The ‘Rick Graham Test’ became a thing in my teaching after I attended an excellent masterclass with virtuoso musician, man mountain and all round good dude Rick Graham.
The session focused on rock guitar essentials and covered practice, improvisation and technique amongst other things. In particular he talked about noticing tension in our bodies as we play and how it can be avoided.
To me it was an important area as I have done serious damage to my hands through poor practice methods as a result of playing when I was tense. This is outlined in a previous blog post here.
So, the Rick Graham Test is something that I encourage students to do regularly as a way of monitoring how much tension they are developing when playing guitar. It starts with playing a single note. Just play a single note on your guitar. Next, release the pressure on the string so that your finger is touching the string but the note is muted. Finally begin to add pressure to the string until you find the least amount of pressure that you need to put on the string in order for the note to ring out.
The chances are that the amount of pressure that you need to play the note the second time you played it is far less than when you first played it! Use this as a common reminder of how much pressure you need to play. Set an alarm to go off at 10 minute intervals in your practice session and perform the test. It won’t fix your playing right away but will serve as a good reminder.
Remember, good technique is about making something feel easier, so why work harder than you need to?