What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Discussion about guitar playing from a diverse group of people with different tastes and levels of experience.
Mike_Philippov
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What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by Mike_Philippov » October 16th, 2011, 8:47 pm

If you had a chance to ask a great guitar player (your favorite guitarists) any question specifically about "practicing guitar" or "becoming a great guitar player", what questions would you want to ask?

Imagine that you have a chance to talk to your favorite guitar player on the phone and you could ask him any questions that you want about how to practice guitar effectively…what would you want to know?

I will be conducting interviews with some great guitarists for a new website that I am building right now about practicing guitar and I want to hear what types of questions on this topic you want to have answered.

The questions I'm looking for are the ones that could apply to a guitarist of any style and be on the topic of general guitar practicing only. In other words, this is not for questions about songwriting or improvisation or music theory, or very specific guitar technique related questions ("general" guitar technique practicing related questions are okay)

When I complete the interviews, I will announce them here so that everyone who participated can see the answers to their questions. :)

So, what do you want to know the most about how to practice guitar?
-Mike Philippov
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Alan Green
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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by Alan Green » October 16th, 2011, 10:23 pm

Mike_Philippov wrote:
The questions I'm looking for are the ones that could apply to a guitarist of any style and be on the topic of general guitar practicing only. In other words, this is not for questions about songwriting or improvisation or music theory, or very specific guitar technique related questions ("general" guitar technique practicing related questions are okay)
That's a real shame - I'd like to know Hermann Li's checklist for how he got quite so fast at sweep arpeggios; and I'd like to know why Synyster Gates' solos never really sound like they were written with the particular song in mind.

But, if we have to go with generalisations let's start with this - "How do you measure up against the Steve Vai practise model?"
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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by Chris C » October 19th, 2011, 5:11 pm

Hi,

Interesting question.

Above all, I'd give them the chance to tell us what they really did, rather than some sanitised “for publication” version.



It's abundantly clear that many of the most influential pioneer guitarists had no courses to attend, no books to follow and no internet sites to visit. Many didn't develop their skills through having written schedules to follow but by following their heart and passion wherever it led. They all definitely put the hours in, that much is certain, but I doubt that many of them followed the path of “five minutes warm up, then ten minutes on this, twenty minutes of that, then five minutes of…..” etc… That will work for some - both master guitarists and students - especially if they're trying to fit some practice time around a busy day job. But for many others it simply won't ever happen. They'll just pick up the guitar and work on whatever they feel motivated by at the time, and they'll ride it for as long as it feels right and then try another angle. It might be spending hours listening to a recording and trying to figure out how to match what's going on, it might be joint sessions with friends, it might be going over and over a sequence or pattern until it starts to sing, it might be picking up the guitar with the intention to do one thing and ending up exploring some completely different direction, or it may be any number of other things.

Being relatively unstructured in your journey is not a guarantee of success, but it's certainly not a sure road to failing either. It depends who you are. One man's supportive structure is another man's strait jacket. One person's freedom is another person's uncomfortable lack of direction.

One of the most accomplished senior instructors on another well known site spoke of a talented professional musician of his acquaintance who, when asked about his practice schedule, replied “I never practice, I only play”. I don't think that's uncommon. It didn't mean he did no work between gigs, it meant that the time with the guitar in his hands was about making little bits of music not about working through exercises.


I've just started some bass lessons with a guy who has been a working musician for 40 years and has played in some very good bands. He's a versatile multi-instrument player who is a delight to listen to, and I greatly admire his touch and his talent. I took along a couple of beginner bass books and asked about which approach he'd recommend. “Look” he said “I could give you pages of scales to practice and exercises to do and you'd be bored sh*tless in two days. Then you'd lose interest. Here's four song titles. Go and find the bass lines for them - decide which of the different arrangements you like and figure out how to play them. One of them's quite hard, but you'll get there. When you can play those four you'll be able to play hundreds of others too. Tell me what you need help with and we'll work on whatever it is.”

