Tag Archives: jens larsen practice

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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Guitar Practice – Top 5 Super Useful Apps

You want to make the most of your limited practice time, and there are a lot of useful apps out there which can help you make your guitar practice more fun and more efficient. The one that is maybe the most useful and overlooked is in fact free, and you already have it on your phone.

The first part of this video is on the 5 Apps I use and then I also have some really solid recommendations at the end.

#5 Tuner

Guitar Tuner, Bass, Violin, Banjo & more | DaTuner - YouTube

Always good to have a backup tuner if you forget or lose your tuner. Also just passing it to a student in a lesson for them to tune.

The one I use is called DaTuner and it is free, there is a premium version without all the ads but since I use this more as a backup then I didn’t check out what it does and if it does that well beyond removing the ads.

My impression is that there are a lot of different tuner apps and they all do the same thing pretty well, and having a free one is always reassuring.

Later in the video, I am also going to give you the best tip for using your phone while practicing.

#4 iReal

iReal Pro offers an easy-to-use tool to help musicians of all levels master their art. The app simulates a real-sounding band that can accompany you as yo… | Muziek

It is a bit strange to recommend iReal because I find that it often does as much damage as it does good. So let me say up-front that I am really not a fan of the midi backing track sound of iReal and I am pretty sure that is not good for your swing feel.

Another thing I am not happy with is that you have chords for songs, but the melody is not there and the changes are often not fantastic. Of course, this is because of copyrights that make it impossible to include the actual song, so you can’t really blame the app.

And still, this is a great app to have for a session or gig where a song is called that you don’t know, or if a student brings wants to play a song you never played, and you can make your own harmony and share playlists if you are doing a cafe gig like opening a jam session or something else with no rehearsal.

#3 Metronome

How to Install Pro Metronome on PC for Windows and MAC

I don’t use the tuner or iReal all the time but they are on my phone. I do use my metronome app every day. There are a ton of metronome apps and a lot of them are free. For this app, I do have the Premium version but I don’t think I really use it for that. The only thing I did was make a preset so that you enter the tempo and the metronome is on 2&4, but that is hardly making use of all it can do. Always having a metronome is really practical, and this one can also go really slow which I use quite often.

What Apps Do You Recommend?

If there is an App that you really like to use that I did not talk about here, then leave a comment and help us discover it! If you know my videos you probably guessed that the next app would be high on the list.

#2 DrumGenius

APP - Drumgenius: the Jazz Rhythm Encyclopedia Created by Bassist Mauro Battisti

DrumGenius is a fantastic app, it is a lot of fun to play with and the different drum loops are extremely well made. It could use a few more straight-ahead medium and medium up swing loops, but for the rest it is great, and I also used it a lot for examples in my videos.

Another “secret weapon” that I sometimes use is soloing using the clave section of that app so you can solo over a blues in 4/4, but have the metronome in 5/4 or some other pattern for reference for timekeeping. That is a really useful exercise.

#1 Teach Yourself Guitar

Samsung's Camera app updated to version 10.5.03.1 (September 24, 2020) - Sammy Fans

The app on your phone that is really a game-changer for your playing is actually just something that is already in there and that you expect to be there: The Camera.

Having a recording device that is that easy to access and that helps you practice something and then sit back and listen to what you played without having to play at the same time and is incredibly effective for improving your playing. If there is one habit you want to build then it should be to record a short solo whenever you practice, and then sit down without your instrument and listen to what you play and figure out exactly what you want to improve.

That is is a video is really a bonus because it is mostly about the audio, but the way phones work then this is so easy to use that it is a shame not to use it like this.

Incredibly Useful Advice for Using a Phone for Practice

One thing that is pretty important when you are practicing and also using your phone is that you do so in flight mode. It is impossible to concentrate if you get notifications from Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook all the time when I upload a video, and if you don’t get interrupted it is 10 times as effective

Honorable Mentions

My top 5 in this video are based on the apps that I use regularly right now in my practice and that are on my phone, so it may change with time. I do feel that there are some really great apps out there that I recommend to my students and have used myself or use in periods.

Learning Fretboard Visualization with an App

Solo - Fretboard Visualization on the App Store

A great app to get a better overview of the fretboard and practice this in a really practical way is Solo. Solo is an app made by David Beebee and Tom Quayle from the Guitar Hour podcast. This is the only app I am mentioning here that does not have a free version, but if you are looking to improve your fretboard overview then this app is worth checking out.

David and Tom included some videos showing you how to use it, and there are exercises where you can work through songs and the app listens if you play the right notes. This makes it much more fun to practice stuff like this, and certainly worth a try.

Ear-training with a Free App

Lead Vocals - Improve Relative Pitch with Functional Ear Trainer

Another app that is great for training your ears that isn’t just about training intervals but really hearing notes in a key, which I think is so much more useful is Functional Ear Trainer. This app has a premium part as well but you don’t need to get that to learn from it, and the approach taken here is basic and super solid, and very useful.

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Get This Right About Everything You Practice

It is difficult to find time to practice and keep learning, so it is very important to not waste time with the things that you practice. Exactly what you practice is going to be different from person to person, but there are some useful questions that you can ask yourself about what you have in your guitar practice that will help you check that it will make sense to spend time on and is not a waste of time.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:28 Clear Goals

01:29 What Do I Need?

02:16 What Do I Learn?

02:44 The Right Way To Plan Practice

03:18 How Do I Practice Better?

03:30 Raw Material

04:02 Basic Application

04:30 Make Music With It

04:59 Going Through A Song

05:28 Use It Or Lose it!

05:58 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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