The following will hopefully help give you ideas on how best to continue to improve and ultimately getting continued enjoyment out of playing.
1. Practice little and often
This is especially true for beginners. When you’ve just started to learn an instrument, it’s advisable to practice mindfully and relaxed between 10-20 minutes per day if possible.
Being a beginner you won’t have hours of content to practice or presumably the knowledge to progress through a book or sheet music without the addition of formal tuition.
You don’t want the instrument to become boring, playing the same thing over and over can become very tedious and zap the joy out of playing. Remember to have fun too!
2. Play with and without a pick (Plectrum)
This is stylistically dependent, there are certain songs or guitar solos where using a pick is essential but by fingerpicking, you don’t only achieve a different sound, you also gain dexterity and finger independence.
Generally (in my experience) playing with your fingers allows you to convey more emotion and feel in your playing, but of course this is personal preference, if you wanted to play super fast blues licks like Joe Bonamassa or Eric Johnson then a pick is pretty much the only way you’ll achieve that sort of sound.
There are many great players throughout history of whom have honed their style and technique using their fingers, most famously would be Mark Knopfler, Tommy Emmanuel, Derek Trucks, Lindsey Buckingham and many others!
3. Learn songs
Nobody wants to sit with their instrument all day playing scales over and over. Whilst it might be helpful, it’s not exactly what you signed up for. Most people will want to play the songs they love listening too and fortunately, it’s a great way to improve.
We have many senses and will imitate through listening. If you have listened to a song many times you will have an innate sense of the correct rhythm. You then apply this to the correct chords and the song will sound like the record.
This not only gives players a big boost of motivation (as you’re playing your favourite songs) but it also subliminally teaches you techniques like quick chord changing and better rhythm playing.
4. Play/Jam with other people
Music throughout human history has brought people together, whether in the tribes of Africa, big concerts in the Albert Hall or your regular jam night at the local pub.
If you mix with other people who have the same passion for music, it’s a great way to learn new ways of playing. If you’re feeling bold enough, get up on stage or if you’re not quite there yet, invite some mates around. Its good fun and a great way to trade techniques and discover new artists.
5. Set yourself goals
Learning an instrument is a process that never ends as there is always more to learn and improve on, however, this isn’t any reason not to play and set yourself challenges along the way. The same rules have applied to everyone, even the greatest players.
Be realistic in setting goals. Perhaps learn a new scale per week or learn a new song a month, it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as they’re realistic given your current standard of playing. If you reach them, you’ve made progress!
6. Practice using a metronome
One of the oldest but effective methods – using a metronome. This is perhaps a slightly more academic approach to learning an instrument. It requires patience and would generally be best used to practice scales, arpeggios and correcting rhythm patterns.
It’s best to start off slow and strong. In the context of a scale, you should start slowly and pick the notes accurately and loudly. Once you’ve mastered a certain tempo, gently and gradually bring the tempo up and apply the same process. Bit by bit you will get faster and more accurate in your playing.
7. Manage your expectations
This is probably one of the more important considerations when learning. It’d be lovely to pick up the guitar and play like Jimi Hendrix straight away but it’s just not possible. Of course, that’s an extreme example, but it rings true for a lot of people.
You’re only capable of so much and to get to where you want to be may take a very long time, you may never get there at all!! This is no reason to give up, it’s all the more reason to stay inspired and motivated to improve.
8. Study different genres
Of course, we all like what we like but when it comes to improving on your instrument, studying other genres can help in many different ways. Different styles come from different backgrounds and require you to learn other ways of playing.
It’s like looking at food, you have a multiple of different colours, textures, and flavours. By looking into different genres you’ll become a more accomplished and all rounded player.
If you don’t know what to search for, music streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, and others have genre playlists. You can listen to these until your heart’s content and you’ll no doubt discover artists you didn’t know you liked.
9. Find a local tutor
Another one of the oldest yet most effective methods of learning (probably the best) is to find a reputable tutor.
Whether it’s an independent tutor or an organisation, getting formal tuition is probably the best method for learning. You can ask questions and have them answered in real time, lessons can be tailored to your needs and you can go at your own pace.
10. Play to backing tracks
Playing to backing tracks is amongst the more enjoyable ways to improve/learn.
You can find a wealth of Blues, Jazz, and Funk jam tracks or actual song backing tracks. For those of you that don’t know what these are – Let’s say you’re learning ACDC’s “Back in Black”, you can stream (or in some cases download an MP3) of the songs’ Drums, Vocals, Bass and Backing Guitar but with the lead guitar taken out, because that’s your part Rockstar..!