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Thread: Not enough time to study theory and practice my guitar playing

  1. #1
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    Not enough time to study theory and practice my guitar playing

    Hello my friends

    I have a problem which is: I don't have enough time to study theory and improve my technique in guitar playing.
    Somtimes I have doubts about theory and use my available guitar practice time to study so that I can find answers to my doubts.

    Obviously, practice and theory meet each other somewhere, I just don't know where. So, I need your help about what kind of exercises should I practice so that I can improve in both ways at the same time.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Well, it's not really important you know why - if you can do it.

    So concentrate on your patterns; chord, arpeggio, scale, etc as you play songs. Play from sheet music and improve your technique this way. I have two lead sheet books that have 780 songs. That by itself can keep me busy for years.
    http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html...t_adv_XSG10001
    http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&key...l_4z5jpkzeez_b


    I play with a lot of people that are not proficient in theory, sure they know how to grab a key and follow chord charts, but that is enough to play a lot of good music.

    As you don't understand something, and if that is important, come back and ask questions here.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 12-20-2010 at 04:50 PM.

  3. #3
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    I practice most of my theory when I'm away from the guitar (taking a break from work, walking, driving, commuting, etc). When I'm with my guitar I practice practical skills cognizant of the theory behind them - so theory in action. Once you get "into" theory, it's easy to find ways to increase your knowledge without taking time away from the physical guitar practice times. After a while, you'll learn to think in terms of theory while you play so there is no issue carving out time specifically for theory.

    cheers,

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    I have been composing small pieces of songs and put it into a staff. The result is good in my oppinion because a lot of doubts come out of that. The problem is after, when I have to understand the answers to those doubts. The only time I have available to practice is from 10:00 p.m. till 2:00 a.m.
    Sometimes I go to bed really late, depending on the difficulty of the subject I'm studying.

    I practice most of my theory when I'm away from the guitar (taking a break from work, walking, driving, commuting, etc).
    How do you study theory while driving or walking?

  5. #5
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    How do you study theory while driving or walking?
    Visualization.

    Can you visualize the inversions of an A major triad on the DGB string set? Can you see the triad shape AND the individual notes AND the notes of that key around those shapes? What about the other string sets or other chord types and voicings? Can you see these things for any chord and any position? What about the 2-octave arpeggios - can you visualize all of those fingerings in the nine possible fingerings? Not just imagine the shapes but see the note names at their correct locations within those shapes.

    This is the kind of thing I used to work on. These days I'm working on the Diminished pentatonic fingerings (1 b3 b5 b6 b7) and the various min7b5 chord voicings. All of this I am working to see as both the diminished pent and the dominant pent (1 2 3 5 b7); min7b5 and dom9 chord voicings. It's quite a challenge at first visualizing every note on the fretboard without having a guitar in hand.

    cheers,

  6. #6
    Registered User heavymental's Avatar
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    One thing that I've been doing is when learning a new scale sequence, or riff etc. I will play it in every key. I do this by cycling through the circle of fifths.

    That way I'm practicing technique and also reinforcing theory.

  7. #7
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by heavymental View Post
    One thing that I've been doing is when learning a new scale sequence, or riff etc. I will play it in every key. I do this by cycling through the circle of fifths.

    That way I'm practicing technique and also reinforcing theory.
    That's a common jazz practice technique. I do this "every key" practice for everything I practice. It takes a while but it really does give you significant insight into various keys and makes the angst of having to change keys "on the fly" become a simple thing. I think that too few people actually do this though.

    cheers,

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    For example, yesterday I practiced the first example in this thread.

    I didn't know why I wanted to practice this but I guess I just wanted to add some variety to my daily practice routine. At first I strugled about how it should be played because I didn't knew the meaning of the T in the tab. Then I discovered it means "tapping". After that I found this exercise an easy one.

    One thing that I've been doing is when learning a new scale sequence, or riff etc. I will play it in every key. I do this by cycling through the circle of fifths.


    When you say that you'll play this example in all keys of the circle of fifths, do you mean starting it from all possible notes of the major scale?

  9. #9
    Registered User heavymental's Avatar
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    When I refer to the circle of fifths, I am referring to this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_fifths

    Basically what I mean is that I start in the key of C and play my scale exercise or riff in that key. This will help with theory. One of the things that will be reinforced is the root to fifth relationships. If you reverse the pattern, it is the root to fourth relationship!

