Principles of Practice
Based on "The Principles of Correct Practice for Guitar"
by Jamie Andreas
IN THIS ISSUE
March 20, 2005
Even Hammers & Pulls
The techniques of "hammering on" and "pulling off" on guitar are two of
the most important skills to master after the beginning foundation of technique and practice approach have been
established. These techniques are sometimes referred to as "legato", or "ligado", or "slurs". Whatever we call them,
they are not only essential in more advanced playing, but they are technically more difficult than normal playing,
where each note is given a separate attack.
All the reasons for the extra difficulty, and a complete explanation of the anatomy of hammers and pulls, as well
as how to correctly practice them, is given in the GuitarPrinciples publication "Hammers & Pulls According To The
Principles". What I want to talk about now is one of the most common problems people have once they do gain an
understanding of the finger mechanics of these techniques, and begin to work up speed on them.
I don't think I have ever seen a student who has not developed this problem as they began work in this area,
including me! That problem is unevenness in the rhythm. Because a hammer is done by sounding one note and then
hammering on with a left hand finger to sound another note, everyone assumes that the hammer finger must move as fast
as possible to sound the note. While it is true that the finger must move faster than normal in order to set the
string into vibration at a new fret, it is not true that it must move sooner! If you are playing 8th notes in
hammers, those notes must be in the same even rhythm, each note receiving exactly one half beat, as if you were
striking each note. What actually happens is the student just thinks "fast", and plays the hammer finger too soon. The
result is that the first note is cut short, and the second is too long! With pull offs, the same thing occurs. The
pull finger pulls to soon.
This problem happens to virtually everyone right at the beginning, and must be rooted out right at the beginning by
a very vigilant teacher. It is extremely difficult for the student to have the self awareness to hear this themselves,
because they are still struggling to deal with the physical demand of the technique. The answer is to follow the
course of action outlined in my book "Deeper"
for achieving "knowledge of results" during practice, where we constantly record our playing on a micro-cassette
recorder, and listen back at half speed for rhythmic accuracy. (See "Deeper" p. 37 for a full explanation).
Anyone using my book
"Hammers & Pulls"
should be working up the speed on the basic left hand fingering patterns using this approach, and monitoring their
playing at each speed for rhythmic accuracy. Here are a couple of samples to give you an idea of the difference in
sound between even and uneven hammers.....
uneven 8th notes at 60bpm
even 8ths notes at 60bpm
16th notes at 60bpm
even 16th notes at 60bpm
Here I am demonstrating the use of hammers and pulls in real music, classical and electric....
classical passage using
pulls (Sor, Gran Solo)
Electric lick using
hammers and pulls (Troy Stetina, Speed Mechanics, #15)
FingerBoard Harmony: Chord Scales In Close Position
At this point, we have learned the forms for the 3 string major, minor and diminished arpeggios on all 4 string
sets. We have also learned the logic of the neck, enabling us to find any note on any string. This is necessary in
order to find where on the neck we have to go to play particular triads. For instance, if I am trying to play an
Aminor triad with its root on the 4th string, I'd better be able to find an A on the 4th string first.
We also played a chord scale in Cmajor, staying on one string for the root. We played "vertically", up the neck,
each chord derived from the C major scale. This is a good way of beginning to integrate this material. Now, we will
look at chord scales in the other keys, and how to play them with 3 string triads vertically as well as horizontally,
across the strings, keeping ourselves confined to a smaller area of the neck.
When we played them up the neck, with each root on the same string, we had to locate the root note on the same
string each time. Now, we have to locate the root note on different strings, staying in a smaller area of the neck,
which is the point. We want to know how to play all the triads of a key without having to move so much along the neck.
So, let's first make sure that we know how to locate all the notes we need. We will use the key of A:
are going to take each one of these notes, and use it as the root of a triad. As we do so, we will follow the proper
sequence of the TYPE, or QUALITY of each of the 7 triads of the key, meaning major, minor, or
diminished. This sequence must be memorized. It is:
For every key used in music, this sequence of chord types holds true. The only thing that changes from key to key
is the letter name of the chord.
So, in the key of A Major, the triads that will give us this sequence are as follows:
Using the above as a guide, play the chord scales in a likewise manner in the following keys.
