Sunday, April 1, 2012

Top 10 Practice Tips: Build on the Basics (7 of 10)

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It's important to stay sharp on the basics. My first guitar teacher, Jack Hammond, once told me that, in order to maintain my current skill level, I needed to practice at least 30 minutes a day. Those 30 minutes would be filled with the basics: scales, chords, arpeggios, right-hand technique, and sight-reading. Now, that was a long time ago, and I would certainly say today that I have to practice much more than that - daily - to maintain my skill level - probably closer to somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes plus.

When I say "the basics," here's exactly what I mean:
  • Major and minor pentatonics
  • 7-Tone major and natural minor scales
  • Harmonic, melodic, and jazz melodic minor scales
  • One-Octave mixolydian and dorian box patterns
  • At least one diminished scale with all box patterns
  • Major and minor arpeggios
  • Major and minor inversions, including drop-2 and -3 voicings
  • Maj7, dom7, and min7 chord inversions, including drop-2 and -3 voicings
  • Sight-reading in both rock (or jazz) and classical styles
  • Strumming patterns practice and finger-picking methods
Why are the basics so important? Simple: they're the building blocks for everything else you'll learn on guitar. Without them, a guitar would just be a wooden stick with a few strings, attached to a hollow box. These techniques get you in the door, if you will - get you invited to the party. When somebody is serious when he or she says "I play guitar", this is what the person is talking about. These are the skills the person is talking about.