December 12, 2023

How to improve your playing

We have received a few emails from our JamEdge subscribers saying that they think they have reached a point on their guitar learning where they are not improving anymore. I know this side of learning very well, I have experienced it a lot of times during my whole music career and yes, it is very frustrating.

So our readers have been asking, how can I get to the level where I would like to be? Especially these days, when you go into the Internet and find amazing and very talented kids doing cool tricks and they just seem to get better and better every second they play and we feel like we’re getting worse and worse every second we watch them playing…

What is the key to success?

Mmm… If I knew it, I would probably be touring the world right now with a band. What I do know, is that there are a few concepts that can help you break through this barrier of the “not improving feeling”. As I said before, I’ve had that feeling I am still playing and improving, so I know it works!

Interest and commitment are keywords to success.

Have you met any guitarist who is not interested about music, or interested in gear? I don’t think so, and if you have, he or she probably wasn’t a guitarist… You have to be interested in what you do to become what you want to be, so being committed to improving is essential. I guess this is a golden rule for life.

If you think you are stuck and your playing isn’t improving and this is also making you feel frustrated, apathetic and lazy, here are some theories that will help you break out of the rutt you are in:

1. Listen to more music, any music. The more music you have access to, the better guitarist you will become. I have mentioned this before and can’t say it enough – music is the biggest source of inspiration. Listen to your favorite bands and get something from them, but also listen to new music, open your ears, let your brain absorb all that information that music is offering you everyday. Take note of what you like, it could be a guitar solo, a chord progression you enjoy or a guitar lick you love. Practice this.

2. Don’t waste your time. Practice makes perfect? Yeah, sort of… it really depends how you practice and what you practice. Do you want to learn something new from a band or artist you like? Practice that, but do it right… don’t waste your time with your guitar, sit down, take notes, repeat exercises, warm up and focus on what you’re learning; keep in mind that what you practice will make you a better guitarist.

3. Surround yourself with the best musicians. This is some kind of “work better under pressure”. When you are playing music with better guitarists you are not only learning from them, but you are also feeling some pressure to push your learning a bit further. Does this sound stressful to you? It does to me, and it is stressful but let’s be honest, sometimes this is the best way to achieve what you want and remember, people are counting on you, they want you to improve and they will be patient. Eventually you will get to the same level.

4. Believe in you. I know how cliche this sounds but it’s true. You have to believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re leftie, if you have chubby fingers or not, you can learn whatever you want as long as you believe in your ability.

5. Do not compare yourself with others. You are unique, you have your own playing style and no one else sounds like you. Of course, there will always be a better guitarist than you, but there is also a worse one… you are what you are and you can play what you can, some people will like you and some people won’t. You might like cheese or you might not…

6. Research what works for others. Ask your friends about what they practice or search online for your favorite guitarists’ routine. What are they working on and how they do it. For example, are you having problems with speed, ask others what worked for them to improve their speed, simple and effective.

7. Know yourself. Do you know what you lack the most in the guitar world? Find out! Although, it is very common to know where you are failing, if it’s timing, chord progressions, lack of tone, etc. whatever it is, DO NOT IGNORE IT, work on it! While you are practicing something else, keep attacking your weak points and you will soon notice an improvement.

8. Be around the good ones. This is another golden rule. Ask anyone: what do you prefer, the most talented-virtuoso guitarist who can play one million notes per minute but is an unpleasant to be around. Or an average guitarist who plays well and is also a great person? In the artistic world in general, there is heaps of arrogance, rudeness, envy and much more… there are heaps of guitarists who think they are the best and won’t support anyone else and of course they won’t share their knowledge or tips with you to improve; you don’t want to be around those ones… surround yourself with good guitarists who are also excellent human beings.

There is always something to do to improve your playing, whether it’s working on your weak points or working on something new… you can keep really busy with your practicing, keep it that way. If you feel stuck again, keep these theories in mind, think about them and you will overcome the learning barriers that we all face.

Hope this helps and let me know how your learning is going.

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