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Steve Vai had an article appear in a 2004 issue of Guitar World detailing his suggested practice regimen. The article was called “Freak Show Excess: Steve Vai’s 30-Hour Path to Virtuoso Enlightenment or How to Destroy Your Pop Career in One Easy Lesson”. Typical Steve Vai humor abounds.

The 30-hour workout is meant to be completed over three days, ten hours each. It’s an update to the original 10-hour workout published in a 1990 GW issue.

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I’ve been practicing up to ten hours a day for the past few months, lifting ideas from Vai’s articles, but I hadn’t attempted to follow his workout precisely until yesterday. I’ll break it down.

Guitar Stuff

Guitar Stuff

 guitar lessons london Guitar Stuff Guitar Lessons in London

Hour 1: Finger Exercises

The workout begins with a heaping helping of non-musical finger exercises. I normally try to steer clear of these. Steve’s reasoning is that the best path to technical proficiency is to practice something physically awkward to play, working on it slowly until it can be played flawlessly. I completely agree, but I’d rather do that with something I’ll use more often than random chromatic permutations. I gave it a try anyway.

 

This section is divided into a number of different techniques: linear and angular exercises, tapping, sweeping, legatos, etc. I started with linear exercises yesterday. These are single string runs with minimal position or string shifting.

Finger Exercises

Finger Exercises

Hour 2: Scales

The goal here is simple: learn every scale you can in as many fingerings as you can find or create. Obviously tough to do in an hour, but if you spend an hour on this every day for a year, you’ll get somewhere. Steve stresses the importance of learning the sound of every scale you practice and making sure it’s totally flawless before increasing the tempo.

I kept things simple with the E major scale yesterday. I started with a 12th-fret position, 8th notes at 60bpm, and worked my way down the fretboard through all the CAGED and three note per string positions, then all over again with 8th note triplets. I kept the tempo slow so I could be really meticulous about hitting every note exactly how I wanted to.

Hour 3: Chords

The first of three sections was memorizing. I just spent an entire weekend memorizing 7th chords, so I continued. I worked on maj7, 7, m7, and m7b5 on the top four strings, all four inversions.

Hour 4: Ear Training

I already do this every day. Easy-peasy.

I use special ear training software, but Steve has a lot of suggestions for ear training with your guitar alone, most of which involve singing. My throat still hurts from a recent sickness, so I’ll pick them up later.

Hour 5: Reading Music

I do this one every day too. Lemon-squeazy.

Steve’s biggest point in this section is variety. Once you know how to read music, read as many different styles and instruments as you can get your hands on.

He confirmed my belief that the two keys to sight reading are recognising patterns and looking ahead. Different styles and instruments have unique patterns to recognize, so playing a wide variety helps.

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