T Nation

Guitar and Practice


I'm about to take the leap and by and electric guitar. I've had an acoustic for a few years and do a pretty decent job with rhythm but still have light years to go. I'd like to be able to get a pretty good understanding/handle on lead as well.

The main question when trying to advance on the guitar, is a consistent method of practice. I'm a regimented type of person and have to have some type of consistency/method in most everything I do.

However, I have yet to develop a solid type of method when it comes to a guitar practice. I've attempted to keep a list of all songs that I feel I can play straight out of my head, as opposed to having to dig the chords up from somewhere.

I guess what I would like to see somewhere is a program for guitar practice designed like a T-Nation weight routine, like 10X3 for the Penatonic Scale or something. Chad Waterbury, get to work. Seriously though, any ideas as to how better direct my time spent practicing would be appreciated.

Also any tips as far as selecting a new electric guitar? I'm pretty much set on a Fender Telecaster, likely to go with the Highway 1 series or a regular American. One question, how big is the significane between a foreign made guitar and American?


I've been playing for a few years, never been for lessons either.

I've found the best way to advance your skills is to play songs that would take you a while to learn - playing a simple 4 chord pop song wouldn't get you as far as learning to play some metal, with the solo's and all. I've met a few guys who have been playing half the time I have and are many levels above me because of the music they're influenced by, and the hours they put in ofcourse.

Suppose it's like that with everything - you got to practice to get good. I've got a guitar speed trainer that runs you through different levels of scales - pm me if you want it.

As for choosing an electric, any popular brand you can find should be good enough. I started off on a Fender acoustic and got myself a Cort M600 electric - it sounds great and looks like a PRS guitar which is great too. If you got the money a Gibson SG would be one of my first choices for sure. Otherwise Fender also make superb guitars, I've just never really liked the look of them!

  1. Can't go wrong with a Fender.

  2. Electric is faster, which can be good obviously, but the sound exacerbates your mistakes. Sometimes on acoustic, if a finger isn't perfect, the rest of the sound downplays it. On electric, get ready to hear your mistakes - but that is good, because you'll get better as a result of leaning out your sound by reducing those mistakes.

  3. As for practice, I find that too much rigidity might stifle your creativity. Sounds hokey, some of my playing breakthroughs came as a result of noodling around and making mistakes.

  4. But as for scales, there is no substitute for getting the 'geography' of where you want to go on the fretboard - if I were you I would set side aside 30 minutes a day and do one scale the whole time. Run through the finger movements until you are totally bored, and then go through them again. Goof off with the scale, but stick to it. My advice is just like you would do an upper-body day, select a set of exercises (scale or two) and stick to them - don't do squats on an upper body day just because you feel like it; they have their own day.

  5. Learn the blues first. To paraphrase Ray Charles, everything comes from the blues.

None of this you probably don't know already - just offering a few observations. Good luck and enjoy.


I play the best air guitar that I know of...and I practice every day


Speedy, as the owner of a few Strat's and Tele's, I will say that the American-made fenders sound better, play better than my Mexican ones. If you want to save money, buy a used American version. A tele is a good choice. It's very versatile and sounds good distorted for rock and great for playing clean blues or , gasp, country. The front pickup is virtually useless, you'll use the bridge pickup all of the time. Not a bad thing, just a quirk of the design.


Fender makes a nice guitar. However, I prefer Ibanez RG style guitars (locking tremolo, hotter pickups), but it really depends on what tone and style you're looking for.

Do your research on guitars before you throw down your hard earned cash. Fender makes a good fiddle, but they had some years that were better than others. At the end of it all, just make sure you're happy with the look, feel and tone of the guitar.

As for how to improve. I'd recommend lessons, or perhaps a music theory class at a local college. Learning how to play songs through memorization is good, but you should understand some of the theory behind the music.

