It is completely normal to want to look for new information when you start to feel like your playing is getting old or boring. Is this the best way to improve your guitar playing? The answer might surprise you because it isn't what people will usually tell you to do (you know, "conventional wisdom")
In this article I will talk to you about a better and faster way to get the results you are really looking for. The great thing is that you won't have to look any further than your own mind. Sounds intriguing right?
Most of the time, in looking for new things to play, you think that will be the missing thing to help you get better. On the surface it sounds like a good plan. If you give it some more thought though, you will realize that you are only making more work for yourself. The worst part is all the extra time you are going to waste only to end up with the same frustrating conclusion.
What conclusion? You will find that you haven't actually improved your guitar playing. You might feel like you have at first because you are tackling something new but once you get used to playing it, all the old frustrations come right back and you hit that familiar wall all over again. There was a time when I did this very thing myself and that is why I understand how and why this is so frustrating and why I am going to help you avoid the same mistakes I made.
Maybe you done this many times before or maybe you have just started doing this and are frustrated. I get it and this article will help you to stop chasing failed solutions.
So what is it exactly that I am talking about here?
What is this solution?
The solution is right under your nose (actually it is above your nose). The cool thing is that you will not have to learn anything new. The only thing you have to do is use the skills and abilities that you already have. You have to do some thinking and use these skill and abilities in new ways and the benefits of doing that will pay off, big time, for as long as you play guitar.
There are too many possible situations to convert so I will use some general situations for this article.
1. Creating new (to you) strumming patterns -
If you are stuck playing the same old strumming patterns all the time, try humming something. It could be a rhythmic pattern that you hear all the time. For example: rain drops hitting the windshield of your car, maybe a phrase or words that you hear or say a lot. You don't have to use those ideas only but listing every possibility would be a series of articles all by themselves.
You can break these words or phrases down by the syllable.
Once you have that your strumming pattern can be strumming on each syllable. You could also accent (stumming harder on a particular beat or strum) certain syllables. Try it and see how many cool and different sounding strum patterns you come up with.
2. If you are having a hard time playing open chords -
Open chords can be hard at first but here this is an easier way to start playing them.
Take one of the notes out of the chord. This will change the sound of the chord but it will not be enough of a change to make the chord unrecognizable. You might even like the sound of the chord better. If so, great, you have just added a new chord to your chord vocabulary.
Example: Play a C chord. Remove any one of the notes that you are pressing down on - just remove one at a time. If you take out the lowest note of the chord on string 5, you can strum the chord starting on string 4. Next take out the middle note (on the 4th string) and strum all 5 strings together. If your third finger is hitting the fourth string and will not not ring out, Leave it be for now. Now try removing the highest fretted note (on the 2nd string) and let that open string ring out. You have just made 3 variations of the same chord. Pretty cool right?
Now you could combine idea 1 and idea 2. You can keep coming up with ideas for a while and never play the same thing twice. Remember even a slight change to the chord is still a variation. You did not have to learn anything new to do this, the only thing you had to do was use your imagination.
Improvising and/or Soloing
1. Make scale (that you already know) more musical and not boring to play
Scales can be so great and fun to play when you first learn them. After playing them up and down a while, they aren't nearly as exciting or fun. This will also be true when you start using them for solos.
A. Play the notes of the scale in a different order
You could take the first idea in this article and use a word or phrase that you say or hear a lot (this will work much better with words containing 3 or more syllables). Play the notes for that scale out of order but use the word(s) or phrase(s) that you used for the strumming exercise (or new ones that you have come up with). You can play notes one string (very challenging) or you use two or more strings. If you want a challenge , use only words that contain an odd number of syllables.
B. You can use ornaments (slides, hammer ons, pull offs, bends, ect) to a group of notes for that scale.
Do your best to not just play the scale up and down using these. If you do not know what ornaments are or how exactly to play them, stay with idea 1, you will still be able to come up with new ideas for white some time.
If you are able to play ornaments play the scale, in small sections called sequences, with them. One thing you want to watch is bending. You do not need to bend each note unless you are practicing bending by itself. Once you have used the ornaments on their own, you practice making combinations with them. Once you are able to do that comfortably, practice the ornaments (individually and then in combinations) combined with with rhythms (again, you could use idea 1). This will definitely keep you busy for a while. Once you have done this and are able to do them relatively easy, practice with them over a backing track. Remember to play them in different keys too.
Why will the solutions help you?
These ideas in this article will help because you will have to use the skills you already have in new/different ways. Doing this will help you make massive and permanent (as long as you keep practicing) improvements in your playing. Some may take longer than others to get comfortable but it will always be faster growth than you will get from doing the same things (looking for new things to learn) the same old ways all the time. It would be impossible for you not to get better.
These are just a couple of ideas you can use to make old things feel like they are new. Challenge yourself to come up with other ways to play things you already know. It might take you a little time to come up with fresh ideas but it is well worth the time you put in.
Once you make a habit practicing and thinking like this, you will come up with tons of cool ideas.
This is an awesome way to be more creative and improve your guitar playing without having to go out and find new things to play all the time. The best thing about it is that you can start doing this today.
About the author: Byron Marks teaches guitar lessons in Manchester, NH
and specializes in helping people improve their guitar playing quickly while also helping them reduce their frustration with their guitar playing