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The process for warming up before a gig or practice session is different for everyone. Depending on your strengths and weaknesses, it might even change everyday. Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny recently released a book of guitar etudes that outlines what his typical pre-gig routine entails. During a summer tour of Italy in 2010, Metheny set up a small recorder, documented his process, and then transcribed 14 improvised pieces to create this book.
Each etude is presented in both tab and standard notation without any commentary or direction from the author. Since these are improvised, they are looser in format than a typical etude book. Each exercise flows freely between various keys and scales, and in some cases time signatures. Metheny’s goal here was to demonstrate how to move freely around the instrument without becoming locked into a specific idea.
When you play through these etudes, you really get a sense of how Metheny views the fretboard and connects ideas. In “Exercise 10 (Pescara),” you can see how a master improviser can take a simple G major triad and turn it into a melodic string-skipping exercise that moves through several different keys and patterns. The majority of the exercises focus on moving around the fretboard and connecting ideas with a series of eighth-notes. A few are presented with some direction when it comes to the picking hand, but most are left without any indication of tempo or feel. This addition could add to the effectiveness of the etudes because everyone thinks, articulates, and plays differently at various tempos. Nearly any guitarist will be able to cherry-pick a few ideas from Guitar Etudes, but for Metheny fans this will be the next best thing to sitting in his practice room before a gig.