Guitar Habits To Avoid That WIll Kill Your Progress
There is no magic bullet to guitar playing other than consistent correct practicing habits.
If you can swallow that pill, then keep reading because there may be things you can stop doing to improve your guitar playing faster and ways to fix them.
I recently challenged my students to pick one simple practice item that takes no less than 5 minutes to practice and do keep a checklist. Their target is 30 consecutive days of the same practice item.
Now why is this important? Because getting good at ANYTHING in life is 100% determined by how much of a habit is built around that thing. In this case, practicing guitar every day, even if for 5 minutes.
You have 5 minutes every day.
So what some habits you want to avoid in this practice sessions that are killing your progress and how can you improve faster?
These 9 things will help dramatically. Practice properly and avoid bad guitar practice habits.
1. Hold the guitar correctly
The guitar should be tilted at 45 degree angle with the head pointing toward the ceiling. Your guitar strap should be doing most of the work. This is tough for guitar players that have been playing on their right leg for a long time, but having the guitar at right angle makes step 2 much easier.
2. Correct hand position
Your fretting hand should make a shape like you are holding a taco. Your thumn should line up with your middle finger. If you aresticking your thumb up over the guitar, or sticking it out like a hitchhiker, this is killing your fretting hands mobility.
3. Lower the action on the guitar
The higher the strings, the more pressure required to correctly fret a note. Make it easier on yourself, spend $40 and get your guitar set up by a luthier, it'll play like new and all chords will be easier.
4. Learn Correct Picking Technique
When you pick, your hand should go STRAIGHT through the string, and rest on the next string. Hitting an individual string is no different than strumming all 6 strings. Allow your hand to fall through the string, don't flick out and away from the string.
5. Find the sweet spot
Your fretting hand should press right before the metal of the following fret. This spot requires the least amount of pressure, gives the best tone and the most in tune note. So if you are fretting the 3rd fret, your finger should be right before the metal of the 4th fret.
6. Strum correctly
Similar to point 4, your hand should literally fall through the strings, you do not need to smash your hand through. When you do an upstruck, imagine you are rotating your wrist like you are using a paint brush. This will allow the hand to glide up through the string without resistance.
Both feet should be flat on the floor, your jaw should not be clenched, your shoulders shouldn't be up in your ears, you do not have to squeeze as hard as possible. Quite the opposite, you are trying to find the minimum amount of tension required in your body to play anything, this requires ACTIVELY relaxing.
8. Practice songs in chunks
Many students have a hard time playing songs start to finish, but this is because they try to learn songs start to finish. If you were to memorize a poem, you wouldn't read it beginning to end over and over. That would literally take forever to memorize. Instead, memorize line 1, then line 2, then put those lines together Continue this process and eventually your brain is able to chunk everything together. There is no hard fast rule that says you MUST learn songs start to finish, and that every time you go to play something, you have to start at the beginning.
9. Plan to succeed
Set some easy goals for yourself, try the 30 day practice challenge where you literally commit to picking up the guitar and doing ONE simple thing. Guaranteed you will play the guitar more than that minimum thing and you will find yourself gravitating to the guitar.
Leave the guitar where you can see it, and it's easily accessible. Do not expect results from your practice if you're mindlessly playing and watching TV at the same time.
Write down what you want to practice and keep a practice log.
If you're really honest with yourself, and you want to improve your guitar playing, are you serious about committing? Don't complain that it's not happening, and at the same time you're not practicing daily. Get to work!
Josh Beetler is the owner of Taunton Guitar Lessons where he trains guitar players in Massachusetts how to accelerate their progress on guitar.