A good way to practice? Or, how did you get good?

amstrtatnut

Member
Messages
14,369
My "practice routine" pretty much consists of learning songs and jamming with backing tracks.

Occasionaly, I will practice with a metronome. I think I need more of that.

Some people say Im good but, I know better.

How did you get good?
 
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Wayne Alexander

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,601
I've gotten my best improvement by playing in bands which had a guitar player that was better than I am, watching and learning. And learning how to play parts on recordings right- sometimes starting with tab or a songbook, maybe looking at an instructional video, definitely listening over and over to the track in small pieces, trying to get them down.
 

Lode Runner

Member
Messages
435
Practice with a goal.
I always do some kind of warmup and then engage in focused practice:

Let’s say “I want to learn by heart every single major diatonic triad and its inversions in every major key”. I built exercises designed to get me there and kept on it until I had it.

When I nailed it I said “let’s add the seventh and learn all the diatonic tetrads” and did the same. Then went for the minor triads and so on.

Right now, for example, I’m working on hybrid picking polyrhythms. It’s kicking my ***** but it keeps me on my toes and saves me from getting bored or falling into a rut.

EDIT: always with a metronome
 
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Tony Done

Member
Messages
8,867
I think it was being a bit OCD about specific songs. For example, I got into alternating bass fingerpicking via "Freight train". I already had some theory, not much, from piano lessons a few years before. I think I can fairly say that I wanted to play music, not the guitar, though it had its own attractions for a teen at uni in the Swinging 60s. :)
 

Ejay

Member
Messages
7,710
It’s never “one thing”..but there’s a few thing I consider as increasing the learning curve.

Most important:
Practice what you don’t know. The further out of your comfort zone..the better. So restrict yourself to a position/key that’s a black box for you. Or…remove 4 strings..and find out what you can do on 2…forcing you to learn positions/ways unfamiliar.
The more your brain hurts..the better.

Practice everything “perfect”…time and sound…don’t allow sloppy or mistakes when you practice.

View all you play from different angles…as scale degrees, as chord degrees..whatever..as long as it’s not shapes…stick to musical mind maps instead of visual ones. That will help you to translate what you hear to the neck.

Learn to sing degrees of scales
 

Guitarheel62

Member
Messages
504
It’s never “one thing”..but there’s a few thing I consider as increasing the learning curve.

Most important:
Practice what you don’t know. The further out of your comfort zone..the better. So restrict yourself to a position/key that’s a black box for you. Or…remove 4 strings..and find out what you can do on 2…forcing you to learn positions/ways unfamiliar.
The more your brain hurts..the better.

Practice everything “perfect”…time and sound…don’t allow sloppy or mistakes when you practice.

View all you play from different angles…as scale degrees, as chord degrees..whatever..as long as it’s not shapes…stick to musical mind maps instead of visual ones. That will help you to translate what you hear to the neck.

Learn to sing degrees of scales


Thank you for this!!
 

jjaaam

Member
Messages
1,468
Back in the day, all I would do is try to learn songs by ear. Rewinding a cassette or moving the record player needle about a bajillion times was par for the course. I spent a LOT of time woodshedding in my bedroom during my middle school/high school years. Tab wasn’t nearly as easy to get then as it is today, so if I wanted to learn a song I had to do the work. And I don’t regret a single minute of it.
 

amstrtatnut

Member
Messages
14,369
It’s never “one thing”..but there’s a few thing I consider as increasing the learning curve.

Most important:
Practice what you don’t know. The further out of your comfort zone..the better. So restrict yourself to a position/key that’s a black box for you. Or…remove 4 strings..and find out what you can do on 2…forcing you to learn positions/ways unfamiliar.
The more your brain hurts..the better.

Practice everything “perfect”…time and sound…don’t allow sloppy or mistakes when you practice.

View all you play from different angles…as scale degrees, as chord degrees..whatever..as long as it’s not shapes…stick to musical mind maps instead of visual ones. That will help you to translate what you hear to the neck.

