Creating A Balanced Practice Schedule

There are many elements that make great musicians stand apart from the
others. What, and how much, they accomplish during their practice time is the
key to their success. Having a plan and a schedule will allow you to see
and meet your goals much sooner with less practice time. It is not always
about how much time you put in, but about what you make of the time you
have. Here are 10 keys to balancing your practice time, in no particular
order or importance. In my future articles, I will talk about each key point
in detail.

  1. Technique Exercises
  2. Chords and 3 String Triads
  3. Songwriting and Recording
  4. Improvisation
  5. Rhythm
  6. Sight Reading and Chord Charts
  7. Playing and Creating music in all 12 keys
  8. Fret Board Awareness
  9. Transcribing
  10. Ear Training and Theory

Technique Exercises

Scales, modes, sequences, arpeggios, string skipping, tremolo picking,
bends, vibrato, legato, slides, pedal points, tapping & 8 finger tapping,
chromatics, left hand muting, right hand muting, endurance, coordination,
picking technique, picking while plucking, using both hands efficiently,
practicing with a metronome.

Chords and 3 String Triads

3 string triads, 4th, 5th, 6th string open and barred, 7th chords, Jazz
voicings, added tone chords, chord extensions, inversions.

Songwriting and Recording

Working in one key, multiple keys, modulations, transitions, dynamic
changes, tempo changes, song structure development and expansion, thin
layering, thick layering, counter and contrary melodies, harmonizing,
editing, producing, arranging and analyzing others arrangements, mixing,
visual composing , spoken composing, artistic composing, humming into a
hand held recorder, getting familiar with recording and all that goes along
with it, finding your sound, critiquing others recordings.


Soloing alone, using a drum track, instructional cd, your personal cd
collection, with other musicians, vocal mimicking and imitation, instrument


Reading, writing, saying, reading while playing and saying together, odd

Sight Reading and Chord Charts

Practice playing just the notes, then saying out loud just the notation
letters, saying the letters in rhythm only, saying in rhythm along to a
metronome, saying while playing the notes, saying and playing to the
rhythms, saying and playing in rhythm to a metronome, playing the chord
chart with open string chords (if possible), then play with bar chords on
only the 6th string, then only the 5th string, then only the 4th string,
then blend 6th and 5th string, then 5th and 4th string, then try to play the
songs chords in one or two positions by using the 6th, 5th and 4th strings,
then go back and play the chord charts in 1st inversion doing the same steps
as above and then in 2nd inversion with the same steps above, 3rd inversion
(if possible) repeat the above while doing them in new positions on the fret

Playing and Creating music in all 12 keys

Use Major, Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor (the ascending
scale structure only, played both up and down in that structure), come up
with numerical chord progressions and do them in all 12 keys and in the
different harmonic keys, also create melodies and transpose them in all 12
keys and then in the different harmonic keys, create solos and transpose,
and transpose all the above to their parallel key.

Fret Board Awareness

Use the musical alphabet, string names, sharps and flats to find notes,
memorize each strings 3 basic reference points (open string, tuning fret and
octave fret (12th), play chord progressions and say the root note of each
chord as you play, same for playing power chords, say the note you fret
while playing in different scales up and down the fret board, same for
solos etc.


Tab out a song's power chords, move up to melodies and bass lines, then
solos, find notes on your guitar that you hum to yourself, try to figure out
what key the song is in first by finding what scale fits over it on your
guitar, and also by using your memorized note and singing a scale over it,
see if you can transcribe intervals you hear in your head, work on writing
out your songs with tabs - notation and rhythms, try and transcribe
orchestra and band arrangements, also try larger works in full score.

Ear Training and Theory

Play the intervals on your guitar, distinguish between major and minor
chords, than add in minor b5, 7th, inversions, listen for the root - 3rd and
5th of the chord, listen for different instrumentation, listen for modes,
learn the scale construction of major - natural minor - major pentatonic -
minor pentatonic - harmonic minor - and melodic minor, what chord qualities
belong in the keys already mentioned, harmonies in 3rds - 4ths and 5ths,
modulations, chord and scale borrowing, take a class at a college for Aural
Skills and Theory to really get more out your head.

By implementing the above key points into your practice time, you can
accomplish the goal of being a great musician. Due to time and space, this
article offered an outline with the main elements for you to begin
restructuring your practice time with. I will address each key point with
the main elements in detail in future articles, lessons and upcoming
instructional DVDs done by myself and Tom Hess.

To help maximize this article, use the guidance of a skilled and
knowledgeable music instructor to help you. Finding the teacher that is
right for you is important. Read the great article "Choosing A Teacher" by Tom Hess that will explain what I mean.

Mike Walsh is an internationally renowned progressive guitar virtuoso, composer and teacher. For more information about Mike Walsh, his bands Sage and Hess, to hear samples of his playing/music, and to read more articles, visit his web sites.

His latest CD with Sage is entitled "Lightning Strikes".

Mike Walsh