Do you feel like you’re wasting your time playing the same old riffs and licks over and over again? Do you want to improve your skills and learn new techniques that will make you sound like a pro? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then this blog post is for you! And if you answered no, then you’re either lying or you’re already a guitar god. In which case, why are you reading this?
Seriously though, there have been so many times when I’ve sat down to practice or work on a new song, and there I am, playing the same thing over and over, just like I did yesterday and the day before…for no reason at all! Noodling is like eating the same old leftovers every day. Sure, I might be having a meal, but how many days in a row can I eat a can of tuna fish…BORING! See this guy below; he does not look inspired!
So how can you stop noodling and start learning? Here are some suggestions:
- Set a specific goal for each practice session. For example, you can decide to learn a new song, a new scale, a new chord progression, a new technique, etc. Having a clear objective will keep you focused and motivated. For instance, if you want to learn how to play blues guitar, you can set a goal to learn the 12-bar blues form, the pentatonic scale, and some blues licks. And don’t just learn them, master them. You don’t want to sound like a wannabe bluesman who just learned the minor pentatonic yesterday.
- Use a metronome or a backing track. Playing along with a steady beat or a musical accompaniment will help you improve your timing, rhythm, and groove. It will also make your practice more fun and challenging. For example, you can use a metronome to practice your alternate picking technique, or a backing track to practice your improvisation skills. And don’t just play along with them, jam with them. You don’t want to sound like a robot who just follows the beat without any expression or variation.
- Record yourself. Listening back to your playing will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and give you feedback on how you can improve. You can also compare your recordings to the original songs or other versions to see how you measure up. For example, you can record yourself playing the intro of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, and then listen to how Slash plays it. And don’t just listen to yourself, critique yourself. Did the recording sound similar or completely different? Either way, it’s OK because you are doing something other than just noodling. Get yourself a DAW (digital audio workstation/ inspiration for DAWtopia), and start laying down some tracks. Logic Pro, Garageband, Ableton Live, or Reaper are all great choices. If you want to stay on beat, having some drums to accompany you would be helpful. Luckily enough, I’ve written a post about virtual drummer plugins that can assist you in selecting a plugin for laying down some drums to spice things up. Or, you can just pull in some drum loops and jam to those.
- Learn from others. Watch videos of your favorite guitarists, take online lessons, join a guitar community, or find a teacher or a mentor. Learning from others will expose you to new ideas, styles, and techniques that will inspire and challenge you. For example, you can watch videos of Jimi Hendrix playing live, take online lessons from Steve Vai, join a guitar forum like Ultimate Guitar, or find a local guitar teacher who can guide you. And don’t just learn from others, emulate them. You don’t want to sound like a copycat who just mimics others without any originality or personality. Mark Zabel, a well-known personality on Youtube, who provides guitar tutorials has some great advice in this video…
- Experiment and explore. Don’t be afraid to try new things and step out of your comfort zone. Play different genres, use different effects, change the tuning, etc. Experimenting and exploring will help you discover new sounds and possibilities that will enrich your musical vocabulary. For example, you can play metal songs with an acoustic guitar, use a wah pedal to create funky sounds, change the tuning to drop D, etc. And don’t just experiment and explore, have fun with them. You don’t want to sound like a nerd who just plays with gadgets without any passion or enjoyment.
Listen, Ya Gotta Get Otta Da Pasta! By following these tips, you will be able to stop noodling and start learning. You will also have more fun and satisfaction with your guitar playing. Remember that learning the guitar is a lifelong journey that requires patience, persistence, and passion. So keep practicing, keep learning, and keep rocking! And if you ever feel like noodling again, just remember this quote by the legendary Eddie Van Halen: “If you want to be a rock star or just be famous, then run down the street naked, you’ll make the news or something. But if you want music to be your livelihood, then play, play, play and play! And eventually you’ll get to where you want to be.”
I would love to hear your suggestions on how to get out of a creative slump and stop the noodling. Feel free to drop your ideas in the comments below. Thank you!
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