Learning how to play the guitar can be a lot of fun. There are so many benefits to playing a musical instrument. There is no reason not to learn to play the guitar. Here are 10 tips to help you master playing the guitar.
1. Get a Decent Guitar
It’s difficult to master playing the guitar on an instrument that is difficult to play. I personally suggested to all of my guitar students to start off on a nylon-string guitar. They are easier on your fingers. Regardless of the type of guitar you play, it’s best to play one with low action. The ‘action’ is the distance between the strings and the fingerboard.
It does not have to be new. I have written an article on How To Buy A Used Guitar with specific suggestions to make sure the instrument doesn’t have structural problems.
Look for a guitar that has low action and check to make sure none the strings don’t buzz on any of the frets.
2. Get Good Instruction
It’s so easy to fall into bad playing habits that can hold you back. Look for a good guitar teacher in your area, or for good online tips and lessons. There are many fine players that can help to guideÂ you in the right direction. I don’t suggest getting help from people who are beginners. You might also pick up their bad habits.
If you want to master playing the guitar, seek instruction from people who have already mastered the guitar. It will cut your learning time and keep you from hurting your hands.
3. Watch & Listen To Experts Playing The Guitar
When I was learning to play the guitar, I went to every guitar concert offered in our city. It’s so inspiring to see excellent musicians. In addition to attending the events, I also bought several of their recordings.
I remember one day listening to a particular recording of a song played by Julian Bream. It was mesmerizing! He played it so beautifully thatÂ I wanted to sound just like him. It inspired me to practice that song over and over.
Watching and listening to great guitar players canÂ help you see what sounds you can get out of a guitar. A good musician can put his or her own interpretation on the music.
3. Practice Smart
It’s good to have a specific goal in mind whenever you sit down to practice the guitar. It’s ok to sit down and play the guitar for fun, but if you want to really master playing the guitar, it’s even better to strive towards improving.
Listen and watch your playing. Can you change to the chords faster? You can isolate parts of the song that are more difficult for you to play so you can work on playing that section smoother. Break it down to even the individual fingers. For example, the change from the chord ‘G’ to ‘C’ can be changing from ‘G’ to just the 5th String 3rd fret, then ‘G’ to 2 fingers, and finally ‘G’ to ‘C’, as seen in the example below:
The goal can be to eventually move all of your fingers at the same time. Any chord can be broken down into steps like this. When you practice, also focus on improving your playing.
4. Work On Your Guitar Technique
It’s an excellent idea to practice scales and techniques to improve your overall playing skills. How is your posture? There are several exercises that I always gave my guitar students to work on both their technique and speed. Here is one of the left-handed exercises that my students worked on:
Notice the thumb placement and what a difference that makes for chords that require your fingers to spread out more. I have noticed that even guitar players that have a different technique than mine still have to place their thumb in the middle of their fingers to make larger stretches.
To master playing the guitar, it’s a good idea is including both right and left-handed exercises. Here is a sample video of the right-hand technique with three simple picking patterns.
You can practice these on various chords, not just an ‘A’ Chord. Plus, these are simple exercises. You can certainly practice more difficult ones as your playing progresses.
5. Learn To Play With Relaxed Hands
It’s easier to play when your hands are relaxed. A famous violist once told a student after playing an incredibly fast piece that he relaxed between each note. It does require strength to hold down the strings, but you do not need to keep your right or left-hand tense then they are not playing.
There are little tricks you can try, like remembering to relax your shoulders when you play. When you consciously relax your body, your hands tend to relax too.
We have amazing minds. There are so many passages in the Bible about guarding our thoughts. There are several ways to use your mind. You can visualize where your hands will move in advance. If you are reading music, you can visualize the notes without looking at the music when memorizing music.
I talk a lot about the mind in my ‘Organize Your Life Now‘ book. In the book, I mention a study done with basketball players. Here’s an excerpt from the book.
Speaking of basketball, another famous study was done with basketball players. Dr. Blaslotto, at the University of Chicago, split people into three groups and tested each group on how many successful free throws they could make.
One group was told to practice free throws for an hour every day. The second group was told to just visualize themselves making perfect free throws without actually touching the basketball. And, the third group was told to do nothing for 30 days,
After 30 days, he tested them again. Here are the results:
- The first group improved by 24%.
- The second group improved by 23% without touching a basketball!!!
- The third group did not improve, which was expected.
In this study, visualizing yielded essentially the same benefit as practicing. This important discovery is that, when we see a successful result, something happens to us. With a clear end result in mind, it’s easier to accomplish goals of all kinds.
Watch your thinking. Sometimes even thinking that you can’t do something will stop you from progressing. Believe that you can master playing the guitar and never give up.
7. Record Yourself
To hear what you actually sound like, it’s very beneficial to record yourself. I was shocked to hear how bad my rhythm was the first time I recorded myself. It also helps to video yourself playing. It’s very helpful to see yourself and see how you can change it.
As you continue assessing where your playing is today, you can see how to improve it. Get a metronome to help your rhythm. It’s great to practice your scales and exercises using a metronome.
8. Practice Songs Slowly
One of the best ways to master playing the guitar is to practice songs very slowly. Try to play the songs with excellent technique. One of my guitar teachers, Pepe Romero, told us that he always practices his concert pieces at a very slow tempo before speeding them up.
Master each song at a very slow tempo before trying to play them faster. Be patient with yourself.
9. Play For Others
Learning to play in front of others is a good skill to develop from the beginning. I always made my guitar students sing in front of me and also encouraged them to participate in student recitals.
The more you perform, the easier it gets. It helps to build your confidence with playing the guitar.
10. Keep Learning To Master Playing The Guitar
Learning to master the guitar should include learning Music Theory on the Guitar and reading music. You can always keep learning more songs and more about music. It can be a hobby or career that’s both fun and rewarding!