Principles of Practice
Based on "The Principles of Correct
Practice for Guitar"
by Jamie Andreas
March 28, 2004 Volume 136
Understanding the Minor Pentatonic #3
This continues GP's Guidance for "Blues You Can Use", an intermediate Blues Method book, being used in our Forum by a group of Principled Players focusing on blues......
On p. 21 we are given the 3rd Minor Pentatonic Scale to learn. Unfortunately, we are not told anything about the scale, nor are we given any licks from the scale. Giving musical tools without also giving an application of those tools is a capital mistake in teaching, but seems to be a common way of going about teaching the blues.
What we are given on page 26 is a fingerboard pattern, showing us where to place our fingers in order to play the notes of the 3rd Minor Pentatonic Scale. On p. 26 we are shown how to connect this scale to the first two Pentatonic Scales.
What we really need is a musical understanding of the scale, and then some actual music that comes from this scale. Here is a lesson on Minor Pentatonic #3.
The complete lesson is available for free, in the GuitarPrinciples Member Area. If you are not a member, it is a simple process to become one. Just
visit the log in page, and create an account.
Click "Account Options" at the top of the page, and you will find a link to the lesson at the bottom under "Free Content".
Players Posting Blues MP3's, Getting Feedback!
A fine group of players, working to improve their blues playing skills is sharing their knowledge and experience right now in our Blues Forum.
It is a great opportunity to get help from other players, as they work to apply The Principles to the study of "Blues You Can Use".
Visit Our Blues Forum
Read a review of "Blues You Can Use"
Essay Contest Winners! "What The Principles Have Done For Me"!
It was no easy task picking a winner to our essay contest "What The
Principles Have Done For Me". All the entries were inspiring and moving accounts of people, in one way or another,
discovering hope, and even certainty, about being able to not only learn to play the guitar well, but to make major
life changes, and pursue major life goals.
T-shirt and autographed copy of Jamie's upcoming book "The Deeper I Go,
The Deeper It Gets: Meditations on Life & Guitar"
Regalla, Rich Davis-3rd Place
Congratulations! Your GuitarPrinciples t-shirts
are going out this week!
It was not uncommon to run across statements such as "Thank you Jamie for making my dreams come true", and "The
Principles have made me believe I can find the purpose of my life, and "you have basically given meaning to my life"! In addition, there were many specific accounts of plans to play professionally, and plans to pursue dreams long denied or thought unattainable.
I am thrilled and honored to see that my work is having such an impact on people's lives, and I profoundly appreciate everyone who wrote having shared that with me. I will do my
utmost to keep all of us moving forward in a powerful way.
But of course, we had to pick a winner, so we got tough and went to work! Even so, we had a tie and had to declare 4 winners instead of the intended 3! Okay, so it costs us another T-shirt!
The winner, Steve Martin, got our vote primarily because his opening paragraph summarized so well the feelings of someone finally finding what is so impossible to find in the field of guitar instruction: the real answers to the problems of learning to play! As I read his account of first reading The Principles, I felt so strongly the actual lifelong frustration that made me write the book, as well as my quest to discover the answers myself.
His expression of thankfulness for finally finding what he needed made me very glad, once again, that I had written the book, and that we do what we do here at GuitarPrinciples.
Of course, the other writers were also saying the same things in a number of different ways, and we want to thank you once again for the time and trouble you took. You can read the essays of the other winners here
What The Principles Have Done For Me!
Our winning essay is below, followed by a contribution by yours truly, on what the Principles have done for ME! Yes, I am continually grateful myself for the realization of my own dreams of playing the way I have always wanted to play, which is at the level of the greatest classical virtuosos. I mean, is that too much to ask!??
I have posted a little sample of some fearsomely difficult passages from the classical repertoire, passages that I know are problems, often life-long problems, for classical players.
For those who wish to get a fashionable GuitarPrinciples t-shirt the easy way, without having to write an essay, you will find a link down below!
First Prize Winner
Steve Martin: "What The Principles Have Done For Me"!
