Principles of Practice
Based on "The Principles of Correct
Practice for Guitar"
by Jamie Andreas
25, 2002 Volume 91
First Lesson: Damage Control
This description of a student's "first lesson" should
serve as a warning to all students out there. Read this, and then
read my comments:
"I had my first lesson last night. The teacher
gave me the A scale to learn. He said he did this to teach me where
the notes are on the neck in relation to reading music. He also
went over the open notes to start learning to read music. He did
stress playing slow but suggested starting at 72 on the metronome.
Also he told me to use only my i and m fingers at first while I
do the scale. Anyone have any comments on my first lesson? I was
a little disappointed at the beginning of my lesson because he told
me that sitting in the classical position was not essential. I was
hoping for a purist. I have no doubt I can still learn a lot from
this individual and I will still continue lessons with him. I feel
confident because I am armed with the principles. Again thanks for
Erik, The Principles will help you, but you are fighting overwhelming
odds. From the viewpoint of someone who has gone through the struggle
to attain mastery of the guitar, I will tell you that you are like
someone who has gone to school for the first time, and without knowing
it, they have placed you in High School instead of First Grade.
As the semester advances (the months and years go by), you will most
likely start feeling
pretty stupid as you wonder why you don't seem to "get it"
like other players do.
Giving someone a major scale and then telling them to start it at
72 is what I would do if I wanted to make sure my student would never
play well. There is no way you are going to practice that scale, as
a beginner, and not begin to build in, and lock in, major tension
in your muscles.
Now, you know this, and you know not to pay attention to the harmful
"advice" of your teacher,
but how many students out there don't know this? Those major scales
are dangerous to you
until you have a foundation from the left hand exercises in The Principles.
Anyone who simply
browses our Forum will see plenty of testimony to that fact.
You are receiving the usual, mindless, incompetent instruction so
many students receive. A major scale on the first lesson will effectively
tie up the entire playing mechanism of any beginner. True, you may
be lucky enough to un-tie some of the knots later on, but why have
Why is it so difficult for teaches like yours to understand the necessity
of, FIRST AND FOREMOST, before anything else on the guitar, learning
how to simply place the fingers on the strings, and begin to move
and develop them for their job of fretting notes? Further, doing it
in a way that does not beginthe process of chronic tension that WILL
happen to anyone who does something as complex and demanding on untrained
muscles as a major scale. If nothing else, the pick hand and arm will
be so tense on such an individual, as the left hand strains for the
notes, that pick ability will immediately begin to be degraded by
the all the tension you are locking into the pick hand and arm as
your left hand and arm are being tortured.
And of course, the average student will think this is supposed
to be happening!
Why don't you hand the teacher your copy of The Principles and demand
he guide you
through those exercises, and make them the subject of the lessons
until you are doing them
well. Very probably your teacher would have trouble doing them perfectly,
but as an experienced player, he will certainly have less trouble
than you will, and will be able to help you as well as, no doubt,
improve his own abilities as a player, and certainly a teacher.
A Day in the Life: Lesson Log
Now, all this is not to say that even when a guitar lesson is what
it should be that it is without its torments!
For instance, if you check out my student Tina's logs, you will
get a taste of how exacting and
excruciating it can be to go through the rigorous process of real
training. But, there is a big difference. In one case you are tortured
and get nothing to show for it but bruises. In Tina's case, she
will be a great guitarist!
Here is some of what she has written recently. It is invaluable
for anyone wanting to get a clear
idea of what it's really about, as well as much pertinent info that
you will be able to relate to and use:
What do you know -- it works. The Basic Practice Approach
works. That's my theme today.
I saw it obviously for myself a few times, and it came through in
my lesson with Jamie this week as well.
EFFICIENT USE OF PRACTICE TIME: This week I again found myself not
practicing as many hours as I would have liked to, for various reasons:
I was very tired, we went away for a couple of days and spent more
time driving and less time in one place, whatever. The point is,
instead of stressing about this, I decided to be as efficient and
focused as I could with the time that I had. That is, I decided
to focus in on less material, as Jamie had suggested doing when
I have less time, and actually use the Basic Practice Approach on
that material, so that when I showed Jamie what I had worked on
he could see that I had been applying the principles in my practice.
And not only would he see it, but more important, I would benefit
from it in my development, instead of wasting time glossing over
more material lightly. In other words, it was time to have the patience
and acceptance to deepen the bottom of my practice, and let go of
my anxiety about material I wasn't covering. I knew it was important
to review songs, but I decided I would do less of that this week.
In my finger walking and string shifting, I decided not to worry
about pushing my speed since I wasn't doing each of those exercises
every day, just to do them better at the no tempo and the speeds
I was already doing them. Jamie had reminded me that Practicing
One Thing is Practicing Everything, which was in one of his recent
What do you know, it works --
I especially liked the part where she talks about almost becoming
nauseous as I made her concentrate so intensely on her fingers!
Yes, the fun never stops around here!
Student Protests: "Students are Waking Up, Where are the
Literally every day students are writing in about the revelations
they are experiencing from
The Principles, and I am being offered every kind of advice about
what direction to take things, from making a video to setting up
a worldwide franchise for Principled Teachers! Well, we'll see,
but where do you find time to practice and play guitar with all
that going on in your life?
