Guitar Pro 8 is an incredibly helpful program that can be used in a variety of different ways to improve your skills on guitar, work on techniques, build confidence in music theory, or even write your own music.
I personally use Guitar Pro 8 to work on my technique and skills and in this guide, I will share three helpful ways you can get the most out of it.
If you don’t already have Guitar Pro 8, check out my thorough review here to learn what GP8 is and what it can do for you.
Note: this lesson will work whether you use Guitar Pro 8 or Guitar Pro 7. The screenshots are from GP7 but GP8 users will find that the layouts are identical between the two versions.
Method 1: Use the Speed Trainer to work on difficult riffs, licks, or solos
When it comes to learning complicated guitar parts, repetition is king. Repetition is how you push something from “good enough” to “mastered”.
But merely playing the lick or solo over and over isn’t going to push you to a higher skill level.
This is where Guitar Pro’s Speed Trainer comes in.
The speed trainer allows you to start at a tempo where you feel confident playing the lick, then it will repeat it over and over while gradually raising the tempo.
Every time you repeat the lick, you’ll be playing it slightly faster. This gradual building up of tempo is how you can eventually learn lightning-fast licks and scale runs with ease.
Step 1: Highlight a part you want to practice
To use this tool, start by highlighting the section you want to work on.
In the below screenshot, I’ve highlighted a scale run I want to practice:
You have a few options when working on something like this.
The first option is to select the entire lick and use the tool to repeat it over and over. This is the best approach for short licks or scale runs that last up to 3 or 4 bars. Anything longer and you’ll probably be better off in the beginning by breaking it into parts.
The second option is to break the section into parts and work on one part at a time. So if you’re practicing a long solo, break the solo down into small sections. Highlight one section of the solo and work on it for a while before moving on to the next section.
The last option is to include some of the song before the part you want to practice. This is a great way to get used to incorporating complicated parts into the rest of the song. So if you find that you get stuck jumping into a fast solo from the rhythm parts, highlight one or two bars before the solo and practice changing from rhythm into the solo.
Step 2: Find a suitable starting tempo
The best approach is to start the speed trainer at a tempo lower than what you feel comfortable playing.
Starting the speed trainer at a slow tempo lets you ease into the practice and focus your attention on playing every note perfectly.
Start at a tempo that feels too easy, then as the speed trainer gradually increases the tempo, it will bring you to a range that really starts to push your abilities.
In this example, let’s say I can already play the scale run comfortably at 120bpm.
A good starting place for my initial tempo if I can already play at 120bpm would be 90 or 100 bpm. At this tempo, the scale run will feel easy and I can focus on making sure I play every single note in perfect time with what I hear from Guitar Pro.
Once you find a suitable starting tempo, first enable looping by clicking this button (or press F9 on your keyboard):
If you hit play, Guitar Pro will repeat this highlighted section over and over. Do this and make sure you’re happy with how it sounds. You can adjust the highlighted section to make sure it sounds natural every time the loop repeats.
Now click the relative speed button to the right of the looping icon (or press Ctrl + F9):
This lets you control the playback speed of the song you’re working on.
You can now select ‘Custom Values’ from the dropdown menu to bring up the speed trainer:
Select the ‘Progressive Speed’ option and in the ‘From’ section, enter your starting tempo:
The tool uses a percentage of the song’s tempo, so play around with this setting until you find the tempo that works for your current skill level of the part you want to practice.
In this example, I’m going to start by practicing the scale run at 50% tempo as my starting tempo.
This song is at 207bpm, so when the speed trainer starts, GP7 will play back at 103bpm (50% of 207bpm). This matches the starting tempo I mentioned in the previous step, so I can go on to the next step.
Remember you can easily raise or lower the starting tempo as needed, so don’t worry about finding the perfect starting tempo on your first attempt.
Just make sure the tempo you set feels almost too easy.
Step 3: Set the tempo build up
The next step is to tell the speed trainer how much it should increase the tempo after each repetition.
The best approach here is to make the increase so small that you don’t even notice the tempo has changed. You want the next repetition to feel almost identical to the one you just played.
Depending on the starting tempo and the length of the lick, you probably only need to set the increase at 1 or 2% per repetition.
If you set it to any higher than 1 or 2% per repetition, you’ll find that the lick quickly spirals out of control as the tempo increases.
In this example, my song is 207bpm, which means a 1% increase will raise the tempo by 2bpm. If your song is 120bpm, a 1% increase will raise your song by 1.2bpm each repetition.
In the below screenshot, you can see that I’ve set the ‘Step’ option to 1% for each repetition:
If you find this increases the tempo too quickly, you can change it so the speed trainer only increases the tempo after a few repetitions. This gives you time to adapt to the current tempo before it increases again.
In the below screenshot, I’ve set the tempo to increase after 3 repetitions and the tempo increase will be 1%:
This is a good way to work on really complicated parts as it gives you plenty of time to work on the current tempo before the speed trainer increases the tempo.
Step 4: Set the maximum tempo
The next step is to tell the speed trainer what the maximum tempo should be.
While it might be tempting to set the maximum tempo to the song’s actual tempo (100%), let’s take a smarter approach.
Your ultimate goal is to be able to play the part at full speed with ease. But it’s a good idea to gradually work up to this level.
The maximum tempo you should set should be the tempo where you start to make mistakes. The only way to find this level is to practice the part with the speed trainer and take note when you start to make mistakes.
Leave the maximum tempo at 100% and click ‘OK’. Hit play and try to play along with the speed trainer.
Pay attention to the tempo section on the screen and as soon as you feel any difficulty in your playing or you make a mistake, take a look at what the relative speed is as shown below:
The above screenshot shows that the current relative speed is 53% and the current tempo is 109bpm. As soon as you find the part starts to feel difficult, look at the current relative speed and use it as your maximum tempo. In this example, I’ve set 70% as my maximum relative speed:
All of the above settings mean:
- The highlighted section will start playback at 50% speed (or 103bpm)
- After three repetitions, the tempo will increase by 1%
- The tempo will continue to increase after every three repetitions until it reaches at speed of 70% (145bpm)
- The highlighted section will continue to loop over and over at the maximum speed of 70% (145bpm)
Hopefully, it’s clear why this is an excellent way to practice anything on guitar. This tool in GP7 gives you complete control over any part you want to work on.
Once your speed trainer settings are ready to go, hit play and start practicing along with Guitar Pro.
As you improve your ability with this part, you can gradually raise the maximum tempo until it is 100% (or higher if you want to push yourself!).
Here are some ideas on what to practice with the speed trainer:
- Full solos, licks, or riffs
- Rhythm parts with the other instruments muted
- Any guitar part while all other instruments except the drums muted
- Create an exercise and use the speed trainer to practice it
The speed trainer is a surprisingly powerful tool when it comes to improving your guitar skills. The more you use it, the more obvious it will be how powerful it is.
Import Audio in Guitar Pro 8
The best new feature in Guitar Pro 8 that wasn’t available in GP7 is the ability to import an audio file to play alongside the Guitar Pro tracks.
This means if you are learning a song, you can load that song into the Guitar Pro file to play along with the transcribed parts.
When you combine this with the Speed Training tool, it becomes an excellent way to practice a song as you can hear the real song slowed down as much as you like.
Follow the step-by-step instructions in my Guitar Pro 8 review to learn how to import audio and sync it with the other tracks.
Method 2: Create exercises for everything
Guitar Pro 8 is great for learning other people’s songs, but it’s also an incredibly easy program for laying down your ideas or songs.
One excellent way you can use Guitar Pro to improve your skills is to use it to create your own exercises. If you follow this method, over time you will build up a collection of helpful exercises to work on different skills and techniques.
While there are plenty of great exercises online, the best exercises are the ones you come up with to work on specific skills relevant to you.
Let’s say you want to improve your bending technique. You want to develop more control over your bends and bend up to the correct pitch every time.
Let’s go through an example of how you could come up with relevant exercises in Guitar Pro and how to practice them.
Step 1: Think about what specific skills you want to practice
In this example, let’s focus on bending up to the correct pitch. After you master that specific skill, you can shift your attention to other related skills such as adding vibrato to your bends, or performing compound bends.
