Playing the guitar can be challenging, but there are ways to make it easier. One of the biggest challenges that every guitarist faces is how to get better when they can already play. There are always to improve your guitar playing, some are more simple than others, but every guitarist can take real steps to get better, rather than remaining at the same skill level.
Some of the best methods to improve your guitar skills are to practice intentionally, set goals, fix bad habits, develop new skills, learn some music theory, learn to play by ear, practice with other musicians, and get advice from a good teacher, or even learn another instrument.
There are so many ways to get better at playing guitar. There are multiple courses, lessons, lesson plans, and tutorials that will help you improve, but a better option is to look at your own playing and find practical ways to improve what you can already do and take steps forward from there. Let’s explore some of the best ways to improve your guitar playing.
1. Practice Intentionally
Every guitar player knows that practicing is a vital part of improving their guitar abilities, but not everyone knows how to practice intentionally.
The truth is that there is a difference between playing your guitar and practicing. Every guitarist likes to pick up their instrument and noodle, but this will not necessarily improve their playing skills. It is important to develop a focused mindset toward practicing and practice intentionally when you sit down to improve your skills.
Playing the songs that you already know or just riffing randomly does not count as good guitar practice, and you should rather spend the valuable practice time that you have on improving and spend less time on random riffs and songs.
2. Practice Well
Did you know that it is possible to practice badly? Just as it is possible to waste time thinking you are practicing, but you are not practicing intentionally, it is possible to practice poorly as well.
When you take the time to practice your instrument, be sure to focus on learning a new skill, perfecting skills that you already have, and paying close attention to the way that you play to improve your skills.
If you spend practicing time playing what you can already do, or if you do not put in the effort to learn well and really hone your skills, it will take much more time to improve.
Focus on one skill and master it, then choose another and work at it until you have it down. Repeat the process until you meet the goals that you set for your own playing.
This is not to say that you cannot enjoy your guitar and have fun; that is important to do, but when you sit down to practice, be focused and practice well.
3. Get a Good Teacher
Something that many guitar players do want to hear is that they should go to a teacher to improve their guitar skills, but the truth is that this is among the very best and quickest ways to get better at playing the guitar.
It is possible to learn the guitar and improve your skills by learning from online lessons, videos, materials, and even books, but a video cannot point out any mistakes that you make, and you cannot ask a video a question.
A good teacher will immediately identify gaps in your skill-set, understand where your shortfalls are, and understand how to correct them while teaching you new and interesting skills and techniques along the way.
4. Know What your Goals are
It is important for every guitarist to set some goals and work toward completing them. A set of goals provides direction and clarity of vision, allowing you to move forward in your playing ability with a clear understanding of what you want to do.
The goals do not have to be complicated or difficult to achieve, they can be simple and manageable, but they will still help focus your playing and give direction to your practice.
5. Fix Bad Habits
Something that unites every guitar player in the world is that every guitarist has their own set of bad habits. Every guitarist knows what they are, but few actually take the time to correct them.
Some bad habits can be harmless, but there are others that are detrimental to guitar playing. Take the time to properly identify your bad habits, and break the ones that are hindering your progress.
Fixing bad habits is among the best ways to improve because these small and seemingly insignificant habits can be exactly what causes all of your guitar-playing problems.
6. Learn the CAGED System (Chord Construction)
If you are unfamiliar with the CAGED system, now is the time to look it up.
The CAGED system is a guitar method for learning guitar chords, chord shapes, and chord construction. Understanding the caged system is the quickest route to learning chord construction, and masting chord construction is what sets great guitarists apart from mediocre guitarists.
Chord construction is a vital component to playing the guitar well, but few guitar players understand the significance of this skill. Learning the ins and outs of chord construction will make you a vastly better guitarist and improve every aspect of your musical ability.
CAGED stands for the five main guitar bar chord shapes, C, A, G, E, and D. Learning all of these shapes and how to manipulate them to change the chord based on scale intervals is the foundation of chord construction and will allow you to learn and build any chord in any sequence, even if you have never played it before.
This skill will also teach you how to identify chords by the way they sound and drastically improve your musical ear and guitar skills.
7. Understand Keys
Not all guitarists are excited about learning music theory, but there are some elements of music theory that are wonderfully beneficial and can take your guitar ability to an entirely new level.
Understanding how music keys work, what goes into them, how to use them, how to play through them, and what they are made from is vital for constructing intelligent guitar solos, playing songs in the right key, and developing all other important musical skills.
