Brian's Guitar Journal / Practice Tips

Day 126 : The Trick is to Keep Breathing

This week marks the start of a new month and so I have started a fresh new practice routine. This opportunity to reconnect with my goals and further refine my process feel like coming up for air after 30 days of keeping my head down and more-or-less slogging it out.

Some unexpected new features of this month’s routine grew quite organically a new tempo scheme I thought up last week. Basically, this month I will be doing my 2 hour technical routine at one specific tempo each day. The tempo will increase incrementally over the successive days of the month. I chose to start at 60bpm on May 1st and steadily increase the tempo by a 2bpm daily increment. On the final day of May, practice will be at 120bpm. The plan is to repeat this agin next month, but maybe start at 70 and go to 130bpm.

I am also sticking to 1/8 subdivisions for nearly all the exercises. In the 60bpm range this feels very much like playing in slow motion. It is fascinatingly counterintuitive the way that the keys to playing faster can only be found by forcing yourself to play extremely slow. As I move through the same exercises that I have done hundreds and hundreds of times this month in extreme slow motion, I can feel long held tensions breaking up and drifting away in both my hand and in my back and shoulders too. More than a few liberating moments in this weeks practice.

I plotted out the +2bpm daily tempo scheme on the May practice sheet, matching each calendar date with it’s prescribed tempo. Then I realized why stop with just tempo? I prescribed each day a tonal key center and a fretboard position to make sure that I cover all tonal exercises in all keys and that all chromatic exercises get moved to all possible hand positions. I dawned on me to do this when I noticed that without a prescribed key/position plan, I tended to do all my exercises in the key of G and in first position.

I also noticed the potential to create an unwanted correlation between tempo and position if I just moved up one position every day. That would result in me practicing lower positions at lower tempi and vice versa. So instead I moved the positions around in 5ths so it went something like 3rd-10th-5th-12th-7th… etc. This correlated with the daily key chosen.

In other news, we are nearing the first ever Gables Guitar Recital in about 10 days. I have been practicing a Tommy Emmanual piece that I hope to play at the show. It’s sounding pretty good and I’m getting through it fairly consistently in practice.

I was looking around for another new song in case I need to play 2 things when I came across the new single by Kurt Vile. It’s called “Pretty Pimpin'” and its amazing. One of the best songs I’ve heard in a while. I spent a good long time yesterday and today playing it in slow motion. I hope to have this one ready to and maybe I’ll get to play it at the show!!

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