Excerpts taken from the Course: Guitar Practice Made Easy
by: Steve Stine
When studying guitar, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with too much information and most of the time we really don’t know what we should be practicing. In this article I want to give you some tips and help you understand how to build an effective practice routine, organize your time in a more efficient way and avoid some of the pitfalls you might encounter in your journey.
Whether it’s a daily or weekly routine depending on what works best for you and the amount of time you have available to practice, the main objectives we want to focus on are:
- Learning how to develop a practice routine.
- Learning which are the things you should be focusing on depending on your level.
- Being able to recognize the things you want to avoid so that your practice routine is efficient and has a logical path.
Understanding the Information:
There are a few things to keep in mind before establishing your practice routine.
- Work on relevant material according to your level.
- Always ask yourself what should I be working on, and above all why.
- Make a logical connection or logical path to the information.
ALWAYS BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF IN TERMS OF:
1. The quality of your practice and the results.
2. The time you put into your practice.
3. Am I practicing in a logical path?
The “faucet” of information:
We are constantly flooded with information. All of the videos, audios and other information we have access to. It’s important to maintain a balance between all of the information we are pouring into our brains. Too much water will flood your basement and too little will dry it up. You need to be in control of the amount of information coming in and above all be selective on WHAT information is allowed in.
- Is this information beneficial and usable AT THIS POINT IN MY JOURNEY?
- Does this information directly connect to other information I am currently working on / practicing?
- Am I working on this simply because someone told me to, or was I influenced by an outside source but I cannot find a logical connection?
The elements you are working on don’t have to be directly connected all the time, but you have to be careful not to keep going too far out in the weeds. We need to make a logical progress with our playing and avoid getting flooded by too much information.
Before we start analyzing the 4 main aspects or “buckets” that make up the study of the instrument, there are a few things we must keep in mind and that apply to all 4 buckets.
- Begin to develop a daily and/or weekly routine.
- Make sure you are spending quality time on each element, then multiply elements together. For example:
- Learn one chord and then multiple chords.
- Learn a song from its easiest part then connect multiple parts, add strumming and finally the details.
- Learn a scale, memorize it, then experiment with different picking techniques.
- Look for the licks or patterns within a scale.
- Learn improvisation / songwriting and connect it with music theory.
- Try to develop TOTAL CONTROL.
- Don’t make practice “ritualistic” in terms of time and location.
- It can be done anywhere and anytime.
- It can be done in segments, at different times of the day.
- It doesn’t need to be in a certain room at a certain time. Be flexible and prepare to make adjustments if needed.
- Make your practice focused.
- “Mind Practicing” - Visualization is a key form of practicing.
TIPS TO SUCCESSFUL PRACTICE
1. Make sure your practice attains actual gains and understanding.
2. Be patient but diligent.
3. Begin to recognize what IS working and what ISN’T and figure out why.
The 4 “BUCKETS”
The Core / Fundamentals Development Practice Bucket
These are the elements that make up this bucket:
- Picking Techniques.
- Any other technical element.
Theory / Fretboard Study Bucket
Here the elements of this bucket:
- Music Theory which is the language of music – Focus on being able to connect the elements of music theory and apply it to the fretboard.
- Visualizing on the fretboard – Being able to actually see the technical things that are in the Core bucket without having to put your fingers on the guitar.
- Ear Training
- Being able to tell the difference between a major and a minor chord or key.
- Being able to recognize chord progressions by ear.
- Being able to identify the elements of a song form. Intro, Verse, Chorus, Interlude, etc.
Song Study Bucket
Learning songs is an inspiration and a motivation. It gives us a connection with the music we have always loved. Songs make practice turn into music and there is an endless supply to choose from.
Here are some of the things that songs can teach us:
- Fundamental elements and connections of these elements.
- Technical development.
- Visual development.
- Memorization of the song structure and other micro elements.
- Groove / Tempo / Feel.
- Ear Training.
- Learning to listen while playing.
