Learning how to play guitar takes time and practice, but with these 5 easy tips you’ll no longer be asking yourself “how to improve my guitar playing” and instead you’ll start asking “what song can I learn next!”. Guitar playing is ultimately a game of coordination that requires a controlled touch rather than muscular force. Are you ready to find out how to improve your guitar playing? Let’s get started!
#1 – Stop clamping
The neck of a guitar isn’t a baseball bat or a weapon, so stop gripping it like your life depends on it and learn to release and fret your notes properly instead. Clamping the neck of the guitar is a bad habit often formed very early on in a guitarist’s progress, so make sure you set up the foundation elements of guitar playing like your posture and hold the guitar properly so that you’re not creating strain or grappling with your guitar – the guitar should feel like an extension of your body, not a dead weight that drags you down. It might be an axe, but it’s not a weapon… stop wielding it like one and let your guitar strap or the way you’re sitting hold the guitar in place for you, let go and simply focus on fretting your notes properly without clamping your thumb down on the neck.
#2 – Coordination and balance
I often espouse the importance of balance and coordination in singing, but it’s the same premise with guitar – you need to coordinate your two hands while balancing every aspect of your guitar playing, from how you fret the notes to your tone. A great way to develop coordination between your two hands is to practice chords and licks separately, first with your left hand, and secondly with your right hand. The more comfortable you are with each element of your guitar playing, the quicker you will be able to add them together and play songs with confidence and perfect timing. Practice your left hand chord shapes while watching TV, or practice your right hand strumming and picking technique while your favourite show plays in the background – the more natural and ‘unintentional’ you make your guitar playing, the sooner you will learn to balance and coordinate your guitar playing hands.
#3 – Timing is key
It’s not just the drummer’s job to keep time in a band, you first must learn how to keep your own time. This is key to becoming a great guitarist. Any timing flubs will leave you sounding sloppy and unrehearsed – the better your timing is the better your guitar playing will be overall. Try to count out loud when you practice chords or your favourite songs, or tap your foot along to the beat. The better your timing is, the sooner you can progress onto more complicated songs with varied times and styles. Timing will also help with #4 –
#4 – Sing and play guitar at the same time
Treating your singing voice and guitar playing as “One” instrument is a great way to improve both your voice and your guitar skills. If you want to learn how to sing and play guitar at the same time, a great way to do it is to create central timing like this video demonstrates:
As you can see, focusing on your timing will allow you to recall muscle memory so that your guitar licks and the vocal line simply flow out without too much effort.
#5 – Foundation is key
Another key aspect of guitar playing that I also espouse in singing too is the foundation elements like posture and how you hold your guitar. In the same way that your breathing and posture ‘support’ your voice when you sing, your posture and the manner in which you fret your notes and pick your strings ‘support’ your guitar playing and serve as the perpetual motion engine that runs in the background while you focus on the chord changes and scales that make up each song you’ve learned.
These five tips will help you improve your guitar playing more than scales on their own could ever do. These foundation elements and key points have been an important part in my own journey as a guitarist over the last 25 years and really lay the base of your guitar technique when you start to learn more complicated techniques and tricky songs and licks which take your full attention away from the basics like chords and strumming.
Beginner Guitar Playing Tips
Along with releasing your claw grip on the guitar neck and setting up the foundations of your guitar technique, one of the best tips I can share with you about improving your guitar playing is that it’s more important HOW you play than WHAT you play. If you practice scales all day long, sure, you might get a little better and more confident, but if you play the same scale the RIGHT way, the time needed to build confidence and the learning curve will be much shorter and your guitar playing will be much more efficient. As an example, if you practice a major scale for two hours a day, five days a week – without holding your pick in the right manner, you’ve wasted 10 hours of your time that could have been better spent on countless other exercises. Now, if you practice the same scale, but you are careful to set up your foundation, hold your pick correctly, practice with intent and coordination and continually release any strain – you will master the scale in a matter of hours and you will be able to move onto the next scale or a more difficult song sooner.
A great place to start is the free foundations courses available here at Bohemian Guitar Studio which will show you how to set up a powerful base for your guitar playing so that you can focus on improving your guitar playing without chasing your tail on the basics.
If you have any questions about learning how to play guitar better, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!