Funkydog guitar lessons blog
Tips, practice tools and advice to help you get learning guitar fast
Sometimes when you’re learning to play guitar, it can feel like you’re getting nowhere even though you’re practising loads. You’re probably learning a lot and making some real improvements but it can be hard to recognise it yourself. Here are 5 ways to measure your progress and keep the inspiration ball rolling.
1. Take a graded exam
You might not know this, but there are exam boards that offer graded exams in almost every instrument. The exams are graded from level 1 - 8. However, some exam boards offer a pre grade 1, sometimes known as an initial grade or a debut grade. If you’re in school or college these can really help if you want to apply to university as grade 5 and above offer UCAS points when you pass an exam. If you or your teacher enters you in for an exam, you’ll need to often need to play some songs and demonstrate technical skills to an examiner who will assess you and give you and then give you a certificate when you pass.
There are a few different exam boards for guitar, the most popular being ABRSM, Trinity and Rock School London. Although you may have to play different things depending on the exam board, they will all require the same level of skill on the guitar
2. Record yourself
When you’re playing or practicing, naturally you’re concentrating on what you’re doing so sometimes you may miss mistakes that you’ve made or you realise that you’re not playing in time. Try to record yourself and watch/listen to it back. You can easily record yourself on your phone as most phones offer a basic recorder built in with the OS. It is much better however to record a video of yourself playing as you’ll be able to see your posture and technique as well.
You’ll be surprised at how much progress you can make if you record yourself and watch it back!
3. Join a band
This option is maybe not beneficial for people who are just starting out learning the guitar but it entirely depends on your confidence!
If you join a band, you can make seriously quick progress. Playing with other musicians rather than YouTube backing tracks will really help you to develop your ear skills and help you to listen to what’s going on around you which may make you change or alter your part accordingly. That awesome, shred guitar solo you learned perfectly to a backing track in your comfortable room may not sound as good when you’re playing with three other humans when you’re playing in a dingy practice room on some dodgy industrial estate!
Once you've got 2 or 3 songs nailed, head down to your local open-mic and play your set and see how it goes down. Make sure you take someone you trust with you to give you some feedback or alternatively, record your set and watch it back. If you get a good recording, even better - you can use it to upload to your band's Instagram, Facebook and YouTube account.
4. go to a jam night
Jam nights don't seem to be as popular anymore but they do still exist. The idea is that a random group of musicians will go up in front of the audience and play something. It could be a song that everyone has agreed on or it could be improvising with some agreed chords.
If you’ve been practicing your pentatonic scales to backing tracks and you’ve learned some wicked lines, get yourself down to your local jam night and ask the musicians to play in the same key as the backing track and see what happens. If you’ve nailed it, it’s most likely that you’ll be asked to come back, to join a band or get a paid gig! It’s happened to me almost every time I’ve been to a jam night!
5. Keep a practice diary
This one is not for everyone but if you’re the kind of person who likes writing things down or keeps a journal or diary, this one's for you. Buy a new diary or use the one that you’ve already got and after a practice session, make sure you write down exactly what you did. A good example might be
“Played the first 8 bars of Stairway to Heaven at 70bpm”
It’s simple and to the point but after a week of doing it, you’ll see noticeable improvements and it’ll also help to remember what you did the day or two days before. This will massively help you focus your practice sessions and make sure you’re not just noodling or practicing the same stuff over and over.
So there’s five ways to tell you’re improving on the guitar. You may not want to join a band or take an exam but try some of the other ways. If you’ve got a guitar teacher, even better because they’ll be able to point out some very specific ways of improving and give you even more suggestions to measure your progress.
If you’ve got any more ideas or you’ve tried some of these suggestions yourself, comment below!
Matt - Owner and Teacher at FunkyDog Guitar Lessons.