Often I talk to people who have everything that it takes to improve their guitar playing: they have time to practise, they have good guitars, the will and motivation. Not to mention tons of study materials, guitar method books, DVDs and online courses. Still they’re not happy with their progress and tend to blaim either their musical talent or just keep buying new gear and hoping that a better guitar or some new device will help. But there’s no mystery – the only thing that those people don’t have is a proper training plan. Just like in sports or any other field of action. Let’s see how to build up a training plan for a guitarist.
First of all, let’s see once more, what it takes to be a guitarist. You need to possess a proper playing mechanism, the ability of working with new pieces, a pile of repertoire and last but not least, you have to know the musical style that you want to play. So this is a good starting point for planning as all of those elements should make up your daily practising routine. For example:
Let’s assume that you can have time for 2 practising sessions a day. First session is in the morning and the other one a bit later.
Session 1 (morning)
- Warm up (going very slowly through some basic mechanical elements) A good warm up for the right hand would be stretching your fingers with some rasguaedo. It doesn’t matter if you use rasgueado in your everyday playing or not, it is the fastest warm-up as it requires your muscles to make strong movements. Refer to Scott Tennant’s Pumping nylon for some evergreen rasgueados for warm-up. For left hand playing chromatic intervals in 1st position will do it. Ricardo Iznaola has all of those exercises in his Kitharologus but you can come up with your own, too. Warm-up takes about 5 min
- Dealing with your playing mechanics: sound production, moving from string to string (both hands), accuracy of left hand finger placement, arpeggios, pull-off and hammer-on and chordal positions in left hand. Plus position shifts. Once you’ve done everything separately you can put it all together in a 2- or 3-octave scale or any other scale that you need to know in your playing style. This section can take 20-40 min. If it’s rather 40 min then make a 5 min brake. Avoid excessive repeating and use metronome.
Session 2 (afternoon? up to you)
- Warm up, just as before. It has a pure practical reason, your muscles have to be warm
- Working with your repertoire, studying new pieces. How to work with a new piece can be a separate topic but let’s stick to the general plan for now. Btw a great book is Iznaola’s “On Practicing” again.
- If your style is jazz then you need to devote time to write down other’s solos and analyse them
Between the actual sessions with your guitar you can make yourself familiar with the style that you’re into: if it’s death metal, keep listening to that and make sure you just don’t get stuck to your favorite band. Listen to all of them. Get their albums, think about the structure of an album or a song or a solo. If you’re style is classical guitar then expand your knowledge about the style and don’t just listen to guitarists. Listen to all classical instruments. Same goes with the jazz. Knowing your style is essential.
Ideally, your teacher will make you a suitable training plan but you can do it on your own too. And once it’s done, keep practising, write down your playing sessions’ times and make sure that from month to month you don’t have breaks. Record your music and listen to your old recordings. You’ll notice progress, it’ll make you happy and give more motivation to continue. Be aware of what you are doing – playing is not practising.
Planning is everything. And then comes focusing.