Effective Practice

A set of guidelines on managing your time and learning how to play new things.

Ultimate Guitar
This is written as a tool for effective practice and to help you start thinking in a theoretical aspect while playing. By practicing efficiently, you will make bigger steps in your guitar playing and will ultimately have a better end result in your abilities. Required Practice Materials: 1.A Guitar (duh) 2.An amp (unless you play acoustic) 3.Basic knowledge of how to play guitar 4.Patience 5.Time 6.Preferably a metronome

Part 1: Warm Ups

Exercise 1: Do this with your index and middle, then again with your middle and ring, then again with your ring and pinky.
Etc. Until you reach the 12th fret with your index finger. Exercise 2: Do this with your index and ring, then your middle and pinky.
Etc. Until you reach the 12th fret with your index finger. Exercise 3:
Etc. Until you reach the 12th fret with your index finger. Once you have done all of these up the neck, try them backwards. Try playing them straight up and down the neck in one combined effort. Be creative and move around with your warm ups. Practice is the most boring part about playing guitar so might as well make it interesting right? The last thing I like to do when warming up is play through the major scales in the following positions to really get me thinking about note placement. Example: F Major
I do this for every major scale up and down the neck. by moving the scale on the lower three strings up one fret each play through, you will quickly cycle through all the major scales until you get to the twelfth fret. The same applies to the scale on the A, D, and G strings and then finally the scale on the G, B, and E strings. This gives you a nice stretched feeling with your fretting hand and should increase the speed of your playing greatly. If you are feeling insecure about your picking hand after this, try doing different picking patterns when going through these exercises, and as always, use a metronome and increase speed slowly while doing these exercises.

Part Two: Strength And Speed

We have already covered some really great exercises to strengthen the fretting hand in the warm ups section, but sometimes when you are warmed up and stretched, it's good to keep that train of thought going. By doing simple exercises and slowly increasing the speed of your metronome, you can achieve strength, speed, and accuracy very quickly; and the great thing about starting slowly on a metronome is that you coordinate the picking hand simultaneously with the fretting hand. Lets start with a simple exercise that is played as 16th notes in a 4/4 time signature (four beats per measure, four notes per beat). I would keep the metronome at a slow 80 to start and slowly work your way up.
This would be played until the Index reaches the 12th fret (for the best result). Because the exercise is tedious and painfully boring, you could cut the exercise shorter and increase speed faster (although this is not recommended). Also, you could try this for a different kind of feel. Give each set of three notes a triplet feel, and this is to be played in 6/8 time (six beats per measure, eighth note gets the beat). Set the metronome low until you feel comfortable.
This would also be played until the Index reaches the 12th fret. This is the part where you get to be creative with your strengthening methods. Create a technique using the tools that I have given you. Try and be creative and make something that both challenges you and improves your skill. An example could be like this:
etc. Remember, use your metronome. It's going to be your greatest tool when it comes to developing speed and strength in your fretting hand and in your picking hand.

Part 3: Techniques

Part of playing guitar is exploring new techniques and ways to go about playing things. To be a great player, you need to make it your job to go out and find those techniques and do all the research you can to help you learn them. Genres of music keep expanding and guitar playing constantly evolves, which is why I am NOT going to teach you how to play every technique under the sun. You are the one who knows what you like to hear and what you want to play. I will give you guidelines in this section to help you weed out what it is you're looking for. 1.Determine what style of music you want to play. a.I know that some people want to learn every style under the sun, and that is fine. It makes for a well rounded player, but for efficient practice, you should be well focused under what it is you want to learn at that time. A scattered mind makes for scattered practice. 2.Research that style. a.If you want to learn how to play like Jimmy Page, then listen to or watch Jimmy play. Make mental notes to yourself about what he's doing, and if you don't know what he's doing, find out! The internet is abundant in information about guitar style. We have Youtube, lesson sites (such as UG), and countless forums about guitar where one member is bound to know the answer. Communicate, don't be shy. 3.Learn to play what you learned from you research. a. If you find that Jimmy was playing a pentatonic minor scale and was using hammer ons and pull offs, then look up what those are if you don't know. Once again, we have countless video sites and search engines that can help you find information. Get tabs, sheet music, or whatever you need to help you learn what you need to do. 4.Apply what you learned. a.You can know how to hammer ons and pull offs all day long but they don't mean crap if you don't apply them to how you play! The easiest way to show you would possibly be an example. Hey, if I'm playing a chord progression in the key of ___, maybe it would be cool to do a lick using the pentatonic minor scale in (insert key here) while using hammer ons and pull offs! 5.Stick to your guns. a.Keep at what you're learning. It's not going to help you to be learning a harmonic minor scale then fuss around with a song you learned last week. Learn what you need to learn and move on. Be resilient! The biggest goal here is to improve your knowledge and to help you expand upon your technique. Be creative and look at things from different points of views. Hell, learn styles that you normally wouldn't like. Everything you do will contribute to you becoming a well rounded guitar player.

