Christmas is always a happy season for most people. But with the New Year beginning, it’s time to hit the ground running.
Setting New Year resolutions helps to keep you focused on specific goals and gives you a sense of purpose. The only challenge is achieving the goals, with studies showing that only about 8% of us stick to resolutions beyond the first 12 days.
Luckily, several effective methods help you adapt to the new habits and achieve long-term goals. This New Year is rich with opportunities to make you a more skilled player and an all-rounded musician.
Here are the top 10 New Year’s resolutions for guitarists you should consider:
1. Start by Setting Meaningful, Achievable Goals
If you know where you’d like to go, it’s easier to determine how to get there and how long it will take. It gives you the confidence to become who you want to be in simple, doable ways.
Think about what you sincerely want to achieve as a guitar player. For instance, set concrete goals like improving lead guitar skills or broadening your musical connections. Now think about what you will do every day to help improve your skills or make more friends in music.
If you set a goal that you don’t want, it will become just another task and quickly become tedious. It helps to start by things you enjoy as the more you achieve, the more confident you become that you can succeed in reality.
Next, Lay Down a Clear Path to Achieve Your Resolutions
For instance, if you want to play better, you can take guitar lessons. Professional lessons assist you to:
• Be consistent and committed since you’ll have accountability
• Get a customized approach to music depending on your capabilities
• Eliminate bad habits that you find difficult to break
• Discover new ways of playing the guitar and broaden your general music skills
If you choose to take lessons, who will are you confident in providing the best possible skills?
This thought process will also help you plan your finances and time accordingly to avoid frustrations along the way.
There are online guitar training programs that you can join for free to learn the basics. After some time, you can join a paid program to access more resources and refine your skills.
One of the most successful ways of improving your guitar skills is creating more time for practice. Creating time seems easy, but what you do with this time is very important. Ensure your purpose is clear, and you understand your motivating reasons.
Set Ways of Measuring Your Achievements
The goal is to become an excellent player, but how will you know how far you have come in a certain period?
For example, after the first month of more practice or guitar classes, you can measure your progress by:
• Playing with or in a band
• Writing a song
• Playing a guitar solo
Some goals might feel intimidating or unachievable but remember that if you can dream, you can achieve it. Break down those big goals into smaller steps that contribute to the primary goal.
Let’s say you want to play a guitar solo. You can:
• Start by learning a pattern, then play some riffs from that pattern
• When you master the routines, try various techniques such as Bends, Vibrato & Slides and Pull offs
• You can then use the methods to create phrases as you listen to similar music for more ideas.
• Once you’re more confident, select a simple solo and try recreating it
With the numerous music resources, aim to broaden your knowledge by reading more books and music websites or looking for tutorials on YouTube.
If you don’t have an ultimate goal for your resolutions, it’s easy to get distracted or spend more time on unnecessary things to your learning process.
Track Your Progress
Time management is often challenging for most people. You may wake with the intention of setting aside some practice time, but you only realize it’s too late when it’s bedtime.
You’ll find it easier to create time if you have a practice schedule. You have to be realistic about the duration and specific times. On days that you’re too busy, ten minutes of practice will still work.
Once you have a daily schedule, set up calendar notifications on your phone to help you commit.
As you set your goals, keep in mind that the learning process is different, and the pace at which you master the skills depends on how fast you are. The general expectation is to increase your playing speed the longer you learn.
Avoid setting timelines on aspects such as speed initially since you have no benchmark for your capabilities.
2. Practice with a Metronome
For any musician, a metronome is an essential asset. There are some affordable options, but you can download a free metronome app if you’re working on a tight budget.
Although learning to use a metronome can get frustrating, it will quickly make you a better guitar player. Keep in mind that the device functions as a mirror, so if you note some mistakes as you play, they were probably there before, only that you hadn’t noticed.
It shouldn’t discourage you or make you feel less skilled; think about it as a chance to work on your weak points early on.
Begin with a slow pace and gradually improve your speed as you continue practicing. For instance, if you can play a strum pattern at 100 bpm in one week, try increasing the tempo to 110 bpm the following week.
It will be easier to ensure you’re making the proper steps to move forward, rather than spending too much time learning the one thing or going in circles.