- Learn to connect and respond to the Real World of Music.
- Can often replace certain fundamental practice routines and offer us a fun and useful alternative.
Types of songs:
- Ego Songs: These are the songs we love and want to learn how to play. They are the songs that you can play along with and get from point A to point B. Always look for songs that have something to do with the material you are studying and that you can actually play.
- Project Songs: These are difficult songs that we can see as more of a medium – long term project. Often we don’t have to learn absolutely everything in the song, sometimes just learning some parts is very useful, depending on our level.
Ratio between Ego and Project songs should be around 5 to 1
Creativity / Real World Playing Bucket
Here is where we put all things from the other buckets together and apply them to a Real Life situation. This bucket helps us to learn how to feel more and think less. Also we get to learn what is automated and what is not and we become responsive to the musical situation.
Some of the elements in this bucket:
- Solos and Improvisation.
- Creative Writing.
- The REALITY / QUALITY of our playing.
- Playing and interacting with other musicians.
- Experiencing music with an audience and experiencing their reaction, as well as that of other musicians and how we react to that environment.
In this bucket we can use resources such as:
- Backing Tracks.
- Jam Tracks.
- Jam over pre-recorded songs.
- Record our own ideas and learn how to feel the pressure of recording, which is very different from that of playing live and we can learn how to use DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) and other recording equipment.
Organizing the Study Material - Tips for Success
This is absolutely crucial and will make our practice time efficient. Here are a few things we should be looking for when organizing our study material.
- What are your strong point and what are the weaknesses you should focus on?
- How far are you from achieving your goals?
- Challenge yourself, but don’t get overwhelmed.
- Don’t worry about what other guitarists are doing. FOCUS ON YOU!
The Practice Week
This is an example on how to build an effective practice routine based on daily practice, however this can be adapted to your schedule and available practice time.
- Day 1.- Fundamentals Day
Core Bucket Practice – 50% study time.
- Study things according to your level.
- You don’t have to practice everything in this bucket all the time.
Theory / Fretboard Development Bucket Practice – 15 to 20% of study
Song Bucket – 30 to 35% of study time.
3.Find songs that are connected to the elements you are studying.
- Day 2.- Visualization Day
Theory / Fretboard Development Bucket Practice – 30 to 35% of study time.
Song Bucket – 30 to 35% of study time.
Core Bucket Practice – 30% study time. Reinforce technical elements.
- Day 3.- Creative Day
Creative Bucket Practice – 40 to 50% of study time.
- Prepare for Jamming with other musicians.
- Make up a jam track.
- Record ideas.
Core Bucket Practice – 15 to 20% of study time.
Theory / Fretboard Development Bucket Practice – 15 to 20% of study time.
Song Bucket Practice - 15 to 20% of study time.
- Days 4, 5 and 6.- Re-enforcement Days
Repetition of Days 1, 2 and 3.
- Day 7.- Week Review Day
Here we can relax a bit and TURN ON THE INITIAL FAUCET.
Decide whether we are making logical connections.
Look for something different to maintain your motivation.
Add maybe something that’s on the fringe of your daily routine.
This schedule can be adjusted to your specific needs but DON’T just spend time on one bucket alone.
Practice whatever you feel like or catch up on deadlines like for example learning a song for a rehearsal.
The first thing to remember is that playing guitar or any other instrument is a life-long journey and it might take years to accomplish these things that are written on a few pieces of paper or a simple handout. The most important thing is that the progression is from one idea to the other and don’t over-do it, jump too far or get overwhelmed with all the information. Use these tools to make logical connections, to organize yourself and develop a daily or weekly practice routine based on where you are in your journey and the things that you need to elevate yourself. Find the things that you are good at and the things that you need in this point in time and that will get you closer to your goals.
If you want to dig deeper into this topic and apply the information to your own Practice Path and skill level make sure to check out Guitar Practice Made Easy at www.guitarzoom.com. Practice exercises are included in the full course.