Why You're Getting Stuck

When it comes to guitar practice it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. I often get questions from students about how many times they should practice each scale or mode, how much to increase the metronome speed, how to master the fretboard and most of all, how to apply these techniques to music!

One of the things I have

noticed in the post-YouTube world of guitar learning is that a lot of my guitar students are micromanaging their guitar skills. They are obsessing with the number of scales they know and all the different chord variations and licks they can play. Whilst these are all good things to have a

handle on it seems to me that they are missing the vital point.

I learned guitar from both my father and my guitar teacher starting in around 1997. My father was an untrained self-taught musician who only learned songs and rarely worried about learning scales. My teacher on the other hand was a traditional classical guitar teacher who focused on repertoire, ear training and technical exercises. I was focusing on both classical and contemporary guitar, I learned a few scales for the classical grades but generally didn’t give much thought to them until much, much later.

First I learned songs, I learned hundreds of songs. Back in those days you would have to either buy a TAB book of an album you liked or try to navigate around some dodgy-looking websites to find the music. Nowadays this is easier than ever! There are websites and APPs that you can simply just search in and find charts for any music you want, so why aren’t my students learning songs?

It seems to me there is some backwards learning going on. When I began to take my musicianship more seriously I took my dad’s approach to learning and loving the music first, then geeked out on the musical analysis retrospectively, in better words - I learned the songs first, then focused on the key signature, scale, chord sequences etc. afterwards to better understand the song I could ALREADY play.

Using this approach, allows you to see and experience firsthand exactly how the theory connects to the actual music. You can learn a guitar part and then analyze how a particular guitarist uses a certain scale or mode in their music to convey emotion and feeling.

The idea of learning how to play a Carlos Santana solo and then later looking into why that solo sounds the way it does and conveys the feeling that it does is much more effective than learning the Dorian mode in every key and not knowing how or when to use it.

So, my advice. I usually tell my students to try and practice at least 15 minutes per day and that would include, technique work, scales/modes, fretboard awareness and learning/playing songs. But it is the last part that is the most important. Really these 15-minute practice routines should be on top of you already learning and playing music, the motivation should come from wanting to learn the music you love and emulate and learn from your heroes. So log on to whatever website/app or if you/re old school like me open up your favourite TAB book and get working on learning from the best.