What exactly does it mean to be a guitar virtuoso? It’s playing the guitar so well that other people think you’re an accomplished musical genius. While this may seem like an unreachable goal, there are plenty of things you can do to become one yourself, from the most obvious (practice!) to the slightly more out-of-the-box (have fun!). If you want to start on the right track, read on for our seven steps to becoming a guitar virtuoso!
What makes a virtuoso guitarist?
Before we talk about becoming a virtuoso guitarist, let’s discuss what a virtuoso guitarist is and isn’t.
Essentially, it’s someone who has mastered a skill so well that they can demonstrate it at an extremely high level in various ways and settings. In other words, simply playing fast or many notes (as opposed to playing them cleanly and accurately) does not make you a virtuoso. If anything, quickly playing as many notes as possible makes you look like you’re trying hard (and not succeeding).
How to Become a Guitar Virtuoso in 7 Steps
Like most things in life, a true virtuoso takes years of practice to perfect their craft. But if you’re serious about becoming a better guitarist, you can set yourself up for future success by following these steps.
1. Know your basics
If you want to learn guitar well, you’ve got to start at square one. This is true for any instrument, but perhaps especially so for guitar. To become a guitar virtuoso—or even just a competent player—you’ve got to know your scales, chords, and chord progressions inside out. The best way to achieve that is through practice and repetition. And no, it won’t be easy; if it were easy, everyone would be a guitar virtuoso. But if you study hard and stick with it, you will master the guitar in time.
2. Learn chords first, scales second
Whether you want to be a guitar virtuoso or simply a competent strummer, learning how to play chords and scales will help you reach your goal. Scales are great for strengthening finger dexterity, but mastering the chord-playing technique is vital if you want to switch between various chord shapes while playing.
If you’re an aspiring virtuoso guitarist, start with some basic chord shapes and then master a few scale patterns in each key. In time, it will become second nature to quickly change from one chord shape to another, no matter what key signature you’re working in! Make sure that you practice every day, work on your ear training, and focus on putting all of these elements together when you sit down to play music.
3. Focus on improving one skill at a time
Most guitar players focus on improving as many skills as possible at once. While it’s undoubtedly a good idea to work on several areas of your game at once, keep in mind that working too much on multiple areas of weakness at once will make you feel overwhelmed and like you aren’t making any real progress in any area. Focus instead on one skill at a time, and make sure that skill is constantly improving before moving on to another one.
As an example, if you’re struggling with legato technique (and who isn’t?), spend some dedicated time each day working out why your fingers can’t seem to do it; after two weeks or so, when those fingers are finally getting it right every single time (or close), then start spending some extra practice sessions focusing on alternate picking.
4. Understand music theory
Before you can become a great guitarist, you need to have a fundamental understanding of music theory. Thankfully, there are many free resources online, such as music theory apps, that can help you learn everything from reading music to playing in different keys and time signatures.
While some may hesitate at paying for lessons, it’s important to remember that practice alone sometimes won’t get you very far–knowing why your notes sound so good (or bad) goes a long way towards learning more efficiently.
5. Follow a practice routine
Routine is everything when it comes to practicing and mastering the guitar. Having a guitar practice routine means you’ll be more likely to practice consistently, which in turn means that you’ll progress faster.
People who develop practice routines tend to get better faster than those who don’t have a routine in place. Be sure to take some time when practicing and focus on your bad habits. Set up shorthand reminders to fix them if possible.
6. Don’t stress about speed
It’s easy to feel anxious about being a new student—feeling like you don’t have enough experience, or if only I could move faster. One of the great things about music is that you never run out of room to grow. Every time you pick up your guitar, there’s something new for you to learn—and there’s always an opportunity to become more fluent and virtuosic with it.
The key is not hurrying your growth. If you ever find yourself rushing through practice, step back and take some deep breaths; take your time practicing instead of playing as fast as possible (this will come later). Keep track of how many hours you spend practicing each week—each month, it will be encouraging to see just how far you can go!
7. Have fun while practicing
When you’re practicing, don’t just think of it as a way to master guitar. Think of it as a fun activity that will teach you discipline and help your musical talent blossom. Stay positive; playing the guitar is supposed to be fun! If you spend most of your practice time dreading what comes next, something is wrong. Keep learning new things about music until you find an approach to practice that works for you. The more fun you have with music in general, the better off you’ll be.
For many musicians, learning to play the guitar well enough to be considered a virtuoso seems like an impossible feat. After all, not only does this involve mastery of the instrument’s fretboard and general physics of sound, but you also need to be able to master some other essential guitar skills on top of that to be considered a guitar virtuoso.
With that said, there are still plenty of things you can do to become better at playing the guitar and eventually achieve your goal of becoming a true guitar virtuoso! You have to put in enough practice and stay persistent with your goals.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.