1) Repetition – The first might seem a bit obvious, but even I take it for granted. When you have a wife, kids, full time day job, band, rent house, bills, blah, blah and blah… it might be a little hard to find time to practice. But this is el numero uno if you want to become a better guitarist. Or better anything for that matter. I always say “Whatever you put into something, is what you will get back from it”. After all if you seldom practice and are lazy, how can you expect to become the next Steve Vai? Even 5 minutes a day can greatly help along the way. I’ve made it a point to grab my guitar at several points during my day when I’ve got a few minutes to spend, and simply run through a few scales. I mean it when I tell you it helps. It keeps your fingers familiar with the fret board. Have you ever gone 2 weeks without playing a single note? Your fingers feel a bit slow and unfamiliar the next time you do play. Don’t be lazy when it comes to practice. How bad do you want it?
2)Practice with a metronome – This idea here is often overlooked but I believe it can mean the difference between and good guitarist and a professional sounding guitarist. I’ve seen dozens of people who had some super fast fingers, hot licks and a fair amount of knowledge on guitar but honestly just sounded sloppy. Their down strokes and plucks are ahead of the beat, behind the beat, nowhere near the beat and they just seem unpolished. Guitar is not a percussion instrument, but you must be able to play on beat. It’s definitely a rhythmic instrument. Getting used to playing to a click will benefit your playing without a doubt and will actually help you to appear more professional. There are software metronomes you can download from the internet if you don’t have a hardware peice. Dig a little and I bet you can find a free one. But do it! It will tighten up your playing, and give you an edge if you wind up in the studio.
3)Play with musicians that are better than you – I can tell you from personal experience that this works without a doubt. If you find yourself always jamming with ammatures or musicians well below your playing level, you will more than likely find yourself not being challenged and your advancement will slow down or cease altogether. When you play with musicians that are professional, or at least better than yourself you will constantly learn new things, be challenged and improve on your skills almost without even realizing it. It doesn’t mean you have to blow off your buddies or find a new band, but do your best to find more advanced musicians to be around and play with. You won’t regret it.
I hope these tips help you guys out. Without a doubt they have made a difference in my playing. Drop me a line if you would like to read about something specific. Cheers!