I remember when I used to suck at guitar.

Well ok, I wasn’t that terrible. But I remember feeling like everything I did sounded horrible and that I wasn’t getting any better.

Up until that point, learning guitar had been relatively easy for me. All I had to do was learn the notes and the chords for a song, and play it constantly until I got it right. Maybe it took a while, but I would get it eventually.

But once I attempted to play more difficult music, like Steve Vai and Dream Theater, it was obvious that my old practice habits weren’t working. This became even more apparent when I got into classical and fingerstyle guitar.

So what did I start doing that helped me get past this stumbling block and start playing things beyond my abilities?

I started practicing slowly.

Sure, there are other things I had to do, like learning to keep my hands relaxed and correcting mistakes in my technique. But none of that would’ve been possible if I hadn’t started to practice at slower tempos.

Practicing slowly is the only way you’ll be able to analyze your playing so you can fix what you’re doing wrong. It’s the only way you’ll learn how to play cleanly.

In short, it’s the only way that you will really improve as a guitar player.

The thing is, it’s much harder than it sounds. Most of us tend to speed up without even realizing it because we’re not used to playing that slowly. That’s why you need to do this with a metronome to keep you in check.

How slow does it have to be?

As slow as necessary. In other words, if you make any mistakes, you’re playing too fast.

I guarantee that if you put the time and effort into practicing like this, you’ll start seeing improvements very quickly. We get easily distracted when playing guitar, because hey, it’s fun. But just a little bit of discipline goes a long way.

Tell me about your experiences. Have you felt you’ve hit a wall with your playing? How did you get past it? Have you tried practicing slowly and has it helped? Let me know in the comments.

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