Guitar Etudes – Warmup Exercises For Guitar By Pat Methany
For the past few weeks I’ve building my guitar practice sessions around Guitar Etudes – Warmup Exercises for Guitar by Pat Methany. This book is an exploration of Methany’s pre-show warm routine and features eleven studies, based on transcriptions of his actual pre-show playing. At first glance the book looks like a set of classical-music […]
For the past few weeks I’ve building my guitar practice sessions around Guitar Etudes – Warmup Exercises for Guitar by Pat Methany. This book is an exploration of Methany’s pre-show warm routine and features eleven studies, based on transcriptions of his actual pre-show playing.
At first glance the book looks like a set of classical-music inspired exercises. In fact, you can play them as they are written – that’s what I’ve done most days. There’s plenty in the book to challenge any player’s dexterity and stamina.
But, Methany doesn’t actually play the exercises as written studies. What he does is run through scales, arpeggios and classical themes in a semi-improvised way, working them up and down the neck and across different keys. I refer to it as semi-improvised, because unlike jazz, it’s not paying that follows chords as we find them in a song and the orders of notes often remains fixed as the patterns move, unlike the constantly varying flow of jazz lines and melodies.
That said, the exercises never sound like mindless shredding. There’s a musical logic to them; they sound like music. And, some of the exercises, the ones that most closely parallel classical etudes, make for quite pleasant listening.
Methany’s goal is to thoroughly warm himself up physically for a performance (he says he likes to play for at least an hour before a show) without exhausting the part of his mind used for improvisation. Methany wants to hit the first solo of the night feeling physically limber and mentally fresh.
Given that, what impresses about the studies in Guitar Etudes is the amount of information, in terms of scales and arpeggios that one needs to internalise in order to order to be able to riff and explore in this manner. Although there was nothing I couldn’t recognise (in terms of music theory), there were some arpeggios I had not practised including some challenging open patterns.
So you can approach Guitar Etudes in a few different ways. You can take the studies at face value and simply practice them as they appear in the book. Technically this will push anyone, from advanced beginner to seasoned player to be sharper and more controlled.
Or, you can mine the book for ideas, patterns and ways to combine arpeggios and single lines. Although none of the studies sound like jazz, they do get your fingers moving in ways that approximate the fingerings and dexterity you will need to play jazz. Too many guitar practice books run you up and down patterns that bear little resemblance to the way you play actual music.
Beyond that, you can come up with your own studies to warm up as Methany does. Of course, doing that will require you to learn (or re-learn) lots of scales and arpeggios, to the point where you can recombine them at will. But, that is the technical heart of great jazz playing, which is what makes this inspiring book of musical studies such a worthwhile challenge.