5 Tricks To Learn How To Play Guitar

If you want to learn how to play guitar you have to practice. Many people try to learn without really practicing and are always disappointed, it’s as if they think they can just pick it up and start playing. Once in a while you hear about some child prodigy who just magically knows how to play an instrument, but those people are maybe one in 10 million; read on…

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson playing away

Playing guitar is an exciting activity and can be a great way to express yourself artistically, make friends and relax. Nevertheless, learning to play well takes a lot of discipline and concentrated effort to get to the point of truly making music. It’s one thing to bang away or pick notes so you get a nice groove going, but making music is much more involved.

It was many years before I learned that my practice consisted of just noodling around and learning some licks and phrases. I knew a piece of this song and a piece of another, but couldn’t really lead someone to play along with me. Nothing like playing with other people who know what they’re doing to reveal your lacks!

After I found out how to practice guitar in an effective manner, everything changed. My playing improved dramatically, it was much more fun, and I discovered that I was finally able to play with other people in jams. Now that put a smile on my face and gladdened my heart!

Recommended Instruction

Irish Rhythm Guitar - Accompanying Celtic TunesBacking Guitar Techniques for Traditional Celtic Music
Steve Kaufman's Four-Hour Bluegrass Workout (4 CDs + Book Set)Electric Guitar for Beginners - Getting Started - Volume 1

It is just fine to sit in your living room and strum a bit, play some little riffs that you picked up somewhere, and maybe sing a song or two that you know. But if you really want to learn how to play, you must learn how to practice guitar. People who are self-taught are still taught by some method, they just have not had formal lessons.

John and Randy picking on the porch

John and Randy picking on the porch

Learn how to practice guitar with quality materials, like the stuff from Homespun Tapes or ArtistWorks, Inc and you will amaze yourself and your friends with the new skills you learn. Besides, it is really fun to learn now to play well!

Rather than plod along trying to figure things out by yourself, plug into the numerous methods for learning and remembering songs and tunes. I probably wasted years on my own, partially because I was unable to find a good way to learn, and also because there were not so many resources available.

5 guidelines to help improve your playing and teach you how to practice guitar
1. Practice is not playing for fun. This might sound harsh or mean, but one of the worst things you can do is just noodle around, playing in a random, aimless, meandering manner. On the other hand, once you learn how to practice guitar right, it is actually a lot of fun and is well worth the effort.

2. It is better to practice regularly than in marathon sets. If you practice at least 20 minutes every day, you will make much faster progress than if you play for 2 hours every Saturday. Your muscle memory and brain will respond to frequent use you will retain what you are learning.

3. Set a goal for each session. You might have a rough spot in a tune, or need to learn the correct fingering for a flatpicking tune. The goal must be reachable for today, don’t set it so high that you become frustrated, rather set it so you can master it in incremental steps. One good method is to break up the tune into segments and master them one at a time. Then you can put them together and make some music.

Recommended Listening

Masters of the Irish Guitar
Best of Altan: The Songs
John Carnie: Far From Home

4. Practice like you would study anything new. Make yourself comfortable, but not too comfortable. Have a good work ethic, roll up your sleeves, be determined and focused. If possible, have private room where you can work without distraction.

5. Playing guitar is an adventure. It is easy to play simple tunes, but difficult to play well. Your hard work and determination are very important, and the satisfaction of mastery is a wonderful feeling. Once you learn how to practice guitar, you will be amazed at the beautiful sounds that come from this amazing bunch of wood, steel and glue!

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