In this tutorial, we wrap up our look at 5 overlooked ways to improve your guitar playing. So lets jump right in with a great way to sneak in extra music time…
4. Improve Your Playing Away from the Guitar
OK, this sounds like this totally contradicts the practice, practice, practice, paradigm of guitar improvement, but here’s what it really means…
In other words, this is how to sneak in extra guitar time when you don’t have your guitar with you.
Unless you are a professional musician, you will probably find that most of your day is spent away from your guitar. You know what I’m talking about, all the stuff you need to do in your day that doesn’t include guitar playing like work/school, etc.
The good news is there are certain things you can do that will surprisingly improve your guitar playing even when you don’t have a physical guitar to play.
A great thing to do is take a good guitar theory book with you to work and/or school. Then when you are on a break, crack the book open and work on a bit of theory.
If you take public transit, you can also do this on your commute.
This can quickly turn unproductive time into very productive music time.
In addition to the fact that you will learn more about music, it will give you a refreshing mental break from work/school. Then when you get home, you can apply your new theory knowledge to songs you are learning and everything else you do on the guitar.
5. Listen, Listen, and Listen to Really Hear
This is another really neglected way to improve your guitar playing.
When most people listen to music, they listen only on a superficial level. It takes mental energy to actively listen to music.
One of the best ways to improve your understanding of music to listen very deeply to music.
To start with, take some songs you really like and listen deeply to them.
- First listen to the entire piece and hear the overall entire song.
- Then focus in on just the guitar. Try to determine how many different guitars were used in the song.
Just because a band has only one guitar player, doesn’t mean that there will only be one guitar through the entire song.
On most albums there we will be several guitars overdubbed that are sometimes even playing the same parts.
- How many guitars can you identify?
- Can you identify the type of guitars? Acoustic vs electric?
- Listening a bit deeper, can you tell what type of electric guitar it is? Is it a Les Paul? Or is it a Fender Strat? Different guitars have different characteristic sounds.
- Can hear the pick as it strikes the strings?
- Can you hear the guitar player’s hand as it slides up and down the neck and strings?
These are just a few of the things you can listen for.
If you know some basic music theory, you can try to identify the scales and chords that are being used.
- You should also listen to the other instruments and vocal parts.
- Can you hear the vocal harmony parts? How many are present?
- What scale(s) are used in the melody?
What about the bass part?
- Listen closely to the bass line.
- Is the bass player using fingers or a pick?
- What subtleties can you hear in the bass line.
- What scale(s) are used?
Don’t forget about the drums. Can you isolate the different rhythms the drummer is playing simultaneously?
Depending on how good your ears are, you can take this exercise into considerable more depth.
The bottom line is to become a good guitar player, you need to be able to hear music very well. You will need to be able to hear all of the parts including the very subtle.
If you haven’t been playing for long, don’t worry, this will come with time. As you improve your understanding of music theory, you will be able to hear so much more as you listen to music.
After all, you can’t expect to identify an E7#9 chord by ear if you don’t know what it is.
The more you know the more you will hear.
This tutorial just scratched the surface of some overlooked ways to improve your guitar playing, there are many, many more.
Here are some additional resources that will help you to improve your guitar playing…
First, here are the free resources:
Here is part 1 of 11 of the Rhythm Guitar Basics Tutorials:
Here are some of my more detailed complete courses: