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Creating a balanced practice schedule
Guest teacher series
Mike Walsh

Free Download - 17 Essential Strum Patterns PDF

How to become a better musician by
creating a balanced practice schedule
by Mike Walsh

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 3rd String Triads

3)    Songwriting and Recording

4)   Improvisation

5)   Rhythm

6)   Sight Reading & Chord Charts

7)   Playing and Creating music in all 12 keys

8)   Fret Board Awareness

9)   Playing and Transcribing Songs

10)  Ear Training and Theory
* = To be explained in future articles.

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 3rd 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, analyze and write out the arrangement of others bands songs, use 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-tones-mixes-effects, take note of cool ideas you hear by making a computer document that you can list them on)


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


(Reading, writing, saying, Reading while playing and saying together, odd meter)

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 board)

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.)

Playing and Transcribing Songs

(Play along to a complete song, add the songs solo's, then play the whole album, add different styles of music into this category to play and solo along to, do not stay on a song or album for to long after you have mastered it, make a list of songs and solo's you want to play along to and check them off when you have accomplished them, 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, today's 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 up coming instructional DVD╣s 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. Here is a great article by Tom Hess that will explain what I mean. Choosing A Teacher

Mike Walsh is an internationally renowned 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:

SAGE web site:
HESS web site:

Copyright 2004 by Mike Walsh. All rights reserved.

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