When you’re first learning guitar, all of the information can be a bit intimidating. But no worries, we’ve got you covered with some overlooked practice tips to keep you on the right path. We highly recommend you to download the Uberchord app to learn guitar. The app listens to you and provides you instant feedback when you play it wrong. It can track your daily progress and even challenge you into playing new chord shapes and bar chords.
Table of Contents
1. THERE ARE NO WRONG NOTES
The world renowned jazz trumpeter Miles Davis is quoted as saying there are no wrong notes. The legendary jazz bassist Victor Wooten took it a step further and showed us there really are none. In C major, you have seven notes that sound “inside” over whatever you’re playing. On a piano it’s all the white keys. If you play an “outside” note, a black key on the piano, it may sound off, but you’re only one half step away from an “inside” note. On the guitar it’s as simple as moving up or down one fret.
If you practice turning bad notes into good notes, you can bypass your fear of playing wrong notes. It’s a fear that almost all musicians, especially beginners have. You now have the power to overcome that fear. There are no wrong notes.
2. USE A METRONOME TO DEVELOP YOUR OWN INTERNAL RHYTHM
Practice with a metronome, but without your guitar at first. Get the rhythm into your ears and into your body. Where do you feel it? Some people bob their head, some tap their foot, some sway. Whatever you do, learn to internalize that rhythm, then pick up your instrument and practice, leaving the metronome on. Play and then stop. You should still be able to feel the rhythm. Repeat this exercise daily, steadily increasing the tempo.
Put on your favorite recordings and see if you can pick up the rhythm. How would you play it? Put on different styles of music that have unusual rhythms. Can you still pick out the beat?
You can download the Uberchord Chord Trainer to help bring your chords and sense of timing up to speed
3. PRACTICE IN STRESSFUL CONDITIONS
When I played in my high school jazz band, we played a Christmas recital outside with snow coming down. I was out there three hours before for set up and rehearsal. My fingers were freezing, but I still played flawlessly. The reason why is because whenever I would come in after being out in the cold, when my fingers were still numb, I went straight to the guitar and practiced finger exercises. I took a tip from Navy SEALs who use sleep deprivation to lock in physical training into their subconscious, and whenever I was super tired, I practiced difficult exercises to get the movements down. I also practiced in different moods and states of mind.
You never know what conditions you’ll have to play under. Everyone has an off night, but when you practice under difficult circumstances, you can still sound good when your conditions aren’t perfect. Next time you feel down, tired, unmotivated, or angry, pick up your guitar and practice.
4. VISUALISE YOUR SUCCESS
Whatever your musical goal is, visualiSe yourself achieving it. This is what helped me nail recitals in college, what helped me when I got to stand in, and what helped me in overall practice. VisualiSe yourself practicing before you practice. The rhythm, the dynamics, the solo, every note played to perfection. Visualise your audience. Their faces are in awe, they are clapping, there’s a roar from the crowd. Finally! This is what they’ve been waiting to hear! Fellow musicians are even coming up to you afterwards to congratulate you.
Envision it. Make it so real you can taste it. Keep that vision with you whenever you practice and perform.
5. LEARN TO HARNESS YOUR ENERGY
Go and listen to The Stooges’ Fun House, Jimi Hendrix’s Band Of Gypsies, or Led Zeppelin live or, John Coltrane’s Live At Birdland. Those were all seminal live recordings. The energy contained in those performances is astounding. But the reason why they are all so good is because they learned to harness the energy between all members of the band. Learn to listen to the rhythm section, and combine their energy and your energy to create a bigger wall of sound.
The other aspect to this is harnessing crowd energy when you’re performing. The more you get into it, the more they get into it, and the more they get into it, the more you want to get into it. Then you’re giving them what they deserve, a knockout performance.
6. CHANNEL YOUR INFLUENCES
Whoever your influences are, a good exercise for when you’re playing and jamming is to imagine y
ourself playing something that they would have played. How would Jimi Hendrix play this? What sort of lick would Steve Vai throw in here? It’s also useful to study who their influences were as well. If you come across any chord in their music that you’re unfamiliar with, use the Uberchord Chord Finder to help you figure out exactly what chord it is you’re playing.
Practice switching influences mid song or mid jam. Start the song off with one influence in your head, and end it with another influence. Alternate different ones. Eventually you will start to find your own voice on the guitar.
7. FIND NON MUSICAL INSPIRATION
I’m of the philosophy that music and inspiration can be found anywhere. Go to a park, go for a walk, take a drive, and let your environment speak to you. What is it saying? How can you express that musically? In The Velvet Underground’s I’m Waiting For The Man, and in Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue, you get a sense for the driving pulse of New York City, but very different visions. See how can you express your environment in music.
Find something non music related. A tree, a painting, a photograph, and stare at it until you see it in a new way. Then pick up your instrument and try to play what that thing is saying to you.
8. PRACTICE DYNAMICS REGULARLY
When I first started out, I played bass guitar. The strings were thicker and harder to fret, and my fingers weren’t strong enough to even hold down the strings. So I practiced what I could control. Dynamics, or how loud or soft you play something.
Combined with the other elements of guitar, control of dynamics is a subtle but potent tool to use in your playing. It can heighten the drama of a solo, or provide beautiful background for a ballad.
Using the Uberchord guitar learning app, try playing the chords softly at first, gradually increasing the volume. When you are playing them as loud as you can, start to gradually play them softer.
9. SLOW DOWN!
Miles Davis is quoted with saying “Don’t play what’s there. Play what’s not there.” Take your favorite lick that you can play good at a fast tempo, and slow it down half way. See if you can still make it sound good, or even better by playing it at half tempo. Then slow it down halfway again. Make it sound new.
Do this with all of your licks and you’ll find yourself able to play haunting things regardless of tempo. This also helps you’re sense of time and rhythm, too. Combine this with dynamics, and you can turn an average lick into something very memorable.
10. BUT, HAVE FUN!
Long practice sessions, tedious exercises, maintenance expenses, theory, and the like, can start to get boring and make music feel more like a chore. But remember that excited feeling you had that made you want to play when you first started.
Go listen to that band or musician who really wanted to make you play in the first place. Take part in that sense of wonder again. And then forget all of the things you learned in practice, pick up your instrument and play your heart out.