    Then I move to the 5th of C, which is G and play the same thing, but in the key of G. Eventually, It cycles around and what has ended up happening, is that I've played it in all 12 keys.

    At the same time, it also facilitates fretboard memorization and also the technical aspects of playing in different positions, learning the part etc. It also makes it much more interesting too!

    Do this using a metronome. You don't necessarily need to connect the keys seamlessly at first without missing a beat, but you can try that for a challenge after you learn the pattern better.

    Those are some ideas. I hope this has been of some help.

    Cheers,
    Glen

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Hello my friends
    I have a problem which is: I don't have enough time to study theory and improve my technique in guitar playing.
    Somtimes I have doubts about theory and use my available guitar practice time to study so that I can find answers to my doubts.
    Obviously, practice and theory meet each other somewhere, I just don't know where. So, I need your help about what kind of exercises should I practice so that I can improve in both ways at the same time.
    Thank you.
    Let me see if I understand you correctly - do you mean that you think you should be spending what you call "practice time" on actually playing the guitar ... but instead you find yourself spending a lot of that time working out theory ideas on paper?

    OK, well .... personally I don't spend much time working purely on understanding theory on paper. In the past I did spend some time doing that. But that was just trying to learn the fundamental basic theory of music.

    Now almost all my practice time is spent playing.

    However, when I practice, I do try to think carefully about the theory behind what I'm playing/studying. And I do try to discipline myself to use good left and right hand technique ... and in a sense, I also think of that technique as a part of "theory".

    I think you are probably right to say that it's good to try writing notation for things you compose. Though I have to admit I never do that myself.

    But just in general - how do you, or any of us decide what material to practice? Where do you get you practice material?

    Over the years I've amassed quite a large library of tuition books, videos, CD's and tutorial DVD's etc. I select stuff from that to make my daily, weekly, monthly, yearly practice sessions. I don't know how else anyone can ever get good practice material.

    Some of that material requires time spent on aspects of theory, eg what scales to use and what chords and subs are being used etc. Other parts of that material make me concentrate much more on left & right hand technique.

    A lot of the material involves learning new songs. Not because I particularly love those individual songs. But because I want to master the techniques and understand the theory used in the songs.

    Maybe I should be practicing some other way. Maybe I am wasting my time. I really can't be sure. Though every day I find something which has improved or been understood more clearly. So I think that's encouraging.

    I have enough material there to practice like that 24 hours a day for many decades without mastering it all.

    So that's what I do. Itís simple. Itís clear. And ... I think it works.
     

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    At the same time, it also facilitates fretboard memorization and also the technical aspects of playing in different positions, learning the part etc. It also makes it much more interesting too!
    This is one thing that I still was not able to do: fretboard memorization. I tried several methods but none worked. But I suspect I'm not "grabbing" this particular issue in the best way.

    Let me see if I understand you correctly - do you mean that you think you should be spending what you call "practice time" on actually playing the guitar ... but instead you find yourself spending a lot of that time working out theory ideas on paper?
    Yes, you understood it correctly.

    However, when I practice, I do try to think carefully about the theory behind what I'm playing/studying. And I do try to discipline myself to use good left and right hand technique ... and in a sense, I also think of that technique as a part of "theory".

    I think you are probably right to say that it's good to try writing notation for things you compose. Though I have to admit I never do that myself.
    I have some difficulties in "connecting" practice (playing) with theory, i.e., thinking theory while playing. The only way I've found to do it is to write my songs in a staff. This forces me to think about theory...even though the software I'm using has a lot of shortcuts that allows me to write the songs without thinking too much about the theoretical aspects of things. And sometimes I use them...

    But just in general - how do you, or any of us decide what material to practice? Where do you get you practice material?
    I follow the common sense. Usually I "sense" that I need to understand a particular chapter based on the doubts I found along the study. Then I google it and if I have something I don't really understand or that need to be confirmed, I come here and post my doubts. Usually posting doubts here lead to more doubts...and that's the way how I create the "path" of my study.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    This is one thing that I still was not able to do: fretboard memorization. I tried several methods but none worked. But I suspect I'm not "grabbing" this particular issue in the best way.
    If you mean memorising notes by name all over the fretboard then - at one time I practiced a couple of ways of doing that. Although both those methods are quite simple, and you don't need to practice them more than a few times.

