Principles of Practice
Based on "The Principles of Correct
Practice for Guitar"
by Jamie Andreas
13, 2002 Volume 98
My Lesson with Ney Mello
It was Sunday morning, and I was doing my usual morning practice
in the hotel room, including brushing up on my picking for my lesson
with Ney at 1:00 pm. Geraldine was trying to get me to think about
maybe actually looking at the map to figure out how we were going
to get to Ney's. (at least I think that was what she was trying
to do. All I remember was I was practicing, and somebody was bothering
me!) Of course, she was right, it would have been prudent to be
a little more prepared for driving around a metropolitan area I
wasn't familiar with!
Well, I wasn't quite prepared for the intricacies and vagaries of
the Washington Beltway. Unfortunately, I have this strange quirk
of mind that makes me assume that whenever I am going somewhere,
I can somehow get in the car and find my way to that place. All
I need is a vague idea of the direction, maybe the main roads to
take, and I'll be fine. At the most, if I have maps, and I get stuck,
I can figure it out as I go. The end result of this "philosophy
of travel" was that Geraldine and I were driving around like
chickens with our heads cut off, frantically trying to find Ney's
after getting stuck on the Beltway in the wrong direction! Then,
it got worse. I lost the directions with Ney's number on them. Now
we had no way of knowing where we were going, or how to contact
Ney! I was in such a state that if you were to have seen me, you
would have lost all respect for me as some kind of wise person.
I experienced about 30 minutes of sheer idiotic, moronic, and lunatic
functioning! I cursed, I slammed, I said, "I'm never gonna
get that lesson from Ney now. We can't find his number, he's probably
unlisted, he won't have time tomorrow, I'm a jerk! Isn't this the
reason we came down here!"
I can be very hard on myself when I do totally stupid things. And
you should know that the only area of life where I behave in a totally
mature manner is practicing the guitar!
But, one good quality I do have is that I can moderate my craziness,
and even minimize it enough so that I could say, "wait a minute,
let me look one last time for those stupid directions". And,
I found them! And, some nice lady helped us figure out where we
were, even talked to Ney on the phone, and we were soon on our way.
Of course, I said to Geraldine "now, Ney is gonna think I'm
an idiot. Some student, I can't even get it together enough to get
to the lesson on time!" He's probably gonna start telling people,
"look, I know I recommended The Principles, but that was before
I met Jamie, and saw what they've done to him!"
Well, I had nothing to fear. We were about 1 1/2 hours late, but
fortunately, Ney had left the day open, so we had time. And as soon
as we met, went in the house, and sat down in Ney's studio, it was
all good from there! We got into a lot of conversation, and then
Ney (who was throughout a most gracious host), broke out some wine,
and from that point, you probably couldn't shut me up. I was a little
worried though, because any amount of alcohol immediately degrades
my playing, and I thought, "hmm, I don't think I will play
as well as I could, especially pick style, when we start the lesson".
But then I decided to not care about it. It was so cool to be finally
meeting Ney after having so much back and forth on the site, in
the forum, and e-mails between us over the last many months. Not
to mention all the reaction my site visitors and book users have
had to Ney and his teachings on being an artist, and a guitarist;
especially in Ney's specialty of virtuoso pick technique, which
I was there to learn about.
So we talked on and on for I think about 2 hours before we got to
the lesson. We knew we were going to have dinner together later
anyway, so if there was anything we had possibly neglected to talk
about in the previous two hours, we could talk about it then!
Ney began to go through the script for his video, explaining the
different types of pick action, and the type of movement associated
with each action. I am not going to go into all the intimate details
of what Ney showed me, but I will tell you this: he's got the goods!
Not only can Ney play that guitar with eye-popping virtuosity, but
he has the kind of mind that can, and has, thought deeply about
what he is doing. And that makes him valuable not just for being
able to play the guitar, but for teaching others how to as well,
and that, of course, is ultimately why I was sitting there.
