I’m back once again with the sixth instalment of Learn Guitar Stuff. The series where I answer questions asked by members of the guitar community (no matter how stupid they are). In all seriousness, I do enjoy doing these and the good old analytics show that you guys like them too. The labyrinth that is the alogrhythm doesn’t seem to care either way but these are for you so I shall continue to do them.
If you’d like to check out the previous entries in this series, you can do so via the following links
Lets dive right in with our first question which is one that should probably be quite obvious. But someone asked it so I shall answer.
Learn guitar stuff 6 question 1 – Why practice?
This question is very to the point isn’t it? Why practice? A little vague but we will go with it and it’s simple really. You need to practice if you want to get any better at guitar playing. Buying a guitar and telling everyone you’re a musician isn’t enough. You have to put in the work.
I normally stay away from the whole “practice practice practice” thing as I find that it lacks useful advice but, you asked.
Long story short. You get out what you put in. If you work your ass off, you’ll eventually become an accomplished guitar player.
It also helps if your practice is effective but that’s a subject for another day. For now, let’s leave it at this. Practicing = good guitarist. Not practicing enough = you.
Learn guitar stuff 6 question 2 – What’s the best way to overcome your guitar playing plateau?
I think this is something that all guitar players go through at some point and probably more than once. Well, most at least. I know I have. I’ve probably suffered with this issue two or maybe three times since I picked up the guitar for the first time all those years ago.
If this is you, I have good news. Breaking out of a guitar rut is actually quite easy. The hard part is actually pushing yourself to do it.
So you’re finding yourself doing and playing the same old stuff every day. You’re running the same exercises, playing the same covers, improvising in the same way and you’re very much in a pattern of going through the motions. You’re playing because you have to.
So how do you break out of it? You simply need to push yourself to do or learn new things. Anything as long as it’s new.
You could aim to learn 50 new songs or write 20 songs or you could aim to learn X amount of new chords and scales (and how to use them).
Learn different genres. Learn to play in different time signatures. Basically, aim to do something that you can’t already do, then do it.
It sounds obvious and easy but you need to actually go and do it. You could even think outside the box. Could you learn how to be a guitar tech or even learn audio engineering so you can record? Could you create something online? That’s what I did. I made this website partly to break stagnation in my musical journey.
Learn guitar stuff 6 question 3 – What’s the most useful practice tip or exercise you’ve been given?
This question is quite tricky. I’ve been given a lot of highly useful advice over the years and coming up with one that I consider more vital than everything else is hard. What I’ll do is provide the one that I think will improve the guitar playing of the most guitarists possible.
Here it is. Practice with a metronome!
I’m not going into the whole “how to” thing here but practicing with a metronome can and probably will make a big difference for a lot of guitarists.
I remember when I went from not using a metronome to using one and I noticed two things. Firstly, my timing and accuracy improved and secondly, the results were noticeable very fast. I’m talking within a week.
What have you got to loose? I’m not saying everything you do needs a click behind it at all times but a metronome is definitely a very useful tool.
Learn guitar stuff 6 question 4 – How do I know I’m making good guitar progress?
There’re a couple of good indicators that you can use to keep a rough track of the progress you’re making with your guitar. The first is knowledge based. Are you learning new things and retaining that knowledge? If so, that’s progress. This doesn’t have to be huge concepts. It could just be something small like a chord. Learning a new chord means that your chord knowledge has progressed.
Another thing to look out for is how easy things feel when you’re playing. Are things that once seemed very hard now feeling easier? That’s a good sign. You’re getting good at those things which means it’s probably time to tackle something new and harder. That’s progress!
The main thing to take away here though isn’t the above tips. The main message to take away from this is that you honestly don’t need to worry about this kind of thing. As long as you’re doing the right things with your guitar, you will progress.
Learn guitar stuff 6 question 5 – How hard should I be pressing on the strings on a guitar?
The answer to this question is thankfully quite a short one because there is a specific answer. How hard does a guitarist push down on the strings? The answer is the minimum amount necessary to make the string produce the required pitch. Anything less will not create the sound you’re looking for and anything more will be wasted energy. Furthermore, excessive pressure will have a negative impact on your performance. Find the sweet spot.
