By Tom Hess
Do you feel unsatisfied with your current guitar playing skills? Chances are, you have inherited many bad playing habits over the years that are currently holding you back from becoming the player you want to become. If you are like most guitarists, this makes you feel helpless because you think you have to rebuild your guitar playing from the ground up while learning new techniques or skills.
Unfortunately, if you have already reached a major plateau in your guitar playing, you are very likely to experience this kind of frustration before seeing any progress toward your musical goals. If you are a self-taught guitar player, you are much more likely to develop bad habits and go through this because you have no teacher to guide you when your playing gets off course. This is something I see all the time when teaching new guitar students who have been trying to teach themselves how to play for many years.
After turning countless average electric guitarists into great electric guitarists, I’ve observed pretty much any guitar playing issue you could possibly imagine. The following are just a few of the bad habits that I have helped my students eliminate:
1. Guitar practicing methods that are not effective, because they are based off of misinformation or faulty premises. These types of practice approaches make it nearly impossible to accomplish what you want on guitar. I talk more extensively about these bad practicing habits (and how to fix them) in this free video about how to get results from guitar practice.
2. Very inefficient picking hand technique that stems from many years of practice using inefficient picking movements or a limited picking system. Watch this free guitar video on the topic of how to build guitar speed to check out an example of this.
3. Untwisting a knot of poor guitar technique habits caused by years of using too much tension and lacking finger independence in the fretting hand.
4. Frequently using the CAGED method as a means to memorize the fretboard and learn scales. The CAGED method is one of the worst things a guitar player can learn – it causes so many problems that I’d have to devote an entire article (or book!) to cover them all. At the very least, this system will greatly limit your ability to creatively improvise on guitar. Many of my new students come to me frustrated after using CAGED system for a long time and we have to take the time to fix all the problems they developed from using it. However, once we are done, they always thank me because they have become MUCH better players.
Of course, the points above are only a few of the possible bad habits you might have. Whether you are suffering from ‘these’ specific bad habits or different ones, there are several steps you can take that will help you fix them and become a much better guitarist. These steps will help reduce the frustration described at the beginning of this article.
Here is the process you need to follow:
1. BECOME EXCITED when you discover a fundamental problem in your guitar playing, because you are about to become a much better player. Even if you feel a bit disappointed because you are not the player you thought you were, know that your guitar playing skills can only get better. Instead of allowing yourself to become a mediocre player, you can simply fix your current playing issues and take one step closer to becoming the guitarist you always wanted to become. This is a reason to celebrate!
2. Become very analytical. To entirely eliminate a core issue in your guitar playing, you need to:
A. Clearly identify the issue or bad habit (use these free guitar playing surveys to see what you should be fixing now in your playing).
B. Get a clear understanding of why the problem is keeping you from becoming the player you want to become
C. Know what steps to take to solve your problem
D. Figure precisely why these specific steps are the best solutions for solving the issue
E. Picture how much better you will be once you have solved the issue and improved your guitar playing skills
Every one of the five points above is absolutely crucial (and the assessments mentioned will serve as great tools for gaining clarity on these points). Simply ‘being motivated’ throughout the correction process of a core guitar playing problem is very important. In order to remain motivated, you must clearly understand both WHAT your specific issue is and WHY it holds you back from achieving your guitar playing goals. You will also find that visualizing how great you will be as a player after solving your problem is CRUCIAL for sustaining a high level of motivation.
The majority of guitar players only focus on one or two of the points mentioned above (usually A and C) while completely ignoring points B, D & E. This increases the chances that they will run out of motivation long before they totally fix their bad guitar playing habits. Find out more about preventing this from happening by studying this article on how to avoid musical burnout.
3. Focus on correcting one issue at a time. It is very easy to become overwhelmed when you learn that you have tons of issues to work on (essentially making you feel like you are starting over as a guitarist). You don’t need to feel this way and I’ll explain why:
Instead of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, get organized by developing a highly effective guitar practice schedule and getting rid of your problems exactly how you would approach learning any new skill.
This takes me to the next point:
4. Don’t feel like you have to solve ALL of your guitar playing issues at once. In other words, don’t put your other guitar skills on hold in order to fix your bad habits. This is something that many guitar players do and their playing suffers as a result. Rather than doing this, simply set aside time to practice/improve your problem areas, but continue to develop in other areas of your playing as well. Learn more about this approach in this article about making fast guitar playing progress.
5. Don’t make the common mistake of trying to eliminate deeply rooted bad guitar playing habits by yourself. There is a reason why you were unable to see these issues in the first place. You need the guidance of an expert guitar teacher to help you completely eliminate any poor playing habits you have accumulated over the years. When looking for a great guitar teacher, always make sure that this person has a proven track record for helping guitarists – who are the same situation as you – effectively solve their playing issues. Learn how to do this by downloading this free resource on the topic of how to find a guitar teacher.
6. You become like the people you surround yourself with… so surround yourself with excellent guitar players who will support you as you work on correcting major guitar playing issues. By simply being around these types of people, you will gain a huge motivational boost to reach your musical goals faster. I know this is true, because I continually see the massive positive effect my private musician forum has on every new student who begins taking lessons with me.
7. Maintain your patience throughout the correction process and push through to the end. Eliminating very fundamental bad habits in your guitar playing is no easy task. As soon as you begin the process, you will have to strongly resist returning to your old, more comfortable playing methods. To make sure you stay on the right track, ALWAYS keep your mind focused on the end result you desire for your guitar playing. For help with this, read this column on the topic of persevering as a guitarist.
After reading this article, you are now prepared to begin fixing fundamental issues in your guitar playing. Fill out these free guitar playing surveys right now to start the process. Next, carefully follow the points in this article, apply the concepts into your current practicing methods and find a great guitar teacher who will guide you along the right path. Once you do this, you will quickly reach your highest guitar playing goals and become the guitarist you always wanted to be!
About The Author:
Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, songwriter and a pro guitarist. He uses the best online guitar lessons to train guitar players to reach their musical goals. Go to tomhess.net to get more guitar playing resources, guitar playing eBooks, and to read more guitar playing articles.