Tag Archives: guitar techniques

3 Things To Get Right For Great Guitar Technique

There are two types of guitar players, which one are you: Do you like to practice exercises, and develop your technique or do you hate scales and think that the devil invented the metronome? When it comes to developing your technique then I don’t think there is a correct or best way to go about it, and maybe you never need to practice scales or exercises at all., but what is anyway important is that you figure out what works the best for you! And I think You want to regularly go over what you spend your practice time on and figure out if you should change something.

My Philosophy

For any exercise or type of practice that you do then you learn a lot in the beginning but after some time it isn’t really getting you any further.

So you also need to know when to move on and look for a new way to level up your playing.

RIght now, I am looking at how to change a part of my practice routine, so I thought I’d go over what I do, what I am changing, and discuss what a practice routine should look like.

And I will mention one thing that I don’t work on at all which I probably should. I tend to think of the skills you work on in a routine like this as split up in 3 main areas: Technique, Knowledge, and Music, I’ll explain the 3 areas along the way and as you will see, most of the exercises will  improve skills in more than one of those areas.

Let’s start with some exercises that I feel I need to change:

`Pure Technique

The first exercises are mostly about warming up, technique, basic coordination, just to get the fingers moving. This is purely technique, in terms of the 3 areas.

It’s for getting my fingers to work in the morning , I have this exercise that I got from a Tomo Fujita video EXAMPLE,

and an exercise that I got from one of Rotems videos.

The exercises are simple and about technique and control, and this segment of my practice routine only takes a few minutes. This is probably the first video I have ever made where it makes sense to have a Venn diagram, but I think that is a good way to illustrate how the exercises work. Since I am looking for new things to practice then let me know if you have suggestions for similar exercises that could replace these. For me, it is good to spend time on pure technique stuff like this, but it has never been something that was a big part of my routine. You’ll see why when I get to some of the rhythm exercises, and also how I practice scales.

I used to follow this up with playing arpeggios over the entire neck, both 7th chords and triads but right now I took that out and instead, I spend 20-30 minutes practicing a song, while first playing with the metronome on 2&4, then on 2 and then on 2 every other bar or something similar. That’s a fun exercise to do, and great for internalizing tempos and working on playing music, so it is moving a bit away from technique and also adding music and knowledge to the mix. Until now that has been a nice way to get my fingers and brain started in the morning since I usually start practicing around 6:00 am. The next exercise is a mix of technique and rhythm.

Rhythm, Subdivision, and Control

Maybe it’s just me, but most of what I want to achieve with doing these exercises is to be able to play the notes I want to play and to play them in time. That is what I usually end up caring about, and this is a great exercise for that. It is a variation on something I saw David Beebee do in a video, and recently I came across an Oz Noy video where he talks about the same thing: Practicing a scale or some melodic fragment in one tempo but changing the subdivisions. I do this in two different ways: A looped fragment that I take through different subdivisions

 

and a scale fragment that I do the same with but where it doesn’t fit in the subdivisions nicely so that you have to change in places that might not fit the scale fragment.

 

I work on this both with picking and with legato, and it is a great way to get used to feeling, hearing and playing different subdivisions.

Subdivisions are incredibly important for a lot of things, especially locking in with the groove but also being able to play double time where you are playing a different subdivision than what is played by the rest of the band, and this exercise helps you develop that.

The easy way to start is to have a phrase that “fits”, in this case, a 5-note phrase, like an arpeggio with an extra note. I vary the phrase from day to day to keep it a bit open. With each subdivision, I  play 2 bars, quarter notes, 8th notes, then to 8th note triplets, 16ths, 16th triplets, and finally 32nds. Then you go stepwise back down to quarter notes. It’s a great way to push your technique a bit and a good way to work on rhythm.

Technique, Knowledge, and…

Practicing scales is where the strong connection to knowledge is. I have one important rule for practicing scales, and my approach also means that I am always changing things up, because the focus is more on flexibility, fretboard overview, and vocabulary than on speed.

I try to combine everything in scale practice, and the rule is that you ONLY practice things that you want to play in solos,  but what does that mean? This is sort of coming from the idea that you focus on practicing the things that you are using in your solo lines. Similar to what Wes Montgomery told Joe Diorio

And you get a similar way of looking at things if you check out how Barry Harris suggests practicing, which is, I think, where I got it from.  I am not sure Wes was practicing scales at all, and maybe he only practiced soloing on songs,  but this is my take on that. What I consider knowledge in this context is having an overview of what useful structures are in the scale, how they sound, and how to play them. In that respect, there is an ear-training and fretboard component to the knowledge as well.

Through the years, I have done different variations of this way of practicing, both over or across the neck free of positions or like I am doing right now all positions in one key. It’s pretty simple:

Set the metronome, play the scale in all positions, take an exercise, and move that through all positions or up the neck if you are practicing like that.

metronome one step higher, Next key, and repeat.

But the important part here is, of course, the exercise part, and I’ll get to the ear-training aspect later.

What is the exercise? The exercise can be anything you want, or more precisely, anything you realize you want to use in a solo. I do a lot of variations with

triads

triad inversions

7th chord arpeggios

different Bebop arpeggio tricks

quartal arpeggios

and, of course, you can add leading notes and enclosures to this.

arpeggios with leading notes.

