After several years of doing not much more than just noodling around when I picked up a guitar, I finally changed some old practice habits and actually saw some improvement for once. Although I'm happy for the progress, it got me thinking that I really could have gotten to this point a whole lot quicker—maybe 15 years quicker— if I had just taken a few simple steps early on in my playing. So I thought it might be a good thread topic to see what people would have told themselves as they were just starting out...pitfalls to avoid, etc. Here's my list. A lot of these are practice-based suggestions, but some are just ideas to get through my own mental blocks.
1. Play with back-up recordings immediately. It doesn’t matter that you don’t think you’re ready, do it anyway! Play the melody over and over again and start to embellish it when you get more comfortable. Then play a couple of notes per bar, get used to landing on the root on the one beat. Get used to transitioning between chord tones in different chords. Get used to hearing that chord progression over and over until it’s nearly impossible for you to get lost. There’s a lot you can learn by doing this before you’re ready to blaze over chord changes at 220 bpm!
2. Don’t do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. If you’re stuck –practice differently. Also, when you finally have that tough lick or arpeggio sounding good and at a decent tempo…move on to something harder. You’re done with that now!
3. Spend 25% of your practice time working on the thing that you hate working on most. There’s probably a reason why you hate working on it. It’s probably the worst aspect of your playing and the thing that’s holding you back!
4. Work on your ears. Pick up the guitar and figure out commercial jingles while you’re watching TV. Do this often.
5. Start thinking of chord progressions in 4-bar chunks. Practice these chunks separately. You’ll find they start going by a lot slower!
6. Figure out a way through lack of inspiration. When you are uninspired musically, try to spend that time working on something more mechanical. Expecting something musical to come out at that point will only make you more frustrated with the process. But do something!
Of course, this is just what would have helped me. Everyone gets blocked in different places, so I’m curious to hear your advice to your former selves! Thanks in advance.