It is very common to want to seek out new information when you feel bored or that you are getting stale when you play guitar or practice guitar. Is this the best way to go about improving your playing though? The answer will fly in the face of the conventional wisdom that says you should learn new stuff all the time.
In this article I am going to talk to you about a better solution. The great thing is that this solution won’t need you to look any further than your own mind. Sounds strange right? Let me explain…
Most of the time, when you look for new information, you think it will help your guitar playing improve. On the surface it sounds like a solid idea. If you dig a little deeper, you will find that you are making more work for yourself and will get less and less out of your guitar practice sessions. The worst part is that you are going to spend extra time arriving at the same frustrating conclusion.
What is that conclusion? The conclusion is that you are not much (or in most cases, any) better off than you were when you started your search. There was a time when I did this very thing myself and I understand how frustrating that can be. This is why I would like to help you not make the same mistake I did.
Maybe you have already gone down this road in your guitar playing and are not happy with the results. I hear you, and this article will help you to stop going down the rabbit hole in hopes of finding solutions.
So what is this solution that I am talking about? How will this help you improve your guitar playing?
The Solution To Improving Your Guitar Playing-
The solution is staring you right in the face. The beauty is you don’t have to learn anything new. What you have to do is learn to use the abilities that you already have. You have to use them in different ways or in different situations than you normally do.
There are a lot of different situations so I am going to use some general things here.
Playing Chords/Strumming Chords:
Coming up with new strumming patterns –
- If you find that you are stuck playing the same strumming patterns over and over again, try humming. More specifically hum a pattern that you hear a lot. This could be something like the sound rain hitting your windshield (it is raining where I live today). It could also be a word or phrase that you say often. You don’t have to use those things only but listing all the possibilities would be an article all by itself.
- You could take words or phrases that you say all the time and break them down by syllable.
- Once you have done that you can strum on each of the syllables. You can also place an accent (stumming harder on a certain beat or strum) on certain syllables. Try it out and see how many different strumming patterns you can come up with.
(Pro tip: this can also work with riffs and coming up with new guitar licks- keep reading to see how to do this)
Difficulty playing open chords –
Open chords can be tough to grasp at first but here is a great way to be able to play them if you struggle.
- Remove a note from the chord. Yes this can change the sound of the chord but not enough to make it unrecognizable. In some situations you might even find you like the sound better.
- In this example take a C chord and play it. Now try removing any one of the three notes you are pressing down on with the fingers from your fretting hand. If you remove the lowest note of the chord on string 5, start strumming the chord at string 4. Now try removing the middle note (on string 4) and strum all 5 strings. If your third finger rubs against the fourth string and it does not ring out, that is fine for now. Now try taking your removing the highest fretted note (on string 2) and let the open string ring out instead. You have just created 3 variations of the same chord and can use them right away. How cool is that?
Now what happens if you combine idea 1 and idea 2? You can come up with ideas for a very long time without playing the same exact thing twice. Remember that even a slight variation is still a variation. Again, you didn’t have to learn anything new to do this, all you had to do was use your imagination.
Making scales sound more musical and less boring
Ah scales, they are so awesome when you first learn them but after a while of playing them up and down the thrill is gone. This is especially true when you start soloing.
- Play the notes out of order
You could take the idea from above and add a word (this will work much better with words that have 3 or more syllables). Play the notes out of order, using the word or phrase that you came up with will establish a rhythmic pattern. You could play notes on just one string or you could use more than one string. If you really want to push yourself, Use words that have an odd number of syllables.
Apply ornaments (slides, hammer ons, pull offs, bends, ect) to a group of notes in the scale.
Try your best to avoid playing up and down the scale using these. If you are not sure what ornaments are, stick to idea #1, you can keep coming up with fresh ideas for a long time.
- If you are comfortable with ornaments play the scale in small sections using them. Don’t use bends on each note unless you are specifically practicing bending. Once you have used each ornament in isolation, practice playing them in combinations. Once you are comfortable with that, practice them in isolation with rhythm (could be from idea #1). After that, you can practice combinations along with the rhythms. This will keep you busy for quite some time. Once you have done this, practice them over a backing track.
Why these solutions will help you:
These are a few ideas of what you can do to make old ideas or things feel new again. Try coming up with other ways to do these same things. It may take some time to come up with new ideas but it is well worth the time you put in to thinking about it.
Once you start practicing these ideas, you will come up with so many cool ideas of your own.
This is a great way to start being more creative with your guitar playing. You will also become a better guitar player without having to seek out new stuff to play. The best thing is that you can start doing this right now.