One of the things that guitarists struggle with practising. They lack encouragement because they don’t feel like they are improving.
If you are feeling like your progress isn’t going anywhere. It may be useful to measure or see how you are playing. This way you know what areas you need to work on more to get the result you want, or it encourages you to practise more so you can improve next time you come to assessing your own playing.
(This only works if you know how to improve on the guitar. If you have the right training for how to improve your playing towards what you want to do, then this will be very encouraging. Otherwise, this may make you realise that you are definitely stagnating and perhaps need some outside help if you want to improve.)
Note: Having fun playing the guitar is the most important thing, and often you will improve by just playing a tonne which can be a lot of fun. But to improve drastically, active practising is important.
There are several ways you can use speed measurements to your advantage. Lots of people are very competitive, and with a lot of technique on the guitar. You can measure them.
You don’t want speed to hold you back from playing whatever it is you want to play. Whether that’s chord changes, strumming to the chords fast enough, or fingerpicking through a song.
Timing yourself is an accurate way to assess if you are improving.
Use a metronome to help you keep in time, and keep speeding up the metronome till you are at your maximum speed. Write that speed down somewhere with the date and what item you were working on.
Do the exact same thing in three months to find out how you have got on!
Lots of students have found it helpful to video themselves. This has tonnes of benefits. For the purposes of this article. The video can help you “measure” or “assess” how you are doing when it comes to creative playing on the guitar.
Whether it’s improvisation that you want to improve on or phrasing. Doing videos will help you hear or see how you are playing. When you are just beginning, you may even see drastic changes in your technique and how relaxed you are when you are playing!
Tip: If the sound quality isn’t good enough, you may want to record it through an amp if you want to hear precise changes in your phrasing.
Don’t worry if you look awkward playing the guitar when you first start; this video should encourage you to practise more so you can look more effortless in the future! (You can practise your guitar faces too!)
Every few months, pick a more difficult item to play through. See how easily you pick it up or play it well.
Use this as an encouraging way to figure out how much you are improving. It can be a good test of how your sight reading is going well. Whether on tab or score. And how long it takes for you to play through the section smoothly and well.
Keep the section short, maybe a couple of lines. The idea isn’t to master a whole song. But to see how quickly you can play the piece.
It may just start off with simple chord songs, then songs with more difficult chords in. Or tab that includes more interesting technique.
If you are unsure how to pick them, then ask a friend who is more advanced on the guitar or a guitar teacher to help you figure out what’s right for your level.
This is really motivating when you see how quickly you can play a new song, that you couldn’t even attempt a few months ago!
A fun way to see how much you are improving is to make little tests for yourself. They could be simple, so like how quickly can I name all the A notes on the guitar. Or more difficult music theory tests, like which chord progression does this song use?
You can do this with music theory, guitar knowledge, ear training. Anything that is aimed towards what you want to do on the guitar.
Make little tests for yourself and do them revery 3-6 months or so. You can even include new and more difficult things each time!
I hope these few methods of “assessing” yourself on your own guitar playing will help you to work out if you are improving on the guitar. And use it as a way to motivate yourself to practise more.
Don’t feel bad or you are stagnating, you may not be practising properly or know what direction to take your guitar playing. If you are using the methods above and seeing little to no improvements, then I recommend getting some outside help.
If you are enjoying playing the same things over and are not worried about improving (I’m not sure why you’ve read this far into the article if this is you.) Then keep doing what you are doing! However, from my own experience, I can tell you that getting better on the guitar is a lot more fun!
I wish you all the best in your guitar playing and hope these tips help you to feel good about how your guitar playing is going!
From Guitar Tuition East London, Darryl Powis is a guitar teacher helping children and adults to learn how to play the guitar in London, England.