There are lots of guitar exercises available from many sources. Probably more you can ever master. In this situation choosing the ones for your practice routine becomes real art. How do you know that those you've selected will give you the best results and working on them would be a good time investment?
In the article I'll give you a few useful tips that would help you choose more consciously what to practice in order to move forward.
1. Know the results that you want
First of all, you need to be aware of the results that you want for yourself. If you don't know what you want to achieve, it's impossible to choose items for your practice routine that would bring the best results. For instance, blues players need to practice different things in order to master their genre than heavy metal players. If you just practice the exercises that you accidentally bump into hoping to improve your skills rather than consciously choose the things that you need to practice, you just wander around.
2. Observe your playing
The exercises you incorporate into your practice routine should fit not only your goals, but also your current abilities and should be designed to move you forward. For example, if you know the theory behind the Major scale and you can apply it on fretboard but you have no clue about modes of this scale and how to use them, that's probably the next thing you want to focus on. Looking from the other direction, if you've learned all the arpeggio shapes around the fretboard but you don't know how do they relate to the scales they're part of, you should focus on that.
Become aware of what you know already and what skills you have and what still needs to be learned in order to move forward. Having that knowledge, you'll be able to better answer the question about what to practice next.
3. Quality vs. Quantity
Is it better to learn many complimentary exercises and practice them at the same time (for example 5 legato exercises in one practice session) or to focus on one at a time?
Let's imagine you want to improve your legato. Learning 5 exercises at one time only to forget them in a minute won't improve your technique significantly. It's all about mastery. Focus on one exercise and really master it. You will notice the best results when you build proper muscle memory first, so take your time to focus on one exercise at a time covering each aspect of playing (legato, alternate picking, sweep picking, tapping etc.).
On the other hand, keep it fun. Focusing on one exercise doesn't mean you have to lock yourself in your room for hours just to master it. 15 minutes of focused practicing one specific exercise is enough. Keep it fun (choose an exercise you enjoy) and challenging at the same time. Escaping your comfort zones while enjoying yourself is the fastest way to move forward!
4. Extract exercises from your favorite songs
You can look for exercises in the songs of your favorite bands (especially if they have some challenging parts within them). If you want to improve string skipping, look for measures that will help you develop this technique and make an exercise based on them. It can be even one measure but the connection in your mind with the song that you like will add a fun element to practicing.
Different exercises and techniques need to be practiced more or less often (depending on your goals and the level of mastery of the technique/exercise). Things that you already know well and can execute cleanly don't need to be practiced very often and for a long time. However, if you want to master something you're struggling with, you should practice it more often and for a longer time (depending on how long you can maintain your focus on the exercise).
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About The Author:
- guitarist, songwriter and guitar instructor. Currently working on his first solo album.