How To Be a Better Guitarist

 

In this article on my How To Guitar blog, I’m going to discuss how to be a better guitarist. There are many ways to become a better guitarist, so I will only really focus on some methods that have made me a better guitarist over the years.

Practice

better guitaristRegular practice is what will enable you to constantly get better at guitar and will let you play more complicated and harder guitar. Practicing the guitar on a regular basis will allow you to eventually learn songs that may be currently too hard for you to play. The best practice tips I ever received were to practice with a metronome and to practice by starting slow and raising the tempo once or twice a day. After a few days of raising the tempo on a piece of music, you will be surprised at how fast you can play it. One day, practice a part at 90bpm. The next day, try it at 100bpm. The next day, try it at 110bpm. If you have to, stay at a constant bpm for a few days until you can nail the part at the slower tempo.

Tune Up

By making sure you are in tune when you play, you can be assured that your music will sound good to neighbourhood cats and dogs. You’ll also be able to jam with other musicians without sounding bad. You’ll also be able to play along to most of your favourite songs. Tuning up is fundamental to being a better guitarist.

Warm Up

Warming up is essential to playing at your peak ability without harming yourself. Start your warmups slow and make sure you include some stretching and muscle workouts prior to actually playing warmup exercises. Don’t do anything too difficult or fast. That can wait until after you warm up.

Get an Appropriate Tone

Depending on the style of music you play, you will probably need a specific tone. If you are playing acoustic folk, use an acoustic guitar. You’re not going to sound like early Bob Dylan with a massively distorted electric tone. If you’re playing country, get some equipment that will make you sound like authentic country. If you’re playing metal, use a high gain tone. Spend some time working on the sound of your playing by changing and refining settings on your equipment. Having an appropriate tone is extremely necessary to become a better guitarist. A great tone will inspire you to play better and more often.

Upgrade and Maintain Your Equipment

Keep your equipment maintained. If your guitar and amp doesn’t sound their best, neither will your playing. If your guitar is broke, get it fixed. Replace that old cord that keeps shorting out and making your playing sound glitchy. Don’t use strings that are so old you can’t even get them in tune anymore.

To reiterate a point from above, a pack of strings is about $3 nowadays.

In my opinion, it’s worth $3 to make sure your music sounds as good as it can sound. Don’t you?

Good technique and proper equipment will command respect. If your guitar or other equipment is in really bad shape, replace it. You don’t need a guitar that’s worth $4,000 but a decent guitar that stays in tune and sounds good can be found for quite an affordable price.

Study the Masters

how to become a better guitaristBy studying the reputed masters of guitar playing, you should become inspired and learn from their works. You don’t have to digest every guitarist in the world or attempt to emulate any of them. Even just listening to guitarists that you love will give you profound influence on the guitar. If I have ever run out of original ideas to write on the guitar, just listening to some of my guitar heroes like Dimebag, Hendrix or David Gilmour will usually give me a new approach to the instrument again and again. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear Floods or Machine Gun or Hey You, I still learn something new every time I listen to them.

Don’t Emulate Your Influences

I think it’s healthy to study the masters and learn their material. However, if you concentrate on learning everything by one guitarist, you run the risk of becoming stagnant, turning into a clone or burying yourself in unoriginality. I think it’s equally important to diversify your learning and to also concentrate on your own original writings. Instead of spending all your time learning every song by Jimi Hendrix, try spending 30% of your time learning Hendrix songs, 30% of your time learning other guitarists’ songs and the remaining 40% writing your own music and working on your technique. Vary your routine. Next time you practice, start with writing before you learn songs.

Diversify

The most improvement I ever noticed from my own guitar playing was when I started to listen to music that was outside my “norm”. I originally started getting into guitar playing by listening to bands like AC/DC, Black Sabbath and the aforementioned Hendrix. So my guitar playing sort of sounded like a mixture of those bands mixed in with some popular bands of the day. When I started to listen to more varied music, like Pink Floyd, The Beatles and later Ween and grunge music, I really noticed that my sense of song improved and I was playing less riff-based. The cool thing is, now when I look back on it, my playing is decidedly mixed between song-based and riff-based. So listening to all those varied bands gave my riffs a place in the songs rather than being a dominating factor in the songs.

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