Jazz guitar practice routines uncovered

So here’s a reply I wrote to a youtube friend after we had some to’ing and fro’ing around what things were best to practice. I sent him my practice routines, examples etc – then he asked ‘but what do you actually get to practice nowadays. Here was my answer!

Practice Blog to a friend

I choose one or two specific things to practice each session. Because of the nature of my lifestyle, with so much work on and teaching, gigging, travelling and family, the sessions may be quite short but almost every night I get an hour or two. And when I practice I write down that certain thing (or two) and just keep repeating it – I formalise it in my own mind, and get my fingers to play it so much, and my mind and ears to hear it so much, that it eventually embeds itself somewhere in my playing just like the first things I played did; chords to G’n’R songs, the solo to stairway to heaven lol etc.

Right now I’m reviewing my knowledge of the maj scale – playing chord scales throughout using parallel movements – triads, 7ths, 6ths, and drop 2’s. I’m also working on patterns for the wholetone scale. I’ve just finished about a three month long study of the minor pent with flattened 5th. I’m getting back into cycling 4ths / 5ths using triad and 7th arpeggios as warm ups. I’m studying all the 7th chord inversions there are over 4 strings (EADG, ADGB, DGBE strings) in every key – 12 keys x 4 inversions of ma7, m7, 7, m7(b5), mi(ma7), +7, ma7(#5), mi(ma7),(b5) – that last ones a cool one lol. So yeah, many different things.

And I’m always learning repertoire which is usually for paid work – for pop gigs, a Latin singer, covers gigs, studio stuff, my own compositions, (local New Zealand Musicians) the SNH trio with Ron + Kevin, a funk group with Cam Allen, Junior Turua and Dylan Elise on drums for the Tauranga Jazz Fest coming up, The Alan Brown trio rep, a gig next Sunday with Nathan Haines ensemble, repertoire for uni…. it goes on…

If it’s something heavy, I make a study out of it – write it out in neck charts / notation / record it. Like over the last 8 months I’ve been working on the major scale with b6 (harmonic maj) and the chords, modes, etc. And every time I pick up the guitar over the course of a month or two or more, I work on that one thing… One day it will be one key, the next it will be a different mode, then scale patterns (usually simple ones that I can play easily and musically over the major scale for e.g., diads, 3’s, 4’s, triad and 7th arps), then another day it will be chords, then one string studies etc. And I make sure I’m always applying to a tune I’d call at a gig / jam session or even compose a tune specifically so I can use that sound etc. And over the course of about a 6 month period, I’ve really got that one ‘concept’ of the harm maj into my playing… Well, much better than it was before!

Also, I listen a lot – every time I’m on the pc doing stuff or in the car driving, always listening.

Apart from that I really like to devise a proper ‘time allotted’ schedule with specific ‘modules’ to it that I’d practice over say a week – if I know I’m going to be able to do that and have the time for it (see ‘layout’ attached). This only proves beneficial if you set two plus hours a day to work on it tho…

And play with other people – for all the study I do, the biggest butt kicking inspirational periods in my life have ALL come from having to step up to playing with heavy mothers.

You know what my biggest bit of advice is – whatever you begin that is worthwhile really studying hard:

  1. Formalise it (write it out, Tab, neck charts, notation)
  2. Make it into a study (patterns, melodic lines, chord and harmony analysis)
  3. Repeat it MANY times (my BASE figure for repetition is 50x each new thing!)
  4. Finish it!

Then once it’s in, it’s in, and done with – onto the next thing. It may take you three months per thing, but in 10 years you’ve gotten really, really good at like 40 things, and learnt heaps of other, related stuff on the way by studying / playing with other great cats on the same vibe as you.

The more you play and study and get out there and get known, the more you attract like minded cats to you.

PS: If you are supper thirsty for more lessons you can subscribe to my youtube channel

Tell me. How do you practice guitar at home? Do you have a set routine? What are working on right now? Thoughtful comments and questions appreciated below.