Archive for June, 2009

How To Practice Guitar

June 25, 2009

It seems like a pretty obvious topic that would be covered by common sense, but actually, that isn’t the case. Learning how to practice guitar is as important as learning how to hold it or learning how to strum – without the ability to efficiently and effectively practice techniques and riffs, there’s no way you’ll be able to improve.

We give guitar lessons in Edinburgh, and find that a common basic problem amongst students is an inability to practice. Because you are only usually in the company of your tutor for an hour or so a week, it’s important to develop your own approach to practice that not only covers the materials you’ve been given, but that also helps consolidate the techniques and pieces that you’re learning. That way, you can progress at a faster rate, and cover more material over the course of your lessons.

Beginners often make the mistake of trying to practice a piece of music or a riff from start to finish, making multiple mistakes as they go, in the view that eventually they’ll get it right. This is the wrong way to practice, and will not only waste your time but also engrain wrong notes and bad habits within your ‘muscle memory’, which will subsequently make it much more difficult to learn the piece correctly.

A quick aside on muscle memory – muscle memory is the phenomenon whereby you subconsciously remember movements you’ve made in the past. A great example – there are fairly intricate classical guitar pieces I used to play 5 or 6 years ago that I haven’t played since. When trying to recall these pieces, I can play them almost perfectly without thinking about the next move, simply because my hands seem to know where to go next. It sounds a bit metaphysical, but there’s definitely something in it, which makes it all the more important to learn things correctly as you go along. The best way to practice is to learn a piece in stages.

Question: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: In bite-sized chunks.

You can conquer any piece of music (even the most complex guitar solo) by learning it very slowly and in stages – note by note. Take it one bar at a time and play it at half speed (or even quarter speed if it helps). Once you’ve played a bar through correctly once, do it ten more times with no mistakes. If you make a mistake – go back to the beginning and do it ten more times, and reset the ten count every time you make a mistake, until you play it through ten consecutive times without a single mistake.

If you’re dedicated and disciplined with yourself, you will notice that fairly quickly that by practicing and learning in this way, you get to the stage where you’re playing a full passage fluently with no mistakes, and then soon after that you’ll be able to tackle the piece as a whole. What’s more, you’ll have muscle-memorized the notes/techniques you’re playing, which will stick with you for years to come thereafter, and help make you a better all round guitarist.

Five Tips To Get The Most From Your Guitar Lessons

June 24, 2009

Starting out with your first few guitar lessons can be a daunting task, and if you’re expecting to become a rock legend overnight your way off the mark.  Of course that doesn’t mean you can progress quickly if you’re determined to work on your fundamental skills…with these five top tips for getting the most out of your lessons, you’ll be showing off to your friends in no time.

1. Find A Good Tutor – goes without saying.  If you want to progress with the guitar, or any other instrument, you need to make sure you’re working with a tutor that has the expertise and qualifications to help you improve.  There are too many fly-by-night, self-professed guitar tutors that in actual fact aren’t really suited to the job – look for recommendations from friends and family that play, or ask in your local music shop for advice.  Whatever you do, make sure your tutor is RGT registered and has a full Enhanced Disclosure check before paying them a penny.

2. Practice Makes Perfect – it’s only a cliche because it’s true.  If you want to get good at anything, you’re going to have to practice, to refine your skills and improve your confidence.  Don’t treat it as a chore – practice when you feel like practicing, but just make sure you spend time most days working on the materials your tutor issued.  You’ll never be a good guitarist unless you take the initiative to make yourself a good guitarist.

3. Listen To Other Guitarists – treat listening to music as part of the learning process – kind of like homework, but more fun.  Listening and learning from the greats is crucial to helping you understand the bigger picture, and how things come together.  Grab copies of other celebrated guitarists and listen to what they do and how it sounds.  Whether you’re learning rock or classical, there’s plenty to be gained from listening to world-class musicians.

4. Ask Questions – ask your tutor questions constantly.  If there’s anything you feel you need practice with or struggle with, say to your tutor and ask him or her to focus on that side of your playing.  Whether its reading music, tab, technique or you’re just wondering how to play a certain riff, don’t be afraid to ask your tutor.  The worst that can happen is you might learn something!

5. Push Yourself – often, face-time with your tutor is limited.  This means it’s important to take your own initiative and push yourself in the time you’re not spending one-to-one with your tutor.  OK, so your fingers hurt.  OK, so you’re finding it tough.  But if you don’t push yourself constantly beyond your current ability, you’ll never progress.  Look ahead in your books or try to play more complex songs and fingering exercises.  The more you push the envelope, the more you’re going to improve, and the less time it’s going to take you to do it.

We hope that’s been helpful – for more information or to book Edinburgh guitar lessons, feel free to get in touch.