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Unfortunately I can't play everyday.

However, I am trying to grab at least 5-10 minutes here and there. What are some good theory or scale techniques/practice methods I should have ready to pull out when I don't want to run through a specific song.

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7 Answers 7

up vote 45 down vote accepted

One thing I often do in that situation is pick a scale and play it in different positions on the neck. Or vary it further by double-picking or triple-picking each note, or using hammer-ons/pull-offs.

This video has Joe Satriani showing a few exercises that would fit well in the short time frame as well.

Last but not least, if you have a song you're working on and some part of it is giving you trouble, you can isolate that part in a short exercise that you can do even without going through the whole song.

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+1 tis good advice –  DRL Jan 15 '11 at 5:53
Is this applies to classical guitar ? thx –  Smarty Twiti Jan 20 '14 at 2:42
@SmartyTwiti It certainly can. I'd pay special attention to hand posture as well - it matters for all play styles, but classical guitar has a bigger emphasis on hand position, IMHO. –  Anna Lear Jan 20 '14 at 2:58

Practice what you are worse at! Why practice something you have down really well and ignore what you need most? 5 mins isn't much but can be wonders for things you suck at(5m is infinitely more than 0m).

Find what your not good at and practice that. If you don't know your scales then work on those. If you don't know many very chords learn some more. etc... etc... etc...

If you have 5m to work out do you work out the thing you are strongest at? If you do you'll just become more unbalanced. Now if you wanna be unbalanced that's an entirely different story. Just realize that generally the better you are at something the harder it is to get better. i.e., it takes a lot more time. So you won't get much out of practicing your best things(of course if you neglect them too long they might become your worse things)

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Here's a book for you: The 10 Minute Guitar Workout, by David Mead.

It contains a set of simple exercises for everyday practice. Each exercise is exactly two minutes long; day after day you increase the speed of the exercise until you switch to a new set.

The book is also packed with all sorts of good advice, I really recommend it.

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I think it depends how far along you are with your theory; if your new to the major scale/modes etc I would suggest running through those whenever you have a spare ten mins or so; if your further along perhaps you might try playing intervallic arpeggios or something similar, these can really help tune your ear for chords/build your fretboard knowledge and help you develop new ways of fingering things.

An example of this might be (Amin Triad [A - C - E {Root, Third, Fifth respectively}]):

Note Order

1 - 5 | 3 - 1 | 5 - 3 | 1

A - E | C - A | E - C | A

Here is what this looks like over the first inversion

$6.5  $5.7  $6.8  $4.7  $5.7  $4.10  $4.7

And over three inversions (slide up to the high A to finish)

$6.5  $5.7  $6.8  $4.7  $5.7  $4.10  $4.7  $3.9  $4.10  $2.10  $3.10  $2.13  $2.10  $1.12  $2.13  $1.17

Try this using other chords; for instance use a major triad; the fingering is slightly different, post here if you'd like me to tab out similar things.

EDIT- This excellent online tab maker is what I used to create the tab

EDIT- To use the new JTab plug as detailed here

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thanks for the advice and the tip about the online tab maker –  Jason W Jan 17 '11 at 12:00
No probs, hope it helps. –  DRL Jan 17 '11 at 22:15

One thing I often do is make a list of things I cannot currently do. Of course, these are the things I wish I could do.

An example would be:

  1. Play the G major scale
  2. Play E-Minor formed barre chord
  3. Play the chord progression of a new song that I liked

These are the things I can work on. And the bonus side effect is that I can easily measure my progress.

When I mindlessly practice a scale, I'm still not sure about my guitar skills a few days later. But with this little list, I can easily evaluate my guitar skills after a few days. "A few days back, I couldn't do this, but now I can!"

It keeps me motivated, and also ensures that I learn skills that I can immediately put into context.

So, just remember this little rule. Find out what you can't do right now, and work on it! This works regardless of the amount of time you get each day.

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Modal practice is always useful, as it helps to increase adaptability, and also explores some of the broader richness within the scale. Another exercise I do when just getting a couple minutes in is 2-octave runs across the four strings.

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Practice your alternate picking.

Carl Verheyen on alternate picking.

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protected by Matthew Read Jun 23 '12 at 14:58

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