Why You Need To Think In Terms Of “Jazz Guitar Workouts”

You might be wondering, “What are “Jazz Guitar Workouts?”” It is a concept I discovered that consists of creating structured and timed routines for your jazz guitar practicing. A jazz guitar workout has similar framework to an exercise workout you might use at the gym.

I have two real-life stories that explain how I figured out a parallel between working out at the gym and “working out” on my jazz guitar.

Real-life Story #1: Working out as a teenager

When I was 14, I asked my parents for training weights. A few weeks later, they got me a nice set of dumbbells. I already had a few books that showed me plenty of exercises, but no plan. I just lifted the dumbbells over and over. It felt great! After a month or so, I was seeing some positive changes!

However, it did not take long before my progress slowed down. I tried new ideas to continue my growth, but found there were no real improvements. I began to think that I needed to train for hours! Having longer sessions of working out got me very exhausted — and still, no results.

The cure

Luckily, I was taught by my coach how to plan my workouts and make them shorter. During the next 10 years, I had many workout routines. I had fun combining exercises and formats. I knew what to mix together to build new routines to either lose fat, to bulk up, to developing strength … or whatever else I felt was in need of attention.

For example, this is one of my chest workouts for strength building:

  1. Incline dumbbell press and Incline dumbbell flies in super-sets — 3 sets of 10 reps
  2. Decline barbell bench press — 3 sets of 10 reps
  3. Overhead chest press — 3 sets of 12 reps
  4. Push-ups — 3 sets of until I hate my stubborn self

It took me less than an hour to perform.

The results were terrific. I was in good shape and strong. My goals always had a nice clear path I could follow ( I still had to work, of course!). The most important point of all: I had fun!

Here’s what I learned from that journey:

  1. An hour of focused working out three times a week is better than long sessions at random times.
  2. Being focused and avoiding distractions is a must to reach your goal.
  3. Putting a twist on exercises you already know will create new ones.
  4. Drinking water is good. 😉

Real-life Story #2: Learning Jazz Guitar as a young adult

When I decided to learn jazz guitar, I played every time I had a chance. I would play/practice(-ish) for 16 hours a day. My “sessions” varied from learning songs, to practicing theory, to working on new exercises, and even just noodling around. I was progressing so fast! It felt amazing!

Then, after some time, my progress became slower. Even with all the material I had, I found it hard to play when improvising or comping on some complicated pieces. In short, I knew a thousand things, but didn’t know how to use them.

My problem was that I had no structure. I just practiced “stuff.” (Does this sound like YOU?)

The revelation

A Systematic Path

Here enters the Systematic Path For Beginner, which I interpreted as a simple idea:

I can build my own jazz guitar workouts.

With all the material I had access to, I realized I am able to build as many jazz guitar workouts as I please. I can also put a twist on exercises or examples from a book and come up with a new one!

For example, here is a routine I did to work on my timing and repertoire.

  1. Warm-up: The Meditative Rhythm exercise while picking a Bb7 Bebop Scale (5 minutes)
  2. Pick a new standard. Learn the chords. Play them with a metronome clicking on beats 2 and 4. (20 minutes)
  3. Stick with the same standard. Learn the melody. Play it with a metronome clicking on beats 2 and 4. (20 minutes)
  4. Play a Bebop head I already know on a “slow” tempo a few times. Increase the metronome’s tempo by 5 BPM. Repeat until I hate myself, then progressively decrease the tempo. (10 minutes)

That’s it! 55 minutes of focused practice. My jazz guitar playing starting improving for real once I started using a structure! Important elements of playing, such as comping and improvising were no longer sources of fear for me! I set out with a new confidence to all of my gigs and jam sessions.

What I learned in this journey:

  1. Practicing for an hour max, three to four times a week is better than hours of noodling.
  2. Being focused and avoiding distractions is a must to reach your goal.
  3. Discover exercises and put a twist on them to create new ones.
  4. Drinking water is good. 😉

So … Why did it work?

  • Being focused for a short period of time with no distraction is more productive than hours of distracted work. Take a look a the Pomodoro technique for an example of that.
  • Structures create goals. Goals create challenges. And challenges get you closer to where you want to be.
  • Not everything has to be shown to you. You can create your own exercises and become your own teacher!
  • Drink water, it is good for you. 😉

Now, you know why planning “jazz guitar workouts” is a good idea. You are probably asking yourself: “How many times to I have to go to the gym?”, “When do I change program?”, “How do I know I am progressing?” All those questions and more are answered in our Private Instructor in a Box course:


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