Assess your playing skills
You’ll get more out of any practice routine if you know which areas of your playing need most attention. Get started by taking an honest look…
1. Check you are playing in time
Choose a simple piece of music you know well and try playing in time with a metronome. Aim to synchronise onbeat notes with the click. If it doesn’t seem fully aligned, you may need to work on your timing. Slow down a little and try to feel the rhythmic pulse more tightly.
2. How clean are your chords?
Put your fingers in the wrong position and you’ll end up with annoying fret buzz, so aim to play most chords using the very tips of your fingers as close to each fret as possible. Barre chords, of course, need a flat finger. Keep your thumb roughly opposite your fingers for maximum strength.
3. Are you playing too fast?
You don’t have to be a shredder to want to play fast. We’ve all tried to play a song at full speed before we’ve fully learnt it, usually resulting in fluffed chord changes and solo lines that don’t quite link together. Play slowly to a metronome or drum beat and try to improve your speed by a small amount every day.
4. Check your Lead techniques
There’s always an optimum position for your hands to be in when you’re playing lead guitar. Make sure you’ve got the essential techniques sorted…
For most first-, second- and third-finger bends place your thumb on the top side of the neck (sometimes called a ‘baseball bat grip’) for maximum strength. You may need to adjust position for fourth finger bends.
Hammer-ons and pull-offs
Can you play a pull-off as you lead out of the hammer-on (and vice versa)? If not, adjust your hand position. You’ll need a firm thwack for a hammer-on, then a flick of the finger to pull off.
The ability to pick in a down-up ‘alternate’ pattern is crucial. To practise, choose one note and play it down-up-down-up in time with a metronome. If your timing is choppy or uneven, slow down.
One-finger-per-fret hand position
For the minor pentatonic scale, hand position isn’t so crucial. If you want to play more complex tunes and solos you need all four fingers. Arrange the digits next to each other at consecutive frets.