How to get back into guitar after a summer off

If you’re like most students, you probably didn’t pick up your instrument much over the summer.  Here are a few tips on how to get back into the swing of things.

Guitar strings and set up
Now is not a bad time to look at new guitar strings.  Guitar strings should be changed on a regular basis. High end professionals will have their strings changed between songs. *See story at the bottom.  Gigging bar musicians will change their strings after every show. Amateur musicians, students and garage band musicians should change their strings after about 100 hours of playing.  In reality, you probably only change your strings when your teacher tells you to, once a year maybe. It always amazes me how much better a guitar sounds with new strings.  To make your new year all the more enjoyable, take a look at changing the strings before you begin. Take your guitar to a knowledgeable person that can tell you if it is set up properly.  Summers are usually dry here in Calgary and things may have shifted. A poorly set up guitar can ruin a guitar students lessons. If the strings are too far of the fret it will be difficult to play and we all know it’s already hard enough to play without a bad set up to slow you down.

Your Physical Being
Do you stretch before playing?  You probably should.  I have seen some amazing young guitar players forced to quit playing due to repetitive strain injuries. Here is a link to a great video showing you how to stretch.

Start off slow.  Begin with some easy scales and repeat these to get your fingers warmed up. If you don’t have any major scales in your repertoire then do a basic chromatic spider exercise, See this video.

Gross motor skills will degrade after long period of time but return quickly, it would take years for you to not be able to ride a bike well and if you hopped back on after 20 years you would regain that skill quickly.  Guitar uses fine motor skills and unfortunately, these will degrade much faster, so don’t expect perfection when you pick the guitar back up. The finger exercises that utilize all fingers will help you regain those skill quicker.

Do these exercises every day and when they feel more comfortable start harder exercises, this advice isn’t just for starting up after a break but is useful all the time for guitar.

Start playing a song that you were good at before, something comfortable.  If you are learning to read, go back and do some songs that should be easy. Do not hop into a difficult piece, leave that for a few days and do something that will give you success right away.

Fingers sore?
Yep, you’ve probably lost all the calluses that protected your fingertips and they will hurt again. Of course, this is only temporary and you will gain them back.  How quickly you gain them back depends on how much you play.

Some quick Tips

  • Be patient, don’t rush and don’t expect greatness right away
  • Play with purpose, don’t just noodle away
  • Set a practice time and stick to it
  • Do not skip days, even if you can only play for 15 minutes, do it!!!!