1. Have your own space to practise to become creative.
Have a space where you are comfortable and you won’t be distracted by others. I often like to pick up my guitar and just play. This is a great way to compose new ideas or guitar licks. Put on a backing track and see what you come up with.
2. Practise smarter, not harder.
Try and be efficient with your practise time (see the practice triangle). Practise less, but more often. I’m guilty of leaving practise to the last minute, then binge practice before a gig or exam. I know it’s in our nature to leave things to the last minute, try not to!
3. Have your equipment ready to play.
I usually have most of my guitars in cases and my main guitar amp packed away. When it comes to the time when I want to play I don’t have the motivation to unpack everything. Luckily I have a guitar stand where I can pick up a guitar, even if it’s for only a few minutes at a time.
4. Use technology often, but don’t rely on it.
I regularly use technology to help my practising (see previous article, "Great apps for practising a musical instrument"). Unfortunately, my computer isn’t as fast as it was all those years ago and I often get demotivated with restarting my recording software or waiting for a web page to load (Yes, you know!) Make sure you practise with technology and without it.
5. Write down a goal within a time frame and begin to list how you can achieve it.
Write down a goal you want to achieve. Make sure you can achieve it within a specific amount of time. In other words, don’t leave it 2 years to complete your goal as you will probably forget about it and lose motivation. I am guilty of this, that’s why I usually set my goals for a maximum of 4 months.
6. Do things things out of your comfort zone.
As a musician and a teacher, there have been many situations where I felt very uncomfortable and I’ve almost backed out. Try your best not to, as the only way you will get further is by stepping into the unknown. You will become more experienced and you will learn from you failures.
7. Have an open mind and network with others like you.
Where possible, meet others like yourself. Throughout my time as a guitarist the biggest aspect of improvement has been from meeting other guitarists and musicians. The same goes for my teaching, I’m always learning from others and I always keep an open mind to others opinions.
8. Go to live performances regularly for inspiration.
Listening to and watching youtube videos is obviously great. Watching a live performance really brings a human element to the music, nobody is a superhuman or a robot. I have seen many of the greatest guitarist’s in the world; Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, George Benson, Guthrie Govan, Bireli Lagrene, Larry Carlton… to name a few. Luckily I didn’t have to queue in an arena to see some of the greatest musicians on the planet. Keep your eyes and ears open for gigs!
9. Transcribe music.
Some of the best licks and chord shapes I have took (stolen) from others has been from transcribing their music. Not to mention the aural skills I have developed from listening to passages over and over. It’s not just about fast licks. Listening to the articulation, vibrato and tone can really add an awareness that many guitarist’s over look when they play. Even better if you can write music down in Guitar Tablature (TAB) or standard notion (a very useful skill)!
10. Write you own music.
Whenever possible, write your own music. You will create your own identity and you will be able to express your own feelings and sounds in your head. It’s very satisfying when you can create your own melodies, riffs, chord progressions and songs.