STEP LEARNING - Pick Guitar Aaron Curtis

Go to content

Main menu



"There`s work to be done so let`s do it but little by little" - Bob Marley, "Wake Up And Live"


"You`ve got to get it mentally, and you`ve got to get it mechanically" - Otis Rush

Many guitar players do not get the most from their valuable practice time. The main reason is a lack of focus - either their concentration is not good while practising, or what they practice is not directed as well as it could be. I have developed the Step Learning method to help overcome these problems. The approach is simple - if you were climbing a flight of stairs, would you try to jump to the top, or would you take one, maybe two steps at a time? Now, that might seem a crazy question, but jumping to the top is exactly what many guitar players try to do!

My experience in the last eight years using and teaching this simple method is that it can greatly accelerate a player's ability to make progress.

Step Learning can be applied to anything you practice on the guitar. Here, I am showing you how to use it in two different situations; practising a scale. And practising a lick. Take your time and practice the method as shown - before long you`ll be using it naturally in practice, and your playing will show the difference!


You can practice using any one of the elements, or combine them any way you like.


In any piece there are most likely a few places you have problems, while the rest you can play OK. Instead of wasting time practising all of it, first, break it down to the parts that need your attention.

Find out if the problem is in the right or left hand. Then you can break it down further by practising the left and right hands separately. Check out the scale and lick examples. The ultimate way to break a piece down is by steps.


First, find the problem - the spot where you lose time or miss notes. It will help to record yourself playing.

Select a group of two or more notes around this point. (See LOOP). Whatever the time value of notes in the piece, play all notes equal length when you step.

Set your metronome to a comfortable speed for eighth notes ( two notes to a beat).

Play the first note only, making sure that timing, fingering and pick directions are all correct. Repeat if necessary, playing on the beat. Make sure you're relaxed and holding the guitar naturally.

Add the next note of the sequence, and play. Rest for one beat and repeat, as necessary.

When you can play these two comfortably, add the third note, and repeat as in the previous step. Allow at least one beat between repetitions to rest and prepare.

Continue adding notes in this way. Repeat each step as many times as you need to.

Any time you find you`re missing notes, go back to the previous step for a moment, then proceed.

As well as using this method to learn new guitar music, you can use it to build speed. Use the same method, but practice at a metronome setting a little quicker than you can play the piece, and step.


Wherever possible, practice playing your piece looped. Choose a group of notes that can be repeated smoothly. At a comfortable speed, play and repeat several times without a pause. For example, a scale can be looped easily by playing up, coming back down and repeating, on the whole scale or any part you need to work on. If you can loop a piece like this up to speed, you know you can play it OK when you need to.


To maintain the best quality of practice, be sure to rest between stages as necessary for a few moments. Relax.

When practising steps, rest and relax between repetitions.

Practice using this method and you may progress faster than you thought possible! Remember


Note : On these pages I can only show you some of the approaches of Step Learning, not the details of how to apply techniques. Whatever aspect of technique you`re practising, make sure everything is right while you practice; otherwise, you`ll be learning the wrong way! If you`re in doubt about any aspect of technique, consult a good teacher.

Back to content | Back to main menu