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I'm reading "Practice Perfect" and the author recommends using the 80/20 approach in planning one's practice. For example, if 20% of "techniques" yield 80% of the results, what would be the 20% of guitar topics/techniques to choose for study/practice to get the maximum (80%) of results? Anyone?

This question is broad but I'm hoping to get more value from a range of answers, that will apply to me personally, and hopefully this will work for others also.

From the book: "...assemble a group of relatively informed people and ask them to name their top five." The goal is to be great at the most important things.

For me personally, I would have to include "tone"...

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What does this have to do with jazz and the blues? – American Luke Sep 26 '12 at 23:21
That's where I'm coming from... some might suggest studying pentatonic scales, for example... – IrishChieftain Sep 26 '12 at 23:23
Best put it in the question. As a side note, this question is rather broad. Some techniques might work better for some people and other techniques for others. – American Luke Sep 26 '12 at 23:24
I'll re-phrase the question Luke, thanks. The focus here is purely on establishing a plan of practice. – IrishChieftain Sep 26 '12 at 23:25
@IrishChieftain Do you see any reason not to generalize this and make it Community Wiki? – NReilingh Sep 28 '12 at 3:03
up vote 7 down vote accepted

The number one thing you should worry about is developing your ear.

That's probably 70% - 80% of a professional musician.


Transcribe songs you like (and some you don't) and practice them, especially the parts that give you a hard time.

Use a metronome for songs that are too fast. Play them slow and gradually increase speed.

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Good tip on the metronome! – IrishChieftain Sep 27 '12 at 2:53
Any suggestions on developing one's ear. Say for example, on becoming a better blues guitarist? – IrishChieftain Sep 27 '12 at 21:59
@IrishChieftain: Listening, transcribing and just flat out playing will develop your ear. One of the fastest improvement times I had in my playing was when I had to play 6 nights a week, 6 hours a stretch and learn all the material at the same time. I did this for about 8 weeks. :) – JimR Sep 28 '12 at 12:05
Thanks :-) Clapton was once asked for a single piece of advice for young players and he said "listen, listen, listen". – IrishChieftain Sep 28 '12 at 12:55
@IrishChieftain: If you want a challenge playing blues, transcribe some of the early Little Charlie and the Nightcats. Charlie Baty is a very tough nut to crack. I'd start with things from All The Way Crazy, Big Break and Disturbing The Peace. Charlie got alot harder to follow after the first live album. (Read: I couldn't do most of them... :) – JimR Sep 28 '12 at 15:31

Time. It is far better to hit the wrong note at the right time than the right note at the wrong time.

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"than the right note at the" wrong time? – IrishChieftain Sep 27 '12 at 2:55
I really need to reread these things before I hit "Submit". – Dave Jacoby Sep 27 '12 at 3:59
Very valid point you make though... king of timing had to be Sinatra. – IrishChieftain Sep 27 '12 at 4:41
Especially if you're a drummer! – naught101 Sep 27 '12 at 5:31

My top three, though very general, are important in order to maximize your efforts. Afterall, you're not committing all this time and effort not to improve as a musician, right?

  • Develop proper playing technique and dilligently avoiding bad or sloppy habits

  • When learning a new piece of music, thoroughly work through challenging sections, first slowly for accuracy, then faster and faster until you can play them competently up to tempo

  • Respect your own efforts by making your practice time sacred - no TV in the background, proper posture, music on a stand

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I wouldn't say there's a specific top five most important things to learn. Or at least, not specific things. One thing that is really important, however, is learning how to practice properly. What you need to practice depends on what you're playing and varies over time, but how you practice doesn't change. Being able to focus on difficult sections of music, warming up well, and playing things correctly when you practice them are all very important skills.

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Unless I have misunderstood the question, this is very difficult to answer in a broad sense. It all depends on what sort of musician you are looking to be, what style, do you want to be a great improviser or a session musician or be the best 3 chord rock song writer? It all depends.

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Blues guitarist. But most skills cross the board of music genres. – IrishChieftain Sep 28 '12 at 1:09

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