A simple practice routine for a huge and fast improvement of your playing
Article Written By Nejc Vidmar
Everyone, who's playing an instrument has come to a part of a song or a lick, where you don't feel comfortable playing anymore. It might be a little more difficult passage, chord change or anything that puts you out of your comfort zone. In this article I'm going to present you with a simple, yet very good way of improving the parts you're struggling with.
First of all, you're going to need a little bit of self motivation to follow these steps. Do not expect things to improve all by themselves, you're going to need to put some amount of time and work into it, but the result will speak for itself.
Ok, let's start. Let's say you're starting to practice a song or a lick. Most of my students would play the song from the beginning to the end. Maybe even a few times, but then they should move on to next thing. Practicing this way might and probably will improve your playing in some time, but it's very time consuming, and the progress is so slow, that you don't actually feel like you're progressing.
As I recommend my students, you should determine the problematic parts while you're playing a song or a lesson in a whole and then focus on those things in isolation. I've put this procedure in few simple steps:
You have to determine the parts you're struggling with. Many times the problem is the position of either hand, or a bad picking/struming technique, so I would recommend you to find a good competent guitar teacher to help you with that. If you're playing the chords, there might be a chord change, that requires a little bit more time to do. If you're playing a lick, there might be a change of strings, that sounds sloppy. It might be anything, you're not satisfied with.
When you've determined the problem, you have to find out whether the problem is in your right or left hand.
If the problem is in your left hand, let's say you have a problem changing from one into another chord, you should firstly find out where every finger has to move. You should do it slowly and as relaxed as possible. If the problem is in your right hand, you have to find out what exactly causes the problem. The problem might be, that picking direction is not optimal, or maybe the inside picking is not your strong side.
When you've determined the problem and cause for it, it's time for actual practice. Firstly you should focus only on "problematic" hand. Change the chords without strumming them, or pick the strings without playing the tones with your left hand.
When you're satisfied with the performance of one hand alone, slowly add the second hand. For example, if you're playing a picking pattern over a chord change, firstly just strum the chords.
When this works fine, you should start playing with both hands as the song/lesson should be played, but not in whole. If you're playing a lick and the problem is when you go from one string to another, play only up until the first note on the second string. If you're struggling with the chord change while strumming, strum the second chord just once and don't continue to play the rhythm forward. If it's a picking pattern, play only up to the first tone of the other string. I think you get the idea. While practicing like this, focus on the problematic part. Focus on the chords being changed in time, tones and a lick sounding clean and accurate...
When you're satisfied with the progress, you should continue to play what is meant to be played over the next chord also, or if you're playing a lick, play it as a whole. But you have to remain to pay special attention to the problematic part. Play the whole thing until you can play it right several times in a row.
When you're able to play the problematic part without mistakes several times in a row, you should put it back into the bigger picture. Play also the chord before and after the problematic change. Connect the lick with the one before and one after the one you've been practicing.
There are a few more directions I'd like you to follow while practicing this way. First of all, you can skip a step if you're doing it alright already, no problem with that. Secondly, and keep this always in your mind!!! Relax your muscles after every repetition! Many times you can play something fine a few times, but then your performance starts declining. The reason in 99% is that your hands are getting tense, so keep relaxing your muscles, not only your hands, but the whole body. This way you'll also teach your body to be relaxed while you play.
If you follow these instructions, I'm sure your progress will accelerate dramatically!
I wish you all good practicing and fast progress!
This article was written by Nejc Vidmar, a professional guitar teacher, musician, composer and producer from Slovenia. He's been using methods such as this one for a long time, and those of his students who followed it, showed a massive improvement compared to the others.