8 Things That Will Improve Your Guitar Playing

Updated on October 18, 2016
beagrie profile image

John is a fervent writer, avid gamer, and guitar lover. He earns his sandwiches fixing automatic transmissions.

Source

Any guitarist who takes their craft seriously—be they complete beginners, masters of their craft, or anything in between—wants to be better at it. Ultimately you will never be a better guitar player without the desire and drive to become one; there are no quick fixes here.

What you can do is make efficient use of your practice time. You’re going to be working hard to become a technically proficient guitarist regardless of your methods, but with clever use of your time you can see more improvement out of 15 minutes a day of carefully thought out practice than hours a day of aimless noodling.

Our 8 Things in Brief
Dedicated Practice Time
Perfect Something
Learn Something New
Practice Scales
Practice Chord Changes
Use a Metronome
Try Different Guitars
Play Guitar Every Day

1. Dedicate Your Time

Don't just practice, practice hard!

Guitar Tip

Have an old cheap guitar you can leave lying around the house and can pick up at a moment's notice. It's much easier to play every day when there's no fuss involved.

When trying to improve your guitar playing, it is essential that you dedicate some time to practising; truly dedicate. It’s not enough to simply pick up a guitar and pluck away, perhaps playing along with a song or idly strumming out random tunes while you watch television; you need to focus on your playing.

The key here is that if you can play a particular song or a certain scale with such ease that you can do it casually and without really thinking about it, that's great, but once you’ve reached that point you’re no longer getting anything out of doing it. It's like exercising; if you're not struggling, there's no benefit.

Try to regularly set aside a little time to just focus on your guitar playing, even if it’s only ten minutes every other day. If you can comfortably play a particular scale, focus on playing it faster, or more accurately, or try a different scale. Just make sure the guitar has 100% of your attention for the duration of your practice session.

It's like exercising. If you're not struggling, there's no benefit.

2. Master Something

Don't just learn it, perfect it.

There's always a reason to practice...
There's always a reason to practice... | Source

Though you shouldn’t spend all of your guitar practice trying to do one particular thing to perfection at the expense of all other areas, it’s good on occasion, to get laser focused and really nail something.

It could be a tricky solo, a new scale, a difficult chord progression, a style of picking, or anything that you’re not already a able to do with practised ease. Really pay attention to your technique and accuracy when trying to master something on your guitar. And don’t feel like you have to be completely satisfied with your ability to play the thing you’re trying to master before you can do anything else. It’s fine to take a break from time to time to practice other things and come back to it later.

3. Keep It Fresh

Stuck in a rut? Get a new rut!

What's Your Favourite Thing to Practice

See results

While attempting to master something on your guitar can be a great exercise in focus and accuracy, you should always be open to trying something different. If you’re playing a lot of the same few songs, add some new songs to your list. If you know a lot songs but they’re all from the same genre, try something from a different genre.

As with the previous point, you should be looking for something that is a little outside of your comfort zone. There’s no point talking a break from playing complicated arpeggio folk songs to try a few power chord driven punk numbers that will take you all of two minutes to master.

Don’t be afraid to do the bare minimum when learning something new. If you find something you like then by all means, focus on it, master it if you wish, but generally speaking the important thing is to try new things, get competent at them, and move on. There’s no sense in slaving away trying to perfect a song you’re never going to play again once you've nailed it.

4. Scale It Up

Scales might not be your thing, but do them anyway.

It’s easy for some musicians—especially rhythm guitarists—to dismiss scales as something that is only really necessary for lead guitar players who will spend half their time “shredding” in the middle of the stage. The truth is, for those kinds of guitarists, scales are essential, but for everyone else they still carry huge benefits.

For one thing practising scales will improve the dexterity of your fretting hand, allowing for a greater range of chords. It also can’t be underestimated just how much more enjoyable playing guitar is when you're so technically proficient that you feel like you can’t miss a note, and having an agile, strong fretting hand will give you the confidence to feel that way.

If it helps, don’t think of it as practising scales, think of it as taking your fingers to the gym.

Practising scales like C Major (pictured) can improve finger dexterity and accuracy.
Practising scales like C Major (pictured) can improve finger dexterity and accuracy. | Source

5. Practice Your Chord Changes

Because nobody like an errant A in their Em.