Key of C: C-Dmin-Emin-F-G-Ami
Key of C: C-Dmin-Emin-F-G-Amin-Bdim-C
Key of G: G-Amin-Bmin-C-D-Emin-F#dim-G
Key of D: D-Emin-F#min-G-A-Bmin-C#dim-D
From "The Deeper I Go, The Deeper It
"Now, there is a mental process that all great players are good at, even though some may not know it. It is the
process of analysis. Analysis is a two step process: finding the WHAT, then finding the WHY.
The "what" is a single, observable event, a missed note, a rushed passage, a feeling of tension at a particular
spot, a finger sticking up in the air. You must find these "whats" as you practice. Then, you must find the "why". The
"why" is the context the "what" exists in. The "why" is really one or more other "whats" or events that are in a
causal relationship to the "what" under examination; that is, they are the cause of the "what".
A "what" can be thought of as a single point in a line, the "whys" are the points before and after.
For instance, I may be practicing, and a particular "what" comes to my attention. It comes to my attention in the
form of a missed note; I notice a note is missing from a scale. After becoming clear on this "what" by a powerful
focus of attention, I continue to focus attention, seeking to discover the "whys" connected to this “what”, the events
that are causing that note to be missing. "
from the essay "When You Can't Put It Together, It's Time To Take It Apart"
Player Empties Cup, Re-learns Guitar!
Thank you very much for the wisdom.
I started playing when I was 15 and I'm now 38. I noticed my shoulder was hurting a little more every year I played.
Little did I know that I was hurting myself.
After applying the techniques demonstrated in The Principles to reduce tension I now enjoy a painless rehearsal. I
can do things I could never do before because of
Man I found tension in all sort of places. The neck, abdomen
and shoulder was the worst. I actually enjoy playing more now and can
play for longer stretches at a time before getting tired. I am faster
and smoother than ever before and this came about in a few short weeks!.
My bass player noticed the difference instantly and asked me if I had
started taking lessons! I said , "Nope, just decided to "relax" and have
fun!" I read your book like I was a beginner. As Bruce Lee said, "Empty
your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality."
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Work & Play
"Lucky is the child who learns how to work
Blessed is the man who remembers how to play"
Working and playing are two essentials for guitar players; we must know how to do both, and most importantly, how to
combine them into one activity. For most people, working and playing are quite separate domains. They do not overlap
like they do for guitar players. For most people, work and play do not happen in the same place, or at the same time,
and certainly not with the same equipment; it is either computer keyboard or tennis racquet, cubicle or golf course.
For many people, work is a necessary evil, and "play", whatever form that may take, is the reward they earn for being
"good", and doing their work. However, for a fortunate minority of people, work and play are combined in a harmonious
blend that makes for a satisfaction in life that cannot be had any other way.
To hate your work, or even to dislike it, is to miss the point of living, it is kind of like a living death. When I
was young, I saw people living this way, hating their jobs, and dragging themselves to work. I was determined to not
let it happen to me. Fortunately, the guitar came along, and offered the alternative I needed.
The point is not to avoid working. Work is natural for a human being, in fact, it is necessary, It is not possible to
be truly happy as an adult without having some kind of "work" as a regular part of our lives. For many people, the
appropriate definition of "work" is "something I have to do that I don't want to do". For those who live in the
common, polarized state, where work and play never mix, of enduring their job and dreaming of their day off, it is
easy to believe that no work, no responsibility, not having to do anything but play all day, or lay around all day,
would be heaven! Wrong! Very wrong! We often hear stories of what happens to many people after they retire, after they
no longer have to "work". They find that life seems to have lost its meaning. Unless they find something to do,
something challenging and fulfilling, their happiness, their energy, and their lives, will begin to go downhill. No,
human beings need to work, not just in order to survive, but to thrive, to be happy and fully human. However, we must
"own" our work, it must be a form of our self-expression, or it will not feed us.
Equally important is knowing how to play. Even though the two exist side by side for us guitar players, it is still
important to understand the difference between them.
