How to Break Bad Guitar Performance Habits

Look, almost every guitar player out there would like to be a virtuoso. And the thing is, it's not only about the technique and shredding, but also about having the full "vocabulary" of scales and chords, as well as the creative ability to play phrases that are fitting for the style. After a while, every guitar player faces the problem of bad performance habits. It's either the same old "library" of licks they use, bland or poor vibrato, or uninteresting rhythmic patterns that make everything sound like it's "in the grid."

But worry not, as these bad habits are something you can get out of. The difficult part is – there are no definitive exercises for this. You can't just take this one exercise and repeat it until you get things right. There are a few different factors involved in the process that can help you make your playing more interesting and convincing.

So let's see, what is it that you can do to get out of these bad habits?

Learning more music theory

While there are plenty of naysayers, claiming that music theory limits one's creativity and makes their music dull, this couldn't be further from the truth. The thing is, music theory and these sets of rules should be your servant and not the master. Look at it as a certain tool, or set of tools, that's here to help you express yourself better through music.

And it's not all just about implementing countless scales, time signatures, and chord extensions in just one musical piece. It's about knowing how to incorporate every element in order to make a meaningful piece or a solo section.

Listening and learning new genres

It's not unusual for guitar players to get stuck to a very narrow scope of musical styles, sometimes even just a few specific artists. While you might be a huge fan of a certain genre, it's always a good idea to try and take a listen to something new. Even if you feel like it's the type of music you absolutely cannot stand, try and give it a go. There are always new elements in there that will teach you new things.

The next step is to start learning how to play these songs. Learn all the melodies, chord progressions, and chord inversions used in these new songs. Maybe you'll even start liking these new genres. You'll never know unless you try.

Play just on a limited number of strings

One of the best ways to get familiar with your guitar fretboard is to limit yourself to a certain number of strings. For instance, play the same melody on just the third and fourth string, and then try it on fourth and fifth strings. Or, even better, you can go hardcore mode and try it with non-consecutive strings – like the second and fourth or the first and third.

This way, you'll get better at handling different solos, implementing different "voices" on your guitar, and will be able to avoid hitting those "wrong" notes.

Always listen closely to what you're doing and try to feel the music

It may sound weird, but guitar players often tend to forget to listen. They'll just start shredding in minor pentatonic over this chord progression or a musical piece without thinking of the "full picture." Every musical style and a song has its own vibe or emotion that it's trying to send across to the listener. It's up to you, as a performer, to capture this and bring a proper lead section to the musical piece.

With this in mind, don't forget to closely listen to the song in the context of the genre and the message that you're sending across. Yeah, there's somewhat of a negative connotation about guitar players relying too much on their "feel." But combined with music theory knowledge and some basic genre rules, you'll be able to enhance your performance and, most importantly, bring great music to your listeners.

Add a new dimension to improvisation

There is, however, one exercise that may help you improve your improvisation and break out of the same old licks. Take your metronome, set it to a slower tempo, and slowly start playing random stuff all around the fretboard in the quarter or eight notes. Avoid any of the standard licks, scales, and patterns that you're used to.

After a while, when you get used to it, start singing along to what you're playing. This way, you'll connect the music you're hearing in your head to what you're playing on the instrument. Instead of playing mechanically, you'll be able to actually perform the music that you want to perform.

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