I really admire people who have taken the trouble to penetrate deeply
into something, so much so, that they have not only attained to
authority on the subject, but also have something entirely unique
to contribute. I must say that some of the techniques and concepts
that Ney showed me are not things I have seen elsewhere, and they
are founded upon understandings (backed by experience), that can
be reduced to something I have a special fondness for: First Principles.
That is why I suggested to Ney that as he is writing his video script,
he think about approaching it not just from the angle of "secrets
of pick virtuosity for those maniacs who want to play like speed
demons", but something more similar to the way I see The Principles:
things everyone who uses a pick should know right from the beginning,
and if you do know these things, and develop yourself along these
lines, you will play to your best ability no matter what style or
technical level you operate at, and you can raise that level at
any time because you won't be unknowingly building in future limitations
when you practice.
What more could you ask for?
If I wanted to play at the highest technical levels with a pick
(as so many of you do, I know), I would feel that I had found the
kind of approach, and the kind of person teaching that approach,
that would take me where I want to go, (not just point to where
it is!), in the person of Ney Mello. And that is a great thing.
I remember looking for a teacher like that for classical guitar,
and never being able to find one, even going to some world famous
players. Also, I remember when I was, for a few years, concentrating
quite heavily on pick technique (which led me to a lot of the same
sources Ney studied), not being able to find a person or approach
I felt could do that. Sure, you could find out about a lot of different
things that worked for different people, but nothing that made it
all make sense, and be usable by oneself.
So, all you future Vai's and Satriani's out there will be quite
gratified when Ney releases his video! In the meantime, let me share
a few insights I talked over with Ney, things I had thought about,
but wanted to hear his opinion (as a more developed and experienced
pick player than myself). One I think is of particular importance
is this: the wisdom of doing the majority of practice on an acoustic.
At one point in the lesson I asked Ney if he could play all those
blazing runs he was doing in front of me on my guitar, instead of
his. He was playing his Ovation nylon string, and I had my Ovation
steel string with me. The higher tension of those steel acoustic
strings made a whole lot of difference in terms of ease of play,
at least for me! I could really feel a decrease in my speed because
I have only been practicing with a pick on my electric recently.
Well, needless to say, Ney did not have this problem! His speed,
and more importantly, his articulation, was just as clean and powerful
on my guitar!
And this underscores a primary fact of pick style playing that all
students should heed: your sound is not in your equipment, your
sound is, ultimately, in your pick, in your right hand technique.
Equipment will not hide the deficiencies of inadequate technique,
not from educated ears, at least. Your ability to bring power to
the string, with control, is what it's all about. That is where
articulation, powerful clear notes (even at fast speeds), comes
I asked Ney if he felt that, for a person seriously interested in
full development as a pick player, they should make sure they can
cut it on acoustic by actually doing a great amount of practice
on acoustic (even if their main axe is electric). Ney said he did
agree with that, adding of course, that you should practice on electric
what can only be done on electric, and in general, of course, you
should practice your electric a lot if that is your main axe just
to attune yourself to its particular feel. But, the concept is similar
to a batter warming up with two bats; swinging with one feels a
whole lot easier! If you can be strong on an acoustic with a pick,
an electric will feel like butter!
So the lesson went on, and after awhile Ney played a few excellent
tunes of his for me and Geraldine, and I played some things (I don't
think Geraldine played anything!). We went out to eat, and ended
up talking another 10 to 12 hours! At one point I told Ney I was
really glad of one thing: that I wasn't disappointed in meeting
him! You know, it can be weird to just have an "on-line relationship"
with someone, only through the written word. I once had the experience
of talking on the phone with a guitarist I had had a long on-line
relationship with, and it was like someone removed his personality!
What he projected in his writing was, it seemed, wholly contrived,
and was not there at all in live conversation (no, not you Mark,
my good friend at www.visionmusic, in case you are reading this!).
No, I was very happy that Ney is a flesh and blood, sincere, and
totally real person; intelligent, talented, and a person who enjoys
thinking deeply on things. It is why I always say "what you
are as person is what you will be as an artist". Ney has a
passion and commitment to life itself, and so, of course, it shows
in his music and relationship to the guitar, as well as to his teaching
The Mel Bay Study Group: A Great Opportunity!
