Guitar Practice Tips

What does it take to BE A GREAT GUITARIST?

By John Gilliat

During my last tour, Brent (my group’s bassist) and I were discussing our practice routine and what it takes to succeed playing our instruments. I mentioned to him how people will tell Me I have such a gift for playing the guitar and even though I am extremely flattered, my subconscious is grumbling back at me "It's not a gift; it's an extreme amount of never ending HARD WORK!

Brent's reply to me was it is not that we are born with a magical ability to learn our instrument effortlessly. The "Real Gift" is that we have the motivation & drive to learn and study at all costs! Never to give up! We have a real burning desire to learn and play. If we let the instrument sit untouched too long, a piece of our being disappears. (Similar to feeling a loss of a good friend who has moved away)

So... What is it that drives me to pick up the guitar and to begin learning to play? How do you find that burning desire (the gift) to becoming a great guitarist?

The desire comes from discovering, seeing and listening to great professional guitarists. For me, it is guitarist such as David Gilmore (Pink Floyd), Joe Satriani, Steve Morse (Deep Purple), Joe Pass (Jazz), Django Rienhardt (Jazz), Tony Rice (country), Paco DeLucia (Flamenco), and my current guitar idol... Vicente Amigo. When I grow up, I am going to be just like all of them! It's so exciting; there is so much to learn from these guys!

Every time I need a shot of desire to get me practicing and playing, I would put on a cd or DVD of any of my favorite guitar heros! Instantly! That feeling comes over me... "I WANT TO BE JUST LIKE THEM"

So... How do you become just like them?

Identify whom you idolize and want to be like. Buy the book or instructional DVD on how to play like your guitar hero. If you have the book and are not working through it then its back to step 1. Listen again to your hero for the renewed desire and start playing.

If the instructional book or DVD is too difficult, find a good teacher. "Not Just Any Teacher" But a good teacher who can teach you specifically to learn to play like your hero. If you are not sure were to find such a teacher call the musicians association closest to you and ask for phone numbers to musicians who play the style of music that interests you. Get out and see them play for maybe a little more inspiration and well as to judge if they can play the music you most desire to learn. Most musicians do teach privately and really love teaching students interested in the same style they love to play.

Is your guitar hero's music is too difficult for you to play now? A good musician/teacher will be able to teach you the techniques necessary to grow into your hero’s music or will be able to water your hero's music down so it is playable at your current level.

The very first thing I do with my own students is make a list of their guitar hero's and the music styles & songs they wish to learn. I then taylor my lessons so they can achieve there goals at their own pace.


After years & years of study and practicing, I have discovered learning the instrument is a life long venture. You get out of it what you put in. Accept that it takes time and most importantly, you have to learn to enjoy the process!

Be sure to share what you are playing with others, even if it is just a family member or friend. Your hard work to learn a piece of music should be given to others as your gift to them.

The biggest payoff learning guitar has ever given me is the joy it gives to others. If you end up getting an opportunity to perform for a large audience and your performance is long enough to get past the nerves. The payoff is an amazing euphoria. You can't buy drugs that give you the natural high and energy I feel when every thing is clicking and we're in the performance zone!

If you are asked to play something, and you are to nervous, try what one of my students does. He will tell everyone, "I'm just going to sit and practice a few songs; you’re more than welcome to listen. It will be rough and I will make a few mistakes, I may even stop to work out a section or two." This approach is great because it allows you permission to relax and not worry about getting it right.

Another great way to begin performing is to find another guitarist to practice with and perform together. This approach will create some amazing results in accelerating your journey to becoming a great guitarist. Working with others will motivate you to practice more because you will not want to let your partner down when playing together. As a bonus, when you perform together, the focus is off you and you have each other to lean on to get you through the music.

Another bonus to working with a partner is that he or she may also introduce you to their guitar hero’s and share with you what he has learned. I have accelerated my learning greatly by performing and rehearsing with other great players.


One thing I've learned is no matter how bad I though my performance was, there are people listing that absolutely loved it, and some that I have moved to tears.

I guess that is really what the "GIFT" is all about. So do what you love and try to share it with others! Your performance, your gift, as simple or complex as the music is to learn and play could touch someone in a way you never counted one! How Wonderful Is That!

Best wishes to all you aspiring musicians & check the website for more lessons, music, videos, news, & stories.

Visit The John Gilliat Group on the web:

"Discover Passionate & Fiery Guitar Music That Will Energize You, Soothe Your Soul, and Let Your Spirits Soar!"


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