PC-502 • Intermediate Practice Routine
Making the most of your precious practice time is very important. What I will outline here is the way I divide all my students practice times. I would strongly recommend the use of a routine page like this pdf (there are more in the Resources Area).
This is not for beginners. Suggested times for beginners is here. This is more set at the intermediate level player. Advanced players will need to consider more complex routines as there will be many more concepts that need to be covered thoroughly, but this would do as a good starting point for creating your own routine.
The general idea...
I break practice into 4 main areas, plus a 5th for improvisation if required. Each to be practiced for an equal amount of time.
• Technique - development of right hand and left hand strength and dexterity.
• Repertoire - learning songs and pieces.
• Transcribing - using your ears to work out songs and solos.
• Knowledge - new things: techniques, concepts, theory, scales, arpeggios, etc.
• Improvisation - if applicable gets added to the end of the routine.
Using A Timer
Within each area a few different exercises will be presented. I strongly recommend using a timer to keep your schedule under control. You can't spend half and hour on scales if you have only an hour to practice. You must aim for an even development. Make sure that your 'work out' on the guitar is even and will help you meet your goals. Just use a kitchen timer of some sort.
Starting with just 5 minute focus sessions will help you a lot. Don't worry if you don't get all the exercise done, just do as much as you can in the allotted time. Focus HARD for that 5 minutes and try not to let your mind wonder. If it drifts onto what you want for dinner or what you are up to on the weekend try and pull it back and concentrate on what you are doing.
I know it sounds funny to suggest ACTUALLY using a timer, but i really think it is a good idea. It will help you develop your focus and ring when you have 'done your time'. When time is up have a quick break and then get stuck into the next session.
It is also very important that you understand where you want to get to. It can be fun just to play about on the guitar, but if you want to make serious progress then it is best to set some short term goals and aim for them. Maybe set goals for each area of the routine, maybe set a goal for a years time... and try and make the routine help you get there!
The 1 Hour Workout
Well you have heard of the Steve Vai 10 hour workout, well this is a slightly more realistic 1 hour workout. I plan it as being 6 days a week. If you can do 2 hours then double all the times... If you can do more than that you are getting serious and should consult a pro teacher to help guide you, or use your own logic and base it what is presented here for ideas...
Technique (15 mins)
As I have mentioned elsewhere on this site I think it is important to develop your technique further than where you want to play. If you want to be an athlete then you MUST go to the gym and work out, but even if you don't want to be an athlete it is very beneficial to go to the gym and work out, keep fit... and so we should also for our hands. Perhaps I should try and make it to the gym more often... Please read the notes on the technique section of this site for more information on general technique development. The three exercises I would recommend for most players would be:
• 5 minutes - Finger Gym
• 5 minutes - Spider Exercise
• 5 minutes - Scale Picking
This will give you left hand strength and independence (Finger Gym), a serious alternate picking workout (The Spider) and some coordination work, combined with speed picking (Scale Picking).
If you are learning more techniques you might consider doing an A/B routine where you do the above exercises on day 1 (A) and 3 new ones on day 2 (B) and alternate them.
Other possible suggestions for a Technique B routine would be:
String Bending - Legato Technique - Minimum Movement - Finger Tapping - Fingerstyle - Pinch Harmonics - Tapped Harmonics - Rolling - Sweep Picking - Harp Picking - MORE...
There is probably loads I have forgotten, but that's a start. I don't recommend ever losing the initial 3 exercises though - keep them there, but just do them every 2nd day. They are your basics and will really give you a lot of benefit if you follow them properly and do them regularly.
Transcribing (15 mins)
If you have read much stuff on here you have probably noticed that i really rate transcribing. I REALLY THINK IT IS IMPORTANT. If you have not read about it please start here and check it all out. It could make the difference between you sounding ok and great. It will make you listen to yourself better. it will teach you to use your ears. It will teach you licks. Please Read This.
You could also incorporate some Aural Training into this section, but I think transcribing is generally more beneficial - but it depends on the individual.
This is the one area that may be better used in one block of 1 and a half hours. Up to you. It seems a lot of effort to get everything ready for a good transcribing session and then only stay at it for 15 minutes, but that is your call.
Repertoire (15 mins)
This area is an often neglected but very import area. Learning songs. It's no good having great technique and lots of knowledge but not being able to play a song. I recommend getting yourself a book that becomes your repertoire book. Songs that you can play go in the front, songs that you are trying to play go in the back. You then try to work on getting the songs from the back to the front.
These are the kind of simple songs you might play at a BBQ or party, that you can play after a few beers, for that moment when a guitar ends up in your lap and you have to play for a group of people. If this happens it is better to play a sing along song and get others involved than just to show off some flashy guitar shite. Check out the Songs page for some examples, but try and find songs that you like that you think your friends and social circle will like and might sing along to. There are plenty of sites around that offer reasonable chords for songs, from my limited experience www.chordie.com seems very good (I transcribe my own stuff, and don't use such sites..).
The songs that fit into this category sound good on their own - without the need for accompaniment or vocals. Things like my Solo Blues 1, or any nice chord melody arrangement would be great. Unfortunately good ones can be hard to find. I plan to put some more here on this site soon...
These are songs that you should learn to play along with the CD all the way through. Some songs don't sound so good by themselves and need to be played with a band. These songs are for this section. Do make sure that you play them all the way through. Don't leave any bits out - learn the whole thing. Work on each song until you can play along with the CD. Be realistic and choose achievable songs, work up to very hard stuff over time.
Once your skills are better developed and you are keen on learning guitar songs (Joe Pass, Satriani and any other guitar gods) - this area will replace BBQ songs - you should have plenty of them sorted by the time you get to this. If you have not - go back and get some easy songs down NOW!
Either work one one song in each section for 5 minutes each, or choose a new tune to work on and focus on that for the whole 15 mins.
Knowledge (15 mins)
This area is the most difficult to plan - and the one that I advise my students the most with. For certain it should contain:
• 5 minutes - Music Theory - either the recommended one, my book or your own study.
• 5 minutes - Scales or chords depending on what you need to work on.
• 5 minutes - < something else of your choice >
Some ideas for that spare secion would be:
Knowing where the notes are - Understanding Harmonics - Jazz Harmony - II V I licks - Blues Licks -
You have to make those decisions. It totally depends on where you are at and what things you need to work on. Once you know your own goals that should help you with this area.
Improvising (as much as possible)
Just do it - sometimes work on a specific area - like on blues licks, or incorperating arpeggios - sometimes just letting go and letting it all hang out :) I will have to get more onto this later!! It's an area unto itself...