Anyway, I want to try to do what I can to accelerate the process
of getting out of me everything that is useful to guitar students,
and it seems one of the easiest things to do is simply get more
and more teachers out there to let their teaching approach be guided
by The Principles. The reason is simple: they work, for everyone,
everywhere, everytime. Hit or miss success is eliminated.
Here is a recent exchange from the Forum on this subject, as a student
laments the dearth of competent instruction out there:
"Man I would love to take lessons from Jamie or
Ney Mello is the thought that hits me everytime I read a post like
this on this forum. Since I live near Nashville Tn both these great
teachers are out for regular lessons. I took lessons for 2 years
from a good teacher and he taught me alot but like Jamie says there
was also alot that wasn't stressed or was taken for granted, like
muscle tension and getting down to the nitty gritty technical fine
points of playing.
I've been on my own about six month's now just using the principles
and reading everything on Jamie's sight and doing Mel bay study
group and trying to build a repertoire and taking the time to
try to really get in touch with the sensations and what is happening
in my body while playing and have definitely made some progress.
I can honestly say that after reading Jamie's site religiously
for the past year I have become an educated guitar student and
I know what I want from a guitar teacher so look out teachers!
Any way hope you guys don't mind me venting a bit. Thanks Jamie
and Thanks Ney and to all the other forum contributors from whom
I have learned so much."
7 . "Find The Teachers!"
Posted by Jamie on Aug-21-02
Yes, Ken, we hear this kind of thing all the time. At GuitarPrinciples,
people learn what is really
possible. And they start to get a little peeved that it is so hard
to find a decent teacher, one that you could at least say "they'll
do me more good than harm".
You know, someone who is at least open, and willing to always try
to be good, and get better,
at teaching. Also someone who, if you weren't making progress, at
least would have the attitude of "hmm, let's see if we can
find out why".
The thing people get from reading my book and my site, is that it
is entirely possible for anyone to learn to play the guitar well.
If they have the drive, they can even be great. But there HAS to
be a certain level of instruction and guidance happening, the sooner
Well, I'll tell you this, it's all good for me and my business!
Because, as more and more people are figuring out, GuitarPrinciples
is the answer. I can make anyone into a guitar player. And thousands
of people are making themselves into guitar players without seeing
me personally, just by using my book and site.
So all I can say is, yes, keep demanding more from your teachers,
until you start feeling like you are getting somewhere, you are
growing as a guitarist. If you're not, your teacher should be aware
that neither teaching nor learning are taking place.
So, one of you might as well save your money, and the other one
save your breath!
Of course the other choice, the one that I would propose, is to
find some teacher who is halfway decent, and tell him "look,
check out GuitarPrinciples, get the book, start reading the guy's
newsletter, and help me learn his practice methods".
Believe me, the world would start to see better guitar teachers,
and a much bigger crop of guitar players every year!
I was just talking about it with Geraldine the other day. We put
up this teacher network, and we have few teachers who have joined
it. We know we have teachers buying the book, but they are not signing
up for the teacher network. They are not writing to me asking me
to help them with various teaching obstacles, and asking me how
to apply the Principles in some situations.
Ney has said a lot, for sure. And he has tried to alert you as to
what to focus on in a number of areas of pick technique, which Foundation
Exercises from The Principles to stress for certain things. It would
be great if more teachers were like him.
As I said, I think all students should get militant about it. The
"entranceway" to the guitar playing highway is being built
here at GuitarPrinciples, you know!
Good luck, and moving forward,
As if to add an exclamation to my above rant, I just this minute
received this letter, entitled " A Note Of Thanks", confirming
everything I have just said:
I'm 41 years old and I started taking guitar lessons in February
of this year. I was into about my 7th week of lessons when I discovered
GuitarPrinciples.com. At that point I was getting extremely frustrated
at my obvious lack of improvement. I was doing what, at that time,
I thought was practice for about 2 hours a day--everyday! I was
doing everything that my teacher told me to do and I wasn't getting
any better. I didn't know why and the worst part of it was that
the person I was paying my money to couldn't or didn't care enough
to figure it out either.
When I found your site I devoured everything on it. I printed all
of the essays and made them into a notebook that I could go back
and refer to (and I do often). I was especially interested in your
writings on guitar teachers.
That was when I decided to part company with this guy and blaze
my own trail for awhile until I could find a "True Teacher".
I ordered your book and got to work (It has since fallen apart from
excessive use and I had to get it rebound). I put together a practice
schedule and I started a diary so I could measure my progress. I
decided that I was going to start over from the beginning using
nothing but the foundation exercises and the Beginners Path Lessons.
Jamie, I made more progress over the first 7 days on my own
than I did in 7 weeks of lessons! I now feel that I am on my way
to being able to play like I knew that I always could. You have
taught me how to identify problem areas and more importantly how
to correct them. I want to thank you for all you have done to help
me and all aspiring guitarists out there searching for the truth.
Learning guitar is a journey that has no final destination-the ride
is now much more enjoyable!
