Is Your Practice Routine Working?

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Thread: Is Your Practice Routine Working?

  1. #1

    Join Date: Aug 2010
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    Is Your Practice Routine Working?

    This is a question that really struck me while reading the first issue of the Troy Stetina magazine.

    I'll quote the section of the magazine here since its short and sweet.

    Lets talk about your practice routine.
    Do you even have one? Or maybe it goes
    something like this... You pick up the guitar,
    play a piece of a song you want to
    learn, noodle around a bit, play a song
    you already know, fiddle around a little
    more, etc. The next day you do the same
    thing. If this sounds familiar, read on.
    Perhaps you have a friend down the road that started
    at roughly the same time but has he seemed to advance
    more quickly. So you ask him how long he practices
    and you find out itís about the same amount of
    time as you practice. What is going on? You start thinking
    maybe your friend is just gifted. You even start
    doubting yourself, thinking maybe guitar is just not
    your instrument.
    STOP! Wipe those thoughts right out of your head.
    There is a more realistic answer here! What your friend
    has discovered is a more effective way to practice. He
    has figured out what his goals are and organized a
    practice session that focuses his attention directly help
    him achieve these goals.
    Lets start out by taking a look at what a
    typical intermediate level practice routine
    might involve.
    ~ Warm up
    ~ Rhythm guitar
    ~ Lead guitar technique
    ~ Improvisation practice
    ~ Cover songs you want to learn
    Now letís imagine a very common real world scenario,
    that many of you may relate to. We have this guy, letís
    call him Joe, who jams with friends in the basement
    on Saturday nights for fun. He has been playing
    rhythm guitar up till now and has been only working
    on cover songs. The other guys have been experimenting
    a little and doing some improvised jams.
    Well Joe is lost and doesnít know what to play. The
    other guitar player shows him the basic three chords and
    he just keeps playing this over and over while
    everyone else is having a bunch of fun. But Joe is getting
    Now it just so happens that the other guitar player also
    teaches guitar down at a local music shop. And he offers Joe a bit of advice. What would you tell him?
    They first establish the goals. What does Joe want to
    accomplish specifically? In this case, he wants to work
    on lead technique and learn how to improvise. So they
    map out a practice routine that includes these subjects
    plus continues to develop his current skills. He can devote
    one hour a day to this routine, five days a week.
    Futher, he can break up the time allotted to each area.
    Doing a little of each subject every day creates much
    better momentum over time. By practicing a little of
    each subject everyday Joe will cover each subject five
    times during the week. The other benefit of practicing
    this way is that he will be far less prone to getting fatigued
    or burned out on any one aspect or technique
    or exercise.
    Most peopleís minds can only concentrate on a particular
    subject for a certain amount of time before fatigue
    sets in. You see, it is focused practice that matters
    most. Unfocused practice time is essentially useless.
    Move on to another subject before you reach that
    In fact, sloppy unfocused practice may even be counter
    productive. The mind records your mistakes just the
    same as technically perfect performances. By pooring
    in slop, youíll now have to correct all the bad habits
    you have created!
    Another good approach to daily practice routine for a
    lot of people is to work on the things you least enjoy
    first! Get them out of the way. If you wait till the end
    of your practice session to work on these things most
    likely they wonít get done. These will be the subjects
    you will always put off until tomorrow. Before you
    know it another week has gone by with no focused improvement
    on your weak spots.
    If you are getting fatigued and loosing focus it is a sure
    sign that you need to restructure your practice routine!
    Ask yourself what it is you really want to work on and
    get better at? Then structure your time around that.
    Itís rocket surgery. But if left unattended, it usually
    wonít happen by itself.
    I also recommend rewarding yourself plenty. If you really
    love that Metallica song and want to play it for 30
    minutes, fine. Just slip in the other subjects for 10 minutes
    each. Keep an intelligent balance in your practice
    routine. Enough music to keep it fun; enough skill development
    to really keep improving as a player.
    And donít hesitate to switch it up and try a completely different approach from time to time. The same routine
    that worked great last year may now be slowly boring
    you to death. You need to find news ways of approaching
    the same subjects you are working on.
    If youíve been practicing arpeggios up and down the
    neck for a few weeks, maybe build on that by switching
    it up to sweep picking those arpeggios. The next week
    take the same arpeggio patterns and now lay them on
    single strings, and practice tapping techniques.
    You see, you can keep building the same thread even
    as you apply it to new techniques. (Editorís note: This
    is in fact the core principle woven into any good
    method book. It works.)
    Switching it up like this helps combat the boredom and
    fatigue factor, yet allows you to continue to hammer
    enough repetition to get really good.
    Attack each subject from as many different angles as
    you can.
    Listen to some of the great guitar players.. Randy
    Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, etc... They are
    equally skilled in both rhythm and lead technique, as
    well as composition and arrangement. They knew the
    importance of working on many different areas of their
    guitar playing
    So donít it to ďchance.Ē Think about your practice routine.
    What you you want to accomplish? Then devise a
    system to get there. Stay flexible and keep watching
    and managing your own motivation level.
    By implementing a good practice routine that works for
    you, with the tips I gave you in this article, I guarantee
    you will see results!
    I'm curious what peoples thoughts are on this and if it strikes home to some of you also. I really need to improve my practice routine! what are some of your practice routines?

