Golden rules for guitarists
1: Play slowly:
We live in a fast society, where everything is hurried. When people begin to play guitar, that momentum is translated into their playing, they play too fast. When practicing play really slowly. It will seem slow, but probably won’t be as slow as you think. Then you can begin to understand what’s happening when you play, and more importantly, where you make mistakes. When everything is fast and compressed, it’s hard to focus on areas to improve on. Playing to a metronome or CD / backing track will really help, but even just remembering to play slow will help.
2: Play pieces from beginning to end
Many people find that when they pick up the guitar they play bits and pieces that they like the most. The problem is that no new ground is covered. Playing a whole song beginning to end invites you to open up new ground. Knowing what chords make up a song is not the same as being able to play it. Something which has been generalized as ‘simple’ won’t be when you actually learn it.
3: Learn something so that you can play it by memory.
Try not to rely solely on tab or chord sheets. When you learn something ‘by heart’ you begin to know it intimately, and can communicate more when you play it.
4: Mistakes are normal.
If your approach to playing is right or wrong, black or white, your body will tense up with the expectation to perform. Only when you let go and say ‘mistakes are normal’ will you truly relax and, ironically, make less mistakes.
5: Don’t stop playing if you make a mistake.
If you stop whenever you make a mistake and then stop and begin again, you reinforcing the idea that mistakes are a problem to your unconscious mind, and will lead to more mistakes. If you carry on playing, you’re sending a message to yourself that mistakes are ok. Begin a habit of running the music in you head like a CD if you make a mistake, then just come in when you’re ready.
6: Think about dynamics.
Most songs are pretty simple; a few chords and a strum pattern. What brings the song alive is dynamics. Consider how loud you play; is it always the same volume? Do you strum fast or slow? Experiment with dynamics in your playing. Begin by playing a verse quietly and then the chorus louder.
7: Begin simple, then elaborate.
Learn simple chord structures of songs first, then add complexity. By breaking things down it’s easier to learn, and you won’t feel overwhelmed. Begin with just two bars of a song, and play them in a loop. Then play the next two bars in a loop. Then loop the first four bars together. With ‘micro learning’ you will see faster progress, than taking on a song in a ‘whole bite’.
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