Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer is here: Don't be bored, Get good!

Summer is here. Man, oh man, soon I'll be working on my car's A/C yet again.

But, for all you young punks who can sing the Alice Cooper song "School's out for summer",
you've got long days ahead, filled with fun and video games.

Now, some folks get bored in the summer. So, check this. If you've got time to be bored, that means you've got time to get GOOD on the guitar. Sure, maybe you're plugging along, doing well with guitar lessons, and learning your favorite songs.

HOWEVER - Sometimes, there's a quantum leap I see in some of my students. Suddenly, they "get it." They start to seriously apply themselves, and magic happens. Pretty soon, they're jamming on songs two or three levels above their current level, and most importantly, they're asking darn good questions.

Why not give up a few hours of TV or "World of Warcraft" and dedicate yourself, and get scary good? Why not make this quantum leap happen for you? Remember, soaps are like.. soap. They wash away (and usually leave a scum!)

But your music - that's a different story. You'll develop a great skill, further an art, and who knows, you might just make it big. But that can't happen in front of a TV set, or on instant messenger.

Ready to put yourself through Guitar Boot Camp?


It's where we crush your soul through demanding exercises, brain busting theory problems, and the creative use of arpeggios.

Time: 1 to 4 hours

Important notes (Read this, bucko.): Use a metronome. When you practice, practice. Don't jam. There's a difference, and try to separate 'em. It can be hard, but if it was easy, everyone would do it. And if anyone has any questions regarding the material outlined below,
drop me an email at and I'll be glad to set you straight.

1st block:

Warm up. Move around, do gym stretches, wring your hands like your great aunt finding out that her poodle ate her crossword puzzle.
Then, start off with some basic exercises, especially the "1 2 3 4" finger chromatic exercise. For example, put your finger at the 1st fret, second finger at the 2nd fret, etc. Play that along each string, and starting from each fret.

2nd block:

Left hand workout. Using legato technique (hammer on and pull off) , run scales, especially modes. Practice them in variations, too. Try broken 3rds, steps of four, etc. Feel free to make your own patterns, too.

Not only are you working out your left hand, but you're memorizing scales, too. Very important if you wanna get good!

Remember, play at least three quarters of these exercises with legato (hammer on and pull off) technique.

---John Petrucci Way Cool Pointer---

Play a pattern using strictly legato technique for one minute straight. Take a break, and do it again. Ouchie! And a great way to build up your hand.

3rd block:

Right hand workout.

Practice similar scales, but pick everything. Of course, alternate pick the exercises. Don't make me throw something at you! Sir!

Practice string skipping and picking across strings. Meaning, instead of hitting three notes on one string, such as in a scale, try this: Play an exercise involving a pattern on just just one note per string. Remember! Maintain strict alternate picking. You might be surprised at how hard it can be. And of course, try skipping strings. A good song to work on is the classic by Guns 'N Roses: "Sweet Child 'o Mine."

4th block:

Applying it all.

Now, here's the fun part. You've gone through the mill, so you deserve a treat. Plus, application is important. You don't want to sound like a hippie, but you don't want to sound like a robot, either.

If you haven't already, download the Hammerhead drum machine. It's free, and you should practice with it.

Flip it on, and jam with it! Try using the techniques you've given your blood for, and have fun! Sir! And if you don't....Drop down, and give me twenty diminished arpeggios, soldier!

Of course, feel free to modify this to suit your needs. And despite all the intimidation, this is just an idea. You won't be doomed to playing for Boxcar Racer if you don't follow everything to the letter....I guess...

So the time is now! And what the heck are you doing on the computer? Go practice, soldier!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Mister Clean

As an educator, my goal is to inspire my students to become the musicians they want to be.
For some, it’s playing the Verizon Center, and for others, jamming around a campfire is the goal.
And for some of you, you may have already decided, or are about to come to the conclusion, that the music industry is for you. And I’d like to share an important lesson that I’ve learned about that subject.

When I decided to pursue a career as a professional musician, there were some examples that were important to me. Of course, the great musicians I admire, because that’s the ultimate goal. But also this person that I knew who was a “clean musician.” As we all know, the field of music can sometimes be a cesspool of humanity. And it drives me crazy. I hate that aspect of my career. But there was this good example of a person for me.

It’s my hope that I can be a positive example to you, as my friend was for me.
I don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. (Regardless of appearance, and zany behavior!) I never have, and I never will. And I’d like to do my part to bust a harmful image associated with musicians. I don’t consider it “cool” to get high or drunk. I don’t need it to play my music. And I certainly don’t need it to have a good time!

I’ve been around a bunch of it, too. I’ve come home smelling pretty funny sometimes, but still in full posession of my senses. And I value them very highly, what little I have of ‘em.

At first, sometimes I would feel a little silly...When at a party, with all my friends getting trashed, this guy came up to me and said “come on, dude, have a shot with me!”
“Nah, man, I don’t drink.” It wasn’t received well, but let me tell you, it feels good now! And since I’ve got my feet in the world, it’s my style.

When I was 18, I was playing at a dive bar in Southern Maryland. Some guy wanted to buy the band drinks all around. I took him up on it, and ordered a Coca-Cola.
That’s the only kind of coke I take.