Learning to play the acoustic guitar? Need some help?
Perhaps you’ve just got your first guitar? You have prepared wisely for Lockdown 3. But, that initial excitement is turning into a tide of fear as you really don’t know where to start!
Or maybe you have been playing since Lockdown 1, and now you’ve hit that wall you just can’t seem to push over..
1. Practice - Slow and steady wins the race
It’s tempting when you pick up the guitar to push yourself too hard and get carried away, seeing how many notes you can cram in without a pause for breath! But the key to progressing is to start slowly and methodically (you can speed up as you progress).
You need to calm your mind (and your fingers) and approach each exercise or practice session slow and steady. If you don’t you’ll end up rushing, becoming sloppy and irritated with yourself. Before you know it you’ll be putting the guitar down and walking away!
Enjoy the process, go slow, check your hand positions, be kind to yourself - it’s tough!
2. Tune your guitar regularly
Have you played the guitar recently and thought to yourself, “Hmm that doesn’t sound right?!” - Well, check your tuning!
It’s so easy to overlook this and carry on playing until your guitar sounds like a set of bagpipes (No offence bagpipe players, I love your stuff). But tuning is a full time job. Every time you pick that guitar up, (and during your practice sessions) first check the tuning and if it isn’t right then get into the habit of knocking it into tune.
You’ll get faster and faster at tuning the more you practice and it’s just as much a part of playing the acoustic guitar as playing Wonderwall by Oasis!
3. Keeping time - MetronomeMetronome - If you haven’t got one of these already, go down to your local sho-... Oh wait... Go online and order one now! Keeping time is the bane of many beginners lives, these gadgets make it easy. Remember those wooden pyramid things that kinda looked like clocks? Above the fireplace?... Yeah? Well, that’s a metronome.
4. Loosen up, don’t get tense!
So you’ve been playing guitar for an hour or two now and you’re losing yourself in the beautiful music, but, your hands are cramping up and your fingers aren’t moving like they were...
You need to remember that you are working all-new-muscles in your hands, fingers and forearms. You need to stretch. I’d recommend before, after and during playing taking some time to wiggle your fingers and stretch your arms - in, out, shake them all about.
This will not only help you relax the muscles and get passed some of that pain, but it will help improve your playing and speed too!
5. Speed it up
Now you’ve got your metronome and you’ve been practicing nice and slowly, you’re getting better note clarity and more confidence in your ability, try increasing the speed. NOT TOO FAST! Just a little bit at a time.
If you’ve got a piece absolutely nailed, then why not try bumping up the tempo a little bit? Sure, the song might sound ridiculous at this speed, but, you’re doing this for you and your improvement, and most importantly - your enjoyment!
6. Self Analyze
Where is it exactly that you are falling short? Is it the transition between chords? Is it the - dreaded F chord?!
Wherever it is, it’s important to take note of it and work on it. Focus on your weakness and work on it. The longer you avoid these things the harder they will become too correct!
Small Tip: If you are really struggling to get better at one thing, then get creative. Think outside the box and create an exercise that will help you. Here’s an example - struggling to change between chords? Try removing your chord hand and lightly slapping the top of your knee between each chord. Once you get faster, try making that slap part of the beat!
7. Capture a video
This might sound a bit cringey.. Nobody likes watching or listening to themselves back, but this can actually help a surprising amount.
You get the opportunity to analyse your playing from a completely different point of view! You may well find things you are doing wrong easier to spot, and you might see some things you are doing really well too! Bonus points for these...
8. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? PRACTICE... AGAIN!
Some people pick up the guitar faster than others... But NOBODY gets it overnight. NOBODY.
You need to practice, it’s the only way to improve. Yes there’s a wealth of forums online talking about the guitar; the specifications, the techniques - blah blah blah.
These aren’t going to help you progress nearly as much as picking the thing up and playing it! So do it now - What are you waiting for?!
No, I’m not suggesting getting a home gym installed... But I am suggesting you workout your fingers and often too. After a session of chords and strumming, try an exercise with single notes on each finger, working them up and down the guitar, getting them used to working on their own - building their individual strengths.
10. Learn something new each day
(This is great life advice as-well as guitar advice, maybe I should be a psychologist?... No!)
Learn new songs, new techniques, new anythings each day - this will take you far and progress your playing super quick, I promise.
After 20 years of playing, if I learn somebody else’s song - I LEARN SOMETHING. It could be a small thing and it could be mind blowing. It could be a different way to play a chord, a new time signature, a new riff that makes my head bang all by itself or just something subtle that I just never considered before!
If it does and it ends up taking you to the big time, just remember my name okay?
- Raff Evans