It is completely normal to think that you need to learn new things when you feel your guitar playing is stale. Is this the best way to improve your playing though? The answer might surprise you because it defies conventional wisdom
This article is going to give you a better and more long lasting solution. What is great about this solution is that you won’t need to learn anything new. You are going to use the skills and knowledge that you already have. Sounds weird right? I’ll explain what I mean.
Most of the time you look for new things to play because you are hoping that it will improve your playing. Sounds like a good idea on the surface but dig deeper and you will see that you are making things harder, not easier. The worst thing about this is that you are going to add to your level of frustration later on. You may even decide that you don’t “have it” and stop playing completely.
Why Trying To Always Learn New Things Won’t Work:
As I said before, trying to learn new things sounds like a good idea on the surface. The problem is that you will not be much (or in most cases, any) better off than you were when you started your search. You have also wasted valuable time that you could have used to improve your guitar playing.
I know this from experience because I waster years doing this myself. I understand how frustrating it is and want to help you avoid that same mistake.
If you have already done this, or started to do it and have not made the improvements you want to make, I hear you.
Now how do you fix this?
How do you save yourself from days, months or years of frustration?
How will you be able to improve your guitar playing today every single time you practice?
Improving Your Guitar Playing-
The answer in this case is right in front of you. The best part is that you do not need to learn new stuff. All you have to do is work with the skills that you already have. You will need to use those skills in ways that you are not used to.
There are too many different situations to get into so I am going to be general here. You don’t have to use all these ideas given here but listing every possibility would be an article itself.
- Creating new strumming patterns-
If you have been playing the same strumming patterns over and over again, hum a new rhythmic pattern. To start you could hum a rhythm that you hear often. An example could be the sound of raindrops hitting the wind shield of your car (it is raining here today).
You could also take a word or phrase that you say a lot and break them down by syllable.
Once you do that you can then strum the chord on each of the syllables. You can accent (strumming harder on a particular beat) on a specific syllable. Try it and see how many strumming patterns you end up with. This can also work with riffs and making new guitar licks
- If you struggle to play open chords-
Open chords will take some work to get comfortable with but here is a great way to make them easier to play.
Practice your open chords like this:
Take a note out of the chord. For now it does not matter which one. Doing this will change the sound of the chord but not enough to turn it into something that you will not recognize. You may even find you like some of these variations better.
Example: Play a C chord . Next, take out any one of the notes that you are pressing down on with the fingers of your fret hand. One thing to keep in mind, if you take out the note on the 5th string you will need to strum the chord starting on the 4th string.
You can next take out the the middle note (on string 4) but still strum all five strings. If you find that your third finger rubs against the fourth string and mutes it, that is okay for now.
After that, remove the fretted note on the second string letting the open string second string ring out.
You now have 3 variations of the C chord and can play them now. Try playing them in a song where you would normally use a C Chord. Pretty cool right?
What if you combined ideas 1 and 2?
You can and should keep challenging yourself to come up with as many ideas as you can. There are plenty of things you can do and you will not get bored for a very long time. Keep in mind that even the slightest variation is still a variation. Best part of this is that you did not have to learn anything new. All you did use what you already know in different ways. This is exactly how master guitar players become master guitar players.
Soloing and Improvising
- Getting scales to sound musical and not boring
Scales are so much fun to play when you first learn them. The problem comes when you only play them up or down all the time. Especially when you start soloing.
Instead of playing scales up and down all the time, do this:
- Change the order of the notes
You could use the first idea in this article and use a word. In this case it will work better with words that are three syllables or more. Keep it to three or four syllables for now unless you are advanced enough to handle that.
Play the notes out of order while using the word or sentence that you came up with gives you rhythmic variety. You could do something like play the notes (and rhythms) on any one string. You could then go to two strings, then three… You could string skip as well.
- Using ornaments (slides, hammer ons, pull offs, bends, ect) to a single note or group of notes in the scale.
Do your best to not play up and down the scale when you are using ornaments. If you do not know what ornaments are, stay with idea #1, you will be able to come up with more ideas for a long time.
If you are comfortable (or when you become comfortable) with ornaments, use small portions of the scale to play them.
Once you have practiced each ornament by itself and feel comfortable, start making combinations.
You can also start to practice the combinations in isolation with rhythms (could be from idea #1). Then you can practice the combinations with the rhythmic ideas you came up with.
Practicing these things will keep you busy for a while. Once you come up with something that you like, use it in a musical way right away. If you only practice things in isolation, you will struggle to play it when it counts.
An example of a musical way would be playing over a backing track.
Why practicing this way will help you become a better guitar player:
Using these ideas when you practice will force you to use the skills that you already have in new ways. Being able to do this will help you improve so much faster than scouring the internet looking for new things to play.
These are but a few ways that you can make old ideas or things fresh. Try coming up with as many ways as you can think of to combine things that you already know to make new ideas.
You might have a tough time with this at first but the more you keep at it, the easier it will become for you to do.
The bonus here is that you also learn a great way to jump start your creativity. You become a better guitar player and instead of looking for new things to learn, you will create new things. You will also push yourself to get better. You can start doing those things right now, no matter how far along you are in your playing.
About the Author:
Byron Marks is a guitar teacher in Manchester NH that specializes in helping beginners who want to learn to play guitar become the guitar players that they want to be.