What Do You Play?


I typically play guitar a minimum of two hours a day. I know that I’m lucky to have this much time each day (to ROCK) as a lot of us are way too busy with life to spend that amount of time playing guitar each day. On the other hand, some may say that this is NOT ENOUGH! And I will also admit that I regularly have 4-5 hour jams, just me, my guitar and maybe the radio or some CDs.


I normally start off with the same routine. I begin by warming up a little bit by playing a few scales, some exercises given to me by my guitar teacher. Next, I get to work on the material from last week’s lesson. I take a quick break, and then it’s back to playing guitar! I’ll play along to the radio for a bit, changing stations as needed, hunting for songs that I can already play well. If it’s a song that I don’t play so well, I try and work out the bugs. And of course, if a song comes on that I don’t know at all, I try to learn it, provided it’s a song that I like. But I always seem to fall back on a list of songs that I play daily. If I haven’t played Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” on my Les Paul, or SRV’s “The Sky Is Crying” on my Strat that day…. well, my world some how just isn’t right.


On certain occasions,  I’ll play songs that I don’t usually play, not at least on a regular basis. These type of songs are very mood-fitting. Like when I feel the need to release some angry raw aggression? The Clash “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” Extremely easy song to learn and play. No hard, tricky guitar solo to learn (which is the beauty of the song, I think). And the harder you bang it out…the better it sounds and feels! Follow that up with a few other angry punk or metal tracks, and…. wow! I feel much better! But that’s not all the time. Just the other night I got lost in a couple of hours worth of Pink Floyd. Playing along to 3 different CDs of their music, switching between my electric and acoustic guitars. Mellow, almost celestial.  But before the night ends, I begin to play from my set list. It’s always been at least 10 tracks long. As many as 30 a couple times too. It seems that each and every day, I find myself playing the songs on it. Musically it jumps around a bit, but it has helped me to learn the various styles of many different guitar players.


It might be surprising to know that I have only been taking guitar lessons for about 5-6 months…but…. I’ve been playing guitar since I was a teenager. I play by ear. By listening, I taught myself how to play the guitar. I couldn’t comprehend playing guitar any other way. The lessons I am now taking have really helped me to progress and break through some barriers that were holding me back. But even with the lessons, I still find that I am listening more than watching in order to learn.  I am now playing a lot of songs, that before, I just couldn’t quite figure out…. and I do play without the radio or CDs too. I like to go to guitarbackingtrack.com and find something cool to jam along to. I haven’t really come up with a solid original yet that’s made the regular rotation, but it’s always fun to ad-lib and make it up as I go along!


Everyone has there own way of doing things. I have yet to meet two different guitar players that do things the same way. I also know that there are many guitar players out there who are more technical, and more technically skilled than I am. I know personally that I lack discipline. I get bored REAL QUICK when playing stuff like scales over and over again, although it’s something which I learned, I should have been doing from the very start! The point is,  everyone has a different approach…. what’s yours? Got a routine? Some favorites that you play every time you break out your axe? What do you play?

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  • Bill

    Hey Art,

    I think we might be apple that fell off the same tree…I am also self taught and played for 8 years or so, then dropped it for 15 years…I got bored with it. Mostly because 15 years ago we did not have the kind of on-line resources that are available today…like the backtrack website you mentioned…I use it all the time!
    Anyway, I too lack discipline and tend to jump around all the time in terms of my practice activities. I like to play along with my favorite songs and I like to practice improvising over blues progressions. I think the most important thing is to have FUN…if it’s not FUN, then why bother!

    With all the online resources available, I am back to having fun with my playing, lots of ways to learn music theory and how to play songs…just go to youtube!

    Anyway, the passion is back and I could go on for hours about it…but I will spare you all of that.

    I tend to warm up to blues scales over a blues progression, something with a slow tempo. Then I tend to move toward playing easy songs that I like….AC/DC is a great example..4 or 5 chords, simple solo’s…I find there stuff is great warm up material. Then I progress to learning a new song or technique. Also tend to video myself so I can watch it after and critique myself.

    Talk to you later!

  • Art Tryon

    Bill, that’s awesome! Sounds like we do have a lot in common when it comes to guitar playing! I will never put it down again! Too much fun and way too much love for it now. Not the same as when I was a younger man. It used to frustrate me, not anymore.

  • I’m with you guys. I’m self taught on piano, bass and I’ve had some guitar lessons. I can’t read music and play mostly by ear. Now I need to get back on track with lessons, it really helps to advance quicker and reduce bad habits (think I have one or two of those too!!!). Another good one Art… thanks!

  • Johnny Lee (No BS Guitar)

    Hey Art,

    I think there’s nothing wrong with doing it just the way you’ve been doing it if you’re seeing progress. Obviously if you spent more practicing, overall you would progress faster. But not everyone has 10 hours a day like Steve Vai did.

    I agree, it’s really boring to play scales all day. I don’t try to do that too much. I’d rather learn songs, and the solos that go with those songs so that I have a repertoire of actual music I can pull out when it’s time to play. Running through scales all day will not give you that. So I think you’re doing great. Keep it up!


  • Art Tryon

    Thanks Johnny! I’d rather learn songs too. Though since I learned to play by ear, it took a while before I felt really comfortable playing by myself. Without hearing the rest of the “band” I get lost easily. Not as much of a problem anymore. I can’t imagine playing/learning any other way than I have always done. It’s what works for me!

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