Learn to sing degrees of scales

You are one of my favorite players here. The advice is gold. Thank you.
 

amstrtatnut

Member
Messages
14,369
By developing an ear. I sit in front of the TV, watching whatever, and I play along with any music that comes on. And I do mean anything - commercials, theme songs, incidental music - anything.

I do similar. Been binge watching a historical Turkish drama. Some interesting music in it.
 

tracyk

Member
Messages
888
On the technique side, I spent an ungodly number of hours playing to a metronome. For awhile I was one of those 4+ hour a day very focused players.

On the ear/composition side, I still suck and have no idea how to do it. Give me sheet music or tabs though and I'm pretty good.
 

jogogonne

Member
Messages
1,778
My "practice routine" pretty much consists of learning songs and jamming with backing tracks.

Occasionaly, I will practice with a metronome. I think I need more of that.

Some people say Im good but, I know better.

How did you get good?

I 'think' I've heard you play. I think you're pretty good.

I believe most people who play above the 'good amateur level' have put in some full time years to music, either school, or some years making a run at being a pro, or both. At least one player who answered above me is on that level, and I know they have done that.

That's the way I've always looked at it. If you quit your job and spent the next 5 years dedicated to music ... well, how much of an impact do you think you could make towards reaching that next level?

Of course, not many are willing to do that .. but just saying.

Sometimes I see posts from guys who have like high paid jobs, and kids, and they want to be a high level player too. I honestly think that's asking a lot.
 

JonR

Member
Messages
16,239
I'm 100% with Wayne Alexander and Redblur.

I was never interested in "getting good", for its own sake. I'm still not. I just wanted to be able to play the songs I wanted to play. So I sat down and learned them. if they were too difficult, I stopped and moved on to the next tune.

I was lucky to be playing in a band from 9-10 months after I first picked up a guitar. They weren't great (apart from one of them), but they were better than me. There was no competition, or one-up-manship - or anything like "teaching" involved - we were all just having fun playing music we liked.

I.e., the fact they were better than me didn't inspire me to improve - "getting better" was never the point, because nobody ever said (or implied) I wasn't "good enough". Obviously I occasionally encountered things I couldn't play, but it only took a little practice to be able to play them. It was never difficult. (I don't mean I was "talented" - I certainly wasn't! But the music we were playing was the simplest music there is: folk and blues, the occasional easy pop or jazz tune. We played fun stuff, not difficult stuff.)

Aside from that band (where I was either playing bass or strumming guitar), I started teaching myself fingerstyle, because I got obsessed with that sound. I got "good" at that simply through hours working on tunes with the help of a 2-speed tape deck. No tab, no sheet music, no lessons. These tunes were technically way more complicated than the songs the band was playing. But I did it through sheer persistence: note by note, bar by bar... I never thought of it as "hard" or "difficult", and I never planned any "practice schedules" or any idiotic nonsense like that. I was enjoying the whole process, however long it took.

I mean it. If you have to plan a "practice schedule" in order to actually get things done, you need to ask yourself if music is what you really want to do. Maybe you just enjoy planning, schedules and admin for their own sake? That's fine! But nobody got "good" by treating practice like a chore. Nobody got good by forcing themselves to practice when they didn't feel like it. I doubt even whether anybody got good by asking for advice on how to get good! ;) Stop asking, and start playing! Why are you reading this instead of playing? (You might well ask, why am I writing this when I could be playing? :D Well, because it's another enjoyable pursuit... music is not the only thing I enjoy doing....)

If you give a kid a toy to play with, do they have to plan a schedule in order to play with it? No, either they play with it or they don't. They play as long as they enjoy it, and stop when they get either bored or too tired.

You just have to want to do it. If you want to play, you play. If you don't, you don't. You do it for as long as you enjoy it, then you stop. At the end of each playing session, you will be a little better than before - but that's not why you do it. "Getting better" is the last thing on your mind (literally, because you might well notice, with hindsight, that you can now play something you couldn't before). If you don't practice for days on end, that's fine, because there are other things you want to do, so you do those instead. You play again as soon as you want to. Whether that's 5 minutes after the last time, or 5 days, or 5 weeks.