Now that might have scared the crap out of some students, and make some teacher's hair stand on end too, but it was just perfect for me. I've been really enjoying myself and making very encouraging progress. Most of his students are young lads, so versions of that method clearly work for others too. I'd bet my house that some great guitar players learned that way too.


So that's what I'd suggest. Don't ask leading questions like “What does your practice schedule look like?" because if you put people on the spot like that some of the answers won't be the truth. They'll be a polished up version. Instead, lead off with some remarks to the effect that some very great players never did courses or followed ‘recommended' timetabling but learned in unconventional ways, while others took a more academic and structured approach. How did their own journey unfold? Ask them if they started out one way but changed to another, and if so what was the reason.

In my experience, the ultimate bottom line with guitar (or any other endeavour for that matter) is to keep your motivation high enough to keep going. The majority of beginners stop way before reaching their initial goals. If “Practice” feels like a bore and a chore rather than a keenly anticipated opportunity then the game is already over. So see if you can find out what really made the difference for the people who made it. It won't be a technical answer, so it will be harder to nail down. But it will be the one that I'd like to hear the answer to. Good luck with it.

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by kent_eh » October 22nd, 2011, 10:17 am

Chris C wrote:Hi,
Above all, I'd give them the chance to tell us what they really did, rather than some sanitised “for publication” version.
....edit....
Don't ask leading questions like “What does your practice schedule look like?" because if you put people on the spot like that some of the answers won't be the truth. They'll be a polished up version.
excellent advice.
For instance, here's something I've posted before, but I think it's relevant to Chris' point.

-----paste-----

A story told by drummer Owen Clark.
I was performing a CBC show in the mid 1960's and I had gone to the men's room. As I walked in I could hear a guitar playing and I thought they must have music piped into the room. After a moment I realized that the guitar player was actually in the men's room. Lenny Breau was in one of the stalls taking care of business...and practicing!
I had heard that Lenny never took his guitar off and I learned that day that it wasn't a myth.
-----end paste-----

Do you suppose any famous guitar player would tell that story about themselves? :lol:
I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep

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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by LouisC9999 » November 1st, 2011, 6:19 am

GREAT post, Chris! I'm framing this one...

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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by Liontable » November 1st, 2011, 3:29 pm

Alan Green wrote:
Mike_Philippov wrote:
The questions I'm looking for are the ones that could apply to a guitarist of any style and be on the topic of general guitar practicing only. In other words, this is not for questions about songwriting or improvisation or music theory, or very specific guitar technique related questions ("general" guitar technique practicing related questions are okay)
That's a real shame - I'd like to know Hermann Li's checklist for how he got quite so fast at sweep arpeggios; and I'd like to know why Synyster Gates' solos never really sound like they were written with the particular song in mind.

But, if we have to go with generalisations let's start with this - "How do you measure up against the Steve Vai practise model?"
Well Alan, I can solve at least one of those! Herman Li just kept playing his sweeps over, and over, and over. There was absolutely no special technique or practice schedule he used. He played 7 hours a day until not very long ago, and currently he plays about 3-4. A lot of people seem to expect something more revolutionary than playing until your fingers have grooves in the form of strings, but that's what he did. I met the guy about a year ago and had the opportunity to talk to him about a few of those things. :D

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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by Chris C » November 1st, 2011, 5:18 pm

kent_eh wrote:
I was performing a CBC show in the mid 1960's and I had gone to the men's room. As I walked in I could hear a guitar playing and I thought they must have music piped into the room. After a moment I realized that the guitar player was actually in the men's room. Lenny Breau was in one of the stalls taking care of business...and practicing!
I had heard that Lenny never took his guitar off and I learned that day that it wasn't a myth.

