Principles of Practice
Based on "The Principles of Correct
Practice for Guitar"
by Jamie Andreas
23, 2001 Volume 61
Using The Basic Practice Approach On Familiar Material
I have just received your book and am starting to put your principles
to practice. I must tell you the book is totally awesome! But, I
do have a short question about practicing....
After applying your practice technique to a section of music (5
measures) and getting it up to the proper speed (quarter note =
116), I am unsure what I should do when I practice that section
of the song the following day.
Do I start again back at no tempo practice for that section of music,
or do I start at the ending speed (quarter note = 116) and try to
play it even faster?
The reason I ask is because for a long score (6 pages or more) it
may take me hours to practice it if I must apply the Basic Practice
Approach to previously learned sections of the song beginning at
Step 1 (no tempo practice).
Good question, and time and common sense would probably lead you
to the answer, but let me try to give you the right way to look
at this. The Basic Practice Approach is to be applied in all its
detail any time you are dealing with music that is ABOVE your present
level of ability, and continues to defy your efforts to improve
it. That means essentially it is THE way to create Vertical Growth.
Now, when it comes to pure technique and the exercises used to develop
it, there is no "speed limit". If you are happy playing
scales at 120 bpm (16th's), then fine. Once you reach that, you
only need to maintain that level of ability. If you desire to reach
160 bpm, then you must do a different kind of practice. You must
apply the Basic Practice Approach, as well as every other approach
I have written about. Knowing which approaches to use for which
problem is a skill that is always developing for each of us.
Your question has to do with using the Basic Practice Approach when
creating Horizontal Growth, that is, when learning something already
within your present level of playing ability, it just happens to
be new, so the actual notes and associated movements must be "programmed
in" to the neuro-muscular system. You are giving a scenario
where this new music is able to brought up to tempo in one day.
Fine, but now you must realize that in order to SOLIDIFY that music,
to INTERNALIZE it, you must re-inforce it into the reflexes through
enough correct repetitions of the music. Don't assume because you
played it well in your room last night that you are ready, for instance,
to perform it. You will most likely find that once you hit the stage
and start to play it, you will wonder if you have ever played it
before in your life! It takes a good amount of correct repetitions
to have the music "stick", which basically means to internalize
it to the point where it can be played from muscle memory alone.
If there are NO technical problems with the music, all the notes
are there and you are not feeling discomfort, then the process of
internalizing the music, or the process of maintaining the music
can be done this way: always begin with "modified No Tempo
Practice". Play through the music slowly, and stop and linger
on the passages that, while they may be within your ability, are
of a more complex nature, and will benefit by being "visited" in a relaxed way.
Then, set your metronome on something slow and comfortable, and
play through the music in rhythm, creating a "prototype" of how it will be when played up tempo, so, all the details of tone
and other dynamics are there, just at a slower speed. Then, just
play it (level three practice in The Principles). Relate to the
music emotionally, and get it to the point of being played from
memory. Repeat this process every day. Then test it out by recording
it, and playing it for friends (or even better, enemies!).
No, I don't recommend playing 6 pages of music with the Basic Practice
Approach. That isn't necessary. Use it, where needed, for smaller
sections, anywhere from 2 notes to around 16 bars. Then treat the
next passage the same way. If you work both passages up to tempo,
then go and combine them at about half that speed, bringing both
passages, combined, up to tempo. Continue this process to cover
the whole piece.
Dead Notes On Bar Chords
Some songs i play today require use of barred chords like a Bb or
G#. However I soon found out that in all the years of playing the
guitar, that whenever I play these chords, some notes don't sound
well.... like a dead note especially on Fm, B7, and the like. How
do I strengthen my index finger so that I can avoid these dead notes?
First, I am glad you are listening better, so you have identified
notes that are "missing in action"! Second, understand that
strength in the index finger is only a part of doing bars well, and
not the most important part. It's amazing how players put all the
importance on this. I was in a lesson the other day with someone who
is twice my size, and probably as strong as the incredible Hulk! His
hands are twice my size, and he actually asked me if I thought perhaps
I had extra skin on my finger, and that was why I could get all the
notes out in a bar and he couldn't!
Here are the important factors:
1. The ability to lay the 1st finger across the strings and NOT have
the 2nd finger squeeze up against it.
2. The ability to have the upper arm muscles stay relaxed, and add
the weight of the arm, having it come through the bar finger to supply
a lot of the pressure needed to get the string down. Most people lock
up the upper arm immediately upon placing the bar down.
3. The bar finger must be positioned right up close to the fret, often
it is not, it is too far away, even a quarter of an inch greatly increases
the amount of pressure needed to get the string firmly to the fret.
Actually, when done correctly, it looks like the finger is on top
of the fret, when viewed in a mirror. Also, a slight lean of the finger
toward the head stock of the guitar is a good idea.
Here is an exercise. Go to the 5th fret, and touch your light and
relaxed 2nd finger to the 6th fret, 3rd string. Focus on your breathing
and keep it flowing. While you are touching the string with the 2nd
finger, lay the 1st finger across the strings with no pressure. Make
sure your 2nd keeps separated from the 1st, and very slowly apply
pressure with the bar across the strings, but only push them down
half way. Imagine the strings are a bunch of individual rubber bands,
and focus on the actual feeling of them under your finger. Keep breathing,
and push the bar down a little further, using a combination of a slight
squeeze between finger and thumb behind the neck, and the arm weight
mentioned before. . Stop and check your shoulder and relax it. Now,
slowly push the string down all the way, as you breath and as you
keep your attention on your shoulder, which will tense as you do this.
Stop, relax in this position, then rest. Repeat this a few times.
As far as strength goes, there is a small muscle in the hand itself
called the Lumbrical which actually performs the action required for
a bar. All the usual huffing puffing and straining is not going to
strengthen this muscle.
Also, make sure you read the essay "Easy
Bar Chords" on my site.
Many of you are now working with "Practice Secrets for Spanish
Romance", and I am waiting to hear how you are doing. I did
get a letter from John Parsons the other day, who apparently felt
a little overwhelmed by the detail I went into about how to go about
practicing it. He writes:
Many thanks for the Spanish Romance Practice Secrets which arrived
while I was on vacation. I thought I'd work through it before sending
you this thank you note, however, I now realize that there's a huge
amount of material in it. It would be some time before you heard
from me! This book is everything I expected and more. I've tried
the first few pages, and the guidelines and links you make to the
exercises are excellent. The instructions are really clear. Spanish
Romance is going to be a winner and is another fine example of you
teaching people to fish - I can really see how to apply this lesson
to other tunes.
So, John and everyone else, go slowly, read carefully, and write
to me about any problems. I have placed a video demonstrating the
key right hand technique used in the piece, check out the top of
As I get feedback, I will know what else to provide in the way of
material copyright © 2003 by Jamie Andreas, GuitarPrinciples.com