How To Practice

Ok, a lot of people don't practice correctly and it shows in their technique. In this lesson, I'm going to show you practicing techniques that may not be fun, but they will definitely help and you will see results very soon. I'll even throw in some guitar exercises that will really boost your playing.

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Ultimate Guitar
23
This is my first non-theory lesson so please bear with me. I kept wanting to play as fast and clean as my favorite guitarists and I never seemed to get any closer to my goal. I would just jam along with CDs all day and not really get any better. Then I started buying guitar books and DVDs and actually using them and I learned a LOT about practicing. First things first, you should get a metronome. They aren't that expensive out of musiciansfriend or samash or guitar center, you could probably find one for about $10. A metronome is a little machine that produces a ticking or beeping sound to help you keep the tempo. Several people think they've got this down and don't need a metronome to help with it. The reason for getting a metronome is because it keeps PERFECT time, you never know what little mistakes you might be making without realizing it, and they can have a BIG effect on your playing; plus tapping your foot or counting takes your concentration off of the guitar itself. A metronome will help you stay more focused on the guitar and keep perfect time. Even guitar gods like John Petrucci still use metronomes. The best way to use a metronome is by taking the fastest speed that you can play the lick cleanly and playing it 10 times perfectly at that speed. Then increase the speed by 1. This is the part that everyone hates and tries to skip over, I find myself skipping over it as well, but this is the quickest way to get results. Instead of waiting days to get the lick up to speed, you find that you can get it much faster in a matter of minutes. Now that we've got that down, here's another extremely important part of practicing: Organization. What I mean by that is scheduling a time to practice and scheduling what to practice. My schedule consists of at least 2 hours. I cut it into 30 minute segments. I devote 30 minutes to scales, 30 minutes to chords, 30 minutes to technical exercises, and 30 minutes to improvising. It's always a good idea to jam around with a CD though, it keeps guitar fun. Hours and hours of just hard practice will make you loose interest in your instrument as I did once(but hard technical practice will help you reach your goals much faster so don't count it out!. If this begins to happen, I reccomend watching guitarists that inspire you, and if you feel inferior, look for videos of those guitarists making mistakes. I watched a Paul Gilbert DVD, he's a very down to earth and modest guy. He made a few mistakes in his DVD and it made me feel a lot better about myself. It showed that he is still human and not completely perfect, there are also videos of John Petrucci making mistakes if you can believe it. Those two are ridiculously amazing guitarists, and seeing them make mistakes reminds me that although they are insanely great, they are still human just like me and I can reach their level, and so can you. In order to make sure you practice the set ammount of time, you should get an alarm clock(I don't reccomend this one), or get a kitchen timer. Basically anything that keeps up with time and can annoy you with a loud noise after 30 minutes or so. I personally prefer the kitchen timer, you can set it easily and it'll scare the crap out of you when your practice time's done. You should learn the Major scale and all of it's modes as well as Pentatonic minor and Harmonic Minor. Play all of these modes in whatever key you desire(I use F just because it's the first fret. It makes things easier for me to keep up with). Although it's a good idea to be familiar with other keys, that's not what this lesson is about. Make sure you ascend and descend and try different patterns. Try ascending 4 notes then go to the second note and ascend 4 more notes and then go to the 3rd note and ascend 4 more and continue until you hit the last note and then reverse the process. Ok, here's an exercise I learned from a bass player from Atlanta. This exercise is meant to strengthen your fingers and teach them to stay close to the fretboard. This allows you to play faster by keeping your fingers from moving too far away from the strings.