Because we want to work on bending up to the correct pitch, let’s look at different bends we might come across in songs.
The first type of bend is a half-step bend and they look like this in Guitar Pro:
The next type is a whole-step bend and they look like this:
While there are other bends such as one-and-a-half-step or two-step bends (David Gilmour from Pink Floyd uses them often), let’s create an exercise that focuses on the above two bends.
The key point to remember is that before you start coming up with an exercise, be extremely specific on what you want to work on. This will help you come up with relevant exercises.
Step 2: Come up with the basic exercise
We know we want to practice half and whole step bends and we want to focus on bending up to the correct pitch. Now that we have a specific goal in mind, it’s easy to come up with a suitable exercise.
We simply pick a spot to practice the bend and create two bends to work on:
In the above example, we start by bending up a half-step and holding it. Holding the bend for the entire bar will give us a chance to listen to what we’re playing and compare it to what we hear from Guitar Pro.
If the note was properly raised to the right pitch, it will match what we hear from Guitar Pro. If we were inaccurate with our bending, we will be able to hear our mistake and figure out if we were too high or too low.
Then we repeat the exercise with a whole-step bend and hold it.
This might seem like a simple exercise, but it focuses on exactly what we need to work on. It gives us everything we need to practice the skill.
Step 3: Create variations for the exercise
The above exercise is great at helping us work on our bending accuracy, but only in that one position on the fretboard.
To really get the most out of an exercise, we need to create variations to force us to practice the skill in different ways.
With the above exercise, we have plenty of different ways we could mix it up.
Here are some examples of how you could create variations for an exercise:
- Move the exercise to a different position on the fretboard. This is really important to help you feel confident with the entire fretboard and not just certain positions
- Change the rhythm or adjust the tempo. How fast you play something or the rhythm can dramatically change how an exercise feels
- Add in other parts to the exercise. This is a great way to make the exercise feel more like music and less like an exercise
For this simple bending exercise, it’s easy to come up with useful variations.
Here is an example of an extended bending exercise that forces you to practice both half and whole step bends in different positions on the fretboard and at different rhythms:
You can see that the above exercise gives you three bends to practice in each position. Then you shift position and repeat the same pattern using half-step bends.
You can easily copy and paste these parts and move them around the fretboard to practice the same technique in different positions.
The good thing about Guitar Pro is that you can easily change the exercise as you improve your skills. Let’s say you find it easy to bend notes on the top 3 strings, but struggle on the lower 3 strings. Simply shift the bends (highlight the notes then select Note > Shift Down from the menu) to the lower 3 strings and practice them.
Or if you find half-step bends easy but have trouble with whole-step bends, simply change all of the bends to whole-step so you can focus on them.
The key point to remember is that the more variations you practice, the more confident you will be when the skill/technique shows up in a song.
Method 3: Learn to Improvise Over Anything and Everything
Improvising is a fun way to jam along with songs or backing tracks. It gives you a way to work on your creativity, come up with new ideas, or refine your skills.
We can also use improvising as a way to develop our understanding of music. Learning how to improvise over something means you first need to understand what you’re improvising over.
Let’s say you want to improvise over a chord progression. What scales can you play over those chords? What notes should you target over each individual chord?
Or maybe you want to improvise over a riff. How can you figure out what will fit over the top of that riff?
Let’s look at how you can use Guitar Pro to improvise over absolutely anything you want.
How to Check the Key Signature
A good starting point when analyzing music is to see if it fits within a key. If the section you want to improvise over fits perfectly within a key, it makes it really easy to figure out what to play over.
The first place to look to find the key is if the song uses the proper key signature.
To see the key signature, you need to have the Standard notation display turned on. You can turn this on or off on the right panel as shown below:
Once Standard notation is turned on (you can turn it off later if you want), you might see a key signature symbol on the far left of the track as shown below:
If the song you want to improvise over includes a symbol like the one above, it means the person who wrote the transcription has included the key signature.
