Mastering Guitar Techniques with Guitar Aerobics

Photo by Xie lipton on Unsplash

Mastering Guitar Techniques with Guitar Aerobics

The Value of Strategy and Persistence


This article is for advanced guitar players or very stubborn new players with courage and motivation. Today, I would like to talk about the book "Guitar Aerobics", a guitar technique book that has been miraculously effective for me. The key to its effectiveness? Consistent practice—10-20 minutes every day.

For beginners: Remember, learning to play the guitar is a journey, not a race. You're not expected to master every technique immediately. Instead, focus on understanding and mastering each exercise before moving on to the next. The key to becoming a proficient guitar player is consistent practice. Even if it's just 10-20 minutes a day, the more you practice, the more comfortable you'll become with the instrument. And don't worry if it seems overwhelming at first. With time and practice, you'll start to recognize patterns and techniques that might look similar. So, keep practicing, and most importantly, enjoy the process!

I. The Book

"Guitar Aerobics" is a comprehensive guide designed to enhance your guitar skills. This book is structured as a 52-week, one-technique-per-day workout program, progressively increasing in difficulty. Each day introduces a new technique, such as alternate picking, string skipping, and string bending. These techniques are presented within the context of musical examples applicable across a variety of genres including rock, blues, jazz, metal, country, and funk.

Each technique is accompanied by a detailed description, including its origin, scales, rhythms, and performance tips. The book also provides a practice routine for each technique, divided into eight sets. Each set includes a specific tempo and a set number of repetitions for you to play.

The book is supplemented with two audio CDs containing all the exercises from the 52 weeks. If you prefer, you can access the tracks online. A code to access these online tracks will be provided on the first page of the book.

The author's goal is to make your practice sessions enjoyable and engaging, eliminating the monotony often associated with traditional technique books. The book is suitable for all skill levels, from beginners to advanced players, and offers a unique learning experience for everyone.

By mastering the seven techniques presented in the book, you will be able to overcome any limitations and acquire the tools necessary to achieve your goals as a guitar player.

The Techniques

The book introduces several techniques that can be applied in different musical contexts. Here's a brief overview:

  • Alternate Picking is a technique that involves alternating between downstrokes and upstrokes with your picking (right) hand.

  • String Skipping is a technique that involves skipping over certain strings with your pick, instead of playing them.

  • String Bending is a technique that involves bending the string with your fretting fingers (left hand) to create different sounds.

  • Arpeggios are chords where the notes are played in rapid succession rather than simultaneously.

  • Sweep Picking is a technique that involves using one continuous down or upstroke to play two or more adjacent-string notes.

  • Legato is performed with hammer-ons and pull-offs, which are techniques used with the fretting hand to sound the notes instead of using a pick.

    • A hammer-on is when you sound a note by striking the string with your fretting finger.

    • A pull-off is when you pull your fretting finger away from the string, allowing the note to ring out.

  • Rhythm is a technique that is a collection of techniques used to perform various functions as they relate to a specific rhythmic style.

Each of these techniques is designed to help you improve your guitar skills, with the exercises becoming progressively more difficult each week.

How To Use

  • Techniques and Genres

The book delves into various musical techniques and applies them to a range of genres including rock, blues, jazz, metal, country, and funk. This approach ensures a comprehensive understanding of how these techniques can be applied across diverse music styles.

  • Practice Tips

Each exercise is divided into eight sets, each with a specific tempo and repetition count. This structured approach aids in developing muscle memory, enhancing speed, and improving accuracy. For those struggling with a particular tempo, the book suggests gradually reducing it and building up once comfortable.

  • Music Description and Tempo

The book offers a brief description of each exercise, including its origin, scales, rhythms, etc. This aids in understanding the context in which the technique is used. Additionally, it provides performance tips, which can be particularly helpful for beginners.

  • Accompanying Audio

The book is complemented by play-along grooves in eight different musical styles at various metronome settings. These tracks allow learners to apply the techniques in various musical contexts. The audio serves as a listening aid and a tool for active practice, used in conjunction with the tablature to help learners understand and master the techniques. Once the learners understand the tab and the corresponding audio track, they can use the rhythm tracks to play along with the exercises, further enhancing their understanding and mastery of the material.

