guitarist, composer, teacher (505)-400-6217

guitarist, composer, teacher (505)-400-6217

Making The Most of Your Guitar Lessons – The Sequel: How I Practice

Sequels often fall far short of the original. That doesn’t apply here. This is actually part 2 with more to come. “Sequel” sounded better in the title. I file this under the category “this is my blog and I can do whatever I want with the title.”


Here’s how I practice my guitar playing:

  1. I decide what I’m working on before I pick up the guitar.
  2. I decide how long I’m going to practice and set a timer.
  3. I have a metronome or drumbeat ready to use. Rhythm is everything.
  4. I warm-up with simple playing for a predetermined time.
  5. I focus on the work. I don’t think about how badly I’m playing. I don’t think about how great I’m playing. Actually, I try not to think about anything at all!

When practicing, focus on the work. All other thoughts are a distraction and a waste of your practice time.

The key is to practice music you really enjoy, and create a habit out of these 5 steps. Habits take time and are often filled with missteps. Be patient and under-achieve a little bit each day.

Related Posts:

I owe the music store 400.00 and I still can’t play the guitar (Guitar Lessons versus Being Self Taught)

Acoustic 134 Combo web   Before my college guitar studies, I was self taught for 8 years. It was me, my guitar, and my turntable (yes, vinyl record albums for you younger readers). I was proud to say “No, I don’t take lessons, just like Eddie Van Halen, I’m completely self taught (I never said the Van Halen part aloud, but my silent arrogance knew no bounds). Without the expense of guitar lessons, I could spend my money on guitars, amps, and assorted effects pedals. Not having a record deal like Mr. Van Halen (I worked at Baskin Robbins for 1.25 an hour…yikes), I was promptly in debt to the local music store to the tune of 400.00. How a 14 year old geek guitar player could convince a store to allow him an amp on payments is beyond me but I’ll save that for a blog entitled, obviously, “How to be a poor 14 year old guitar player with a really loud amp.” If I had to do it all again I would’ve reversed my thinking, got lesson religion, and found a competent, experienced teacher.

Why go to the trouble and expense of private lessons when everything one needs to learn is online and free? While I’m sure many people have gone this route with some success, for the vast majority I believe this would be a mistake.

Here’s why:

My progress was extremely slow. I loved playing and did so up to 5 hours+ daily (we’re talking pre-internet, pre x-box, even pre cable-tv). Although I was enjoying myself, I was often doing things incorrectly. It would be weeks or months before I discovered I was playing a tune, chord, or riff wrong. A competent teacher would have pointed this out immediately.

I developed many bad habits. When I did my first college audition, I was told I played well but my technique was terrible, and it was indeed. While I agree that music is art and there are many great players lacking “proper” technique, I would argue that there are definitely more efficient technical approaches that, when learned in the beginning, will allow a student to master the instrument much easier, faster, and avoiding much frustration.

Having a weekly deadline encourages progress. If you are anything like myself, knowing I have a guitar lesson in just a few days definitely motivates me to practice! My 7 years of weekly guitar lessons (summers included) taught me not only how to play the guitar but the best way (for me) to practice: often and whether I feel like it or not.

The Mentorship Legacy. This may be the most important reason to find a competent, qualified teacher. Throughout history, a mentor has been a crucial prerequisite to mastering any skill. Acknowledged geniuses like Mozart, Beethoven, and De Vinci all studied under the tutelage of a teacher. In the guitar realm, classical guitarist  Christopher Parkening studied with the great Andres Segovia. Rock guitar phenom Steve Vai studied with Joe Satriani. Talk about being in good company! All these artists relied on the experience, guidance, and feedback that only a mentor could provide.

I would encourage any beginning guitarist to learn from any and all available sources, including the internet. I can’t imagine what my playing would be without Guitar Player Magazine and all the lesson columns I followed religiously growing up. Studying with a professional, qualified teacher, however, would’ve helped me make more sense of the massive, overwhelming amount of information available to us. I would’ve avoided bad habits. Weekly guitar lessons would’ve made my practice time much more productive. And I’m positive I would’ve progressed much faster.

…I did eventually pay off my amp, though.


Related Posts:

Thinking about learning to play the guitar?

guitar lessons in Albuquerque, guitar lessons in Rio Rancho, guitar lessons in Corrales

guitar lessons for beginners, group guitar lessons

Have you been thinking about learning to play the guitar? Not sure if you have the “talent” needed to get anywhere? In teaching people of all ages for 25+ years, I’ve never met someone who honestly couldn’t learn to play. Yes, some people were especially challenging. Yes, some people have more natural ability than others. But talent; i.e. natural ability, was never the dominating factor in their success as guitarists. What matters most is quite simple: the amount of desire one has to play the guitar and the commitment to regular practice. I often tell my students that “the more I practice, the more talented I become.” I’m not kidding! In fact, there is a growing body of scientific study that backs up my “humorous” statement (checkout “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin if you’re interested). Bottom line: you get what you put in.

So if you’ve always wanted to play but had doubts in your ability, ignore them and start playing. Set some small goals: learn a song, learn simple blues, etc. Find a good teacher who can guide you toward an achievable outcome. Take some guitar lessons and commit to a regular and easy practice schedule. My experience tells me you will surprise yourself!

Related Posts:

Making the Most of your Guitar Lessons: Practice Habits That Guarantee Improvement

guitar lessons in Albuquerque. Rio Rancho, Corrales   A goal all guitar students have is making the most of our guitar lessons. The critical “next action” for this goal is simple: practice efficiently. As busy as we all are with our everyday lives, making the most of our guitar practice time is crucial if we’re going to improve or even stay with it at all. To that end, here are some general guidelines I keep in mind as I’m practicing.


1. Tempo- Slow down!

When learning new material, the most common mistake guitarists make is playing the music at an unmanageable tempo. Instead, opt for a deliberately slow tempo that allows you to make as few errors as possible, no mistakes being the goal. As you become more familiar with the music you will naturally want to increase the tempo gradually.

2. Amount of material- Do less!

Another error in guitar practice is trying to absorb too much material at one time resulting in very little progress. How much is too much? While the amount will vary with each individual, this question is best answered by  how much of the music you can play correctly, with solid rhythm, at your next practice session, slowly (see paragraph above). Reduce your practice material until what you can play right now matches what you practiced yesterday.

3. Slow down and do less.

    Steps 1 and 2 will be even more effective when done together. Once this is a habit, you will be amazed how quickly your playing will improve. The skills you develop pave the way for learning even more difficult music with more ease and, yes, speed.



Related Posts:

Guitar Lesson: Open Position Chords, Part 2

guitar lessons in Albuquerque, guitar lessons in Rio Rancho, guitar lessons in Corrales

guitar lessons

guitar lessons

This is part 2 of a guitar lesson from my last post: Open Position Chords. The focus  this time is a third type of chord: Dominant 7. Along with Major and Minor, Dominant 7 is a “must know” family of chords.

Once again I’d appreciate feedback and any questions you have on this and any other lessons posted on this blog. Thanks!

Open Chords Guitar Lesson Part 10: C7

Open Chords Guitar Lesson Part 11: A7

Open Chords Guitar Lesson Part 12: G7

Open Chords Guitar Lesson Part 13: E7

Open Chords Guitar Lesson Part 14: D7

Open Chords Guitar Lesson Part 15: B7

Open Chords Guitar Lesson Part 16: Summary

Related Posts: