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You’ve played for hours and your cat still sequels, your dog still whines, and your family runs for the nearest exit every time you pick up your guitar. What is going on? Why are you not getting better?
Well there can be any number of reasons for this. But Here are five top reasons that your guitar skills are not progressing as fast as you would like.
When I first started playing guitar I recorded every practice session. And then after recording, I would listen to it. This did a couple of things that helped my guitar playing. First it taught me that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. My chords were not as clean as I thought. My pattern was a little off in places. My singing needed some help.
But another thing it taught me that was just as important. Recording my practice sessions taught me that I actually was getting better. Sometimes when you are in the weeds of daily playing you don’t realize that you are actually improving. I sometimes say, if you want to feel bad about your guitar playing, listen to your recording from yesterday. If you want to feel good, compare yesterday’s recording to your recording from six months ago.
I bet you are improving, and a recording of yourself would prove it. So go head and pull out your smart phone or some other recording device and begin recording your practice sessions. Save them in the cloud or something, cause you are gonna want to listen to them later.
But still, you might be asking, why am I not improving as fast as I would like?
OK, we all got lives. We either got school taking up a huge chunk of our time or we have a job a mortgage and a family all with demands on our time. We can’t do what we would like to do as far as practice time goes. So we play 2 hours on a Saturday and then 2 weeks later we play 5 hours on a Sunday. And then 5 days later we play an hour on a Friday. And so on. Our practicing is hit or miss.
This is gonna give us frustrating progress. Remember with guitar we are training muscle memory. So we want to go for regular practice sessions. If regular means less time in each session, then so be it. So lets say that you can squeeze 3 hours a week in practice. It would be better to do 30 minutes a day for 6 days a week than 3 hours one day on the weekend. Even 15 minutes a day 6 days a week will be better than those 3 hours a week on Saturday. Especially when you are very new to the guitar and training your muscles to go to the exact right place.
So what do you do? You will need to carve out 15 to 30 minute blocks of time for sustained guitar practice every day.
OK, you are practicing daily and recording myself, but still you don’t see the results you want. What is wrong?
This is a great danger, especially when you learn a few chords, in only practicing a small subset of your skills repeatedly. I remember when I first learned the A, E, and D chords and a reasonable strumming pattern. As soon as a I learned those things, I spent my practice time just playing songs. All in the same key. And all with the exact same strumming pattern.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was still getting better just by virtue of playing. I was learning how to play the A chord better and the E chord better. I was learning how to tune my instrument. I was driving that strumming pattern into my muscle memory. When my family started listening they no longer would have to leave the room. It was sounding kind of cool. And I was learning about how far I can go with 3 chords and how many songs I could shoe-horn into a 3 chord structure. And I was feeling good. However, after more time than I should have spent there, it hit me that I was not getting better as fast as I would like.
I needed to learn how to alter my strumming pattern for different kinds of songs. I needed to learn a few more chords so that I could use some chord substitutions as well as play in different keys. I needed to play without rushing the tempo. I even had to learn how to use a capo. I had a lot to learn, but I looked at my practice time and saw that all I was doing was simply playing different songs in the exact same way.
You may have the same problem. So how do you fix that? Practice should be a combination of maintaining skills by spending a little time playing what you know and a lot of time playing what you don’t know yet.
OK, you need to practice what you don’t know, how do you know what to practice when you don’t know what to practice?
You know YouTube is cool. You can learn whatever you want to learn on a YouTube Channel. If you know what you are looking for it will tell you. But you are a new guitarist, you don’t know what you need to learn. What do you do?
You find somebody that teaches a full curriculum of training for a guitarist. It may be a private teacher (this is best, because the teacher will zero in on you individually) or a YouTube instructor that has such a curriculum. Not a teacher that just posts song covers without systematically teaching you everything you need to know.
Now there are a number of instructors out there with such a curriculum. Justin Sandercoe has such a system. There are others. I like Sandercoe’s method cause he gets you singing and playing songs quickly, but I don’t like how long it takes him to get into playing individual notes and scales. Also he probably spends a little too much time in the open chords. But hey he has been teaching guitar longer than I have so I’m sure he got a good reason for it, at any rate, he will put you on a solid footing.
JamPlay.com has a number of such teachers teaching a full curriculum. The key is that the internet has everything you need to know. The problem is you don’t know what you need to know. So you may have to pay to learn what you need to learn and JamPlay is a good place for a small monthly fee to give you a lot of training.
In short, follow a full guitar learning methodology. OK, you are on really sound footing now. You are recording yourself, you are practicing daily, and your practice routine specializes in what you don’t know rather than what you know. Finally, you are following a full guitar learning curriculum. What else is there?
I have one final thing that I want you to keep in mind as you practice. You will be tempted to fall into this trap that will rob success from your playing.
OK, I started playing with Justin Sandercoe’s method and was getting better. Then I hit JamPlay.Com. I started a teacher’s method over there. Then I went to a few other YouTube teacher’s channels. I then purchased a ton of guitar method books. And really started spinning my wheels. What was my problem?
I had too many teachers. What do you do with this problem? I ain’t gonna say you only follow one method, but I am gonna say that you take one method and put it in the driver’s seat. Use other methods as supplemental to that main method. So if you gonna roll with Justin Sandercoe then roll with him. Use his practice methodology as your own. Look and try to understand what he is teaching and why. Then add in a FEW other teachers here and there to supplement and enforce what he is teaching.
There is simply not enough time for you to go grab tons of lesson books and YouTube channels and practice them all. So again, take one, put it in the driver’s seat, and supplement that main method with a few others. Systematically following just about any method will help you as a beginner. Stop trying to find the perfect system and start practicing and get yourself to the intermediate level more efficiently.
The main takeaway I want you to get from this is that you are probably getting better. Record yourself to prove that to yourself. Practice daily and whether it is 15 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour don’t allow life to rob you of those practice minutes. Practice what you don’t know more than what you know and follow a full curriculum. Finally, take one teacher and make that teacher your primary one so that you don’t fall into the trap of not progressing because you got too many teachers.
Now I gotta go to the woodshed and put in my time for today. See yall next time.