A clever way to add some rhythmic variety to your playing is to phrase notes in groups of odds and evens.
Even the simplest melodic idea can become an ear-twister with some odd rhythmic voodoo thrown into it.
The example below shows a basic E major pentatonic scale, played in groups of 4 then 5 notes, descending.
Think 1234 12345 1234 12345, etc… which causes the lines to break out of the predictable pattern and float over the barline. Players like Eric Johnson do this a lot.
The most important thing to do at first is to play as evenly as possible, and make the notes sound like they are all one line, not broken groups of 4 and 5. Accents can come later.
Once you start feeling comfortable with the pentatonic shape, you can apply the same idea to any scale or arpeggio sequence.
It’s also a good idea to play along with a metronome, drum machine, cuckoo clock or whatever keeps good time.
One of the worst habits I’ve developed is sitting down with the guitar and noodling on things I have played a million times before, not really trying to work on anything new or fresh.
This is the ‘Unproductive’ way to practice.
I can try to justify it by telling myself ‘Any playing is good…’ or something like that, but hit the gong, that’s a tired old routine.
How to fix? Find something new to practice. Usually it is just a matter of being brutally honest with yourself. And I mean BRUTALLY honest. When you come across something that is hard to play, that you just can’t get through cleanly, take a moment to figure out WHY it’s hard. Usually it boils down to something simple like the picking or the choice of fingering, etc… Once you narrow it down, isolate the problem and spend some time tackling it.
Well, here are some ideas to get you going, the rest is up to you.
1. Keep a journal of things you can’t play. When you practice, use it to ‘remind’ yourself what you need to practice.
2. Transcribe something from your cd collection. Anything you have to ‘think’ to figure out. Pick out little pieces and really explore the techniques involved, whether it’s picking, bending, sliding, slurring, whatever. If you find a bunch of tricky things, write them in your practice journal.
3. Try to play a common lick backwards. Sounds silly, huh? Try it.
4. Transpose a major-sounding lick to a minor sound. And vice-versa. Often as easy as flatting or sharping the third.