The 18-minute Practicing Routine


Hey everybody,

I’ve been meaning to share this with everyone, but the past, oh, two years, have been sincerely insane. And I’m only really getting some break time from the chaos of things right now cuz I’m taking it easy as I get closer to my 2nd open heart surgery in November. Aaaaanyway…

I’m gonna make this quick so I can try and upload these pages here to share before I have to bolt out to take care of tonight’s guitar lessons. If the uploads don’t work, I’ll make some time to re-type these instruction pages regarding this 18-minute Practicing Process that I learned from my guitar teacher decades ago at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.

Frank Dawson was that teacher for me that first blew the doors wide open with what was out there and ways to achieve progress in my guitar playing and my understanding of music. If I get the time, I will share more of what I can on Frank.

Frank gave all of us students this great lesson tool in this 18-Minute practicing technique. Frank himself, learned it from the great Howard Roberts. Anyway, for right now (if these pages upload properly - my computer likes to screw with me constantly), the info I’ll share is something I think many players here on the forum might like to try out.

If everything loads right, please let me know what you all think!

And thank you Troy and the CTC team for not only this forum, but for all the great work you share here. The thing I’m looking forward to most during my open heart surgery recovery time is the opportunity to catch up on the TONS of lessons, info, and discussions here on the CTC website!

How do you memorize scales?

It worked perfetcly, the pages are definitely online! Thank you so much for sharing this great piece of knowledge!


Very cool! Sorry though that the pages came in out of order (and that the pages don’t have page numbers), but I’m sure everyone can piece 'em together.

The process worked like a charm for me when my teacher showed me the 7 major scale patterns (and the harmonic and melodic minor patterns). Plus, I’ve used the process to help me quickly lock into things like the “Cliffs of Dover” intro and outro licks, and some of my favorite Steve Morse lines like “User Friendly”, “Ionized”, and of course, “Tumeni Notes”. Plus I’ve shared it with so many students over the years who’ve used it when learning their major scale patterns, pentatonic patterns, and arpeggios.


I just edited your post, I think the pages are in the correct order now! Thanks for sharing.


Right now I’m learning the harmonic minor, so it comes as ring to the finger.
I’ve been a classical guitarist for many years under the care of great professors (every time I asked how to play no one gave me a concise answer). But now that I’m on my own I’m exploring the guitar from different angles, and I consider myself a happy musician now. One of my goals is to decode and organize a clear path I can teach to others. So I’m a bit geeky when it comes to practicing, creativity, ear training, in depth technique and so on.

Again, thanks for sharing!


Awesome, thank you, Brendan! And happy to share what I can, after all I’m learning from CTC!


All my pleasure! Hope it helps, and all the best and continued success to you!


Thank you. I’m gonna try this. Get well :+1:


Hi Dave, thanks for sharing this. I decided to give it a go when you posted this so I’m on day nine now. Each day I take a scale in a key (ie F Melodic Minor) I’m less familiar with on guitar and learn the Oz Noy fingerings (2nps, 3nps and 4nps) and it’s nice having something systematic to follow that isn’t too stressful. With luck I’ll have something to show for it in a few weeks :slight_smile:


Hi Dave,

Thank you. I will give this a go.

Quick question - it says ‘… it must be practised… legato’

Why is Picking not allowed? Is it to focus only one one hand at a time?


I think that this use of ‘Legato’ is in the traditional classical sense of smooth and connected. So whether you are picking or not it should be smooth and connected.


Hey Groff, let me/us know how it’s going. I always like hearing updates on any guitar info I can share.

And my thanks regarding my heart surgery - but, update!.. My cardiologist wants to do one more new test that may help his staff better determine if my condition actually needs surgery right now. So, until the test, my surgery is cancelled for the time being. Hoping with the new test, they can see my mechanical heart valve clearly enough to confirm if I need the surgery or not. It’s safe to say I’ll need the surgery at some point, but if we can avoid it for now, that’d be great. My thanks again!


Very cool! I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve used this practicing method to lock into everything from the hybrid picking intro in “Cliffs of Dover” to the main riffs in “Race With Devil On Spanish Highway” from Al Di Meola. Keep me/us posted on how it’s working for you!


Sguitar is correct. As much as players mainly think of hammer-ons and pull-offs as our main form of legato, my teacher meant it in the way so that every note is played til the very moment that the next note is played. No gaps, etc. That being said, practicing the scales (or any piece of guitar work) that you may use the 18-minute process for should also be tried as hammer-ons and pull-offs, if to at least build up the muscle strength for those processes.


Thank you for confirming that. I suspected he may have been correct, but still wondered if it was to concentrate only one thing (hand) at once.

Thanks for clearing it up. I’m actually on day 3 of doing it with scales.


I will. I’m gonna start in a next few days. Now I’m just planning schedule and doing kind of testing how is going to be with focusing. The 18 min. part feels like a fair amount of time, but 5 min. repeating passes like nothing :open_mouth:

I have some questions. In example, day 4:

a) The main (new patern) 18 min. part

b) short break to rest (5 min. minimum… probably more)

c) series of 4 x 5 min (repeating three previously learned licks plus new one)

OK, got it, then what after that? May I repeat this 4x5 min. series again (with some short break between)? Or even further, on top of that, may I add a series of old patterns that I already play well but which need to be cleansed and fine tuned?


Hey Groff, I’ve had students that made good progress each day with only doing the specific day’s pattern and any previous patterns for only about a minute or two for each pattern. But some dove in deep and (after their day’s 5-minute break) plowed through all learned patterns for 5 minutes each. It would all depend on how your muscles are feeling after a good session and/or how one’s focus is after the break - if after the break you try to do a bunch of playing on all worked patterns, but they’re not sounding polished or they’re just feeling tired, it’s better to give yourself more of a break before overwhelming the memory cells with too much information, as my teacher was saying. Everyone’s different.

As far as keeping up with the practicing to hit the 21-day process, once you’re just continuing to do polishing on the patterns or ideas locked-in with the 18-minute process, then the idea is to keep practicing those things til you complete the 21 days. By then, the items practiced through all those days should at least be locked in enough that they’re felling natural and a part of your playing arsenal.

It’s kinda like when you see people talk about breaking habits for a new year’s resolution. They always end up mentioning the benefit of sticking with a routine for 21 days to have it become automatic and natural.

Hope this extra info helps. All the best!



This… when my hypermotivation and impatience turns into stubborn mule habit.

(how can less be more, more is more… dear God, Yngwie grows inside of me)


I’ve found this very useful, but not in such a rigid manner.

For me the 18 focused practice session really helps internalising what ever is being practiced. But I’ve noticed I can do about three sets or more of 18 minutes on different areas with breaks, and the next day what ever I worked on is magically better.

Yeah the Yngwie in me grows with each passing day, I too am guilty of bloody minded slavery to the cause :face_with_head_bandage:


I like the concept, it helps keeping track with small variations of the same thing.

But I found the name to be quite misleading:
The first day you practice for 18m + ~5min, so 21 min total.
But as each days passes does the total practice time increases ? Or should you have to keep whatever #1, #2, …#n in the same amount of time ?
Also, the schedule lacks symmetry because whatever pattern comes early in the list will be practiced more overall.