You want to make sure that you keep changing it up,  trying different things in the different keys, and using small phrases that you use in your solos.

The goal is to learn to hear those structures, be flexible with them so you can improvise, and ensure you are not stuck in certain keys or positions. This can be a great way to help get new vocabulary into your playing, and you start thinking of lines made from these flexible building blocks that you can take through a scale.

Not a lot of thinking and theory?

If you are not used to playing diatonic triads or other structures then it might sound like some complicated math to figure out, but that is probably more something you do when you are working on theory than when you are practicing. The way I find myself doing this is more based on hearing melodies, diatonic triads are a pretty predictable melody if you play it through a scale, and you will most likely hear if you are playing wrong notes, trusting a bit in your ability to hear how it moves through a scale makes it a lot easier. Just imagine or sing the melody and then try to play it, it is probably easier than you think, and there is also another advantage.

Exercises That Combine Everything

Working on learning solos by ear teaches you a lot, both in terms of ear training, vocabulary, phrasing, and timing but for me the biggest part of the learning is not figuring out what is being played or analyzing it. It is playing it.  That was always how that went for me, and one of my biggest regrets with my study was actually that I didn’t get a good pair of speakers or headphones and a decent CD player until the last year because that would have made this part of my study a LOT easier and therefore also a lot better. Having a boom box with muddy speakers where going back and forth on a CD was almost impossible was in hindsight a massive handicap. When I check out solos I mostly rip the audio and use Transcribe! because that is so nice for going back and forth and you can save a file so that you start exactly at the beginning of the solo right away. Super practical. I wish I had something that worked as well with Spotify on my phone, but I can’t find anything that works.

In the last few months I have made it a part of my daily routine to work on solos, and the emphasis is more on playing along than on figuring out, so I don’t mind that it takes a long time, and once I have the solo figured out then I keep playing it to get it into my system. That is a lot more fun than it sounds. Another thing that is maybe also worth mentioning is that I don’t analyze the solos that much, I am just playing them as melodies. With that, I am of course not saying that you should not analyze them, but I do think that there is something to be said for just trying to reproduce the phrasing, the lines, and the timing. It is the part of your practice where you try to get it all to work together at the same time. Playing Kreutzer etudes and Bach is also useful for this, but of course, that doesn’t help you with timing and phrasing in the same way.

There is one thing that I am not working on at the moment, and I rarely worked on this in any kind of systematic way.

The Missing Element

In this video, I am talking about technique, scales, coordination, and all sorts of stuff, but I didn’t include anything on chords which may be a mistake. I do spend time playing chords especially, in the warm-up jam section, but I don’t have a set of exercises that I work with for chords. Probably in part because I always play chords most of the time when I am working. But what would you suggest as solid chord exercises?

Digging into the chords!

Even if I do not practice inversions or diatonic chords as exercises every day then that doesn’t mean that I don’t work on comping. Chords are such a huge part of what you do when you play Jazz, not only comping but also chord melody and chord solos. and some solid exercises will help you develop those skills and make you a lot more free and creative with chords.  You can check those out in this video, which will give you some good ideas for enjoying the fantastic world that is Jazz chords and Jazz harmony. Learn Jazz, Make Music

3 Basic Jazz Chord Exercises That Will Change Your Playing in 2024

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5 Exercises That Will Boost Your Technique And Practice

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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This Is How You Should Practice Every Scale Exercise

Most great Guitar Players mix a lot of different techniques when they are playing, and if that is the end goal then the scale exercises you do should also contain that element!

In this lesson I am going to go over some ways to take simple exercises and use them to combine legato, alternate picking and sweeping or economy picking.

Technique and Scale Exercises are for sound

For me it is in the end much more about having techniques so that I can play the music that I want to play and get it to sound right and having a flexible technique in terms of legato and picking is very useful for this.

Technique is there to help me play the Music that I want to play with The Phrasing and Sound I want to hear!

The exercises in this video is My take on how this works it is important to remember that the best solution is for you to 

Find YOUR way of combining different techniques
incorporate it into your practice routine and playing

Basic Scale Exercise and a few options

Example 1 is a C major scale in the 8th position played with a 3NPS fingering.

In the video I play it with alternate picking:

You can do this mixing with legato as well. Let’s do that like this: Down Up Hammer-on:

and of course you can also do Down Hammer-on UP:

 Technique priorities – what to choose

The way I think about this is no that it has to sound the same, different techniques sound slightly different and when I play I am going to use the technique that is playable or easy AND that sounds the best.

The goal is to use the different sounds and dynamics of the technique in our phrasing

So it doesn’t have to sound the same!

Actually you make choices on this already with the exercises.

Here’s the scale in 3rds with alternate picking:

And you can try to add as much legato as possible by doing this:

But somehow it’s nice to have one more picked note to get it to sound a little more natural:


With all of these exercises I am choosing the approach and techniques that I like and that fits to me, but of course this is different from person to person so you might find that other combinations work better for you. The important thing is to make sure you can play it in time and that you get the phrasing or sound that you like.

Adding Economy picking to the mix

Of course you can also work with sweeping or economy picking, When playing arpeggios this becomes very practical. For example with diatonic triads.

And we can combine all of it in an exercise like this with triads up one down the next 

It is up to your imagination and you get to challenge yourself and develop your ability to mix

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