Click the key signature and it will bring up a window telling you what the key is:
In this example, you can see the key is A Major. The key signature for A Major uses three sharp signs. You can easily see what all the other key signatures look like with the dropdown menu next to ‘Note:’.
With this information, you can move on to the next step.
But what if there isn’t a key signature showing on the file you have? This could mean one of two things.
It could mean the key signature is C Major or A minor because that key signature doesn’t use any sharp or flat symbols. Or it could mean the person who created the file didn’t bother to add in the key signature.
If your file doesn’t show a key signature, don’t worry. Continue to the next step and we’ll look at how to use a handy tool to try and find the key for any section of music.
How to Find Suitable Scales
If your Guitar Pro file shows the key signature, that will quickly give you an idea of what scales to use to improve over the part. But we can go deeper with Guitar Pro’s scales tool.
First, highlight the section of the rhythm guitar track you want to improvise over:
Now go to Tools > Scales. It will bring up a window that looks like this (it will also bring up a fretboard diagram window):
If you ever need to look up a scale, find out what notes are in a scale, or analyze some music, this is a good place to start.
To find the relevant scales that fit over the top of the highlighted music, click the ‘Find Scales from Selection’ button. The window will expand to show something like this:
The list of scales you see shows how closely they match the highlighted music. The scales at the top with the highest accuracy rating are the ones we’re interested in.
If you’re lucky, you might see some scales with a 100% accuracy. That means those scales perfectly fit over the highlighted music.
A 97% accuracy like the scales shown above are also a good match and in theory, they should be 100% based on the highlighted section. So don’t worry if it’s not perfectly 100%.
Click on one of the scales and it will show you the notes within the scale, as well as show the scale on the fretboard diagram. Here is the fretboard diagram when I select ‘A Mixolydian (5th mode of major) from the scales:
You can now use the fretboard diagram to improvise over that section and you’ll hear that all of the notes fit in perfectly with the backing music.
If you play around with different scales, you’ll find that a lot of the scales use the exact same notes, but have different scale names. If you learn music theory, you’ll learn why this happens. But if you just want to improvise, don’t worry about the scale names for now.
If none of the shown scales have a 100% accuracy rating, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at what is going on.
You may find that the top scales sound perfectly fine when improvising. Or one or two notes may stand out as wrong.
In this example, A Mixolydian is a perfect choice for the highlighted section, but only shows an 86% accuracy rating. So don’t worry too much about the ratings shown.
In the next step, we’ll take a closer look at what the music is doing so we can find better scales and focus on notes that work while improvising.
Analyzing Rhythm Parts or Other Instruments
Even if the scale tool found you a scale with a 100% accuracy rating, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at what you’re playing over. The more you understand what you’re playing, the easier it will be to create interesting parts while you improvise.
Taking a look at what the rhythm guitars or other instruments are playing can be all that it takes to separate ‘good’ from ‘great’ improvising.
Let’s go through a couple of examples to see how you can analyze parts to improve your improvising.
Example 1: Let’s say you want to improvise over a guitar riff. You can easily highlight and loop the riff by clicking the ‘Enable Loop’ button (or press F9). Here is an example riff I want to try to improvise over:
But what do you play over the top of it?
The scale tool might suggest some suitable scales, but looking at the notes the riff uses will give you a better idea of what to focus on.
The easy way to do this (if you haven’t already memorized the notes on the fretboard), is to use the fretboard diagram.
Click the options icon (looks like a gear) on the left of the diagram and turn scales off. Click the ‘Show’ dropdown menu and select ‘Beat + Bar’:
This will highlight the notes on the fretboard played in the bar. It’s a great way to visualize all of the notes a riff or part uses on the fretboard at once.
When you improvise, the notes shown on the fretboard diagram are the most important notes to focus on.
Here is what the fretboard diagram shows for the first bar of my highlighted riff:
We can now easily see all the notes played in the first bar of the riff. We see the riff uses the notes A, B, C#, D, E.
Now when we improvise, we can keep those notes in mind and target them to tie in whatever we’re playing with the rhythm guitar.
Example 2: Let’s say you want to improvise over a piano part. There’s a piano track playing chords you don’t recognize, but you want to try and improvise over them.
