Principles of Practice
Based on "The Principles of Correct
Practice for Guitar"
by Jamie Andreas
13, 2003 Volume 120
Do, Then Get!
One thing guitarists, and especially Principled Players know, is
that "it don't come easy." We really have to put out a
maximum effort to get what we want, and then keep on getting more!
Excellence does not come cheap, it exacts a very heavy price. Most
people don't even know what that price is, they don't even understand
the "currency" involved, which is, essentially, your whole
self, your complete commitment of intelligence, attention, and intention
during practice. Many, after beginning to find out the price, don't
want to pay it. Many others, fortunately, become willing to pay
it, or at least make an adequate "down payment," and get
better as they go along.
Sometimes the price required for our next step of growth, our next
achievement, is of a different nature. Sometimes, it is not the
usual price, it is not just the "sit down and do lots of great
practice." Sometimes, the thing we need next can only be gotten
by acting as if we already had it! When this happens, we are in
a situation I call, "Do, then get!" You see, you really
want to know when you are in the position of "do, then get."
If you don't know this, you will be waiting to "get,"
before you "do," and so, you will never get! The only
thing you will get is very frustrated!
Guitar students are very prone to this. Guitar students are very
prone to waiting until they reach some kind of "perfection"
before they will play for somebody, or even just PLAY! They can
flounder around for years and never "take the plunge."
They say, "I will wait until I feel confident about playing
for others, and then I will do it." Well, guess what!?? You
GET confident by DOING it, you don't DO it because you GET confident!
Improvising players will wait until they reach some stage of exalted
technique and inspiration before they will try to improvise. In
both these cases, it needs to be understood that you don't "get"
these things without DOING them first!
Ah, but of course, that begs the question, why, why don't we "do"?
Why do we keep waiting until we "get"? Because we are
chicken, that's why! We are afraid of making idiots out of ourselves;
a natural fear. All I can tell you is that when you are MORE afraid
of NOT developing as a musician, you will face your fears, you will
do it anyway. And then, you will begin to get! You see, one thing
the Universe doesn't like is "chickens," unless you are
a chicken of course, in which case the Universe has no problem with
you. But if you are a human being, and especially that highest form
of human being called "a guitar player," you're not supposed
to be chicken! You are supposed to know what you want, and go after
If you have been a guitar player for a while, and have never, or
rarely, played for anyone, there are probably things you are not
getting because there are things you are not doing. If you are a
purveyor of scales, frantically racing your fingers over the fretboard
and wondering, "Are we having fun yet?" then, there are
probably some things you need to do before you "get" what
is beyond what you have now.
So examine yourself. If you seem to be in a holding pattern concerning
getting certain things you want, perhaps you need to take out your
"to do lists," figure out the correct "do,"
and DO IT! Then, you will GET!
More Incredibleness! Reaching The Bottom Of Your Practice...
Our forum continues to generate the most incredible "inside
info" on guitar mastery available. Especially as more and more
people who are coming for private consultations with me are reporting
on what they learn.
Recently, Helen made a post based on her recent consultations with
both me, and pick virtuoso Ney
Mello. She wrote a hugely enlightening description of her awakening
awareness of the kind of practice that leads us increasingly toward
guitar mastery. We are fortunate that our forum has many people
like Helen who are so articulate and observant of the process of
their own development. This post is a highly recommended read!
Helen's Post on deepening the bottom of your practice.
Posting Practice Schedules
As I explained in my essay Practice
Organization, organization is power, and power is the ability
to create change. So, if you want to create a change for the better
in your guitar playing, you'd better be organized!
I thought it might be a good idea to put up a forum where players
can post their current practice schedules. It will be very good
for the person posting, as it forces us to be organized. It will
also be good for those reading the schedules of others, as we get
ideas from how others are handling their practice.
Many students flounder in their progress because they have no plan.
We must first know where we want to go, and then have a plan for
getting there. If you cannot plan, you cannot achieve anything of
high value. It is a part of "Intention." So, fortify your
your practice schedule, let others see and comment on it. Remember,
any plan is better than no plan, because you can change a plan that
exists, and make it better, but you can't improve a plan that doesn't
exist! So, don't use "I don't know what to do" as an excuse!
