Back when I was about 17, I decided it was high time I finally overcame my technical limitations on the guitar. They were holding me back from the music I wanted to play, and I knew that focusing on them in the right way would give me a freedom on the guitar that I’d not yet experienced.
So, I sat down on the first day…and had no idea what to play! It was very frustrating: I thought I’d known exactly how I’d go about this for months, but I just ‘didn't have time to do it’. But here I was with a definite aim in mind, but no idea how to get there. So I decided I needed to solve two problems:
What do I practice?
How do I practice it?
The first question seemed easy: I wanted to get better technically, so I should practice those techniques. But which ones? You probably already know that there is a nose-bleed-inducing amount of guitar exercises out there. So I had to get more specific again: WHY did I want to improve these techniques? And then it hit me: so I can call upon them in any way I want when I’m improvising. Now I had a better idea of what to practice: I needed to take the techniques I wanted to master and create/find exercises that would improve my freedom: play on every string, zip in and out of them, change positions, use them as fast or as slow as I wanted. After about a week, I had a pretty good list of thing to practice that I was totally confident would give me the freedom I was looking for on guitar.
Now, how do I practise them? We’ve all seen those guitarists who are all technique and no feel, and, for me at least, that’s not what I wanted to be. So I needed a way to integrate these techniques into my creative mind: to use them as tools for me to adapt however I wanted, and not have them dictate what I can play. Then I came up with the Level System:
Level 1: Get it under your fingers
Level 2: Find your speed
Level 3: Reach your tempo goal
Level 4: Apply to different scales, positions and strings
Level 5: Apply to improvising
Level 6: Develop it
I found by following these levels (the method and details for how to actually do so with every technique is mapped out in the ‘Complete Guitar Freedom’ ebook on my website) I could take any technique, song, chord shape and way of playing from a complete unknown to me, to a complete extension of the way I play. I followed these step deliberately for about a year straight, logging everything I did. And still to this day I follow these steps, though they are now woven together and much more natural.
I firmly believe if you follow these steps you can master anything on the guitar, it just takes time and patience. But I found that these steps were so effective that patience was the last thing I had to work on: I could see my improvement week on week, and that was enough to keep me going!
For a full complete explanation of the Level System, as well as step by step guidance on every technique - including alternate picking, legato, tapping, fingerstyle and more - grab a copy of my ebook ‘Complete Guitar Freedom’ and let me know what area of your playing it helps you with the most!