How Should I Practice On The Guitar

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Guitar Players...Get a Balanced Practice Diet. by Craig Bassett

Do you have a wide variety of things that you practice? Or do you like to binge? (You know...the type of player who practices sweep picking for a kazillion hours a day but only know three chords)!

Having a balanced practice routine is essential if you want to become a versatile guitarist. If you just practice one or two things, sure you'll get great at those things...but you'll be weak in other key areas.

In this lesson you'll learn how to create a practice routine that is well-balanced and will help you work towards your ultimate vision of how you would like to play.

I generally categorise what I practice into one of seven areas:

1. Technique.

2. Repertoire (Covers).

3. Composition.

4. Improvisation.

5. Ear Training.

6. Theory.

7. Music Reading.

Everything that you practice will fit into one or more of the above areas. For example,if you are learning a very challenging cover tune by transcribing it off the CD you are essentially working on your technique, repertoire and ear training at the same time. If you also write down the song in standard notation, you will also be developing your music reading skills.

Now…do you have to practice things in all seven areas? I believe that you don't have to if your vision doesn't require it. For example, if someone wants to become an awesome classical guitarist and has no desire to improvise, then I believe that they don't need to practice things relating to improvisation. We all have limited time available for practice, so it's a waste of time working on things that don't specifically help you reach your goals.

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Guitar Daily Practice Handbook - sheet music at
Guitar Daily Practice Handbook by William Bay. For Guitar (All). technique. Value Line. All Styles. Level: Intermediate. Book/CD Set. Size 8.75x11.75. 32 pages. Published by Mel Bay Publications, Inc. (94135BCD)
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Let's go through a few exercises…

Exercise One:

Think about the vision that you have for your playing for a few minutes.How would you like to play in ten years time. Make it exact!

Once you've done that, brainstorm as many things that you need to practice in order to play like your vision. What specific things do you need to learn, develop and practice? Write them down now.

Exercise Two:

Next to each of the things written down for Exercise One, write down a category next to it. For example, if you wrote "I need to be able to play faster" then write technique next to it.If you feel that something you wrote belongs to more than one category, then write down all the categories it could belong to.

Exercise Three:

Look at your answers for the previous two exercises. Once you've done that prioritise the categories shown below. For example, if you feel that technique is the most important thing you need to work on to reach your vision then put a 1 next to it.

Practice Trax For Guitar - sheet music at Practice Trax For Guitar Written by Danny Gill. For guitar. Includes instructional book and accompaniment CD. With chord names, scale patterns, instructional text and introductory text. Soloing. 32 pages. 9x12 inches. Published by Musicians Institute. (HL.695601)
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**Practice Area Priority Level (1-7)** [Note: 1 is the highest priority].

Technique Repertoire (covers) Composition Improvisation Ear Training Theory Music Reading

Now here's the important point. You should spend the most time practising your number one priority. I know it's pretty obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many people don't do this! I know a few guitar players who would like to be able to play incredibly fast, yet they don't do a lot of technical practice. Talk about setting yourself up to fail!

The Art & Technique Of Practice - sheet music at The Art & Technique Of Practice By Richard Provost. Composed 12-31-92. 56 pages. Published by Guitar Solo Publications. (DK10016)
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Exercise Four:

Decide how much time every day you will spend on each category. Write it down below.

**Practice Area Time Invested Daily**

Technique Repertoire (covers) Composition Improvisation Ear Training Theory Music Reading

All done? Great!

So what’s the next step?

The next step is to decide on a specific activity for each practice area.Make sure to write them down.

Here are a couple of examples of what someone might put down...

Technique: I will invest 10 minutes a day on alternate picking exercise one. I will start with the metronome at 80 beats per minute (bpm) and increase it by 4 bpm daily(as long as I can play it perfectly).

Ear Training: I will invest 10 minutes daily a day on A minor pentatonic ear training exercise one.

Got the idea? You would have one specific activity for every practice area. If you have a lot of time to practice you could set more than one activity per practice area.

Give this method a try. I'll think you'll be more than happy with the results!

Guitar Options Practice Book, Music Medals - sheet music at Guitar Options Practice Book, Music Medals By ABRSM. For guitar. Published by ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music). (ABRSM5148)
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Craig Bassett (The Guitar Solutions Expert) is a professional guitarist, guitar tutor and author who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. To get a free high-quality lesson e-mailed to you once a month, please go to: Pentatonic Guitar

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Updated: 3/6/07