The greatest guitar players and the worst guitar players are all the same in that they share one common goal: they want to ‘play it correctly’. When you use effective guitar practice techniques, you eventually gain confidence and look forward to learning new skills. This is great except for one thing... After you begin seeing progress (and want to move your skills to a very high level – such as performing live), you will often feel a lot of anxiety around making mistakes that will cause many problems for you.
It’s weird how so many guitarists become much better players than they were previously, yet become fearful of making mistakes instead of inspired to keep getting better. These are the biggest guitar playing fears that keep all guitarists from becoming much better musicians. They keep intermediate players from taking action to become advanced players and sabotage the future careers of guitar players who are highly talented.
For example, I have a student I’ve been helping develop a music career who just got the opportunity to be part of a band and tour throughout many countries in Europe. Until recently, he had been preparing his whole life for this exact situation, but he almost missed out due to a fear of not being ‘good enough’. Once I confronted him on this issue, he began to understand the reasons why he felt the fear that he did. I then trained him to practice guitar in a much more effective manner than how he had been practicing before. I'm glad to say that he overcame his fears, met with the band and has been having the time of his life on tour while becoming the 'rock star' he always dreamed of becoming.
So how was he able to overcome his fears and succeed? And how can YOU do the same so that you get better and become a great musician?
The reason why guitar players become insecure about their playing as they advance is because they practice with the mindset of ‘playing things right’, vs. to ‘never play them wrong’. Here is how these two mindsets differ and what it means for your guitar playing:
Practicing To ‘Get It Right’ – this is the step everyone must take when they begin learning to play something for the firs time. Your first task is to play the notes correctly, gain confidence in yourself and play whatever you are trying to play. A lot of guitarists stall at this point (after making mistakes) and assume that their playing will just get better on its own. This is NOT how it works! Mastery will ONLY happen after you’ve begun a higher level of practice, such as:
Practicing To ‘Never Get It Wrong’ - After you learn to play something in sterile isolation (such as in the sterile environment of your practice room), you must start practicing ‘for the real world’. To do this, you must become ready to perform on stage, make recordings of yourself and mix various guitar playing skills together. Once you are able to play something ‘right’ you need to ask yourself: “In what situation do I want to use this new skill?” This answer will help you understand how you should be practicing to fully master the skill you are working on and ‘never play it wrong’.
Here are some examples of how to practice guitar in this way:
Practice Using Your Musical Skills Together
Even if you aren’t going to be playing live or recording anytime soon, you still need to work on using your skills with other techniques as well as in ‘musical’ situations (such as guitar solos, songs, etc.). To do this, you need to stop practicing skills in isolation and start combining them together with other techniques. For instance, after you learn a new scale sequence, you should be practicing it together with other techniques, fast and slow, and with a variety of different rhythms. You also need to learn the best way to apply these sequences into a musical context. Study this free guitar practice video to find out more on this general process.
Note: You might have to practice a specific item in each of the above contexts (or possible just one or two) depending on your unique goals with each item in your practicing routine.
Practice Guitar For Playing Great On Stage:
To practice guitar for live performance, you need to prepare for the scenarios that occur most during your live shows by simulating them in your practice. Some of the most common things to prepare for include: playing while walking around, playing in dim/no lighting, tuning out distractions, playing while others watch you, playing outdoors and playing on with various types of guitars and amps. Of course, there are more things that can be added to this list. Once you’ve made your own list, incorporate it into your practicing time.
When you take anything that you’ve merely learned to ‘play right’ and played it in the scenarios mentioned above, you will often begin making mistakes. This is a good thing, because it helps you understand what you should be working on in your playing to ‘never play it wrong’ in any given situation.
As you practice, repeatedly put yourself in the scenarios above and start building your confidence to make your playing become more reliable.
Practice ‘Recording’ As A Separate Skill:
Many guitar players are afraid of making mistakes, so they avoid recording themselves. As a result, they never improve their skills in this area. Once you think you’ve mastered the ability to play something right, you go to record it and suddenly can’t stop making mistakes. Hey, we’ve all been there :)
To improve your recording skills, you need to do the following: Start working on ‘recording’ as a separate skill to be mastered in your guitar practice time (record using both audio and video). Work on playing/recording something ‘perfectly’ in only a few tries. This will drastically improve your ability to perform well in recording situations.
Additionally, learn all the ins and outs of making a great recording by mastering all the subtle nuances that most people don’t pay attention to. I talk about these things in this recording guide for guitar players. Study it, and begin improving in these areas on a continual basis.
How To Use This Information:
Here are the steps you must follow to integrate the above elements of effective guitar practicing into your playing:
Step One: Clearly identify your guitar playing goals by reading this article about setting big musical goals.
Step Two: Learn how everything you practice brings you closer to your musical goals. (read this article about what you should practice on guitar for help on this topic) Don’t waste time practicing things that don’t really matter!
Step Three: Learn how to build a guitar practice schedule that will help you get the very most out of your practice time.
Step Four: Always seek the answer to this question: “What is the main objective/scenario in which I will use this practice item or music in my guitar playing?” This will keep your guitar practice in line with your highest goals and help you make the transition from ‘playing it right’ to ‘never playing it wrong’.
When you integrate the ideas in this article into your guitar practice on a regular basis, you will stop being afraid of making mistakes and start practicing with confidence and excitement as you begin realizing your ultimate musical goals.
Learn how to build a guitar practice schedule that will get you the maximum benefit from every moment you spend practicing.
About The Author:
Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, songwriter and a pro guitarist. He teaches the best online guitar lessons and helps his students practice guitar effectively. Go to tomhess.net to get more guitar playing resources, guitar playing eBooks, and to read more guitar playing articles.