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33 Shortcuts To Better Guitar Playing (#20 Might Surprise You)

BY JAMPLAY.COM
JamPlay.com has spent over $2,128,000 extracting must-know information from 82 highly acclaimed guitar teachers and professors.

After applying this information to 450,000 guitar students, we found many things that shortcut the time it takes to learn and build skill on guitar. Here are 33 of the things we have learned.
1. The Most Important Factor
We have learned that the amount of progress you make on guitar depends more on this decision than any other: What is your goal?

Do you want to play for your own enjoyment or with a group of people? Do you want to learn enough songs to join a cover band or do you want to write your own?

Everything depends on your goal. What you learn and how you practice. What you avoid learning. What not to practice.

Figure this out before your next practice session.
2. Focus, focus, focus
The second most important action is to focus only on the things that help you reach your goal.

If you want to play lead guitar in a blues band; learn turnarounds, blues licks, and how to navigate the 5 pentatonic boxes. If you want to strum your acoustic on the porch; learn the chords, strumming patterns, and chord progressions that are used in thousands of songs.

You’ll progress much quicker if you focus only on what actually matters.
3. Track your progress
You’ve got your goal, you’re focused, now you must track your progress. Get a notebook and write down your max tempo reached today while practicing that finger exercise. Or that fingerpicking pattern. You get the idea.

Tracking progress shows you how far you’ve come and keeps you motivated to stay the course.
4. Learn from a good source
There are millions of free guitar lessons available online. Yet most students can’t play a single song all the way through when they come to us. There are a few reasons for this. But the main ones are lack of structure and bad information. Without a tested curriculum, how do you know what to learn in what order?

Bad information, or information out of sequence, reduces your ability to progress rapidly.
5. Practice what you aren’t good at
Seems obvious but we’ve found that most guitar players don’t practice their trouble spots nearly as much as they should. An example would be 1 sloppy lick out of 15 in a solo you learned. Don’t waste time practicing the 14 phrases you can play well. Instead hone in on the troublesome lick and practice it slowly, raising the tempo gradually until you can play it up to speed.

The guitar player that does this when he practices will always progress faster than ones that don’t.
6. Stay relaxed
If you’re tense when you play, you’re doing it wrong. Pay attention when you practice. Is your shoulder tense? Are you gritting your teeth? Make sure to consciously relax muscles that are tense. Over time, this will become unconscious habit and your playing will literally be effortless.

It’s the difference between being an ok player and a really good player.
7. Focus on accuracy not speed
There’s a word used to describe guitar players that focus on speed and not accuracy. Hacks. Don’t be a hack! Instead, focus on practicing slowly and accurately. Stay relaxed. Focus on accuracy. Then increase tempo gradually until you feel tension or you start playing sloppy. Then back it down.

It’s simple and it works!
Shortcuts for Beginner Guitar Players:
8. Play a quality guitar
Quality guitars start at around $400-$500. We don’t recommend purchasing a guitar under that price range. Low priced guitars like this will need to be professionally set up first. So factor an extra $100-$150 when planning your guitar purchase.

Skip this crucial step and you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
9. Learn how to tune your guitar
Nothing sounds worse than a guitar that’s out of tune. And a tuned guitar is a must when training your ear. Get an electronic tuner and use it!
10. Learn the C A G E & D chords first
Pair them with some basic strumming patterns and you’ll unlock thousands of songs.
11. Practice with a pulse
The old-school way to do this was with a metronome. But we’ve found that students stay motivated longer by practicing to backing tracks.
12. Don’t compare yourself to others
It’s easy to look at another player and think “I’ll never be that good”. Or to watch young virtuosos shred on YouTube. That’ll humble just about anyone. But instead of comparing your playing to other people, compare yourself to yourself. You’ll be much more motivated when you see how much better you are this week than you were last week.

And motivation is the key to constant progress.
13. Perfect your chord changes
All beginners struggle with changing chords in time. This causes sloppy playing. Slow down and pay attention to where your fingers are for each chord in the change. Many times 1 or more fingers can maintain a similar fingering which speeds up the change.

Playing to backing tracks makes practicing chord changes fun.
14. Strumming is like drumming
Time after time, we’ve found that the trick to strumming consistently is to think of your hand like a drummer. Keep the beat steady with your hand and then add or remove strums. There are 16 strumming patterns that are used in 90% of songs. Learn these and songs will be much easier to figure out and play.
15. Don’t tackle barre chords too early
Learning 4 simple barre chord shapes will give you effectively 48 more chords in your vocabulary. And they are used in many songs which is why many beginners struggle with them. They require calluses and some strength in your hand which early beginners don’t have. So we recommend you focus on them much later.

