Quick Tip – Staring at your fretboard

One thing almost every guitarist does at some point in their career is become attached to staring at their fretboard while they play. This is bad stage presence, but it is easy to fix. Sometimes, especially when playing something hard, it is necessary to look, but do not make it a habit. Here is a quick tip to fix your habit of staring at your fretboard.

TIP – Go into a dark room, the darker the better. You should not be able to see anything. This may work best at night in a dark room, or a room without windows. You could even consider putting a bandana over your eyes. Whatever you do, make vision impossible.

Once you have limited your vision start practicing guitar. Practice things you already know. Practice playing scales and chords without vision. You may find that you keep hitting wrong notes, but that is alright. Listen to what you play, if it sounds wrong, keep trying. Eventually you will become comfortable with the feeling and you will be able to perform these tasks without looking at the guitar. This may take some time, but keep being persistent.

Once you are able to play without looking at the guitar, it boils down to noticing when you start to stare. Keep an eye out on your behavior once you start playing. When you recognize yourself looking when you do not need to, stop it. After awhile it will become normal and subconscious.

Good luck, and sign up for the mailing list to get more lessons.

The secret to getting good at guitar

Everyone will agree that there is no substitute for practicing. You may have heard about the 10 thousand hour rule to becoming an expert at something, but don’t let this scare you. This lesson will teach you the trick to getting better at guitar fast. We are not breaking any laws of science or anything; we are simply using a little to gain a lot. So let’s jump in and learn the secret to getting better at guitar.

 

The secret: Don’t freak out on me. It’s not magic. Learn to do one thing very well… Yep, that’s it. Are you disappointed?  Don’t be.

 

Most people when they practice guitar, they work out of a book, practicing strumming chords to songs they like, learning new chords, learning to play melodies etc. Try breaking this down and work on just learning new chords. Instead of jumping in and learning all 7 modes at one time, try to learn just 1 and use it the best you can.

 

Focusing on one idea at a time is going to take you much farther than over whelming yourself. So keep it real and keep it focused.

The Pareto Principle and Music Practice

Today’s topic is working on what really matters.  Not every practice routine is created equal, nor is every exercise created equal. Some things are created for specialization, or detailed work. Not all causes have an equal effect. In this article I want to discuss the Pareto principle and give you some examples of how it benefits your musical practice.

The Pareto Principle states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This means that for every 10 things that could possibly make you better, 2 of them will cover 80% of your growth. This is very good news. If we focus on the important stuff we will gain much greater improvement in a shorter time frame.  I will give you an example of how the Pareto Principle works.

Consider baking a cake. It starts with mixing all the ingredients together and putting it in the oven. Once it is done cooking, icing is added all over the cake. the baker decides to decorate the cake with a guitar on top, getting every detail the guitar has. Once it is all done, what part took the most time? The details that went into making the icing look good, right? That did not make the cake much bigger though.  80% of the cake was finished with 20% of the time it took to finish the cake. There are many more examples in our world of how the Pareto Principle works.

My point is that you can get a large bulk of the information and skill you need to play music well with less work. If you focus on the important stuff, then it will be easy to gain success. If you start working on the decorative icing without the cake being baked first, you may not see any improvement at all. Making wise choices in the practice room can make great improvement in your skill.

The Pareto Principle is a valuable tool that reminds us to focus on what is important. If you are doing something and don’t see improvement then you may want to consider if it is really part of that 20% that makes the 80%. Time is limited and if you use it wisely you will get more from what time you spend than if you didn’t use it the best way. Best luck and have fun finding that 20%.

The Pareto Principle is like baking a cake with a guitar on it.

The Pareto Principle is like baking a cake with a guitar on it.

 

Discover why it is so important to tune your guitar before you practice.

Beginning guitarists tend to not tune their guitars every time they practice guitar. They assume that it is still in tune or they just don’t feel like bothering with it. However this can diminish your progress as a guitarist. By playing a guitar that is out of tune, you are teaching your ear to hear the wrong thing. You will also make the guitar more enjoyable if you keep it in tune. If you want to get the full benefit out of your guitar practice session then you might want to consider tuning your guitar more often.