The metronome helps you maintain the rhythm as accurately as possible.
Give DAWs a Try
A digital Audio Workstation (DAW) refers to software used in music production that allows you to record audio on your laptop or PC.
You can use the software to mix, master, and edit the audio and MIDI. It will take some time and effort to learn, but the possibilities you’ll unlock will make it worthwhile.
There are free versions available online so start by downloading the software. Make a plan to create some tracks regularly to improve your playing and listening skills.
3. Have a Music Journal
Another effective way to track your progress is by writing a practice journal to document your progress. You can track how much time it takes to learn something so that you can allocate enough time and be realistic when organizing your schedule.
Your music journal doesn’t have to be an actual notebook; you can also download an app on your phone.
Daily entries should have details such as:
• The date and time
• Specific areas you practice, for how long, and the number of repetitions
• The challenges you’re experiencing and their possible solutions
• New things you learn about yourself and music
Try keeping a practice journal for the next month, and I think you will be surprised by how effective it can be.
For every session, bring it along, so you have a place to note down ideas and encourage your thought process.
4. Determine a Practice Space
The space doesn’t have to be large, as long as the essential items fit. Some helpful gear you can add to the room include:
• An Armless Practice Chair
If you don’t have one, look for a portable chair with adjustable height so that you can use it on gigs. Most guitarists are comfortable using any drum throne, so you can check the reviews or ratings for the best deal.
• A Footstool
Regardless of the type of guitar you play, a footstool is a great addition. It helps you hold the guitar in the proper position, close to your body.
• A Music Stand
Your music stand should be adjustable and strong enough to hold your music for extended periods. When shopping, pay attention as some stands are light and portable but not sturdy to hold a position for long periods.
• A Guitar Stand
Besides keeping your guitars clean and safe, a guitar stand adds style to your practice space. It’s also a great way to show off your best pieces as you jam with your friends.
If your practice sessions are mainly during the day, look for a light, portable stand for easy access. The best stand should have a table for the guitar picks and tuner and space to accommodate the cables and guitar amp if you have an electric guitar.
During winter or dry weather, it’s best to keep the guitars in their cases. The dry air causes shrinking, warping, and cracking. If you notice the intonation is off or some frets have a buzz, you should consider getting a humidifier to place in the guitar case.
Most humidifiers have replaceable moisture packs, but those with a sponge that holds water are more cost-effective. You’ll only need to add some water every few weeks instead of replacing the moisture pack.
5. Set a Goal to Perform Something This Year
One of the most challenging obstacles for most instrument learners is overcoming stage fright. Playing in front of people helps you gain confidence even when you make mistakes in the process. You’ll notice that the more you play, the less you’ll fumble and tremble.
To get you started, some ideas are:
• Performing on Open Mics
Open Mic nights in cozy coffee shops or local bars are an excellent starting point. The atmosphere is chill, and most people present listen to you as they eat or socialize.
You’ll feel less pressure for perfection which will help you ease into live performance.
• Music Circles
In every community, it’s likely there’s a music circle. You can start searching on social media or in the local paper.
Besides making new friends with similar interests, it’s also a great way to work on your confidence as you play in a group. You’ll more learn practical skills and get more gig opportunities.
• Book a Gig
Booking a gig is a significant step for any guitar player. You can start by creating simple ads that flaunt your guitar skills. Choose strategic places to display the ads, such as local pubs and restaurants, coffee shops, and favorite hang-out places for young people.
It helps to start with familiar faces as they are more likely to give you a chance to play. You’ll also be more comfortable around people you know.
6. Record Your Music
Recording your music helps you keep your music through various stages in life, even if it’s not original. Try looking for some recording studios in your area that are affordable. If you can’t find any, you can install recording software on your computer and look for tutorials on using it.
Once you learn how to use the software to record your sessions, you’ll appreciate the personal music catalog later in life. You’re also able to upload your music on YouTube or share it with friends and family to get honest opinions about your skills.
7. Learn Fundamental Skills and How to Read Standard Notation
It’s a sad fact, but most guitar players don’t know how to read notes. It’s essential to learn how to read notes for several reasons.
