By Tom Hess
One of the biggest misconceptions in the guitar playing community is thinking that making fast progress will lead you to your musical goals more quickly. Truth is, there are endless guitarists who actually ruin their ability to achieve their goals because they make ‘too much’ progress ‘too fast’ in one area of their playing, and little or no progress in other important areas. As a result, these under-developed areas end up holding back their progress. Then it takes them months if not years to balance things out and get back on the right path toward reaching their musical goals.
Why Uncontrolled/Mismanaged Progress Is Destructive For Guitar Playing:
Unbalanced guitar skills are caused directly by making progress too quickly in one area of your playing while ignoring other (important) areas. After teaching guitar for many years, countless guitar players have come to me with ‘unbalanced’ skills and expressed great frustration because they were unable to be fully creative in their playing. In most cases, players focus primarily on improving technique and speed while ignoring improvisation, ear training and other important skills. As a result, the guitarist is unable to ‘think’ as fast as he can play, leading to unbalanced overall playing, and a glaring weakness in overall musical creativity. In the end, they are held back by their weaknesses – unable to fully reach their highest guitar playing goals and take advantage of their main strengths. This is like fixing-up an old car and investing all of your money into purchasing the most high-powered engine you can find while completely ignoring the fact that the brake pads are worn down, the tires are bald and the suspension is terrible. This will obviously lead to issues in your car’s performance and you will not get the maximum benefit from your engine until these other factors are taken care of.
Here are the most common reasons why unmanaged/out of control progress happens for many guitarists:
Reason One: Guitar players falsely believe that they need to fully master certain skills before they practice other areas. This causes them to consistently practice in only one area of their playing while ignoring others. This is a very common occurrence that I’ve seen countless times in the hundreds of students I’ve had over the years. Here are two of the most common examples of this:
Example One: Guitarists use up every moment of their practice schedule to focus on increasing speed/building technique and learning about music theory, trying to master these things before they begin integrating them into their improvisation and songwriting. These players may increase their ability to play with good technique and understand concepts in music theory, but they will remain a novice when it comes to applying their skills in any kind of self-expressive manner. Truth is, improvising requires practice of a very specific set of skills at the same time that you work to improve your general guitar playing. There is almost nothing more disappointing than having to start from square one after spending countless hours building your skills in a totally unbalanced manner.
Example Two: Many guitarists who want to become great improvisers attempt to memorize the entire fretboard before working on their improvising skills. They spend many months working to memorize each note for each fret as quickly as possible before finally working to become better at improvisation. As a result, they are surprised when the time comes to improvise and their ability to recall individual note names on the fretboard is completely useless because they never learned how to integrate this knowledge with the understanding of how each note feels while being played over specific chords. Again this mismanagement and out of control progress leads guitar players away from the goals they intended to reach.
To get a better idea of how to prevent these approaches from affecting your playing, watch the video about the most efficient guitar practice method.
Reason Two: In some cases, guitar players seem to ‘naturally’ make progress faster with specific guitar skills while struggling to improve in other areas of their playing. This situation occurs because the practicing approaches in their weaker areas are nowhere near as effective as the ones they use with their strengths. This commonly happens with guitarists who learn guitar on their own OR with people who take lessons with guitar teachers who have not helped tons of other guitarists reach their goals.
How Can This Be Solved?
Before I reveal what needs to get done in order to bypass the issues mentioned above, there are two errors you must avoid:
1. ‘Distributing practice time equally for all areas of your playing’: After reading about the above problems, you might be thinking that the best approach to guitar practice is practicing all your skills for an equal amount of time. DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE! Truth is, your guitar playing skills to not grow in the same manner at the same rate. With this in mind, it makes no sense to reserve the same amount of practice time for all areas of your playing because this will only lead you back to the problem of becoming ‘unbalanced’.
2. ‘Practicing EVERYTHING so you don’t have any weaknesses’: Before you consider using this bad approach to practice, consider the fact that all of your favorite guitar players have major weaknesses in tons of areas that are outside of their particular playing style. That said, although their playing suffers from these weaknesses, it doesn’t matter for them because these ‘weaknesses’ have nothing to do with the kind of music they like to play. They have mastered the strengths that matter most for their musical goals. For example, top-notch metal guitar players are usually unable to play fingerstyle passages on a nylon-stringed classical guitar. Blues players usually have no ability to transcribe and play Paganini compositions for guitar. However, these players fully understand the difference between ‘weaknesses that matter’ (that keep them from reaching their musical goals) and ‘weaknesses that don’t matter’ (that have nothing to do with their musical goals). The weaknesses that are most relevant MUST be improved upon in order to achieve your musical goals. Any other weaknesses can be overlooked.
These are the steps you must follow to make sure that your guitar playing doesn’t become unbalanced:
1. Read this article about accomplishing musical goals to better understand what you should be working on in your guitar playing right now.
2. Learn how to put together a guitar practice schedule that helps you maximize productivity in relation to your specific musical goals. Then take initiative to use your practice schedule consistently and make progress toward these goals. Test your ability to create an effective guitar practice routine and get better results from your practice.
3. Don’t fall for the trap of only practicing what you are good at while not practicing in areas where you are weak. Your (‘relevant’) weaknesses will always hold you back from achieving your ultimate goals – you must fix them first before you can fully use your musical strengths.
4. Don’t assume that some musical skills need to be fully mastered before you can even begin working to improve in other areas of your playing. Learn how to effectively develop different areas of your guitar playing by learning this guitar practice method.
5. Locate a great guitar teacher who has already helped other guitarists reach their highest goals and understands how to help you reach yours by providing you with many effective strategies. Find the greatest guitar teacher for you by downloading this free resource about how to locate a guitar teacher.
By following the steps mentioned above you will avoid the frequent problems of uncontrolled guitar playing progress and get on the fast track to achieving your musical goals.
About The Author:
Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, recording artist and virtuoso guitar player. He teaches guitar players from all over the world in his online guitar lessons. Visit his website tomhess.net to get free guitar playing resources and to read more guitar playing articles.