To achieve greatness as a guitar player, you need to work on integrating musical skills together fluently. This means:
*Combining different skills, techniques or concepts together.
*Actively practicing the skill of being creative.
Question: “But Tom Hess, how can you practice “being creative” in your guitar playing? I’ve always heard you’re either born creative or you’re not.”
Answer: Anyone can become musically creative through practice and hard work. Creativity comes from mastering skills and integrating them together. Integration practice is what you need to become a more creative guitarist.
The guitar practice circuit below helps you integrate musical skills together:
Perform these steps continuously (don’t stop between them):
Step 1: Choose any phrase, arpeggio, scale run, riff or lick to work on.
Step 2: Play through this idea several times to acclimate it to your ears.
Step 3: Create four variations of the original idea. For instance:
*Alter the note rhythms.
*Use legato technique to emphasize notes in the place of picked notes
*Use bends and vibrato on some of the notes.
Step 4: Make four new guitar licks using the original rhythm of the idea. Alter all of the actual pitches while keeping the rhythm exactly the same.
Step 5: Utilize rubato technique. Immediately speed up or slow down, playing outside of the tempo.
Step 6: Alter the first few notes of the original idea and leave the rest of it the same. Make several variations of this.
Step 7: Alter the middle notes of the original idea, leaving the first and last parts the same. Make several variations of this.
Step 8: Alter the last three or four notes of the idea, leaving the first and last parts the same. Make several variations of this.
Go through steps 2-8 again with new variations from the original idea for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, start again with a new lick.
Advice For Completing This Guitar Practice Circuit:
*Choose a guitar practice item that you can play correctly with ease. This way you do not become distracted by trying to play notes correctly.
*Focus on not stopping between steps. Move from each step to the next as fast as you can. This improves your fluency and musical creativity at a faster rate. Track how much time it takes you to move from one step to the next. This is one method for measuring your improvement with fluency and integration.
*Put together a list of creativity and fluency elements that give you the most difficulty. For instance: you might observe that it is hard for you to change rhythms and keep pitches the same or add legato technique to your ideas. This helps you understand what to work on to improve your integration and fluency.
Question: “Tom Hess, what if I am unable to think of variations to use with arpeggio patterns?”
Answer: Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Use rests (silence) at random points in the middle of an arpeggio rather than using the exact same rhythm for every note.
2. Use a different number of strings to play each arpeggio. An arpeggio is a chord made of 3-5 strings with notes that repeat at different octaves. Changing the pitch range of an arpeggio makes it sound more creative.
Question: “Tom Hess, how can I use circuit training with the rest of my guitar practice?”
Answer: Train guitar playing fluency exactly how you would train any other skill by adding it to your schedule. Effective guitar practice scheduling gives you time you need to improve skills that are weak so you can reach your goals faster.
Use this guitar practicing circuit like a test for improving your fluency and integration skills. Work with this circuit a couple of times per week to test yourself. Then use the rest of the time improving these skills so you can become more creative.