Tips for Guitar Playing
Practice how you play
When you practice guitar chords, scales, songs, etc., make sure that you focus on quality and not quantity. The guitar sounds a lot better if all the notes in a chord ring or you hit every note in that scale with perfect timing instead of rushing through a scale or playing a chord and having some notes be muffled. Just remember to focus on playing things slow and with good technique (This is Key!). Learn whatever you are trying to learn slow and then increase the speed little by little until you get where you want to be. That’s how you guitarists learn to shred or solo extremely fast. They start playing a scale or riff slow and then gradually speed it up with a metronome.
Keep your guitar out of the closet or storage
This is probably one of the biggest mistakes that a person learning guitar could make. KEEP YOUR GUITAR OUT IN THE OPEN!!! Keep it next to your bed or in your family room on a stand or anywhere where it is out of the closet or out from under the bed. If it’s out in the open, this will force you to play it and force you to mess around and practice.
Memorize the fret board of the guitar
Memorizing the fret board of the guitar can turn out to be an interesting task. There are little tips and tricks that allow you to find notes really fast. The reason why all guitarist who would like to get good should memorize the fret board is because it allows you to play create chords in different shapes, find notes in different areas of the neck and allows the guitarist to familiarize and open up to playing in different parts of the neck. Memorization of the fret board is also very beneficial in soloing and improvising.
Jam with other people with different styles and techniques
You will not believe how much your guitar playing will improve when you jam with other people. If you ever feel like you are reaching a “plateau” (you feel like you’re not getting any better) in your playing, jamming with other people will definitely open you up to new tips and tricks. There’s always something to learn from someone else that plays guitar no matter how good or bad they are. Also, everyone’s individual style is different and the more open minded you are to other styles, the better player you will become.
Listen to new types music and try to play it
I know it’s hard, just force yourself to do it. When all else fails go back to the basics of music. A great way to do this is to listen to some classical music for inspiration. Elton John is an amazing musician and he says whenever he reaches a dull moment or block in his playing, he refers back to church hymns that he learned when he was younger.
Read guitar magazines
Guitar magazines have allot of cool stuff, but they also have allot of filler. The one thing I hate about guitar magazines is that they are extremely complex (not for beginners). The articles, stories and advice are cool but some of the lessons are intense! The advanced guitar lingo having to do with intervals of certain modes and technical guitar talk gets to me sometimes. It’s nice to know that stuff but ehhhhhhh….. It can be boring.
Buy concert DVD’s
If you’ve never seen any ACDC music video or concert DVD…. then we definitely need to talk. Angus Young is an amazing guitarist and It’s just amazing to see that this scrawny little Australian guy can play like he does and with such attitude and soul. Seeing that guy rip up the fret board definitely shows us that anyone can play guitar… all it takes is practice, discipline, motivation and commitment. Concert DVD’s are great because they show you up close and in really good quality what exactly a guitarist is playing, unlike music videos where bands just dance around and they add in the music later. Concert DVD’s are filled with raw footage of guitar playing at its best.
Always use a guitar strap
This is another biggie. When first learning how to play guitar, I never wore my guitar strap. I ended up paying for it later and basically having to relearn guitar standing up instead of sitting down. If you always play with your guitar strap on, there will be no difference to you while playing either sitting or standing. Playing with your guitar strap will also allow you to get to the “show-off” level so you can impress all your friends earlier.
A lot of people who use guitar straps find that they fall off very easy or tend to drop the guitar. There are many different types of locking mechanisms out there (I currently have two guitars that use the DiMarzio locking mechanism and it works very well)). Go to your local guitar shop and check all of them out and see which one fits you best.
Play with passion (slash)
Have you ever heard a guitar player who is a great player, but you feel that there is something missing…… THERE’S NO SOUL!!! Soul is the emotion, the love, the purpose behind guitar playing. Listen to that same talented yet boring guitar player and then compare him to Gun’s and Roses guitarist or Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash. Every solo that Slash plays has so much soul, so much emotion, and so much purpose. What I want you to do is Google “Slash – Godfather theme video” or get on Napster, iTunes, kazaa, etc. and download it. This video is nuts!! Slash plays with such a great amount of solo that it’s amazing. I really don’t know how to explain exactly how to add soul into your playing, however I will tell you that you will understand if you choose to stick with guitar and stay committed to the instrument. It’s basically playing to express yourself and not to just play because you have to or don’t want to but feel you should.
Watch the clips of legendary guitar scenes or solos
Here’s some instant inspiration…. Go to yahoo or Google and click on the “video” tab above the search bar and type in anything having to do with guitar solos. You will find some amazing solos along with amazing guitar tricks. One really cool guitar clip I remember is of this Asian guy playing the super Mario brothers theme for Nintendo. That guy can play that song like you wouldn’t believe. There’s so much inspiring guitar playing footage out there. It’s everywhere and anywhere you look, especially online. Also, checkout the movie with Ralph Maccio from the 1980’s called “Crossroads”… there’s some amazing guitar playing in it.
Try tabbing out songs by ear
This is extremely helpful. Tabbing songs by ear develops your musical ear very quickly. Choose one of your favorite songs and sit next to your cd player with a guitar and a piece of paper and try to figure out the chords in the song first, and then try to figure out the riffs within the chords. Once you find out the overall “key” of the song it’s easy to figure out all the riffs and chords.
