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Practice tips, tricks and routines for intermediate/advanced players

Bogmonster

New member
Joined
Jan 31, 2016
Messages
9
Hey guys,
I’m looking for some insight here. I’ve been playing guitar now for about 15 years and I’m looking for some insight into practicing, or more specifically, how you practice and what works/doesn’t work for you.

Bit of background first. I’d consider myself to be a relatively advanced player (I’m no Steve Vai or anything, but I can hold my own in a band situation) with somewhat of a good grasp on theory and a decent ear (I hope) for music. Again, there’s always something there to learn and I really enjoy the whole learning process and just getting better. I still have loads to learn though. I play mostly rock/blues (guys like Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore, Slash etc. are big influences) and some metal too (some of the more technical players like Petrucci and Satriani have some serious chops).

I’ve been reading loads of articles lately on practicing more efficiently and creating a schedule. I’ve tried this for a few months now with a schedule (splitting time up for theory, techniques, songs and songwriting, ear training etc.) and initially found it good. But as the time moved on I felt I was spreading myself a bit thin covering too much ground or not getting enough time per practice session to cover enough of a certain topic. I generally try to split sessions up into maybe 20-30 minute blocks of these (time depending) and about 45-50 minutes just jamming and applying what I’ve learned or perfecting songs I play with my band. I try to get in 2-3 hrs but with work and life in general I don’t practice every single day. Usually every 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] day.

My old way of practicing was just to have what I was working on (song, technique, theory etc.) and just work on that for however long it took (never usually longer than 1 hour) to grasp the concept and then apply it to backing tracks or use it musically. When I’ve absorbed enough, I’d move on to something else that day and do the same. This lets me learn new stuff and is keeping my mind thinking on actually using it. The next session I’d usually have a quick revision and move on and repeat this process. I find I get completely absorbed in this stuff and don’t notice the time passing so I just work away and it’s really strengthened my playing. When on a schedule I find my process a little slower since it’s more time restricted.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on what you do (especially the really advanced players). Are you very regimented or do you just practice what you’re in the mood for? What works for you?

Apologies for the long post and thanks for taking the time to read it! Any other questions I can answer then please ask.

Rock on! :yah
 

sonar

New member
Joined
Jan 10, 2003
Messages
3,589
Wow! You have a discipline I definitely do not have with the guitar, but I'll chime in anyway.

As I get older the need to warm up is much more apparent and now it's the first thing I do after I check tuning. I used to just pick up and play, but even with a rehearsed band I need to take the time to warm up. I guess this is where "technique" comes into play. This might read simplistic, but I still practice/warm up with scales (major, minor, Pentatonic, Blues - the basics) before maybe playing around with some diatonic passages or chromatic riffs. I'm less concerned about what I play as opposed to how I'm playing it, but the rudiments are always a part of the warm up.

I've always separated theory and songwriting. For me the two never meet in the same sitting. Some might disagree, but I've always found theory gets in the way when creating a composition. Unfortunately, this is where my lack of discipline probably hurts, as I can go on theory tangents that can dominate my practicing, especially chord voicings and construction. I could spend all my time on intervals alone.

Since I'm pretty much a weekend warrior at this point, most of the time writing happens when it happens. I'm lucky to play with some pretty talented musicians, so often I'll come in with an idea and then we collaborate. It keeps it fun.

Not so sure about practicing your ear. Apart from the rudiments I pretty much taught myself guitar by wearing out cassette tapes and cd's. I hate tabs and can't sight read, so I've always leaned on my ear. Don't really know what else to do to improve that?
 

javiersson

New member
Joined
Nov 13, 2014
Messages
25
Just my 2 cents.

I have been playing for more than 30 years. About 4 years ago I decided to try and learn some jazz on my own. Life doesn't give me much time to practice, so I must make good use of it.

I try to stay focused and enjoy the journey. No rush, I feel I improve every day.

That said, I try to work 3 aspects: language, technique and repertoire. What I do in every session depends on time and energy available. And I try to choose wisely. I work on very few aspects for weeks, and try to end each session improvising over backing tracks.

I also record myself often. That's how I see the evolution. When I have some days on my own I record a few tunes more professionally, and edit my own album :spabout just for me, it's like a picture of my playing.

Last, but not least, I listen to as much music as possible. And I take notes of it all, and reflect about it. I even transcribe some solos, if time permits.

And never forget to enjoy and put all your passion into it.
 

Bogmonster

New member
Joined
Jan 31, 2016
Messages
9
Wow! You have a discipline I definitely do not have with the guitar, but I'll chime in anyway.

As I get older the need to warm up is much more apparent and now it's the first thing I do after I check tuning. I used to just pick up and play, but even with a rehearsed band I need to take the time to warm up. I guess this is where "technique" comes into play. This might read simplistic, but I still practice/warm up with scales (major, minor, Pentatonic, Blues - the basics) before maybe playing around with some diatonic passages or chromatic riffs. I'm less concerned about what I play as opposed to how I'm playing it, but the rudiments are always a part of the warm up.

