How To Get Better At Guitar – The Ultimate Guide

Learning how to get better at guitar is a long process, but we’re here to help you make it easy! Let’s dive in!

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • 13 tips for improving as a guitarist
  • What to focus on for better results
  • The importance of a practice routine
  • The importance of good technique

Want To Learn How To Get Better At Guitar?

Everybody does.

  • When we set out to learn the wonders of our favourite instrument, we don’t set our sights on being ‘average.’
  • We want to sound awesome – and why shouldn’t you?

Improving our skills on our instrument doesn’t just help us become a better musician, it helps us become a better version of ourselves. Practice requires focus, and attention to yourself and the fine details of your playing.

No matter what level of guitarist you are, you have to be self-critical in order to learn how to get better at guitar – that’s a fact.

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It takes guts to look at yourself and see what needs improving.

  • This goes for both life and music, so if you’re reading this article then congratulations!
  • You’re already on the first step to improving yourself as a musician.
  • In this article we’re going to do our best to expose you to some of the best methods for learning how to get better at guitar.

Ready for an inspiration kick? We know you are. Grab your ax, scroll down and let’s get cracking.

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Why Only Effective Practice Makes Perfect

Before we dive into any specific methods for learning how to get better at guitar, we need to talk about the importance of effective practice over plain-old practice.

What’s the difference?

  • Effective practice for learning how to get better at guitar involves focusing on a musical concept and attempting to master it.
  • This is the practical way to approach your practice routine, and can help you further understand concepts a lot quicker long-term.

When we say ‘plain-old’ practice, we mean the act of simply riffing on chords and riffs that you know, with no aim or goal. Playing the things we already know keeps those chops under our fingers, but it doesn’t really push us forward at all.

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Pro Tip: Get a practice journal – Now.

  • Keeping a log of your progress does wonders for your playing and helps to keep you focused on improvement.
  • It can be easy to get down on ourselves when we aren’t seeing the results we want from our practice.
  • An up-to-date practice journal will help us see where we are improving even when we ourselves can’t.

Every time you sit down to practice, make sure that your journal is open.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t take time to have fun with your instrument too, but let’s be honest – staying focused on improving only ever leads to more fun. 

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The more you know about your guitar, the more you can do with it and the more possibilities that are made available to you.

Possibilities = Fun.

We figure that’s a pretty logical equation.

Moving on to stretching!

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The Importance Of Stretching Before You Play

Stretching is the difference between playing for two hours and playing for four.

  • When we stretch before we play, we make sure that we can stay limber and flexible.
  • When we do not stretch, we leave ourselves open to straining our wrists, forearms and even our fingers!

That’s right – Even your fingers can become strained and fatigued if you don’t look after them.

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Writer’s Note: A little bit of exercise never hurt anyone. Before a show, I always do a full-body stretch and a few push ups if I have the time, too! We want to get the blood flowing not just through our arms and hands, but our whole body.

  • The more you look after yourself, the easier it is to stay focused on improvement.
  • If you’re a gigging musician, try not to eat greasy foods before a show as they can clog up your system and leave you feeling fatigued and sluggish. No good!

If you’re not the gigging type, eating a healthy meal before practice can keep your brain clear and focused.

Many times, it’s not even the things that we do when we practice that help us improve so much as it is the way we treat our body in general. Be kind to yourself!

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Pro Tip: We’ve included a few of our favourite YouTube videos to help you with stretching and keeping your body in good standing for effective guitar playing. Check them out below:

Why It’s Important To Take Frequent Breaks

As much as it is important to keep to a good and efficient practice schedule, it’s also important to take breaks from your playing and let your hands rest.

  • Playing for too long can quickly take its toll on our hands and leave us feeling drained physically and mentally.
  • A good guitar workout is much like a good workout at the gym – It will leave us fulfilled and energized but also a bit mentally tired.

Finding a balance is important, so know your limit and play within it!

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There are plenty of things that we can do when we aren’t playing guitar that will help us improve.

We’re going to go into more detail about some of these in this lesson on how to get better at guitar, but we’ve also shortlisted some of the good stuff here at the top because we’re nice like that.

  • Listen to your favourite album and pick out the guitar parts. Analyze what you’re hearing!
  • Watch YouTube videos of your favourite musicians and take notes on how they’re playing.
  • Have conversations online with other musicians and pick their brains. The guitar community can be full of amazing people that are willing to share what they know!
  • Go to a concert!

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Now, let’s get to the good stuff. We’ve got a list of some of the best methods for learning how to get better at guitar, and we’ve broken it down into sections and subsections.

Grab a pen and paper and dive in!

How To Get Better At Guitar I – Technique

Technique can be broken down into many different subcategories when it comes to learning how to get better at guitar. We’re going to cover the most important techniques to work on today but first, let’s talk about why it’s important.

Your technique is what makes you you as a guitarist. Everyone’s technique is a little bit different, and some guitarists are stronger in some areas than others.

