#1
Hi,

I am on a quest to become the greatest guitar player in the world.

I've been playing for about 3 years and in those 3 years my practice time averaged 4 hours a day. The first two years I studied classical guitar and for the last year I've been studying under a rock guitar teacher. I am studying music as my major in college and I'm currently taking 2nd year theory, music composition, choir, and calculus.

Recently I decided that I am going to devote the rest of my life to perfecting my guitar technique to the highest superhuman level possible.

I practised for 42 hours last week.

One thing I noticed is that my hands were a lot more fatigued than usual. I had about 4 days where I played for 7 hours. I take breaks every 10 or 15 minutes of playing and I am constantly using meditation balls to keep everything in my hand and wrist aligned and alleviate tension. I'm being very careful not to give myself any stress injuries.

This week I'm going to play for a little bit less because I'm trying not to over do things right away and stall my progress from hurting myself. I'll probably stick to about 5 or 6 hours a day and incrementally increase it over the next few months to 8-10 hours a day which I will stick with for the rest of my life.

I'd like to ask some of you guys who are currently (or have in the past) putting in long hours of practice (like 6-8), what is a good way of conditioning your hands to be stronger and more resilient? Is there anything to specifically make your wrist and your tendons stronger? I'd like to be back at the 7+ hour a day level soon.

Also one other question. Is it a good idea to study both classical and rock guitar at the same time? For the past year I have not focused on classical at all, I don't even have a classical guitar any more! Even though I can still play all the repertoire that I learned I'm not advancing or learning anything new and 97% of the time I'm playing with a pick now. I've got some good finger picking skill built up though, I was about 10% of the way done learning the giuliani arpeggios and I had learned some good songs including the A section of Asturias. I'm thinking of maybe devoting an hour or two to classical guitar every day.

Would playing two different styles making me less skilled than if I specialized into one and worked on it exclusively? Or would they feed into each other and synergize? Please let me know your thoughts on this, classical + electric players especially.
#2
I only skimmed through the long post, but I'd say it's good to study rock and classical at the same time, helps broaden your skill sets and makes it less boring I guess. That training scheme seems good, but just be careful, sooner or later you'll probably get an injury like that, even though you take care of your joints. Stuff like that happens.

If you have the available time and your willing to give the effort needed, I think it's a great idea to spread your skills, that's how you could become a session guitarist, and they make good money.

EDIT: Oh and don't know of any way to improve your joints resilience, other than just taking fewer hours if they begin to hurt.
Last edited by anubiz03 at Sep 29, 2009,
#5
Quote by Fetus Milkshake
8-10 hours? Dont you have work or school? WTF? That is way too much, and, IMO, ridiculous.


Well apparently he's doing music at college, so I wouldn't be surprised if he practised that much (although it'd be over a split up over the day I'm guessing. 8-10 hours straight would be pretty ridiculous).
#6
Well, first of all, massive respect for having the guts to dream big about where you want to go as a musician. It might sound naive to some to set your sights on becoming the best guitarist in the world - and sure, the odds are pretty astronomical. But if you don't even try - well, the odds go from astronomical to infinity.
So anyway, on to your questions. I have some experience with long hours of practice. Not quite to your extreme. A very heavy month for me is 100 hours. But that is 100 hrs of pure practice time (breaks not included), so yeah, I'm putting a fair bit of time in. I'll regularly hit 5 hrs on Saturdays and Sundays, occasionally 6. I've got it to where there is a little fatigue at times, but pretty minor. Here's what I've found that has worked for me:

1) Stretch thoroughly before playing. And not just wrists/forearms/hands. Massage your shoulders, upper back, and neck. It's all connected, so stretching your hands is not going to help if there is a big old knot in your shoulders. I also find the stretching very good for relaxing mentally before playing and starting to get myself into the zone.
2) Once you're done with the stretching, warm-up thoroughly - a good 10-15 mins. You need something that you play slowly, uses all 4 fingers, and requires some finger independence. After that, I'll start getting into stuff that's a bit more strenous, but gradually. I won't hit anything really strenous (big stretches, awkward fingering, fast, etc) until at least an hour in.
3) Right on the money about regular breaks. I do 30 mins on, 10 off. This also helps BIG TIME with the focus factor. It's hard to stay fully focused for periods much longer than that without coming up for air.
4) In addition to stretching before playing, stop now and again while you're practicing and stretch for 30 secs or a minute.
5) Pay major attention to your technique. The better your technique, the less burden you're putting on your hands and wrists.
6) Take a day off each week. As much as you want to keep working on everything you are working on, your brain needs time to absorb what you are feeding it, and your body needs time to heal. You will improve faster, not slower, if you do this.
7) Quality over quantity. I don't think you necesarily need to go to 8-10 hrs/day like you mentioned. In fact, this would be extremely hard to maintain for the long haul. Think about it like this. You are practicing 4 hrs/day, and wish to improve faster. One way to do it is to practice 5 hrs a day instead. Though it's not a 1:1 relationship with improvement, that is 25% more practice. But what if you looked at it like this instead - how do I make my 4 hrs 25% more productive? More focus, improved skills at spotting problems in your playing, improved skills at picking the right remedy, etc, etc. I'm sure you are doing this since you are so serious about your goals, but I would always approach it as first, how can I get more out of my existing practice hours, and only after that, how do I get more practice hours.