There's plenty of great ways to improve. I often sit around and play exercises. They don't sound that great, but after a few days of nothing but exercises, I notice an improvement in my overall playing.

Search for Steve Vai's 10 hour guitar workout. I think the tab is here.



Steve Vai's Ten Hour Guitar Workout...god, I remember seeing that in a guitar magazine fifteen years ago.

For buying an electric, the most important thing is to choose one that feels/sounds right in your hands. Never buy a particular brand/model just because someone else told you too. You should also make sure it sounds good unplugged before your plug it into an amp to try. Having said that, I kinda like the Gibson Les Paul/Marshall amp combo myself.:slight_smile: Hence the name Marshallman...

For practice, think about what you want to work on and divide your alloted time into segments. For example: 30min. chord work, 30min. scales, 30min. legato, whatever. I'm a regimented person just like you, so if you schedule your time accordingly, chances are you'll do it.

One final note: I can't tell you how many famous rock players advise playing a lick a slow as you need to to get it right, over and over again, before gradually increasing your speed. If you try to play something too fast too soon, you'll only get better at playing sloppy. This is where a metronome comes in handy.

Hope this all helps!


If you got the cash, definitely opt for a quality guitar, but an amp is vital as well. I've found that a great amp can make a mediocre guitar sound excellent, while a poor amp will make an excellent guitar sound like shit.

I would NOT recommend the Ibanez RG series, as I have been playing this exact guitar for 7 years now, and it plays horribly out of the box, adjusting the bridge is almost necessary. It's not a high quality piece of craftsmanship by any means. You might want to look at Schlecter, or perhaps Heritage.

Gibson has had some quality control problems, and a Heritage sounds and plays just as good at almost half the price. You also can't go wrong with a PRS, I have never played a PRS guitar I haven't loved.

As far as practicing, there has definitely been some good advice given on the boards, especially regarding dedicating yourself to learning and improvising over one scale until you master it, but work it slowly to build up speed. I have friends who have been playing the guitar for 10 years, but I was able to outplay them within 4 months of picking up my first electric simply because I practiced, not jsut played random songs that won't make you a better guitarist.


I think Marshallman hit the nail on the head. Metronome, play it as fast as you can play it cleanly. Never play slop and say 'I'll clean it up later'.

As for choosing a guitar, you'll see that everyone has their own opinions. Best thing to do is to figure out your budget and find something you like in that price range. Chances are, after a couple years, you'll get another guitar.

Ya, Vai's workout is super old, but it's still as viable today as it was back then.

Marhsallman's idea of dividing your practice time up is a good one. I'd agree, and heck, I might even try it :slight_smile:


American Fenders are the one's you want. Gibson make some fine guitars as well as Ibanez. I have an Ibanez s-body with the Floyd Rose floating bridge. Very nice guitar. It has two single coil pickups and a humbucker in the rear.

About practicing, keep it in your hands. Play as often as you can and whatever you can. Don't go stale.


I have a bunch of guitars, but my favorite is my 50's Fender Strat...

Here's a pretty cool pic of me hanging out playing with my old band...

As for practice, basically, if you're having fun and playing your guitar and learning some new stuff, I wouldn't sweat having a regimented practice schedule...


Since ditching the lab job and research crap I work solely as a music teacher, in particular private guitar tutition.

Korean guitars like some of the Fender's like the Lite Ash Strat and those made by LTD and Ibanez are very good quality and price. Squier Standard series are also (Made In China and Indonesia) are also excellent guitars althought the Affinity series are a bit lacking. Fender is my favourite guitar brand, you have a lot of choice anything from the Squier Telecaster to an Yngwie Malmsteen Sig. Don't rate their cheap amps much, Crate, Laney, Marshall or Zoom all better choices.

The UK magazine guitarist has a forum which is good for advice. Although there is a forum 'gang' who picks on newbies, but if you want advice on playing / buying try here.



Well, music is my life, and will be my career as well, so here's my input.