First, if the Tab view isn’t turned on, you can turn it on if you don’t know how to read Standard notation by clicking this icon in the right panel:
This can help you understand what other instruments are playing by visualizing it in TAB format.
This also shows the instrument’s tuning which is important to check when looking at a piano track. If you download an older Guitar Pro file (eg: .gp5 format), you may find that the piano tracks are written on 7 string guitar tracks or in weird tunings. This is because earlier versions of Guitar Pro didn’t cater well to other instruments.
We can see that this track uses a weird tuning, so the fretboard diagram will be helpful.
Turn on the fretboard diagram and follow the same steps as shown in Example 1 to have the bar’s notes highlighted on the fretboard:
Now you can easily see the notes the piano (or any other instrument) is playing. Keep in mind that many people will split a piano part into two separate tracks to match what the right and left hands are playing. Taking a look at the left-hand parts will give you a good idea of what the chords are based on.
Guitar Pro makes transposing music into different keys extremely easy. Transposing is when you shift everything to a different key, which means you need to use a different scale to improvise with.
As an example, let’s say you’ve just learned the E minor scale across the entire fretboard and you want to practice improvising with it.
If you can find songs that are already in the key of E minor (one sharp symbol in the key signature), that’s great! Simply highlight and loop any section you want to start improvising.
But what if you can’t find a song in that key?
This is where transposing can be helpful. All you need to do to bring a song into the key you want is to find out what key it is currently in and shift all of the tracks up or down to match the key you want.
So if you want to practice playing in E minor and you have a song in D minor, all you need to do is shift the song up from D to E (two semitones up).
To do this, we simply go to Tools > Transpose. This will bring up a window:
Select ‘All Bars’ and ‘All tracks’ to transpose the entire song and all instruments.
If we’re moving from D minor to E minor, we need to transpose the tracks up by two semitones (count the number of frets between the two notes to find the number of semitones).
So we select ‘+2 (Major Second)’ from the dropdown menu:
You’ll see that all of the guitar parts shift up by two frets. Now when you play the song, it will match the key you want.
An alternative method is to change the track’s tuning instead of using the transpose tool. The benefit of changing the tuning is it allows us to transpose down to a lower key if we need to.
To change the track’s tuning, click the Tuning section in the right panel:
This will bring up the tuning window for the track:
Now we can easily shift the tuning up or down as needed by clicking the up or down arrows above the strings.
So if we needed to change a song that is in A minor down to E minor, we need to drop the tuning by 5 semitones. So we click the down arrow five times to detune all strings.
Click the ‘Keep the Fingering’ button to save the tuning without affecting anything else.
Keep in mind you need to repeat this for all instruments (except percussion instruments) or else you’ll end up with a mess of different tunings across the tracks.
The main point to remember is that we can easily shift the tracks in Guitar Pro to match whatever key we want to improvise in.
GP8 users: if you import an audio file into Guitar Pro, you can easily transpose it to match your other tracks.
On the right side of the audio track view, you’ll see controls for Semitones and Cents. You won’t need to use the Cents control in most cases, but the Semitones control will be useful in shifting the audio up or down in pitch.
Improvise over anything
You can learn to improvise over anything by following the above advice. Once you find suitable scales and take a closer look at what the other instruments are playing, you can begin to improvise over strange riffs, complicated chord progressions, or even something as simple as a piano track.
The more you learn about music theory, the easier this process will be. But Guitar Pro’s tools and features can help you if you’re not confident in your music theory understanding. A few clicks and you’ll have all the scale and note information you need to start improvising.
Here are some ideas on what to try improvising over:
- Highlight and loop a short rhythm guitar riff
- Mute any guitar tracks and improvise over the bass or other instrument parts
- Find Guitar Pro files for songs that have no guitar parts at all and improvise over them
- Mute everything except the drums and bass and loop a short section
- Create your own track to improvise over and experiment with mixing up the chords or riffs
- Transpose all of the tracks to practice improvising in a different key
While improvising over backing tracks from YouTube is fun, you can really grow your skills by practicing your improvising with the above ideas.
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To learn more about Guitar Pro 8, check out my in-depth review here.