Shortly after September 11, 2001 I placed my order for the
As I began reading Jamey's book I could barely get from one page to the next
without shutting my eyes, leaning my head back, and saying, "Thank God". It
was like someone had been watching me and had calmly prepared a journal
explaining what I was doing wrong and what I needed to do to start doing it
You see, I fell in love guitar when I was 23. That was 1987. I could never
be without my cheap six-string. I would learn and play the beginning to
songs. But I never got past that.
Read the rest of Steve's winning essay, as well as the essays of our other winners!
Principles Have Done For Me: So Far!
Fearsomely difficult passages I have conquered with The Principles!
click here to see the music Jamie is playing
As you can see from reading Steve's essay, The Principles apply to all styles of music. My love is classical music, so here are some excerpts from famous classical guitar pieces. The first clip is from "Recuerdos de la Alhambra", featured on my
CD, the next two are from the Villa Lobos Etudes, mastery of which is one of the ultimate goals of all classical guitarists.
The hammer/pull in the 3rd measure, done with 2 and 4 while 3 is down,
AND the right hand is busy with the tremolo, is quite challenging. I
was once told by a teacher that he recommends his students to not do it, but
simplify it (I forget how).
Well, I was not interested in that solution! After all, haven't I heard
great players do it. They didn't have to simplify it!
In Frederick Noads' popular method for classical guitar, he tells us that
the tremelo must be done at 132 to be effective, although some players can
do an incredible 176.
Well, because of The Principles, I am playing this at 176 bpm.
Villa-Lobos Etude#11-6 Note Arpeggios
I had to discover the secret
of playing sextuplets up to the highest virtuoso levels on my own. Years of
study and questioning with some of the worlds top players yielded no insight
into my problems with them, which were considerable. That is why I made sure
I set the foundation for this skill in the exercises for the right hand in
Wrong approaches used in trying to play something like this can cripple a
player. I am quite happy I figured it out, because I sure do love the sound
of this section of Villa Lobos Etude # 11!
The difficulty here is increased because the thumb is playing two
strings, and the left hand is stretched out considerably as it moves all
over the neck, including up to the 14th fret (on a classical neck!).
Villa-Lobos Etude#7-Fast Scale
Ah, yes, there is nothing
quite like the sound of a fast scale on the guitar!
There are many ways to
finger this, some easier, but I liked the training my hand gets from using 2
and 4 and playing in open position. I use rest strokes for a vigorous sound.
The GuitarPrinciples T-Shirt-Wear It Proudly!
Get Your Very Own "GuitarPrinciples T-Shirt"!
Of Special Interest At GuitarPrinciples!
Student Abuse: in your lessons, are
you more a victim than a student?
Stretch Marks & Elbow Room: powerful info on
making stretches with the index and that pesky pinky!
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience: would you
like a handbook to achieving success and happiness in all things in life? Here
it is, read Jamie's reveiw!
Every Mountain: from car mechanics, to dentists, to guitar players and
teachers, why is the world so full of mediocrity? Find out why, and make your
Strumming & Singing?: often, the trouble lies in not knowing how to deal
with SYNCOPATION between he strum and the voice. Don't worry, GuitarPrinciples
has the answer!!
A student once asked me "how do you handle it when you hit a plateau, when you
feel like you are stuck and you can't get past the level you are at". Now, of
course, this is a common experience for all players, and a common question as
I believe we all know that the usual reaction to this situation is a
negative one; frustration perhaps mixed with anger, and a little despair thrown
in for good measure! When we can't get something to sound the way we hear
someone else play it, even after lots of practice and lots of time, it IS a very
frustrating, annoying situation. At the very least, we want to hear ourselves
making that wonderful music we admire, and more than that, we want to feel like
we are getting somewhere as guitarists for the effort we put in, and that we have the ability to make
continuous progress. So, when we keep getting negative feedback, in the form of
repeated failed attempts to be able to do something, it starts to take the wind out
of our sails, and we begin to lose confidence in ourselves. Diminished desire
for practicing usually follows rather quickly.