Tuning your guitar before your practice is important because at this stage of your learning, you are creating connections between your different senses. Your ears, fingers, and eyes are all learning the guitar. If you get use to the guitar sounding out of tune, then you will take longer to overcome that. It is like creating a bad habit, except it is a habit you cannot control with your brain. Your ears will know that interval or note or chord to sound different from it is supposed to. To prevent this, you should tune your guitar so you can properly let your ears adjust to the proper sound.

A well tuned guitar is going to sound better and be more enjoyable to play. When you have fun playing the guitar you will like spending time with it. If you play with an out of tune guitar you are stripping some of the joy that might come with practicing. Who wants to learning to play on a guitar that is out of tune? When you have fun practicing your guitar, you will fall in love with the instrument. When you fall in love with the instrument you will greatly improve your skill. So make learning guitar more fun by having an in tune guitar.

There are many reasons to tune your guitar while you are practicing guitar. You want to train your ear to hear the correct sound. Your senses are learning from the very beginning. Not only are you learning the guitar, but every moment with the guitar should be something you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy guitar, then learn to do something else. Falling in love with guitar is one of the greatest things someone could experience, and tuning your guitar can assist the process of falling in love with it.

Using mental imagery to help you practice guitar efficiently

Mental imagery is a powerful tool which can be used to help you practice guitar. Some people claim that it is about the same benefit as actual practice, some say it is better. I am not claiming that it is a magic pill, but it is a tool you can use to add to your practice routine. You can use this while you are sitting at work unable to touch a guitar, while you are lying in bed, or just to give your hands a rest during practice. So how do you do visualization?

First I recommend being in a quiet room. Turning out the lights or putting something over your eyes may help. If you’ve never used visualization before you may want to first start simple and work your way up. Close your eyes for 10 – 30 seconds, and then try to visualize something simple like a banana. If you have used mental imagery before you can skip this part. Just get comfortable looking at the banana. Enlarge it, and spin it around. You can do anything you want with this image. Once you are comfortable with that, try to visualize a guitar. Mess around with the picture of the guitar as well. Enlarging it and moving it around.

Next is when the learning begins. This is a very personal experience so you can do what feels best to you. You can visualize the guitar neck from the front of the top, however you feel best. Once you do this try to visualize the scale or chord you are working on. If you want to see yourself playing it, that is fine, or if you want to watch someone else play it doesn’t matter. Spend about 10 minutes with your eyes closed concentrated the whole time on that 1 thing. It can be kind of fun too. Try adding this to your practice routine, it’s not a magic pill, but it can help.

This can also be a valuable tool for other things in life other than making music. Stage fright or if you are scared about an interview coming up, whatever your fears may be this can settle your nerves. Let’s use stages fright for example, you are freaking out because there are 10 people watching you play marry had a little lamb. How can you prevent this? It is easy. You spend a little time visualizing yourself actually performing it before you do it. Studies show that people who visualize have the same effect as actually doing it. So if you visualize yourself being a success, then you will be more confident the next time.

This is another handy tool to use in your practice and preparation. It is not a magic pill, but it is something that is easily used in times when you cannot use your guitar. Mental imagery can be used to settle your stage fright or anything other fears, because it is the same as actually doing it. Take this knowledge and use it to the best benefit you can find.

How to use a metronome to get the most out of guitar practice

Metronomes are a useful tool when you practice guitar. They can be used to measure progress on a certain piece of music, they can help your technique, and most of all they help you play in time. This tool will help make the long journey to learning guitar easier.  Metronomes can also be a fun and challenging tool. The first step to using a metronome is having one at your disposal. There is a metronome on GitGuitar. Click on the word Metronome to be directed to the page. There are many other places you can get a metronome from, but there are 2 easy places to get them. First you can search a search engine for an online metronome. This is the cheapest and most reliable because it won’t break. The second option is to go to a music store and buy a metronome.

