Many times I speak to students (in my guitar lessons in Austin) and they ask me what it takes to reach a high level of playing. Often the answer is very simple. You need to practice the right things in the right order. When learning the martial arts for example one of the first things that you need to do is master the basics. As with most arts the same basic principles apply. I will explain to you what In my opinion is the best way to progress on guitar in the fastest way possible.
Learn the Scales especially the Minor Pentatonics
Ask any guitar player the first scale that they ever learned how to play and they will say it is minor pentatonics. The reason for this is that it is a lot easier to play on guitar than the major scale, such as the caged system or the modes. These are very important but more on these later. The minor pentatonic pattern 1 is one of the most simple scales on guitar and it is easy to practice and memorize. I promise you if you were to just play this scale 100 times you would see immediate improvement in finger dexterity and muscle memory.
When I was first learning to play guitar I practiced scales a lot. The first scale I learned was the A Minor pentatonic pattern 1 and I used to play it over and over again. I would usually pick up my guitar and If I was watching TV I would simply practicing during the breaks or why I was watching. Although this is not a strict practice routine, something is better than nothing and if you were to just do this a few times a week you would see a drastic improvement. Before I didn’t like mentioning that I did this but I heard from one of the maestro’s him self John Mayer that he did, so it has to be beneficial. I put a quick video together of the scale for guitar lessons in Austin and you can find it below.
Know your Arpeggios, Especially your Minor ones
Didn’t really start practicing arpeggios outside of songs I would learn until much later in my guitar journey. After I did, however, I noticed a huge level up in my playing and allowed me to reach virtuoso level. These can often times be boring to practice but many times the things that are the most boring to practice will yield the greatest results, sad truth… Like I said before, you can practice these when you are doing other things, clearly not when you driving your are going to need to be hands free to play guitar silly. But if you are watching TV or doing something else that doesn’t involve intense concentration pick up you guitar an knock out some of these arpeggios. There are three basic arpeggio triads that I think that everyone should know and you can find them here.
Last but not least, Learn chords and learn them through songs.
I’d would highly recommend that you do not just look at a chord sheet just to practice chords and chords alone. You can do some of that but when the rubber really hits the road is through playing songs. I understand that you might learn different and if that is the case do what works for you, but for me I have found that learning to play chords with songs was a lot more beneficial. Maybe you can combine the two and practice chords and then learn a song and split your time half and half. If I had to say the five most important open chords that you have to know that are in a lot of songs, most songs actually are as follows: C G Am D Em
There are a lot more chords on guitar, in fact there are so many chords that it can make you head spin and there are some other that are not in the above chords that you will find often in songs such as F Dm Bm F#, but you need to start somewhere. So go out there and look up some songs that use basic chords and you will find yourself playing one of your favorite tunes in no time. Try not to get discouraged and keep powering through no matter what, and try to remember to have fun!