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Posts: 64
Joined: Dec. 2 2006
From: Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Structured practice 

Hi all,

I have been focusing on technique since the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, I don't get very much time to practice, so I want to make sure that I am making the best possible use of my time.

Here is a lenghty description of how I do it now. I apologize in advance if this puts you to sleep.

On average, I get about an hour a day of dedicated technique practice. I always use a metronome.

My current structure is:
20 minutes of exercises for the left hand and right-left synchronization
30-40 minutes of drilling a specific right hand technique with short breaks (5-10 mins total) to work on other techniques, especially the weaker ones (read: tremolo)

For the "specific technique," I cycle through the following each week:
- rasgueados
- picado
- thumb apoyando
- alzapua
- arpeggios
- tremolo
- ligados

My approach is as follows. I do this with multiple exercises:

(1) Start very slowly, with one motion per beat (e.g., one picado stroke, or one finger of rasgeo, etc), concentrate on tone, dynamics, and relaxation of both hands.

(2) Keep increasing tempo by 10bpm, and do the exercise several times at each tempo, until I get to a tempo where I can't pull it off cleanly. I then drop about 20bpm and gradually work my way up to "failure", 2-3bpm at a time.

(3) Reduce tempo and switch to shorter note durations (8ths, 16ths, 8th triplets), repeat the above. I tend to throw in a lot of triplets to even out the fingers, in the various techniques (e.g., 4 note arps, tremolo, etc).

This seems to work pretty well. Unfortunately it translates to less than an hour of methodical practice for each RH technique per week, with a long breaks in between.

Is there a better way? I was thinking of breaking up the "specific technique" and doing multiple techniques at a time, say 10 minutes each. Another option I've been thinking about is having combined exercises, using multiple techniques. Perhaps playing actual music is a reasonable way to do the latter :-)

In case you're wondering, I use Oscar Herrero (vid #3) and Scott Tenant's Pumping
Nylon for the left hand exercises and right-left synchronization, and Manuel Granados' exercises (from Manual Didactico #1) for the right hand.

Any commments or tips? Looking forward to your feedback!

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 14 2009 12:50:27

Posts: 3055
Joined: Aug. 30 2008
From: Boston, MA, U.S.A

RE: Structured practice (in reply to alex_lord

i have a similar practice schedule.
i do two techniques in one day.
thumb and alzapua are practiced as though they're one technique.

i cycle through...


this way, i get to practice each technique intensely twice a week. plus, i use each one as i play songs everyday.


  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 14 2009 16:03:34

Posts: 1240
Joined: Nov. 6 2008
From: Sydney, Australia

RE: Structured practice (in reply to alex_lord

hmmm I'm a total beginner, so sometimes I use 10 mins to do hammer ons n pull offs and jump straight into a piece of music that my teacher is teaching me. I just keep repeating and repeating till it feels smoother under my hands..

some days I just do nothing but scales exercises and the legato exercises.. but this is rarer... usually just on the days that I can't be bothered to concentrate on practicing. so I'll do legato exercises while watching TV...

I never practice thumb or alzupua.
I haven't been taught tremolo so can't comment there..

do I need a structured practice schedule? I find it's not as good?
practice everything but leave the most time in the thing that is troubling you the most? or the technique you r focusing on at the moment?

when I did martial arts more frequently.. I sometimes spend the entire 2-3 hours doing the same movement over and over again.. slow to fast (till the point of resistance when I'm using the wrong thing to push the technique).. maybe music should be like this?
go thru everything and once you're done just do the thing that is troubling u most/you wanna be good at?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 14 2009 22:43:37

Posts: 528
Joined: Nov. 10 2008
From: Helsinki, Finland

RE: Structured practice (in reply to alex_lord

hi alex_lord,
your training table looks very good to me. Im sure you are getting good results with that kind of action. I'm also doing some structural training now thats quite similar. I could add the mental or the spiritual aspect to this kind of practice. I find that when motivation, awareness and patience are included the results of mechanical exersices are much better.
I like doing pure technique and discovering ways how to do it better.
I do technique now everyday. I give about two hours to my self. I do all the techniques but lately more focus on arpeggios, because they feel most uncomfortable and unsecure to me. I dont have a minute table but I try to be effective and keep the pauses not too long.