1 - A teacher is invaluable. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Teaching yourself works, but it's just like weightlifting. If you learn how to do it right, with a teacher, you will skip that first year of making nearly no progress, like doing 3 hours a day of concentration curls and eating like crap. Shop around though, a bad teacher can be your worst enemy. You have to not only make sure he knows what the fuck he's talking about, but you have to make sure he is compatible. Different musical styles is OK, but if you want to learn nu-metal (God forbid), don't go to a classical teacher. And talk to him about a regiment practice. I'm sure many will have one.

2 - Guitar to buy? Jesus, I can't believe how many people here are recommending a Fender. First of all, a good Fender Strat will run you about $1,000. This is for an instrument which you a) may not enjoy, b) may not play as much as you'd think. There are two good cheap guitars on the market which are EXCELLENT for beginners because as far as value goes, they are unbeatable, and most importantly, they cost less than $200. And if you really like playing the electric, either upgrade the guitar (new, serious, pick-ups) or just buy a new one. Same thing goes for an amp. Get a jumpstart pack, either the Ibanez IJS40 (comes with a Strat-style guitar, HH/S/S, you'll know what that means in a second), or the Squier SE100. Both come with a guitar, strap, and amp, and random accessories.

Let me just talk amps very quickly as well. Marshalls are the top of the line. They make real musicians cream their pants. A good stack costs about a kajillion dollars, and yet the value is still good. You will not buy a Marshall. That said, understand that amps are CRUCIAL to playing, but for now, all you need is a small practice amp. The one that comes with a start pack is OK. I personally bought an Ibanez GRX40 (the same guitar that comes with the pack) and a Kustom practice amp, and until I got into a band, I was happy with that. The need for big amps and PA systems only comes much later. Hell, I personally find big dual amps useless. I only need my small Kustom for practicing, and a big stack for live shows. A stack, by the way, is comprised of a cabinet or more, the big, big, big "speaker" that can have 4 Celestion 12" speakers inside it, and the head, which is one console that controls the stack, where you find the volume, gain, EQ, etc. I go for a nice, simple head, and the best possible stack I can find, and leave the EQ and sound to a good mixer. But again, all you need now is a good practice amp.

3 - A quick rundown of guitars--
There are essentially two major types of solid-body electric guitars, the Les Paul style, pioneered by Gibson, and the Stratocaster style, pioneered by Fender. Les Pauls are big, fat, and have beautiful tone, but some dislike them because they are a bit heavy. Strats are used by too many guitarists to count, and are thinner, more lightweight, and quite old-school (think Clapton in the Bluesbreakers). My favorite style is the SG, pioneered by Gibson, which is closer to a Strat than a Les Paul. This is the guitar AC/DC's Angus Young used. SG's are a lot more for good ole-fashioned ass-kickin' rock, whereas the Les Paul and the Strat are really very versatile, especially depending on which company makes them.

Another type of electric guitar is the hollow-body, or semi-hollow-body. These can be played unplugged (although they sound like shite) and are VERY suitable for jazz, although you see a few goofballs using them for rock. They are beautiful, and my favorite type of guitar overall.

One final thing about guitars. THere are two main types of pickups, single-coils and humbuckers. A humbucker does just that: "bucks" the hum that a single coil pickup often has. Top quality single-coils have very minimal, if any, hum nowadays, but even on cheap stock single-coils the sound is definitely bearable. Humbuckers also have a very thick, full sound, and with the tone turned down, can give an amazingly rich jazz sound, and with heavy distortion, the best metal you can think of. Single-coils with heavy distortion is about as rare as a hardcore gym nowadays. I like the Ibanez starting guitar because it has a humbucker and two single coils, and although the single coils are absolutely horrid, you'll at least get a feel for all types of pickups.

