Technical work – a vital part of every guitarist’s recipe book

Whatever level you’re currently at with your guitar playing, whether you have a teacher or not, whether you’re a performer or not, whether you are a teacher yourself or not, one cannot overlook the fact that technical work, technical exercises and so on are an absolute must. It’s the foundation upon which you can build a magnificent edifice of guitar playing and take you forwards in pretty much any direction you care to take your playing.

Some may say, well it’s kind of boring though. In response to that I say this – well, you’re the one playing it; it’s up to you to make it interesting and musical!!

Just like the veggies on your dinner plate are a vitally nutritious part of a healthy diet, so are your scales and exercises a healthy and “nutritious” part of your playing and learning “diet”. The petulant child doesn’t want to eat their veggies – perhaps they’ve been presented in a very dull, uninspiring and limp kind of manner, perhaps said child has been over-indulged in the alternatives and now only wants to eat the meat or the ice cream following on from the mains. If you only eat meat or ice cream it’ll keep you going for a while, but you’ll perhaps not be the healthiest, you won’t be able to perform at your physical (and perhaps even mental) optimum, you may even find yourself getting….ahem….bunged up…

If you don’t work on your scales, your exercises and technical development you’ll get so far, but, just as if you don’t eat your veggies, you may in fact be stunting your development and you may well get bunged up too, in a manner of speaking! And there are no vitamin pills or shots to be taken to supplement your practice!! You gotta eat it up!

And so, instead of presenting yourself (or, teachers, presenting students) with limp, dull and uninspiring technical exercises that seem to be there just for the sake of being there, and a chore to eat down, you’ve got to flip that around!

How can you add some zest? How can you add spice? How can the pieces you’re currently playing or learning be complemented? What scales or exercises will really help you extract the greatest “flavour” and “taste” from those pieces? Your teacher should certainly be able to help, if they’re not doing so already. If they are – pay attention! Hah hah!  If not, I’m always happy to provide advice if you want to get in contact directly.

It’s difficult to provide specific advice through a simple, relatively small blog post, as you, dear readers, are many and varied with as many different needs. But, if your technical work has taken a back seat for a while, or has dropped off altogether, to get you back on track you can’t go past the good ol’ scales.

And these can be played in sooooo many ways – piano, forte, rising and falling dynamics, staccato, legato, etouffe, ponticello, tasto with all of the right handing fingering combinations at your disposal, apoyando, tirando, various rhythmic variations, pulses for building speed and accuracy and so on……all together in all sorts of combinations that I’m sure you’re imaginative enough to concoct. If you go through all the diatonic scales too it has the added benefit of assisting you to brush up on your key signatures, and knowledge of the circle of fifths – a double whammy! Now that’s what I call a supersize meal deal! Eat up!

5 thoughts on “Technical work – a vital part of every guitarist’s recipe book

  1. I find scales and other technical work is always much more appealing when you know it’s contributing towards something. I was very fortunate when I was learning electric guitar to have a teacher that made me improvise every lesson – once I got over the initial shock I was quite pleased to learn that they can be used to create, and that more fluency means more wonderful creations.

    However, in my ten years of piano lessons prior to that scales were just boring exercises to do and something that had to be learnt to pass exams. Talk about contrast in approach!

    1. My early piano lessons were like that too. It took me a long time to realise that they weren’t an end in themselves!! I vowed, therefore, never to teach in that way myself and always make technical work relevant and serve a purpose 🙂

  2. Hi Nicole. I’ve only just discovered your blog, and I find it wonderful! I don’t live in a major city, so I don’t have many opportunities to connect with other classical guitarists. Blogs like yours help me feel a little less isolated 🙂

    I haven’t yet gone through all your older posts, but if you haven’t yet written one, could I suggest a post revealing any tips and tricks you might have on how to get really good at tremolo?

    Thanks again for your awesome blog!


    1. Hi Richard,

      Thanks for your lovely message. It always makes me smile to know that folks like your good self read the blog and find it a little useful.

      And a great suggestion for a post too! Love it! I’ll definitely put some top tips together and share. Thanks for that.


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