Obviously the less you play, the less you improve. But why is that a problem? Who cares, if you don't care? If you don't like playing, why is it a problem if you're not playing? The whole point of music - for you and for anyone listening to you - is a unique experience in the present moment. You are fully engaged in what you are doing. Nothing else is on your mind aside from what you are playing. That's the reason you do it, to enter that zone. How "good" you are is beside the point.

Notice I'm using the word "play" instead of "practice". That's important. The word "practice" comes with all kinds of irrelevant baggage. It suggests there is a purpose to it beyond the activity in the moment. That's the wrong way to think. The more you think about the future goal of the activity ("getting better") the less effective the activity is! It will still be effective to some degree, of course. But the less engaged you are (below 100%), the sooner you will get bored with it, or experience it as a chore - meaning you will learn less (if indeed you learn anything at all).

In short, ironically, the way to actually get better is to stop thinking about getting better. ;) (You get better quicker, but ideally you stop caring about getting better.)
 
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Lode Runner

Member
Messages
435
I’ve read some interesting replies that bring up some very valid points.

I don’t view music as a competition and I don’t necessarily think it is the best approach (at least for me).

The way I look at it, I don’t gauge being “good enough” by measuring my playing against other musicians or an external metric. That path would only lead me to frustration or ethical conundrums. You see, as a teenager I used to have a disfunctional one-upmanship dynamic with the guitarist from a local “rival” band. When he had a horrible accident that severed his tendons and effectively ended his career it made me feel petty and I decide to reconsider the approach.

My individual metric is this: “can my hands play the sounds I hear in my head seamlessly?” If I can hum it but can’t play it I am not good enough yet and need to practice more.

I also use another metric, which I stole from a Paul Gilbert column: if you can just barely play it sitting in the comfort of your own home, you are almost guaranteed to bungle it live, what with stage lights, stress, hecklers, and the fact that many drummers tend to play songs faster when nervous.

If you want to play something live you need to internalise it fully and have the mechanics down to where you can play the part in your sleep (and your attention can focus on expression, showmanship, or survival).

You also want to be able to play it at least 50% faster in case your drummer becomes possessed by the Speed Demon or the Russian Dragon.
 

jogogonne

Member
Messages
1,778
I'm 100% with Wayne Alexander and Redblur.

I was never interested in "getting good", for its own sake. I'm still not. I just wanted to be able to play the songs I wanted to play. So I sat down and learned them. if they were too difficult, I stopped and moved on to the next tune.

I was lucky to be playing in a band from 9-10 months after I first picked up a guitar. They weren't great (apart from one of them), but they were better than me. There was no competition, or one-up-manship - or anything like "teaching" involved - we were all just having fun playing music we liked.

I.e., the fact they were better than me didn't inspire me to improve - "getting better" was never the point, because nobody ever said (or implied) I wasn't "good enough". Obviously I occasionally encountered things I couldn't play, but it only took a little practice to be able to play them. It was never difficult. (I don't mean I was "talented" - I certainly wasn't! But the music we were playing was the simplest music there is: folk and blues, the occasional easy pop or jazz tune. We played fun stuff, not difficult stuff.)

Aside from that band (where I was either playing bass or strumming guitar), I started teaching myself fingerstyle, because I got obsessed with that sound. I got "good" at that simply through hours working on tunes with the help of a 2-speed tape deck. No tab, no sheet music, no lessons. These tunes were technically way more complicated than the songs the band was playing. But I did it through sheer persistence: note by note, bar by bar... I never thought of it as "hard" or "difficult", and I never planned any "practice schedules" or any idiotic nonsense like that. I was enjoying the whole process, however long it took.