Here are the major companies:

Gibson - Very expensive, very solid guitars. There's not much I can say about them. Like Marshall amps, you can't go wrong with a Gibson. Their main guitars are the SG and the Les Paul, and they have some cool guitars for metal, like the flying V. Gibson makes the BEST hollow-body guitars. Lennon used one (the Casino, I think it was called).

Fender - Just as expensive, just as solid. Again, can't go wrong with a Fender. The Stratocaster is very, very versatile, as is it's less popular bastard cousin, the Telecaster. Fenders are great for good ole-fashioned rock, as well as jazz. Again, like with Gibsons, they make many versatile guitars, try them out, you can't go wrong with any.

Squier - Less expensive Fenders, daughter company (or sister company, w/e).

Epiphone - Less expensive Gibsons, just like Squier.

Ibanez - New age guitars, their solid-body ones are pretty much for hard rock, metal, and neo-metal (Steve Vai uses one). They're very sleek, VERY good, and the value is incredible, from lower-range guitars to upper-range ones like the S Series (which are fucking AMAZING). They also make kick-ass hollow-body guitars, equally good for rock as they are for jazz. I really love Ibanez, they're great guitars.

Jackson - Like Ibanez, except they really specialize in fucking metal. They're good guitars, but frankly, I'd stick with an Ibanez unless you play one and you end up really liking it.

Paul Reed Smith - Commonly called PRS guitars, these are very top of the line, very expensive, quality electric guitars, very well suited for fusion especially--Santana uses one now (he used to use an SG in his early days, his first 3 albums).

4 - Can't get a teacher? Teaching yourself is OK too, but you will suck. Thank God you at least play acoustic. Go to cyberfret.com, and read EVERYTHING, watch every video, learn every line. For learning songs, go to guitarnoise.com and check out the songs for beginners and intermediates section. It also has some more advanced articles that are worth looking. Those two sites should keep you busy. I've found that many otherse are just fluff, so stick to primarily those two.

As for practicing, just think of your own things. Those two sites will give you a lot to do, but if you need some help, read the songs for beginners section and pick a song you like and really follow the instructions CAREFULLY. At the same time, check out the scales section at cyberfret, and make your own practices based on those.

Here are my quick tips:

2 - Don't neglect theory. Many people wrongfully put it down saying it negates "musical creativity," but listen to me. Those people don't do this as a career. Their "musical creativity" is about as creative as Flex magazine. While it's true that there are artists who went big that don't know the first thing about theory, here's the thing about them: THEY'RE GENIUSES. Either that or they're lucky as shit. Being that I haven't heard of you in a guitar magazine, I think I can safely say you are none of those things when it comes to music. So don't listen to the bullshit about theory, just learn it, it's not hard, it can be fun, and can the more you understand it, the more you understand how breaking some rules can make a song fun. To me, knowing music theory actually gets the creative juices flowing, it doesn't stifle them.
3 - Don't neglect scales. They are the backbone of soloing, and without them, you are not a lead player. Unless you're Steven Malkmus.
4 - Practice techniques like arpeggios, hammer-ons, pull-offs (hammers/pulls with the pinky can make you play quite fucking well), natural and artificial harmonics, bends, and even slides. They make lead playing that much richer and more fluid.

There you go. If you read all of it, yay for you and have a cookie. Go play something punk.


These are some of the most beautiful guitars made right now. Very, very nice stuff.


Just like Jimmy Hendrix....


Yeah. He had no talent, lol.


Print out tab and play it. If you truly want to get really good then play three hours a day.


Read the rest of the post.

I think bigraboo was agreeing with me, because I adress that issue with talent later in the post, but in case you wasn't, read the rest of it you cock. :wink:

There are many self-taught guitarists actually, I'm surprised you only chose one. Hendrix is the most painfully obvious by the way he plays. He's like the Thelonious Monk of guitar.


I don't think we will see another play like Hendrix in our lifetime. He was an enigma.


Well, he's the most famous example, I'd say...it's a relatively well known fact that he taught himself.