Principles of Practice
Based on "The Principles of Correct
Practice for Guitar"
by Jamie Andreas
March 14, 2004 Volume 135
Here at GP, we value "idiot moments" very highly. An "idiot moment" is one of
those enlightening flashes of insight where we realize that the answer to a
technical problem is staring us right in the face, we have
just not been staring
back! We suddenly see a new way of doing something that is infinitely easier
than what we have been struggling with. An "idiot moment" is usually accompanied
by the feeling that gives such a moment its name: the feeling is "My God, what an
idiot I've been, how could I not see that!".
It is part of my basic philosophy that there is no foolproof defense against
idiot moments, they are just going to continue to happen, human nature being
what it is. The best we can do is keep a constant "beginners mind", so that we
can eventually, (hopefully sooner than later), become aware of what we
were not seeing up to that point. If I don't have at least one good idiot moment
a week, I am just not paying enough attention!
Well, the other day, I was doing a little informal workshop for some students
and teachers in training, and I not only had an idiot moment, I had one in
Drew, one of our valued teachers, was asking my advice on a chord change that
was giving him trouble. It was a 5th position A7 chord going to a 2nd position E7 chord:
He was arranging a chord melody solo, and these chords are often used so that
the proper melody note can be on top.
Well, I immediately set about trying to find the best way to do this change
with the required degree of smoothness. Digging deep into my bag of Principles,
"Well, here's the deal. Just keep the index down in its bar form across the 4
strings, and slide it down, keeping the weight on it. Keep the other fingers
loose and close to the strings, and have them going into the new shape as you
move down". Okay, so that works, its true. I showed him how to practice and do
it, and felt satisfied that I had made the world just a little brighter for one
more guitar player.
But something was nagging at the back of my mind. Fortunately, some part of
my medulla oblongata was dredging up the first and most important Principle of
Correct Practice: "your aware thinking mind is your primary practice tool". And
then my idiot moment struck!
I slapped my forehead as I realized how obvious the best solution to the
chord change was: hold the 2nd finger and just slide it down! It is on the same
string in both chords! Duh!
Of course, this does not invalidate the other advice, we would do well to
still have the other fingers behave as described, but seeing this new
possibility made the change a "piece of cake" for both me and Drew. It didn't
even take too much "thinking" after the "aware" part of Principle #1 was put
Note: the Principles of left hand movement utilized in this analysis are
illustrated in the GuitarPrinciples publication
"The Path Level One: Chords & Rhythm",
which introduces supported and unsupported left hand movement, even at the
beginning stages of learning guitar.
This kind of knowledge, acquired and used early in the guitar learning
process, will definitely reduce the quantity and severity of our "idiot moments"
throughout our guitar playing life! In fact, after awhile, the insights that
come to us will be closer to "inspiration" or "genius", rather than "idiocy",
but hey, a rose by any other name is still a rose! Regarding ourselves as
"ignorant" keeps us open and receptive to everything that is possible for us to
When it comes to playing the guitar, GuitarPrinciples has already done most
of the thinking for you! But, you must still make the effort to wrap your brain
around this knowledge, and of course, apply it in your daily guitar playing
"Correctness"....Proving once again that the most intelligent guitar players in the world are to be found in the GuitarPrinciples Forum! A fascinating discussion of the concept of "correctness" as it applies to method. Thanks to Miguel (one of our professional flamenco player/contributors).
Great Sound: Player, Guitar, or Amp?......thought provoking viewpoints in our Power Users Forum. Thanks to pick-style virtuouso Ney Mello for shedding light on this often discussed subject, giving us the advantage of his many years as a professional, and playing alongside other greats of the industry. And thanks to Jonsi, our new Principled Teacher, serving the "aspiring excellent" in Iceland), for bringing it up!
Half Bar-Critical Information!...I have given some critical information here on how to approach the half bar, as used in the small F chord. Donna Z. (our California based Principled Teacher) was running into trouble with her kids class on this one.
It is a real problem for all beginners, and many long time players, even after they can do it, are plauged with the multitude of bad habits that results from a handicapped learning approach. I'd read this one if I were you!
On Memorizing: Yes, you can
play from memory, but you need to understand the 3 kinds of memory musicians
Method: read a review of one of the best method books for learning the
tools and techniques of Metal Rock Guitar.
Metallica's One.....Principled practice tips for the intro.
Can I Teach Guitar?....the answer may surprise you!
Building The Complete Guitarist! Find out how Jamie builds a solidly
great player, lesson by lesson, book by book, and skill by skill!
One of the Principles we live by at GP is the idea of continuous learning and expansion of our knowledge base and abilities through openness to, well, everything! Of course, being open to everything can get a little messy (or at least crowded!), so we try to be a little discriminating!
And that is why I recommend great instructional products like the multi-media series of guitar lessons produced by our friends at TrueFire.
Once you know how to practice effectively, and how to build the proper foundation of ability that will support continuous education (which we take care of at GP), it is time to find the instructional material that will deliver that growth. And that is where TrueFire's Continuing Education Series comes in.
Here is how TrueFire describes the course:
"The TFU curriculum crosses all styles but focuses primarily on developing better rhythm and soloing chops by exploring key techniques and an eclectic range of artist stylings, signature licks and tricks.
The educational firepower of TFU stems from its faculty of 200 world-class artists and educators and monster online library of over 20,000 guitar licks, tricks, lessons and courses. TrueFire's digital video lessons, multi-media players, interactive tablature and other educational tools accelerate the learning process across all guitar styles.
The multi-media presentation can't be beat, it is like having a great teacher right with you, not just showing you what to do, but explaining how and why to do it as well. Believe me, I am learning a lot from the course myself, as well as having a lot of fun!
Find out more about TrueFires "Alternative Continuing Education For Guitar Players"
As you may have figured out, my natural way with students has always been to teach philosophy
as well as music, because I know full well that what we are as people is what we will be as guitarists and musicians.
And so, as I would do if you were sitting in front of me as my student, I will offer you these understandings, with the intent of helping you move forward on your path of excellence.
This is not an easy read, I imagine you will have to read it many times. I would not read it unless you are able to create a quiet space in your mind for a while, and allow real listening to take place.
If excellence is your path, read "Faith".
material copyright © 2003 by Jamie Andreas, GuitarPrinciples.com