Carl Verheyen's Cranktone Chronicles

November 8, 2012

I DON’T BELIEVE IN EXERCISES. I’ve never felt it was useful to spend any time practicing things I can’t play on stage or in the studio. I know it’s a controversial point of view, and quite a few guitar teachers have cast wicked looks my way whenever I’ve presented this idea at master classes. Of course, many of these instructors have their students running exercises as their entire practice regime. I just don’t see the point.

Now, we all need to learn and practice scales in all positions. And we definitely need to know how to play the major and minor scales in ascending thirds and sixths—a typical exercise. But why practice them in that sequence if we’re not going to use them in a musical situation? All these things can be turned into musical lines for major, minor, and dominant keys, and that is the stuff worth practicing.

I’ve seen people warming up with silly flat-five sequences that are completely unmusical. I’ve seen hand-stretching exercises that cause physical pain after a few minutes. Why not stretch your range by transcribing and playing a beautiful Allan Holdsworth legato line that works over an F7 chord? At least it has an application, whereas most exercises don’t.

After you’ve learned all the essentials, why continue your musical studies by running down scales and arpeggios when you can be a musician by using what you know to play lines? My theory: There are no useful exercises, only music.

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