Specifically while strumming, that is. Obviously, being able to comfortably change chords is a must for any competent guitar player, but the timing aspect of chord changes is often misunderstood. More often than not, when a guitarist struggles to make a smooth chord change, they assume their fretting hand is the problem when it's actually the strumming hand's doing. Learning to coordinate your strumming hand with your chord changes is one of the single hardest things to master for those to whom it does not come naturally, and it can make a huge difference to your playing.

Of course, this is assuming the chord change itself is technically sound. No amount of perfect timing on the strumming side will cover a chord change that takes a full bar to complete and hits three wrong notes on the way. Be sure to try many chord combinations, and don’t pay any attention to how melodic your playing sounds during this exercise; it's not about ear-pleasing chord progressions at this point.

And if you get to a point where you can smoothly move between all the chords you know without issue, add some more chords to your arsenal. There are always more chords.

There's more to playing chords than getting your fingers in the right place.
There's more to playing chords than getting your fingers in the right place. | Source

6. Keep Time

Train your body to be an atomic clock of guitar playing godliness.

This can’t be stated enough, but always use a metronome, click track, drum beat, or backing track when you’re practising. Whether you’re doing scales, playing a song, or just jamming away, have a beat to keep time to. The more you practice to a timed beat, the more accurate your internal rhythm will be. With enough practice you may find that you can keep an accurate tempo without a beat at all, but at the very least you need to able to consistently keep in time if you ever hope to record music or play with other musicians.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go out and buy a metronome to keep yourself in check. If you’re playing along with a song you already have your beat, otherwise you can easily find click tracks on places like YouTube and in most audio programs. A good number of practice amps also have built in metronomes, not to mention countless free apps that can be downloaded to your phone.

7. Switch It Up

Don't get too used to your trusty old axe; you may have to play somebody else's.

Guitar Tip

If you plan to perform at all, practice standing up. Unless you expect to be sitting down when you perform, you may as well get used to playing your instrument the way you'll be playing it on stage.

Obviously not everybody has the option to play a multitude of different guitars at any given time, but if you’re lucky enough to have access to more than one, be sure to alternate when you practice so that you don’t develop any playing habits specific to one unique instrument's quirks. It’s worth having a particularly cheap guitar for this purpose alone. When you practice obsessively on the same instrument, you may find that you reach God-like levels of ability with your instrument, but struggle somewhat when you pick up somebody else’s.

Now, obviously we’re getting into true guitar mastery here. As a general rule, if you can play one guitar you can play them all. But if you aim to be a total master of your craft, you may find yourself reaching the stage where the margin for error is so fine that switching from a guitar with low action to one with high action is just enough to throw you off if you've never used a guitar like that before. The same can be said for picking up a budget guitar after practising six hours a day on an exquisitely made 1950s instrument of wonder.

This goes for the circumstances in which you practice, too. If you only ever practice holding your guitar in the classical position, don’t expect to just step on stage with your axe hanging down by your waist and be able to play with the same level of awesome you did at home!

Practicing with different guitars will keep you from developing habits specific to one instrument.
Practicing with different guitars will keep you from developing habits specific to one instrument. | Source

8. Play Every Day

EVERY day. No excuses.

Seriously. Even if you only get five minutes, pick up your guitar every day and keep those fingers nimble. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing guitar, shooting a round of golf, or single-handedly taking down a squadron of Internet n00bs in your favourite multiplayer shooter, it’s all about muscle memory.

Our brains are remarkable organs that can handle a lot of information, but they don’t work like computers. Professional tennis players don’t calculate angles and velocities consciously when they hit a ball, they just know from years and years of hitting tennis balls how it will react if they hit in a particular way. Guitar is the same. If you’re having to consciously think about your playing, there’s room for improvement.

Playing regularly will not only develop “muscle memory” as it pertains to chord shapes and hand placement, it will keep that memory honed. Once you can shape a chord without consciously thinking about where to put your fingers, you’re well on your way to becoming a technically sound guitarist.

But above all, enjoy yourself.

Know your guitars? Why not take our short quiz.

view quiz statistics

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 John Bullock

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • UmairGhufran profile image

        Muhammad Umair Ghufran 

        2 years ago from Sargodha,Pakistan

        Hi Mate , that's guide interesting and sound Goods let me do it

        thanks for sharing with us

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, spinditty.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://spinditty.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)