Read biographies of guitarists you appreciate
Some musicians out there have led incredible lives. The majority of them come from nothing and in the end, become legendary guitar gods. Look at Johnny Cash; he was a rural country boy that grew up almost penniless and turned into an amazing musician through inspiration and practice. There are so many interesting stories behind bands and musicians. Here’s some that I find interesting (off the top of my head): The Beach Boys, Def Leppard, Metallica, Van Halen, The Beatles and Thin Lizzy. Do some research online and try to mirror yourself with these artists. It will give you a whole new thought process to playing their songs and guitar in general.
“Copy” riffs and ideas from other guitarists
I know it sounds bad but every great guitarist does it. Clapton copied the “crossroad blues” from Robert Johnson and the Beatles used some of Elvis’ ideas and expanded upon them. Every musical generation copies ideas, riffs, chord progressions from the generation before and when it comes to music… its ok. I find this to help guitar players progress a lot, especially if you reach a plateau. One of the biggest things that helped me expand as a guitarist is to learn all my favorite solos by my favorite artists. Once I had learned them, I would play the same solo over different progressions in the same key and then play the same solos in different keys all around the neck and in different scale positions. Once I did this, I had “unlocked” all of the licks in the solo and I’m now able to use them in whatever I play. Just like how in video games you unlock new characters, levels and secrets throughout the game… you do the same in music. From there you can constantly expand upon your lick directory.
Play in front of others, Guitar Motivation
This is one of the hardest parts about performing music. Playing in front of others is something that just takes time. Remember to relax and don’t think about everyone watching you. Just focus on you and the instrument. The more you play in front of others, the better you will get. Everyone’s first time playing in front of others can be pretty gut wrenching. Just remember that it gets easier every time and that you’ll get through it just fine. What you can also do is videotape yourself playing and then put it on the internet. Lots of people including myself put videos on Youtube.com or other online video sites and its up to the viewers to judge. Some people will rip your playing apart but most will applaud you for trying and really like it. The way I look at it… “Led Zeppelin didn’t write songs that everyone liked… they left that to the Bee Gees” – Wayne Campbell (Wayne’s World)
“What if I mess up”? Who cares?! In music, everyone messes up while playing music. When big bands record in studios they spend days, sometimes even weeks recording tracks so that they turn out absolutely perfect. What really creative people do when they mess up is to elaborate on the mess up. If you hit a wrong note, maybe trying hitting the note again within the rhythm of the song and maybe it will sound good.
The Internet and Youtube are valuable tools…
Eric Clapton learned guitar by listening to old Robert Johnson, BB King and many other great blues records on a turntable and then trying to mimick the same sounds on guitar. Eddie Van Halen would be in his room with his door closed for days just messing around with different sounds that a guitar can make just by moving his fingers around in different shapes and seeing what they sound like. Alex Van Halen (Eddies brother and drummer for Van Halen) would go on dates and leave the house listening to Eddie whale away at 5:00pm and then come home to Eddie still whaling away at 2:00am. These artists didn’t have the internet! They had a cassette player or record player and plenty of time on their hands. We’re incredibly lucky today to have such great resources like youtube.com and the internet in general. You can find lessons, people covering songs, tips and tricks and just about anything that you need to get off on the right foot when it comes to playing guitar. The great thing about Youtube guitar videos is that “they get to the point”. No hype. Each lesson is usually under 5 minutes and they give you great info very fast, because who wants to watch a 30 minute video. Guitarists attention spans as a rule aren’t that long, I know mine isn’t. And Finally, you have the internet. The internet has absolutely everything you could ever possibly need, lessons, information, ultimate-guitar.com (for tabs), etc. The possibilities are endless. The point is that learning guitar today is and should be way easier than learning guitar in the past due to the great resources we have.
You can learn any riff from any song no matter how crazy or how fast…. just slow it down
Any riff is learnable, you just have to slow it down to a pace that you feel comfortable with, learn it, and then gradually speed it up. There are numerous programs out there that allow you to do this. One very popular one is called Transcribe. You can import any .mp3 file and then control the speed of the song. Practice the riff over and over and gradually raise the speed. If you can’t play the at a given speed, then slow it down 1%, if you can play it and feel comfortable with how you played it, raise it by 2%. Doing this will allow you to master any riff, any song, anything!
Try learning the difficult songs or riffs that you’ve always wanted to learn, no matter what level you are at and no matter how hard the song is…
This is what makes guitar fun, seeing your improvement (ie. Quick Results). I remember trying to play songs that were at my level when I first started playing guitar. Stuff like : The Animals – House of the Rising Son, and Don Mclean – American Pie. I could play them ok, but they weren’t really songs that I had started playing guitar for. I wanted to play Metallica’s fade to black and Eric Clapton’s Crossroads. I put the other two songs aside and started working on the new ones that had inspired me to play guitar. I had spent weeks and months on them even though they were outside my playing level. I was determined to learn them. I kind of wanted to be one of those guys that can’t play anything else, just cover songs note for note. If I couldn’t play any other song aside from the super hard ones note for note, I’d be happy. So I spent so much time learning these songs, and I could play them…. ok… not great…. However, when I went back to playing House of the Rising Sun and American Pie, I could play them 100 times better. I played them like a pro. Its kind of like…. as long as you challenge yourself, you’ll get better. You play with musicians that are better than you… you’ll get better. You lift more and more weight than your used to… you get stronger.
A great musician once said…..
A great musician once said that as soon as guitar becomes a chore and isn’t fun, that’s the moment that you should put your guitar down. Come back to it later. Now this doesn’t mean that when your first learning guitar and you get frustrated, you should put it down and forget it. Sorry, this rule only applies to guitar players who are advanced or who have been playing for a while. It slow and is frustrating for everyone at first so you have to stick with it. The overall point is, guitar playing should be fun. Don’t turn it into a chore or a task.