I choose the technique I want to learn on the basis that what I need in my song Im currently practising. Now its arps that are not so good sounding so I do those more.
I want to play the piece fluently so this is my motivation for technique practice. One tip is to find a motivation why should I do this and it will give a spark to all the mechanical repetition.
important things are beeing aware of what kind of movement I want to have and how am I doing it in the moment. Also giving time for the body and mind to adapt to new positions and movements, doing everything slowly enough in the beginning.
One other thing helping is to set small goals. That kind of goals that you know they will be achieved with some practice. With them I find it easier to follow the progress, and the work stays more rewarding as there are some concrete milestones concured already.

so in a nutshell...with the help of these things the practice should become easier and more effective
1.motivation, keeping things interresting be aware of own and the ideal movements
3.set and concuer goals

hope this helps
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 15 2009 0:32:08


Posts: 13
Joined: Jan. 30 2009

RE: Structured practice (in reply to alex_lord

wht are you doing that is taking time away from flamenco?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 17 2009 19:25:19


Posts: 191
Joined: Jul. 14 2006
From: belgium

RE: Structured practice (in reply to alex_lord


I think that the structured way you practice is ok but the only thing I'm missing here is 'compas'.
I too work about the way as you do with all the techniques but I try to have every day when possible implement them in a sort of compas exercise. Rythm and especially in flamenco has to be trained as much as you can with and also without metronome. At least that are my thoughts about it.


Plus je connais les hommes, plus j'admire les chiens."
E. Satie
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 18 2009 3:32:26


Posts: 64
Joined: Dec. 2 2006
From: Vancouver, B.C., Canada

RE: Structured practice (in reply to alex_lord

Thanks for the feedback, everyone.


I have experimented with combining "similar" techniques like arpeggio/tremolo and pulgar/alzapua into a single session, but I am not sure how beneficial that is. First, since the motion is similar, there is more potential for overuse (though, probably not an issue with my practice time). Second, it does not train you to switch techniques -- for example, going from pulgar to picado to rasgeo. So, my crazy idea for the moment is mixing and matching dissimillar techniques in a single session, like picado/pulgar or tremolo/rasgeo.

I do like doing little combination exercises for arpeggio, tirando picado, and tremolo, concentrating on having as little change as possible in the right hand position.


Ligados is something that I took for granted for years when I was playing electric guitar. I now realize that I never developed proper pull-off technique -- straight up instead of "pulling" the string down. That's why I've allocated a separate weekly session for it. Perhaps that's excessive...

I am not sure if I agree with practicing just the problem technique(s). I don't believe that I am anywhere near proficiency in any technique, so I practice all of them. Naturally some will develop faster than others, but I don't want to stop improving the "better" ones. I get a little extra practice time for the weaker techniques when watching TV :-) I suppose that if I hit a wall with one of the techniques, I would demote it from the weekly schedule for few weeks and concentrate on other things.


Great to hear that you are following a similar structure. What you say about motivation and goal-setting is definitely important. It is easy to fall into a rut when you don't know why you're doing what you're doing. This seems to apply to nearly all aspects of life.


Life, unfortunately, gets in the way.


Excellent observation. I actually didn't mention rhythm and compas in this thread on purpose. While I do not have a structured method for working on these things, I do have a couple of approaches. To keep things simple, I'll create a separate thread to talk about that stuff :-)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 19 2009 8:52:48


Posts: 64
Joined: Dec. 2 2006
From: Vancouver, B.C., Canada

RE: Structured practice (in reply to alex_lord

Any more takers?

To simplify my original premise: suppose I have an infinite number of exercises for each RH technique and about an hour a day. Should I:

a) do 5-10 mins of each technique with a few random exercises every day
b) focus on a single technique each day, doing a bunch of exercises for that technique
c) some combination of (a) and (b) where I focus only on problem areas a few times a week
d) something else?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 21 2009 8:22:08
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