So, what DO we do about this unavoidable situation?
The answer lies in understanding the point I made in my essay "The Inner
Master". We must understand what Mastery is, and why it is possible to be, in
essence, a Master right from the beginning of our relationship to music and the
guitar. And that is because Mastery is an inner attitude and disposition. It is
the inner position in which there is no obstruction from the outside to the
inside, and no obstruction from the inside to the outside.
Sure, people who are called "Masters" hit plateaus, but they have learned not to
react in ways that will prevent eventual transcendence of the limitations of
that level of ability. They have learned that all negative reactions will
prevent moving beyond the plateau. The only possible exception to this is the
person who has learned the wonderful art of turning anger into an ally, using
frustration as a fuel for determination; even in this case, the anger is handled
with mastery, and not allowed to become an obstacle, but that is another essay!
The Master has realized the wisdom expressed so eloquently in the New Testament
"resist not evil". The meaning of this is simply this: the way to overcome that
which we do not like is not to resist and resent it, because that only
strengthens it, and weakens us. It is to "remain in place" inwardly, to study
it, to understand it, and then to act. Then, we achieve power, which is the ability to create
And so, knowing this, what does the Master do when they find themselves on a
plateau? Why, they build a château on the plateau, and take up residence
there! They say, "Hmmm, something is
going on here that I don't understand, so I am going to stay here and study the
landscape. I will focus my attention so strongly on what I CAN see that I will
begin to see more.". The master knows the reason for being stuck is because
there is something sitting there, at that level, that needs to be known. So the
Master sits, and studies, and if there is one thing a Master has, it's patience!
For someone who has not discovered the inner position of mastery, the reaction
to being “stuck on a plateau” is quite different. For such a person, there ARE obstructions from the inside to the outside, and the outside to the inside, and the obstructions arise
quickly-- anger, resentment, and feelings of inadequacy appear and
intensify. If these feelings were examined, the road to mastery would begin to
become visible. If these feelings were examined, we would find that it is not
really the natural frustration of not getting what we want that is the biggest
problem, but rather, it is the fact that we are, underneath that, feeling
inferior and inadequate. THAT is the real culprit.
Like children watching their parents divorce, we conclude immediately “there
must be something wrong with me, that is why this bad thing is happening”. In
both these cases, this conclusion may appear to be justified, given our level of
understanding, but it is not the truth. The Master may feel these feelings too,
but unlike the novice, the Master does not run from these feelings, they simply
become part of the scenery to be surveyed.
The novice feels such emotional pain from these feelings that they are helpless
to do anything but try to avoid them. The novice shuts his eyes, and covers his
feelings. In fact, the novice wishes to leave the plateau more out of a desire
to avoid feelings of inferiority than by the desire to really enjoy a higher
level of ability.
Unlike the novice, the master does not identity with these feelings; they may
arise, but the Master does not give these feelings the power to define who he or she is, or can become.
Just because I feel like I am inferior, or
unable, is no reason to assume I actually am; that would be a very dangerous
belief to adopt on such dubious evidence. And so, the Master sets aside these
feelings, and sits, and studies. The Master becomes so involved in the process
of communing with the conditions of the plateau that the desire to leave it
becomes secondary to the interest and adventure of learning all of what is
Because of this, the depth of understanding of the Master increases, and the
rising to a new level of ability appears automatically.
All of what you see in The Principles is the result of my time spent, sometimes
many years, on my own plateaus. Or, it is from the study of the plateaus upon
which my students have found themselves. I have never seen a plateau from which
I or my students could not eventually rise.
Because the Master does not allow frustration and despair to obstruct the flow
from the inside to the outside, he or she is led to relate in the best and most
appropriate way to the level of awareness called "the plateau". And so, no
obstructions form from the outside to the inside either occur either. The so called "plateau"
becomes the teacher, and instructs the Master/Student in the wisdom that is
necessary to rise higher.
And so it goes, and so it goes.
material copyright © 2003 by Jamie Andreas, GuitarPrinciples.com