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How To Practice Guitar: Interview And Review With Tom Hess By Ryan Buckner One of the worst ways to slow down your advancement as a guitar player is to have unproductive guitar practice methods. With this in mind, if you have ever had difficulty managing an efficient guitar practice schedule; you are not alone. Every guitar player struggles to get the most of his/her guitar practice at one time or another. The good news is, you are not doomed to mediocre results based on the effectiveness of your past or current guitar practice approach. The opportunity to quickly advance as a guitarist is always available for those who take an interest in improving their ideas around guitar practice. That said, if you are looking to get better at guitar; your best bet is to ask advice from a true pro who has been helping guitar players reach their musical goals for years. That’s why I recently contacted Tom Hess, guitarist in Rhapsody Of Fire and guitar teacher to hundreds of students around the world. After exchanging e-mails, I decided it would be a good idea to arrange an interview with him where he could discuss and share his ideas on the topic of guitar practice. The remaining content in this article contains various choice sections from emails that I showed to Tom in order to get his response and review. Each one contains questions asked by guitarists on the topic of guitar practice. Read below to see Tom’s advice on how to improve your guitar practice approach: Tom Hess guitar practice review tip #1: “I have a wife, kids and a full time job. Although I love playing guitar and want to improve…I have little time to work at it. What can I do to get better in guitar given my current time limitations?” Tom’s review and thoughts: In order to get everything you can out of limited guitar practice time, you will need to focus on practicing the things that ‘most’ contribute to your overall guitar playing goals. Work on the things that will help you develop your guitar playing in several different areas at once. As an example, consider the following: Let’s say you have a choice of working on using consistent picking technique in your guitar scales or playing the tapping part of a guitar solo that you like. Given these two


options, choosing to work on your picking technique/scales will have the most impact on your overall guitar playing while choosing the tapping lick will only help you in one small area of your playing. The reason is because improving at ‘playing scales’ makes you better in multiple areas of guitar playing simultaneously, while practicing the tapping lick only makes you better at playing that specific lick. Of course you should practice 2 hand tapping if your goals demand it, but when it comes to practicing with ‘limited amount of time’, you will get more accomplished by focusing on items that have the highest transferability to your other musical skills. That said, you can make much better decisions on how to spend your guitar practice time when you expand your scope to see the big picture of each activity’s effect on your guitar playing. Tom Hess guitar practice review tip #2: E-mail excerpt – “I want to get good at guitar, but I am not sure what I should be working on.” Tom’s review and thoughts: You cannot really understand what you ‘should’ practice on guitar until you determine your own personal guitar playing goals. Once you have taken the time to clearly understand your ‘specific’ goals for guitar, it is then up to you to figure out what skills you must master to reach them. As a guitar teacher who has helped hundreds of guitarists reach higher levels in their guitar playing, I can tell you that this is absolutely crucial to your development and progress. Without first knowing exactly how your guitar practice will help you become a good player, you will never truly be able to become ‘good’ (because you have not even defined what ‘good’ is!). Before I start guitar lessons with any of my students, I make sure to ask them what their guitar playing goals are first so that I can create an effective strategy to help them. With this in mind, the quickest way you can become a great guitarist is to find a teacher who understands exactly what it takes to get you from where you are now as a guitarist to where you want to be. Tom Hess guitar practice review tip #3: E-mail excerpt –


“I’d really like to get better at playing arpeggios with clean sweeps…I’ve gone online and found a ton of information, but I don’t even know where to begin really. Feels a bit overwhelming. I just want to get better at sweep picking really fast, where can I get lessons that will help me?” Tom’s review and thoughts: If you feel like you are taking on too much material at once, you should definitely not overload yourself with even more. You already have a lot of materials, instead try focusing on a finding a better way to organize your guitar practice time. This is actually just as important as the materials themselves. If you can effectively organize your guitar practice in a manner that focuses on getting you to achieve your highest musical goals in the shortest time possible; you will be much more likely to actually do it! Keep your priorities in mind, and structure your guitar practice time around them accordingly. Tom Hess guitar practice review tip #4: E-mail excerpt – “I get easily distracted while practicing guitar. Although I make time to sit down and practice, I usually just end up noodling around and playing random stuff.” Tom’s review and thoughts: This is a very common occurrence for many guitar players. Most people have a difficult time when it comes to disciplining themselves during the time they set aside for guitar practice. It is very easy to start playing “fun” or “easy” stuff when faced with practicing things you haven’t quite mastered yet. If you really want to see results from your guitar practice time, you must stay focused on the big picture and on your DESIRE to reach your goals. Keeping your eyes on the prize (your long term guitar playing goals) will make it easier to say ‘no’ to any distractions that will pop up for you during your practice. Ryan: Thank you Tom for providing your advice and insight! TH: You’re welcome Ryan. Ryan: To the guitar players who read this article, you have surely learned many good ideas for ways to improve your guitar practice. I encourage you to get the most of what you have learned by putting it into practice right now!


To get more ideas on how to organize a guitar practice routine, check out Tom’s practice generator site.


Practice Guitar With A Schedule