How to get better at guitar – The one thing I changed!

I am sure that if you are reading this you are searching for that elusive answer to the big question all guitarists ask.  I am sure you know the question?  That’s right – how to get better at guitar.

That is the question I have asked myself over the far too many years that I have been playing guitar.  You see, this amazing instrument that consumes us all is a difficult beast!  A beautiful and rewarding beast yes, but a difficult beast nonetheless.  Just when you think you are making a break through; you genuinely believe are mastering the six strings, it slaps you back in your place.  Perhaps that is the reason we love the guitar so much.  There is always room to get better.  But the question still remains – how to get better at guitar.

The answer to how to get better at guitar is quite simple – Practice, practice and more practice!

I am truly sorry if you thought that there was something more profound than that.  But practice is the only way that any of us will ever get better at guitar.

Now, the last time I wrote about this topic I got a flood of comments.  The comments were mainly along the lines of – “duh that is stating the blooming obvious!”

Actually I have sanitised the language.  The word “blooming” was never used but some other more colourful words were!  The trouble is there is practice and there is practice.  Trust me when I say that not all practice is the same.  Unfortunately the people who were ridiculing the article missed the salient points of the statement I was trying to make about practice.

When I said practice I meant structured and productive practice.  I didn’t mean what a lot of us do, and try to pass it off as practice.  Let me illustrate what I mean from my own playing experience.  I’ll even throw in a little analogy to help.

For years I picked up bits and pieces of information – a bit like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.  A YouTube video on the pentatonic scale or a book on basic chords.  I would jump in and try and perfect that particular skill, be it a particular scale or chord.  I got good at that particular thing but my playing never progressed.  What I was doing was gathering up a whole load of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.  The trouble was that I wasn’t actually putting the jigsaw puzzle together!

Putting the jigsaw puzzle together.

You see the trouble I was having was that, by taking a very un-structured approach, I was not getting the full picture.  I knew how to play some chords but I didn’t know how to connect them together to play a song.  I was pretty fluent on the pentatonic scale but I didn’t know how to solo over a chord sequence.

Back to my jigsaw puzzle analogy – I had all the pieces I just hadn’t put them together to complete the puzzle.

That is why structured practice is so important.

Be honest with yourself, how much of your time, that you spend playing the guitar, is productive?  If I was honest with myself up until a few months ago 90% of the time I spent on my guitar was non-productive.  My practice sessions would involve me just mindlessly strumming not really knowing what I was doing.  I would then put the guitar down, a little frustrated, because I was bored.  I was playing the same thing over and over.  Even my kids would say “oh not that again, Dad change the tune”!

My approach was not constructive and was actually destructive.  I was not progressing which was actually frustrating me.  The more frustrated I got the less inclined I was to pick up the guitar.  Something had to change and fortunately for my guitar playing it did.  And, you guessed it the one thing I changed was the way that I practised on the guitar.  I moved my practise from being unstructured to structured.

For me the structure came from signing up for a Truefire course.  If you want my opinion on Truefire you can find it out by clicking the link below.

Truefire – is it any good?

But for you it might be something different.  It might be that you get your structure from a book course.  Perhaps you take some lessons with a guitar tutor.  Whatever the structure might be, whatever the form it comes in you need to get it.

That is how to get better at guitar!

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