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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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 it's 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 let's imagine a very common real world scenario,
that many of you may relate to. We have this guy, let's
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 doesn't 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 people's 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, you'll 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 won't 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.
It's rocket surgery. But if left unattended, it usually
won't 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 don't 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 you've 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. (Editor's 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 don't it to "chance." 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.

13,495 Posts
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.

Premium Member
33,895 Posts
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.

Premium Member
7,872 Posts
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 :lol:

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 :scream: Back to the Petrucci videos!

By your command!
180 Posts
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.

Premium Member
1,766 Posts
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.

Premium Member
1,766 Posts
It's in violin flat, from 2005. Although it's my main guitar, I'm looking to replace it in the future since the neck may not be ideal for my hand, and I think I'd prefer a guitar with an HSS pickup configuration as well as a tremolo.

It's not lupus.
1,685 Posts
I realized today that I've been subconsciously doing this.

I don't play with a metronome, but I do have a wealth of backing tracks that I play along with. I devote a section of my playing time to different aspects, just as the article suggests.

Today I worked on rhythm playing for about an hour, lead and improv playing for around two (lost track of time :lol:) and then worked on a few of my own songs for another two hours. At some point in there, I was working on some legato, alternate picking, pinch harmonics. I probably wasn't productive as I would have been had I sat down and said "Alright, I'm going to do legato exercises for 10 minutes," but I also probably wouldn't have lost track of time and played for as long as I did.
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