I have been often asked; “What do I practice to get better on my guitar?” and that single question probably more than any other opens a virtual Pandora’s Box of worms! The reason why this is such a difficult question to answer is because it’s just such a subjective issue. That is – it’s different from each person’s point of view. Let me outline why and give you my thoughts on the matter and it may help clear this up for you.

When you play the guitar there are certain “basics” that you MUST have, like a firm knowledge of chords and how to use them, a fair grasp on arpeggios and how they fit in with chords and some basic scales etc. You NEED these skills to further your development on your instrument. You must know them AND be able to PLAY them in all keys – these are the basics that we all need and I’m sure there would be no argument that we all must learn them. To do this requires a little study, a good teacher and practice time to put the information onto the guitar. This is a given – right?

OK, having said all that – it is my belief that “You Are What You Practice”. If all you ever practice is scales and arpeggios – that in the end is what you’ll play when you perform – scales and arpeggios and your playing will reflect that. You may tend to sound “schooled”, “over-rehearsed” and worse – predictable! While it is necessary for us to practice these disciplines we must give ourselves time to  just “play”! Putting into your playing the skills you have mustered by practicing your scales and arpeggios but using them to create rather than just rattle off notes.

Guitar legend B.B.King says more in 3 notes than most players do with 100 because while BB may not know a lot about scales and arpeggios – he knows a hell of a lot about playing! At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Using the information you have at hand to allow you to tap into your imagination, become inspired and make something beautiful, individual – yours! This is the wonder of the art form. This little piece of information is interesting because we forget that music is a form of art! A great painter will use colour, texture, perspective and layers (his skill-sets) to develop his ideas and transfer them to the canvas (the medium of delivery). We, like the artist use sound, tone, dynamics and technique (our skill-sets) to deliver a performance to the listener’s ears either through live performance or on a recording (our medium of delivery) as the canvas is to the painter!

Let me use the painter’s analogy one more time to make the point. If a painter painted pictures (try saying that 10 times fast!) that were all one colour – what would be the end result? Would anyone like those paintings? Who would purchase those paintings? Some may but most wouldn’t and the ones who did certainly would go back and purchase more would they? Good painters use ALL their skills when they create and we must take a page of their easel and do the same! Here are some great examples of players who really know how to “create” when they play – enjoy until next time!

Robben Ford – “Freedom”

B.B. King – “Let The Good Times Roll”

Larry Carlton – “Room 335”