II. Overcoming Challenges: A Personal Journey

Strategy and Persistence

When it comes to mastering the exercises in "Guitar Aerobics", persistence and a strategic approach are key. One strategy I've found effective is to dedicate an entire week to an exercise that poses a challenge. This method is particularly beneficial given the book's guideline of one-lick-per-day practice. Pausing or repeating a day could disrupt your practice schedule, causing you to practice the exercise for Friday on Saturday (and for the rest of the book). The key here is to maintain focus and not let this disruption deter you from your goal. This focused approach allows for an in-depth immersion in the technique, without the distractions of other exercises.

I believe that if an exercise seems too complex to master within a 30-minute practice session, it's more beneficial to dedicate a full week to it. This approach promotes a deeper understanding and internalization of the technique. Hastily going through the learning process can lead to a significant waste of time spent on unlearning and relearning techniques, which is not time well spent.

The Crucial Role of Accuracy

One of the most profound lessons I've learned from this journey is the importance of accuracy. In the early stages of my guitar journey, I was a big fan of Guns N' Roses and was heavily influenced by Slash's playing style. However, as I started to dabble in more technical and precise solos, I quickly realized that Slash's style didn't translate well to the more advanced techniques.

Slash often employed 1-2-0-4 or 1-0-3-4 notes on the left hand and picked only once with the right hand. Now, if you're a good student, you might have recognized this as legato, and you'd be right. This approach is excellent for rock and blues music, but it's not ideal for shredding or playing complex solos. It took me approximately four years to comprehend this, and during that period, I encountered significant challenges when trying to play songs by artists like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and John Petrucci.

To overcome this, I had to unlearn a lot of what I had learned from Slash's style. This process was long and arduous, requiring a lot of rewiring and lots of practice. However, it was a necessary step in my journey to becoming a better guitarist.

Shredding, for those who are wondering, is a term often used to describe a heavy, fast, and technical guitar-playing style, often associated with metal and rock music. It involves playing fast, precise, and complex solos, which can be quite challenging to master.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, "Guitar Aerobics" is a comprehensive guide that offers a structured approach to improving guitar technique. Its 52-week, one-lick-per-day workout program provides a clear path for players of all levels to enhance their skills. The book's focus on consistent practice and gradual progression of exercises ensures that every session is challenging yet achievable. The techniques taught are applicable across a variety of musical genres, offering a well-rounded learning experience.

The most important takeaway from this journey is the value of persistence and unlearning. Sometimes, progress requires stepping back to reassess and relearn certain techniques. This process, while challenging, is crucial for true mastery of the instrument.

Finally, remember to have fun with your guitar playing, regardless of your level, and never forget that practice makes perfect. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, you can become a skilled and accomplished guitarist and enjoy the many rewards that come with playing this amazing instrument. Keep practicing, keep experimenting, and don’t be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Happy playing! 🎸

🎶 MUSIC BIT: "Out Of The Blue" is an instrumental highlight from the acclaimed guitarist John Petrucci's album "Terminal Velocity", released on August 28, 2020. This track is a testament to Petrucci's exceptional talent and his proficiency in crafting intricate, melodic compositions on the guitar.

Among the first five new songs written for the album, "Out Of The Blue" was chosen as the opening track due to its catchy and memorable melody. The guitar work in the track was manipulated to create memorable soundscapes, a hallmark of Petrucci's style.

While it's inspiring to strive to play like John Petrucci or any other accomplished guitarist, it's crucial to remember that authentic music arises from your personal expression. The key to playing well is not to mimic others but to play what you feel and hear in your mind. This entails expressing your own melody and employing various techniques to bring that melody to life.

In simpler terms, you're essentially trying to speak like someone else. This is not the essence of music; you need to find your own voice. Instead of aiming to play exactly like Petrucci or any other virtuoso, try to incorporate their style to a certain extent. Use the techniques you've learned to articulate your individual musical vision.

Perhaps, listening to Eric Clapton explain this in his own words might provide more clarity on the points I am making here. I encourage you to watch the following video:

Before you leave, if you're interested in understanding the expenses involved in setting up a high-quality beginner guitar kit for a novice player, I've written an article a few weeks back that could be beneficial to you:
The Affordable Melody: Your Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Musician on a Budget

That's all for this week, goodbye for now, and stay tuned for a new article in two weeks! 👋🏻

Did you find this article valuable?

Support Nidal Iguer by becoming a sponsor. Any amount is appreciated!