You’ve probably heard this phrase bandied about by pros and may have even used it yourself to sound cool and contribute to some after-hours conversation about the depths of music, but what does it actually mean? According to Vic, “When you learn the word milk, you already know what it tastes like,” he said. “You learn the word because you want more.” Okay, that could mean anything but he rescues it with this statement, “When you learn to talk, it’s not about saying it ‘right.’ It’s about saying it, right?” he asked. “It’s about expression.” Ah, now I get it, you practice by playing and trying to express yourself on the instrument, even if it sounds shite, at first. I like it.
The 80/20 Rule
That 80:20 ratio crops up everywhere but according to Vic most musicians spend about 80% of the time practicing, and only 20% of the time playing. What he suggests you do is turn that ratio on its ass and spend most of your time playing (in order to practice).
At one time or another you’ve probably spent hours practicing scales, and may even have felt a little dirty afterwards, as if you could have been doing something more… productive. Vic says that if you have to practice scales, you may as well make them groove. He goes on to say that the excessive practicing of scales develops fear among musicians, the fear of hitting the wrong note that is, rather than finding a way to deal with it. Vic’s philosophy is quite straightforward here: you can play any note you like as long as it grooves, and if you get into trouble there’s a ‘good’ note either side of it.
“I can groove it so hard that the band sounds wrong!”
Vic says that you should never play alone, even when you’re playing alone. What he means is that even when you are playing alone you should imagine (at least) the drummer, or the rest of the band, in your head. The good thing about this is that your imaginary bandmates hardly ever screw up, or show up late.
The Scale Exercise of Scale Exercises
This is the big one; as any self-respecting guitarist knows, there are more than enough scales to learn for several lifetimes, unless you’re Allan Holdsworth. Vic’s mammoth scale exercise basically involves using the chromatic scale to improvise which, in any given key, contains 7 right notes and 5 not so right notes; the idea being to get comfortable playing ALL OF THEM over chords. The chromatic scale is the one that’s used by the pros for tedious warm-up exercises but it’s never actually practiced as a scale, until now. Check it out on the guitar in C.