Here is some good advice from a forum contributor "Dr. Principles"
(I like that name!). He is giving new players the benefit of "the
voice of experience" as he talks about the danger of focusing
just on being a "guitarist" instead of making sure we
become "musicians" first and foremost:
Hello everybody. I've been to this forum a few times
already and have read many of the posts. I'm glad to see that everybody
is helping each other out. I just wanted to share with you my views
on guitar playing, practicing, and being a musician. In my mind,
I view two types of players. I call the first one a "guitar
player/guitarist". Anybody who plays guitar fits in this description.
You can be good, you can be great, you can be awful. This type of
player learns songs, has good technique or bad, really fast speed
or slow speed, and can play really good or just be horrible. Then
there is the musician.
(A) musician chooses to express his/her musicality and emotions
using an instrument like a guitar. In other words, he/she communicates
through the guitar. This is where all the greats fit in. Of course
they had to be a "guitar player" before they could be
musicians, and of course they have flawless technique and can play
fast. If they didn't have excellent technique they couldn't truly
express their music using this instrument. What I'm trying to say
is that just because you can play the guitar fast doesn't mean your
I made the mistake of not learning music theory and musical abstracts
because all I cared about was speed. I can play many songs by Vai,
Malmsteen, etc. but it's just not satisfying to me because I'm just
stuck with learning other peoples songs. I don't have the background
or knowledge of music theory to be able to create my own satisfactory
I advise everybody to learn music theory, learn to read music, learn
to be musical. Guitar playing is just playing an instrument and
anybody can learn it. Of course you have to get the basics down,
but soon before you realize it you will be a really fast player,
you will have technique and once all this gets accomplished you
will have that great background in musical theory to use with your
Learn music, practice all you can, learn all you can, play
all you can because every time you do you will be building a musical
you. Practicing guitar back when I started was hard. It was even
harder when I hired a pro to really teach me the fundamentals of
practice because I had to relearn everything but it got easier and
easier, then it was so easy for me it was unbelievable. As time
goes by the guitar will be a part of you and you will be able to
do anything you want with it. What happens when you do get to that
level but don't have any musical theory? You will be stuck with
mostly learning other people's songs. I prefer to make my own music,
its what a true musician is in my opinion. Joining the Mel Bay group
is one of the best things you can do as a beginner because you will
be learning guitar and music theory together. Everybody should be
very thankful for what Jamie has built here. It's just a shame that
in this whole world their is a small number of teachers like Jamie
and Ney and are very hard to find. Thank you two for helping beginners
become guitarists and helping guitarists become musicians.
I was happy to read this, because sometimes I think I am an idiot
to go through the trouble of putting this together, when out of
the thousands of people that come to my site, there are only a measly
200 people taking advantage of it! And on top of that, it really
does not represent any significant income to me (I only make the
small commission - and I mean small - IF someone happens to buy
the book from my site).
But, I do it because it needs to be done. The biggest obstacle facing
any aspiring musician is the lack of a competent, step by step approach
to the intricacies of music theory, which sometimes elude many people
for many years. I am hoping as time goes on, more people will see
the wisdom of Dr. Principles advice to take advantage of this opportunity
for guidance in wading through the Mel Bay Method. Even getting
through Volume 1 gives you a whole lot more knowledge than many
guitarists ever acquire.
I will continue with the project until I finish Volume 1. I am planning
on only covering Volume 1, because the most important thing for
me to teach you is HOW to study a book like this. After you master
volume 1, you will be much more capable of mastering the others,
on your own if you choose, or with a teacher. The hardest part is
"getting off the ground" with the basics of music reading
and how to technically practice and master material. After volume
1, it is just a matter of learning to read in the higher positions,
more complex chord forms, etc.
When it is finished, I will have the peace of mind of knowing it
is up there, for those wise enough to use it!
