Originally published in Guitar World, July 2004
Shadows Fall's Jon Donais gives Guitar World readers some practice tips.
1) Warm up.
Run through all the modes and pentatonic scales in legato style [i.e. using hammer-ons and pull-offs]. Be sure to change the key at times—and don’t avoid the ones you never use.
2) Use alternate-picking.
Once your fret hand is ready, get your picking hand warmed up by picking every note as you fret it, using alternate picking. Start slowly and gradually build up speed. And use a metronome! I didn’t practice with one for years and I regret it, because my instinct is always to play faster.
3) Read guitar magazines.
You can always learn something new from other players.
4) Jam with other guitarists’ music.
I do this all the time, especially with DVDs, because you can see what they’re doing. Even if you mess up a lot, jamming like this will often unearth new playing ideas that you would never have come up with otherwise.
5) Write your own material.
Unless you want to be in a cover band, always try to come up with your own material. You can practice all day long and be the best technical player in the world, but if you can’t write a riff or a song you’re pretty much screwed.
Anything by John Petrucci or Paul Gilbert—they’re both great teachers.