How to learn the guitar faster without putting in more hours

The reason I didn’t title this article “How to learn the guitar fast” is that I would risk misleading you into thinking that you can learn the guitar in a short period of time.

Promises that you can learn the guitar in 10 hours, 10 days, or 10 weeks tend to give the wrong impression that you can become a good guitar player in a few hours, days, or weeks.

And while it’s true that you can be able to play some basic things after even just 10 hours of practice, in reality, after 10 weeks of daily guitar practice, you would have barely scratched the surface of what can be learned on the instrument.

Learning the guitar is a long term game, and for those who really love the instrument and want to learn everything possible on the guitar, one lifetime is not enough.

That being said, if two people spend the exact time practicing the guitar, they will not progress at the same rate.

You can learn the guitar faster without putting in more hours by improving the quality of your practicing and your mindset.

In this lesson, I will give you a set of tips, tools, and techniques to learn the guitar faster than you would in the same given amount of time.

Needless to say, you will improve on the guitar even faster if you put in more hours, but for the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that increasing your practice time is not an option.

1. All your practice time should be focused.

Do you ever find yourself wandering aimlessly on the guitar fretboard, playing the same scale up and down, or going through a song you already know without any specific purpose in mind?

The good news is that all that time is a waste of time.

It is good news because it means you can replace all that wasted time with high-quality practice time – without spending a minute more with your guitar in your hand – and significantly improve the speed of your learning process.

Make sure that during the time you spend practicing the guitar you:

  1. Are fully concentrated.
  2. Have a specific purpose that needs to be achieved with each practice item. 

2. Remember your reasons

Nowadays I enjoy practicing the guitar more than a wild night out with my friends.

This is partially because I’m growing older and I don’t fancy wild nights out as I used to, but there’s more to it than that.

I just love practicing. 

Somewhere along the way, my mind made this link:

Practicing = becoming a good guitar player = becoming a professional musician = happiness.

Thus, practicing = happiness.

The reasons why you learn the guitar may be completely different from mine but for sure, you have them. 

Otherwise, you wouldn’t have picked up the guitar in the first place. And you wouldn’t be reading an article on how to learn it faster.

Whether it’s because of your desire to entertain your friends, to express yourself, to pick up girls, to become a professional musician and quit your day job, or for any other reason, you’re learning the guitar because you associate it with positive emotions.

If you recall the reasons why you’re practicing before each practice session you’ll feel motivated, which will in turn improve the quality of your practice.

3. Don’t practice with your hands alone

Though we practice the guitar with our hands, other parts of our body have an important role in the quality of our practice.

Here are some of the most important:

a. Your ears 

You’ve probably heard of “ear training”, that you need to develop a good ear to become a good guitar player and musician.

While you can train your ear by doing specific exercises to achieve that goal (such as singing scales, or memorizing intervals), you are actually training your ear every time you practice and listen attentively to what you’re playing.

A trained ear will make your entire musical journey easier – you will be able to figure out your favorite songs, you’ll be able to hear notes before you play them when improvising, as well as recognize mistakes and easily correct them.

b. Your eyes:

Professional musicians sometimes practice in the dark or with their eyes closed.

The reason for this is to prepare themselves for circumstances where they cannot see, especially on stage.

However, they have reached the ability of not needing to look at their hands while playing by actually looking at their hands until they got to that point.

You will learn a new guitar chord quicker if you’re looking at your left hand while making the chord shape.

Apart from helping with muscle memory, looking at your hands will help you identify inefficient motions and correct them.

For instance, if you want to improve your picking technique, it’s good to look at your right hand to see if the pick is traveling too far from the string every time it hits it.

If you’ve never done this before it probably does, and reducing that distance will increase your picking speed without actually moving your hand faster.

c. The rest of your body:

Irrespective of what level of guitar playing you’re in, unnecessary tension hurts your progress.

This can happen in any part of your body, but the most important parts to look out for are your shoulders and your breathing.

4. Practice the guitar in your head

In the previous point, I deliberately left out one part of the body, the one that’s actually doing most of the work when playing the guitar – your brain.

As you improve on the guitar your fingers will start moving with more ease and more speed over the guitar fretboard, giving you the impression that the change is happening all in your hands and fingers.

This is only partially true. 

Yes, by practicing your fingers are getting stretched, getting stronger and more flexible.

And if you’re a beginner, you’re also growing guitar finger calluses so that pressing the strings doesn’t hurt.

Yet, the biggest changes are actually happening in your brain.

For instance, though we use the term “muscle memory” when our fingers remember a chord, a scale, or a pattern, our muscles don’t actually have a memory.

It is our brain that’s actually remembering patterns, recalling them, and directing our fingers through them easily anytime we play them again.

This means that we can practice the guitar even when we don’t have a guitar on us.

In this lesson I show you how to do this so that you can practice anytime you’re not concentrating on something else (such as while waiting for the bus or being in a queue).

5. Warm-up appropriately

Did you ever start practicing the guitar and feel like you’ve lost your guitar playing skills since the last time you practiced?  

The reason this happens is not that you have actually lost your skills but that you haven’t warmed up.

Warm up every time you practice, and if you link your guitar warm up to the items in your coming practice session, the warm-up itself would be actually contributing to your learning progress rather than just get the blood flowing into your hands.

6. Plateaus = questions

When we’re just starting out on the guitar we’re consuming and applying new information and developing new skills.

The only way is up and we feel like we’re improving a little with each practice session.

As we get better on the instrument though, it is very common that we reach plateaus. That is, periods of time where our progress is very slow.

Or where there seems to be no progress at all.  

The worst thing to do when this happens is to quit.  Many guitar students quit during a plateau because they think they’ve reached the maximum of their abilities.

Plateaus are temporary and after overcoming the plateau, you’ll usually have a breakthrough – a period of time where you feel like you’ve suddenly improved a lot. Where things make more sense and playing the guitar feels easier.

In order to make the plateau shorter and the breakthrough sooner, the best thing is to ask quality questions such as:

Am I learning things in the right order?

Are there any weaknesses that are holding my strengths back?

Do I need a teacher (or change the teacher)?

Are the items that I’m practicing in line with my goals?

The answer to these questions (and other relevant questions you will come up with) will lead you to make better decisions, improve faster and get out of the plateau sooner.

Conclusion: Reap the rewards

At the beginning of this article, I told you learning the guitar is a long-term game.

What this does not mean is that it should take a long time to start reaping the benefits of learning the instrument.

After a year of learning the guitar, my students may not be able to shred fast guitar solos.

But they will be able to play Nirvana and AC/DC songs at the school concert.

Or entertain their friends around the campfire.

If you want to learn the guitar fast it’s important to keep your long-term goals as well as your short and mid-term goals in mind. 

As well as make sure that they’re in line with each other.

You may become the guitar player of your dreams in 5, 10, or 20 years.

But always keep in mind that you’re reaping rewards during the whole process.

Rewards include not only being able to play at the school concert but also improving your ability to concentrate, your self-confidence, and your overall level of happiness. 

You may consider giving a donation, by which you will be helping a songwriter achieve his dreams. Each contribution, no matter how small, will make a difference.

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