Excellent Jim, I am very happy that you were successfully "re-directed".
Hopefully, you will continue making progress, and even better, find
a teacher who can actually TEACH!
Maximum Musician Takes the Principled Approach
As we go along here at GuitarPrinciples, one very nice part of it
is that we come into contact with many of the other people on the
planet who feel the way we do: life without being a guitar player
is not worth living! Well, maybe they wouldn't all put it that strongly
(but actually, a lot of them probably would).
Anyway, I love the fact that my work keeps me in touch with what
other guitar-type people are doing. I get to check out other web
sites and see the amazing stuff that is available for students of
every level. It is quite incredible. As with so many areas of learning
and knowledge, since the Internet occurred, if you want to be a
good or great guitarist, there is so much help out there, you have
only yourself to blame if you don't achieve your goal. Sure, you'll
hit obstacles, but the resources to overcome those obstacles are
so numerous and powerful, if you couple them with your own power
and perseverance, you will overcome them, in time, of course.
I was attracted to a very worthy resource lately, created and offered
by a worthy person named Darrin Koltow. I noticed some of his things
available at TrueFire.com, a self publishing site I use also. I
noticed that he took the "thoughtful" approach to his
relationship with music and the guitar, and I have to admit, I am
partial to that. Reading a bit about Darrin, and beginning to read
some of his work, I realized that his approach was, in essence,
the same as mine. Darrin's approach is to "think as he goes",
pay attention, in other words. And then, after solidifying his thoughts,
and seeing the value of them, to offer them to others from a pure
Darrin's work conveys an enthusiasm which, if you have read my
work to any extant, you know I consider an essential element of
the process. In fact, energy and exuberance are signs that
we are on the path correctly, it is feeding us and giving us energy.
(Keep that in mind. Be very
careful if your teacher doesn't seem like the kind of person who
feels, however imperfect life may be, music and the guitar is an
always available well spring of life.)
In fact, I found it interesting that Darrin's declared mission
is to enable the player to have FUN on the path. Now, if you read
my essay called "The Fundamentals Of Fun", you will know
that I am a big fan of fun, in fact, have stated that "Semper
Fun" is the motto at GuitarPrinciples. But, I know that sometimes,
my idea of fun might be a lot closer to some people's idea of TORTURE.
(As in Tina's remark referenced above about how the kind of intense
practice I do, and make my students do, was making her nauseous!
That kind of practice is fun for me, but it makes other people feel
like throwing up!)
So, I think it is really good that Darrin has decided to shore
up the "fun front" a bit more, to balance out what I do.
And I have to tell you, as I was reading some of Darrin's site,
he was cracking me up.
He's a good writer, as well as a thinking person who actually has
something worth writing about. So I am quite confident that anyone
who spends time on www.maximummusician.com, will find their progress
on the path to becoming a musician and guitarist greatly enhanced,
enriched and benefited, as they allow Darrin to take them on a tour
of what the experience of learning to become a guitarist has been
for him, and what he thinks is valuable to do if you are on that
I have always noticed that people who become really good at something,
and people who really
ponder something deeply over a long period of time, arrive at a
lot of the same realizations and truths, as we notice with Ney Mello.
Of course, that's one of the great things about "truths",
by definition, "truth" is that which IS. Like a mountain,
if you can actually see clearly, you'll see it). So, as you study
a subject, you start to notice certain people seeing certain similar
things, and if you are a smart student, you will pay great attention
to all that. Drawing on diverse sourceshelps your own process germinate
So, you will some things you hear me and others say, as well as
some things that will be new and from the writers unique perspective.
But I have to tell you, there wasn't anything I saw that I dis-agreed
with. Everything on www.maximummusician.com will do you good, and
get you thinking, and with the right attitude.
For instance, you will learn:
MaximumMusician also has a focus on helping you use the vast resources
of the web to best advantage, as Darrin points you toward the best
of what he has discovered, and he seems to be quite good at discovering
it. You can also sign up for his free newsletter, which always contains
informative and usable lessons, tips, etc.
- why you should keep a practice journal
- why you need to perform for others
- why you can still be a fine guitarist if you don't read
So, give Darrin a visit at www.MaximumMusician.com,
and start to benefit from the observations
of a dedicated and astute traveler on the path we all share.
Lesson on Intro to "Sweet Child of Mine"
I had a number of requests for this appealing intro to Guns N Roses'
"Sweet Child Of Mine". It is only of medium difficulty,
but keep in mind that if you have fundamental flaws in your technique,
EVERYTHING feels difficult, at least when it comes to nailing it
securely and having it be solid, especially under performance conditions.
I have provided something very unique in this lesson, and I hope
you will take advantage of it if you decide to study this lesson.
I have put on the lesson a series of midi tracks of the intro, starting
at a very slow speed and progressing up to performance tempo. You
can use these to practice with, and more importantly, to test yourself
Most of your work will be in nailing the first very slow speed perfectly.
After that, if you do correct practice and keep the tension out
of the process, you will bring it up to full speed step by step
the lesson here.
material copyright © 2003 by Jamie Andreas, GuitarPrinciples.com