I've always separated theory and songwriting. For me the two never meet in the same sitting. Some might disagree, but I've always found theory gets in the way when creating a composition. Unfortunately, this is where my lack of discipline probably hurts, as I can go on theory tangents that can dominate my practicing, especially chord voicings and construction. I could spend all my time on intervals alone.

Since I'm pretty much a weekend warrior at this point, most of the time writing happens when it happens. I'm lucky to play with some pretty talented musicians, so often I'll come in with an idea and then we collaborate. It keeps it fun.

Not so sure about practicing your ear. Apart from the rudiments I pretty much taught myself guitar by wearing out cassette tapes and cd's. I hate tabs and can't sight read, so I've always leaned on my ear. Don't really know what else to do to improve that?

Thanks for the reply. I'm actually the opposite regarding composing and theory. When I was learning the modes and associated chords, I found I was creating my own chord progressions and these later turned into songs. Some I used and some are still unfinished ideas. But having grasped that concept pretty well (again, there's still loads more to get from this) I find lately that writing songs now just happens and usually comes from jamming in my band.

As for training my ear, that really involves just learning songs/solos from my favorite bands. The more I do it, the quicker I get. I usually just slow it down (the Amazing Slow Downer is a great piece of software) and pick it out. I think I'm pretty good at it but then I see others do it and I know I need to work on this more.

Thank you for your input!
 

Bogmonster

New member
Joined
Jan 31, 2016
Messages
9
Just my 2 cents.

I have been playing for more than 30 years. About 4 years ago I decided to try and learn some jazz on my own. Life doesn't give me much time to practice, so I must make good use of it.

I try to stay focused and enjoy the journey. No rush, I feel I improve every day.

That said, I try to work 3 aspects: language, technique and repertoire. What I do in every session depends on time and energy available. And I try to choose wisely. I work on very few aspects for weeks, and try to end each session improvising over backing tracks.

I also record myself often. That's how I see the evolution. When I have some days on my own I record a few tunes more professionally, and edit my own album :spabout just for me, it's like a picture of my playing.

Last, but not least, I listen to as much music as possible. And I take notes of it all, and reflect about it. I even transcribe some solos, if time permits.

And never forget to enjoy and put all your passion into it.

I really like this idea and have gone back to doing this myself lately. Your approach is pretty much identical to mine. I definitely find concentrating on a particular area for longer gives me a better understanding of the concept. Whereas if I'm learning a few techniques in a session then the information can get lost and my progress feels slower. But the main thins above all else is definitely to enjoy it. And sometimes when I get lost in what I'm learning and lose track of time, I fond those to be my more productive sessions.

Also, can you explain more what you mean by language? And maybe give me some insight into the techniques you work on?

Thanks again.
 

javiersson

New member
Joined
Nov 13, 2014
Messages
25
@Bogmonster sure! By language I mean those aspects of my playing that are essential to the style I am studying. For example, in jazz, I pay attention to the phrasing, the swing, the way melodies refer to the underlying harmony, the way vibratom is normally applied, etc.

Technique is somethin apart. Scales, chords, hand positioning, fingering, etc.

Then I go dig into the relationship between both, and the best way to do it is by studying a repertoire. Full circle! All is tied together! :)

I found that by balancing all three aspects my musicallity is more robust, more solid. I can feel the evolution by recording myself from time to time.

We can go deeper if you wish. This has given me the peace I need to focus and make progress.
 

Bogmonster

New member
Joined
Jan 31, 2016
Messages
9
@Bogmonster sure! By language I mean those aspects of my playing that are essential to the style I am studying. For example, in jazz, I pay attention to the phrasing, the swing, the way melodies refer to the underlying harmony, the way vibratom is normally applied, etc.

Technique is somethin apart. Scales, chords, hand positioning, fingering, etc.

Then I go dig into the relationship between both, and the best way to do it is by studying a repertoire. Full circle! All is tied together! :)

I found that by balancing all three aspects my musicallity is more robust, more solid. I can feel the evolution by recording myself from time to time.

We can go deeper if you wish. This has given me the peace I need to focus and make progress.

That's actually a great method and pretty similar to what I do myself. It definitely works. Glad to hear someone has the same approach.

I must record my practice as well to hear my improvement over time. I have a bunch of stuff recorded with the band and it's amazing to hear the progress we've made since we started. I'm hoping the same will apply to my own practicing.

Thanks again!
 

thejaf

Member
Joined
Oct 27, 2006
Messages
517
Some great insights here! I'm another 30+ year player, and my biggest struggle lately hasn't been what I'm practicing so much as making the time and finding inspiration to actually play. Real life demands seemed to explode out of nowhere when I hit 40, and it seems that I have to fight for uninterrupted time and energy to sit down and play.
 

Starkgene

New member
Joined
Sep 25, 2020
Messages
1
Originally Posted by Matteo
Hello, I'm a songwriter, I guess an intermediate level. It's been 8 years since I moved to Switzerland (I studied at Brunel University London and appied for a scholarship with
the term papers there). But I still write in English and in French. Time management is mandatory in this case. I divide my day into 3 parts: work, songwriting, and household shores.

Hi,
Nice to meet an experienced songwriter here. I haven't been writing lyrics for a while though, but I do plan to brush up on rhyming. What rhyming tools are you using?
 
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