Principles of Practice
Based on "The Principles of Correct
Practice for Guitar"
by Jamie Andreas
January 7, 2001 Volume 27
Q & A - "Can I Do Classical & Rock At The Same Time?"--
I have been studying classical guitar for a while, and I love it.
I also really want to learn rock. DO you think it is alright to
have two teachers, one for classical and one for rock?
Absolutely, Mike, you're a man after my own heart. One time, I had
a classical teacher, a jazz teacher, and a rock teacher! Of course,
one has to have a lot of practice time, and a lot of desire to do
this successfully. Also, you need to be very organized. I kept a
notebook with my practice schedules for each style, and reviewed
and revised it every week.
It is also important to realize that when it comes to studying different
styles, you should find a "specialist" for each style.
For instance, do NOT take classical lessons from the jazz guy who
plays a little classical. Most of the time, he will not be properly
trained. By the same token, do not take jazz lessons from the classical
guy. Each of these styles requires a tremendous amount of experience
in order for a player to become really proficient in them. Each
style is a different world, and you must (if you are serious) learn
from somone who lives in that world. So make sure you get the clean
cut chap for classical, the cool cat with the shades for jazz, and
the long haired grungy kid next store for rock!
"Will Using Tab Set Me Back"?
I have been playing for about a year or so now. I have not had any
lessons, but I am teaching myself to play through tablature and
online lessons. I am pretty good with rhythm guitar, but my goal
is to play lead. I mainly use my first three fingers and I have
never really learned to play with my pinky finger and I think it
will be a set back in developing my lead guitar skills. Will this
be a set back and what things can i do to develop this finger?
Yes, it will be a setback in many areas of playing. In the old days,
when most players just wanted to be like Jimi Hendrix, and master
pentatonic, blues based playing, you could get away with not developing
or using your pinky. In fact, I remember when I was just starting
out, and had begun to get some classical training which was getting
my pinky in shape. Other players would watch me and say, "oh,
you must be classical" with awe in their voices. I was something
special because I could make use of my pinky!
Well, it is still true that for just blues based lead playing, you
can get by nicely without using the pinky. Most bends are done with
the third finger. But you will be excluded from a lot of music you
would very likely want to play. For instance, a band like Metallica
writes guitar parts that require a fully developed left hand to
play. I always train my students for full use of the left hand.
It should be noted that the pinky, being the weakest finger, is
the most difficult finger to train properly. It is the most difficult
finger to develop so that it is capable of independent action from
it's neighbor, the ring finger. But once it is, look out!
As far as what you can do to develop this finger, well, what do
you think I am going to say?! "The Principles", of course.
All the exercises for the left hand are specifically designed to
promote independent action of each finger. In addition, there are
some special practice techniques designed to enable anyone to develop
independence and control in the pinky. It doesn't happen overnight,
but it does happen!
Is there anywhere where I can find a list of the principles. At the
bottom of one of your essays you included principle #4, so I was hoping
that I could find the others somewhere??
I was waitng for somebody to ask me that! You'll have to wait a bit
for that, I am going to include the full list in a future book. However,
even though I do not state them in sentence form in "The Principles",
they are all implicit in the book, that is, they are all contained,
explained, and illustrated in the course of the book and the exercises.
An Important Contribution from Eric K.
I just want to relate a recent experience to the electric players
and others who may be hanging on to their "casual" guitar
I've been recovering from some right shoulder problems which arose
from a combination of things both related and unrelated to guitar.
I'm at a point where I can start playing a little again after a
week layoff (thank God!!). In order not to re-aggravate the problem
by doing the exact same things that caused it, I decided to give
the classical guitar position a shot (I play electrics exclusively..).
What a big difference! The guitar is now totally in control by itself,
with essentially no physical effort on the part of my body. Before,
it always wanted to wander just enough that some of my fretting
or strumming actions went into keeping the guitar in place. This
is a waste of energy and was throwing off a lot of things. I played
a my newest piece yesterday for two verses and choruses without
mistake after a full week of no practice. It contains several complex
changes and unconventional chord forms which require total finger
freedom, which I didn't have when I was trying (even oh so subtly..)
to keep the guitar in place. The position also allows your right
arm to extend a little more, which means less accumulated tension
in the shoulder from operating the right arm in that tight position.
Props to Jamie for posting the workshop pic's - when I tried the
classical position before, I had my footstool under the wrong foot
(duh!!), so it's no wonder it didn't take the first time. I saw
the pic, put the stool under my left foot, and voila', instant comfort!!!
People who haven't seen the pics - check 'em out.
While I'm on my soapbox, I should say it was actually really refreshing
to take a week off - all my material sounds and feels fresh and
sweet again. A lot of people have a tough time being consistent
about practicing every day - you folks can ignore me. But you hard-chargers
out there should take heed - give it a rest once in awhile. You'll
be surprised at how some things you were struggling with will just
come when you give it a break. I've had a couple of interruptions
in playing of 2-7 days in duration and, while I miss it terribly
during at that time, I've yet to not come back better and more motivated
That is very cool about your discovery with the "classical"
position. And I bet you will find, as I mention in the book, that
if you practice like that consistently, you will find that you are
MORE able to play well in a less conducive position.
Also, I totally agree with you about the effects of laying off the
guitar. It's just that I can rarely get myself to do it!
The Meaning of Life
I want to thank all the people who wrote to tell me of their reaction
to, and appreciation of my last newsletter. Even though I don't
have time to respond to each letter, I make a point of reading each
one, and I was touched by the outpouring of feelings from many people.
Music is sacred, and I know that for many of us who have made being
a musician the purpose, or one of the purposes of our lives, it
is felt as a special, and sacred element of our lives. In this profane
world, it is a constant challenge to maintain the sacredness of
our connection to that purpose. It is a constant challenge to continue
to listen to the inner voice that tells us, even demands from us,
that we continue in our efforts of artistic development. And many
of you wrote to me of your own challenges.
Sometimes we wonder if facing the challenge is worth it. I believe
many of you heard me when I said, in last weeks essay, YES!
The Voice of Experience
A new user of "The Principles" wrote to me recently. He
describes himself as follows: "I am almost completely self taught,
and rely upon books and the web. I have a library of around 50 instruction
books on guitar, so my top 5 list above came about after a pretty
thorough survey of what is available."
He goes on to give his impression of "The Principles of Correct
Practice for Guitar". (You can read about the other 4 books on
Larry's "Top Five" by clicking the link below)
Your writing is evocative and clear, and your approach (with its
emphasis on focus and awareness of details) is very meditative in
nature. Your words fill a gap which is missing from even the most
extensive volumes on theory and technique. I undertook my next practice
session with a renewed sense of purpose, and I dare say that I have
noticed an improvement already. Sometimes we just need someone to
rap us on the skull and say, "Stop noodling and FOCUS, stupid.
Pay attention to all the signals your body is sending you!"
In the absence of a teacher, your book has accomplished that. I'll
add it to my recommended reading list for others like me who are mainly
"The Principles of Correct Practice" fills the gap on technique,
awareness, and focus in practice sessions which is missing in every
other book I have read. Read it and begin to apply it the very next
time you pick up the guitar. It'll save you a lot of headaches (and
other pains) later.
I'm glad Larry noticed these things are missing in all the other
books. That's why I wrote "The Principles". No one else
seems to be talking about these vital concepts so necessary to success
in actually LEARNING what is in all the other books!
material copyright © 2003 by Jamie Andreas, GuitarPrinciples.com