The Pareto Principle and Music Practice

Today’s topic is working on what really matters.  Not every practice routine is created equal, nor is every exercise created equal. Some things are created for specialization, or detailed work. Not all causes have an equal effect. In this article I want to discuss the Pareto principle and give you some examples of how it benefits your musical practice.

The Pareto Principle states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This means that for every 10 things that could possibly make you better, 2 of them will cover 80% of your growth. This is very good news. If we focus on the important stuff we will gain much greater improvement in a shorter time frame.  I will give you an example of how the Pareto Principle works.

Consider baking a cake. It starts with mixing all the ingredients together and putting it in the oven. Once it is done cooking, icing is added all over the cake. the baker decides to decorate the cake with a guitar on top, getting every detail the guitar has. Once it is all done, what part took the most time? The details that went into making the icing look good, right? That did not make the cake much bigger though.  80% of the cake was finished with 20% of the time it took to finish the cake. There are many more examples in our world of how the Pareto Principle works.

My point is that you can get a large bulk of the information and skill you need to play music well with less work. If you focus on the important stuff, then it will be easy to gain success. If you start working on the decorative icing without the cake being baked first, you may not see any improvement at all. Making wise choices in the practice room can make great improvement in your skill.

The Pareto Principle is a valuable tool that reminds us to focus on what is important. If you are doing something and don’t see improvement then you may want to consider if it is really part of that 20% that makes the 80%. Time is limited and if you use it wisely you will get more from what time you spend than if you didn’t use it the best way. Best luck and have fun finding that 20%.

The Pareto Principle is like baking a cake with a guitar on it.

The Pareto Principle is like baking a cake with a guitar on it.

 

Moving Forward With Slap Guitar

  1. Fundamentals of Slap Guitar
  2. Moving Forward With Slap Guitar
  3. Adding plucks to your slap guitar technique
  4. Examples of slap guitar

By now you know what it takes to create a nice slap sound. If you need to review the fundamentals of slapping the guitar please review lesson 1. Slap guitar can be taken much farther than just slapping 1 string. You can become more adventurous and add more technique and more interesting ideas to your slap guitar playing. In this lesson you will learn how you can start improving your technique by adding more to what you already know.

 

A Slapped Note Does Not Hang Around.

We just covered an exercise where you play quarter notes at 60 beats per minute with a metronome. In this exercise you were slapping the low E string. The next step to slap is to stop the note when you play it. So do this exercise again and each time you hit a note let it ring for a moment, but stop it with your left hand before you slap again. You can stop the sound by placing your fingers over the strings. This will make your slap sound cleaner and make it more focused.

 

Guitarists can be drummers too!

Slap guitar is very rhythmic. Slap would be boring if it was not. So to make your slap more rhythmic you can use your left hand to make a noise. Do this exercise: Slap the low E string on the beat at 60 beats per minute. On the & of each beat slap your left hand fingers down on the strings.  The left hand is a rhythmic tool for your slapping. A very small percentage of slap guitar is actual played notes. These percussion sounds are what makes guitarists similar to drummers.

 

A Guitarist and a Drummer Had Triplets

A lot of slapping can be done with a triplet feel. Before you attempt doing this exercise make sure you have worked on the 8th note exercise above. This time you are going to play an 8th note triplet. You hit the low E string every beat. You will then make the left hand percussive sound and then you leave your left hand fingers down to mute while you slap your thumb again. The third hit is a muted thumb slap. No pitches should be played; it is just a percussive sound.  Once you are comfortable with this you can start to speed up your slapping. Speed it up slowly to ensure proper technique.

 

Conclusion

Slapping guitar will sound more refined if you stop the note from ringing every once in a while. You can use this opportunity to be rhythmic by stopping the note with a rhythmic noise by slapping your left hand down. If you mute the strings with your left hand you can still use your right hand thumb to slap again and make a percussive sound without a note ringing out. A lot of slap guitar is done with a triplet feel so you can practice slapping with triplets. Enjoy!

Fundamentals of Slap Guitar

  1. Fundamentals of Slap Guitar
  2. Moving Forward With Slap Guitar
  3. Adding plucks to your slap guitar technique
  4. Examples of slap guitar

Welcome! Have you ever come across a guitarist who was slapping his guitar? Typically this technique is done on bass, but it can be done on guitar as well. It is a fun technique to learn and can sound very cool. Slap is primarily used in the funk style and sounds best with a funk sound. After reading this lesson you should be able to know how to slap the guitar, and the challenges of slapping. This lesson will focus primarily on the thumb. Later on we will talk about adding finger plucking to your slap to make it even more fun!

Slap Guitar Is Like a Bounce House

Pretend you are in a bounce house for a minute. When you jump you go down, then bounce right back up. The same principle applied in slap. When you slap your guitar strings you should bounce back up. If you don’t bounce up it won’t work well. Another illustration of slapping the guitar is being on the moon. Have you ever seen movies on people on the moon? They float down and back up. This does not mean that you constantly have to be going back down to slap the string over and over, but when you slap the string you should bounce up quickly.

Slapping Is Not Hard, But The Part Of Your Thumb You Use Should Be.

Think about it. Slapping has a pretty bumpy harsh sound to it. Do you think you can get that sound better by dropping cotton on the strings or dropping a hard bouncy ball on the strings? Of course the bouncy ball is going to make the sound better. Same concept goes with your thumb. When you play slap guitar you should use the side of your thumb at the knuckle. This is the hardest part of your thumb. This will make that pop slap sound better.

Low Strings Make the Best Slappers

When you are using this guitar technique you will find that the 2 lowest strings make the best strings to slap on. Once you get higher than the A string you are better off using other fingers to pluck them. Typically the easiest string to slap on is the low E. It may take some practice to get the A string to sound good slapping, but it will get easier.