Doing anything is better than doing nothing in this regard.
There are two primary reasons people have trouble making a plan
to get from "here to there." Either they don't know where
they want to go (there), or they don't know where they are (here)!
We can't get from here to there if we don't know where "here"
is. (Try getting directions by only telling someone where you want
to get to, and not telling them where you are!) Making a schedule,
a plan, forces us to know both these things. Part of evaluating
where we are is to ask and answer the question we should always
have an answer to: "What is the worst thing about my playing,
the thing that, if I improved it, would improve my overall playing
ability the most?"
"Is my technique faulty? Do I need more knowledge of the fingerboard?
Do I need to increase my repertoire, learn how to memorize and/or
complete whole songs or pieces?"
Make a plan, and re-evaluate it each week. Modify it as progress
is made and goals are reached. Evaluate it against your long term
goals as a player and musician. If you have been floundering in
your practice, you will feel an immediate jolt of energy simply
by making a plan!
I agree that technique is not everything, but it is the foundation
- Donna Z., in the forum
Change Your Life! Book A Consultation With Jamie!
Yes, it is like going on a big adventure!
At least that is what some folks said about their recent trips
to see Jamie for a consultation on the state of their guitar playing!
Says Drew, who recently finished a series of lessons, "If
there is any chance, even a remote possibility that you can become
a continuing student with Jamie, do it. If a consultation is all
you can get together, do it. The value will be a multiple of the
money you pay, and will be with you the rest of your life."
To which Brian (who recently took a leisurly drive from Indiana
to New York for two 2-hour lessons), answered, "Amen brother!
I only spent a few hours with Jamie, and it has changed my entire
way of practicing. I am FINALLY seeing results.
"Until I heard Jamie's resounding 'NO,' I didn't know what
it meant to get to the bottom of my practice. I listen to the tapes
of the lessons over and over. Some people go to Disneyland for vacation,
I went to the Magic Kingdom, Jamie's house."
Thanks for that guys, I had a great time teaching you, too! And
by the way, Drew has made excellent summaries of our lessons together,
containing quite a bit of valuable information. I suggest you go
to the forum,
and do a search on "Drew" to dig up all his posts.
on Consultations With Jamie
No man can reveal to you aught but that which already
lies half asleep in the dawning of your own knowledge.
The teacher who walks inthe shadow of the temple, among his followers,
gives not of his wisdom, bur rather of his faith and lovingness.
If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his
wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind."
Unbalanced Approach To Scale Practice Leads To Heights Of Boredom!
I have started back playing guitar after about a 5 year hiatus.
I still have the same old problem with guitar scales. Learning them
is nothing, but it is the constant up, down, up, down the fretboard
that has me somewhat deadlocked (if not bored!). Are there any help
you may offer that could help me expand from this and apply them
to writing music?
Thanks a million!
You are in a common and dangerous situation, which can lead you
to a place you don't want to go: nowhere!
You are suffering from a lack of understanding of the place of
scales in a guitarist's life. Often, this comes about because we
take lessons, and the teacher simply gives us mountains of scales
week after week, and we assume there is a plan that goes something
like, "After I learn all these scales, I will be able to play
music and sound good like those other guys." Well, that is
simply not true!
A teacher who does this does not do it because they think this
is the way to become a guitarist. Nobody becomes a guitarist just
by learning scales, no matter how fast they play them. They teach
this way because it is easy, and because they are lazy and/or don't
care whether you actually learn to play. It is easy to hand people
scales, it is very difficult to make them become able to use them
in a creative way to make music. Now, perhaps you are not even taking
lessons, in which case you are handing yourself all these scales,
and making the above assumptions all on your own. In either case,
you must begin to get the right understanding, and practice accordingly.
Scales are simply the "vocabulary words" you will use
to speak the language of music. You can no more learn to make music
by simply playing scales than you can learn a language by studying
a dictionary and learning to say all the words! You have to know
what the words mean, and you have to learn how to put them together,
and most importantly, you have to have something to say! Then, it
is a matter of using the scales to say it.
You learn this the same way you learn to speak: by copying others.