You can read Dr. Principles' full post here
Learning to Teach Guitar
Another project I feel is of inestimable value is what I am doing
with Donna from California. She is beginning her career as a guitar
teacher with 10 year old Angie, and is chronicling in great detail
the entire process. As we go along, this material will be an incredible
guidebook to anyone who wishes to do the same.
It is also of great value to any student. The care you see being
exhibited by Donna to make her teaching of the highest quality and
intensity is what ALL students should demand from their teachers.
Reading her reports will give you a gauge by which to judge your
learning experience. You will see as Donna and I go along that the
emphasis will always be on RESULTS. Simply put, the student MUST
learn to play. If the student isn't learning, the teacher isn't
teaching, it's as simple as that.
You can check out my work with Donna, and follow along as she uses
my detailed lesson plans, (and reports in her detailed manner),
This is a perfect opportunity for any of you out there thinking
of launching a new career teaching guitar, as well as for those
already doing so to enhance their skills with the power of "The
Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar".
She Knows What Guitar Players Want!
Yes, any guitar player who really understands what learning the
guitar is about, and what The Principles are about, knows there
is no choice for guitar players: you must have, and use, "The
Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar" OR ELSE! And the
"or else" is that , most likely, you will never be as
good as you could be, and if you're lucky, it will just take you
a LOT longer!
Obviously, this woman's player/soldier fiancé in Egypt knows
Many thanks to you for your concern and attention regarding my matter.
A matter of truth, I am buying the book for my fiancé, he
is a communications Engineer for the Egyptian Army; he is in Egypt
now and he was so much interested in the book together with the
CD. I even tried to talk him out of it, but it seems he is a big
fan of Jamie and refused that I would send him any other gift but
your book. he is the guitar player and I dedicate this to him.
Am truly looking forward to hearing some positive results
from him about the book, but it is obvious that the satisfaction
of your customers is your top priority and truly do thank you for
Again, pls. accept me and my fiancé's regards,
I predict many years of matrimonial bliss, with lots of sweet music
around the house! And Nashwa is very wise to avoid the agony of
living with a frustrated guitarist (they get nasty from all that
Hi. I love your newsletter. I believe the Harmonic Minor scale
is named "harmonic" because the 7th step of the scale
is raised to alter the HARMONY of the V chord of the key. That's
why it's called the "Harmonic Minor" scale because you
use it to create the chord structures. In raising the seventh step
you create a melodic "problem" because of the Augmented
2nd between the sixth and seventh steps of the scale. This is where
the "Melodic Minor" smoothes out the Aug 2nd by raising
the 6th step thereby eliminating the Aug 2nd and making it sound
"more melodic". That's the so called "melodic Minor"
Thanks Jamie for your book. I'm studying it very carefully.
I thought you might like to know of an article in today's Wall Street
Journal (10/11/02) which I read as a reinforcement of your approach
to learning. It's on page 1 of section B and is titled "Survival
of The Busiest". The subhead reads: "Parts of the brain
that get most used literally expand and rewire on demand."
The article is adapted from the book: "The Mind and the Neuroplasticity
and the Power of Mental Force." Check it out.
Thanks again for caring!
ULTIMATE FOLK BOOK: Checkpoint #3 Bass Runs in A Minor
As we continue to use the Ultimate Folk Book to reinforce concepts
laid out in Mel Bay, we come to the first song in the key of A minor,
using notes from a few of the Aminor scales as bass runs. This material
will help internalize what you learned on p. 31 of the Mel Bay.
You will also learn about another minor scale (or mode) dear to
rock and jazz players, the Dorian Mode.
You will be using the Principal Chords in the key of A minor, the
Am, Dm, and E7. You will be learning very cool sounding bass runs
which are used in every style, from rock to folk to metal.
You will also find tips on doing the chord changes in the best way.
Here is the link to
Bonnie Ship", from "The Ultimate Folk Book".
out more about taking part in this free study group.
material copyright © 2003 by Jamie Andreas, GuitarPrinciples.com