Understanding keys will help you to understand music, which in turn will make you a far better guitarist.
8. Practice by Ear
Ear training is an important developmental practice for every musician, and the best way for a guitarist to develop their musical ear is to learn songs by ear, practice by ear, and listen to what they are playing.
Learning to play guitar by ear is important for learning songs quickly, adapting to new situations, and for overall guitar playing. Learning by ear will also enable you to learn songs correctly without relying on tabs, and it will push you to play things that you never thought you were able to.
This is a vital skill for every musician, and learning to play by ear will improve your guitar skills overall.
9. Play with other Musicians
One of the best and most effective ways to improve your guitar playing is to play with other musicians, especially those musicians who are better than you.
Playing the guitar with other musicians, whether it be in a band or simply jamming with a friend, will always pish you to improve your skills. It will force you to listen to more than yourself, it will force you to play in time, to play in key, and it will teach you the dynamics of musicality in a way that playing on your own never will.
Take every opportunity you can to play with other musicians, and you will find yourself improving very quickly.
10. Record yourself
One good way to identify areas of your guitar playing that need improvement is to record yourself playing. This could be an audio or a video (and audio) recording, but it must be clear enough for you to assess it properly.
The recording will highlight your mistake tendencies while you are recording, and in playback, you will hear the small mistakes that you make without noticing.
If you record yourself with video, you can compare your technique to professional guitarists to find what you can do better.
Making recordings is also a good way to measure your improvement by recording yourself playing something and then taking another recording of the same piece to compare. This will reveal the areas where you are improving and the areas where you are yet to improve.
11. Improve your Rhythm and Timing
Two of the fundamental foundations of music and playing the guitar are rhythm and timing, but these are also some of the most neglected areas of musicianship as well.
Take the time to improve your rhythm and timing by learning to play with a metronome, playing with rhythm tracks, and doing timing exercises. This will improve your overall musicality, regardless of what skill level you have already achieved.
12. Learn a Different Genre
Another good way to improve your guitar skills is to learn to play in a style that you have never explored before. This will push you outside of your boundaries and teach you skills that you may have never known existed.
If you are into playing rock and blues, learn some jazz or some classical pieces. If you enjoy playing metal, play some funk to expand your musical abilities.
This is always an excellent way to explore the musical world, expand your horizons, and learn to improve your guitar playing abilities.
13. Learn to Read Sheet Music
This tip is something that almost no guitar player wants to hear. Learning music theory in some way is an ideal way to improve your guitar playing, as it will teach you more about the craft that you love.
Music is a language, and learning music theory is like learning how to read and write that language. Learning music theory will allow you to communicate with other musicians, write your own music well, understand written music, and play anything that you see in front of you.
Learning to understand music theory and written music unlocks the entire musical world and allows you to go anywhere with your guitar playing. Understanding the theory will allow you to explore every musical genre with ease and tackle even the most challenging concepts without stumbling.
No one enjoys it, but it is beneficial for every guitarist to learn some level of music theory.
14. Know When to Rest
An important aspect of getting better at playing the guitar, and one that is almost always neglected, is knowing when to rest.
Improving your guitar skills and knowledge is extremely physically and mentally taxing, and taking a break can often be the best thing for you at the moment.
Taking a break allows your muscles and mind to recover, and it is often easier to understand a concept or play through a difficult piece of music after you have rested for a few hours or taken a break overnight.
Knowing when to rest and when you must push harder is all part of learning to get better at this complicated instrument, and it is good to learn how to balance the two practices well.
15. Learn another Instrument
This last tip may seem counterintuitive, but the truth is that learning to play an instrument that is not guitar can greatly improve your guitar playing.
Learning something like drums, bass, or even piano will remove you from the guitar world and show you a side of music that will provide a new appreciation for the art.
Learning to play the guitar is a challenge, and sometimes learning to play music from a different perspective will give you the keys to unlock the areas of your playing that you struggle with, and it will always improve your overall sense of rhythm, timing, and your musicality and musicianship as well.
Learning to improve your guitar ability is a daunting task, but it is one that every guitar player must journey. The process of learning to master the guitar is never over, and there is always something new to learn. Take the plunge, challenge yourself, and do the work to take your guitar skills to the next level.
Every guitar player can improve in some area. Take the time to identify where you need to improve and work at it until you conquer it, but remember to have fun in the process and enjoy the instrument that you play!