In many ways, playing guitar and going to guitar lessons is like going to the gym.
Here are 10 things that you do in a gym, that are essential to becoming a master guitar player as well.
- Private Trainer
There is no better way to improve really well in whatever goal you take on, than through weekly meetings with a trained professional. Having a private guitar teacher is very similar to having a private fitness trainer. Both a guitar instructor and fitness trainer are driven and work hard to push their clients to reach their maximum potential and results. Great guitar teachers, much like fitness trainers, are fast-paced and consistently challenge you to push yourself. They got to their levels of mastery in their fields through many years of experimenting, practicing, studying and training, and they share that experience with their students and clients to have them achieve the same or better results much more efficiently.
A fitness trainer will teach you how to work out a certain way for maximum benefits during a training session. Every work out drill requires certain techniques you have to keep in mind to work the correct muscle groups and to not physically injure yourself. This situation is similar to a guitar teacher pushing you to do certain things on your guitar so that you can get the best sound possible out of your instrument and the best results in your guitar playing, without physical strain or discomfort. If you don’t do crunches correctly, you won’t get abs of steel. The same is with guitar – if you don’t place your hand the right way on the fret board for a bar chord, your playing will sound muffled when you could produce a better sound by using the correct technique.
A physical trainer isn’t afraid to remind athletes that they must constantly focus on their posture so they don’t injure themselves. A guitar coach will do the same for his students. Playing guitar with bad posture can lead to tendinitis, carpal tunnel and other hand/joint problems. Your guitar teacher, just like a physical trainer, will not hesitate to remind you of this. A physical trainer will remind athletes why good posture is important: because their bodies are their instruments. The same is true for guitarists: your guitar is not your instrument, YOU are! Your guitar is just a tool, an extension of you the musician. Having a guitar teacher who is consistently pushing you to have good posture is a teacher who has your best interest at heart.
- Working Out
When maintaining physical fitness, people work out to keep their bodies in proper condition and to improve or enhance their physical being. Working out is just like practicing guitar in between lessons. If an athlete doesn’t work out in between competitions or games, his body will quickly become out of shape and he will not be able to perform as well as he could his next game or competition. If a guitarist does not practice in between lessons or performances, he will not be able to play his best. By working out in between games and practicing in between lessons and performances, both athletes and musicians will be able to keep up their game.
- Pacing Yourself
When running a marathon, it makes sense to pace yourself and not start the race out at your top speed. This is the same when playing music. Trying to learn too many new songs, techniques and theories at once will keep you from remembering everything and you won’t be able to build adequate skills and memorization in each area. Learning how to pace yourself is vital for any athlete and musician. By pacing yourself with guitar, you will be able to soak in more information bit by bit, rather than trying to learn huge chunks at one time and only remembering tiny pieces.
If an athlete doesn’t breathe while working out or during a game, his muscles will get tired much sooner and give up on him because they don’t get the required amounts of oxygen quickly enough. Although a musician is not as dependent upon proper breathing for purely physical benefit while practicing or performing, his breathing greatly affects the way that he plays. Breathing with the music is important in order to perform well and to calm your nerves. Breathing connects you better to the present moment, and sharpens your awareness. When you breathe with your phrases, you will intuitively play better rhythmically and be more in sync with the music. If you stop breathing, you cramp up, and this is going to affect your time feel, your presence, your sound, and your perception of what comes out as you’re playing.
- Positive Belief Systems
Beyond physical training and playing music, your attitude always has a major impact on everything you do in life. If you constantly tell yourself that you are doing terribly, that you can’t run 10 miles, or you can’t possibly play that sixteenth note run at 160BPM, you won’t be able to and it is going to take you much longer to get there. Having a positive belief system is similar to the rules of the placebo effect: if you are thinking negatively, you will get negative results, but if you constantly tell yourself you’re doing great and are completely capable of achieving a goal, you will be happy with the changes you will see in your playing and your progress.
Muscles do not build over night, nor do incredible guitarists. Having patience is important to become the best musician you can be. Being a great athlete or musician takes a lot of dedication, practice and patience. In order to be the best guitarist you can be, focus on living in the now. Stop worrying about how you should be much better and start focusing on the effort you put forth in learning to become a better guitarist. In doing this, you will be able to achieve musical growth without pressure or wasted energy. Remember: the joy is in the moment and the journey, knowing that you are progressing as you are training and practicing, even if it does not seem noticeable. Everything you focus on always improves. Everything you nurture always grows.
Being persistent while practicing guitar is a similar to an athlete maintaining endurance during a marathon. They might not want to keep running or training, but they do. This, in turn, allows them to perform better. You might not want to practice those hammer-ons anymore or your fingers might hurt from trying to get that bar chord perfect. However: working on the things that are tough or “not as much fun”, builds character and gets you results. The added charisma and stage presence that results from the confidence you get knowing that you are not a giver-upper, is a nicely added benefit.
- Practice Routines
It is a given that football players who play the Super Bowl, have come a very long way of training and games, to get to that magical moment. They spent years practicing tactical game situations and techniques. Similarly, a guitarist wouldn’t want to play a gig without having practiced his set list or new songs. You can’t get the results you want to get, without regularly performed practice routines. If you have an important gig coming up, invite your friends and family to your home and give them a practice concert. This will help you play better and work out any kinks in your performance.