Tag: Criticism

30 Days to build a habit

This is something I have known for years, but I have just started implementing with great results. It works wonders if you are having a hard time making a start on things and you are, like myself, a procrastinator. After all we are creatures of habit and all we have to do is allow the time for a new habit to be formed, until it becomes part of our routine.

It takes 21 consecutive days to form a habit, and about 30 to make it become part of your routine. Start with something generic, like ‘I will practice for the next 30 days every day’, to go to something more detailed like: ‘ I will practice  every day for and hour the next 30 days’, or  ‘I will practice transposing one tune a day for the next 30 days’ or  ‘I will practice to learn major scales for one hour for the next 30 days’.

Just do it, do not be to harsh about it, and you’ll see great results. Make sure you stick to it, don’t give yourself a choice! This is great also to remove negative habits, like ‘I will not judge my playing negatively for the next 30 days’ or ‘I will not ‘noodle’ for the next 30 days’ or ‘I will stretch and correct my posture before I play for the next 30 days’

Watch this great video from Ted.com, you can apply this concept to everyday life.

All you have to do is to make a 30 day calendar to to keep track of your progress, and tick a box once you have achieved the result. I use this great little template from this page (the article is definitely worth a read):


I like to print a few an a A4 page and mark the starting date on each 30 day calendar. Most times, I find myself continuing with the new habit after the 30 days without having to keep track.

Good Luck!

The Importance of Repertoire

In this short post I want to spend a few words on the importance of knowing tunes, either written by other musicians or by yourself. ‘Repertoire’ is often a fancy word we use to identify ‘all the tunes we know’.

In my experience as teacher I have found to be a divide between the guitarist that is obsessed by theory and scales and that who is just interested in learning songs with no real interest in knowing how this songs are created.  I always wondered why  the second category were happier about their playing…

We spend as musicians most of our time learning theory, techniques and we often wonder how these fit in with ‘real life’….a lot of times we forget that tunes and musical pieces/compositions should be the goal of what we do. All these exercises and music theory studies should be a way to better perform and understand the tunes we know and write.

I always suggest to all my students to always keep an updated list of all the tunes they know (or they can busk), and a folder with all their original material, from the completed tunes to the ‘work in progress’ type material.

Keep writing and learning new tunes: this will give you a sense of purpose  in your studies and also it will be a test for all the techniques and theory you have learnt…

Good luck!

A tool to improve your improvising skills.

It’s not a secret that one of my all time favourite guitar instructional books is The Advancing Guitarist The Advancing Guitarist   by Mick Goodrich   Review by Mick Goodrich. One the exercises explained in this great book is about creating a random sequence of chords by writing every type of chord (major, minor, all the 7th chords and, if you feel more adventurous, chords with extensions and alterations) on small pieces of paper and extracting them at random. This will not only improve your sight reading in terms of chords and chord progressions, but, if you record these sequences to create a backing track, it will greatly improve your improvisation skills.

This is where http://www.thestringery.com/featured/random-chords-generator/ comes into play.

On this site you can easily generate random sequences to improve your chord recognition knowledge and improvisational skill. The default number of chords is 16 but you can easily change that number. I advice to play along to a drum beat or a metronome, so that you are more focused, starting with a chord per bar.

Also you could leave the recording backing track for a few days, so you completely forget what you recorded, and use it to practice your aural recognition skills (ear training). Try and see if you can recognise a major chord from a minor, or what extensions are contained in a chord.

I am also sure you will find some ‘snippets’ that will inspire you…maybe the beginning of your next masterpiece.

Tempo Memory – By Mike Outram

This is a guest post by Mike Outram.  Mike is a London based guitarist, professor at Trinity College of Music and The Royal Academy of Music with performing credits including Tony Levin, Gavin Harrison, Robert fripp and many more.  More about him at: MikeOutram.com

You’re in Gardonyi’s, looking over a piece of music that seems interesting and you want to get the gist of how it goes. Your sight-singing is impeccable so that holds no problems, but what’s that in the corner of the page? – ’120 bpm’.

Can you guess what the tempo of the piece is? One way to do it is to look at a clock and count the rate of the seconds – that’s obviously 60 bpm [beats per minute]. Double it if you need 120 bpm; half it if you want 30 bpm; triplets would move at a rate of 180 bpm. And then, is it a little faster or slower than one of those? Great, but what if there’s no clock?

Well, make a tempo map. Pick some very memorable songs that you can easily imagine and map their tempo. Start vague and get more detailed as you go on. Ideally, they’d be songs that everyone knows, definitive versions, for it to work. And you have to have a pretty accurate mental image of the song at roughly the right tempo.

I started out thinking I’d get a list of ‘the most popular songs of all time’ and work out the BPM. But I think what you really need is:

1. a really memorable song that you know very well and can easily imagine.

2. a way of linking the BPM to some content within the song. Or, any way of memorizing the tempo that’s quick and doesn’t involve rote memorization.

I found this great site http://djbpmstudio.com, which is a list of thousands of songs and their tempos. On that site, you can look at all the songs at, say, 120 bpm and then just choose the song you know best at that speed and then come up with a way of memorising the tempo. For example, it’d be great if ‘When I’m 64′ was actually 64 BPM, or 128. But it isn’t, so forget that. But you get the idea, eh?

Ok, so now you have the problem of memorising which songs go with which tempo but maybe that’s where you can get all creative in service to the common good by somehow linking a tempo to a song, Tony Buzan-style 🙂

So, maybe you’re a massive Queen fan. Of course you are! If so, I’ll start you off. Here are some Queen tracks and their rough BPM. Can you think of a clever way to memorise the tempo?

40 bpm: Somebody to Love – 40 bpm is from ‘Find’ and ‘Body’ in this song. (I’m allowing this kind of fudging the rules). We Will Rock You and Save Me also work. Maybe you could think, 40 bpm is the first thing on the metronome and the first thing you need in life is Somebody to Love 🙂 That’s a terribly lame example but I am sure you are WAY better at this than I am.





90: Fat Bottomed Girls

100: Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy

110: Another One Bites the Dust

120: You’re My Best Friend

130: Now I’m Here




Use this site to test your tempo memory powers:http://www.all8.com/tools/bpm.htm Can you nail 90 bpm? Try it…

Other games to try if you’ve got no friends or are pathologically bored: Try and name any tempo and hit the bpm and nail it straight away. Or, try to keep the tempo the same for more than two beats.

So the question is: Are you geek enough to make a tempo map? Do you instantly know the tempo of a particular song? Why? How? Why aren’t you sharing your knowledge here? Or maybe it’s just me…

Practice tips: the 12 Marsalis Rules

A while ago I stumbled online on a few good articles on practice tips: a few of these included these12 rules by master jazz trumpet player Winton Marsalis. I want to share them with you as I think they are a great way of approaching practice and playing in general. Enjoy.


1. Seek out the best private instruction you can afford.

2. Write/work out a regular practice schedule.

3. Set realistic goals.

4. Concentrate when practicing

5. Relax and practice slowly

6. Practice what you can’t play. – (The hard parts.)

7. Always play with maximum expression.

8. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

9. Don’t show off.

10. Think for yourself. – (Don’t rely on methods.)

11. Be optimistic. – “Music washes away the dust of everyday life.”

12. Look for connections between your music and other things.