You may be asking when you should use a metronome. The answer is almost anywhere. I suggest that when you practice guitar scales you play them with a metronome. This will measure your progress in speed. You don’t want to try to play fast, but you will notice that you can play guitar scales faster and easier as you gradually push up the tempo. Another example of when you should use a metronome is when you practice an etude.  This is to make sure you are playing everything in time. You can also use a metronome when you are learning a new song. There are so many places to use a metronome and I am sure you will find many uses for a metronome during your guitar practice.

How do you use a metronome while you practice guitar? The simplest way is to have the metronome click on all the beats. For this post I will assume the music is in 4/4 time. So you will have the metronome click 4 times per measure. If you want to make it more challenging you can start eliminating some beats. You can play with the click on beats 2 and 4, or 1 and 3. Another way to have fun with the metronome is to put the click on beat 1 only. This is challenging because you have to stay in perfect time while you count 2 3 4 in your head. Once you are comfortable with the click on only beat 1, try putting the click on only beat 2, then beat 3, then beat 4. These exercises are fun and challenging.

As you can see, a metronome is a useful tool to aid your learning. It can also be fun and can keep you on your toes if you like a challenge. For such a cheap tool (or free if you use it online) there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to get some benefit from the metronome.  Whether you use it for 5 minutes a day, or 30 minutes a day, you will get the benefit from it. Best wishes with you and your new Best friend, the metronome.

How to practice guitar Scales

Everyone says practice makes perfect, but believe it or not some practice habits are better than others. If you are going to put time and effort into something wouldn’t you want maximum use out of it? I am going to share some of my experiences with you that have helped me achieve the best results when I practice guitar scales. I will also discuss how you can start applying these principles to your practice.

My first recommendation is to prepare. If you sit down without knowing what you want to practice you are wasting time. When you finally decide you will practice example number 5 out of book blah you then have to find it and set it up. Yeah those 30 seconds adds up over 50 years. Save time by preparing for your practice.  I suggest that you put together a playlist of songs you want to transcribe and put them on a CD. This way you have around 12 songs that you want to transcribe on 1 CD. There is no need to switch CDs every time you want to hear a different song.

My second Recommendation is to stay focused. I use to have a problem with getting off track and I would start doodling around. I have found that when I start jamming out I end up wasting time that I would have use for something more productive. Getting sidetracked also causes you to lose concentration.

My third Recommendation is to spend the time to master it. Steve Vai claims he would spend an hour doing one thing such as vibrato for an hour. He claims that when you do it for an hour concentrating deeply on that 1 technique you will find new ways to approach it. I am not saying that you need to do this, but spend time with stuff you learn. Something I do when I play an Etude is I require myself to play a section perfectly 20 times before I move on to a new section.

My Fourth Recommendation is to repeat what you learn every day. Say you learn a new scale. I suggest you review it every day. Review it over and over. The longer period of time you review it every day the stronger memory it will be. Of course, you will be constantly learning new ideas so you don’t need to review it forever. You can choose a week or 2 to review it every day. This can a valuable tool to use with scales, songs, chords or anything new to you. Keep reviewing it.

My Fifth recommendation for enhancing your practice is to take breaks. There are researchers out there that claim you don’t retain nearly as much information after a certain period of time. This time period varies depending on the researcher, but it is good to remember. What I suggest is separating your practice into sections. Spend a little time practicing your scales then take a break, come back and practice your etude, take a break then come back and transcribe.

My last piece of advice is to enjoy what you are practicing. Even if you don’t really enjoy it, pretend you do. People learn something that they like much easier than they learn something they dislike. If music is not fun, then make it fun. This is the best way to maximize your practice time.

How to do you apply all of these tips? Well I would pick one of them and apply it. Once you feel comfortable with your change then add a new change. Remember, not everyone is exactly the same. We are all different and we will find different things work for different people. Take this advice; make it your own knowledge.