A Suggested Low-Stress Practice Routine

Posted on Posted in Announcements, Free tabs, Stories, Tips from Mark

Maybe sitting in front of an interactive computer screen is part of your practice regimen (that’s yours truly in the photo jamming with BB King’s band at his museum in Indianola, Miss.). But if not, here are some thoughts I recently offered to a student.

To avoid the Yngwie Malmsteen-like physical maladies caused at least partly by shredding without warming up, I suggest starting your sessions with major scales at the end of the neck, using open strings. You’ll fret about two-thirds of the notes, so your fretting hand relaxes continually.

Play the scales relatively slowly and softly to avoid any tension issues. Scales are great for practicing consistency of tone and perfect timing – let each note ring until you pick the next one, like a singer singing a phrase on one breath of air.

Once your fingers are functioning you can speed up a bit, and start adding notes: by playing a chromatic scale at the end of the neck. This requires more fretting-hand work to execute, so I recommend you wait till your fingers are limber to start chromatics.
Once you’ve played the chromatic scale using the open strings, move up the neck, eliminating the use of open strings. You will have five fretted notes on most strings, but only four fingers to fret with. My suggestion: When you play an ascending chromatic scale, slide the little finger to fret the final two notes on a string; in the descending direction, slide the index finger for the final two notes.
In my practice sessions, next I play a tune or two from my repertoire. That’s usually fun! (Gotta have fun doing this!) Here is a list of my compositions and arrangements — singly, and in books or videos — to consider using. “Canyon Canon” is a big Youtube hit, and is not demanding of the hands.
At that point in my practice session I’m good and warmed up, so I usually start working on something new. It might be a new arrangement or a new composition. I can get lost in that exercise for hours…
If I have an important performance coming up, I practice all the tunes that I will perform for two weeks beforehand. I’ll play older tunes every other day, and newer ones daily – sometimes 3-4 times in a row. Then I am supremely confident at performance time.
Hope that helps!
Mark Hanson
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