How To Get Really Good At Guitar: 5 Essential Principles
Author: Matthew King
There is very little agreement on how to get really good at guitar playing. Even worse, everyone seems to have an opinion on what’s NOT good guitar playing. In my playing journey, it was extremely tough to figure out what I needed to do to get good, and I imagine most people reading this now are in the same boat.
Our heart knows what makes good guitar playing. It’s someone who can grab our attention with the instrument, create music that keeps our attention, and make very few mistakes that distracts us from experiencing the song or composition they’re playing. The big problem though is, “how do we get to this point?”
This article will be an attempt to define how to get really good at guitar. Hopefully we’ll reveal lots of new insights that you may have never heard before, but there will probably be a few things you’ve heard before.
Want to read the article and see if there’s something you missed along the way? Or maybe you’re looking for the extra piece of info that’ll push you to the next level? If it ain’t here, you won’t find it anywhere else…….
How We Define Really Good Guitar Playing
When it comes to good guitar playing, you may think of two types: the instrumental virtuoso, and the talented composer/songwriter. Most guitar players will fall into one zone or the other, and it seems rare to find a guitar player who truly balances the two with great success.
David Gilmour is a great songwriter, but doesn’t play like Steve Vai. Tosin Abasi and Jason Becker have such amazing technique, but their music isn’t as popular as Guns n’ Roses or Led Zeppelin’s. John Petrucci writes very different music from George Harrison, but both create amazing music and are very competent guitar players. It’s all a matter of opinion when it comes to individual taste.
With that in mind, the roadmap you should take on how to get really good at guitar will more than likely entail the following:
- Learn lots of songs. Easy songs, hard songs, and songs that don’t have any guitar in them.
- Take the time to learn all the ins and outs of the instrument, and constantly work on your weaker areas.
- Build your knowledge of how music works, and increase your knowledge of the fretboard with every song or riff you learn.
- Be a compassionate self-critic. Be realistic about your playing abilities and what needs work, but tell yourself it’s okay to make mistakes and that it’s normal to do so.
- Never stop trying to push yourself beyond your current abilities as a guitar player.
With that in mind, let’s briefly explore each of these points……
How To Get Really Good At Guitar: Learn Lots Of Songs & Build A Repertoire
The very first step that any guitar player must take is to learn songs. Learn what you’re really into, and keep finding new songs to learn. Eventually, you’ll have a repertoire of riffs and songs that you can play to keep yourself and your friends n’ family entertained.
Now some of you may have already checked out and skipped this step, but you may be missing something important. Really great guitar players are always looking to learn songs that challenge their abilities. If you play the same old AC/DC riffs and Taylor Swift songs then you’re more than likely going to get bored.
Try to learn a new genre like Jazz or Country. Figure out new ways to play songs you already know using fingerstyle, percussive acoustic, or travis picking techniques. There are always new challenges you can take with your instrument!
Take The Time To Learn The Fundamentals Of Good Technique
Please don’t clock out and skim the rest of this article because of this basic tip. Many of you will probably be surprised that you’re still making lots of mistakes and have bad habits you’ve never corrected before.
Like we said in the previous section, there are always new techniques to learn and apply to songs you already know. Just learning a new style of picking like economy picking will keep you busy for a long time!
Just a few fundamentals you can work on include:
- Learning or improving new pick hand techniques like travis picking, percussive guitar techniques, economy picking, and sweep picking to name a few
- Make sure that you’re always using the most efficient fret hand positions available as you’re learning new material
- Working on decreasing fret noise, ringing notes, and other noises you may make as you play
- Try new exercises to help you increase speed, improve synchronization between both hands, and better sound out all the notes in your licks or riffs
How To Get Really Good At Guitar: Learn Music Theory & How Chords Work
Many of you will fight us kicking and screaming on this, and I can already hear the responses to this one. It doesn’t matter what you think Slash does or does not know about the fretboard. If you put notes together in rhythms to make chords and scales, then you’re using music theory.
Music theory is just the alphabet and grammar of music. The more you understand it and know it, the better you’ll be at forming musical words and sentences. If you have any aspirations of becoming a songwriter or improvising music in a jam session then this knowledge will be of immense help to you.
How To Get Really Good At Guitar: Be A Good Self-Critic
Now don’t be like the guy in that YouTube video that hits his hands whenever he makes a mistake…..allow yourself to make mistakes and repeat what you’re playing until you work out how to play it smoothly.
However you can’t be a good self-critic if you aren’t honest about mistakes you’re making, or you refuse to learn how music works. You can only improve what you’re aware of doing while playing the instrument.
Always Push Yourself Beyond Your Current Abilities
If you get nothing else from this article, remember this: push yourself beyond your current abilities. If you’re good at soloing with one scale, then learn how to use another. If you’re bored with writing music with basic chords, then learn how to make music with more advanced chords. If you’ve never attempted to solo over a Jazz progression, then just try it and see how you do.
If you have no idea what to work on to get better, then just find another artist’s music to learn. There’s bound to be something else you want to learn, and with the internet nearly all music is now accessible and easy to find tabs or sheet music for.
The reason why there is no clear path for how to get really good at guitar is that everyone’s journey will be different. Everyone is going to have a different image of what that looks like, and we’ll all have different ways of getting there. That’s the beauty of learning any instrument, but especially the guitar!
If you enjoyed this article, we hope you’ll use your newfound motivation to browse our blog posts. We have articles on pretty guitar chords, songs with b minor to g chord progression, and songs that begin with a tritone. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s more than likely an article on our site that’ll help you move forward!
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