Short practice sessions
Hello all and happy new year! This post is actually inspired by one of my readers Matt so I'm very excited to write this and thank you very much for your input!!!
As we all know, it can be very easy for life to take over and for the opportunity to practice to diminish. If this is you, then this is written for you!
My goal here is to create a set of short practice sessions for those of us that struggle to get more than 20 minutes with their guitar but want to keep and grow their skills. I will state as a disclaimer that this is aimed at those who are intermediate-advanced levels but there are some helpful tips of ways forwards for those not quite there yet.
These 2 practice sessions are going to be quite skills based, one focusing on scales and one on chords. And, of course, feel free to adapt them yourself and takes bits and pieces to mould them to a practice session perfect for you!
Scales are monumental in any musician’s development. For a better understanding of the importance of these, check out The Importance of Scales. In this practice, we will be focusing on using the major scales and the minor pentatonic or blues scales. These are fundamental and if you don’t know them, you are best to carve out some time for that. It should also be noted that these exercises are interchangeable with other more advanced scales such as melodic or harmonic minor etc. for those wishing to further develop those.
1st exercise: Major scales – using either quavers (8th notes) or triplets, go through the major scale patterns, linking them up (i.e go up pattern 1, down pattern 2, up pattern 3 etc. all in one continuous chain) so you go up and back on the fretboard through each pattern. Put the metronome to a tempo that you can do relatively easily and increase the tempo each time until you can no longer do it well. At this point, bring the metronome back 10bpm and do the exercise just once more. Choose a random key and change it every time you change the metronome. Be sure to start at the lowest possible point for each key where you wont need to use any open string notes.
2nd exercise: Minor pentatonic or blues scale – if you used quavers or triplets the first time, do the other for these scales. Again, go through linking up each pattern and do the same with the metronome as you did in the first exercise. This time, however, do the whole exercise using hammer ons when going up the scale patterns and pull-offs when coming down the scale patterns. Again, choose a random key and change it every time you change the metronome.
Next time you do this exercise, alternate which patterns you use quavers or triplets for and also which patterns you use hammer-ons and pull offs for.
3rd exercise: Speed run - Choose just one pattern and try to increase the tempo of which you play that one. Just go up the pattern. Stop. Come back down the pattern. Increase your speed with the metronome each time. I recommend doing the minor pentatonic pattern 1 to start with. Do this with and without hammer ons and pull-offs. Even try just doing just half of the scale for full speed.
4th exercise: Applying the scales through improvisation. Improvisation is not only when you get to test the knowledge of your scales, but it’s also a major reason for why you learn them in the first place. Spend 5 minutes just trying to work on improvisation. You can either create your own backing track to jam to, look up any of the millions available on YouTube, or jam along adding some lead lines to some of your favourite songs. This is also really important because it is FUN!
Play a song, or preferably a solo that you love. I think it’s really important when focusing on technical aspects of guitar that you reward yourself with something that you really enjoy about playing in the first place. This is a great way to keep yourself motivated and again, it’s FUN!
Bonus exercise: A good next step to squeeze more out of the scales you have learned would be to start playing them in intervals. What do I mean by that. Rather than playing through the patterns straight, try moving in 2nds. This would mean that instead of playing them like:
7 – R – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 etc.
You would do so like this
R – 7 – 2 – R – 3 – 2 – 4 – 3 – 5 – 4 – 6 – 5 – 7 – 6 etc.
When you want to move on from this, start moving in thirds
2 – 7 – 3 – R – 4 – 2 – 5 – 3 – 6 - 4 – 7 – 5 – R – 6 etc.
Chords focused practice:
Chords are a hugely important part of our playing. I love them. How you approach this is important and where you are at with chords will also affect what you do with this. Be sure to refer to the Approaching Chords post to see what you can move onto next.
These exercises are going to be based heavily on inversions so if you aren’t up to at least triad inversions (major, minor, diminished) I would suggest firstly trying to go through the Approaching Chords blog from where you are, up until that point.
These following exercises will be useful for either triad inversions or 7th chord inversions (Major 7, Dominant 7, Minor 7, Half Diminished 7).
Exercise 1: Firstly, choose a random letter in the musical alphabet. Set the metronome to a reasonably slow tempo (between 60-80) and move through each of the inversions of what you are going through with one chord for each minim (half note). Do one whole string set and then move on to the next one.
Eg. If you are doing the major triad inversions, go through the inversions using strings 654, then 543, then 432, then 321.
Do this through all the inversions you have, remember to really take note of what the lowest note is in each inversion, as well as where the root is.
Exercise 2: Play these chords in 4 chord progressions (e.g G – Bm – D – Am OR CMaj7 – G7 – Am7 – BhalfDim7, obviously change it up at least every practice session). Be sure to keep the metronome going and really vary the rhythm as much as possible. Try to keep the chords in a similar area on the fretboard and as you keep going, change 1-2 of the inversions you are using each time you repeat the progression.
Exercise 3: Play along with some songs you like using these. If you can, try manipulating the chords as you go (eg. If you are using triads, try changing the 3rd to a sus4 every now and then, or change the root note down to the major 7th note etc.). This will really push your knowledge of the chords themselves.
Play a song. It’s always great to end with this, after all, we learn guitar so we can play MUSIC!
Remember, you obviously have total freedom to chop and change exercises if you’d rather a bit more diversity in each practice session.
Thank you very much for reading this, I hope it can spark some quality practice sessions for you. Don’t forget to contact me if you have any questions or anything!