Guitarists have been emailing me… asking where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. The short answer is, practicing. Practicing a lot. While my writing has a suffered a bit, my guitar chops are making a serious comeback.
Most of my friends, family and readers know I do a ton of acoustic guitar gigs. I’m still doing 4-5 per week. Thats just how I pay the bills here! Recently I got the call to do a few Rock and Metal gigs coming up at the end of October and I’ve had a heck of a time switching back to electric guitar.
The gigs I have coming up require quite a bit of “shredding”. I used to hate this term and when I was younger I always resented being called a Shred Guitarist. These days, I’m more willing to embrace it as it is just part of many facets that make up my playing and musicianship as a whole.
It is odd to me when I think about my playing at age 48. Last night I did an acoustic gig in Orlando at Orange Late Resort. My duo does lots of Jazz, Pop and all with a very Latin feel. Think Al DiMeola in a duo with Etta James…
I was recently exchanging emails with a reader who said he was “an old Metal guy”. Well, I guess I am too! If you’re friends with me on Facebook or in the Life in 12 Keys Private Group, you may have seen my short video test..
The chops are coming back, which is more than I can say for my hairline! 🙂
Oh, those are my wife’s Halloween decorations not real cobwebs 🙂
This isn’t an artistic statement, it’s not a song.. it’s just me showing the results of some really focused technical guitar practice. It is a means to end. Remember, that’s all good guitar technique is. If I can do this at this speed, playing some technical Metal or Rock guitar parts in a band are going to seem pretty easy in comparison. That’s the goal, especially if you’re a live guitar player like me.
Practice hard = make everything else feel easy.
Guitar Practice Routine
So, I’ve gotten quite a response from this video (in Facebook comments) and many private messages asking what I’m working on.
The short answer is that everything in my 7 Day Practice Routine book, just works. All of it. I am a practice what I preach guitarist. These exercises work and I’m proud of the work that went into my book.
I try to start my day with an hour or so of scales. I like to break it up into various notes per string and always use a metronome and strict alternate picking. Typically that looks like this:
- 4 note per string ascending and descending – 12 reps
- Pentatonic Scales – 2 notes per string – 10 reps each
- Chordal picking and arpeggios 1-2 notes per string
- Melodic minor modes – odd notes per string, 10 reps each.
- 3 note per string diatonic modes – 10 reps each including the Modal Workout.
- Some variation on my 2 String Guitar Workout
How Long Should I Practice Guitar Daily?
This is kind of a loaded question right? Do you have a 40+ hour per week day job? Children? Are you single with a lot of time on your hands? Depending on your personal life there are lots of variables that can affect your guitar practice time.
I have many friends who are pros that say 4 hours is the magic number. 4 hours of guitar practice per day? Ouch. Yeah it is a bit daunting right? My friend and world renowned Flamenco Guitarist Berto Boyd swears by it and the results show in his playing.
Honestly, I’m a full-time guitarist, married with no kids and even I have a hard time maintaining a 4 hour per day guitar practice routine. A good rule is to have one huge guitar practice day and then wind it down as the week goes on. That being said, try not to take more than 1 day off. That’s important! It’s better to play a little every day than to play for 8 hours on a Saturday and then not pick it up for 3 days.
Heres a typical example of how I do that. You may be able to adapt and add or subtract time depending on your own schedule:
- Sunday – If I’m off, I’ll try to put in as much time as I can until fatigue sets into my hands. Lets say 4 hours of focused practice time.
- Monday – I may wind it down to 3 hours of just scales and technical exercises.
- Tuesday – Mix it up, work in some songs, rhythm guitar and chord work. 2 hours.
- Wednesday – Your hands should be feeling great, so do a solid, honest hour of technical guitar work.
- Thursday – Evaluate your practice for the week thus far and focus on the things that need attention. 1-2 hours.
- Friday – Do the bare minimum. Maybe some 4 note per string guitar warmups no more than 30 minutes.
- Saturday – Day of rest! Let your hands recover and take a day off. The next practice day, your hands will feel great and gains will be had!
Guitar Pedals, Amps and Effects
The other thing that has been shocking to me playing electric guitar again is my new gear setup. For 25 years I’ve been a diehard tube amp guy.
After talking to my friend and amazing bass player, Michael Amico who is a certified gear guru, I decided to modernize everything and join the 21st century in terms of my live guitar rig.
My signal path looks like this:
My old trusty Boss Chromatic tuner (I’ve had this reliable pedal since 1993!)
Line 6 HX Stomp
Friedman ASM 12
Line 6 HX Stomp
I’m getting all of my distortion and effects from the HX Stomp. This thing is basically a mini Helix. The only limitation is that you can only stack 6 different effects or amp combinations. For a simple rock and metal guy like me, this is more than enough.
I’m using the Placater amp model which is based on a Friedman tube head.
I have Footswitch button 1 setup as an OD and gain boost using the Minotaur Overdrive model.
Footswitch 2 is set to a nice analog delay.
Footswitch 3 is a 5db solo boost.
Alternatively, I have another identical bank setup where Footswitch 1 is set to a clean/dirty channel instead of an Overdrive.
Friedman ASM 12
When looking at powered monitors so I can actually hear myself on stage, I decided to go BIG with the amazing Friedman ASM 12. This is a Full Range, Flat Response 500 watt powered enclosure. For you fellow guitar nerds out there, aka, “FRFR”. It’s basically made for amp modelers such as the Helix, AxFX, Headrush, Kemper etc.
This thing is built like a tank of all solid wood, made in the USA. The Friedman includes a bass cut/boost, XLR in and out for running to the PA and a 12″ Celestion speaker.
Also pictured, my old Trailer Trash pedalboard, Keeley modded Tube Screamer (which I’m not using) and Bad Horsie Morley wah-wah, which I’m sad to say does NOT work. My guitar tech Yngwie (the pup) is checking out the board too along with Yoda for guidance.
I’ll definitely post a follow up and hopefully some good live video of this rig in action!
Have any recommendations for a good Wah pedal? Let me know!
To Shred or Not to Shred
Hey, I don’t know. It’s just one side of my playing. Is it fun? YES. Can it be over done? Absolutely. I’m kind of enjoying the ride honestly. I’ve spent many years working on Classical Guitar, Jazz, Latin and other acoustic styles and it just feels good to blast out some fast Metal guitar licks with distortion lately. Maybe you feel the same or maybe it’s a secret goal of your own.
If you managed to get through this much of my ramblings, enter discount code ‘shred’ to get $5 off the Practice Routine book.
Also available as a full-size paperback on Amazon.com.
If I can help, please drop a comment or shoot me an email. I’d love to help and of course I always love talking abut all things guitar!
Craig Smith is a professional Guitarist, Teacher, and Writer living in Sanford, Florida. Craig has taught guitar lessons, performed 200+ gigs per year for nearly 30 years, and published 4 guitar instructional books. When he’s not gigging or writing, you may find him by the pool with his wife Celeste, 4 Chihuahuas, and a drink. 🎸