Top 10 hints to get your playing to the next level
Hey there - whats up good people! David Taub here from Next Level Guitar.
Along your guitar journey I believe there are certain critical points that every guitar player needs to tackle. These are concepts that will get your playing to the next level. I have taught thousands of students privately and online and I see common areas where students can have holes in their playing that need filling.
So to help players get through this I have assembled a list of what I believe are the Top Ten Hints to get your playing to the next level.
Take care and remember to keep putting those guitars in your hands everyday....even if it is just for 5 or 10 minutes - that alone makes a big difference.
Take care and rock on!
TOP TEN TIPS TO GET YOUR PLAYING TO THE NEXT LEVEL:
There are certain principles that every guitar player should consider tackling to help evolve their playing to the next level. Some concepts and techniques are harder than others, and take quite a bit of work to master. However, in the end you will be glad you took the extra time to learn the principles outlined below, as they will make you a better guitarist and a better musician. Go slowly at first and don’t overwhelm yourself. These are processes that take time, remember that your playing is an evolution. Take stock in your playing and see if you are deficient in one or more of these areas and then really work hard on getting each up to speed. Keep honing your skills, refining your art, and stay positive!
TIP 1: Use what you learn in lessons as templates – not isolated individual events
You want to be able to take what you are learning and apply it to real musical situations. Don’t just learn a lick or an exercise. Use lessons as practical playing vehicles for you to practice and hone your lead guitar playing skills. Take what you learn in an individual lesson and try applying it in a musical context to other jams, songs, and progressions.
TIP 2: JUST DON’T LEARN LICKS...........LEARN FROM THE LICKSOften guitarists spend too much time just learning licks and stopping there. If you just learn a lick here and there in the end you know a few licks. What good is that, really? You want to LEARN FROM THE LICK – what scale is that lick from?, how is it used?, over what changes can it be played?, over what chords can it be played?, how can I vary that lick to turn that one lick into twenty licks?, how can I use the lick in a musical context? Then you’re arming yourself with the necessary tools to take your playing to the next level.
TIP 3: ANALYZE THE CHORD PROGRESSION - knowing the key alone is not enoughI have seen this hold guitar players back time and time again. They focus solely on what key they are playing in, and that’s all they tune into. This can be very limiting as knowing just the key will only get you so far. Knowing what key you are playing in is important, but to fully develop your lead playing and improvisation skills you need to know more. You need to start analyzing the chords and progressions.
You want to know what chords are in a progression and then analyze them to determine what scales, modes, and landing notes to utilize. In many instances you need to determine if there is a IV chord or V chord in a progression, and if the chords are major or minor. You need to know which notes make up the chords that you are playing over so you can use their respective chord tones as strong landing or emphasis notes. You will need to know the chords and their structure to fully understand and apply which mode you want to solo with.
KEY POINT: It’s the chords that you are playing over that give you the full roadmap to what will work for soloing and improvisation purposes.
Get in the habit of writing out the chord progression and thoroughly examining all the chords to get a clear picture of the soloing options. Consider this very methodical approach at first as training to solidify you’re musical muscle memory. This way eventually your ear will be developed enough to take you to all the right notes. I have found that learning this methodical approach first will get you there the fastest.
TIP 4: DEVELOP YOUR EAROne of the most important things that you can do as a musician is to DEVELOP YOUR EAR. This opens the door to amazing musical applications. Once your ear starts developing you will be able to hear strum patterns and rhythms and play them by ear without the worry of learning the strum pattern up and down strums. You will hear the color of chords and be able to discern major chords from minor chords from 7th chords and so on. When songwriting, you will be able to put together chords that give off a certain color or emotion. You will be able to figure out and transcribe songs by ear. Your ear will also take you to those sweet sounding landing and emphasis notes and link the proper scale or mode to a given chord or set of chords. I can go on and on – develop that ear –
TIP 5: KNOW A LARGE CATALOGUE OF CHORDS
Knowing a large vocabulary of chords is absolutely critical. Unless you want to be relegated to playing stock everyday, A, D, and E all day long. Being able to play a lot of different chords proficiently and knowing how to embellish them is a difficult task, but so worthwhile. Knowing a large catalog of chords will open many doors and allow you to embellish and decorate your playing with all kinds of new musical melodies, rhythms, and endless song writing possibilities. Why play a stock, sterile, every day Aminor chord when you can play a much more interesting and harmonically rich Asus2, Am7, or Am9 chord? Embellishing chords is a great way to spark new ideas and infuse new life into old progressions and songs. Having chordal options makes it fun and exciting not only for the guitarist but also more musically interesting for the listener.
TIP 6: KNOW HOW TO PLAY SOLID RHYTHMKnowing a large catalog of chords is the first step. Next is being able to play solid rhythm. Music is more than just soloing, notes, and chords, it is also about rhythm and meter. As a guitarist you will be playing rhythm 90% of the time. Some guitarists think they can just concentrate solely on soloing and improvisation. But they are in for a huge surprise first time they start playing with a band or jamming with other people. Your lead playing will pretty much only ever be as good as your rhythm playing. Your rhythm playing is huge so don’t overlook it.
KEY POINT: Don’t neglect your rhythm playing - your lead playing will only ever be as good as your rhythm playing
TIP 7: KNOW THE NOTES ON THE NECKStrive to learn the notes on the neck cold. You will always be a better musician and be able to speak the language of music if you take the extra time to learn the notes that make up each chord, each scale, and the notes on the fretboard. This will also allow you to grab a needed note quickly at any time. Knowing the notes on the neck is a huge under taking, so make it a point to learn them over a period of time. Take things slow and learn one string at a time, then go to the next string. Utilize octaves to make the learning process a bit easier.
TIP 8: DON”T RELY SOLELY ON TABLATURE OR JUST LEARNING SHAPES
The problem with tablature and just learning scale shapes is that you don’t learn the notes that make up the chords or the scales. Don’t rely solely on tablature, then you are just learning finger position, fret numbers, and shapes. Try not to become too dependent on tablature. Tablature only tells you what fret number to play, it does not tell you the note that you are playing or the notes that make up the chords. Tablature is a fun way to learn songs so certainly use it and have fun with it, but don’t fall into the trap of using it exclusively and not taking the time to develop your ear. Along with tablature learn the notes on the neck and which notes and intervals make up each chord. So keep developing your ear so you eventually wont need tabs.
TIP 9: DON’T JUST LEARN SCALES ALONE - ALSO LEARN HOW TO APPLY THEM
Too often players will learn dozens and dozens of scales, but they don’t learn how to use them and when to apply them. Learning a scale by itself is not enough. Knowing when to utilize the scale and over which chords is just as important. Knowing all the scales ever created in the history of music will do you absolutely no good unless you know how to utilize them and under which musical circumstances to apply them into your playing. Learn the scale, but also learn how to apply it.
TIP 10: KNOW YOUR PENTATONICS, BUT KNOW YOUR MAJOR SCALES AS WELL
This is invaluable for the lead guitar player. Knowing your major scales in all positions across the neck will help give you so many additional tools necessary for lead playing and improvisation. Too many players just stop learning scales after they learn the Pentatonics. Knowing the major scales up and down the neck will be the springboard to knowing the modes of the major scale, relative major and minor, and many other important concepts. So learn those major scales in all positions. Don’t stop after learning Pentatonic scales, keep pushing into new territories and you will push yourself to that next level of lead guitar playing.