Most guitarists struggle to figure out what exactly it should be practicing when they sit down with their guitar. So they turn to finger exercises, try to do new and impressive things on the guitar, or if they get frustrated enough, just hammer out a bunch of the same songs that they’ve been playing time and time again.
That’s not really practicing the guitar.
The reason you practice your guitar is to get better, not to stay stuck in the same rut of guitar playing that you’ve been in for days months or maybe even years.
So what should you practice when you sit down with your guitar?
Find the last thing you tried to play that messed you up
Is there a song that you can play almost flawlessly but at a certain point just kind of trips you up? Or have you been working on a certain skill or technique, and haven’t quite gotten it right, even after hours and days of practice?
Let’s take a look at these one at a time and see what we can do about turning these frustrations into victories.
Pizza and Guitar Basics
I like pizza and yes it’s related to what we’re talking about here. Ok I love pizza, there I said it. What happens when the guy behind the counter is working on a great pizza? Does he slap the lump of dough onto the counter top and then throw a bunch of ingredients on top for flavor?
No he doesn’t. Because he knows that if he wants people to come back the flavor has to be consistent, the texture HAS to be consistent. And the only way to get consistent flavor is if the flavor is spread evenly across the top of the whole pie.
So what does the pizza man or woman do? They use the roller on that pizza dough over and over and over and over and over and over again until its flat.
Then they might toss it up on their knuckles to make sure that it’s totally even, because they know that then, and only then, will they have the ability to make the great, consistent pie their paying customers came to find.
Okay I will admit that just made me a little hungry but let’s get back to the point.
We see tons of guitarists will work on their technical skills, but never really get great at them – because their foundation, their dough, is uneven, unbalanced and totally inconsistent.
That makes all the ‘flavor’ they throw on top sound random, forced and harsh on the ears.
Get the basics of the song first. The rhythm. Start with just tapping on the strings to get used to the beat.
Make sure that strumming the chords matches the rhythm exactly. They should match so well that they blend into the beats and might even get a little mind numbing overtime.
Once you’ve worked that out, then you can start adding even more ‘flavor’ by strumming twice per beat or more.
Improvisation and lead
Improvisation will only work well if you have a solid foundation of what the beat with rhythm pattern actually is. okay that’s how to get through a song and make it perfect the basic idea.
So what if you have all of that down and complete most of the song but there’s just one piece that is frustrating the daylights out of you? let’s go back to the analogy of the pizza man.
Figure out exactly where you’re messing up, back up to where you know you’re doing great, right before the point where you mess up.
Now slowly move in and out of the area you are getting right, and move into the area where you’re not getting it right.
Keep going through this section of the song like the pizza man does with the pizza dough until you are playing smoothly and consistently.
Then keep working through the rest of the song and repeat the process every time you get to a hiccup in your playing, just like you would do with that dough.
Do these things faithfully and I guarantee that you’ll get the hang of that song in a way you never thought possible. you may even be able to start improvising above and beyond what is called for that song because that song just became amazingly easy for you.
That is what you should be practicing on the guitar.
So you can see now that most finger exercises and the bad habit of defaulting back to songs you already know and are comfortable with can actually hinder or halt your ability to get better at playing the guitar.
So the next time you sit down to practice your guitar, just remember the pizza man and you’ll do just fine!
Master Your Guitar Music Academy
P.S. – For more great tips like these, check out the Free Resources section above, or join one of our guitar training programs to get massively better at your guitar and get even more great advice in person! Call (973)245-1941 today!