Heey everyone,
I have a very important question to ask. See I've been playing guitar for 5 years now and bass for a year and a half... I was wondering, to progress my playing skills, should I pick one song and stick with it?

The songs I have chosen, are:

Prequel to the Sequel - Between The Buried and Me (Bass)
C'est La Vie - Protest the Hero (Guitar)
Kiss Me - New Found Glory (Guitar and Vocals)

For practice routine. I have none. When ever I try I have no idea what to start to warm up with. My old teacher would tell me to start off with a C major scale. I forget a lot of what he said... I always had problems with syncopation. Is there any sort of exercises I can do for 5 to 10 minutes that will help me with ear training and syncopation?

After warming up, I want to tackle new material. But I don't know how. Do I take each section and practice it for 5 minutes then move on? or do I try and play the whole song slowly and pick it up each week to get faster and faster?

After tackling new material, I want to just noodle around or play stuff I already know how to play?

Can anyone suggest an improved practice routine thats worked for them or if they see anything they can change about mine?
Last edited by Tyewatson at Apr 8, 2011,
Dude, this is like, the most complicated question ever. You haven't told us what we really need to know. What do you want to do in music?

I mean, do you want to be a professional guitarist or do you want to just be able to strumg some chords and impress some chicks?

Judging by the fact you've been playing for 5 years and you're interested in starting a practice routine, then I assume you want to be more serious about it. This is the kinda stuff I would suggest: It's all about excercises. Think of a weight lifter:

Weightlifters don't build muscles by showing them off in funny poses. What they do is all the weight lifting excercises on each muscle in a routine so that when the time comes, they can do these funny poses and stun their crowd then. Same idea with Guitar. When you're starting out, you can learn songs, but when you're at a stage when you're familiar with the guitar how it feels to play it and the plank of wood feels like your third arm and you stop banging it against your tables and stuff, then what you want to do is work on these excercises to develop playing, and just learn the songs as a way to stun the crowd. If you go up to alot of amazing musicians and said "Play me a song!" they'd hesitate. Because, if someone did it to me, I'd be like "Erm... I dunno, I just practice". I only learn songs when it's for a performance or something. I aim at getting better so I can play any song with ease.

But yeah, if you wanted to get serious, my suggestions are to buy a metronome, this'll help alot with your syncopation, and then practice all the different chromatic permutations and get them to a reasonable speed. That way, if you practice both 3 note and 4 note chromatic permutations, if you get it to speed then you're covering pretty much any possible note pattern you'll ever come across. That's very valuable if you're interested in Lead guitar.

For your listening, I'd suggest learning scales if you haven't already. Both on the guitar and how they sound. Best ones are the Major, Minor, Pentatonic and Blues to start with. Then you can start doing all the crazy ones later. What I did to train my ear was this, and I did 200 question of it a day: http://www.musictheory.net/exercises/ear-interval I don't always use this site though, there are iPhone apps which have it on there aswell.

If you really want to learn your rhythms, there's a few ways, one is playing with a metronome like I've said up there, but if you're really serious and you want to get really good (you've gotta be really serious though) then you can buy a book like Louis Bellson's Modern Reading in 4/4 which is a book purely of notated rhythms, get your metronome out, and tap along. That's what I do at work on my lunch break. Metronome on my iphone, headphones in, and tap along. Works a treat. But that's if you're interested in learning notation aswell. You start from the complete basics and work your way up.

It really boils down to what your weaknesses are. Alot of people sit there and play what they can already play and go "I'm never getting better! Why not!?" and by the sounds of it, that might be where you're at now. The difference between a person playing it as a hobby, and a person playing it as a serious, developing musician, is the person who is serious will go "Crap, I can't play funk rhythms. I hate funk rhythms, it disgusts me and it's sooooooooooo boring. Oh well" *turns the metronome on and starts practicing a funk rhythm*.

You gotta find your personal weak points, man-up, and just practice it anyway if you really want to improve. Playing Songs will get you kinda better but only if you're learning songs you struggle to play. You'll find it easier to learn the excercises required to play the songs because then you can play it in any context. Again, it really depends if you want it to be a hobby or something more serious than that.