Do you suppose any famous guitar player would tell that story about themselves? :lol:
Now that's dedication! :mrgreen:

LouisC9999 wrote:GREAT post, Chris! I'm framing this one...
Thanks for the generous comment mate. :) I tend to waffle on a bit, but the bottom line is that it would be great to hear more about the less conventional or 'official' paths to success. It's definitely harder to describe or write out, but I'm sure that a big percentage of players don't follow schedules that fit neatly into timetables or practice/goal sheets.

I know that my own guitar learning doesn't follow a regular pattern at all. Yet I do make progress. For instance, I might play what sounds like quite a decent piece of finger picking and yet if I was asked to TAB it out for somebody I couldn't do it. I actually don't know what order my fingers are following, or what strings they're striking - it's not a deliberately learned pattern or sequence. But my ears, fingers and subconscious brain seem to know what's going on because I've listened as I experimented and improvised, and over time the knowledge has stuck.

Finding suitable sounds is becoming instinctive - which is exactly what I hoped would happen. But the really enjoyable part is that picking what comes next, from the wide range of possibilities also starts to become instinctive, and you don't need to have a 'script' to follow. It still feels magical yet natural, rather than deliberately 'engineered' - if that makes sense. :D I'm not in any way anti the structured approach (I am a trained engineer, so I do understand the benefits) but I just don't seem to approach music that way.

Chris

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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by NEZTOK » November 1st, 2011, 5:48 pm

If you had a chance to ask a great guitar player (your favorite guitarists) any question specifically about "practicing guitar" or "becoming a great guitar player", what questions would you want to ask?
Have you ever been diagnosed with a personality disorder?

There is something wrong when you are practicing 10 hours a day. The guys who say guitar just came naturally (for example Ace Frehley) there is really no use asking them anything.

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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by NEZTOK » November 8th, 2011, 9:04 am

Chris, I've been thinking of a couple things you mentioned
I've just started some bass lessons with a guy who has been a working musician for 40 years and has played in some very good bands. He's a versatile multi-instrument player who is a delight to listen to, and I greatly admire his touch and his talent. I took along a couple of beginner bass books and asked about which approach he'd recommend. “Look” he said “I could give you pages of scales to practice and exercises to do and you'd be bored sh*tless in two days. Then you'd lose interest. Here's four song titles. Go and find the bass lines for them - decide which of the different arrangements you like and figure out how to play them. One of them's quite hard, but you'll get there. When you can play those four you'll be able to play hundreds of others too. Tell me what you need help with and we'll work on whatever it is.
I know this works for you, but to me he doesn't sound like a teacher. It's like someone giving you a math assignment without showing you anything and telling you he/she will look over it when you are done. You know, like most Engineering professors. :wink: Maybe that's why it works for you.
Finding suitable sounds is becoming instinctive - which is exactly what I hoped would happen. But the really enjoyable part is that picking what comes next, from the wide range of possibilities also starts to become instinctive, and you don't need to have a 'script' to follow.
For a really long time I didn't know much about scales, and I could find suitable sounds instinctively. I'm sure it's all personality, but I wasn't 100% certain I was going to hit the right note next. It really messed with my confidence playing for people. And guitar is ALL about confidence, so yeah, scales are my security blanket. Also, playing instinctively doesn't allow you to play fast. It's good for slow pretty melodies. And praying that you don't mess up that pretty melody all to hell.

It's good to know both ways. So you are on the right track.

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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by cnev » November 8th, 2011, 10:58 am

Interesting takes from Chris C and Neztok and I agree and disagree with both of you. The problem if you can call it a problem is that everyone has a unique way of learning and what works for someone will not work for another.

I to wouldn't necessarily want a teacher that through four songs at me and told me to go sus them out, maybe if I was young and really wanted to make music a career that exercise might prove invaluable but as an older player I want to cut to the chase and then work out the details etc. So i like Neztok wouldn't be comfortable in that situation.

And to Neztok's point about scales yes they are a starting point and even though I have not taken the time to memorize scales that barely scratches the surface. Knowing the scales and doing something musically with them is another story though and that's what seperates the men from the boys.

