Guitar Instruction: Measuring Your Progress
In order to make Vertical Growth as players, there are
some very important conditions to be met.
One of these, and one very often lacking in a
player/practicers approach, is a systematic,
method of measuring results.
Of course, we all probably have some vague sense of
whether or not we are actually making any
progress as players. We all probably have those pieces
or songs or leads we check in with from time
to time to see if we are able to play them any better.
But to really kick your progress into high gear,
you need something a little, scratch that, a LOT more
focused. You need a system.
You need routines that you can apply to various
situations; routines that give results, and provide
feedback on measurement of results that you need to
assess the effectiveness of the routines
themselves. You need to know whether a particular
routine you have devised to solve a problem or
improve something is actually working.
Imagine going in to a gym to work out, and expecting
to get results by randomly picking up weights
each time you went in. How about, even worse, you
never remembered what you did the last time!
Sometimes you would work out with fifty pounds,
sometimes a hundred. You know what would
happen? At best, not much. At worst, a lot of sore or
damaged muscles, and wasted time and money
(but at least it would get you out of the house)!
Yet that is what many guitarists do when they
practice. They will be working on, say, an arpeggio
study or scale, and they will have no idea of the top
speed they are able to play it, the speed at which
their present level of development allows them to play
that particular passage of music or exercise,
before beginning to "fall apart." And it is very
important to know that! Otherwise, you will have no
idea (or not a clear enough idea) of when you have
made progress, when you have gotten results
from a particular practice approach.
Just as a bodybuilder must know what weight they are
presently able to lift or press so that they can
work out with the right amount of weight at their
particular point of development, musicians must
know the same thing when it comes to their technique,
which is THEIR athletic ability to
produce music on their instrument. This means that if
I am working on a scale, I must know the top
speed I can play it. I must work up to that speed
every day. I must then apply certain practice routines
designed to get me past that top speed, so that if
today I can play it at 120 beats per minute in
sixteenth notes, I will be able to play it at 132 bpm
next month. And how do we do that. GET A
METRONOME AND LEARN HOW TO USE IT!
I swear, I should start my own metronome company,
given the number of metronomes I have been
responsible for having people buy over the years! It
is required for all my students. I cannot produce
results with students if they don't have a metronome,
and know how to use it effectively in practice
routines. And once they do know how to use it, they
have a powerful method and tool for learning
things ON THEIR OWN. Then my role as teacher becomes
more of showing them higher levels of
playing, and introducing them to more complex
situations that will be solved by using the same
practice routines they have used on the ones
Here are some ways to apply these understandings to
your immediate situation:
1.Get a metronome, and use it for all "technical"
routines. Use it especially for all routines
designed to increase speed, i.e., all scale and
2.Determine your top speed as soon as possible when
learning a new technical exercise. This is
the speed you will work up to each practice
3.Determine as soon as possible exactly where the
exercise or musical passage breaks down as
you go past your top speed.
4.Isolate those notes, analyze the movements of both
hands required for producing those notes,
AND FIGURE OUT WHAT IS GOING WRONG at that speed.
5.Move the metronome to much lower speeds, and look
for the BEGINNINGS of those wrong
things happening, and work with them there, at the
beginning. For instance, if my top speed on
a G major second position scale is 120 bpm, and I
notice at that speed my pinky is getting so
tense it is beginning to pull away from the
string, I will LOOK FOR THAT STARTING TO
HAPPEN AT A MUCH LOWER SPEED. Once I see that
(which I never noticed before), I
can work with it there, fix it at the lower speed, and
then I WILL SEE THAT PASSAGE
START TO GET STRONGER, HOLD TOGETHER AT THE HIGHER
The more you understand and DO these things, the more
you will have the great confidence and
pleasure that comes with knowing you can always make
yourself a better guitarist because YOU
KNOW HOW TO PRACTICE!
Copyright 1999 by Jamie Andreas
Click here for more of Jamie's articles
Jamie’s provocative writings examine all aspects of becoming a true musician…the technical/physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Guitar virtuoso, recording artist, composer, and teacher of 30 years, Jamie is recognized by music experts around the globe for her major contribution to the advancement of guitar education. Her method book, “The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar” (1999) continues to bring the highest acclaim, world renowned as “The International Bible For Guitarists”, and the “Holy Grail Of Guitar Books.” With a straight forward writing style, her tried and true, result-oriented guitar book powerfully reveals the correct practice methods that no other book has revealed…taking the student from the beginning stages all the way to the highest levels of virtuosity. Jamie is already familiar to aspiring guitar players, as her wisdom is present throughout the Web on all major guitar sites, including her own. Visit her web site: www.guitarprinciples.com
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