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Day 109 : Growing the Process by Combining Techniques

As I start each morning completing these 2+ hours of technical drills, usually one or two new things occur to me. These ideas that come to the surface during practice are generally ways to perform exercises more efficiently or comfortably. Sometimes I find an aspect of the technique that I’ve overlooked or didn’t know existed, and that usually calls for the practice routine to be amended or otherwise changed. The margins of my monthly practice plans over the last 100 days have become covered with penciled-in notes and mods in my effort to capture and implement these ideas.

I have also lost several of these small revelations when I chose not to stop working to write them down. I’m sure I will find them again someday, but losing some of them also makes me realize that I should try and do a better job of keeping notes. That’s when I remembered this blog which I am so inconsistently updating. So I am going to try and record the notes of my daily practice sessions here in the blog starting……. NOW!

It is interesting that as I have been adding techniques over the past 109 days, I have also been subtracting techniques. I hesitate to allow myself to think that any aspect of my technique is beyond the benefit of daily drill exercises. The first few minutes of my routine is still essentially slow alternate picking of the open strings. It doesn’t get any more basic than that, and yet I still do it every day because I keep finding more subtle ways to do it better. However, this ongoing experiment into exhaustive technical study continues to lead me to discover ways in which two separate aspects of technique can be combined and practiced simultaneously. When this happens 2 line items on the practice sheet combine into a single line item and a sort of “subtraction” of 1 line item is achieved. These small gains in efficiency are what has allowed me to slowly add techniques to the practice plan without extending the duration of the drill exercises beyond the 2 hours I can reasonably devote to this kind of work each day.

Some of the biggest combinations came early in this year. In January I realized that I didn’t need a whole separate battery of exercises for intervals, chords, and inversions. I could simply combine the study of chord inversions with appropriate technical exercises which are often used to create them on guitar. For example, the combination of bidirectional sweep picking with 1 note per string arpeggios is one rather obvious combination. I’m continuing to find more musically elegant combinations of technical exercise with theoretical construction, many of which were not obvious to me at first. Some of the most recent include combining two handed tapping technique with linear (single string) arpeggios. I have also combined diatonic chord scales with thumb-over-the-top exercises.

When I flip back to the way I was working just 100 days ago, it makes me excited to think how different, how much more efficient my practice routine will be 100 days from now. It seem like I have found a way to work in a routine that is both highly consistent but also slowly evolving and improving itself.