------------------------------------------1-2-3-4----------------
----------------------------------1-2-3-4------------------------
--------------------------1-2-3-4--------------------------------
------------------1-2-3-4----------------------------------------
----------1-2-3-4------------------------------------------------
--1-2-3-4--------------------------------------------------------
Now the idea behind this is not so much in the notes you're hitting, but how you move your fingers. On the low E string -1-2-3-4-- you get all of your fingers down on these frets and hold them there. Then, while still keeping all of the other fingers on the low E string, move your index finger to the first fret of the A string. When that finger is in place, bring your middle finger over to the second fret while still keeping all of your other fingers anchered onto their strings. DON'T MOVE YOUR INDEX FINGER OFF OF THE A STRING! Continue this process with all fingers all the way down to the high E string. Only one finger should be off of the strings at a time. When you do this for the first time your hand will probably be hurting. Take a quick break but try not to get too distracted. A good idea would be to read up on some music theory or try to learn the notes on the guitar, something that doesn't involve physical work, you don't want to hurt your hand and cripple yourself. But the main idea is to stay focused on guitar and music. You should try to come up with your own practice exercises as well. Take a scale and isolate two strings. Play the notes on those two strings and change them around, play them out of order, find difficult ways to play them and perfect them. This will help you be more creative and original as well as work out your technique. It's fun to find difficult licks and impress your friends with them. Also try string skipping, don't just stick to strings that are side by side. That is basically how I practice each day, you can practice longer if you want, but I like to keep my strict practice at about 2 hours a day and noodle for the rest of the day. It's also great to practice writing, so when you're not working on technique you can exercise your creativity. Well guys, I hope this lesson has been helpful and I wish you all the best of luck on your musical journey. More lessons comming soon!

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31 comments sorted by best / new / date

    adamsville2k
    Though we've seen all this before and several times, it's always good to see there is no other way than practice, practice and practice to become a great player. Very complete lesson for beginners.
    chaumo123
    when i practice the chromatic scale without taking more than 1 finger off at a time my pinkey mutes the next string im trying to play does that make the exercise less effective?
    ironwolg
    Walldy wrote: i am looking to buy some books to help in my practice and learning, are there any you can recommend? the best books for me were the guitar grimoire, the complete idiots guide to music theory, John Petrucci's Wild Stringdom, and then there is the John Petrucci Rock Discipline DVD which really helped me out p.s. your lessons really helped
    Walldy
    i am looking to buy some books to help in my practice and learning, are there any you can recommend? p.s. your lessons really helped
    ironwolg
    illyria wrote: If this begins to happen, I reccomend watching guitarists that inspire you, and if you feel inferior, look for videos of those guitarists making mistakes.like hell you can find those vids. watching vids of great guitarists always makes me depressed cause i suck. i'm very insecure about my playing. almost anything can put me in a guitar-related depression
    haha don't worry about it man, i'm sure you can find videos that will inspire you. get a paul gilbert DVD, he's a great teacher and he even makes a few mistakes. just make sure you stick to a good practice routine and you'll be shredding in no time
    illyria
    If this begins to happen, I reccomend watching guitarists that inspire you, and if you feel inferior, look for videos of those guitarists making mistakes.
    like hell you can find those vids. watching vids of great guitarists always makes me depressed cause i suck. i'm very insecure about my playing. almost anything can put me in a guitar-related depression
    ironwolg
    jeni9682 wrote: Hi, I'm trying out this exercise, but I'm not sure I quite get it: My ring finger can NOT stay put on one string if I move my middle finger. Help?
    it's just one of those things you're goign to have to work at for a while. if you have to, hold your ring finger down with your right hand, just remember, don't push yourself too hard. you don't want to end up ripping or tearing something in your hand. be careful and try practicing like that until each finger can move independently hope that helps, if not we can arrange a video lesson to address the problem, i won't charge you for it
    patrickodang
    yeah this helps a lot. i started playing guitar like 6 months ago, and alll i did for like 5 1/2 of those months was learn parts of songs that i liked and played them over and over when i practiced. and yeah i got better at those songs, but i wasn't learning anything new. right now im focused on legato, scales, and picking. im also trying to learn a lot more theory. and yes i read your articles, they helped a lot. so thanks for your work!
    jeni9682
    Hi, I'm trying out this exercise, but I'm not sure I quite get it: My ring finger can NOT stay put on one string if I move my middle finger. Help?
