How often should I practice?

"The Best Part of the Day" by Brittney Marshall

“How often should I practice?” is the most common question asked by my guitar students. Every student I teach has their own unique needs and goals. And they have their own unique schedules and problems too – there is work, or school, and chores, homework, friends and families to see, other hobbies, interests, and activities and they all compete for time. It’s absolutely normal that finding the time to learn an instrument, to take lessons and to practice, can be a difficult task. But no matter who my students are, how old they are, and what other things they have going on in their life, there are a few things that I recommend for everybody.

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A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Photo by Mike Bitzenhofer

Many a great guitar has been ruined by well-meaning but bad advice. And many a great guitar is also ruined by people who overestimate their experience and abilities with a screwdriver or a file. These are obvious lessons but so easy to forget that I think it’s time I reminded you with some real world examples (yes, the names have been changed to protect the innocent)…

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Capos and Tuning Problems

A recent forum post asked the following question: My guitar goes out of tune when I put on a capo. Is this normal? What can I do about it? Can this problem be worse on the lower frets? Does string diameter matter? The answer to all these questions is “yes”. Let’s look at why.

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How Babies Can Help Us Practice Better

Baby and Guitar

Music and language are frequently compared. The similarities are quite obvious with a little thought but our first spoken language we mastered as young children without any formal tuition. We had to pick it up as we went along. Mastering an instrument is very difficult to achieve in the same manner but there is a lot we can take from babies learning to talk that can help us to learn faster and play music better.

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Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings Review

Early this year Ernie Ball released a unique line of electric guitar and bass strings. Known as Cobalt Slinkys. The proprietary cobalt steel wrap on the wound strings is said to be provide a “stronger magnetic relationship between the strings and the pickups”, resulting in higher output, more sustain, and richer harmonics. The initial response was so strong that Ernie Ball were left scrambling to keep pace with the demand. I recently got my hands on a set and put them through their paces.

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Gibson – a Disgrace to the Guitar Industry

After much posturing and wailing and childish “why are they picking on us?” from CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, Gibson have agreed to a criminal sanction with the U.S. Government over imports of illegal ebony from Madagascar to the US. Gibson’s statement on the matter still tries to make it look like they are treated unfairly but when we look at the facts as presented by the U.S. Department of Justice, a very different picture emerges.

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PolyTune – A Practical Review

TC Electronic’s “PolyTune” first hit the stores back in 2010 and caused quite a stir. Its ability to ‘tune’ all guitar six strings at once is indeed a neat trick. While there were many magazine and web reviews, most just copied-and-pasted the same marketing blurb and didn’t tell us how well the PolyTune really performs in every day use. I’ve been using one for 18 months, for stage, studio, and tech work. Oddly enough, I think PolyTune’s best feature is the one most people don’t use…

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Tuning Stability Checklist

Tuning stability with tremolo bridges can be problematic and very frustrating, especially when recording. Solving these problem is not rocket science but with such a complicated mechanical system it can certainly can seem like a black art.  But there is a simple way of thinking through tuning problems which might help…

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Your Own Personal Fret Buzz

It is a myth that buzz-free low action is always possible. People frequently read manufacturers’ specifications and assume those numbers are a goal rather than a guideline. They assume such a setup will suit their personal playing technique without any string/fret buzz. In my experience, that is just not the case. I’ll explain why.

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It fell of the back of a truck…

Strat in pieces
Strat in pieces

Re-gluing the fingerboard, ready to work on the innards.

Usually, in English, that expression would imply some level of theft or underhand dealing. In this case it really is just a guitar that fell off the back of a truck. The truck was moving too. Quite fast, I was told, on a French motorway. Mathieu, a great double bass player, wanted his beloved Squier Strat ready for a punk gig that week and between our existing schedules it meant that I didn’t have much time to work on this. Naturally, I was expecting something of a disaster.

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Lost in the dark?

What to do when playing in the dark and you can’t see the frets? Or, even worse, temporarily blinded by stage spotlights? Nothing worse than a screaming bum-note or wrong chord ’cause you can’t see what you’re doing, right? I’m sure we’ve all had a moment like that at some point in time. But what can we do to avoid it?

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Game Changer, the Giggle Maker

The-Game-Changer blue logoIt’s not often that I read something that makes me giggle and laugh with excitement but Music Man have managed to do exactly that with the new Game Changer. It was first announced last year as a system for re-wiring your guitar’s pickup selector any way you want it, in real time, right from your computer screen and yet maintaining an all-analogue signal path. On a guitar with 5 coils (e.g. HSH) and piezo, all the various combinations of series/parallel and in/out-of-phase leads to, quite literally (and I’m not kidding you) millions of tonal possibilities.

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Tuning – the Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #45

"American Lutherie" Journal Cover
"American Lutherie" Journal Cover

“American Lutherie”, the journal of the Guild of American Luthiers

The following is a reprint of data sheet #45 from the Guild of American Luthiers. They don’t know who wrote it and it never made it into publication. But it’s so incredibly useful that it’s one of their most requested articles (you can download a PDF version from them here). To anyone who ever gets frustrated when tuning their guitar, this article explains why and I strongly advise you to read it. I promise you that accepting the information presenting here will make your guitar and your music sound better and your life much easier.

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