Practice Simple To Perfect Your Happy Slappy Technique

To start practicing this technique I suggest you put on a metronome at around 60 beats per minute and hit the low E string each beat. You can use our metronome at GitGuitar here. Concentrate on hitting the string with the correct part of the thumb. You should also concentrate on bouncing off the string. For an extra little note: You will find some areas of the guitar string are easier to slap on. So you may want to experiment to find the hot spot on your guitar. Once you can play quarter notes at 60 slapping with perfect technique you can move on to more advanced techniques using slap.

Conclusion

Slap guitar is a fun technique you can use to sound more funky. Typically this technique is a funky bass technique, but guitarists can use it also. To get the perfect sound in this technique you need to bounce your hand quickly off the strings. You should also use the hard part of your thumb. Practice quarter notes at 60 beats per minute and you will improve dramatically. Enjoy!

Guitar exercise that will help your guitar stretching

Are you trying to play a chord that you just can’t quite reach? Does stretching up 5 frets while playing a scale feel awkward to you? There are exercises that can help you build up your flexibility on the guitar. There are many different exercises to help with flexibility, but in this lesson I am going to show you one that I like to use. With this exercise you will find those hard to play chords get easier.

Before we begin I want to warn you against pushing yourself too hard. You want to get a stretch, and when you are done with this your fingers may be a bit tired. What you do not want is pain. If you stretch too hard you should stop to prevent injury. Just like stretching any other part of your body, you should not push yourself too far. You may not be able to complete this exercise at first, but with some patience you will be able to. The First step is to put your fingers in the starting position.

guitar exercise position 1.

Guitar exercise shape 1 with the pinky on the D string.

 

guitar exercise position 2

Guitar exercise shape 2 with the pinky on the high E string.

There are 2 of these positions you can start in. The concept works the same way in both, and I suggest you practice both positions for the best results. In both positions the pinky will start on the 12th fret. In position 1 the pinky is on the D string, in position 2 the pinky is on the high E string. Now that you are in the starting position and ready to stretch let me explain how this works.

Hold all the notes down and strum them 1 by 1 to make sure they are not muffled. Move your first (index) finger down 1 fret and strum the strings again. If all the strings are played perfectly you can move your middle finger down 1 fret. The middle finger and index finger are now sitting next to each other. Make sure every note is played and not muffled. If all the strings in the shape are played you can now move your third finger down a fret. Repeat the strumming process. Finally you move your pinky down one fret and you will be in the exact same position that you started in.

How this works is that as you move down the fret board, the frets get wider. This will create more tension in your fingers which causes the stretching. By the time you get all the way down you will be struggling to make the stretch. It is even harder when you play it on a classical guitar which has even wider frets. So don’t worry, there is always a challenge. The hardest part of this stretch for most people is the stretching between the middle and ring fingers. Make sure you play these notes clearly, especially between these fingers.

This stretching exercise will make your fingers more flexible so that playing stretchy chords or scales that require a stretch you will be prepared and capable of executing them. This also makes a great guitar warm-up. Guitar stretching is important so your fingers are not limited in their abilities. I have attached a video below of me playing this exercise so you can see it being played. I apologize for the poor lighting.

 

 

How to play guitar scales with proper fingerings

Out of all the incorrect ways to play guitar, improper fingerings is probably one of the most common bad habits we create. This is because the correct way to play doesn’t come naturally at first. When you approach a new scale or lick it is important that you play it with correct fingerings. This will help you learn faster and it won’t hinder you in your future studies. Correct fingering is closely related to positions on guitar. Let’s take a look at the definition of guitar position.

A guitar position is determined by the fret number your first finger is on. If you lay your first finger on the fifth fret then you are in 5th position. This is important because when you correctly finger a scale you should have one finger per fret. So if your first finger is on the 5th fret, your middle finger will be on the 6th fret so on. There are a few exceptions to this.

The first exception is when you switch positions during a scale. Certain scales require you to slide down a fret to play them correctly. You are still playing with 1 finger per fret, but you changed the set of fingerings to fit the new position.  The scale could also require a slide up to a new position. This does not change the rule of one note per fret, it just changes the position you are in.

The second exception to this is when a scale requires a stretch that cannot be handled with sliding to a new position. You may alter your fingerings to be able to play these scales because they cannot be played one finger per fret. The fingerings for these are not important until you are more advanced, but this exception does exist. Now let’s take a look at what people do that is incorrect.

The most common incorrect finger I have seen is when a person refuses to use their pinky. Yeah, I know the pinky is the weakest finger. This is not a good habit to create and should be avoided and fixed. Another problem I have come across is when people play with one finger. They slide that finger around. Don’t waste the energy. This is bad, it slows you down and you waste 3 fingers. Maximum efficiency is what we are aiming for.

On the topic of maximum efficiency I would like to mention that while you practice scales you should be conscious of how far you take your fingers off the strings. The closer you keep your fingers to the strings the smoother you will play, and it will help with speed greatly. Try this exercise: put your palm of your hand on your leg. Tap your leg starting with your pinky rolling your other fingers in order one at a time. First keep your fingers close to your leg and tap as fast as you can. Then I want you to lift your fingers as high as you can and try to tap as fast as you can. Which one is faster and easier? Paying attention to how close you keep your fingers is an important part of playing guitar.

We have covered the basics to correctly finger guitar scales. You keep your fingers one finger per fret unless it is one of the exceptions and keep your fingers close to the strings. These may not come naturally, but be patient and it will get easier to the point where you don’t have to think about it anymore. Practice smart!