How to improve your guitar playing by taking decisions

We take decisions all of the time and whether we’re conscious of it or not these decisions affect the quality of our life and every aspect of it, including whether we’ll improve fast on guitar or not.

These decisions include not bothering to take a decision at all.  As Rush remind us in the song Freewill, ”If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”.

This couldn’t be more true and many a time, not taking a decision at all can be more harmful than taking the less ideal decision.

In this article, I’m going to show you 5 decisions you can take that will improve your guitar playing just by taking them, whether your decision is the most ideal or not.

Decision 1: Change a guitar playing habit that’s hurting you

If you could play guitar perfectly it’s unlikely you would be reading this article in the first place. You’re here to improve your playing!

And while improving on guitar requires learning new things, improvement also comes by changing bad habits that hurt our playing.

The follow is a list of some of the most common areas guitar students tend to develop bad habits in.

Choose only one of these areas and decide to find out what it takes to fix that bad habit.

You will probably find that there is more than one item on this list that needs to be improved but choose only one anyway.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that if you take only one decision in this area, you’re more likely to actually implement it. The second is that this whole process of decision making is meant to be repeated over and over again, so you’ll be dealing with the other areas later on.

Focus on choosing the one thing that’s hurting your guitar playing most, thus I suggest that after you read the following list, you go and do some guitar practicing with these points in mind (or written in front of you) so that you can best identify what you really need.

  1. Incorrect left hand position.
  2. Incorrect right hand position.
  3. Incorrect synchronization between both hands.
  4. Playing something fast before learning it well slow.
  5. Uncontrolled, unwanted, string noise (you’re more likely to experience this if you play electric guitar with distortion).
  6. Uncontrolled muscle tension (you probably need improvement in this area, especially if you’ve never paid attention to muscle tension before. Many guitar players neglect this issue, but it’s still hurting their playing big time).
  7. You don’t play exactly on time.
  8. You don’t care about phrasing on guitar.
  9. You don’t warm up (especially in these 2 circumstances: When it’s cold and when you want to play guitar fast)

Once you decide on which area you need to improve, start practicing with special focus on that area.

Implementing on the decision you have taken is as important as taking the decision itself, thus for today your main focus is to start correcting that one bad habit.

Tomorrow, you’ll be taking a decision that covers another aspect of guitar practicing that can be improved.

Decision 2: The quality of your practice time

Before you take the next decision you need to keep in mind that for this exercise to be valuable and to see significant improvement in your guitar playing, you need to keep implementing the decisions you have taken before.

If for instance, you found that your left hand fingering was incorrect, and you’re not pressing the strings with the tip of your fingers near the fret, practicing it the correct way once may not be enough.

Make sure you keep working on the bad habit until playing it the correct way becomes second nature.

Today’s decision is related to making the most of your guitar practice time.

In this lesson on applying the Pareto principle for practicing guitar I have shown you that the things you practice do not have equal value towards reaching your musical goals.

Go through that lesson and then answer this question:

Which area of my practice do I need to spend more time working on, and on which area of my practice will I practice less, to make the time available?

Decision 3: The quantity of your practice time

Though I frequently argue that how much you practice is only one aspect that leads to guitar greatness, and that the common advice given to “practice, practice, practice” is incomplete, it’s a no brainer that if you practice more, you’ll improve on guitar faster.

Today’s decision will be to increase your practice time with at least half an hour a week.

No matter how busy you are, you surely can make a half an hour a week available, we’re talking less than 5 minutes a day here.

And yes, it will make a difference in your guitar playing, as you’ll see in the next decision you’re going to take.

Decision 4: Learn something new

One of the reasons many guitar players improve slowly is that their skills are imbalanced.

For instance, you may know a lot of guitar scales but have no clue how to use them in improvisation.

Or else, you know the scales, can improvise, but really know what you’re doing since you have never learned any music theory.

The following are some areas you may be completely neglecting. Choose one of them and dedicate to it the half hour (or more) you have decided to allocate to practicing guitar per week when you took your decision yesterday.

  1. Music theory
  2. Applying music theory to guitar playing
  3. Guitar technique
  4. Ear training
  5. Improvising
  6. Songwriting (click here to learn how to write a song on guitar)
  7. Reading and playing rhythms.
  8. Building a repertoire of songs, riffs, licks and solos.
  9. Reading standard music notation.

Decision 5: Improve your mindset

Your guitar practicing mindset, that is your thoughts and feelings before you practice, while you practice and after, has a lot to do with how fast you improve.

Today, you’re going to decide to remove one negative way of thinking that is hurting your guitar learning process.

Here are some examples of negative thoughts you may want to eliminate.

  1. You think making mistakes is wrong, and not part of a learning process.
  2. You don’t feel motivated because you can’t see the relevance of what you’re doing on guitar to your musical goals.
  3. You don’t even have musical goals.
  4. You think there’s a limit to how good a guitar player you can become because you don’t have natural talent.
  5. You forgot the original reason why you started playing guitar, your dreams.
  6. You see guitar players who are better than you as a threat to your ego, rather than a learning source.
  7. You’re an intermediate guitar player but you’re still afraid of playing with other musicians.

Once again, choose only one of these (or some other negative form of thinking that is hurting your progress) and decide to correct it.

Conclusion: Keep taking decisions!

If you have implemented everything that has been suggested you in this lesson, you have taken 5 decisions in 5 days, all of which will have a positive impact on how fast you’ll become good, or great, on guitar.

The next step is to allow some time (say a week) to make sure you really are implementing each of the decisions you’ve taken.

If you want the results of these decision to give fruit in the long run as well as the short run, these decisions need to be permanent.

Thus, before taking new decisions, make sure the results of your previous decisions have become a habit.

When this happens, it’s time to take some new decisions by going through the whole process again.

If you go through the process above only once, you will see a significant improvement in how fast you’re learning the guitar, but if you keep going through it over and over again, this will come with a compound effect, and as soon as you know it, you become closer to your musical goals sooner than your originally thought.

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