The key to improvement is practice. It's very important to have a strong and healthy self-criticism. I’ll point it out before you read this tutorial: these are just common mistakes I've seen over the years in lots of guitar player and I've been making the same mistakes as well. Although it doesn't mean you're making them yourself, you may take this tutorial as a starting point to analyze your weaknesses.
Vibrato. A super-underestimated technique that everyone in the guitar world thinks they can do, but in reality they can't.
Vibrato technique doesn't mean you have to shake your hand super fast until the string will swing from the top to the bottom of the neck. In fact, good vibrato technique derives from a relaxed motion that will add just a little extra natural vibe to the note you're playing.
The point most people are missing, when playing vibrato, is time. Vibrato as to be in time as well as the other notes. Adding an effect to a note doesn't mean you can call yourself out from being in time, or in tune.
This leads to tune. Using vibrato on a note doesn't mean doing a quarter tone of a bend. Again both these mistakes are the result of a stressed out player.
Finally, don't use vibrato on every note that lasts more than a quarter note. Holding a note doesn't necessarily mean you have to add vibrato on it. Think of it like this. If you use a special effect every single time, it is no longer special. So use vibrato with only when appropriate, just as you would with other techniques.
This is very common. If you’ve ever recorded yourself, at some point, during your musical career then you have probably noticed how out of time you were. Maybe you improved over years, maybe not.
Although it's very odd how guitar players have bad reputation in both timing and reading.
The reason why playing in time is such a pain is the fact that you start playing thinking of guitar as a instrument that has just pitch. So you take care of learning scales, chord but you never stop for a second to think that everything in music has to be put in time regardless of the instrument played.
The key to improvement is a metronome.
As a player in general you shouldn't consider using a metronome something extra as well as you don't consider the skill of reading a book something extra as a member of a society.
3. Neck Visualization
This point is something of which I'm really fond and it may be that some people underestimate or even don't care much about it. It may sound like an advanced skill to have as a guitar player, but to me the earlier you see everything—notes, intervals, dots—on the neck then the better it is.
I'll start with this idea: using patterns—or shapes—to play scales and chords has pro and cons.
- Pro: once you've understood the concept, you can play the same scale in every key without change fingering or thinking about the notes in that scale
- Cons: By not thinking about the notes risks you risk becoming lazy and ignorant about music. You get to the point where you're just imitating some dots on a paper without actually knowing anything.
I'm not saying that you have to learn all the notes when you first pick up the guitar. Learn the pattern first. Then learn the intervals you're playing, then learn the notes.
None of us will learn everything in the first instance; seeing what's happening on the neck should be everyone's goal.
This is because a good knowledge of fretboard means you not only know what you're doing you also care about the notes you're playing.
4. Too Many Notes
Perhaps you've had that feeling of "When I'm soloing I just run the patterns up and down and I don't know what else to do". This is because you don't think in terms of note, you think in terms of shapes. Every notes has its own character and sound. The soon you learn, the more authentic your motifs will become.
Such mistakes are not immediately apparent in a guitar player, like timing or vibrato. Although the effects of this lack is totally recognizable: arhythmic, non-sense, not memorable solos.
And this mistakes has to deal with two aspects of music: neck visualization but most of all, ear training.
I've already considered the first point; now consider the point of ear training and solos. You should always use your ear when learning a scale. And by that, I mean always.
Learning a scale just by staring at the dots on a paper won't take you anywhere. You need to sing the scale while you're playing. You need to be able to sing that scale starting from a given root.
This training will make experiment with your ear more and, above all, will make you understanding the direction of every note in a scale.
I can't find a more specific word to describe this last point. The guitar is an easy instrument to play, but a really hard one to master. Also, guitar is that kind of instrument that everyone state to play even if they know a couple of open chords.
So when someone starts to play guitar, they learn the basic chords and maybe some scale and they think they can play because they have friends that do the same.
Saying this, I'm not trying to say that if you want to play guitar you have to study 10 years of conservatory or dedicate your entire life to it. What I'm pointing out is the fact that we give up learning stuff too quickly.
If playing guitar—or even another instrument—would be considered as a hard thing to do, something you really have to push yourself through, then I'm sure that only people with commitment would dive into it.
To be able to play an instrument is something that has to be develop over years of study as well as other skill you learn. So be patient with yourself but also, don't be lazy and always try to be enthusiastic about something new to learn.
I hope you won't take this article like a fool critique against guitar players: after all, I play guitar as well and I'm definitely not mistake-free. I think that the first thing to fix a mistake is to recognize them. So, being honest, consider whether you've found yourself falling into one of those categories.