19 September 2008

Guitar Practice Routine: Songs First

How much time do you spend on practice exercises? I mean things like scales, licks or little two or four bar pieces.

How does this compare to the amount of time you spend on song practice? Do you spend more, much more, time on this? If not, maybe you should think again about your practice routine.

Your goal is to play songs on your guitar, right, not exercises? So why spend so much time learning how to play exercises? You know, you are what you practice. If you spend your practice time on exercises then you will become a competent exercise player.

What's An Exercise?


Exercises should be designed to work on a particular guitar skill or illustrate a certain point of music theory. A good exercise should let you focus on one problem. This is valuable, but it shouldn't be the only thing you spend practice time on.

If you spend all your practice time on exercises you will end up being able to play nothing else. When someone asks you to play you'll have nothing but little fragments to show them. To play and perform songs you need to dedicate practice time to learn, memorize and revise them.

Integrate exercises in songs


By all means use an exercise to focus on one guitar skill. But as soon as you can integrate the skill into a song. For example, if you learn hammer-ons, try a few exercises to get the idea and then add hammer-ons into songs you play.

You should start with a song you know already. This reduces the amount of new stuff your brain has to deal with and lets you focus plenty of attention on whatever is new to you.

Another good idea is to use an easy song or two as a base for integrating new skills. You know, those easy two and three chord songs that you learn as a beginner. Well you can play them for years with new variations and fancy add-ons. This lets you continue with your favourite songs without getting bored of them. There is always a way to add fun and challenge to them as you grow as a player.

Exercise Your Discretion


By all means use exercises but remember what they are for. Try to integrate them into a song playing context as soon as you feel comfortable. If you don't you might end up as an exercise demonstrator. To become a song player make sure you spend time practicing songs, too.

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More on practice routines...

Aristotle's Guitar Practice Routine
Guitar Practice Routine: Get Started
Guitar Practice Routine: Interval Training
Guitar Practice Routine: Hamburger's Tips
Guitar Practice Routine: Three Stages

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