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So You Want To Be A Great Guitar Player?
by Allen Hopgood

What does it really take to become a guitar god or a musical virtuoso on the guitar? Do you have to know every guitar chord or lick there is to know in music? Not really. Even though I teach students to always expand their chord vocabulary and to consistently work on their technique, knowing every musical scale and every bit of music theory will not make you a great guitar player.


Will a custom made guitar or a few thousand dollars invested into a high-end amplifier make you play and sound like your guitar heroes? Again the harsh reality is no. Unless you are continuously doing the one thing every day that will make you become a guitar master.


If you really want to become a great guitar player, it's not the great gear or knowing thousands of different things (and not being able to play them), that will get you there, it's the things you know, practised thousands and thousands of times. All it takes is mastery of the basics.


Mastery of these basics will work for you if you want to be a guitar master around a camp fire, play solo gigs, be the first call as a backup for singer or playing stages around the world in a touring band.


So what are the basics? If you're an acoustic guitar player, you will have to have clean chord changes. Good fretting hand positioning. Solid strumming skills are also required along with a strong sense of rhythm and timing. You will also have to master your picking hand skills. This is so you can confidently and easily play melodies, guitar riffs and also to pick chords by using chord picking patterns and arpeggios. Some finger style knowledge and understanding will also aid you greatly if the songs you want to play contain those techniques.


If the electric guitar is more your thing, you'll need all the basic mastery skills and areas of an acoustic guitar player, plus you'll want to focus on lead guitar techniques as well (unless you're strictly rhythm guitar and don't want to make it cry and sing).


These basics lead guitar techniques include being able to do hammer on and pull off technique. Vibrato. Slides and bends. All of these lead guitar techniques need to be worked on separately to make them sound great.


Hammer-ons, pull-offs, vibrato and slides also work for acoustic guitar players. Bends, although they can achieved on an acoustic guitar, require very strong hand and finger strength and considerable control to get them to pitch, due to the thicker string gauges.


The basics don't require any rocket science degrees to understand them. The hardest part of mastering them is doing them consistently. Every. Single. Day. If your dream is to become a guitar master, then you have to do what it takes. Which means commitment on your part. If you make these items a part of your daily practice, in time you're going to get there. Notice I said, daily practice?


Yes daily practice. To do this, create for yourself a simple, easy to follow practice schedule. Practising doesn't have to take you hours and hours of practice every day, but can be done several times throughout the day, broken up into smaller chunks of time.


  • Start by compiling a list of the basics that you need to have under your fingers

  • Gather the resources and/or materials you need to learn from

  • Schedule time around your other daily activities to begin from where you are today to proceed along the road to guitar playing mastery

  • Set up a 'no entry' zone around you so you're not disturbed while you practice – even if it's only for five minutes on each item


Once you have your materials gathered, stop surfing the Internet, or buying more learning resources and focus on the handful of items you need to focus on. Dedication, discipline and persistence is the key for you here. A few key items, practised regularly will get you there.


Work on the materials for one week before changing it around. For example, one week you may choose a handful of chords to work on. Stick with these for the entire week and resist the temptation to change them if you get bored with them. After seven days, find another set to work with. Do the same with the other items. Stay with them for the week before changing them around.


After a period of six weeks or so, go back through the items in a revolving like-manner. By doing this, you will see great improvements in your guitar playing week in and week out.

About The Author:

Born and raised on the Gold Coast of Queensland on a healthy diet of classic rock, Allen has spent years playing in bands honing his craft. Also a family man his attention nowadays is dedicated to helping his students learn to play guitar. He runs the largest guitar teaching school in the area.

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