Regarding classical guitar - I'm sure that this will complement your electric playing. A couple of months ago, I got myself a 6 string bass, after years of piddling around once every couple of months with a crappy old bass I had lying around. I've been giving it a consistent 20-30 mins a night after guitar practice. On the surface of things this should be wrecking havoc on my muscle memory - the strings are bigger, further apart, require more pressure, hell the 1st string is tuned to C, rather than B like the 2nd string on a guitar. Instead, I've noticed a considerable bump in my guitar playing.

Well, I'm about all typed out. I hope this helps a bit.
Last edited by se012101 at Sep 29, 2009,
#7
As for building up strength and stamina, I would say just do what you're doing. Build it up bit by bit. When I started I was lucky if I could go for an hour straight, now I can do 7 hours straight without the slightest difficulty.

And definitely do both rock and classical. They compliment each other nicely I find.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
#8
Quote by Fetus Milkshake
8-10 hours? Dont you have work or school? WTF? That is way too much, and, IMO, ridiculous.

Ha ha, well... I don't work, I go to school full time and I'm studying music.

I don't have a girlfriend, I don't watch TV, I don't play video games. That leaves me with a lot of free time.

Quote by se012101
Well, first of all, massive respect for having the guts to dream big about where you want to go as a musician. It might sound naive to some to set your sights on becoming the best guitarist in the world - and sure, the odds are pretty astronomical. But if you don't even try - well, the odds go from astronomical to infinity.

Thank you very much for that. People laugh or don't believe me or think I'm crazy when I tell them what I am doing with my life. And I'm not shy about it, if someone asks I'll tell them. I've got unyielding and uncompromising confidence in myself. I mean if you don't believe in yourself who's going to right?

And thanks a lot for your advice on the subject of long practice, it's very enlightening.

Specifically,

1) Stretch thoroughly before playing. And not just wrists/forearms/hands. Massage your shoulders, upper back, and neck. It's all connected, so stretching your hands is not going to help if there is a big old knot in your shoulders. I also find the stretching very good for relaxing mentally before playing and starting to get myself into the zone.

Wow, this is something so simple and it makes so much sense but I'd never thought about doing. After reading what you wrote I realize that I sometimes do this subconsciously during breaks from playing. I'll be stretching before every practice session.

2) Once you're done with the stretching, warm-up thoroughly - a good 10-15 mins. You need something that you play slowly, uses all 4 fingers, and requires some finger independence. After that, I'll start getting into stuff that's a bit more strenous, but gradually. I won't hit anything really strenous (big stretches, awkward fingering, fast, etc) until at least an hour in.

I start my practice every day with Joe Satriani's finger crossing excercise, I'm not sure the name but if you go on youtube he calls it a "tongue twister for your fingers." It really helps getting centered and warmed up. But I follow this excercise with the descending an ascending legato excercise from Pumping Nylon starting at the 5th fret all the way to the highest fret. This adds up to something like a couple hundred hammer-ons and pull-offs in a row and I now realize that it's probably a pretty strenuous excercise to start out with so I will be revising my practice order a bit and put all the easiest stuff in the first hour.

5) Pay major attention to your technique. The better your technique, the less burden you're putting on your hands and wrists.

Definately I've been slowing down a bit more and trying to listen as close as I can and be aware as I can be about what my hands are doing. Last week I started out playing every scale in whole notes at 60 bpm instead of going at quarter notes right away and it has made a very significant difference on my articulation when I'm playing up to tempo.

I'll remember to slow down (really slow) and give complete awareness to everything that I play, not just scales.

