Guitar Aerobics by Troy Nelson Book Review
Guitar Aerobics: A 52-Week, One-lick-per-day Workout Program for Developing, Improving and Maintaining Guitar Technique by Troy Nelson is a book with a clear goal: help you improve your guitar skills by using planned out exercises.
As a guitar teacher, I regularly see intermediate and advanced students hit a plateau where they seem to say for years. They reach a certain skill level and have a lot of trouble pushing past that level. It usually turns out to be due to the way many guitarists practice. Many intermediate players ‘just play’ which means they sit down and noodle on the guitar for 30 minutes. Unfortunately, that’s not practicing and that’s how you plateau. In this review, I will explain how Guitar Aerobics can help intermediate and advanced players refine their skills and improve the quality of their practice sessions.
The features in Guitar Aerobics are simple to understand. Check out more details on the book including price here on Amazon.
There are 365 exercises in total which means for a full year you learn a new exercise/lick every day. The licks gradually increase in difficulty to constantly push your abilities to higher levels. Each lick is displayed in Guitar TAB and standard notation with a brief explanation (there is a guitar TAB reference chart at the back of the book).
There are two CDs included with the book. CD1 provides examples of all 365 licks so you can hear what they should sound like. CD2 provides drum tracks so you can move on from the metronome and play the licks in a real musical context in suitable styles.
Every day of the week follows a pattern to focus on specific techniques. The seven main categories of licks are: Alternate picking, String skipping, String bending, Arpeggios, Sweep picking, Legato and Rhythm. This predictable pattern makes it easy to follow the program as you will know what to expect every day (eg: string bending on Wednesday).
The licks cover six broad musical styles: rock, blues, jazz, metal, country and funk. Even if you’re only interested in one or two styles, it’s definitely worth covering the licks in other styles as they will improve your techniques in different ways.
Ease of use
Guitar Aerobics does not spend time explaining how to read music or how to play certain techniques. The assumption is that you already know how to play all the techniques and can properly read guitar TAB. So if you’re a beginner, this book shouldn’t be your first purchase as it won’t provide you with the techniques foundation you need.
The program is very easy to follow: start at day 1 and every day move on to the next lick. Each day you are required to complete ‘sets’ just like you would in a physical workout. The recommended workout schedule is to complete 8 sets where each set increases in tempo. Each set requires you to complete 10 ‘reps’ of the lick.
If you’re not used to hearing about ‘sets’ and ‘reps’, here’s what it means for you in day 1:
Set 1: play the lick 10 times at 40bpm
Set 2: play the lick 10 times at 48bpm
Set 3: play the lick 10 times at 58bpm
Set 4: play the lick 10 times at 72bpm
Set 5: play the lick 10 times at 84bpm
Set 6: play the lick 10 times at 96bpm
Set 7: play the lick 10 times at 108bpm
Set 8: play the lick 10 times at 120bpm
So in total, you will play the lick 80 times starting at 40bpm and gradually increasing it to 120bpm. Depending on your current abilities and the difficulty of the lick, this workout routine could take you five minutes per day or it could take you 30+ minutes. The real benefit is that you’re constantly pushing yourself to make improvements on the licks.
As you progress through the program the licks become more difficult and you will eventually reach a point where you struggle to keep up. Don’t give up at that point because that’s where you make the most progress! If it feels hard, that means you’re working hard and you will improve. A couple reviewers on Amazon complained that the licks were too hard and they gave up after a couple of months. Don’t do the same thing! Stick to the schedule and you will make it through. As soon as you give up, you will hit a plateau with your technical abilities.
The good thing with the structured style of Guitar Aerobics is that many of the licks are similar. After a couple of months, you will begin to get a feel for the type of licks and will be able to pick them up faster. If you start to notice that many of the licks feel similar, that’s a good sign that you’re making progress and that your technique is improving.
Guitar Aerobics has a simple goal: improve and maintain your guitar technique using a structured ‘workout’ program. The book doesn’t waste space explaining how to do a pull-off or bend because you should already know how to play those techniques before you start. I personally went through the entire 365 program a few years ago and while it was difficult at certain points, I’m extremely happy I stuck with it. My intermediate and advanced students who have started the program are seeing great improvements in their dexterity, speed, and accuracy. While they admit it hasn’t been easy and some days they struggle to get through the 8 sets, they know that by giving up they will miss out on all the benefits.
- Gets straight to the point
- Well structured program with a clear progression of difficulty over time
- The daily workout can be completed within 10 minutes per day
- The program will improve your abilities if you stick to it
- Beginners will quickly struggle as the licks quickly become difficult
- Sometimes the licks feel too similar and can get a bit dull
- Focuses mainly on lead playing and only a bit of rhythm playing
Who is it for?
Intermediates – if you have been learning guitar for a few years and now want to take guitar seriously, Guitar Aerobics is a must buy. It doesn’t matter what style you want to learn as the techniques and skills covered in the book will help you in any style.
Advanced guitarists – if you notice that your playing has become a bit stagnant or you have had a break from guitar for a while and want to ‘get your chops back’, this book is a great way to do it. While advanced guitarists could stick to the 1-lick-per-day structure, you could easily cover two or three licks per day and go through the program much faster. The point is that the book provides you with an effective and well-structured way to improve your skills and techniques.
Who isn’t it for?
Complete beginners – many of the negative reviews on Amazon are by beginners who thought this was a guitar method book – the type of book that explains techniques. This is not a guitar method book – it’s a ‘guitar workout’ book. You need to already know how to play the techniques (at least to a basic level) before starting the Guitar Aerobics program. I recommend waiting until you have been learning guitar for at least a year before looking into this book. Start with a guitar method book along with a guitar teacher then get this book down the track after you have covered the basics.
How to get the most out of it
Stick to the program and don’t give up. I’ve read a lot of comments by people who gave up after a couple weeks or a couple months. Those people don’t understand that results come after you put the effort in. You might start noticing results after 3 months or it might take you 6 months before you notice an improvement in your abilities, but you will improve from day 1. Get yourself a metronome if you haven’t already got one, then follow the program exactly as recommended for the full 365 days. If you really want to become a great guitarist you need to have the discipline to stick to a structured practice routine like the one in Guitar Aerobics.
I highly recommend this book for anybody wanting to seriously develop their abilities on guitar.