• Understanding the Fretboard Theory
When exploring Fretboard theory, you’ll need to identify the notes you’re playing, and it will be challenging to do so without knowing how to read the notes.
• Learning Rhythms and Using Your Ears
Most guitar music is only available in standard notation. Even guitar tabs don’t always have stems, making it difficult to differentiate the notes you are playing.
You can use great publications to learn reading notes independently or with little assistance from a professional. You can search for books online, preferably written by experienced music teachers like university or music school lecturers.
As you learn new chords, memorize them by visualizing their shapes. Take note of the dots’ patterns on chord diagrams, and it’ll be easier to remember the chord shapes.
When learning chord inversions in various positions and barre chords, it will come in handy.
When learning to play the guitar, it’s easy to focus on improving how to use fingers or hands and neglect listening skills.
Make a plan to listen to music as you try to identify solos and chord progressions. Record some of your favorite songs and listen to the chords to see if you can locate them.
It’s a great way to feel the music and tap into your creativity.
• What Are the Fundamental Skills?
Most new years resolutions for guitar players remain unachieved because players learn how to hold a pick and use it, then give up practicing for some time. If you don’t work on the fundamental skills consistently, it will be more challenging trying to learn further along the process.
The seven must-have skills that form the basis of guitar playing are:
Format your practice sessions to include these essential areas so that you’re comfortable playing any kind of music. However, try not to touch all seven regions in a single session to avoid getting overwhelmed.
You can create a weekly rotation schedule to learn something different every day. It will also break monotony and boredom, but be careful not to neglect certain areas you don’t particularly like.
Throw in different riffs and favorite songs to keep the sessions fun and motivating.
If you’re just starting to learn scales, there are numerous scales to learn. It’s best to start with the major scales, as you’ll also learn minor scales and relative minor scales of the primary root in the process.
Major scales are also the foundation of other scales you’ll work with as you progress. It’s best to master the major scale patterns from various positions on the guitar neck.
Learning the scales for one scale makes it easier to transpose and include other keys since you’ll be able to find the root note.
8. Learn a Song in a New Style or Genre
Being an all-rounded guitar player is the ultimate goal, but most people struggle with mastering different styles of music.
This new year, decide to learn to play a different music style to broaden your perspective and acquire new skills. It will empower you with a new approach, so you’ll be able to note certain aspects you hadn’t noticed before.
For instance, if you’re more skilled in playing rock right now instead of metal, you can try learning a whole new style, such as jazz. If you have been reading sheet music, try using a chord chart or lead sheet.
The idea is to get out of your comfort zone as it’s the only way you’ll improve your skills and make you more versatile.
• Add Guitar Exercises to Your Practice Routine
Guitar exercises are not always fun, but you can have just as much fun as practicing music with a positive mindset.
There’s a difference between exercise and music. Exercises are non-musical and aim to improve your physical movements on your guitar.
Allow me to explain. When you’re learning to play a song you’re familiar with, you’ll notice that your hand movements are faster.
The movements are almost like a reflex, so you don’t have to concentrate on getting the chords right; but instead, you’ll enjoy playing the song.
This happens because your brain is already familiar with the notes, so it coordinates your hand movements according to how the song should sound.
Non-musical exercises enhance your finger skills, making learning new songs easier even when you have never heard them before.
There are numerous non-musical exercises; start by looking for one that addresses a specific aspect you’d like to improve on. In the beginning, it can be challenging to keep up, but it gets easier with time, just like going to the gym.
Over time, you’ll be comfortable enough to play and finish the exercise. It may be tempting to stop the practices but don’t give in, as it’s the same as going to the gym for a while and stopping suddenly.
Switch up the exercises periodically, as it will make you a better guitarist and keep you in shape.
9. Take Better Care of Your Body
Playing the guitar is a physical activity, but we often fail to recognize that. Most musical injuries come from repeating the same movements when playing instruments.
It will be difficult to enjoy playing the guitar if you’re in pain, so you’re more likely to stop playing or play less often.
When playing, try to pay attention to the areas on your body that feel the strain. It will be easier to look for exercises that will strengthen the muscles. Come up with a daily routine and start working on your core as you incorporate the practices.
