A Farewell To Exercises And A Warm-Up Lick

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Multitasking with your guitar time!

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When I first started playing guitar, I had a whole regimen of exercises to deal with specific technical deficiencies that came up in my playing. I had an exercise I’d run to get my alternate picking together, one for tapping, etc. But in working diligently on these things, I came to a troubling conclusion:

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My playing wasn’t getting any better.

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To be more accurate, I was improving on a technical level but when I went to go take a solo I simply ended up playing all of the exercises that I had been working on.   Not surprisingly, instead of being a well constructed solo it sounded like a group of exercises that were strung together.

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Connecting practicing and playing

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The lesson here is that you practice what you play. So my advice to you is to stop working on any material that you have no intention of performing. Any technical work I do now is in service to a song. Perhaps it’s something from someone else’s song or solo that I want to learn or something that I’ll want to integrate into a solo, or that I’ll want to develop into a song. But everything I work on has a purpose rather than a mindless repetition of ideas.

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Having said that, sometimes I feel like I’m getting a little rusty or feeling uncoordinated. On those occasions, I use the following warm up lick that Bato Andonov (a good friend and one of my favorite guitarists) showed me years ago. In addition to being a great warm up, it’s loaded with some cool ideas that can be adopted into other areas of your playing.

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Bato Warm Up Lick
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Bato Warmup Lick by Guitarchitecture

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Performance Notes:

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  • While I’ve indicated picking for the first two beats I use alternate picking on this through out.
  • Pay close attention to the left hand fingerings!  Additionally, try to focus on the 3 T’s (Timing, Tone and (hand) tension) and make sure that every note can be heard clearly when playing this.

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Harmonic Roadmap:

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  • If you look at bar 1 you’ll see these notes which make up an F# minor 9 arpeggio:

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F# min9
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As you play through it, notice how the intervals are stacked in larger intervals (5ths and a 6th between G# and E) on the  E/B and D/A strings.  This gives it a much more open sound than just playing stacked 3rds.

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The minor 3rd (A) acts as a pivot note and sets you up for the A major arpeggio that follows it.  This leads into the E major 9 arpeggio (which works on the same intervallic idea as the F# min 9).

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E maj 9
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The B major arpeggio follows this. Notice how the F# octave drop at the beginning of  bar 2 acts as a pivot point for the F# minor 7 arpeggio. (and then acts as another pivot point for the G# minor 7 arpeggio that follows it).  This is a cool device for fooling the sonic expectations of your ear!

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Harmonically, the last 4 notes sound like A6 to me:

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A6 Guitar
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but since it uses all of the notes of F# minor pentatonic – you could use it over an F# minor 7/9/11 chord as well.

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F#min
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Next Steps:

Once you get past playing this as a warm­‐up lick, try using these ideas over the tonal centers I’ve indicated.  In the mp3 below, I’ve played a melodic idea based on the E major 9 arpeggio above.  (If you can’t figure out the notes in the variation I’m playing, start with the notes of the arpeggio and keep an eye (or an ear) out for the vibrato bar scoop into the D# and the slide up to F#).

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E maj9 Lick by Guitarchitecture

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A little knowledge can go a long ways when you understand the context of the notes you’re playing, but when working through any kind of material, make sure it’s something you want to use before you invest a lot of time in it.
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Scott Collins

Scott Collins is the author of the pedagogical/reference series, The GuitArchitect’s Guide To: and several e-book titles that include: An Indie Musician Wake Up Call and Selling It Versus Selling Out. His playing is inspired by a wide range of western and non-western music, and, as a performer, he specializes in real-time composition.

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