Guitar Secrets

I was recently surfing on YouTube and I spotted a couple of vids that purported to reveal wonderful "secrets" that will suddenly make playing the guitar easier. My curiosity piqued, I did a search for "guitar secrets" and found a treasure trove of hidden knowledge -- it was like I was suddenly invited into a sacred temple where withered old masters would, finally, reveal that silver bullet that would make Saturn align with Venus and elevate my playing to god-like status.

So after digesting as many of these "secrets" as I could I distilled them all down into the one Mother of All Guitar Secrets.

Ready for it?

Here goes:

Practice everything for hours every day for years and years and play as much as you can with other musicians.

Seriously, if you're looking for a silver bullet it's because you want to shortcut a process. But you can't.

Every person I've known that possessed mind-bending abilities on the guitar got there through practicing eight to ten hours every day for years. I know 90% of students are lucky to get in 30 minutes a few times a week and feel frustrated at their lack of progress then go searching for that "secret" that will hand them mastery in a short amount of time with little effort.

Sorry. It's 8 to 10 hours a day for years.

I suggest you take some music theory courses, watch as many video lessons as possible, learn to read music, get a real teacher, etc., and do the hard work, lots of work.

However, there are some generalities that you should pay attention to to make sure that you maximize the time you do spend practicing.

Use good equipment so that you're not fighting an unnecessary battle and get that action as low as possible. Use fresh strings and picks.

Learn theory so that what you learn is transposable rather than a bunch of "orphaned licks" to borrow a great line from my friend Chris.

Keep your fretting thumb behind the neck. Nearly every guitarist that I know with scary technical ability keeps his or her thumb truly behind the neck 90% of the time.

Turn up the amp and use less physical force to play. Drummers spend a lot of time learning how to 'go with the flow' on their drum fills and guitarists should also 'go with the flow' when it comes to alternate picking. Don't fight the guitar. Flow.

Always learn something new every day. I had a student one time that was stuck for months on the G major scale so I had to banish that thing: I told him to play it for me, one more time, then never play it again. Keep moving.

Learn a bunch of songs and classic licks and, then, once those are in hand use them for inspiration to write at least one more original song based on that classic lick or progression.

Play with others if you can. Play along to music if you can.