Cover Photo by Alireza Attari on Unsplash
Music brings people together and makes them feel. Makes them feel happy. Makes them feel sad. Makes them feel hopeful, fearful, or bold. Music makes you think. Think about life. Think about love. Think about issues; about people; about your soul. And sometimes music just makes you want to cut loose and crank it up to 11, in a Spinal Tap kind of way.
Music attracts; repels; repulses; entices; vilifies; makes beautiful; or reveals ugliness. The power of music cannot be underestimated. To be part of something so visceral and so real, as one who brings it into the world, is a tremendous feeling and hugely important responsibility.
Whatever you listen to, whether it’s rap, funk, hip hop, pop, sappy love songs, country, old school disco, rock, classic rock, grunge (some of us still like it), indie, metal (and all its sub genres), country, new country, country & western, jazz, acid jazz, blues, punk, or classical, it doesn’t matter. As a former guitar teacher once told the class,
“… it’s all just music.”
The important thing is that you listen to and play what inspires you to grow, learn, and improve. Even if classical music isn’t your thing, learning a few classical pieces will certainly do that. And who knows? After you start learning some, maybe you’ll learn to appreciate and even like some classical music.
Establishing a regular guitar practice routine will be one of the most important aspects of your development as a guitar player. Part of that practice should involve doing finger exercises. There are many to choose from but the most important thing to remember is that they should maximize the development of your dexterity – not just of your fingers but of your hands and arms as well. Playing guitar really is a whole body experience, more so than many people realize. The finger exercises I like the most are from one of my favourite instructional books, Shredding Guitar Workout, Heavy Metal Meets the Thinking Shredder’s Technical Practice, by German Schauss, Alfred Music, 2015, ISBN-10: 1-4706-1518-5, book and DVD. The instructional exercises in this book are fantastic (and really difficult) as well.
Pay attention to your posture also. Maintaining a proper posture, practicing proper ergonomics, and maintaining a relaxed guitar holding technique will prevent repetitive stress injuries and keep you form tiring too quickly, both of which are important to prolong your guitar playing enjoyment, now and in the future. The most important thing to remember, is to keep practicing on a regular basis. A little every day is better than trying to cram in two hours of practice on Saturday afternoon and neglect your playing all week long.
When you schedule your practice sessions, try to break them down into sections to better manage your practice time. For example, what I typically do is run through my finger exercises as a form of warm-up, for about 10 minutes. After that, I will practice scales and arpeggios, as well as exercises from the Shredding Workout book I mentioned earlier. Then I will play some chords and a few song passages to loosen up more. Maybe just throw some chords together and make up a few impromptu tunes and riffs. Finally, I round off with either doing some heavy studying or working on new songs. It doesn’t always have to be the same routine either. Change things up from one practice to another, just to keep things interesting. The fingering exercises may seem like the drills section of a sports practice but just as in sports, the drills are critical to making your playing more effortless. They are the necessary steps that need to be climbed before the fun part of your practice begins.
Be a student of the guitar and continuously strive to study new aspects of your instrument. There are thousands of avenues of study, from local brick and mortar music schools, private instructors, hundreds of instructional books, YouTube videos, instructional websites, right up to the websites of music stores, such as Long & McQuade. I am on the Long & McQuade mailing list and I receive a wealth of info from their emails and print mailings, which are always worth reading. Soak up as much of the vast amount of musical and guitar-specific knowledge that surrounds you as you can. Even the most famous musicians will say that they are continuously learning new techniques.
As I mentioned in previous articles, keeping time is one of the most essential skills you will need to keep working on, to make you a better musician. That is why practicing with a metronome or drum machine is so critical when running through scales, practicing songs, or just throwing chords together. One fun exercise I do from time to time is just play a 12-bar blues or rock & roll shuffle to the tempo of my metronome, non stop for about 15 minutes, I just switch patterns of 12 bar and even switch keys but the essential part is playing to the steady tempo of the metronome. It’s a marvelous way to develop good timing.
Practice is self-perpetuating. The more you practice, the better you get. And the better you get, the more you will want to practice so that you can advance even further.
Above all, you want to avoid making practice a form of drudgery. I find it fun and a great escape from the day’s troubles. It’s a chance for me to connect with some of my favourite musicians through their recordings. I’ve set up my own little home studio for practice and recording, as have most of my musician friends. It’s a fantastic pass time. If you’re starting out, you don’t need to spend too much money but setting up a dedicated practice space (even if it’s tiny) will encourage you to practice on a more regular basis.
A regular practice routine is a sure-fire way to steady improvement over time. A slow and steady pace wins the race.
To read another article of mine about developing as a guitar player, please click here:
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