Tommaso Zillio
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Ways To Get Over The Intermediate Guitar Playing Hump

Once you are familiar with the basics of guitar playing, what exactly are the next steps that you should be taking? Is it best to jump into learning your favourite riffs? Or should you take some time to explore different chords? Today I will be cover all of these questions and concerns.

A lot of guitar players will often find that their playing comes to a bit of a standstill once they pass the beginner phase. It's easy to find practice material as a beginner, and even easier to find as an advanced player, but what about the people who are in between? The people who have learned a couple chord progressions and a few scales? Its not surprising that these directionless moments are generally the stage that most people will give up on their instrument.

The issue here is usually not with the students, but with the teachers. There are many teachers out there who are not equipped to take a guitarist from the early to advanced levels. This is apparent in the number of teachers you can find who will specifically only teach beginning players, or only advanced players. But do not worry. You who are in the middle ground are not forgotten.

Continue reading for some very useful tips on furthering your skill set as a guitar player. By no means is this everything there is to know (I could write an entire novel on this), but I can guarantee you will find at least a few points in this article that you haven't considered before. See for yourself!

Perfect Your Practicing

Practicing is the #1 proven way to get better at playing guitar, so you need to spend some time making sure that you are doing it correctly. Every other great guitar player had to do it, and you are no different.

The problem with practicing is that people often think just sitting down with your guitar is enough. You need to be playing the right things in the right way for your practicing to truly be effective. Here are a few things you should be able to confidently do before moving on to the harder stuff:

  1. Write yourself a practicing schedule. Does not have to be complicated, just something to keep you on track throughout your playing
  2. Always play slower and with lesser strength then you want to. Only increase your speed once you feel relaxed and ready
  3. If your notes are not ringing out clearly, it is no good. Decrease your speed till each note is clear

These are only a few of the many things you can do to make your practicing more efficient.

Training Your Ear

As we know, music is an auditory art. So when it comes to learning music, listening is key. It is important to listen in as many different ways as you can. Whether thats listening to a variety of music styles or listening to and picking out various chordal structures. No time is wasted as a musician when you really sit down to listen to something.

Here are a few suggestions of things you can work on to build a good musical ear:

  1. After you play a scale on your instrument, practice singing it too. Being able to sing what you play is extremely useful in fine tuning your ear
  2. Listen to music and listen to as many different kinds of music as you can. Expand your musical tastes and this will work to advance your musical instincts.
  3. Pay attention to the dynamics in music. Take note of when things build up and when they mellow down, and why/how this is effective.

Explore Music Theory

I get it. Learning music theory can be a little daunting for beginner guitarists. However, I promise there is some easy, useful, and interesting stuff out there waiting to be learned! For instance:

  1. Learning about scales and how to play them (major and minor are great ones to start with)
  2. The relation that chords have to scales
  3. How you can compose a tune using chords in a certain key

These few points are integral to your progress as a musician. If you are looking for a place to learn more on these topics, feel free to check out my website and download a useful resource "Beginning Music Theory". If otherwise you are already aware of these points, there is another download called "Music Theory Map" that you can check out to continue your learning.

Don't Be A Lone Wolf

Sometimes with learning guitar, its easy to sit in a dark lonely basement and feel like you've got it all figured out. This can only go on for so long until you either:

  1. A) Get bored of what you are doing or
  2. B) Hit a road block where you don't know what else to learn, or if you have been learning anything correctly

Music is all about working as a team. One of the best things you can do as a player is take time to seek out the right guide that will teach you the right things and keep you motivated. Like i've said before, there are a lot of less than qualified teachers out there. But my advice to you is to look into the results of a given teacher. Look into their students and their credentials. If nothing shows up on them, thats a bad sign.

Connecting Theory To Playing

As interesting as music theory can be, its a little pointless if not connected to actual music. A big mistake that many teachers will make is teaching theory without explaining how it connects to performance. The best part of knowing why certain certain notes sound good together is actually being able to play them.

If you've never considered that it could be fun to incorporate your theory knowledge into your playing, then it's about time you change that. In the following video I will explain the idea of "sequencing", and then show you how to create new riffs with it using the pentatonic scale:


I hope this article has worked to inspire you as a musician and encourage you to keep growing. Print this page off and look at it next time you are feeling a little lost. Otherwise, check out the link to my website below for more helpful resources. Have fun!

@maxtpg   last year
Interesting article, Tommaso! I especially agree with what you said about perfecting the practice and not being a lone wolf; however, I would like to ask you a question about that last point.

I've been in some bands along the years, but it has always been difficult for me to make bands work for a significant amount of time. It might be the dynamic of the people, or it just might be me, but sooner or later someone stops caring much and does not practice the songs accordingly, and that's when trouble arises. My question is, do you think this should help kickstart a solo journey? And if so, do you have any advice on how not to become a lone wolf in a basement?
@tommaso-zillio   last year
Finding good bandmates is one of the hardest thing ever, and it's a big topic that I can't answer comprehensively in a comment. It would probably take a book.

My suggestion would be: try to the the right person, and eventually you will attract the right bandmates. Sometimes starting a solo career is a good way to attract the right people. Make sure you go out there and play and that you are actually interacting with the world. Make sure that you have a reason for everything you do, that is, do not do things just because everybody does them.
@maxtpg   last year
I agree with you. Getting good bandmates seem to be the most difficult task of all. In my experience, I've met talented musicians and performers; skill is not usually that difficult to find, but what is rare is commitment.

I've been thinking on doing a solo attempt myself for a while now, so I might just do it already.

What do you mean by "having a reason for everything you do"?
Savo Kostic
@savo-kostic   last year
I have recognized myself in this sentence ``A lot of guitar players will often find that their playing comes to a bit of a standstill once they pass the beginner phase.`` :/
@tommaso-zillio   last year
Don't worry, it gets better ;)
@fl3k   last year
Nice one,

I find this lesson specially motivating for me to move forward. The exercise in the video seems very useful, I'll be practicing it a lot for sure.
I usually apply most of the tips you wrote here but the "exploring music theory" section is particularly interesting for my needs. ;)

I will be visiting your webpage to download these documents.
Thanks for your contribution and keep it up!
@tommaso-zillio   last year
My pleasure!
@pauljones   last year
Great article Tomasso...The pentatonic lick sequences concept is amazing! I started playing them as soon as I finished watching
the video. Thanks for the awesome tips! ;)
@tommaso-zillio   last year
My pleasure!