9 Things Guitarists Should Work On But Don’t

what to practice on guitar

Let’s face it, in today’s hectic world it’s hard to find time to practice guitar, and when you do you often feel tired or uninspired, and just end up playing through a bunch of stuff you already know. While it’s good to reinforce things you’ve already learned, you might want to consider adding some of the following elements to your precious practice time so as to get the most out of it and really make waves with your guitar playing.

1. Phrasing

Having good phrasing will set you apart from the crowd as far as soloing is concerned, think of it as how well you well you articulate your ideas, and how well you communicate with your audience, as I explain in this article.

2. Your Music

Unless you’re in a covers band and need to maintain a fairly extensive repertoire of other people’s music, you’ll want to dedicate some time to working on your own stuff. Not only does it give you an immense amount of satisfaction to come up with your own tunes and licks, but exploring the guitar through composition is a unique and personal way to get to know the instrument. Who knows? You may even find your own unique voice on the guitar.

3. Economy of Movement

Economy of movement on guitar means reducing the amount of ‘finger flapping’ that goes on when you play scales and chords to an absolute minimum. This has a multitude of benefits such as greater control, the ability to play fast as well as cleanly, plus your technique will come on in leaps and bounds. Check out this excellent lesson by Justin Sandercoe on how to achieve economy of movement.

4. Chord Knowledge

Guitarists are notorious for not knowing enough chords and relying heavily on barre chords and open chords. There are many great books on the subject but the one I go back to time and time again is Ted Greene’s Chord Chemistry.

5. Time

I have to admit I can’t stand metronomes; the incessant clicking drives me insane. If you’re really having problems with your timing then you may have to resort to one but if that isn’t the case then you should dedicate some time to your timing, or feel, or groove… They amount to the same thing. You can do this by shifting your attention to your timing when playing. Are you right on the beat, behind it, or pushing it? Better still record yourself playing along to a backing track and objectively listening back to your playing to see if there are any problem areas, or things you could improve. The first step to improving something like this is to become aware of the problem, especially if you don’t have a guitar teacher to point it out.

6. Learning the Notes on the Neck

Another lazy area for guitarists is actually learning the notes on the neck. This won’t happen overnight, as many gimmicky methods would have you believe, but make sure you’re doing something each practice session to work towards the goal of mastering this skill. Check out the Free PDF Lessons eBook for my method of learning the notes on the neck.

7. Sight-reading

Another area really worth working on is sight-reading. If only for the fact that it gives you a new perspective on the fretboard and opens up a whole new world of music for other instruments such as the saxophone and violin that was previously unavailable. Check out this article for a pain-free way to learn to read music on guitar.

8. Your Ear

Often referred to as ear straining, improving your ear is one of the best things you can do as a musician. Thankfully there are a ton of apps you can download for your smartphone to be able to practice wherever you are. My personal favorite is My Ear Trainer.

9. Real Improvisation

Most guitarists, when they improvise, are mainly relying on stuff they already know such as licks, runs, arpeggios and so forth; there’s very little real improvisation going on. I would class real improvisation as playing the unknown; that is, playing something you’ve never heard or played before. It’s worth checking out Allan Holdsworth or Vernon Reid’s playing to get an idea of how to venture into unknown territory. You don’t need ridiculous technique to be able to do this; sometimes is just a matter of taking risks and hopefully landing on your feet. Remember: the right note is just a semi-tone away…


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