    DAZ-IBANEZJS700
    Glesson here mate, thanks. I can do a few scales in a few positions fairly well but havn't really got to a soloing stage yet. This excercise is very good. I can't do it yet. i tried ten times or so, so far and i am finding that my third finger becomes frozen and its like i do not know how to make my brain tell the third finger to move. it sticks to the board man and a time or two i have had to take me right hand and pull the third finger on the left hand off the string on move it that way. i will master it though mate and i can tell right away that the benfits will make it worth it. Cheers again friend. Daz
    ironwolg
    guitar_bumb wrote: I've been playing for about 5 yrs and i love guitar buts its starting to become more of a hobby and time killer.the reason is because i cant seem to get any faster with my soloing and sweeping.I would love to play more avenged sevenfold solos but seize the day is the only one i can do.Is there a way i can get faster at the songs i want to play?
    yeah that's what the metronome is for. i offer private online guitar lessons if you're interested. there's no commitment unless you decide to pay for a month of lessons in advance. you can pay one lesson at a time though and can take as many or as few as you want. it's $20 per lesson
    guitar_bumb
    I've been playing for about 5 yrs and i love guitar buts its starting to become more of a hobby and time killer.the reason is because i cant seem to get any faster with my soloing and sweeping.I would love to play more avenged sevenfold solos but seize the day is the only one i can do.Is there a way i can get faster at the songs i want to play?
    ironwolg
    chaumo123 wrote: when i practice the chromatic scale without taking more than 1 finger off at a time my pinkey mutes the next string im trying to play does that make the exercise less effective?
    it's not supposed to mute, try to make sure it's just the tip of your pinky touching the string. the exercise increases finger strength and teaches proper technique, make sure each note sounds out clearly.
    gavz_verdikt
    Awesome. Just like another user, you give the Petrucci-is-human-so-don't-worry-you-don't-suck hopes. It always help to read this every time.
    08L1V10N
    But will you really improve if you play exercises, like 1-2-3-4 and scales to a metronome and not learn songs. Because that's what I'm kinda doing
    hoppy_pantera
    you will improve using scales and metronomes using the 1-2-3-4 chromatic thing. thats the same shit my guitar teahcer thaught me n iv improved a shitload from doing it. awsum lesson
    ironwolg
    Metalligirl wrote: thanks man, i was looking for something like this, every other practice lesson that i've seen would just be promotion to some product, lol.
    i have nothing to sell so no worries there lol if anyone has requests for a lesson don't hesitate to message me
    Metalligirl
    thanks man, i was looking for something like this, every other practice lesson that i've seen would just be promotion to some product, lol.
    RockRolla
    great lesson,as a beginner I am always looking for advice pertaining to practice.
    Kurcbain
    i`ve seen different variations of the 1-2-3-4 exercise, but keeping the fingers on the strings is new. very interesting, seems like a great idea, can't wait to try it!
    SlayingDragons
    Great lesson, but i can't force myself to play/practice for a set amount of time, let alone divide the time into different parts. It feels more like school that playing for fun, and I play guitar to get away from school. also, there isn't a perfect practice method for everyone. Not saying this isn't a pretty good one, but it might not be the best for everyone because everyone learns different.
    VoidedSquirrel
    Great - I'll give that a try this evening. I'm a beginner (just learning to change from chord to chord in Knockin on Heaven's door!) and trying to get at least an hour's practice in every day but seem to spend too long on just one aspect. This advice looks useful - thanks.
    ironwolg
    08L1V10N wrote: But will you really improve if you play exercises, like 1-2-3-4 and scales to a metronome and not learn songs. Because that's what I'm kinda doing
    you'll definitely improve from playing songs, but not all songs really target your technique. exercises are designed specifically to target a certain technique which is why they're good for practice sessions. i wasn't trying to say not to learn songs or that they won't help. it's just that exercises will get you your results much faster
    Batousai530
    This helped alot. I was starting to feel down on my guitar playing till I read this. Thanks
    JDizzle787
    practice is called practice for a reason. learning songs is also practice since those techniques are applied in a creative way. Practicing both songs and monotonous technique will help you in execution of your creativity