiring musician to know. Of course there are plenty of other tips and tricks to learn as you go but these are a great place to start.