Question 6 – I just realised I’m a guitar expert. What do I do now? Practice what I’ve learned or learn new things?
No you’re not. The opening to this question is quite concerning actually and to be blunt, it makes me think the opposite is true.
Sorry to burst your bubble but a guitar “expert” or an expert in any area for that matter would not construct a sentence like this. This is a bad trap to fall in to. Look into something called the dunning Kruger effect.
Let’s keep it to guitar for the sake of this article. A so-called guitar expert would not need to wrote anything beyond that first statement as they’d be painfully aware of all the things they do not know. Your average person wouldn’t even know these “things to learn” even exist but an expert would know about the things they don’t know about. Get it?
Question 7 – How do married guitarists balance between family responsibilities and practice?
This is a tricky one that most guitar players have to tackle at some point in their lives. Let’s call it the guitar/life balance. We don’t even need to be so specific. The person asking the question mentions marriage and family. These would be the most common but it could be anything. We could be talking about work, studies, caring responsibilities. I could go on but I don’t need to because the answer is the same.
You don’t. That’s life. Get over it. You have responsibilities that are more important than guitar playing.
Yeah I know. “Guitar is the most important thing”. “You must do X amount of practice a day no matter what”. I’ve heard it all and it’s all horse s***. Time to get in the real world. Mummy isn’t going to pay your bills and your kid isn’t going to change itself. Grow up.
Are there things you can do to ensure that you can take care of your responsibilities and chase the guitar dream? Yes. Of course. This would probably be a list that could stand alone but it’s effectively the same as finding time to go to the gym or finding time to do some gaming or whatever.
To make the answer more rounded I’ll give you one tip that helped me. GET UP EARLY!
Get up at say, 5AM. That should give you a good solid hour. Can you play loudly? No obviously not but you can have your volume at a level similar to what you’d have your TV set to.
This does work so if you’re in this situation, give getting up early a try and see if it works for you.
Question 8 – How many days/weeks/months does it take to get good at playing guitar?
Way off the mark mate, sorry. The term “get good” is a subjective one and I could spend ten thousand words exploring that topic but based on the typical standards for “good”, you’re for sure talking in terms of years rather than days, weeks, or months. The idea that someone could become proficient at a skill in DAYS is laughable and delusions like this cause people to quit the guitar almost as soon as they pick it up. Oh, you’ve not become a famous musician in a week so you’re giving up? The guitar world is better off without attitudes like this.
Rant over. Back to the question. We’ve established we are talking in terms of years but how many years? It’s very hard to put a number on this but for the sake of discussion, I think five years is a sweet spot. It really depends what you put in at the end of the day but I noticed that I reached a good level at the five year point.
Question 9 – What is the most fun Led Zeppelin song to play on guitar?
Going to cheat with this one and go with the three Led Zep songs that are the most fun to play then you can choose which one you most agree with out of those three
I’m going with Whole Lotta Love, Rock n Roll, and Black Dog. Now that I’m writing this out, I like I’m leaning towards Black Dog with it’s awesome riffs and weird timing thing that you know about if you’ve learned the song yourself. So yeah, a top three most fun with a gold medal to Black Dog.
Question 10 – Why would someone specify “no strats” when looking for a guitarist to join their band?
This is an interesting one. I’ve not seen this requirement specifically but I have seen odd requirements before such as a required amp brand. I got turned down for an audition once because I was running a half stack instead of a full stack. It was a five minute phone call which consisted of questions about gear and nothing else. Presumably I would have got the gig if I had the “right” gear even if I couldn’t play because they never asked about my ability. Very odd.
Anyway, I guess the two main reasons for a “no strat” requirement would be 1) sound and 2) aesthetics. I won’t go into either but I suppose a band can recruit for whatever they like. It’s their band at the end of the day although this is completely asinine in my opinion. This is the mindset of a band who thinks the public care about their look and sound. They don’t. Sorry. My advice is stay clear.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.