    Apart from that I also found I memorised certain notes because they were the ones I met all the time in the most common power chords. And also I found that it helps if you spend some of your time practicing to play by sight reading notation.

    The two specific methods I practiced were (1) playing each note in octaves all the way up the fretboard. Eg, pick any note (say Bb) and play it in it's lowest position on the lowest string, and then go up an octave to play the same note (Bb) on a higher string, and then up another octave on the next higher string, and so on until you get to the 24th fret. That gives you all the Bb notes on the fretboard. Then do the same with every other note.

    If you do that then you will see there is a characteristic zig-zag pattern of octaves rising up the fretboard, ie same pattern for any note. And in fact that's a very simple excercise to understand & to practice ... literally takes only 10 mins.

    The second specific thing was just to notice that if you play the A-natural-minor scale in 5th position, starting at A on 5th fret of the low-E string, then the other notes of the scale just go in alphabetic order ... B,C,D,E,F,G....then up to the octave A, octave B etc. So that gives you the names of all the notes in a nice big chunk right in the middle of the fretboard.
     
     
    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    I have some difficulties in "connecting" practice (playing) with theory, i.e., thinking theory while playing. The only way I've found to do it is to write my songs in a staff. This forces me to think about theory...even though the software I'm using has a lot of shortcuts that allows me to write the songs without thinking too much about the theoretical aspects of things. And sometimes I use them...
    Well that's why I recommended that Scott Henderson DVD to you. That's all about improvising with scales and arpeggios (and a lot more). If you practice from that DVD, then it forces you to think quite a lot about the theory of what he is explaining and what he is playing.

    But it's no use merely watching/listening to a DVD like that ... some people seem to think they will learn to play just by viewing the disk like a film!

    To use a DVD like that you need to have the guitar in your hands (I thought that would be obvious to everyone, but apparently not!) and try to learn/copy all his playing ... for which you'll need a large pile of blank TAB paper to transcribe what you hear, and also a good set of clear diagrams for all the common scales, modes and arpeggios laid open on a music stand (eg the diagrams in Guthrie Govan's book Creative Guitar vol-1) ... a good big music stand is very important (I often use 2, or sometimes even 3).


    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    I follow the common sense. Usually I "sense" that I need to understand a particular chapter based on the doubts I found along the study. Then I google it and if I have something I don't really understand or that need to be confirmed, I come here and post my doubts. Usually posting doubts here lead to more doubts...and that's the way how I create the "path" of my study.
    OK, well as I was saying I don't practice that way. What I do is - first select my practice material from a range of books, CD's and DVD's inc. various complete songs. Then I sit down with the guitar and work/play through all that, trying to get the playing right and trying to recognise the underlying theory (eg to recognise what scales are being played).

    If specific theory issues arise, I just put the guitar aside for a moment and check the theory in a book ... or I make some brief written notes on what theory I need to read more thoroughly, and often I'll read that last thing at night (eg in bed!).
    Last edited by Crossroads; 12-23-2010 at 08:14 PM.

  13. #13
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    By the way - I also meant to say that I'm impressed by your hard working approach to your music, which is clear from many of your recent posts here, and it seems to me you are improving much more quickly than most people ... eg most people would not attempt to compose arpeggios over chords and write that out in notation in the way you've been doing.

    But also, just going back to the way any of us practice - although I think theory is very important, my aim to play well, rather than to understand more advanced elements of theory for their own sake. IOW - so everything I practice is designed to make me a better guitarist ... to make my actual playing better.

    I don't know if that will make me a better "musician", in the sense of giving me any better appreciation or understanding of music in the wider sense beyond my immediate playing aspirations. Perhaps it won't do that. Perhaps the way I practice is deficient in some sense of wider or deeper appreciation of music.

    But I don't think that's really the case. Or at least not to the extent of becoming a major drawback. Because I do hear what I might call the "musicality in various pieces that I practice. By which I mean - sometimes I will practice a particular phrase (extended lick) and I will notice that although the notes are correct, still the phrase does not seem to have the fluid sort of musical flow that I want ... ie it sounds to my ear as if it's lacking a certain rhythmic "feel" to the piece ... in which case I'll try to analyse what's missing, or what's not quite right, and I'll try different possible solutions aimed at getting that elusive musicality into the phrase. (sometimes the problem is solved by looking more careful at the notation ... other times itís not actually evident to me in the notation).
    Last edited by Crossroads; 12-23-2010 at 08:17 PM.

