Are you only now starting to practice guitar after taking a very long break away from playing? No matter if you haven’t been playing for a week, many weeks or possibly several months, you were no doubt surprised after seeing how your skills have fallen off over time.
I can totally relate… a few years ago I completed a massive world tour, and decided to take a short break from guitar playing. Although I only planned to take this break for a little while, I ended up not practicing at all until many months later when I needed to record a new album. Needless to say, I was not too pleased with the way my playing sounded once I began practice again.
If you have ever stopped playing guitar for a long duration of time (or you haven’t held a serious practice session in many months), you will get your skills back again by using these 5 approaches:
1. Practice Using Your BRAIN… Your Fingers Are Secondary
Absolutely NO mindless guitar practicing! Not only should this be a general rule for all guitar practice, but it applies even more strongly for practicing guitar after taking an extensive break. Here’s why: After a break, it’s much more likely that bad habits have crept back into your guitar playing. If you use poor focus during your guitar practice, you’ll probably develop poor playing habits (even in places where you didn’t have them before!). The following are the most effective ways to prevent this from happening by making sure you remain focused:
-Use an effective guitar practicing routine to quickly get your playing back on track.
-Utilize “focus rotation” so that your mind is always switched on during your practice.
-Practice exercises that use the most guitar skill transferability. This will prevent you from becoming bored and help you get your skills back faster.
2. Don’t Overcompensate By Practicing Too Much
Tons of guitarists track to make up for a long period of non-practice by practicing way too much hours every day. This almost always achieves the opposite effect they were going for because they end up practicing ineffectively (and in an unorganized manner). Plus, it becomes much easier for them to experience frustration and/or injury their hands/arms. Most guitar players think that practicing more leads to results. WRONG! This is a perfect example of how quantity does not overcome quality. Truth is, you can make infinitely more progress in your guitar playing by practicing in smaller intervals throughout the day. By doing this, your practice is much more focused, keeping your mind from wandering due to playing for many hours at a time. So instead of practicing sweep picking arpeggios (for example) for hours on end, you’d practice them for 15 minutes per session, various times during the day. It’s a lot less difficult to practice for 15 minute periods than for many hours.
3. Work On Technique First
After spending a lot of time away from guitar, your playing skills deteriorate at varying rates. Your guitar technique is usually the first to go. With this in mind, after a break, you MUST place guitar technique practice above everything else for the first couple of weeks or so. That’s right: you’ll regain your skills faster by focusing the majority of your guitar practice time on technique only for the first couple of weeks.
Notice: I’m not telling you that you should “always” work on technique during your guitar practice. I’m merely saying that the first couple of weeks of practice “after a long break” should be mostly spent on technique. Additionally, even when you aren’t actually playing guitar, you should be practicing a lot of things away from the guitar so that your musical skills are not lost.
4. Control Your Frustration And Take Advantage Of Your Mistakes
It’s hard not to get frustrated when you know you used to play guitar at a much higher level than where you are at now. However, don’t let this frustration to overtake your playing and destroy your motivation for guitar practice! If you do, it will be very difficult to get your playing back to where it used to be.
Bottom line: you will make thousands of mistakes before you become a great guitarist. In fact, the majority of your practice time will consist of a never-ending process of analyzing, isolating and fixing your guitar playing mistakes to take your skills to a higher level. If you truly love playing guitar, it makes no sense to get frustrated by mistakes. Instead, you need to focus on using mistakes as tools for improving and refining your current approach. By taking away the negative feelings that are lodged between your mistakes and your ability to correct them, you let yourself to address issues in your guitar playing more directly – making your a better guitarist in less time.
5. Start Crawling Before You Walk
In your first week back after a long break, you won’t be able to play everything you played before in a flawless manner. At this point, you do not possess the same level of control over the movements in your fingers. If you quickly rush into playing with high speed or working on complex guitar licks, it will be very unclean and you might even hurt yourself by using unnecessary tension (that comes from inefficient movement). This is like attempting to run a marathon when you having exercised in a year… Everything that is needed to make your body finish the race (muscle stability, cardiovascular endurance, etc.) has been unused for a lengthy amount of time, and thus is highly underdeveloped for the task at hand. Running under these conditions will prove to be impossible, and you will likely injure yourself in the process.
To guarantee that you return your playing to the level it was at before (without harming yourself or becoming frustrated), focus mostly on perfecting the basics of your technique throughout the first week of practice. While you are practicing, make sure to pay extra close attention to the unneeded tension you are feeling in your body and reduce it as much as possible. Don’t let yourself play very fast or technical guitar licks during this time. By working slowly to regain your coordination in hands, you will grow a solid foundation from which you can play with greater speed and accuracy.
After reading this article, you now know how to quickly regain your guitar skills after not playing for a long while. Now you just need to take action to implement these ideas.