Ever go a long period of time without practicing guitar? Whether you went for several days, weeks or even months, you know how terrible it feels to get surprised by how your skills have diminished after playing for the first time in a while.
I know how it feels… after finishing up my world tour several years ago, I took an extensive break from playing guitar. Originally I planned to take a very short break, but ended up not practicing until several months later when it was time to start writing a new album. Then, once I picked up my guitar – well, let’s just say I was not happy with the sound that came out from my amplifier.
If you have ever taken a long break from your instrument (or haven’t seriously practiced guitar in a good amount of time), here are 5 ways to regain the skills you once had:
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 a guitar practicing routine that is made to quickly and effectively get your playing back up to speed. Using a routine like this will give you no choice but to focus and get results!
-Apply the concept of focus rotation to ensure that your mind is consistently engaged while you practice. I talk about this much more in this guide for doubling guitar speed.
-Work on guitar exercises that have the greatest amount of guitar technique transferability. This will help you not become bored (being bored is the main cause of mindless practicing) while reducing the amount of time it takes to regain your playing skills.
2. Don’t Overcompensate
A lot of guitar players overcompensate for their lack of practice by practicing tons of hours each day. This generally causes them to practice ineffectively in an unorganized manner. On top of that, it makes it easier for them to become frustrated and/or injury themselves. Here is what these players don’t know, and what you need to understand: More guitar practice does not necessarily make you a great player. Fact is, you can make a lot of progress in your guitar playing by practicing in short, highly-focused bursts during the day. This is an effective method because it helps you practice with maximum focus since there is only a small amount of time being used. So rather than working on your sweep picking (for example) for an hour or two, you practice in intervals of 15 minutes per session. Ultimately, it’s much easier to practice for 15 minutes straight than for several hours.
The guitar practicing routine that I recommend to use for getting your guitar skills up to speed is made upon this concept.
3. Rebuild Your Foundation Of 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 don’t mean to imply that you should “always” focus 100% on technique while you practice guitar. I’m merely saying that the first couple of weeks of practice “after a long break” should be highly technique-focused. In addition, even when you aren’t physically touching the guitar, you should definitely be practicing things away from the guitar so that your musical skills do not deteriorate.
4. 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.
It doesn’t have to take you an extremely long time to get your guitar technique back even after you haven’t played guitar for many months (follow this guitar practicing schedule to get your technique back in 2 weeks flat).
5. Take Control Over Your Frustration To Take Advantage Of Playing Errors
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 allow this frustration to take control of your playing and ruin your guitar practice motivation! 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.
Now that you understand what you must do to regain your guitar skills after not playing for a long period of time, apply the ideas of this article and notice as your guitar skills go far beyond the level you were at previously.
Once you get your guitar playing back to the level you want it to be at, maintain your skill by creating an effective guitar practice schedule for your musical goals.