We’ve all imagined ourselves in Jimi Hendrix’s shoes, making our guitars scream beautifully and shredding solos. Or maybe your guitar dream is fingerpicking your heart out like Chet Atkins.
This ideal version of ourselves playing guitar is a healthy one to have – it inspires and encourages us to keep improving!
But let’s face it, nobody, or at least very few people, is born like that. It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, and practice to get to any kind of advanced level. And I hate to say it, but you might not ever reach Jimi Hendrix status!
As with all things that require effort, it’s very common to have dips in motivation and lulls in progress. So much so that you begin to doubt why you even embarked on your guitar journey in the first place.
While it’s only natural to feel this way, it’s unfortunately not productive.
If you’ve hit a plateau (or find yourself in an actual rut), don’t give up! I’m going to share some tips to help you both get better at guitar and fire up your passion to keep playing and improving every day!
1. Play Guitar Every Day (Even 10 Minutes Help!)
Practicing consistently is the holy grail of guitar playing – it’s the one act that is going to take you from guitar zero to guitar hero. It is hands down the BEST way to learn the guitar.
Many people think of practice as grinding out scales and arpeggios – but practicing doesn’t have to be boring!
To develop a rock-solid daily guitar routine, try these tips:
- Practice little but often. Instead of doing a 3-hour practice session every other week, try short daily sessions of about 10 minutes. Remember, consistency is key to progressing in anything in life, guitar included.
- Have a plan. Instead of aimlessly wandering into your regular practice sessions, draw up a plan so you know what you’ll cover each week or month. This could be something as simple as the category you intend to cover (think chords or scales), or something more advanced like a list of exercises with different tempos.
- Strike a balance. Your practice should ideally strike a balance of maintenance exercises, new techniques, and knowledge and work towards your goals.
- Make it fun. If your practice only focuses on the tough and difficult, chances are you won’t be running back for more. Do what you need to do to keep it fun and exciting. Challenge yourself by learning new techniques, learn some of your favorite easy guitar songs, or jam with your friends – there’s lots of fun to be had!
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2. Focus on Proper Technique
Technique is extremely important. Think of it like the foundation of a house – everything else is built on top of it.
Mastering proper technique will lay the groundwork for every other aspect of your guitar practice.
Let’s look at a few techniques that should be on your list to help you get better at guitar:
- Proper hand placement. Knowing how to hold your guitar properly is key. Hold the neck of the guitar with your left hand, keeping your thumb on the back of the neck for support. Your fingers should be curved and pressing the strings down firmly but not too hard. Then there’s the right-hand technique. Place your right hand over the soundhole or near the bridge, depending on the desired tone and technique.
- Fingerpicking. Use your fingers (usually thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers) to pluck the strings individually. Start by practicing basic patterns and gradually increase the complexity. Keep your fingers close to the strings for better control and accuracy.
- Strumming. Hold a pick between your thumb and index finger of your right hand, with the pointed end facing downward. Maintain a loose grip and use your wrist to create fluid up and down strokes across the strings. Practice different strumming patterns to develop a rhythmic feel.
- Chord transitions. Work on smoothly transitioning between chords. Practice lifting your fingers off the strings and placing them down on new chords without pausing or muting any strings. This will help you play songs more seamlessly and without interruptions.
3. Master Basic Chords and Scales
Although chords and scales might feel a bit beginner-ish, even advanced guitar players revisit them every now and again.
Regardless of the genre or style you aspire to play, chords and scales lay a solid foundation for your musical journey.
Begin by mastering a few fundamental chords and gradually progress to more advanced ones. Chords can be categorized into basic, advanced, and power chords. For a comprehensive exploration, refer to this chord guide.
Guitar scales are excellent for enhancing your musical comprehension and theoretical knowledge, which are essential for improvising melodies or riffs. If you’re looking for a good place to start, check out these beginner guitar scales.
4. Develop Fingerpicking and Strumming Techniques
Both fingerpicking and strumming are great techniques that can be used to add personality and flair to your playing style.
Fingerpicking involves plucking your guitar strings with your fingernails or plectrums. There are many different styles of fingerpicking and it can actually get pretty complex the more you learn. I wrote a whole article about getting better at fingerpicking and what to avoid, so if you’d like some tips I recommend giving it a read.
Strumming helps develop a strong sense of rhythm and timing. It allows you to establish and maintain a steady beat while playing chords or accompanying other musicians.
