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Practice, Playing, & Learning Tips

Most of this site is concerned with theoretical ideas and spends very little time discussing practice or technique. This section is meant to pass along some general tips on how to practice and play your best. There is no specific order to these tips they’re just some thoughts you may want to keep in mind.

1 - Whenever you create something new, write it down and be as detailed as you can. Its a terrible feeling to know you have written something great but cant remember it.

2 - Keep yourself open to as many musical ideas as possible. Music has been around for a long time and crosses many ethnic and cultural boundaries. If you do a little research you will find tons of great musicians over the past fifty years or so. Use this diversity in your music, it will improve your overall musicianship and ensure that you don?t become pigeonholed into any one style of music.

3 - Learn from everyone. It is my belief that there is not one guitar player out there that could not teach me a thing or two. Everyone you play with, talk to, or teach can show you something. Be receptive to this, and you will learn much more.

4 - Watch your posture. When you spend long periods of time playing your guitar it is important that you maintain a proper sitting or standing position. Bad posture during practice can lead to pain in the lower back and shoulders, over time this can lead to more serious conditions such as Repetitive Stress Disorder or Tendonitis.

5 - Use a metronome. The use of a metronome can greatly increase your timing and sense of rhythm. A metronome is also a good tool to determine just how fast you play as well as a way to push yourself to get faster.

6 - When learning something new start slowly and gradually work up to a faster tempo. It is much more important you play the piece correctly. In time the desired speed will come.

7 - When developing speed make sure your picking technique remains the same as when playing slow. All notes should be played clean without any drastic change in the motion of your picking hand.

8 - Use constant up and down picking stokes. This goes for all aspects of your playing. It doesn?t matter if you are playing lead or rhythm if the last time you hit the strings was on a down-stroke the next strike should be on an up-stroke. There are times when other picking techniques can and should be used but before you venture on to these make sure you have mastered the up/down picking style.

9 - Experiment with diatonic movements. Take anything you happen to be working on and move it diatonically through a given scale. For example if you are studying licks or riffs written by people other than yourself, try to figure out what scale they used in its creation. Once you have found the scale they used, move the lick or riff through that scale diatonically, then move it diatonically through other scales. You can also move the licks or riffs you have written diatonically through various scales to see how they sound, this is a great way to create new stuff. This is a tool that I personally use all the time. Try to move everything you do diatonically through every scale you can think of and I bet you the material in your repertoire will increase ten fold. (*See the section on diatonic movements)

10 - Experiment with altered chords in various progression. Replacing diatonic chords with altered chords on the same root note can spice up a progression that is normally dull or stagnant. Try this with songs you or others have written. I think you will likethe results. (*See the section on altered chords)

11 - When you learn a cover song dont just learn the notes that make up the song, learn how the writer created the sounds that he or she made. Ask yourself things like what key is the main progression in? does the song change keys? does the melody belong to the same key as the harmony? Finding the answers to these questions will increase your overall musical knowledge and make you a much better musician than the guitarist who simply learns the chords.

12 - Create melodies over the progressions you write. One of the best ways to practice is to get a cheap tape recorder and record any new pieces. After you have your new piece recorded go back and see if you can find a melody to play over it. Try using scales in the same key as the progression you are playing over, try using blues and pentatonic scales that are also related to the progression. Then try different keys that are closely related or distant from the key of the progression. (*For info on Distant and Closely Related Scales see the section on the Circle of Fifths) This is a great way to learn to improvise and it will help you build an understanding of how different melodies can be built from a given harmony.


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