5 New Year’s Resolutions to Make You a Better Guitarist

The Christmas dinner has been devoured and the presents unwrapped, now is the time many people turn their attention to January 1st and the promise of a New Year and a fresh start.
The New Year is a great time to set new resolutions or goals that you are going to achieve to help you win the year and provide you with a strong sense of purpose. 

The only problem is only 8% of people who set a New Year’s resolution are actually successful, with most failing after just 12 days and 80% failing before February has even ended.

I know, it doesn’t sound good does it? But…there is hope. 

Through this article I will give five simple things you can do to help you rock the new year. I will also give you tips on how to make sure your new habits stick so you can be part of the 8% of New Year winners instead of one of the many New Year losers. 

1: Make Time Not Excuses

Ask any guitarist what the number one thing is that will make them better and they will say practice. Then ask them what they struggle the most with and it is usually regular practice. Now, there are a couple of reasons for this, firstly humans seek pleasure and avoid pain. 
Playing the guitar is pleasurable but learning the guitar is painful so it is easier to check in on Facebook or watch the next episode of Vikings on Amazon than it is to pick up the guitar even though you want to get better.

The other problem is humans generally suck with time management so you might say to yourself at the beginning of the day ‘I am going to have a great practice session today’ but before you know it the day has ended and it is time for bed and you are left asking yourself “where the hell did the day go?!”  

"You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it."

Take a few minutes now to MAKE time in your schedule for Guitar practice. Be realistic and set aside some time ideally everyday but as many days as you can, even if it is just ten minutes before you go to work that’s fine. Next, schedule it on your calendar and commit to it! Don’t worry if you miss a day here and there but never miss two days in a row.
This sounds so simple but you would be surprised how many people do not make time to practice and instead just make excuses.

2: Set Clear Goals

Making time for practice is a huge step forward but it is also important to make sure you fill that time wisely and that you have a clear purpose and direction when you are practicing guitar and this comes with a clear goal. 

Take a few minutes to think about what your big overarching goal is, what do you want to achieve from learning guitar? this might be:

  • To be able to play rock music
  • Play in a band
  • Write a song
  • Play a blues guitar solo 

The reason you want to learn guitar is obviously going to be personal to you so really think about what it is. Now, before you write down ‘I want to be able to play guitar’ as you overarching goal think again as that doesn’t cut it, you will need to go a bit deeper.

Once you have your big goal the next step is to break it down into small steps, for example if your goal is to play a blues guitar solo you might break it down into these smaller steps:

  1. Learn the first pattern of the Minor pentatonic scale
  2. Work on some simple riffs from that pattern
  3. Practice lead guitar techniques such as Hammer ons, Pull offs, Bends (1/4, 1/2 & full), Vibrato & Slides
  4. Play over a 12 bar blues in the most common keys, focus on creating phrases and using lead guitar techniques
  5. Listen to blues music to get a better idea of the genre and to blues guitar solos to pick up some ideas
  6. Pick a simple blues solo and start learning it
As a beginner guitar play you will probably not have the required knowledge to break your goal down into smaller steps so this is where a guitar teacher or well structured course could come in handy. 
If you are a member of Beginner Guitar Academy head over to the private coaching section of the forum and create a post detailing what your goal is and I will help you create your plan.
We are so lucky nowadays to have access to so many resources to help us learn to play guitar such as books, websites and YouTube. 
The only problem is if you are not aware of your ultimate goal and the direction you need to go to get there you will get pulled in different directions and waste a lot of time learning things you do not need to learn. 
Make sure you know what direction you are heading in before you get lost in the guitar playing jungle.

3: Keep Track Of Your Progress

I quite often have students say to me that their guitar playing is not getting any faster and my response is always the same ‘how fast are you now?’ at which point the student normally looks back at me with a confused look on their face.
The problem the student has encountered is they have no benchmark for their current speed or how fast fast is so as their playing speed increases over time so does the speed they think they want to achieve, so they are chasing a moving target.
This is why using a metronome is so important because you can track your progress. 

For example, if you are working on a strum pattern and can play it at 80 bpm, then next week you manage to increase the tempo to 90 bpm then straight away you can see you have made progress. This will help to keep you from going around in circles and provide you with the motivation to keep moving forward.
If you are really serious about making progress this year I would recommend keeping a practice journal. A practice journal will help you see your progress over time, better organise your practice sessions and help to keep yourself accountable.
A practice journal could be a small notebook that you write in after each practice session or it could be an app such as Evernote. 

I prefer a note book as you tend to remember things better when you write them down by hand but use what ever works best for you. Now when it comes to what to write I would recommend starting with:
  1. The date and day
  2. What you practiced including tempos, number of repetitions etc.
  3. Review any problems and possible solutions
  4. Anything else that seems interesting and valuable

Try keeping a practice journal for the next month and I think you will be surprised with how effective it can be. 

Make sure to keep your notebook and a pen on your music stand and write in it after every session, even if you don’t feel like you have much to write as this will help you think more deeply about your practice sessions.

4: Work On Your Fundamentals

Quite often I will see a student get the basics of a skill like picking, meaning that they can hold a guitar pick and pick fairly consistently, then they stop practicing it altogether and as a result hit problems further down the road because they have not been consistently working on this fundamental skill. 

So the question is how are your fundamentals?
Let’s first identify what I mean by the fundamentals, there are seven essential skills that will form the foundation of your guitar playing and these are:
  1. Picking 
  2. Chords 
  3. Arpeggios
  4. Scales
  5. Rhythm 
  6. Reading 
  7. Aural  
Ideally your practice sessions will consist mostly of practicing these seven areas as they will give you a strong foundation and allow you to become a well rounded musician. 
When it comes to structuring your practice sessions you should not try to include all seven skills in one session but instead just choose two skills to work on, then rotate through the list so each day you work on something different. 

Also be sure to mix in songs and riffs and you have yourself all the ingredients for a great practice session.

5: Follow A Structured Syllabus

Probably the most important thing you can do to help you make better progress this year is to stop jumping from video to video on YouTube and instead follow a structured syllabus.
If you are serious about learning the guitar you will want to seek out a structured course to help you stay on track and make progress that has been developed and tested with beginner guitar players in mind, such as what we offer at Beginner Guitar Academy. 
At Beginner Guitar Academy we teach a structured course that has been tried, tested and developed over the last twenty years. 

What makes our online school different though is the method ties in to all the other parts of the academy such as our songs, riffs and quick tips sections which helps remove the feelings of confusion and frustration felt by most beginners trying to learn online.
This is the power of structure and why it is so important for beginner guitar players especially to find a well-structured course to follow. Check out the academy at www.beginnerguitaracademy.com for more info and to join us.
I hope this article has given you a few ideas to help take your guitar playing to the next level this year and as always if you have any questions just drop them below in the comments section.
Happy New Year!

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