How To Practice

author: ironwolg date: 05/14/2009 category: practice tips
rating: 8.9
votes: 25
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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.
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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