This is a concept that can be applied to both hands on the guitar. For this short tip, we are going to focus on how it applies to the picking hand, but you can take the same principles and apply them to the fret hand.
Pick up your guitar and play the following:
Ideally, video yourself on your phone when you play it. Now watch the video. How far is your hand moving the pick? Each time you move the pick through the string, how far away from the string do you then move it? It is quite common for new students and self taught players to move the pick nearly 1 cm away from the string, which is a lot! When you move the pick away from the string, you then have to move it back to the string in order to do the next pick stroke. Ideally, the pick shouldn’t move more than 2 mm at the absolute most from the string.
Have a go at playing the above exercise again, this time making sure your pick doesn’t move more than 2 mm away from the string. Take your time, you should be making these movements really slowly – this is not about speed, but about accuracy. Make sure you are nice and relaxed while doing it – it is easy to tense up when you are mentally focusing on creating a specific movement on the guitar.
This is the sort of exercise that, if you spend 10 minutes a day on it for a couple of months, for example as a warm up, it can start to create big changes to your playing.
It is all about being aware of each movement we have to make with each part of our body, knowing the right way to do that movement, and knowing how to train ourselves to be able to execute that movement subconsciously. That is what we are working towards.