Short Exercises That Will Make You A Much Better Musician

Memorizing Intervals Descending

You might already have gotten pretty good at knowing ascending intervals.
If not: you should probably practice that first.

The best way: flashcards

Have a flashcard for every note name that exists in music:

A A# Bb B B# Cb C C# Db D D# Eb E E# Fb F F# Gb G G# Ab

Then pick an interval, for example, minor 2nds (b2)

Then start throwing cards on your table and name the note that is up a half step from the note on the card.

Card says A, you respond Bb
Card says Bb, you respond Cb
Card says Ab, you respond Bbb (yes flat flat, also called “double flat”. Your answer has to be something B, cannot say A, cause Ab to A is an augmented unison).

If this doesn’t make sense, study the free lesson blogs here on intervals, by searching for “intervals” in the blog search field.
If it still doesn’t make sense then: this might either be a bit too advanced for you, or you prob would want to book a lesson to get all this down in no time.

Once you get good at minor 2nds, move on to practicing major 2nds this way, b3’s, 3’s, 4ths, tritones, 5ths, etc.
Keep going till you can comfortably name any interval from any note.

Now, you can also do all of this descending.
For most musicians, descending initially is a lot more challenging than ascending.

But like anything: it is something you just get better at through practice.

All that said: figuring out descending intervals is easier when you know about inversion of intervals.
You can read about that here:

The Unison Octave Inversion

There are 3 things you need to memorize about the inversion of intervals

  1. An interval + its inversion, always adds up to 9 (the inversion of 5th is a 4th, of a 2nd is a 7th, etc…)
  2. It changes nature (major 2 becomes minor 7 when inverted, minor 3 becomes major 6, etc…)
  3. Perfect, inverted says perfect: perfect intervals don’t change nature when inverted. They become another perfect interval.

Here’s how to take advantage of this knowledge.

Let’s say that you are practicing descending, minor 6ths.
The flashcard you threw on your table says A. What is the note a minor 6th below A

Well… knowing about inversion of intervals: a minor 6th inverted becomes a major 3rd.
So rather than thinking of the descending interval you’re practicing as “a minor 6th down”, think of it as a major 3rd up.

This then becomes a hell of a lot easier.
A minor 6th below A is C#

Another example: say you’re practicing descending major 7ths.
Seems hard, right?

Not anymore when you know that a major 7th descending is the same as a minor 2nd ascending.

For example, a major 7th below C is the note Db.
Rather than thinking of a descending major 7th as a “descending major 7th”, invert the interval instead and think of it as a minor 2nd up.
It suddenly becomes waaaay easier.

That is how you get really good at memorizing descending intervals: use your theory knowledge about the inversion of intervals.

Reciting note locations from memory

This is a great fretboard exercise.

Practicing your fretboard from memory without holding a guitar, can sometimes give you much better results than practicing it on a guitar.
Pick any random note, for example, F#, then name all the F# locations from low E string up to the treble E string and back.

You would say

2 9 4 11 7 2 7 11 4 9 2

The reason why you want to all the way up the treble E string and back is that it’s always good to practice anything in any direction.
It’s not because you can do something really well ascending, that you automatically can also play it descending.

Start with easier notes.
Might be good to start with all the C notes first, maybe all the D notes next, then all E notes.

Do as many notes as you can till you get tired of the drill, then do something else.

Or, you can also just set your timer for 3 minutes and make it a 3-min session.
During these 3 mins, you can do as many notes as you can, or you can stick with 1 note that you keep repeating.

If this drill is too hard, you will have to count out notes or do it on the actual fretboard for 1 or 2 weeks before you attempt to do this from memory.

Key in this: is to picture your fretboard.
Also: see relationships.
Meaning: rather than just memorizing all the fret locations of a C note, it is better to focus on relationships of note locations to open strings.

For example, the C notes on the E strings, are 2 whole steps down from the E notes on the 12th fret.

It’s really beneficial to your memorization of the C notes, to see that relationship, rather than just blindly memorizing that C is on the 8th fret on the E strings.

Same on the A string: C is on the 3rd fret (A B C)
C is a whole step down from D on the D string, hence on the 10th fret. (Makes sense: since C comes right before D in the alphabet)
C is on the first fret of the B string. (After all: C comes after B in the alphabet)

You see: it is much easier to memorize all the C note locations when you see their locations in relationship to the open string.

Recite Bar Chord locations from memory

Name a chord: and from memory name the 2 fret locations for the bar chord versions of that chord.

For example F#m
Answer: 2nd fret (E-shape bar chord) and 9th fret (A-shape bar chord)

For example Db
Answer: 4th fret and 9th fret

With time and practice, you are going to get really fast at naming the locations.

This too is a fretboard exercise.
If too challenging: follow the hints and pointers I gave earlier where I talked about memorizing note locations.

Figure out notes to melodies by ear without instrument.

This is something you can only do if you already have a fair deal of ear training under your belt.

Pick any simple melody: children’s songs are really good for this.
Then try to, by ear, figure out the notes in that melody, without playing them on guitar.

You can write out the note names on paper, or even better if you know how to write music on a staff, write out the notes on the staff.
Then double-check on your guitar to see how close you got.

No worries if what you wrote is completely off. With time you will get a lot better at this.
You could dedicate to do 1 children’s song a day. Type “children songs” in the search field on Youtube and you will find tons of simple melodies.

Count rhythms while walking

This is probably the single most effective exercise that you can do to get really good at feeling and playing combinations of odd divisions like triplet and quintuplets and so on.

These not groupings are notoriously hard for any musician.
It’s really astonishing how quickly you can get really quite good at feeling those complicated divisions and combinations, just by counting numbers while walking, using your footsteps as a metronome.

This drill is explained here:

10 Guitar Things You Can Practice Without a Guitar

There are various other exercises on that blog that are good to expand and grow your musicianship.


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