  14. #14
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    The two specific methods I practiced were (1) playing each note in octaves all the way up the fretboard. Eg, pick any note (say Bb) and play it in it's lowest position on the lowest string, and then go up an octave to play the same note (Bb) on a higher string, and then up another octave on the next higher string, and so on until you get to the 24th fret. That gives you all the Bb notes on the fretboard. Then do the same with every other note.
    Already tried that one. I think that, from the point of view of my learnig process and how my brain works, the best way is to play a lot of arpeggios and scales until all the notes settle down in my memory. One of the things I find more difficult now (because I'm not trainned) is to imagine being in the middle of a song and in less than a second look a certain string and fret and know right away which note is there. I guess for me the bestway to integrate it is to practice, like I said, arpeggios riff, scales, etc.
    This way it might take a longer time but it will allow me to learn several things at once: fretboard notes, arpeggios, scales, finger strength and coordination all at once.

    To use a DVD like that you need to have the guitar in your hands (I thought that would be obvious to everyone, but apparently not!) and try to learn/copy all his playing ... for which you'll need a large pile of blank TAB paper to transcribe what you hear, and also a good set of clear diagrams for all the common scales, modes and arpeggios laid open on a music stand (eg the diagrams in Guthrie Govan's book Creative Guitar vol-1) ... a good big music stand is very important (I often use 2, or sometimes even 3).
    My method is to put all the things I find important (i.e., those things that I can see I need to know, like scales patterns or how many semitones each interval type have) and haven't memorized yet in a excel file so all that info is readily available when I need it. I also have a lot of information taken from several sources which is my study material. I haven't read it all but I more or less know their contents so, when I have doubts I know where I probably find some explanations.

    By the way - I also meant to say that I'm impressed by your hard working approach to your music, which is clear from many of your recent posts here, and it seems to me you are improving much more quickly than most people ... eg most people would not attempt to compose arpeggios over chords and write that out in notation in the way you've been doing.
    Thank you very much for your motivational words. When I was playing in bands I wanted to learn theory. I was always asking questions to a band's mate who was in the Conservatory learning music. I got some concepts and knowledge but the only thing that remained in my head was the understanding of how to read and write notation. But then I got married, got kids and my life changed completely....as well as my musical life.
    So, this is an old desire I have that I decided to persue again.

  15. #15
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crossroads View Post
    The two specific methods I practiced were (1) playing each note in octaves all the way up the fretboard. Eg, pick any note (say Bb) and play it in it's lowest position on the lowest string, and then go up an octave to play the same note (Bb) on a higher string, and then up another octave on the next higher string, and so on until you get to the 24th fret. That gives you all the Bb notes on the fretboard. Then do the same with every other note.
    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Already tried that one. I think that, from the point of view of my learnig process and how my brain works, the best way is to play a lot of arpeggios and scales until all the notes settle down in my memory. One of the things I find more difficult now (because I'm not trainned) is to imagine being in the middle of a song and in less than a second look a certain string and fret and know right away which note is there. I guess for me the bestway to integrate it is to practice, like I said, arpeggios riff, scales, etc.

    This way it might take a longer time but it will allow me to learn several things at once: fretboard notes, arpeggios, scales, finger strength and coordination all at once.
    Imagine you're playing a song and hear the "perfect line" or the perfect place for some lick fill or lick. Maybe you know the first note, maybe you know the shape. But the thing is you know something about that line even if you can't play it at will every time. So how do we move from "hearing" that perfect line to being able to play that perfect line at will?

    The answer to this question is as unique as each player is unique. What might have been an epiphany for one player seems like drivel to another. I can't tell you what will work for you, no one can. What we do here is share stories about what worked for us. If something inspires you, then maybe some one else's story might provide a concept for you to build on.

    I didn't really do the octave thing but I can see how it might work for some people. For me it was all about triads, specifically 2-octave triad fingerings (meaning a single position (4-5 frets) on the instrument). I could talk about how it worked for me but that may not mean anything to you - so I'll save you the trouble of having to endure me babbling on and on. But do try to find something, no matter how simplistic to start with and work that plan for as long as it takes you to see some (even if not complete) results. For me the real lesson was to learn to be happy with small successes. I built on these small successes and over time they added up to something really big. I hope you'll keep working and looking for that thing that makes the difference for you.

    cheers,

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