Principles of Practice
Based on "The Principles of Correct
Practice for Guitar"
by Jamie Andreas
Feb 15 2004 Volume 133
Guidance For Blues You Can Use
As anyone familiar with The Principles knows, they apply to all styles, and
should be used by players of all styles to improve their playing, and to provide
the foundation of their practice approach. This is why we have players of all
styles using The Principles, and frequenting our site and forums.
One of our forums, is dedicated to the Blues, a style of guitar that surely
holds a special place in the galaxy of guitar styles, achieving as it does such
subtlety of expression with such relatively simple musical tools and techniques.
Yes, it is all about "feel" when it comes to the Blues, and that is why I have
such an affection for the style. Tell the truth, or put down your guitar!
In this forum, we use a book of instruction and introduction to many basic
blues styles and techniques called "Blues You Can Use" as a core study aid. In
addition, players are pursuing their own blues inclinations, and there are many
great contributions being made to this forum that we can all learn from.
I am going to begin giving some "Principled Guidance" for "Blues You
Can Use", little tips on how to handle the more challenging moves presented in
the various solos and techniques used. Even if you are not using this book, I
highly recommend checking these tips out. For instance, in the first
installment, I am discussing how to approach switching from a single note run
into a chord using a half bar, a difficult move that appears in all styles.
Here is the link to the
Guidance 1 For "Blues You Can Use"
and here is a
review of the
book itself, and how to get it.
and lastly, our
Bricks & Mortar
There are a number of practice habits which have two characteristics: they
are bad, and they are used by a majority of students!
One of these is the very counter-productive habit of practicing something for
a long time, and avoiding learning to play the music in the correct rhythm, and of
course, to a tempo. In my earlier years of teaching, it was amazing to me how
long a student would be content to practice something, over and over for weeks
and weeks, and still not get to the part where we "put it all together".
Instead, they would come in every week with the music in "pieces".
When I would ask "umm, what about the rhythm, you know, beats and that kind
of stuff", I would get this reply, "well, I figure I'll learn the notes first,
and then put the rhythm in!".
Well, there is some sense to that, but only up to a point. We do have to learn the moves without
rhythm, any Principled Player knows that "no tempo practice" is one of the
foundation concepts in The Principles, but hey, enough already! The bird has to
jump out of the nest at some point! These students had long passed the point
where their fingers "knew the notes", the fact is, they were avoiding the very
intense and specialized work required to "sew it all together", that is, connect
the notes in the smooth movement process necessary to play music.
This, over time, lead me to develop The Principles, which culminate in "The
Basic Practice Approach", which does, inevitably and by definition, string the
moves together (however, the exact length of notes, which constitutes the final
rhythm, must still be practiced after that, but will now be possible).
The fact is, we should very quickly be getting to the point of "putting the
rhythm in" to our music. If you find yourself lingering too long, and waiting
for the big day when you make the music sound like music, you are on the wrong
track! I always say "pay the devil his due, but don't overpay him"!
Thinking that you can "learn the notes first, and put the rhythm in later" is like thinking you can build a brick house by putting all the bricks in place, and then adding the cement! It is a bit too late for that! They
kind of go together, and one follows the other in the process.
The fact of the matter is that the student who practices like this is really spending most of their time scrambling around for the notes they can get, and messing up the rest, and doing severe, and difficult to reverse damage to their muscle memory in the process. Correct practice (read, The Principles!), is the remedy for this disease.
practice, even if we are rehearsing moves "no tempo", without an awareness of
the actual rhythm, and a "fitting into place", rhythmically, the notes as we go
So, look around your workspace next practice session, and see if there are
any piles of bricks needing mortar. If so, get out your Principles, your
metronomes, and get to work!
Of Special Interest At GuitarPrinciples
What Should I
Practice!......that depends on what level of student you are. Find out
Jamie's recommendations for "General Guitar Development: Stage One". These are
all the right things every serious student of guitar should be doing to ensure a
long and enjoyable relationship to the guitar.
"Sweet Child Of Mine"....find
out how to apply The Principles to the tricky left hand finger work required in
the intro to this Gun's & Roses classic!
Beatltes Made Easy!.....looking for some great material at the
beginner/intermediate level. You can't do better than this!
Time".....Everyone always wonders where the time has gone. Have you ever
wondered where it comes from??? Discover the powerful state of awareness enjoyed
by great players!
Free Mp3 Downloads!....hear the virtuoso guitar of Jamie Andreas!
From The Teacher Forum:
Occasionally I get a student that struggles terribly with left hand
coordination. Even stretching to play a simple root/5th bar chord with 1st and
3rd finger can be a huge challenge to them. Forming a simple chord like D major
seems to be a tremendous chore to them.
seems to me that this is a genetic thing because sometimes I get a student who
immediately can play simple chords and doesn't have anywhere near the same kind
of struggle as these other students. I do sometimes wonder if enough practice is
I've come up with some stretching exercises that I think help
but I'd like to hear from some of you how you handle a student with a very weak
I have dealt with this situation many times in my career. Just recently, I
had a student who was left handed, a carpenter with very "beaten up hands", and
in addition, a steel pin in his wrist! Even without all that, I think he was
simply one of those type of students you describe, one with very little natural
flexibility in the left hand.
Practice of course is part of the answer, but unless it is the right kind of
practice, they will never get anywhere. THE most important element is a
continuous, and HUGH, amount of No Tempo and Posing work on all the left hand
foundation exercises. There must be a GREAT focus on whole body relaxation
during practice. You, as the teacher, must monitor this ferociously.
This type of person will produce incredible tension and tightening throughout
the body as they try to stretch those tight fingers. Yes, they will develop
slowly, but they will develop. Consider this student as a special "lock" that
needs a special "key". Of course, the practice approaches are in essence the
same as anyone should use, but the imperative for their effective and meticulous
use is greater here. Whereas other students WILL get some playing ability even
if they do bad practice, this type of student will get nowhere with bad
practice. They will simply tie themselves into a giant pretzel shaped knot!
Just make sure the work done proceeds by the smallest steps, incredibly slow,
incredibly fine. Have them only on the higher frets for as long as necessary.
The key is to only present a very small challenge at every step of the way.
Otherwise, deadly Sympathetic Tension will appear and rule the day. Always
watch their breathing, and have them relax their abdomens constantly.
It can take 6 months to get this student to do the first simple chords well
enough to change them, and it can take 2 years to really get the hand in
flexible shape. Big deal! It will be all the sweeter for both of you when you
Donna Z. : Principled Teacher Making A BIG Difference!
We meet many exceptional people here at GuitarPrinciples. Donna Z. is one of them.
Donna is the kind of teacher that makes me proud of the work I do: she has taken it and has so quickly and ably put it to its highest purpose: training young people to develop new powers of will and achievement, and then laying that at the feet of God and community.
I love Donna, and I always have loved people like her when I meet them. I call them "purehearts". It becomes apparent as soon as you meet them that they are entirely
composed of "good will" toward their fellow creatures, and there is a goodness in every bone in their body.
I believe Education is God's Presence in the world, and that Presence is so
beautifully and effectively
demonstrated in Donna's work with her kids. With the help of The Principles, she trains their minds, bodies, and spirit. She began a series of classes at her church, and they are growing like wildfire, and so is her reputation, and confidence.
We at GuitarPrinciples look forward to seeing her continue to bring a new generation of excellent players into the world!
For pictures, and Donna's report of "The Kid's Big Gig", see the link below....
Donna Z. and "The Kids Big Gig In The Church"
material copyright © 2003 by Jamie Andreas, GuitarPrinciples.com