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PC-501 • Beginners Practice Routine

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What I give you here is a rough practice schedule for a complete beginner - a rough guide to what I give to private students and have developed over many years. The big problem is that different people have different problems, so rather than using weeks - I will use the word stage. Try and follow each stage until you are fairly comfortable before moving on - though you will have to edit it yourself depending on your strengths and weaknesses. Might take you 2 weeks, might take a month... depends on how consistently you practice!

I will suggest 15 / 20 minutes of practice to start (six days a week), if you can do more then increase the times of all the areas and / or add in some other exercises! You have to make some decisions because I can't see you and spot the errors and things you need to work on.

Check out the Beginners Course for info on the exercises, and some will be found in The Basics.

Stage 1
To start off with you just need to get some basic chords under your fingers. I usually start with the chords E, A and D. That is it! So I start with this:

5 mins - Chord Practice (strum, pick notes one at a time, strum)
5 mins - One minute Changes (changing chords as fast as you can in one minute, five combinations)
5 mins - Some easy 3 chord songs, just to get playing something...

Stage 2
Once you have that sorted then try and get some more chords down. You may find you need to get your fingers stretching a bit too, for the G and C chords.

5 mins - Chord Practice (as before but add in your new chords)
5 mins - One minute changes (changing chords as fast as you can in one minute, five combinations)
5 mins - More song practice (using your new chords too)
5 mins - Finger stretching exercise (optional)

Stage 3
Then you should start with some basic strumming, while still working on your chord changes. DO NOT start adding in your strumming until you can make your changes fast enough to keep the strumming even!

5 mins - Chord practice (all chords you have done so far)
5 mins - One minute changes (work on the ones that you find the hardest)
5 mins - More song work
5 mins - Basic rhythm guitar patterns

Stay on Stage 3 until you can make your changes over 20 times in a minute, and can comfortably play some easy strumming patterns (not including ties). You should try and get your chords as clear as possible.

Stage 4
Now you want to start incorporating some basic rhythm patterns to your chord changes in some easy songs.

5 mins - Chord practice (all chords so far and include F Chord)
5 mins - One minute changes (still working on the ones you find hardest)
5 mins - More work on getting your rhythm patterns sounding cool ;)
5 mins - Song work (trying to us the strumming patterns in songs that you learnt earlier)

This stage is important - getting your chords and rhythm in place - don't worry about getting it "perfect" just work on it - you have more time to get it spot on - just be able to do it!

Stage 5
Now I think you should start doing some fun stuff while you develop your basic rhythm and chord skills. Learning a scale is good to help you get you used to picking out one note at a time as well.

5 mins - One minute changes (just the hard ones) * plus some chord practice if needed*
5 mins - More work on getting your rhythm patterns sounding cool ;)
5 mins - Song work (trying to us the strumming patterns in songs that you learnt earlier)
5 mins - Learn the Minor Pentatonic Scale

Stage 6
Now we continue getting the chords and rhythm good - and add in a 12 Bar Blues backing instead of the scale.

5 mins - One minute changes (just the hard ones) * plus some chord practice if needed*
5 mins - More work on getting your rhythm patterns sounding cool ;)
5 mins - Song work (trying to use the strumming patterns in songs that you learnt earlier)
5 mins - Learn the 12 Bar Blues rhythm

Stage 7
Now you should start getting more interest into your rhythm with the ties, learn a few new chords (the 7th chords) and continue developing both your 12 Bar rhythm and the scale.

5 mins - One minute changes (just the hard ones) * plus some chord practice of new chords*
5 mins - Work on getting your tied rhythm patterns smooth (keep the hand moving)
5 mins - Song work (using the new patterns if you can)
5 mins - Practice the 12 Bar Blues rhythm and the Minor Pentatonic

Stage 8
We stay with the chords and rhythm still but add in improvising too - you should work on both the rhythm and the scale and the solos - try and find a buddy to jam with if you can - you will learn it a lot faster!

5 mins - One minute changes (just the hard ones) * plus chord practice if needed*
5 mins - More work on getting your rhythm patterns sounding cool ;)
5 mins - Song work (trying to us the strumming patterns in songs that you learnt earlier)
5 mins - Work on 12 Bar rhythm and improvising solos.

Stay with this until you can have a bit of fun with the scale and you feel your chords changes and rhythm are taking shape. I try and add in lots of new songs and maybe even some with little riffs (like say Day Tripper) and open chord songs that also use F. This stage will probably take you a while. Don't be in a hurry - just enjoy the ride and play lots :)

Stage 9
Now it is time to get into the Power Chords - and develop your hand strength - gripping the Power Chords is a great preparation for Barre chords... Learn the 6th string root first and then do the 5th string, then mix them up). Try and get some more songs in too, just stick to easy stuff - but make sure you can play them - as in, all the way through, in time.

5 mins - One minute changes (just the hard ones) *plus chord practice if needed*
5 mins - Work on your Power Chords (muting the right strings - every note clear)
5 mins - Song work (developing your strumming patterns in songs)
5 mins - Continue work on 12 Bar rhythm and improvising solos.

Stage 10
Developing your rock rhythm skills while still working your rhythm and chord changes - I know it has been in for a while - but that area really is important.

5 mins - One minute changes (to include changes from Open chords to Power Chords (quite hard)
5 mins - Develop your Power Chords (muting the right strings - every note clear, 6th and 5th roots)
5 mins - Song work (developing your strumming patterns in songs, and Power Chord Songs too)
5 mins - Continue work on 12 Bar rhythm and improvising solos.

Completion of level
Now you have to check you can do all the following, and work on any areas that you still have not got down:

• Know from memory the chords: E, A, D, C, G, Am, Dm, Em, C7, A7, G7, E7, D7 and B7.
• Have most chord changes at above 25 changes in a minute. (30 is target)
• Play basic and tied rhythm patterns comfortably and use with easy chord progressions.
• Play the Minor Pentatonic scale from memory using alternate picking.
• Play a 12 Bar Blues rhythm and at least one variation.
• Do a basic blues improvisation using the minor pentatonic.
• Know at least 5 easy strumming songs all the way through (from memory).
• Know the two Power Chord shapes and the root notes on strings 5 and 6 all the way up the neck.
• Play at least 2 easy rock songs using Power Chords and some rock rhythm techniques.

So just pick four areas that you need to work on and get cracking.

And then what?????
Only after that do I introduce a beginner to theory, major scales, technique development etc, because I believe that the above are the fundamentals and should be learnt first. Of course there are always exceptions and sometimes I will be giving people The Finger Gym from stage 6 or 7, it all depends on the individual. All I can offer here is a rough guide for someone starting out from scratch.

After all this is done I usually introduce a slimmed down version of the Intermediate Practice Routine and lead up to doing the whole thing - but just introducing it a bit at a time.

PLEASE REMEMBER that it is better to be good at a few things than crap at many things!!

Hope that helps - try the forum if you need more help.