5 Practice Room Musts
Are you struggling to meet your goals on the guitar? Then we created this article for you.
Players of all levels will eventually hit a wall where they don’t know what to do in order to advance to the next level of their playing. For each student it is different, because the goals of a person vary so wildly between them, but, a revisit to the basics of WHAT you practice can be helpful.
This article will outline the basic approach you should use when getting in the practice room. Plan to do at least 2 of these 5 elements every time you sit down. If you are not doing this, you should be!
Major, Minor, Harmonic Minor, Melodic Minor, Harmonic Major, and all the modes associated with these:
Scales are the bread and butter of music. Everything you play, think through, read, and hear, is based around some scale, mode, key, and what you hear is the result of the interactions of these elements in time.
One of the questions I often see is, “do I have to now practice all the scales?”, and the answer is NO! There’s no reason to practice all of everything, in fact. What I suggest is you practice what you’ll use, and that is different for every student and what particular goals they set.
“How do I practice scales?”, is another often asked question. The easy answer is to learn to play the scale in every position on the guitar, and in every key.
After learning to practice in every key, start applying various Sequences to your scale. I have included a link to our sequences book, but there are many resources you can find and apply.
The reason sequences are important is because they are used so frequently in real music, not abstract scale structure. So, if you see yourself interested in solos, songwriting, improvising, learn about using Lead Guitar Sequences in practical application.
Major, Minor, Major 7th, Minor 7th, diminished, augmented, dominant, half diminished, altered dominants, extensions, etc:
What do I mean by chord theory? Well, simplest answer is to gain additional knowledge of chord shapes and theory on the guitar. If you’re a total beginner, that would mean understand the most common 1st position chords, and having good command at switching between them.
Books like our Strumming Pattern Book were designed to help beginners practice in a coherent way to see progress and continue to challenge themselves.
Advanced players should start to learn all the chords they know in simple triad inversions, then drop chords, continuing to learn complex chords like major 7ths, 9ths, dominants, altered dominants, and their inversions, typical motions to other chords, and how to create interesting movement between the chords.
Sight Reading/Ear Training
Learning Solos/Tunes/progressions by ear, transcribing, reading/playing through written charts/lead sheets:
This is actually two topics smashed together into one, on purpose. They are both two sides of the same coin (musicianship), and both sides really need to be there in order to have success.
There are many examples of musicians who were incredibly strong players who only had great ears, but for most people, you need to have both skills or you will hit a wall eventually and not know how to catch up.
This means, practice learning written music, whether that be transcribed solos, exercises, etudes, songs, jazz lead sheets, etc, and have a habit of incorporating this into your practice routine.
In our Livestream Group, we spoke about how to incorporating ear training into practice. The best advice (without the obvious, pay a teacher), is to learn what you like simply by listening to it over and over and trying to copy what you hear. Yes, there is language to what you are learning, and more effective ways to do this, plenty in fact, but this is a great first step to understanding music.
Compiling a list of songs/solos to learn, and having them learned and the ability to play them all the time:
This is one of the most important things you should be doing in the practice room. Even if you think you learned something, can you play it again?
You should always spend time revisiting your past successes, and celebrating the feeling of completing them! You want to do this to help motiving yourself to keep reaching for higher goals, as well as keep your chops put together for the next gig/show/audition.
Try to spend some time compiling a list of songs you think you really know well, and revisiting them in the practice room once and awhile. Also, spend some time thinking about songs you want on the “finished” list, they can be out of this world tough, or a lot of easy ones, doesn’t matter, think about it and try to get a few more of them down into your routine.
Using stuff you learn in real musical applications – Writing, performing, improvising:
This is the part of practice that takes the longest of all. Longer than learning an entire sonata, or a dragon force solo even!
This is when you learn a particular thing so well, that it is totally ingrained into your playing. So much so, that you can’t even predict when you use it, and how you use it! It’s very similar to language that way.
Practicing practical application is so important. No matter how much stuff you try to practice, if you can’t use it logically in your own music, or improvising, or even as simple as in a different key, then you are really limiting your progress as a musician.
In our livestream group I have outlined ideas I use on my students to help them take their musical goals and apply them in the practice room. Without hesitation the 1st thing I would recommend is learning the lick/phrase/scale in every key! Super important! After that, there are lots of things to do, but dependent on the context somewhat.
In closing, I hope that this article helps students who can often feel a little lost about what they should be doing when they sit down to practice. As always, I am open to comments and read them all (I got quite a lot on the last article). If there is something I missed please let me know! Thanks!