When you’re just starting out on the guitar, you spend most of your practicing time learning new things.
By the time you reach an intermediate level of guitar playing, you will know quite a lot of stuff.
A common mistake I see many students make at this stage is to keep learning new things without consolidating what they already know and playing the same things better.
For instance, learning Black Sabbath songs such as Electric Funeral, Solitude, and Paranoid should be within your reach.
However, when you record and listen to yourself playing those songs, you’ll realize you don’t quite sound like Tony Iommi.
You’re not exactly on time; there’s unwanted string noise; your articulation is weak; your bends are not perfect; and your vibrato sounds sloppy.
This is completely normal at this stage!
What you should do, while also learning new things, is to also spend time improving your existing skills.
Which is the aim of the guitar workout in this lesson.
You’ll probably learn only a few new things in today’s lesson (or none at all), but as with a workout at the gym, you’ll be training yourself to do what you already know better.
Guitar practice workout 1: A minor natural scale
We’re going to start with the A minor natural scale using a 3-note per string pattern.
Most of the exercises in this workout are going to be based on this particular scale pattern.
Use the given picking directions.
Guitar practice workout 2: Articulation exercises
How strongly do you hit the strings with your pick?
Beginner guitar students usually don’t hit the strings with enough strength.
Intermediate students start hitting the string with enough strength, but advanced guitar players go a step further.
Rather than “hitting the strings strongly enough”, they develop the ability to control the dynamics – the loudness of each note.
What, in music theory terminology would be described as piano and forte.
As a first step to developing this ability, we’re going to play the scale given above but picking it differently.
Articulation exercise 1
Play the above scale, using the same picking directions, but hitting each note as strongly as possible applying equal strength to each note.
Make sure you don’t hit any unwanted strings. If you can’t help hitting unwanted strings, reduce the strength you’re applying.
Articulation exercise 2
Next, play the A minor natural scale using only upstrokes.
When playing the guitar in general, down strokes are used more often than upstrokes, thus the upstroke is practiced less.
I frequently apply this exercise to whatever I’m practicing on the guitar at the time.
This is not only an investment in my articulation technique but also in building my speed on the guitar.
Guitar practice workout 3: Rhythm exercises
In this set of exercises, we’re going to change the rhythm in which the scale is played.
Rhythm exercise 1
First, we’re going to play the notes in triplets.
Make sure you get the feel of the triplet well before trying it on the scale.
Rhythm exercise 2
Next we’re playing the scale using semiquavers (or sixteenth notes)
Notice that I lowered the tempo for you to be able to play this. And that if I lowered the tempo by half, you would be playing the same notes, at the same speed, as in the first example in this lesson.
However the feel of the semiquaver is a bit different to that of the quaver (or eight note).
Rhythm exercise 3
In this exercise on rhythm we’re going to mix the rhythmic groupings described above.
Guitar practice workout 4: Hammer ons and pull offs
So far we have played the A minor natural scale picking every note.
Now we’re going to play the same scale using hammer ons as we go down and pull offs as we go up, picking only the first note of each string.
Click here for more hammer on and pull off exercises.
The next thing to do is to practice this same exercise using the different rhythmic grouping of notes practiced in the rhythm section of this guitar workout.
Guitar practicing workout 5: Scale sequences
In the last section of this workout we’re going to change the order the notes of the scale are played, thus creating scale sequences.
Scale sequence 1
In this sequence the notes of the scale are played in this order: 1 2 3, 2 3 4, 3 4 5, 4 5 6 etc.
Scale sequence 2
In this sequence the notes are played in this order: 1 2 3 4, 2 3 4 5, 3 4 5 6, etc.
Conclusion: Create your own workouts
Using the gym metaphor again, working out is not something you only do once and expect big results.
It’s important to workout frequently.
And as with the gym, you don’t necessarily do the same exercises every time.
Thus, while you should revisit this lesson and go through this intermediate guitar workout many times (and improve both accuracy and speed as you go along), it’s also good to create your own workouts.
These should be based on your needs at the time.
Needless to say, you still need to learn new things on the guitar, but having regular workouts like the one in this lesson will not only improve on what you already know, but also makes learning new things easier to learn.
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