How to Get Better at Guitar | Ultimate Guide |

Do you feel like you have reached a plateau?  Have you felt like you keep playing the same things over and over again without making any progress? Are you getting bored of your instrument?  Do you want to know how to get better at guitar?

If you answered yes to these questions, that is completely okay.  Being in a musical rut is something every musician experiences.  The biggest thing to remember is that eventually you will get out of it.  Keep the hope.  

One easy way to get out of a musical rut is to feel like you are accomplishing something.  To feel like you are getting better at your craft.

There are tonnes of ways how to get better at guitar.  You just have to keep an open mind, and trust the experience of others.  

Here are my favorite answers to "How to get better at guitar"

#1 Learn Music Theory

How to Get Better at Guitar

Music theory is the study of how specific sounds work together to create what we know as music.  Music is simply organized sound, and through learning how others have organized sound/ made music, you can then take that knowledge and apply it to your own playing.  Understanding theory is one of the best ways to become a good guitarist.

For some reason guitar teachers do not often teach theory to those just starting out, but for nearly any other instrument, they are immediately taught introductory theory that matches their playing level.  

Guitarists are often taught how to play for a few years, and then the concept of theory comes about.  The guitarist's playing ability is so far ahead of their theoretical knowledge, and that makes theory super boring.  

It might be a little boring, but it is something that every musician should go though.  It allows a guitarist to understand what they are playing, understand how they can change the song up to make it sound cooler, and how to communicate with other musicians better.  

For high level players music theory is a must know. It won't only make you better at playing guitar, but also it will make you a better musician.

How to get better at guitar theory

#2 Practice, Don't Play

How to Get Better at Guitar

This is a lesson that took me a long time to wrap my head around.  There is a massive difference between practicing an instrument, and playing an instrument.  

Here is the difference - Playing is doing exactly what you already know, but practice is focused, and attacks the weaknesses in a player.  

The areas a player is weakest in are the areas that they can improve the most in.  

It may be frustrating, but it is the fastest way to get better.  Instead of going through that guitar solo you already know, why don't you try to learn a new solo by ear, or practice on your timing?  These are things that are tedious in nature, but will help you grow as a musician greatly.  

Some of the areas many guitarists overlook, and their area to practice include:

  • Bending in tune - Ear Training
  • Extra strings ringing out that shouldn't be - Muting Practice
  • Timing - Practicing with a metronome
  • Playing too hard - Picking technique
  • Understanding Harmony - Music theory
  • Personal style - Playing your own music instead of someone else's

You can easily find exercises to improve your guitar playing for all of these overlooked areas online, and they will help you improve greatly.

One more thing to remember is that is it is not about how long you practice, but rather how effective your practice is.  One hour of super focused practice will improve your skills much more than four hours of noodling around.  

People often ask how to get better at guitar, but a rarely willing to put in the dedication to really learn.  If you learn how to effectively practice, you will go so much further than the others.

#3 Break Out of the Pentatonic Scale

How to Get Better at Guitar

This one may not apply to everyone.  However, I know it will apply to a large portion of guitarists.  

Many of us learn the major and minor pentatonic scales, and then feel like we never have to learn another scale again.  This is rubbish. 

The pentatonic scales offer a great base for soloing in many different genres, but if you really want to become a good soloist you have to break out of the pentatonic scale, and be able to express your musical ideas all over the neck.  

Understanding how the major scale is organized and works is probably the first step towards breaking out of the pentatonic scale.

I am not saying that the pentatonic scale should never be used because it's "too easy".  My favorite guitar player, John Mayer, plays out of the basic pentatonic scale all the time.  Just learn how to solo without it, and use the pentatonic scale when appropriate.  

#4 Play a Different Instrument

How to Get Better at Guitar

This may sound counter intuitive that to get better at guitar you have to not play guitar, but trust me.  Different instruments have different strengths and weaknesses that can better help you understand your role as a guitar player.

For instance, piano players often times understand theory far better than guitar players because it is much easier to understand while learning piano than it is to learn guitar.  

Another thing you will gain from this is the understanding of where you fit as an instrumentalist.  Learning the bass might help you understand that you are not responsible for the low end of the music, so turn the lower pitched part of your guitar down on the eq.  That is the bass player's zone.  Drummers often emphasize the importance of timing.  Learning the drums can help you understand timing better, and how you can improve your timing with the guitar.

It may sound silly, but learning an instrument besides guitar is how to get better at guitar.

#5 Create a Guitar Practice Routine

How to Get Better at Guitar

A practice Routine is you writing down ahead of time how much you will practice in a given day, and what you will practice.  This way there is another layer of commitment because it is written down.  

An example of a practice schedule might look like this:

  • 15 minutes of ear training
  • 15 minutes of improvisational solos
  • 30 minutes of singing practice with guitar
  • 30 minutes of songwriting

That might seem like a lot for some of you, so maybe your practice schedule would just look like this:

  • 15 minutes of practice on Sweet Child O'Mine solo
  • 10 minutes of music theory

However long or short you choose to make your practice schedule is fine.  As long as your practice is focused and effective.  

Remember practice is learning things that are difficult for you. Practice is constantly pushing your limits.

#6 Analyze your Favorite Musicians

How to Get Better at Guitar

Learning from your musical inspirations is an extremely effective way to get better.  Almost everything I know is from watching professional players, and first mimicking them, but then taking what I have learned to create my own sound.  

The most potent example of this for me comes from Alicia Keys.  I learned the importance of musicality from her.  What she plays on piano and sings is not terribly complex or hard to do, but the way she does it is so emotional, and perfectly her.  

