Although I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, I am a big fan of setting some new goals every now and then. Some people say they’re going to lose so much weight, run a marathon, swim Cook Strait, and so on, but as we know many people never achieve those types of goals. There are many reasons why, but the biggest is they have picked a huge goal without a plan to achieve it in small steps.
There are two main things you should take time to write down when planning to implement a new goal, or several goals. The first one is the reason WHY you want to achieve this. For example, if you want to practice more – why do you want to practice more? To get more gigs? To learn a new style?
Once you have nailed the Why, the next question of HOW to do it becomes much easier. How you achieve whatever you want to do must be broken down into small achievable steps and written down, just like your ‘whys’ need to be written down. Many people don’t achieve goals simply because they are never written down to be looked at daily – and recited loudly – which you should do if you want to achieve anything that is worthy of your time and effort.
Below I have outlined nine ways you can easily improve at least one area of your playing this year by just doing something small. In doing it like that you are more likely to stick to it and enjoy it.
If you pick up your guitar twice a week and play for 30 minutes, see if you can pick it up three times a week and play for 30 minutes. Once that becomes the new norm, them see if you can do four times a week.
The best way to practice more is not to put your guitar away in its case, but rather have a stand that you leave it on while at home. Only use a case when you take it somewhere, that way you will see your guitar in the stand and be more inclined to pick it up and play.
One of the reasons guitar owners don’t play them much is that they are stuck in a rut and not sure how to get out of it. They go to YouTube but that doesn’t work either – mostly because they’re not learning things in the right order, and become even more frustrated about what to do. A good teacher can help you overcome all that frustration and get you out of that rut and learning some new things quickly.
Many players get stuck in a rut because they only practice and play in one style. There are numerous different genres in music and you should try working with some you haven’t tried before.
Most top guitar players can play a lot of different styles of music, which in turn allows them to get more gigs, play more jam sessions, etc. Try it. Often you don’t even have to learn any new techniques, just listen to the language and dialect of the music.
If you have never studied finger-picking before, then it might be a good time to get into it. There are many different finger-picking techniques and this style of has a lot of history behind it. I studied classical guitar for many years and really enjoyed it. You might too.
If you are a totally electric player, then maybe try picking up an acoustic guitar. Or if you’re an acoustic player, borrow a friend’s electric for a change. Make it a habit to swap between the two every half hour, or each day, you might surprise yourself at what comes out of it.
Maybe it is time to upgrade a guitar, pedal, amplifier, etc. Quite often a new bit of equipment can light the spark that allows us to improve our guitar skills quickly.
It is a lot more fun to practice with some effects, say chorus on some rhythm part, or overdrive on a lead solo or riff you are practising. Just trying out some new bit of equipment is motivating for a lot of people.
If you know some friends who play, you might want to ask them to get together on the weekend or at night to jam. Playing music is not a solitary thing, it is a social thing to participate in, and you should make the most of it. You don’t have to be a great player to get out and jam, but you should be able to keep in time and know a few chords, then you will be fine.
If you already have a lot of skills jamming, then you might want to form a regular band with friends and see what happens. Forming a band might lead to writing songs, which is also a lot of fun.
Although forming a band makes it a more serious type of pastime, if you get the right combination of people together things can really start to happen with offers to play at friend’s parties, weddings, pubs, etc. If you are going to form a band, then make sure to read all of Thomas Goss’s Building Blocks articles in back issues of NZ Musician magazine, also available at NZMusician.co.nz.
The next logical step is to record your own music if you have written anything. In fact, you don’t need to have written anything yourself, just go into a studio and have fun recording someone else’s song. Being in a good studio can be one of the best creative things you can do, and you will also learn a lot.
To sum up, if you can pick just one of these areas to work on over the next few months, write down on paper a plan to achieve it, and increase your time doing it, you will have achieved a lot. A lot more than the many guitar owners out there who do very little each year.
Kevin Downing is a professional guitarist, teacher, and author. His contact details, along with many freebies, are on his website at www.guitar.co.nz