I mean it. If you have to plan a "practice schedule" in order to actually get things done, you need to ask yourself if music is what you really want to do. Maybe you just enjoy planning, schedules and admin for their own sake? That's fine! But nobody got "good" by treating practice like a chore. Nobody got good by forcing themselves to practice when they didn't feel like it. I doubt even whether anybody got good by asking for advice on how to get good! ;) Stop asking, and start playing! Why are you reading this instead of playing? (You might well ask, why am I writing this when I could be playing? :D Well, because it's another enjoyable pursuit... music is not the only thing I enjoy doing....)

If you give a kid a toy to play with, do they have to plan a schedule in order to play with it? No, either they play with it or they don't. They play as long as they enjoy it, and stop when they get either bored or too tired.

You just have to want to do it. If you want to play, you play. If you don't, you don't. You do it for as long as you enjoy it, then you stop. At the end of each playing session, you will be a little better than before - but that's not why you do it. "Getting better" is the last thing on your mind (literally, because you might well notice, with hindsight, that you can now play something you couldn't before). If you don't practice for days on end, that's fine, because there are other things you want to do, so you do those instead. You play again as soon as you want to. Whether that's 5 minutes after the last time, or 5 days, or 5 weeks.

Obviously the less you play, the less you improve. But why is that a problem? Who cares, if you don't care? If you don't like playing, why is it a problem if you're not playing? The whole point of music - for you and for anyone listening to you - is a unique experience in the present moment. You are fully engaged in what you are doing. Nothing else is on your mind aside from what you are playing. That's the reason you do it, to enter that zone. How "good" you are is beside the point.

Notice I'm using the word "play" instead of "practice". That's important. The word "practice" comes with all kinds of irrelevant baggage. It suggests there is a purpose to it beyond the activity in the moment. That's the wrong way to think. The more you think about the future goal of the activity ("getting better") the less effective the activity is! It will still be effective to some degree, of course. But the less engaged you are (below 100%), the sooner you will get bored with it, or experience it as a chore - meaning you will learn less (if indeed you learn anything at all).

In short, ironically, the way to actually get better is to stop thinking about getting better. ;) (You get better quicker, but ideally you stop caring about getting better.)


I'm in agreement with you. I've mostly always just wanted to copy things that I desire to copy, even if it's improvising a solo that is very similar in style.

But I do 'think' I know what OP is talking about. He wants to play at a level of guys he hears playing, like guys here for instance. I think much of that is about sheer time dedication.
 
Messages
782
I believe there’s no practice routine you should feel you need to have. I don’t think having a practice routine and doing exercises or playing w a met tone etc is necessary at all. Sure they can help but it’s more important to do what works for you, what you enjoy and what will actually help you to get better.

For instance playing w metronome I’ve never done. If you need to improve timing then tha can help but if you’ve naturally got good rhythm it’s not necessary. Playing along with backing tracks and playing with others will develop timing as well and perhaps more so, so using a met tone isn’t necessarily necessary. You should though know how to count music and know how to use foot tapping when needed. If you need help with timing then yeah a metronome can help but for other its not necessary.

When it comes to exercises they can be fun or the can be a chore so do if it’s fun but don’t turn guitar into a chore.

Playing music such as with band mates or with backing tracks I think way more valuable and will improve playing more than exercises so if you’re focused on that you don’t really need exercises and such and can just do exercises on as a needed bases for whatever you happen to be playing. You should have a basic foundation of scales and chords but after that I think it’s fine to just focus on songs and music.

You should avoid being lazy and not working on things you need to improve on and exercises will get you better at stuff but that’s entirely situational and there’s no practice routine you need once you have a solid foundation of the basics you need to play which you prob already have if you’re playing along to backing tracks.

This might be easy for me to say because I’ve been classically trained on violin and so never needed to “ practice” guitar and I’m someone who naturally enjoys working on developing skills spending hrs playing … but it’s also from that perspective of experience… some people may benefit from practice routine but skills mostly just come with time so more important to just have fun and do what works for you. So long as you’re improving you’re good. If you’re not improving then change things up.
 
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