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So I've been playing guitar for nearly 13 years, but I don't feel like I'm at the place I should be with my playing. For the past couple of years, focus has coming away from playing and practicing as work and other commitments begin to take over.

What I want to practice the most is building up playing speed and to tighten up my playing so I'm not so sloppy. How would you guys recommend practicing these things when I have very limited time available in the week?

I want to try and avoid the obvious answers like "practice your scales to a metronome" because I already do that as part of a practice routine anyways, I just want to see if there's anything else I can do in a short space of time (1 or 2 hours every few days).

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    Related: music.stackexchange.com/questions/1585/… – Dom Sep 24 '15 at 13:52
  • @Dom good thread and some useful ideas there! I'm just looking for exercises or routines specific to my goal if anyone has any ideas! – Jamie Brace Sep 24 '15 at 14:08
  • You might have to expand on your goal specifically if you want more focused answers. Especially if you're already practing with a metronome - more practice and more metronome are the only speed building processes I know. – Todd Wilcox Sep 24 '15 at 14:12
  • I'm always amazed on how much higher quality my practice is when I do a thorough 10 - 15 minutes of warm up. – Neil Meyer Sep 24 '15 at 15:09
  • I can imagine different types of sloppy. Please tell us more about your sloppy. – aparente001 Sep 25 '15 at 9:43
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I'm going to start with the obvious one just so this list feels more complete:

  • Warm up (scales or patterns) with a metronome. One way to expand this kind of practice is to pick one scale, set the metronome to 4/4 time, and play the scale as quarter notes (one note per click), then 1/8th notes, then 1/8th note triplets, then 16th notes. Also or instead, change the way you play a scale to be back and forth in threes or fours instead of just up and down. For example, instead of C D E F G A B C, try C D E D E F E F G... or C D E F E F G A F G A B... Combining different patterns with different rhythms help you learn new stuff and is a lot more interesting.
  • You probably want to tighten up all of your playing, not just single notes, so you want to practice chord progressions and strumming rhythms with a metronome. Depending on the genres you like, this might be open chord patterns, funk rhythms, power chord palm muting, whatever. Maybe you want to work on a mix of those so you don't get stuck in a genre rut. At least part of this should be chords played on the click that are very short and staccato, so you can tell if the guitar is hiding behind the click, or vice/versa, then you're on time.
  • It's always good to learn something you've never learned before. This can be a song that seems a little beyond your abilities, a different genre, or a new branch of knowledge, like sight reading or music theory, or a new technique like tapping or fingerstyle playing. Some random things that have made the biggest difference in my playing include when I joined a campus worship band (I'm not religious, so it was a little strange) and we learned five new songs every week, and later on I played in two different musicals (including Cats - don't do Cats - never do Cats). Both were challenging situations far removed from playing hard rock in a band, and maybe that's what made them so educational.
  • Finding a friend or five to jam with on weekends not only will give you lots of ways to improve, it's also a lot of fun. It's hard to find the right people to play with, but to me this is what it's all about.
  • Keep doing whatever got you started on guitar in the first place. Play something you love to play every day, even if it's just once through or just the chorus. Make sure it's not all work and no play.
  • didn't even think changing up scales like you said, I think that alone would probably help a lot as it's a fairly predictable exercise just going up and down with alternate picking, it's pretty easy to get stuck in a rut doing that I've found. Appreciate the answer, cheers man! – Jamie Brace Sep 24 '15 at 14:20
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Set yourself goals with measurable achievements. You will use your time more effectively and be more focused.

I found my biggest improvement in tempo was from playing drums on a music game and refusing to not get less than a certain % level. That was because there was something measurable and I aimed for it.

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