6) Take a day off each week. As much as you want to keep working on everything you are working on, your brain needs time to absorb what you are feeding it, and your body needs time to heal. You will improve faster, not slower, if you do this.

I never thought of this. I'll try it this week and see how it goes.

7) Quality over quantity. I don't think you necesarily need to go to 8-10 hrs/day like you mentioned. In fact, this would be extremely hard to maintain for the long haul. Think about it like this. You are practicing 4 hrs/day, and wish to improve faster. One way to do it is to practice 5 hrs a day instead. Though it's not a 1:1 relationship with improvement, that is 25% more practice. But what if you looked at it like this instead - how do I make my 4 hrs 25% more productive? More focus, improved skills at spotting problems in your playing, improved skills at picking the right remedy, etc, etc. I'm sure you are doing this since you are so serious about your goals, but I would always approach it as first, how can I get more out of my existing practice hours, and only after that, how do I get more practice hours.

For sure, I'm generally very focused during practice but sometimes I catch my mind drifting though so I could still work on that to make the hours that I'm putting in right now more productive.

Regarding classical guitar - I'm sure that this will complement your electric playing. A couple of months ago, I got myself a 6 string bass, after years of piddling around once every couple of months with a crappy old bass I had lying around. I've been giving it a consistent 20-30 mins a night after guitar practice. On the surface of things this should be wrecking havoc on my muscle memory - the strings are bigger, further apart, require more pressure, hell the 1st string is tuned to C, rather than B like the 2nd string on a guitar. Instead, I've noticed a considerable bump in my guitar playing.

Quote by Junior#1
And definitely do both rock and classical. They compliment each other nicely I find.

That's awesome. I will be cracking open my Fredrick Noad classical method book this weekend. I've really missed classical playing. Rock and roll is beautiful and my primary goal is to learn all the music of Jimi Hendrix and eventually surpass him as a guitarist. But there is a lot of great classical music too and some utterly amazing classical players that I want to emulate. I stopped playing because I didn't want anything to get in the way of my main goal, but if it will help instead of hinder me I would love to be able to do both.
#10
Quote by RahulGuitarHero
Ha ha, well... I don't work, I go to school full time and I'm studying music.

I don't have a girlfriend, I don't watch TV, I don't play video games. That leaves me with a lot of free time.



You do know that this probably wont be the situation all your life, right? Having said that, I dont think that 8 hours of practice a day is ridiculous- there was a time when I was doing 10.

I don't think there is anything I can add to what se012101 has said, other than just be aware that if you want to get a job (and I'm sure you do)- even a job playing guitar- you'll struggle to fit in 8 hours of solid "practising". Therefore you probably want to focus more on making the hours that you have more productive.

I've written a blog post about this subject. Although I'm not saying you need help with your practise routine
#12
Quote by RahulGuitarHero

And thanks a lot for your advice on the subject of long practice, it's very enlightening.

You're welcome! I'm glad it helped. It's well worth typing it out if it's going to help someone.



I start my practice every day with Joe Satriani's finger crossing excercise, I'm not sure the name but if you go on youtube he calls it a "tongue twister for your fingers." It really helps getting centered and warmed up. But I follow this excercise with the descending an ascending legato excercise from Pumping Nylon starting at the 5th fret all the way to the highest fret. This adds up to something like a couple hundred hammer-ons and pull-offs in a row and I now realize that it's probably a pretty strenuous excercise to start out with so I will be revising my practice order a bit and put all the easiest stuff in the first hour.


I know the Joe Satriani exercise you mean, and I think it's a good one to get warmed up on. Yeah, heavy legato is probably a bit of a workout for that early in your practice session. After the warm-up, I use the first hour for working on new material, or stuff I've only just very recently learned. So, at this point, I'm playing it very slowly trying to build the muscle memory - so it's easy on the fingers. But, here's the side benefit. I have to concentrate a lot, because it's material I don't know very well. That gets me in the zone for the rest of my practice.



That's awesome. I will be cracking open my Fredrick Noad classical method book this weekend. I've really missed classical playing. Rock and roll is beautiful and my primary goal is to learn all the music of Jimi Hendrix and eventually surpass him as a guitarist. But there is a lot of great classical music too and some utterly amazing classical players that I want to emulate. I stopped playing because I didn't want anything to get in the way of my main goal, but if it will help instead of hinder me I would love to be able to do both.


I think Richie Blackmore is great example of someone who's combined classical training with rock/blues influences, and came up with a style that's truly unique (plus he's one of my favorite guitarists, but that's besides the point!). Working on the classical side too can only help.