    I need to add more scales, chords, practice with metronome, instead of spending 1 week studying one area or another. I thought about mixing it all together before but I thought I would be cramming myself and not learning much at all but this article actually confirms that I should mix more into my practicing routines.

  2. #2

    Join Date: May 2010
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    I didn't finish the whole thing, but this much I saw and is true and critical: we learn guitar by building muscle memory: training muscle fibers to fire as we desire them to, establishing new neural connections, etc. If you play something wrong, you will never learn to play it right.

    So practice difficult things slow. Abstract them from their musical context, break things into exercises, and practice them at 12 bpm if you have to. Just start playing guitar correctly all the time, and the speed just comes.
    Making metal every night and day.

  3. #3

    Join Date: Mar 2010
    Location: Wisconsin
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    I would have to agree with Ryan. I posted a thread that was really informative. Besides that cool Stetina mag, http:// is a pretty cool place for guitar needs, practicing and such. I like it quite a bit.

  4. #4

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    Oh man, I barely practice these days. Mostly I just play - I've been thinking I need to get serious about metronome practice again because my picking is getting sloppy.
    "They can kill you, but the legalities of eating you are a bit dicier." - David Foster Wallace

  5. #5

    Join Date: Sep 2008
    Location: Arizona
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drew View Post
    Oh man, I barely practice these days. Mostly I just play - I've been thinking I need to get serious about metronome practice again because my picking is getting sloppy.
    Ha sounds like me

    with work, school, and family I barely have any time to open the closet door and so much as look at my guitars. As a result my playing has gotten considerably sloppier. I think I've been maybe too much about technique in the past though, and sometimes a little sloppier can actually sound cool.

    Man I'm starting to sound like a blues guy Back to the Petrucci videos!

  6. #6

    Join Date: Oct 2010
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    My routine mainly consist of playing the setlist for my band (1 hour) and then some metronome practice on several scale runs I am trying to get quicker on.

    Metronome is killing me though, I sometimes wake up screaming : tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock, tick .......... come on, 10 more bpm, oh noes : too fast, tick , tock.

    I'd like to do something more constructive but can't seem to get there.

  7. #7

    Join Date: Oct 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drew View Post
    Oh man, I barely practice these days. Mostly I just play - I've been thinking I need to get serious about metronome practice again because my picking is getting sloppy.
    I saw an interview with Guthrie Govan a while ago, where he said that he doesn't like the word 'practice' because it invokes the idea of doing something you don't enjoy in order to improve, and (something to the effect of) that he considers actual music to jam to (e.g. a backing track) much more important than a metronome.

    While playing to a metronome may drastically improve your timing and technique, I find that the lack of any musical context leaves very little room for actual musical improvement, not to mention it's not a very exciting way to play. A backing track made of virtual instruments in a sequencer is the way to go for me, as you get actual music to play to AND a metronome on top of it for free, if you like, though it isn't strictly necessary if you have a decent drum track. You can also adjust the tempo to your liking, exactly like if you were using simple metronome.

  8. #8

    Join Date: Mar 2010
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    Hmmm... Where do you get a backing track? I have never used them.

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