My belief and it may be totally wrong is that just knowing scales is not enough (sure you maty not hit bad notes but you also probably won't sound very exciting either) you need to internalize the scale so you don't think patterns and think big picture of the sounds/tones you want to add to the mix. I know I am not saying this the way I want.

But Nez you statement about not being able to play instinctively fast is absolutely incorrect because I know a guy that can do it with his eyes closed and I'm not talking about playing a solo in some scale I'm talking about jumping in on a song you don't know and add anything and everthing from tapping to arpeggios to scale runs etc. in a song that didn't have them to begin with yet everything fits in perfect. Now I will admit he is the only one I know that can do this but I'm sure my instructor can to. He shred in a song like Brown Eyed Girl and make it sound like it belongs in the song that's the kind of instinctive playing I'd love to be able to do how to get there is the problem.
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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by Chris C » November 8th, 2011, 3:08 pm

NEZTOK wrote:
I know this works for you, but to me he doesn't sound like a teacher. It's like someone giving you a math assignment without showing you anything and telling you he/she will look over it when you are done. You know, like most Engineering professors. :wink: Maybe that's why it works for you.
Maybe I should have explained the background better. :)

I'm not dissing scales, and neither was he. He knows that I'm not new to music or to guitar, just to bass. So I've already had years of familiarity with scales, chord construction, and general music theory. He was telling me not to bother starting from scratch on page 1, book 1, of the bass lessons.

However, I think that the general idea does hold good. The best way to bore students rigid is to set them too many exercises and then not let them do anything that sounds like making music until they've mastered them all. I have found (both as a student and when I've had to teach something) that what works best with most learning (not just music) is to ration out the exercises and theory and mix it up with plenty of freer practical work.

I know that if I get a chance to try things out early and regularly, then I'm much more open to knuckling down to work on a particular aspect (like a scale pattern) once I have a handle on WHY it's useful to me, and what problems it might help solve. It's really about which order you do things in, and making sure you're motivated to do them, rather than just ploughing through stuff because you're told to.

I'm sure that if I had been a complete newbie then he would have introduced the idea of scales reasonably early, although he still would probably have just printed out a tab for a really basic song and let me have a crack at it first. Good teachers seem to have a feel for the different styles and capabilities of individual students and will pick what needs emphasizing and explaining, and when. Mediocre ones just grind through the books.

As Sir Richard Branson (the billionaire boss of Virgin) said: "You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over."

That's my learning style too. But I bet he likes to know what the rules are before he bends them. So do I. :wink:

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by jason brann » November 24th, 2011, 5:51 pm

Liontable wrote:A lot of people seem to expect something more revolutionary than playing until your fingers have grooves in the form of strings, but that's what he did.
you just angle your fingers a little different so the strings don't land in the grooves. it's when you start to rub a nerve raw and it feels like there's razors in your fingers that you have to stop.

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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by RandyEllefson » November 26th, 2011, 9:44 am

You shouldn't practice too many hours, esp. every day. I got severe tendonitis doing that. It was 15 years ago and I still feel the affects.
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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by Mike_Philippov » February 1st, 2012, 7:06 am

Hey guys, good suggestions. Quick update: one of the interviews is now up: http://www.practiceguitarnow.com/guitar ... ooley.html so you can check it out
-Mike Philippov
Want to know what to do if your guitar progress stops? Watch this video:
http://practiceguitarnow.com/howtoimpro ... aying.html

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Re: What do you want to know about how to practice guitar?

Post by Cat » February 1st, 2012, 12:09 pm

Chris has it outlined pretty right...

Ultimately, it's just freeing up your soul and practicing until what's in yer noggin' translates into what's in yer hands.

Besides, Mike...if you're looking to make a website on "practicing"...why are you trying to reinvent the best guitar site around? :?:

Cat
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