The exercises that really improve your playing are usually not only developing one thing. You can be a lot more efficient by improving your guitar technique and also learn something about the fretboard, music theory, or rhythm when you practice.
In this video, I am going to give you 5 examples of exercises like that so that you can start making your practice more efficient. Some of these exercises are made so that you can work on them as a part of a technique practice routine to develop your skills, but others are more exploring what is there and some of the later ones I found that even if you go through them once slowly they really open up things for you and give you new ways of playing and exploring things.
#1 – Alt Picking exercises + Diatonic Chords:
This way of practicing is combining two very important techniques: Alternate picking which is the default approach for most melodies and diatonic chords which is one of the most important things to know about any key or scale. With alternate picking, I found that working on very difficult things to pick really helped me overall and the most tricky thing to alternate pick is probably one note per string patterns. But Instead of just running up and down the same arpeggio all day I often combined this with learning diatonic chords, especially Drop2 voicings. A basic example would be to play C major like this Exercise 1 but you could also challenge your music theory a bit more by doing this in Eb and then starting on the lowest available note Bb: Exercise 2 This exercise forces you to have a good overview of the diatonic chords, and you could take it even further and do E harmonic minor Exercise 3 For me, this was a great way to develop both my alternate picking, fretboard overview, and knowledge of diatonic chords. Notice that I included the diagrams because it is really important to think of the chords as one thing when you do this exercise.
#2 – Economy Picking and Phrasing Triads
This exercise is great for knowing the triads in a scale, but is also a technique that I use very often in my playing. There are a lot of structures that we play that have three notes and that are one note per string, especially triads, but also quartal arpeggios and shell-voicings. This way of playing them works really well for jazz lines because you have a melody that is the highest note in the triad and it is naturally accented and moving on top of the beat: C major from F major triad: and of course, you can work on stuff like this in a more challenging scale, for example, G melodic minor:
#3 – Music Theory and Drop2 Voicings in all keys
Another way to work on chord voicings and diatonic chords is to take a common chord progression and work it out through all 12 keys. For example: Let’s say that I want to play a turnaround like Cmaj7 A7(b9) Dm7 G7(9) and then take that through some keys staying in the same area of the neck.
#4 – Fretboard Overview – Extreme visualization
With the two first exercises you are working along the neck and you are using your ability to see arpeggio shapes along the neck using your knowledge of the key or scale. But you could also take another structure that you move where you really use your overview of the fretboard to see the pattern move up the neck. An example could be playing diatonic quartal arpeggios in different keys: So playing this exercise is a way to tap into your overview of the C major scale by moving a pattern up note-for-note, similar to this: And you should try to see that as notes moving up along the fretboard in the scale like this:
#5 – Position Workout – Chords and Arpeggios
A great way to turn exercises into a way of creating new material is to design them directly on songs. In the exercise below I am taking the first 8 bars of Stella By Starlight and practicing the arpeggio from the 3rd of each chord. This way of practicing helps you:
- Practice material that you can use on the song
- Learn the song better
- Get a better overview of the chords in the song
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