How do I practice guitar to ensure progress?
How would you recommend practicing guitar for an intermediate guitar player (my technique is good but my theory is very weak)?
I have found that if I keep learning the same stuff (e.g. scales) in too much depth I tend to end up in a rut after a while and lose interest. How much depth in each of the topics (scales, chords, lead, rhythm, songwriting) is recommended initially for someone with a weak knowledge of guitar theory?
If you're getting to the point where you're losing interest, that suggests there is not enough variation in your practice regime.
I've always made sure any practice session generally consists of 50/50 theory time and practical/application time. Then it's just a case of connecting the two in a logical way.
For example, you could spend an hour looking at how diminished chords are constructed and some forms across the guitar fretboard, then spend an hour trying to write a chord progression that incorporates some diminished chord forms you've learned.
Literally, putting your theory into practice every step of the way, otherwise it may become lost in the back of your mind. It's like how some people find getting their ideas/thoughts on paper helps to cement them in their mind.
With scales, the theory side is learning its intervals, the chords it works over and its patterns (although you would perhaps only pick one or two patterns per practice session). The practical side is using lead techniques to navigate the scale in interesting ways.
An example of a scale focused practice session would be spending an hour getting to know a scale in pure form and then another hour applying just one or two lead techniques (e.g. bends, pull-offs) to the scale pattern you've learned.
There is a balance to be struck between keeping your practice time varied but at the same time not jumping from one thing to the next before you feel you've accomplished anything.
If your knowledge of guitar theory
is weak, perhaps you should weight your study/practice time to 80/20, to spend more time on those foundation concepts. A lot of theory can be seen as "bed time reading" and yes it can be a bit dull, but there are some great interactive programs such as Guitar Notes Master
to help engage you more.
Once you understand these basic elements (e.g. what is a scale? What are intervals?) you can structure your guitar practice time more efficiently...
Here's an example of a practice schedule covering both theory and application.The week's objectives
1) Learn a scale
2) Learn some chords and progressions this scale would work over (you'll learn this in the scales lessons on this site e.g. by looking at the tones that make up the scale or listening to the backing tracks)
3) Learn a lead technique you could use when playing this scale (e.g. hammer-ons/pull-offs, runs, string skipping etc.)
By the end of the week you should have combined these 3 elements into something practical, such as writing a short solo. You can then come back to each of these elements in more detail at a later time, and gradually build on your existing progress.Day 1
1st hr: Take the chosen scale's lesson to learn the fundamentals of the scale. Spend an hour familiarising yourself with the basic box pattern.
2nd hr: Play around with the scale, exploring the scale's sound and creating phrases using the scale's tones.Day 2
1st hr: Learn a lead technique you can apply to the scale (you could take one of the lessons in the lead section).
2nd hr: Work in the lead technique to the scale pattern you learned yesterday, exploring it further.Day 3
1st hr: From the scale lesson you should have learned which chord(s) the scale works over. Use your theory time to explore this chord and its extensions (you could use the chord theory section).
2nd hr: Try creating a chord progression using this chord that the scale would work over.Day 4
1st hr: Work on learning the scale's other patterns in positions right across the fretboard. You may need a few days to get this nailed so take it in steps (e.g. learn 2 scale positions at a time).
2nd hr: Again, try applying your lead technique to the exploration of the scale patterns you learned. If you can record a backing track based on the chord progression you made yesterday, all the better.Day 5
1st hr: Spend some time studying existing solos that use the scale you've learned (finding a tab would help too). Which tones are they emphasising from the scale? What lead techniques are they using to dress their solo? Note down ideas.
2nd hr: Try putting some ideas into practise, ensuring you are injecting enough of your own interpretation in there. Focus on creating movements within the scale, across the patterns you've learned, that really bring out the scale's flavour.Bottom line
By the end of each week you should have brought together both theoretical and practical knowledge. Of course, some weeks you may just end up going with the flow and just study theory, which is fine. But do make sure that most of the time there's a variation between theory/practical, planning your sessions so that by the end of a given period, whether it be 1 week or 1 month, you have a goal which unifies these elements.