Updated: Sep 22, 2021
Here's a simple looking pattern,
just the 4 notes A, B, C, D repeated
It's a favourite test of mine to get an idea of a student's general level of technique. If you measure the top speed at which you can play it perfectly (I normally require 4 clean bars of repetition to qualify), you can get a good idea of how your technique stands up.
As a guide to your relative ability on this pattern, I offer my own unofficial grading system based on the UK education system. From my twenty years of teaching experience, I estimate that most guitarists (95% or more) end up stuck dead at what I consider GCSE level or below! Don't let that be you!
Want to nail the solo from Free Bird? I'd hope you can
manage at least 125bpm on this simpler test.
Cool, what can we learn from this?
Focusing on these four notes for a while can highlight the learning process on guitar quite clearly. While the pattern is still new, progress is easily achieved simply by repeating the pattern and an illusion is created that this is the sole method of practice required to continually improve. This illusion is shattered when progress stops, but only if the student is aware that that is the case!
Keeping a written record of your top speeds over time lets you see when things are working and when they're not. Whoever you are, there are speeds you will get stuck at. If you're not keeping track, there's a tendency to assume that because you're practising, things must be improving. This is all too often a huge mistake that can lead you astray for years and cost you countless hours of wasted practice!
Here's how we keep
track of progress
There are players out there who've been stuck like this without realising it for 40+ years! It's a lot more common
than you might think!
Take this idea and run with it!
It's the concept described here that's important, not this particular 4 note pattern. This is only one example but you can apply this approach to anything you like; Whatever you want to improve at on guitar, the only way you'll be able to do it faster is to become better at it, and the only way you'll know for sure if that's the case, is by following the advice on this page.
Get started today with this free download! Start off your own practice log by downloading your free copy of my book "BPM" when you subscribe to my blog at the bottom of the page.
Your free download covers not just the pattern we've examined above, but all the investigations on this blog, so you can find out how you measure up on a variety of guitar challenges for all levels. I've also included a blank template, ready for you to easily write out and begin tracking the challenges important to you right now.
Even if you're a rank beginner, you can for example, measure how fast you can change between two chords (see this blog post for further explanation). Write it out in a way that makes sense to you, and then keep records of your improving top speeds in the measuring boxes.
Soon you can build a big fat practice folder like mine containing many hundreds of bite-sized tests, relating to the music and guitar skills you're interested in. I don't look at mine every day, or even every week, but when I do there's always a challenge waiting for me.
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of
thinking we used when we created them" - Albert Einstein.
It's you against yourself! You can master your own practice too! Grab your free copy of "BPM" and get moving again!
Any thoughts on this article? Let me know in the comments below!
What they never told you about changing chords on guitar
The day I began mine was the day I began improving again