You’re getting ready to walk onstage at a packed house with the familiar buzz of a crowd bleeding with anticipation. Two problems: you’re currently playing in your unfinished basement, and your crowd consists of an ominous spider in the corner of the room.
I'm going to show you how you can move out from the basement and onto a stage. Here are the top five ways to master your guitar and be the rock star I know you can be.
1. Buy a metronome to enhance your grooves
The easiest task on this entire list will be to buy a metronome and actually use it! Even if you play the guitar really well, your skills are worthless if you’re ahead or behind the beat, and it's also a surefire way to irritate your bandmates. Not only will a metronome help you with rhythm, but it'll also improve your technique. Use it to see how quickly you can run through scales and exercises. It’ll help you nail your guitar solos. The metronome will make the rest of your band happy and make you a better guitarist.
2. Envision yourself as a future rock star
It’s incredibly important to set short- and long-term goals for yourself. Make sure they’re specific and you have a plan to attain them. Some short-term goal ideas include writing your first song or booking a gig at your favorite bar. Your short-term goals should align with your long-term goals, or what you want to achieve in the next couple years. These goals can be what type of musician you want to be, getting your band signed, or maybe it’s opening for Jack White!
The easiest way to measure your progress is to write down your goals and check them off when you complete them and re-evaluate periodically. Make sure you’ve created an efficient and effective practice routine that aligns with these goals.
3. Find your inspiration
It’s difficult to find creativeness in your daily routine: driving to work, sitting in traffic, and spilling your coffee on yourself is a little lackluster. Spice it up by going to concerts and finding as much live music as possible. Try exploring outside your genre. This gives you material to write your big hit or learn techniques you hadn’t thought about incorporating before.
Seeing really awesome guitarists live is inspiring, so be on the lookout for your "guitar idol." You can have multiple guitar idols based on different techniques and skills. Make sure these guitarists also align with your long-term goals of becoming a rock star.
4. Think beyond guitar-specific skills
Musicians who have mastered the guitar aren’t great at just playing one set; they’re great because they’re well-rounded musicians. Having a good understanding of music theory will help you master your guitar. Theory can help you play by ear, then when you hear a really groovy guitar lick on the radio, or you’re listening to your guitar idol, you can copy it on your instrument. This is where creativity happens. You can play around with new stuff and maybe hear yourself on the radio one day!
Without theory, you’ll get stuck. You will try to recreate that awesome rhythm or melody, but won’t be able to transfer it to your guitar or down on paper. Theory may sound boring, but in reality, it helps foster creativity.
5. Jam with musicians who are better than you
To master your guitar, you need to challenge yourself! Find people to play with who are just a little bit better than you. If you have a competitive side, or want to skirt away from embarrassment, you’ll try pretty hard to keep up. Playing with musicians just above your skill level will help you learn new rhythms, grooves, and techniques you haven’t thought of yet. You can even find different ways to voice chords. The opportunities are endless! What’s really exciting is when you surpass your jamming buddies and have to find a new group to practice with.
If you aren’t able to find a group that challenges you, technology can do the work for you. The internet is full of software and computer programs to create virtual backing bands. A good free option is JamStudio.com. They have tons of different instruments with different loops and beats to play around with.
Whether your goal is to land a gig at the local coffee shop or open for Jack White, these tips will help get you out of the unfinished basement with the ominous spider and onto a real-life stage.
Colleen Kinsey has a passion for guitars and ukuleles. She enjoys jamming, teaching, and getting others involved in music. Her website focuses specifically on guitars and ukes.