Sunday, January 18, 2009

Learn to Play Guitar ... Fast Way

by Greg Millican

So, you’ve bought a new guitar! If you are like I was, you’ve been going to barbeques for years, having a couple of beers and watching your mates sitting around with their guitars, playing songs you’ve known for years and would love to play! So you finally spent the money and bought a guitar – now what?

You want to learn fast – so you can join in. For this article, I’m going to assume that you’re a beginner who wants basic proficiency.

I’ve done some research on this, as it was where I was, and I found a connection between people who want to “play fast” and those who already play but just want to play "faster". The connection is quite simple, yet very profound.

Through what I found out, I believe there are two parallels:

  1. Study the techniques involved which will make your overall playing faster, and
  2. Re-focus your practice sessions onto the basic concepts that beginners learn, which will allow you to become a faster player.

There is a useful acronym that you can use to help focus your practice and improve your playing: M.O.S.T.

M for Memorization

You can have the world's best "ear", but if you don't memorise:

a) the fretboard notes and
b) the major and minor key chords and scales,

it won't matter how good your ear is. The most frustrating thing about learning a new song is finding that chord or note that you know you've learned but just can't remember! It's funny that song writers don't give you time in the middle of their pieces to find that Aminor chord, or work out if a Db minor chord works in a song in B, and then if it does, where it is on the fretboard!

If you are a beginner - LEARN THE FRETBOARD and memorise it!

If you are more advanced - LEARN THE FRETBOARD and memorise it! You might think you already know it, but can you jump from one note or chord to any other instantly without thinking about it?

O for Observation

Human beings work best when all of the senses work in unison. Try plugging your ears with cotton wool and then trying to play a song. Not very good are you. (People like Ray Charles and Beethoven amaze me).

Your senses of sight, sound and touch all interweave to play guitar. When you play a song really well, you can even taste the applause (just kidding). The more you play, the more your fingers put themselves in the right places, your muscles retain a memory of those positions. You begin to see patterns and relationships on the fretboard. You hear yourself play the correct notes and chords and that gives you confidence, which is essential in fast playing.

Memorization is the foundation for observation, and observation is the key to training your mind and hands to work in concert automatically.

S for strength and T for training

This is not weight training! It is really dexterity training (but MODT isn't a word!). However, being dextrous means you have strength in your fingers in order to play the chords you need to play when you need to play them.

Beginners often struggle to hold down chords and play scales with all four fingers. Consistent and correct practice is the only way to build strength, muscle memory and finger dexterity.

The same problem occurs for intermediate players - the most likely culprit for slow play is a deficiency in strength, dexterity and/or correct technique.

Practise your finger exercise and chord making perfectly - don't settle for "that'll do" or "near enough". You want to train your fingers to go to the correct place in the correct way every time! Sloppy exercises will not help.

In conclusion, the key to learning guitar faster - as well as playing it faster - rests in following the M.O.S.T. formula. It really is all about getting the basics right from the start!

About The Author
Greg Millican

For free advice, lessons and downloads on guitar for beginners and intermediate players.