#1
What is a good practice routine to learn Dream Theater songs on the guitar?
I don't think practicing scales will help much because a lot of their songs use unusual riffs which don't fit into most scales.
How should I practice if I want to learn their songs?
#2
Actually most of Petrucci's stuff does fit into scales quite nicely. There might be a few notes here or there that are outside, or the occasional chromatic riff, but usually it'll fit into a particular scale. It might not seem like it because he likes to closely follow the rhythm with his solos, but that doesn't change the key.

But you're right that practising scales won't help you. That won't help anyone do anything except play scales. As to how to learn a DT song, well just learn it how you would learn anything. Take it slow, break it up into small sections, and practice. And if I could make a suggestion, I recommend that you start by learning Goodnight Kiss. It's one of Petrucci's easier solos and it's a lot of fun to play.
#3
You didn't explain your issue very clearly. The best way to learn a Dream Theater song is to learn how to play that song, obviously.

Theory wise learning what's happening in their songs could help you have a better understanding of what you are playing, but they contain many chromatic harmonies and melodies so it's not necessarily that all of their music fit into the classical lexicon of music theory. You can still analyze it, though.

Learning a guitar technique to execute their songs would again involve trying to play one of their songs itself, usually at slower tempos until you start to get a hold of it. John Petrucci uses a variety of techniques, but most prominently would probably be his very fast alternate-picking. It requires a very high level of precision and synchronization between the picking and fretting hand. He also often uses string-skipping, and though not in the same way as neo-classical shredders like Yngwie Malmsteen do, he also at times incorporates some pretty crazy sweep pickings that involve sliding your pick up/down/both quickly through arpeggiated chords.

"Practicing scales" as they are won't necessarily improve your playing because it doesn't say all that much on how you practice, but it also doesn't mean that you can't gain improvement from it in playing something that doesn't follow the scale. You basically just want to get your hand more dexterous and accurate, and while getting some muscle-memory concerning the more peculiar schticks of guitar-playing would help in its execution, it doesn't mean that you can only improve your technique in the exact area you practice on at the moment.
Last edited by TLGuitar at Nov 11, 2014,
#4
I have to agree the best way to learn their songs would be to play them slowly and cleanly then work up your speed over time. This is often one of the best ways to improve your technique. Playing songs you can already easily play won't improve your playing very much, although it is fun. As always it can help to focus on the weaknesses in your playing too. If you are fine on the "regular" alternate picking parts but struggle on the string skipping parts, then practice those parts more.

There's nothing wrong with playing scales either, but I wouldn't recommend just playing the scale up and down repeatedly. You'd benefit a lot more from learning little licks using those scales and improvising to see what sounds good. If you just play scales up and down your muscle memory will get stuck in that way of playing.
#5
What would be the best way to practice them? Should I use a metronome and start off with a slow tempo and work my way up? Should I play along with the original track? or should I just play it without anything?
Also should I learn the theory behind what I'm playing? Because I would like to incorporate it into other songs so they will be easier for me to play. I don't want to learn just one song and not be able to play others. Does that require learning theory or would practicing one song enable me to play other songs in the same style more easily?
#6
Quote by ls2014
What would be the best way to practice them? Should I use a metronome and start off with a slow tempo and work my way up? Should I play along with the original track? or should I just play it without anything?
Also should I learn the theory behind what I'm playing? Because I would like to incorporate it into other songs so they will be easier for me to play. I don't want to learn just one song and not be able to play others. Does that require learning theory or would practicing one song enable me to play other songs in the same style more easily?



All 3


Yes, you should learn ALL of the theory analysis that you can before you get overwhelmed. You'll eventually understand that every DT and LTE solo is pretty easy to analyze from a theory standpoint. Yes they all fit into scales, they just don't fit into your understanding of diatonic structures (yet). Even the crazy chromatic runs that are seemingly "complex" fit into the fretboard roadmap like puzzle pieces.


Learn to economy pick


learn to economy pick


Learn to economy pick


learn to economy pick.


When JP isn't alt picking, he's economy picking. When he says he's sweeping, he's economy picking.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEWs7XGb_u0

The whole point is economy of motion. Letting your picking hand catch notes over multiple strings while adjusting for the notes per string
#7
John Pettrucci has a great instructional video from years back that really breaks down his approach - find it and use it.
#8
But you're right that practicing scales won't help you. That won't help anyone do anything except play scales.


Not true. When you play the C major scale you are playing all the notes in the key of C major. When you are playing the G minor scale you are playing all the notes in the key of G minor. Point is, when you learn a scale you aren't just learning some sequence of notes you are learning the building blocks of music. With just those 7 notes from the C major scale you can write a song. You never have to move outside of those seven notes. Inside those seven notes you can find seven different chords (C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim, [C]) This is not including variations that are found inside that scale. A simple song like "Louie, Louie" contains nothing but three chords. If you were to play it in the key of C you have C, F , G, F. Repeat.

Shredwizard445 answered the questions pretty well but I will reply to the topic. I don't want to just make a post that is just completely off topic.

As for learning Dream Theater songs. It depends on your current issue. I will answer in a general statement that is in part a repeat of what has been previously stated by other posters. Start slow, work up to a faster speed. Don't move forward until you can play it cleanly. Using a metronome is optional, some people do better with it and some better without it. Personally I don't like practicing with a metronome.

An interesting idea from Shawn Lane is expressed in this video. Around 1:50 is the start of the explanation I believe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhkbSBxPYcU

The idea is instead of just slowly working up the tempo, you work on cleaning up the playing. Learn it slow and move the tempo up and up slowly, just like normal. After a few runs you just break from that and try it at a speed you aren't completely comfortable with. I like to incorporate this myself. I will work on it slowly then just jump the tempo way up for say two or three runs through the part of the song. After that I slow it back down to focus on cleaning it up at a comfortable tempo. This change of pace keeps it interesting and in my personal experience (around ten years of playing) I believe it helps.

As for learning music theory, the simple answer is yes. I've heard some people speak negatively towards music theory, they feel it is just a constraint or rules. The truth is music theory is the logic behind the sound; it is the tool bag of music.
#9
Quote by Nacho Cheese!
Not true. When you play the C major scale you are playing all the notes in the key of C major. When you are playing the G minor scale you are playing all the notes in the key of G minor. Point is, when you learn a scale you aren't just learning some sequence of notes you are learning the building blocks of music. With just those 7 notes from the C major scale you can write a song. You never have to move outside of those seven notes. Inside those seven notes you can find seven different chords (C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim, [C]) This is not including variations that are found inside that scale. A simple song like "Louie, Louie" contains nothing but three chords. If you were to play it in the key of C you have C, F , G, F. Repeat.

I agree. I was talking about just running up and down the scales.
#10
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that if you don't know how to go about learning a song, most of Dream Theater's catalog is probably far out of your league. If you've got anywhere near the chops required to play anything but the acoustic songs and ballads, you should already know how to read some tabs, listen to the songs, slow them down if necessary, and just play. Practice is all there is to it.

I was at a John Petrucci/Ernie Ball Majesty clinic a few months ago, and during the Q&A session, someone asked the cliche, "how did you get so good?" question. He answered, "I've practiced every single day for over 30 years. No big secret."