This week’s practice and preparation for my final recitals has included a lot of transcribing, scale work outs, rehearsals, and seeing two great jazz saxophone gigs: Jerry Bergonzi’s trio and the Charles McPherson quartet. I also share a cool guitar warm up exercise.

Seeing gigs is part of practice? Yes, I think so, in order to really get good at jazz seeing jazz gigs and playing with other musicians is as important as time in the woodshed and part of becoming a better jazz guitarist.

In all honestly I probably spend about 2-3 honest hours a day practicing (a lot more if time allows), and a few other hours jamming with other musicians and seeing gigs.

Living, eating and sleeping jazz over the last couple of years while being at music college has made a huge development in my playing, but if I was just doing one of those things e.g. practicing but not jamming with others, my progress wouldn’t have been half as much.

Click here to read the older enteries from my practice routine.

 

Guitar Warm Up Exercise

 

So far in this series I haven’t really talked about how I warm up, so I thought I’d share two quick exercises that I do every morning when I pick up the guitar.

The first is sometimes referred to as the ‘spider exercise’ which is great for working on both left hand and picking techniques.

To do this exercise on the low E string place your first finger on the 1st fret, 2nd finger on the 2nd fret, 3rd finger on the 3rd fret, and your 4th finger on the 4th fret and keep each finger down as you add a new one.

When you have done this, take it across all 6 strings, and then reverse it as seen in the example below.

 

guitar warm up exercise

 

Start to move this across the neck, and make up different patterns.

The spider exercise is great for practicing minimal movement with the left hand, alternate picking, and warming up. I use it in my own practice and have taught to every student that I’ve taught.

For a more detailed explanation of this exercise check out the article I wrote for Guitar International about the spider.

The next exercise I do is to play diatonic 4ths all over the neck. I usually start by practicing these chromatically which meanings pressing down on 2 strings at the same time with one finger and is a great way to build left hand strength and dexterity.

I will then play a few scales in 4ths, because not only is it good for technique but 4ths a great way of adding some modern jazz flavour to scales and lines.

 

 

Scale and Arpeggio Workouts

 

For a full detailed explanation of how I practice scales, grab a copy of my free ebook by signing up to my newsletter at the right hand side of this page.

Besides the ways mentioned in the ebook, another way I practice scales is by limiting myself to certain scales when I am improvising.

This week one scale I have been limiting myself to is the half-whole diminished scale over resolving dominant 7th chords. Limiting yourself to one scale or arpeggio over a tune is a great way to really get inside it and use it properly.

Taking this a step further a new exercise I got from my teacher Jiannis Pavlidis is to only play above the 12th fret area of the guitar which I wouldn’t normally do unless I had to do, but this exercise is forcing me to find some new cool ideas.

I do prefer doing this exercise with a delay though, because I am a single coil pick up guy, the notes can sound a bit weak in the higher area, so the delay really fattens things out.

 

 

Tunes

 

Any practice routine should always include learning some new tunes and mine is no different.

The tunes I have been working on this week are James and Bright Size Life for my minor, and Serenade to a Cuckoo and Segment for my major.

Serenade to a Cuckoo only took about 30 minutes to learn the entire head and chord progression. It will be interesting to hear how this tune sounds in a full band content, it’s not often played and the chord progression will provide a good opportunity to showcase some of my Kenny Burrell style playing.

Two days of practice were spent transcribing the head to Segment. In the past I have tended to learn bebop tunes from the sheet music, but this time I learnt to sing it first, and then played it on the guitar.

Although this method took a bit more time, I was pleased that I could do it in an hour or so, and when I picked up my guitar I could find the notes almost instantly.

I learnt the Kurt Rosenwinkel version from Intuit, and I have also begun transcribing some of the language he uses.

Because the tune is basically a minor turnaround, I am already quite familiar with how to play over it, having already learnt a handful of tunes like it so it’s going to be fun to explore some more advanced harmonic ideas.

What have you been practicing this week?

 

 

Jamie Holroyd Guitar Frequently Asked Questions

 
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