Part Four: Song Learning

So let's say you hear a song on the radio and you really like the song. It gets stuck in your head, you download it, or maybe you even buy the CD. Why not learn the song on guitar? Learning songs is advantageous for multiple reasons. 1.You get to see how other people apply the techniques you already know. 2.It helps you to learn new technique and style 3.You get to play your favorite songs! For this part of your effective practice routine, learn a new song! If you are into playing for HOURS a day or if you don't have the time, you can either lump all these techniques into one day or you can devote a day to doing any one of these. Learning songs tends to be a time consuming process so I would recommend taking practice time to learn bits and pieces of the song, or taking one large amount of time to really work through it. There are also multiple ways to go about the learning of the songs. 1.By tab. a.Tab is the most recommended for beginners because it tells you how to play without knowing how to read music. If you can translate numbers to a fret board and you're not half retarded, you can use tab. Tab is widely available for free over the internet and can also be bought in stores. 2.By sheet music. a.This if for the musician who knows how to read music. Sheet music really tells you where each note goes and gives you the correct pitch. You may have to do some searching for sheet music of unknown bands, but if the song is main stream, you should have no problem finding sheet music. Most sheet music is found in stores but it can also be found for free or ordered over the internet. 3.By ear. a.This would mainly be used by an experienced guitar player who has learned songs before and can identify licks and tones by how they sound. Ear training really helps to learn songs by ear, but this is going to be the most time consuming process. You really need to hear the notes one phrase at a time and translate it to your fret board. This will take a lot of practice and time at first, but it is a great skill to achieve in the end. One thing that you can do to help you with your song learning by ear, is if you are really stuck, combine learning techniques and find a tab. See where that person says the line should go and work from there. You will find that with the song learning process comes a lot of frustration and practice. Like the rest of the things I have talked about in here, you need to push through the pain, frustration, and boredom. Everything you do will help contribute to you becoming a better guitar player.

Part Five: The Cool Down

I like to end my practice by either playing things I worked on previously in the day or to play some things that I already have worked out and know pretty well. It's always good to run over the things you already know just so you don't get rusty. Take this as a breather and to really enjoy the lighter side of guitar playing. Not everything about playing the guitar is straight forward, so take a step back and wind down. Enjoy what you play and take it all in. During this step, wind down.

Part Six: Alternate Methods

You won't learn everything about playing just by sitting in your room jamming for hours on end. You need to get out there and make friends in the music community. Ideas come from everywhere and everyone sees things differently. You need to accept these ideas for what they are and use them to better your understanding of the playing field. People will have different views that you do on different ways to do things, and you can use these as positive ways to improve yourself and your playing. Some tips to help you learn about how other people play would be: 1.Have a playing buddy who you can get together and jam with. 2.Start a band! Learning how other instrumentalists play is a crucial tool. A drummer or a keyboard player won't have the same style as a guitar player, so learn how to mesh. Feel the music and go with it. 3.Go to concerts. The best way to see people playing things and to make mental notes is to see them play it with your own eyes. You also meet people who are interested in the same styles you are and you can collaborate as to how to write better music of that style. Conclusion Hopefully after reading this, you have a good guideline of how effective practice goes. Concentrate, start slow, and be resilient. This isn't a technique guide; it's more of a key. The key belonging to a map that will guide you on adventure that you have to explore for yourself. Take these ideas and see what you can do for yourself with them. Thank you UG readers for your time.

24 comments sorted by best / new / date

    lol...I looked at the first diagram and thought you went from 12th up to he 32nd fret... But I then discovered I was an idiot so everything was ok again....
    I don't see how this is rated so bad this is a good summary of guitar and music learning methods good work on the song learning and alternate methods you maybe should've made it clearer that it's not exercises you're teaching but to open peoples minds up about lots of aspects so maybe this would've done better in the basics or beginners section
    NathanWolff wrote: Skuzzmo wrote: lol...I looked at the first diagram and thought you went from 12th up to he 32nd fret... But I then discovered I was an idiot so everything was ok again.... I thought the same thing
    i am also an idiot, i thought what the hell, my acoustic does not go that far.....
    NathanWolff wrote: Skuzzmo wrote: lol...I looked at the first diagram and thought you went from 12th up to he 32nd fret... But I then discovered I was an idiot so everything was ok again.... I thought the same thing
    He just wrote the frets to close together. I have a lesson by Batio on DVD that has a really good practice routine. I use that mostly.
    Kid Ares
    I like this article it convinced me to get a Timer ( i knew i needed one) and a metronome nice article
    Thanks so much for posting this, I really enjoy using your warm up exercises. I've been playing for a few years now, but these really feel like they improve the strength and dexterity in my left hand more than other exercises I've done. Thanks again for your time and knowledge, it is much appreciated.
    Skuzzmo wrote: lol...I looked at the first diagram and thought you went from 12th up to he 32nd fret... But I then discovered I was an idiot so everything was ok again....
    dude, i did too, until i realized that my Ibanez EX has only 22 frets(just fixed a huge crack in the neck(3 in 1 really)) so if anybody needs help with that pm me (or email me same as ug username @netzero.com )and ill give you a link to a step by step (with pics)on how to fix that. nice lesson man thanx
    of all the "effective practice" article threads i've read, i think i like this one the best. it's very easy to understand, especially for beginners, but still very thorough and can still be applied to experienced guitarists. I'd like to see an advanced practice article.
    you need to put dashes/hyphens in between the fret numbers. you are confusing the !@#$ out of people. -1-2-3-4- not -1234-
    lol...I looked at the first diagram and thought you went from 12th up to he 32nd fret... But I then discovered I was an idiot so everything was ok again....
    yeah me 2 i thought, "wtf???? is this like possible????"
    Thanks for the lesson it was pretty helpful. it reminded me of things i was forgeting.
    This is more of a set of guidelines than a how to. I didn't want people to play these things exactly how I play them which is why I didn't specify. Thanks for the feed back too guys, its really appreciated. And as for the - between the tabs, thanks, this is my first time writing a lesson and tabbing things out one in the same. Will make a note for next time.
    Pretty useless to be honest - doesn't actually tell you how to practice those exercises, which is the most important thing...
    When you tab things I think one "-" between every number is a must, unless it's a 2 digit number.
    Skuzzmo wrote: lol...I looked at the first diagram and thought you went from 12th up to he 32nd fret... But I then discovered I was an idiot so everything was ok again....
    I thought the same thing