Something New This might seem foreign to some, but learning styles outside of your comfort zone will improve your playing as well. It will also help you develop your own sound. So what I do a lot here is get on to YouTube and search for “Jazz Lessons” or Country Lessons”. I will watch the dude or dudette performing a lick or phrase and will use my ear (I cheat too, I use my eyes to figure out what position they are playing on the fret board) to figure out what they are doing. The key here is to not learn the phrase note for note; the value here is learning the style and adapting it to YOUR sound. Who wants to sound like a clone of your favorite guitarist? That has always been my goal, sound like TANK and not Satch or Vai. But, if you do, that is cool as well. One thing that I have really been hot on lately is Chick’n Pick’n. I found a video of Jerry Reed, (yes Cledus "Snowman" Snow from the ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ films or Coach Red Beaulieu from ‘The Waterboy’) performing Lightning Rod in 1977. The dude could flat out play, may he rest in peace. Check him out…friggin AMAZING!! http://youtu.be/qOGiW-y-Vhs
Once I have completed my ‘geek’ work, this is where I just jam. I will crank up iTunes over my computer speakers or plug my iPod into my trusted practice amp and jam over different styles of songs. It’s pretty easy to jam over Rock and Blues; find the key center and bust out those pentatonic scales. Allow me to step on my soap box for a second; I really this might be a lost art. I blame it on the Grudge Bands. They were very sloppy and just made noise…but never fear, I think guitar playing is coming back in vogue. OK, off the soap box! Like I said in the begging, this is not an end-all-be-all of how to practice. This is how I approach practicing; warm-up, theory, something new, free-play. It does evolve over time or depending on my mood. Now, get off your ass and practice!!!
I love to play the guitar. I’m a pretty competitive dude but don’t have all the time in the world to ‘master my craft’. As life gets more and more crazy, those ‘chops’ I developed when I were 15 – 22 years old have started to erode. How do I get back to those days when my progression was on the up-beat and not the down? Simple, I create a focused plan! **Disclaimer** This is not the end-all-be-all of how to practice. **Disclaimer** This is how I approach it and it works for me. I know as Guitarist, we tend to be an arrogant lot; our way is the right way. Not this guy, I have screw more stuff up than I care to remember. That is how I learn. That being confessed, here are my four phases; warm-up, theory, something new, free-play. Now this is not the Steve Vai 10-hour practice marathon or John Petrucci: Practice Tips for the pros; this is advice for the everyday Guitar Dude or Dudette. How ever long you have to practice, you can use these four phases. Warm-up Breakfast is the most important meal of the day…duh. Like breakfast, warming-up is also the most important thing a guitarist can do. Your forearm has a lot of muscles; I know this for a fact, I look it on a Medical site!! I’m not going to go over all the names of those muscles because they are too complicated for me to pronounce let alone write about, but stretching and getting the blood flowing through them is vital. You will notice that if you do this, the next three phrases will be much easier to accomplish.
I wrote a section on warm-up exercise and you can review it here http://guitartipdejour.blogspot.com/2010/11/warming-up-is-hard-to-do.html Theory
This is my favorite part of practicing; Theory. I have never been accused of being a geek, but when I study theory, my geek streak comes out. What is nice about this is there are a lot of different things we can practice here: Exercises, musical theory, scales, reading music, ear training…I like to work on my theory knowledge. For many years, I used Hal Leonard Corp’s Music Theory for Guitarists, Guitar Method as my bible.
You can find it here - Hal Leonard Online: http://bit.ly/mp1Ajx
Another thing I like to work on is Ear training. As you become more familiar with the fret board, you will begin to recognize sounds and where they land. I take the CDs that come with the instructional books I’ve purchase, such as Music Theory for Guitarists, and listen to them without the sheet music. I will practice them over and over until I have all the notes in the particular phase down. This is critical for every guitar player.