They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to truly master a thing. Fortunately, when it comes to guitar, you can practice perfectly well without external instruction or learning aids. Playing the guitar is one of those skills that is pure in the sense that, simply doing the thing to the best of your ability will improve it immensely.
That is not to say there is no benefit to a good guitar teacher, or a solid guitar learning app, of course. Still, if all you have is a beat-up old guitar and time on your hands, there is nothing to stop you from becoming a fantastic guitar player. Here are our five tips on how to practice the guitar.
1. Practice Regularly
Practicing guitar is like exercising your muscles, both literally and figuratively. The more often you play, the better shape your mind and hands will be in. Having long periods without playing the guitar can not only lead to “rustiness”, but also problems getting your fingers in and out of the more complicated chords, and even pain in your fingertips as they get used to pressing the strings all over again.
2. Don’t Neglect Scales
The benefits of practicing scales is something that is often overlooked among new guitarists. Especially when self-teaching. Scales help you condition your fingers to more freely move around the fretboard. They build up the muscle memory that is essential for things like jamming, and solo-ing. And, if done correctly, they can significantly improve your timing.
Try to practice your scales with a metronome or click track. If it becomes easy, speed up the click, or play them at double-time. If you want to make the most of it, you could put an elastic band or hair bobble around your fretting fingers, which will strengthen your fingers as you play.
3. Master New Songs
One thing that is often missed when talking about practicing a skill is that sitting in your comfort zone doesn’t do anything for you. Take jogging as an example. If you go for a run and don’t even break a sweat, you’re not getting much benefit. If you run hard and get your heart rate and breathing up, you will build muscle and improve cardio.
Playing the guitar is the same. Merely playing songs that you have already mastered will do nothing for your progression. By all means, play your favorite songs-guitar is supposed to be fun, after all-but never stop playing new things. And always be on the lookout for something challenging to learn.
4. Practice As You Intend to Play
If you were training to be an Olympic shot putter, you wouldn’t practice sitting down. Guitar is no different. If you intend to play the guitar live, you should practice the way you will perform. If you will be standing up, you should practice standing up. If you want to sing while you play, you should sing while you practice.
5. Review Yourself
Every so often you should record yourself, on video if possible audio-only is better than nothing. Listen back to your playing-it’s much easier to spot problems in your technique when you’re not in the moment.
This works best if you leave a little time in between recording and reviewing. If you record a practice session, try to give it a week or so before watching it back, so that your mind is completely out of the moment.