You must learn solos by people who are using the scales you want
to use. If you have an hour to practice, practice your scales for
15 minutes, and learn solos for 1/2 an hour, and then spend 15 minutes
making up things (playing to chord changes) that are like what you
are learning in the solos.
It is best to have a teacher to guide you in this. It is also best
if you have an understanding of basic music theory, so you understand
the most essential dynamic operating when you use a scale over chords
to improvise: every note you play is creating a harmonic effect
against the chord being played at the moment. This may sound very
basic to those that know this, but believe me, it is a whole new
world for many students, and many teachers make no attempt to teach
the harmonic significance of the notes of scales.
As a simple example, many students don't understand that there
is such a thing as being "on" the chord, and "off"
the chord. If you play a note against the chord, and that note is
actually IN the chord, you are "on" the chord. If you
play the root, you are really ON the chord, and very often, we time
the end note of a lick to be on the root of the upcoming chord.
This takes practice, as well as a clear understanding given to the
student from the teacher. Personally, I have never seen a book that
clearly explains all this (but I am sure they must exist), and I
have devised my own systems over the years to convey these things
to students, and begin to give them an idea of what solo construction
is all about.
Study solos, see what makes them work. Analyze each note of the
scale you are using. Pentatonic are easy, they only have 5 notes.
Do you know why we bend the notes we do? Do you know why you can't
just bend any old note? You must understand what is happening harmonically
each time you play a note, or bend a note, and that means understanding
how it is relating to the chord being played. Is it "on"
or "off," and how far "off" is it if it is off?
Anyone in this situation should MAKE their teacher explain these
It is a curious thing, but true nonetheless, that there are many
students who think they need to master a mountain of scales before
they can attempt to make music. That is one of the dumbest attitudes
you can have, if you have it, get rid of it! Better to learn one
scale, and learn how to use it, then master a hundred that never
are put to the service of making music. Many people are afraid to
make music, and use this as an excuse to keep putting it off! You
cannot sit and practice scales all day. It is only a small part
of becoming a musician, and by itself, will, and should, bore you
New Mel Bay Checkpoint!
I have added the next checkpoint for the Mel Bay Course. Checkpoint
15 begins the final section in the book, the "Key of E minor."
As usual, we are given the primary chords of the key, meaning the
I-IV-V chords (Em-Am-B7), and also given the common accompaniment
patterns used with these chords. We learn the alternate basses to
use, and there is even a nice bass line created by using the C note
as the bass in the Am instead of the usual root or 5th. This technique
is used in countless songs to create interesting bass lines as the
Also, I have given a "verbal event analysis" of the micro-details
of how to practice the classical piece on p. 42 "Night Song"
by the great classical guitar composer Fernando Sor. It was pieces
like this in the Mel Bay method that let me know, when I was a kid
studying at the local music store, that there was a greater world
of guitar to discover. This piece is quite tricky, and you will
learn a great deal about intelligent fingering and finger habits
by studying this.
I have also put an mp3 of me playing this piece on the nylon string,
fingerstyle, (although it is intended for pickstyle in this book).
If you are not taking advantage of the incredible opportunity offered
here for FREE in the Mel Bay Course, you should seriously consider
info on the Mel Bay Study Course.
out the lesson, and hear the mp3 of "Night Song."
"The Beatles: The Beatles Complete - Easy Guitar Performed
by The Beatles."
For guitar and voice. Format: easy guitar/vocal songbook (no tablature).
With vocal melody, lyrics, guitar chord diagrams and strum patterns.
Classic rock, britpop and psychedelic rock. 304 pages. 9x12 inches.
Published by Hal Leonard. (HL.696082) More
Many of the greatest songs by THE greatest pop/rock (and beyond)
songwriters of my lifetime! The great thing about this book is that
all the songs are in easy guitar keys, so it is perfect for those
just getting the hang of chord changes and strumming. This, of course
makes it a perfect candidate for those Principled Players absorbing
all the essential knowledge about how to practice chord changes
and understand and strum rhythms that is contained in "The
Path Level One: Chords & Rhythm."
book reviews - beginner & intermediate
material copyright © 2000-2003 by Jamie Andreas, GuitarPrinciples.com