Here are a list of ways you can practice your technique.

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Legato – This is the term used to describe techniques primarily involving the fret hand.

Practicing your hammer-ons, pull-offs and sliding can really help you form a confident fret hand. This leads to an easier and more fluid playing style altogether.

Picking Technique – The way you use your pick has a huge influence over the way you sound. This might seem like a small detail, but it’s an important one and should not be overlooked.

Experiment with holding your pick at different angles in order to find the optimal comfort level for your playing style.

Metronome Practice – Playing to a metronome is quite possibly the best way to learn how to get better at guitar.

Set the metronome to a reasonable tempo that you can play evenly against, and begin hashing out your latest riff study.

You will find your comfort level at that tempo increases over time, and you can begin practicing at faster tempos.

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Practice The Same Piece Multiple Ways – This goes hand in hand with practicing to a metronome. We don’t just have to practice a piece of music the way that we have heard it. In fact, we can put multiple spins on anything in order to find new ways of practicing it.

Pro Tip: Take that riff that you’ve been working on lately in 4/4 and count it in groups of 5 instead. This helps your brain rearrange the notes in a new rhythmic order, and opens you up to a new time signature as well! This can be done with literally any riff – just add one more beat to every bar!

For more lessons on guitar technique, click here!

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How To Get Better At Guitar II – Mastering New Chords & Theory Concepts

Chords are like a skeleton key for musicians. They unlock all sorts of new sounds for us to play with.

However, there’s a catch:

  • We need to understand how they function in different contexts.
  • This is where having an understanding of music theory comes in super handy.
  • We don’t have to understand the complexities of theory to make use of it.

Having even a basic understanding of how music theory works in relation to scales and chords can help us learn just enough of the language of music to get by in most circumstances.

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Grasping your major scale (Do Re Mi Fa So etc) as well as your basic chords is great stuff, but learning how to expand on those chords through theory does wonders for your playing.

Chords like sus4 and sus4, as well as 6 and 9 chords can add a brand new palette of colour to our playing, making for new atmospheres and song structures.

Pro Tip: Click here for a full rundown on basic music theory, and here to learn the secret to learning chords in every key!

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How To Get Better At Guitar III – Listening

This is so much more important than most musicians give it credit for.

Listen!

  • Listen to albums, listen to live performances, listen to interviews with your favourite musicians where they break down their approach!
  • Every bit of influence you can garner matters, and everything you learn helps you learn how to get better at guitar.
  • Want to know what chords are in that song you heard on the radio? Pull up the song and listen to it! Grab your guitar and hash out the chords with your headphones in.

Listening is such a huge part of learning music, so make sure you take time to do nothing else!

Click here for an interview with Plini about power chords that we absolutely love!

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Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

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How To Get Better At Guitar IV – Learn Scales!

There is no better way to learn how to get better at guitar than by learning scales.

  • Every musical solo you have ever heard is rooted in some type of scale, no matter how weird and unorthodox it may be.
  • Scales, much like chords, open up a whole world of musical expression that help us to speak through our instrument.
  • Scales help us to learn the language of music more fluidly and speak with confidence when we play our guitar.

Start with your major scale as well as your minor scale to get the hands working, and then expand from there.

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How To Get Better At Guitar V – Playing With Other Musicians

  • Music is about community, and finding people to jam with can help us grow in leaps and bounds simply by being around those more skilled than ourselves.
  • Make a point to surround yourself with musicians that inspire you. Trust us, they’re everywhere.
  • Going to a local jam session at a church or bar can not only help you improve, but help you make new friends that you can be inspired by and learn from.

You may even have a few tricks up your sleeve that will inspire other guitarists too, so don’t be afraid to share your own insight with others as well!

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Exchanging positive energy with others is another way in which we can learn how to get better at guitar.

The rush that we get from jamming with others is something that we can’t find anywhere else, and that’s why it’s important to get out and jam.

‘The Jam’ is an experience that every musician should have, regardless of skill level.

Everyone can find their own spot within a jam session, whether it be strumming chords or playing insane solos.

Jam sessions happen everywhere, and they’re a great opportunity for others to give you feedback on how to get better at guitar. Don’t be shy!

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Finding The Right Teacher

Lastly, let’s talk briefly about teachers.

  • These wonderful people are great for giving us insight on how to get better at guitar, as they are often years ahead of us in their skill level.
  • It’s been said that the right guitar teacher makes all the difference in the world, and that could not be more true.
  • Guitar teachers can often be found teaching at your local music shop or music school, but you can also very easily find an online instructor through a variety of different online mediums.

We’ve written an article on how to find the perfect guitar teacher, and you can click here to check it out!

Pro Tip: Look for a teacher that will help you grow, not just throw exercises at you without constructive criticism.

Remember: The best teachers work with us, not against us.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Here are some additional resources to help you learn how to get better at guitar:

Recommended Resources

If you loved this guide on how to get better at guitar, you’ll love some of our other free guitar lessons!

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