This falls into a category I like to call the "Intangibles" of music.  Meaning that it is hard to put words to what I mean, but you know when you hear it.  I learned all about these from her, and how high level musicians take something simple, but perform it in a way that is breathtaking.  

Maybe you love the way Kirk Hammett plays.  How can you take something within his playing, and integrate it into your own playing?

Learn from your inspirations, but don't try to become a carbon copy of them. Learn how it effects you musical style and be yourself.  

#7 Refresh

How to Get Better at Guitar

Maybe take a little time away from the instrument.  It can be super easy to get burnt out on consistent practice.  

Come back to it in a week or so, and by that time hopefully you'll be excited to practice again.  

#8 Play with New Musicians

How to Get Better at Guitar
How to get better at guitar: Play with other musicians

Musicians you have never played with bring their own special areas of expertise, and areas of weaknesses.  Learning how to quickly adapt to fit within each other's sound is a super important lesson to learn for anyone that hopes to play out and gig eventually.  

New musicians also might introduce you to new groups that will go on to inspire your sound.  I was playing in a pit for a musical, and the drummer and bass player kept talking about this band I thought they were calling wolfpack, so I asked them about it.  Turns out their name is Vulfpeck, not wolfpack.  Vulfpeck has gone on to inspire my personal sound a ton.  

From there I also listened to a lot of the member's solo works.  I learned all about the playing of Cory Wong and how he thinks about the music he creates.  

These lessons improved my playing by an insurmountable amount, and it all stemmed from playing with new people.  

#9 Change your Sound

How to Get Better at Guitar

Changing your sound can inspire you in an assortment of ways you wouldn't expect.  This can be done by using a different guitar, changing your amp settings, or using a new guitar pedal.  

New strange unfamiliar sounds can inspire you to create something you normally wouldn't.  

Maybe changing your sound could mean changing genres. Find some songs in different genres that challenge you to improve your guitar playing, and learn the heck out of them.

In this video you can see how even super high level musicians can gather inspiration from a new sound, and what it brings out in them as song writers.

#10 Go Buy Something

How to Get Better at Guitar

This is a bit of a funny one because everyone knows that practice trumps gear 95% of the time, but something buying new gear can do is inspire you to pick up the guitar more. 

Maybe you just bought a sick new Classic Vibe Squier Telecaster.  You're going to want to play it.  The more you play or practice the more you get better.  

I'm not saying this is an excuse to go buy a brand new American made guitar.  Unless you have that kind of money to throw around, but odds are that most of you don't.

Your purchase could be a new pedal, a pedal board, a cheap guitar, or even a new amp.  Any of these could inspire you to pick up the guitar more and improve.  

#11 Play Songs in Different Styles

How to Get Better at Guitar

This one kinda has two meaning.  The first and most obvious one is to expand your musical horizons, and learn some songs that are not in the normal style of music you play.

It's really fun to learn challenging things in new genres.  I am absolutely not a metal guitarist, but I have had a ton of fun trying to learn solos in Avenged Sevenfold songs.  Even though the style of guitar is not what I normally like to hear, you can't deny a super cool guitar solo when you hear one.  

Maybe you are normally a metal guitarist.  Try to learn some funk tunes.  Earth, Wind, and Fire has some little guitar solos that are kinda like funk shredding.  One that comes to mind is in their song "Shining Star".  

Learning a song like "Shining Star" might introduce you to new chords as well.  A lot of that song is just sitting on an E7#9 chord, and maybe as a metal or rock guitarist, you've never heard of that (besides in "Purple Haze").

The other meaning is to take a song and play it like it's in another genre.  Take a pop tune, and make it punk rock.  Take a Metal tune, and make it R&B.

This allows you to take from genres you are familiar with, and blend the aspects of them into something you are not familiar with.  It's like dipping your toes into different musical waters.  You still have a big base of knowledge of the original tune, but it is in a completely new style now.  

#12 Reharmonize

How to Get Better at Guitar

Reharmonizing is a practice done mostly in the jazz realm, and it requires a large theoretical base of knowledge.  

To create a jazz reharmonization you would take a melody you know well and put new chords to it.  You select the chords based off of if they have the melody note within them, and your own personal style.  

This gets you better at guitar because It often times has you playing chords you would not normally play, and it helps develop the connection between the music you hear in your head, and the music you are playing.

Reharmonizing isn't just used in jazz though.  You can use it for any genre.  You could do the reverse.  Take a jazz song and turn it into a four chord pop song.

#13 Play with a Metronome

How to Get Better at Guitar
Metronome

Timing is something that is overlooked by a lot of guitar players.  Often the timing of a player gets confused with the tone.  If a solo you're playing doesn't sound quite right.  It's like because of timing, not tone.  

The best way to make your musical timing better is to play with a metronome.  This is another one of those things that it seems like every other type of instrumentalist does right away, but not guitarists, for whatever reason.

Here is a link to an online metronome: Click Here!

Maybe it's because guitar is supposed to be the cool instrument, and you play guitar because you don't want to do all the music nerd things like learning theory, and playing with a metronome.  No matter what, these are still extremely valuable skills that not many guitarists develop early on.  

Improving your timing will certainly pay dividends once it is time to join a band.  Playing with a band is so much different than playing with the record.  The studio version of a song always has the same tempo, and always varies a little in the same places.  Sometimes you have a drummer that doesn't keep steady time super well, but you have to follow him.  You keep playing at the normal tempo, and the drummer goes off to a new tempo, you sound wrong.  The drummer controls the time.

Quick Tips

#14 Change your strings often - Best strings for Stratocaster List
#15 Always tune up before playing
#16 Challenge yourself
#17 Develop your own sound
#18 Develop your ear
#19 Enjoy what you do


How do I get better at Guitar?

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