So here’s some tips from a passionate wanna-be lead-guitarist in training. I hope these can help others, I think it’s helping me. I am seeing some improvements. Any feedback and further tips to my “learning style” is appreciated.
1) Keep on practicing the scale shapes – very slowly. I learnt it takes a lot of “muscle” memory to get comfortable with the shapes and it’s better to be precise than fast. I practice these for about 15 to 30 minutes a day (and I do it slowly). I started with the first shape, then moved on to the others. Also the roots are important to know on each shape (I started (should say starting) with the minor pentatonics). I pick, say, Am and do the scale from the 5th fret and move all the way up to the 17th, recently started from the first fret though, it’s a pain but well worth it. Also helps to develop the ear.
2) Learn the top two (low E and A) string notes for starters. For me, I learnt the pattern (E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E) for the E string and the same for A, just start at A… That will be enough ammo to hit the pentatonic minor shapes in the right place, or know which shape to use. I printed out little posters for the washroom, office, music room and my bedroom, I’m always looking at these (OCD’ish?).
3) Ear training: To train my ear, I started to randomly hit a note anywhere on the fretboard (without looking) and call out the note. I also hit each note on the strings in order (top to bottom) and call out (singing) the notes. My GF thought I was singing a really bad song (E F F# G, etc…) lol I mean my ear wasn’t bad when starting but the fretboard isn’t an extension of my mind/soul yet so I have some ways to go…
4) I was told by a friend to not get stuck with “noodling” or only using backing tracks because it’s only practicing what you know. It was painful for me to get out of only using backing tracks. But what I started doing was 1) learning the shapes and practicing them slowly, 2) picking a solo that’s unattainable for me but simple enough to learn and just slowly learning it each day, little by little. And starting off SLOW is tough because you want to be an instant guitar god but trying to be as fast as your hero will not work and be more discouraging than anything.
5) Have fun with it. For me, my fun is attempting at “original” leads to backing tracks or tracks I made myself. Even if they sound terrible, I get to learn from it and use what I just discovered. Like making your cake and eating it too.
6) Make a routine, like going to gym. If you don’t set aside some time for it – you won’t do it. I plug in my transistor amp (with headphones) starting at 8pm (when the baby is sleeping) and play until 9 or 10 and this is daily. On the weekends, I have some time set aside for using a tube amp and just having some fun without headphones, I’ve been known to play for 5 or 6 hours straight though enjoying some old Beatles tunes and whatnot.
7) Hurting finger tips. Once I played until I got nasty and painful blisters and cut open a finger tip. Pushing through the pain = not playing for a few days until the blisters heal. But I hadn’t had any issues since then though. I constantly apply pressure to my finger tips, like playing with a credit card when I’m in a waiting room or pausing to think, or in meetings (at work). I also use rubbing alcohol, it seems to help thicken the skin, could be a placebo effect but works for me. I also play on an acoustic once in a while, a cheaper one with thick strings. When I get onto my electrics, they feel like butter.
8) Learn or get into the habit of stretching your fingers before playing. I stretch my fingers, shake my hands, etc.. Check out youtube, there are tons of warm-up exercises.