It also adds expressiveness and dynamics to your playing and allows you to convey different emotions and create a wide range of tonal variations within a song. Mastering different strumming patterns gives you greater control over the mood and energy of your playing.
5. Learn Songs That You Love
Life is too short to learn songs you don’t enjoy – so don’t!
Just as you shouldn’t confine yourself to boring practice sessions, you should limit yourself to playing songs that stultify the soul!
The acoustic guitar is about fun, enjoyment, and passion! So the songs you play should reflect that.
This is where guitar practice gets really fun as you can connect your love of music with your desire to improve!
6. Use a Metronome
A metronome is a valuable tool for improving your technique and speed and developing a solid sense of timing, and learning how to use a metronome will give rigor and structure to your practice.
You can use a metronome to improve the following areas of your guitar playing:
- Timing and precision
- Speed and dexterity
- Subdividing beats
- Chord changes and transitions
- Improvisation and soloing
When using a metronome, remember to start with a comfortable tempo and gradually increase the speed as you become more comfortable and competent at that speed.
7. Improvise With Only Two Notes
Improvisation is a very fun way to improve your guitar playing. Not only is it fun and creative, but it can also be very challenging.
While you can improvise with chords, scales, and arpeggios, a fun exercise is to improvise using only two notes. This allows you to concentrate on melody and rhythm without feeling overwhelmed by options.
Start by choosing two notes, then add in rhythm and techniques such as hammer-on or pull-off.
As you begin to feel more comfortable with improvisation, start to add on more techniques such as palm muting, vibrato, or bending.
What’s most important about this exercise is that you have fun and let your creativity go wild. This exercise is great as it also builds secondary but essential skills like ear training and phrasing.
8. Jam With Your Friends
What’s not to love about getting your friends together to jam guitar? In fact, this is the reason many of us picked up the acoustic guitar in the first place!
Some advantages of jamming with friends include:
- Boosting your musical understanding as you learn and exchange with each other
- Exposing yourself to different musical perspectives
- Putting yourself in an encouraging space to help you stay motivated
- Honing your ability to play with others
- Improving your improvisation skills in a casual setting
If you don’t have a jamming buddy or you’re just looking to expand your circle, then joining an online community like the one at Tony’s Acoustic Challenge is a great way to make guitar friends!
9. Experiment With Different Styles
As a guitarist, exploring different musical styles is like going on holiday – you get to try something new, have fun, and get inspired!
It’s common to feel trapped in one genre when you’re learning a new instrument – especially because that prevents you from learning the different techniques and styles of other genres.
Take rock for instance, if you stick rigidly to rock, you might miss out on the fingerpicking and alternate tunings renowned with folk music. Or the improvisation and complex melodies of jazz.
Each musical style brings with it different ways to challenge yourself, express yourself, and grow.
Experimenting with different styles doesn’t only come down to trying to play new songs, but also listening to other styles of music and jamming with different types of musicians.
10. Sign Up for a Guitar Course
If you’d like to seriously take your guitar playing to the next level, then I highly recommend you check out my online guitar workshop – Tony’s Acoustic Challenge.
I designed it specifically to help guitar players of all levels see consistent, meaningful progress and have fun at the same time.
It’s full of exercises to help you learn new techniques swiftly and effectively and catapult you from guitar dabbler to serious guitar player FAST!
Watch the FREE guitar class to learn the three things that will help build a life of consistent guitar playing in just 10 minutes a day.
How long does it take to get good enough at guitar?
Improving at guitar is a unique journey that differs from person to person.
While it might take some a few months to get good, it can take others years. That being said, with consistent playing, you’ll start to see improvement faster than you think. But to become a truly advanced player, like anything in life, it will take many years of dedication.
Do you get better at guitar simply by playing?
While playing the guitar alone can of course help you improve, it’s only going to get you so far. I always recommend some goal-oriented practice and learning activities in order to really grow as a guitarist.
For example, trying to write a song on your guitar. In an effort to craft a complete musical piece, you’ll understand more about how a guitar fits – what it adds and takes away, and how to take it to the next level.
Deliberate practice has far greater effects than just improvising some random chords or playing songs you already know. This type of playing helps you address your weaknesses, improve them and refine your technique.
Can you improve really quickly?
Improving very quickly is of course possible, but it’s not something I recommend striving for. Everyone’s guitar learning journey is different.
The only thing I recommend for continuous improvement is to remain consistent with your guitar playing. On top of that, the process of playing and thereby learning the guitar is one of the most fun and rewarding ones you can take part in, so enjoy it!