Any time before you play, ensure you warm up and stretch first. Meditation also gives you more focus to concentrate on your music. You’ll be surprised how a couple of minutes of calm will improve your focus.
When you’re at peace, it’s easy to connect with your inner self to unleash your creativity.
10. Join a Band
Playing in a band sounds like fun, right? It’s a fantastic way to quickly improve your chops and learn more about sound while creating life-long friends and memories.
You can start by contacting local guitarists since they probably know of a few bands if they are not in one.
What if I can’t find a band to fit in? Well, you can quickly put together a band with like-minded people around you. Look for interested people on musical websites such as Bandmix.
Work on Regular Collaborations
Collaboration is broad and comes in many forms. You can collaborate with other people in ways such as writing a song with another musician, jamming with friends during practice, or finding someone to mix your tracks.
Working with other people gives you a chance to share your ideas and learn new tips from seasoned guitar players. It also improves your listening skills and allows you to engage your creativity.
Don’t let the COVID-19 pandemic limit your ambitions; you can still collaborate with others online. Record some tracks and share with others to get feedback.
Better yet, why not set up some challenges to keep things fun and exciting?
Get an Accountability Partner
The primary purpose of an accountability partner is to provide you with a support system and help you structure your time.
Spending more time with a like-minded friend or partner motivates you to stick to your goals and dream bigger.
Discuss with them your goals and find similarities in your drive. Come up with the milestones you’d like to achieve and set timelines for each.
Synch your calendars and set up reminders to motivate and hold each other accountable. When you achieve a milestone together, think of ways to reward yourself for hard work.
Strategies to Ensure You Stick to Your New Year Resolutions
Some strategies that have surprising results are such as:
Identify Your Goals and the Activities That Will Get You There
The ultimate goal is to be an excellent guitar player. Determine the best, realistic way to improve your skills based on your availability and finances.
Be Clear About How the New Activities Fit Into Your Real Life
If you’re passionate about playing guitar, think of how to incorporate your practice into your life. For instance, if you haven’t played for an audience, you can plan to perform for friends and family during the Easter holiday.
Besides motivating you to stick to your timelines, it will help you focus and dedicate more time to practice.
Be Very Specific About Your Goals and New Habits
Let’s say you’d like to play a solo over Easter. The first step is to decide how long your practice sessions should be to improve your skills in this timeline.
Since you already know which new activities you’d like to include in your session, structure the time available to accommodate them.
For example, if your session is 30 minutes long, set aside the first ten minutes for stretching, meditating, or other exercises. After that, you can practice the new things you learned in the previous session and play a new song to see your progress.
Eliminate Existing Habits That Don’t Contribute to or Inhibit the New Activities
You may have the right mindset, but distractions are always tempting. When you get a challenge or feel frustrated, it’s easier to pick up your phone and scroll through social media.
As much as decompressing is beneficial, going through social media during your practice sessions a few more times will become a habit. To avoid this, you can decide to leave your phone in a different room to help you regain focus.
You may already be aware of your competing habits, so decide to replace them with new activities related to music or physical fitness.
Create a Commitment Structure to Avoid Relying on Your Choice
Once you determine what to do to achieve your goals, it’s time to commit yourself. Schedule regular practice sessions, starting from a specific day, get in touch with your accountability partner, or sign up for a class in advance.
Hit the ground running so that when it’s time to get started, you’ll not begin to debate whether it can wait till tomorrow.
Monitor Your New Habits to Ensure That You’re Progressing
A great way to track your progress is getting a wall calendar for your practice space. After every session, mark it with a cool sticker or note it on your journal.
Each time you play a new song, mark the day using a different sticker or indicate the number of pieces as you master them.
Get Ready for Setbacks
Setbacks are a part of life, so you have to think about all the ways that distract you from your purpose based on your previous experiences.
For instance, most of us are a victim of procrastination. If your practice sessions are in the evening, there will be days when you get home exhausted or get too busy handling other essential responsibilities.
So what will you do in such cases? Think of a viable solution that will not break your back. For instance, on days you’re unable to practice in the evening, wake up 15 minutes earlier the following day and play for a few minutes to avoid losing momentum.