Guitar Practice Methods That Help You Fix Sloppy Mistakes Without Having To Practice Slowly

by Mike Philippov


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Your ears and mind are your most important guitar practice tools. Your ears help you identify specific causes of your guitar playing challenges and mistakes. Your mind trains your hands to make your guitar technique more efficient, accurate and effortless.

Most guitar players struggle to hear mistakes that occur at fast speeds. Notes go by quickly and you may only notice that something does not sound right…but not know why. Worst of all, some mistakes only occur near your maximum speed and disappear when you slow down.

These guitar practice methods help you identify and fix mistakes near your top speed without having to slow down:


Guitar Practice Method #1: Emphasize The Problem

Emphasizing the problem allows you to:

  • Have more time to hear sloppy notes while playing at or near your top speed.
  • Clean up your sloppy mistakes in the context of the original exercise.

This video shows how to emphasize the problem when you practice guitar (using sweep picking as an example):

 

This guitar practice method applies to all techniques (not only arpeggios) where you struggle to identify the causes of sloppy playing at faster speeds.


Guitar Practice Method #2: Isolate The Problem

Isolation practice is about extracting a challenging group of notes from the context of the exercise (or guitar lick) and:

  • Practicing it over and over (in isolation) until it is mastered.
  • Inserting the challenging part back into the exercise to practice it in context.

Notice the important difference between emphasizing and isolating your guitar playing problems. Emphasizing a problem allows you to clean up your playing while practicing in context the entire time. It is most useful for refining an exercise or technique you can already do well and are close to mastering.

Isolating the problem allows you to focus only on the sloppy notes at peak intensity without being distracted with the other notes of your practice item. This method is most applicable when you are making big changes in your technique or are learning a brand new guitar technique for the first time.


Guitar Practice Method #3: Exaggerate The Problem

Sometimes it’s hard to identify causes of your guitar playing mistakes even after trying to emphasize and isolate them. Exaggerating your guitar playing challenges makes the symptoms of the problem more obvious and easier to observe. This allows you to identify the causes of the challenge and fix it more easily.

Examples of exaggerating your guitar playing problems include:

1. Playing even faster - if your playing first begins to sound sloppy at 100 beats per minute, increase the tempo to 110 beats per minute and practice at that higher tempo.

Doing this helps you to:

  • Feel the effects of the problem more clearly (so you can identify their causes and solve them).
  • Make the original tempo (100 beats per minute in this example) feel much easier by comparison.

2. Play guitar unplugged (at your maximum speed). This challenges your articulation (and 2-hand synchronization), so you can identify which notes are not perfectly clean. After you identify the sloppy notes, apply the emphasis or isolation guitar practice method to master what you are practicing.

Note: playing unplugged also helps your legato playing to become cleaner and more articulate.

This video shows you more examples of exaggerating your guitar playing problems so you improve your guitar technique faster.

Use these guitar practice methods to speed up your progress and make your guitar playing sound better. 


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