Work and play are both forms of activity, but there is a big difference. Essentially, work is activity that is done in
order to obtain a goal that exists in the future. Play, on the other hand, is activity whose goal is in the present;
there is no concept of, or concern for the future, in play. In play, the goal is the moment itself, and all it
This is why children are so good at play, it is the natural condition of the child to be in the present. The challenge
for children is to learn the value of work, the value of engaging in activity that is done for the sake of a future
goal. It is often difficult for children to learn this, because so many of the goals they are forced to work for are
not goals they themselves really care about. I have met many children who truly have no future oriented goals of
their own choosing which would impel them to discover the value and joy of true work. They often remain, even into
adulthood, in a childish or adolescent state of only exerting effort when forced to do so, by someone else, or by
life's demand to "make a living", and resenting any kind of authority that has the power to make them do things they
don't want to do.
The lucky child who is able to choose goals that are reflections of their true nature will learn how to combine the
pleasure of play with the power of work. A life of satisfaction and achievement is then possible. The pleasure of play
comes from the fact that through play we express what we are, and self-expression is necessary for psychological
health. The satisfaction of work comes from the use of our own power to bring about change, and all people need to
experience their own power. Whatever you may be doing in your life, if there is no element of play in your work, it is
because it is not your work, it is someone else's! They are probably enjoying themselves, but you do not own your
work, they do; you are working to achieve their goals! This does not mean that you cannot work for someone else's
goal, and have it be your goal as well, but if you are not enjoying yourself, it means this is not what is happening.
You have never set goals that are reflections and fulfillments of your true nature, and engaged in the activities that
would bring you to those goals. Some folks may even feel unable to conceive of goals that would be reflections of
their true nature, but that very serious problem is beyond the scope of this essay. At the very least, we should all
understand where we are, and why we are there.
Through play, we express what we are; through work, we change what we are. Both are essential, and both feed
each other. As guitarists, we have an ever present and powerful motivation for keeping our ability and desire to
express ourselves in play in tip top shape! This is because there is no end to the satisfaction that a musician
derives from making music, and that is because of the divine nature of music itself. There is also no end to how far
any of us can go in increasing our abilities as guitarists. In play, we express what we are, but by our work, we
create more of ourselves to be expressed! Through work, through activity designed to change what we are and what we
can do, we intensify the whole enterprise, our play as well as our work.
And this is why we must know how to work, how to engage in activity with the guitar that will achieve future
oriented goals. We normally call this "practice". Unfortunately, for many people, their "work" never "works"! They put
in the time and effort, but nothing changes. Then of course, the pleasure and desire begin to go out of their
relationship to the guitar. That is why GuitarPrinciples focuses so much on teaching students to work, to practice.
The urge to play is quite natural, we don't have to learn it, we just have to prevent ourselves from un-learning it!
And when the ability to do true work is never learned, the urge and ability to play begins to disappear. When we learn
how to work, we empower ourselves to play as well.
As guitarists interested in enjoying ourselves to the fullest, we must make sure we know how to play, how to work,
and how to bring the spirit of play into our work. There must be times when we do nothing but play for the sheer joy
of playing music, and there must be times when we practice, when we work to improve our abilities. If we are able to
actually enjoy the effort of practice for its own sake, if we are able to "play within our practice", we will find
ourselves growing at quite a rapid rate. The element of play does indeed begin to come into our practice as we learn
how to practice correctly. When we find that we can set goals and accomplish them through practice, the setting of
goals, and the constant experimentation and discovery that accompanies correct practice becomes like an exciting game
we look forward to playing.
As guitarists we must keep what is valuable from our childhood, the urge and ability to play, and add to that what
is valuable and necessary for the adult world. We must know how to work, how to play, and how to combine the two in
relative proportions appropriate to our situations. Practice is often work, it is activity that is done for the sake
of a future goal, but because that goal is of our own choosing, there is great satisfaction in using our power to
achieve it. As the work we do in practice gives us more playing ability, it enhances the quality of our play. We have
more to play with, at those times when we wish to engage in that free activity know as play, where, like a horse
running for the sake of running and not to get somewhere, we play for the sake of playing, and not to achieve anything
beyond the moment.
As guitarists, we have a special opportunity to bring work and play into this harmonious balance. Sometimes, in
reading posts in our GuitarPrinciples Forum, I can tell when someone has achieved this, they tend to say things like
"can it get any better than this!!?"
material copyright © 2005 by Jamie Andreas, GuitarPrinciples.com