How much time do you devote
to practicing guitar per day ?
I don't devote nearly enough time as I should. II get so wrapped in
everything else sometimes - writing, collaborating, engineering,
producing, managing, designing, promoting, corresponding, negotiating,
policing, traveling, touring, teaching - there will be times when I don't
even see a guitar for days. But the time away actually ends up being
a good thing. When I pick the guitar backup there's a refreshed
approach, new ideas. But when I'm touring, I play a few hours a day,
every day. So it varies - I practice more during the times
when I have shows coming up. But it's never enough. I could be
so much better.
What areas of your playing do you enjoy working on the most?
My favorite thing is playing guitar while watching TV, jamming to whatever
I hear. Whatever music comes on, I try to jump right in and play
along, anticipate the changes, play rhythm and melody together as they're
happening. That's the kind of playing I do most, but nobody hears it
unless they're hanging out in a room with me, haha. Just thinking of
songs, and playing all the parts of the song at once. Fun stuff.
Are there any techniques that you're not so good at? How do you aim to
Anything and everything could be better. There's always room to
grow, more to learn. The day you stop learning is the day you start
sucking. There are some improvisational methods in my head that I
can't pull off yet. I would need to spend hours a day, for years,
with a metronome just playing slowly, and training my brain to think a
different way. That's what it would take.
Is it important to work on your playing weaknesses, or is it best to
concentrate on what you're naturally good at?
All of it is important. Work on everything. Just play, and
over time it all comes together, the weak stuff becomes more natural.
The average Total Guitar reader has played guitar for around two to
three years and would describe themselves as a beginner to intermediate
guitarist. How much time should he or she spend on practice per day? Was
this the case for you when you started a practice regime?
It depends on your day, how much time you have where you can really focus
on playing without sacrificing too much of your life. Life is what
happens when you're not practicing in your room. So don't spend too
much of your time alone with your guitar, where you're denying yourself a
fulfilling life - a half hour to two hours should be fine. But ya
gotta go out and live your life - all the experiences add dimension to who
you are, and it'll reflect in your musical expression. It's the best
thing you can do for your music.
What can the Total Guitar reader do to increase the speed of his or her
Use a metronome. Don't push too hard to get fast, where your hands
are tense. Stay relaxed, don't tighten up. And take care of
your body, especially your brain.
What do you do to keep your practice time fresh, ie, how do you prevent
it from becoming a chore?
The mind gets bored, not the hands. So do things that stimulate your
mind. Remember, music starts in your brain, it ends at your hands.
You need to exercise the source of the music - your brain. Here's an
exercise I would have my students do. Requires another person, and
knowing basic chord theory. Have someone hit quarter-notes of a
chord, and all you have to do is play whole notes. So every four
chord strums, you hit one note. It has to be a note that makes up
the chord. (Example: play any C, E, or G notes on the neck while a C
major chord is being strummed...) Every time you hit the whole
note, at the same time you need to name the *next* note you're going to
play. Next, try it over a changing chord progression.
Then, try it with half-notes. Then quarter notes. This will
help train your mind to think ahead of your hands. Your mind should
always be one step ahead of your hands.
Scales can be pretty boring to play! How can you make this aspect of
practice more relevant and interesting?
I'm gonna go back to when I was 14, playing about 7 years. I started
taking lessons from a great jazz guitarist named Pete Prisco. Man,
did he straighten me out. He would have me play 3-octave major
scales at 40 beats per minute, slightly behind the beat, as softly as I
could. That taught me serious discipline. Then we'd start
accenting, every 2nd note in groups of three notes, as if we were playing
in 3/4 time, soft loud soft, soft loud soft, still at 40 bpm's, lagging
behind the beat. Adding dynamics to the picking brings so much to
phrases and scaley runs. Start working on adding accents to your
scales. Practice different patterns of dynamics while playing
scales, emphasizing different parts of the beat. It will be less
boring to play - but better than that, it will be more interesting to
Finally, is there an exercise or technique you have learned that has
transformed your playing more than anything else you've discovered?
While in the early teen years, what I liked to do was pick an album and
learn the whole album in a day. It would be AC/DC, Judas Priest,
Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Ozzy, Rush, Van Halen... It helped
with ear training, inspiration for writing, a great mental workout.
I'd drop the needle for 10 seconds, lift it off, play what I heard, and
work my way across the song. Do that for song 1, then song 2, then
go back and play song 1 and song 2. Hardest part was to not forget
the previous song while memorizing each new song. You must always
challenge yourself, and meet the challenge. Doing that will
transform your playing.