I hope this helps in some sort of way, I ramble alot and I apologise but hopefully you'll find something in there which helps answer your questions.

Oh also, if you still want a pre-made Practice Routine that works however then I suggest you search Steve Vai's 30 hour workout. It obviously worked for him.

Take it easy, hope this helps.

BHD made great points.

I'll go a little simpler. Work on one phrase at a time. Here's the rub. Whatever speed you practice, you have to be able to play the notes perfectly at that speed. No mistakes. Then when you can do that move a little faster. I usually insist my students to play about 7-10 times in a row without mistakes, and then they can move on. I call it the 7-10 rule.

I use it on myself, for example when I was trying to work out the Guthrie Govan song, "Waves" What made this a challenge to me is, I'm not used to playing in that manner with slips and slides and displaced octaves and to work with unconventional fingerings. I had to go and figure it out by ear, sit down and strategize what fingers I would need to use to accomplish these interval and string jumps, and in doing all these things, I would work 10 minutes at a very slow speed with the first 8 notes of the song and I struggled. Now I can play it. But I practiced and tried first to get it perfect, and finally when I could play it to tempo, then I tried to make it feel more "natural" and that in itself was another stage of learning to breathe, relax, not chase the song, and lock in a groove. But I've probably practiced the parts at least 50 hours (if not more), since January when I first decided I was going to figure out how to play it.

When you have someone new and unfamiliar to you, that's the only way you're going to get it. Whether you're talking about me, Mike Dodge, or anyone else here...the game is the same...slow perfect practice, persistence, patience, discipline. Divide and conquer.


sit down, and take it bit by bit. working on songs is the best thing to practice---so be patient, don't try to go through the whole thing at first (except maybe in the beginning to get a feel for it), but work out the phrases and sections in order perfectly, and work on connecting them, and eventually work on the whole song. keep in mind that theres more to what your doing to hitting the right notes in time--try to nail the artiuculations, phrasing and dynamics, and try to get a feel for how the part your wokring on functions in the entire composition. also listen to the songs a lot.
all the best.
(insert self-aggrandizing quote here)
Thanks guys, BHD's answer combined with Sean0913 answer is what I was looking for. I don't want to learn these songs to play on stage, I just want to learn them for enjoyment of music.

I already know Major and Minor Scales. I can easily figure out their modes just by octaves and knowing the intervals in a major and minor scale. I like it when my practice routine is set in stone. Then I can concentrate on what I should do.

I will definitely use the 7-10 rule when I practice. I am getting better but its a slow process because I'm not organised. If I was more organised with my practice routine I could get better faster rather than "oh I'll practice this sextuplet run in Between The Buried and Me's Prequel to the Sequel" then just noodle around after I get bored." I think I'm getting better but its a slow rate because what I practice on is so random and the time I practice is so random. I don't know how to organise this time. I guess I can put down what I think I should have as a practice routine.

1. Warm up:
With Major and Minor scales. Play arpeggiated chords of a Major scales I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi vii* and the same with Minor i, ii*, III, iv, v, VI VII.

Stretch fingers by playing the chromatic scale like:
1-2-3-4 2-1-3-4 3-1-2-4 4-1-2-3
1-2-4-3 2-1-4-3 3-1-4-2 4-1-3-2
1-3-2-4 2-3-1-4 3-2-1-4 4-2-1-3
1-3-4-2 2-3-4-1 3-2-4-1 4-2-3-1
1-4-2-3 2-4-1-3 3-4-1-2 4-3-1-2
1-4-3-2 2-4-3-1 3-4-2-1 4-3-2-1

Up and down the strings of course. For bass, fingering I'd just change up my fingers going imim to mimi and guitar picking dudu to udud.

I'll do this for about 10 minutes?

2. Main Material:
Pick up one of the songs I want to work on (The four up there). I will practice 1 section of it. and use the 7-10 rule. I will only go onto the next section when I can play the previous section flawlessly. Start off on a tempo I can play then progressively get faster.

This is for about 15 minutes or so?

3. Noodle around:

Play till I get bored?

How is this for a Practice Routine? Should there be more or any particular things I should be practising to maximize my progress?