Ev­ery month, Justin Sander­coe of justin­gui­ lends GT his in­sight as one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful gui­tar teach­ers. This month: The same old tired licks?

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS - Get more info and links to re­lated lessons on all Justin’s GT ar­ti­cles at www.justin­gui­­mag

Food For Thought, Ses­sion Shenani­gans, 60 Sec­onds, Jam Tracks, Phil’s OML and more.

Y’ou know the feel­ing… you sit down to prac­tice and find your­self playing the same old stuff, get­ting bored and frus­trated and it of­ten leads to putting the gui­tar down.

Peo­ple ask me about how to es­cape this - there are solutions but it de­pends on which ver­sion you’re suf­fer­ing from. Most com­monly I find begin­ner and in­ter­me­di­ate level play­ers say that they play the same songs and riffs all the time. This one is the eas­i­est to fix – learn some new songs! But be­fore you choose a new song to learn there are a cou­ple of things to think about that will help stave off the prob­lem in the future.

Al­ways try to choose to learn songs that you re­ally love. There’s no point in prac­tis­ing some­thing you don’t like un­less you’re do­ing it ‘for work’, which is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tion. The first thing to think about is a song’s dif­fi­culty, and your abil­ity to play it). And be hon­est with your­self. I rec­om­mend most stu­dents have at least two songs they are work­ing on at any time – one within their abil­ity (and aim­ing to play the whole song along with the orig­i­nal record­ing). I would sug­gest that th­ese songs be­come ‘reper­toire’. Then you make a playlist of the songs you learn so you can have a jam day ev­ery few weeks and play through all your songs in a set. It’s great if you want to play in a band or jam with oth­ers.

The other song you are work­ing on should be some­thing you re­ally love that is per­haps be­yond your cur­rent tech­ni­cal abil­ity but you as­pire to play it one day. The idea here is to en­joy the jour­ney and when you ac­cept that you ‘shouldn’t be able to play it yet’, you can en­joy the progress and work on smaller achiev­able sec­tions. But don’t feel too tied to it. Maybe only look at the song a week or two, move on and re­visit it later. If you find it eas­ier than you thought to get down, maybe it moves to your reper­toire. Above all else this should be fun!

Stu­dents that fol­low this plan get a feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment from their grow­ing reper­toire and en­joy­ment from work­ing on songs they love, even if they can’t play them so well. It’s a great way of break­ing out of a rut and avoid­ing the same one in the future. You can ap­ply the same logic to work­ing on tech­niques and con­cepts too.

A va­ri­ety of same lick frus­tra­tion that af­fects in­ter­me­di­ate play­ers, comes when im­pro­vis­ing and notic­ing that your ‘pet licks’ are be­com­ing dom­i­nant. It’s im­por­tant to re­alise that ev­ery im­pro­vis­ing mu­si­cian has ‘licks’, ‘lines’ or ‘con­cepts’ that they use reg­u­larly and that is to­tally as it should be. Licks are sim­ply words and great po­etry uses words that peo­ple are fa­mil­iar with. If you doubt this, do some tran­scrib­ing of your favourite player and look for the same licks or con­cepts - you’ll get to grips with it pretty quickly.

Prob­lems usu­ally oc­cur when we find our pet licks are com­ing for­ward too of­ten, or too close to­gether. I’ll share a cou­ple of ex­er­cises that I find re­ally help­ful when I get in this mud­dle my­self, and I hope they might help you too.

The first step for me is to learn a new lick, phrase or con­cept and de­velop it over a five-minute back­ing track. I lis­ten to some­one who I re­ally like and find a lick that I would like to work into my playing. I tran­scribe it, fig­ure out what’s go­ing on har­mon­i­cally (look­ing for the essence or the con­cept if there is one) and fig­ure out where on the neck it feels nice un­der my fin­gers. I will then start im­pro­vis­ing over a back­ing track, try­ing at first to use only that lick, then devel­op­ing it in as many ways as I can; even­tu­ally I start mix­ing it in with other licks I know in the hope it will be­come ‘part of the fam­ily’. I’ll of­ten grab a few licks or ideas from some­thing I have tran­scribed re­cently and do the above process with each, then try blend­ing them to­gether.

The sec­ond is that I record my­self solo­ing over a five-minute back­ing track. I lis­ten back and keep an ear out for my pet licks and phrases. I note down a few and then record an­other solo over the same thing, avoid­ing those licks. I lis­ten back to that one and take note again of the of­fend­ing licks, write them out and avoid those too. At some point the tired old licks are re­placed with new stuff. If not, or I’m feel­ing re­ally stuck, I learn a bunch of new licks (see above).

There are of course many other ways to break out of th­ese ruts but I hope you’ll find th­ese ef­fec­tive if you find your­self bored with the same old tired licks!

i record my­selF solo­ing over a back­ing track and keep an ear out For my pet licks or phrases

Justin has ways to make your prac­tice time less frus­trat­ing

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