Ask the Expert – Guitar practice regime

Ask the Expert – Guitar practice regime

Guitar practice tips

Neil Shuck sent this email about guitar practice. Its similar to a number of others we have had recently so we thought it worth publishing in a blog post.

“I’ve just purchased the “Intermediate Acoustic” Worship Guitar Course, and I was wondering if you could help with a question. The ‘blurb’ states that the DVD contains a ‘whole years worth’ of guitar lessons. I’ve been playing guitar and leading worship for 20+ years, but to my shame I’ve never really developed a practice regime – probably one reason why I’m still at the level of playing skill that I am (I’m a very competent self-taught rythmn guitar player, with a good knowledge of chords etc, but suffer from a lack of the finer skills of playing…  :-)  )

So, my question is, how do you suggest I set up a new practice regime using this DVD? Have you got a suggested lession plan? (Or is it simply, work through the DVD lessons in sequence) How long should I spend on a lesson? I know the answer to these questions is a bit ‘wooly’ as everyone learns at a different pace, but I’d appreciate a couple of pointers. 

BTW, I’ve had a quick scan through all the extra non-lesson bits on the DVDs and it all looks really good stuff – I’m definately going to recommend these to the other worship leaders in my church……and just to say a huge thank you for what you are doing.

I came across the musicademy website almost by accident, following a link from the worshiptogether newsletter, and I lost several hours looking around at everything that you had available (!) And as a result, I’ve found myself re-invigorated and challenged to improve my muscianship as part of my worship (hence the DVD purchase!)”

Thanks so much for the email. It’s always good to hear positive things about how people are getting on with the DVD’s.

As regards the ‘years worth of lessons’  – I billed it as such because in my experience it generally takes the average player about a year to work the content on the DVDs into their playing. In terms of practice, I’ve put workbooks together for the beginners but not intermediate players mainly because beginner guitarists generally need so much more hand holding and structured help whereas most intermediate players have the experience to dip into a lesson and then apply it within another song. So I created the beginners workbooks (120 pages in all!) because I strongly suggest they need to work sequentially. Intermediate players have such different learning approaches that I’ve decided, at least for the moment, that its not viable for intermediate workbooks and many probably wouldn’t use them sequentially anyway.

The DVD’s are designed to be worked through in sequence, and the lessons get harder as you go, but it’s really up to you. Some people prefer a quick overview of each lesson and then major on the stuff they are really interested in, others are very sequential and won’t move on until they have thoroughly nailed the technique in question. One thing I do advise is to try to apply every lesson into as many worship songs in different keys and rhythms as you can. This will expose how much you really ‘know’ that technique. So for instance try and use the Travis picking ideas in as many songs and hymns as you can before you ‘sign off’ on that lesson.

However if you want to put together your own practice regime, the one thing I advise is don’t be too ambitious in the amount of time you can throw at it. Its much better to plan a short time regularly say 10-15 mins a day and leave yourself wanting more. Also never pack your guitar away, always leave it somewhere it’s easy just to pick it up and have a quick go even for a few minutes at a time. So on the sofa or next to your bed etc… Also do write down at least an outline sketch of the other songs you’d like to apply the lessons to so you’re not scratching around for what to do next. E.g. after the cheat chords, see if you can play a bunch of songs in the same key but using all the different shapes in conjunction with a capo.

How long you spend  on a lesson is again up to you – the point at where you’ve learnt it is when you can apply it to lots of songs with ease in a live environment – without stopping! So don’t be afraid to watch it through a few times as you may well pick up things you didn’t get first go round, but don’t get so bogged down if you hit a wall. Try something else for a few days and come back to it.

The first few lessons with the strumming patterns are pretty straightforward, so if you find that pretty easy jump into the chords and get the most out of them.

Sorry I can’t be of more help but I do hope you’ll use the DVDs to really stretch your playing.