Updated: Sep 22, 2021
I've led some horses to water in my time!
Let's look past music for a moment. I know that's the end goal, but sometimes we can't see the wood for the trees. Let's talk mechanics. Chord mechanics, fretting hand mechanics, picking mechanics and what I call mental mechanics. There is no music on guitar without these, and the better they function, the better you'll sound when you execute them. Any argument?
How do we know when things are functioning better? Sometimes it's obvious. A piece of music we used to struggle with becomes easy. How about when a piece of music we've always struggled with doesn't seem to be getting any easier?
If we're practising lots we may think it must be getting better, but our moods and perception can play havoc with our conclusions. Sometimes we can end up with little but the hope that things are getting better. If this is the case, they're probably not, and I'm sure you know that feeling all too well.
There's only one way to know for sure whether things are improving. Measure! With any skill or piece of music on guitar there is always a way of zooming in on the problem areas and monitoring progress. After 20 years of teaching guitar this is the foundation of both my private lessons and personal practice, and the ethos of this blog.
My own progress over the last 7 years on one of
the trickier patterns included in BPM
(Your copy won't have the water stain)
Take full control of your practice with "BPM!"
My unique free download "BPM" is a wide-reaching introduction to this approach which will ensure progress with just about anything that interests you on guitar. We replace hope, with expectation and results!
The idea seems almost too simple ... you keep track of how fast you can play the patterns cleanly, and your aim is to improve your top speed in bpm (beats per minute) over time. However it works wonderfully for anything on guitar, as the only way you can do something faster is to become better at it! This means that seeing whether or not you're getting faster lets you know if your practice is any good!
Understanding what isn't working is key!
Here's the clever bit. When using this method, even when your top speeds aren't rising you are still progressing, because you are learning what doesn't work and can eliminate that from your practice time. Not knowing when something isn't working is the stage most often overlooked and is where the most time is wasted, possibly many thousands of hours over a lifetime! Adopting the BPM approach ensures that this can't happen!
If this guy could have seen his lack
of progress, wouldn't he have done
something about it by now?
An endless variety of challenges!
Each section of BPM relates to a different investigation on this blog. So far I've covered challenges from seemingly simple patterns to vital but hidden chord skills and my favourite finger and brain twisters.
Every challenge is suitable for all levels, just don't overdo the tough ones and injure yourself. If you can't manage any particular challenge, mark it as "XXX", then, when you can do it, even if it's only at 10bpm, you've improved and have proven that fact. When you can do it at 15bpm you are 50% better again, and so on. It's you against yourself in this game, and you can always win if your practice is good!
I've also included a blank template to keep track of your progress on the music that interests you. Chop out the problem sections, write them out, file them and as ever, monitor your improvement!
It works for anything!
In lessons I use this approach for dealing with everything from a beginner's first chords to virtuoso classics. It's simple but universally effective and you can start benefiting from it today!
To download your free copy of BPM today, subscribe to my blog at the bottom of this page.
All readers are cordially invited to join me in my "Tune Up Your Practice!" forum, to discuss and debate the merits or otherwise of my articles. There's even a forum section in which you can chase up some free help if you're struggling! See you there!
What they never told you about chord changes on guitar