If you are taking the time to read this, you must be interested in learning to play the guitar and these tips will help you make the most of learning and practicing with your guitar.
Regular lesson time
Set aside a regular time to update your skills. Maybe that is a weekly visit to a music teacher, or if you are learning from home, pick a time and a day that you will regularly monitor your progress and check all that you have learnt, before learning the next phase of the lesson sheets. This is different to practicing. In between lessons, you should practice enough to remember your chords and strums without a lot of prompting.
For example: Every Monday night at 7pm, go over all of your last week's lessons sheets and songs. If you are comfortable that you understand all of the information on the lesson pages, then, and only then, move on to the next lot of lesson and song sheets. For beginners, I recommend a minimum of 3, 20-minute practice sessions between lessons, (or weekly).
As you get better on your instrument you will need to increase this to 30 minutes per practice and then upwards of 40 minutes. However, as you get better on your instrument you will do a lot more playing than practicing.
As you start to learn the guitar, you are a beginner. Take small steps and don’t move on until you understand all of the information held in the current lessons plan. Try not to think of it as a race to the end of the book, before getting the next. Rather think of it as a journey, one to be savoured and enjoyed. Practice at least 3 times a week, the more you practice the better you will become - it is that simple.
You will have good days and bad days, this is completely normal and part of the learning process. You may find yourself struggling with a certain strum or song one evening, only to come back the very next day and find it a lot easier. This is because the brain requires up to 12 hours to "hard-wire" the information into your memory.
It is very important that you follow the step-by-step method so as to cement the correct information deep into your brain.
Remember, Learn Right, Learn for Life.
By this stage you are now playing the guitar, you will be playing complete songs and will have begun to develop your own unique style of guitar playing. I don’t want hundreds of "Mark Jansen’s" out there, all playing the same as me. This system will help you develop, "your own" style.
Sing while you play
I kid you not, I encourage all of my students to sing while they play the guitar. When I first started teaching, it took a while to understand what people actually wanted to achieve when they came to their guitar lessons. After a short while I discovered the first thing they wanted was enjoyment.
It doesn’t matter how you sound when you begin to sing with your guitar, I’m sure I’ve heard a lot worse than you. It's a matter of doing it. People can’t sing, because they don't sing.
Often students start by just speaking the words, and it builds from there. I have had hundreds of people who say they felt it a bit weird that I got them to sing, but that they never would have achieved the level of success on their guitar if they had not.
Why? Lots of reasons. It helps you to know where you are in the song. It helps you to know where and when to change chords. Your voice will tell you if you’ve just played the wrong chord, in the wrong place. It’s like your very own teacher when I am not there. It aids enjoyment. You can’t have fire side singalongs without singing, and if it's the guitarist that sings, everyone knows where the song is up to. It helps with rhythm and aids with learning to work out songs, or play lead guitar riffs in the future, as you are able to hum or sing the tunes or riff, and then work out the correct notes, chords, or pitch by singing the tunes or notes out loud.
When you are able to sing with your song, it means that you are ready for the next step. When you sing with your guitar, you are most definitely multi-tasking. Left hand playing chords, right hand strumming, mouth singing, eyes darting from song sheet to fingers on chords and back again, all the while your ears are listening for errors and harmony and pitch, even your foot may very well be tapping in time.
That's a lot of coordination!! So when you are able to do all these things, and you will, you are ready for a slightly different or harder song.
Your practice environment
The place in which you practice is very important. It's hard to practice, leaning over your guitar, slumped in the couch, with your book on the floor, with the dog sitting on half of your book chewing the edge of the papers, with the television blaring in the background and the children running through the house chasing each other. Doesn't sound like a great learning environment does it? So please consider the following:
- A good solid, arm less chair. At the correct height that your feet comfortably sit flat on the floor, in an upright posture. ( not slouching forward or leaning back)
- A quiet room, and with as few distractions as possible. Pick an appropriate time that you will naturally be left alone, not too tired, not too late, let the family or flatmates know you are unavailable for the next 30 minutes. Be committed and it will pay off in the long run.
The Feelers - Stand Up