Two secrets to barre chords: Slightly curve your index finger instead of keeping it straight. This keeps the strings from going into the creases of your finger and buzzing. Also, keep your elbow in towards your body for better leverage.
16. Practice, practice, practice
Use a practice routine, practice daily and break up your practice throughout the day. Consistent daily practice will give you 10x the results versus inconsistent, unstructured practicing. If you’re fingers are hurting to much play in 5-10 minute increments until you build up calluses.

You cannot get better at guitar without practice. But how you practice and what you practice can greatly lengthen or reduce your learning curve.
17. Be patient
Expecting too much of yourself will lead to frustration and lack of motivation. Guitar is a journey, not a destination.
Shortcuts for
Intermediate to Advanced Guitar Players:
18. Learn the notes of the fretboard
This is the key to unlocking the entire fretboard. Once you know the notes everything becomes much easier. If you’ve been putting this off, learn it immediately and you’ll see a major transformation in your playing.
19. Learn basic theory
Learning basic theory is literally a shortcut to understanding music. We’ve found that players who learn basic theory learn faster and get more enjoyment from playing.

Knowing how music works means you can reverse engineer any song and learn it much quicker. Don’t psych yourself out about theory. It’s not as hard to understand as you’ve been led to believe.
20. Say as you play
This doubles the speed you can learn scales, intervals, and notes. As you play through the pattern, simply say the note or interval.
21. Hum and play simple melodies
Hum new licks and solos as you play them. You’ll develop your ear much faster.
22. Play music not just scales and exercises
Don’t fall into the trap of only running your scale positions up and down the fretboard. Instead, learn licks that use these scales so that you’re practicing musically. Visualize the pattern in your head as you play the lick.
23. Think of progressions in scale degrees not just chord names
This will make learning and writing songs much easier. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can figure out new songs. And writing songs on the fly is possible if you know the most common chord progressions in degrees.
24. Play with others
Joining a band or playing in your church group gives you accountability. It forces you to practice harder and learn new things. Gets you out of your comfort zone which is where growth happens. Plus it’s a heckuva lotta fun!

Check your local paper and online music hubs for open mic night and jam session listings.
25. Record your practice sessions and listen back to them
This will make it easy for you to determine where your trouble spots are. We’re our own harshest critics, so put that to good use!
26. Listen to a variety of styles for inspiration
If you’re in a rut this is one of the best ways we know of to get out of it. Tired of playing the same old blues licks? Learn some jazz! Rock just not inspiring you like it used to? Learn some flamenco! It’s ok to change it up occasionally if your playing is stale.
27. Learn how to read music notation
Tabs are great for beginners. But they don’t give you the timing or rhythm. When you can read notation you get a much more complete picture of the piece of music. This is a huge time saver when communicating in a band situation.
28. Seek out constructive criticism
If you are stuck on something, ask for help. Post in forums, post a video online, if you’re a JamPlay member, ask our teachers via webcam. There are no stupid questions and the answers will save you time.
29. Learn how to voice chords all over the neck
We’ve found the best way to practice this skill is to play a song you already know with different chord voicings. This is one of the most effective ways to expand your fretboard knowledge.
30. Learn improvisation by doing
Improvising is one of the most fulfilling things you can do on a guitar. To create music out of thin air and have it sound good is exhilarating and addictive. Target chord notes and use backing tracks with call and response to work on your phrasing and dynamics.
31. Learn something new every day
We’ve found that advanced players need to constantly challenge themselves in order to stay out of a rut.
32. Play to the changes not the scale
Playing inside scale patterns will give all of your solos a scalar sound. Instead, play to the chord changes. You’re solos will sound better.
33. Practice technical passages past the goal tempo
Have you ever noticed that the great guitar players make it look effortless? It’s because they practice beyond the goal tempo. For example, if you need to play a solo at 180 bpm, practice it at 200 or 210. Then when the pressure is on, it’ll be a breeze!
The Ultimate Guitar Shortcut:
JamPlay has developed a framework that uses over 5,500 online guitar lessons to shortcut any guitar player’s learning curve.

Blues, rock, fingerstyle, jazz, country, beginner, intermediate, advanced—you name it, we’ve got it covered step-by-step.

Normally, this system is only available with a $20/mo subscription. But for a limited time, we’re offering a free trial so you can see it for yourself. You don’t need a credit card, it's completely free.

Click here to sign up now
5 Reasons To Start Your Free Trial Now:
1. You can interact with our teachers via webcam right now. Just one question answered could change your whole outlook on guitar.

2. There are over 1000 backing tracks that you can download and keep.

3. There are over 350 popular video song lessons with downloadable notation and backing tracks that you can keep.

4. You get a 25% off coupon just for signing up to the trial. If you decide to become a paying member, you’ll pay less than everyone else.

5. This trial is not offered normally and we may stop advertising it at any time.

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