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FDP Forum / The Chop Shop / Slow meticulous and methodical gets it done??

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ninworks
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Middle Tennessee

Too Much GAS
Mar 17th, 2019 12:43 PM   Edit   Profile  

Today's chapter. :o)

I'm always working on my technique trying to iron out rough spots and learn new stuff. The common literature on learning to play something fast is start slow until it can be played without mistakes and gradually increase speed as you go, working on each level and not getting faster until played flawlessly.

I agree with this to a point BUT, gradually increasing my speed as each level is mastered, can waste a lot of time if doing that and that only. Certain things can be played to sound perfect at slow to moderate speeds and still be executed incorrectly. Eventually as the speed is increased a point will be reached where it cannot be played without some kind of mistake no matter how much I work on it. At that point an adjustment in technique has to be made in order to reach the next level. A lot of time has already been spent etching that incorrect technicality into my playing before the problem was even noticed.

It's my opinion that once the pattern or line are learned to the point it can be played at a comfortable slow to moderate speed, by using the previous method, a large jump in tempo can shed light on what technical adjustments need to be made. It doesn't matter to me if I execute everything perfectly at a faster speed. Just as long as I can almost play it except for the trouble spot(s).

For me, it quickly makes problems more obvious. Then adjustments can be made and it gives me a better way of attacking the original exercise back at the speed I left off at. Sometimes it's just how I pick it, sometimes it's fretting and fingering, and sometimes it's both. I usually have to slow it back down and nail down the spot that was causing issues and work my way back up. Luckily, it seems like it progresses faster than it did when I first started.

Cranking up the tempo early in the process saves me a lot of time working up to the point where the hiccup was obvious. It could have been hours, days, or weeks, before I noticed it. Then I'd have to make the adjustments and backtrack anyway. Backtracking is unavoidable and I almost always have to do it but, I don't want to have to correct something I learned to do the wrong way when I could have corrected it long before it was habit. It's far easier to learn it right in the first place than correct the habit after it takes up residence.

This stuff is research and development to me. I get a big kick out of finding ways to overcome hurdles. I always start with the conventional wisdom and then make changes so it works best for my playing style. With big hands and jumbo franks for fingers the accepted way to play things doesn't always work for me. I have to use my pinky a lot to finger chords and squeeze notes in between vibrating strings. I have some of the strangest looking chord fingerings you have ever seen but, it works for me.

(This message was last edited by ninworks at 02:47 PM, Mar 17th, 2019)

Achase4u
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U.S. - Virginia

Mar 17th, 2019 01:48 PM   Edit   Profile  

"At that point an adjustment in technique has to be made in order to reach the next level. A lot of time has already been spent etching that incorrect technicality into my playing before the problem was even noticed."

This touches on an interesting idea. I was reading on this very subject and there was a quote by a famous classical violinist who said something along the lines of "practice slowly with fast technique" or something like that. Meaning, in another sort of way, what you are talking about here. You have to know what the proper technique is for a run you are practicing at 60 bpm to the quarter, that has a target tempo of 160 bpm to the quarter. You can get real sloppy with movements at 60, or just do it plain wrong. I think some of the wisdom of long years at the instrument can minimize these mistakes and give us insight in to what the technique should be ahead of the time, but "checking" at tempo isn't a bad idea. In fact, I have heard people say you should try at tempo and above tempo for various reasons. Just don't do it 100 times over with a bunch of mistakes, is all. Nothing wrong with doing this if helpful info is gained from it.

It's a curious thing, for sure.

But I agree, trying something at tempo in the beginning really makes the issues with technique obvious, if you are paying attention.

There are much finer inner experiences that I can't get a grasp on with some really fast things that prevent me from getting there, but speed does seem to come naturally over time. The less I have to think, the smoother and faster stuff comes out.

hushnel
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Mar 17th, 2019 02:01 PM   Edit   Profile  

I think some of this was why Anthony Wellington had us working on all the permutations of the four finger, four fret paterns. Once one gets all the possible fingerings down new stuff is not as dependent on learning new fingerings consecutively.

Peegoo
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Just beyond Mars

there's a world of fools
Mar 17th, 2019 02:53 PM   Edit   Profile  

When I'm learning a difficult passage, I use a metronome set so slowly that I cannot possibly mess it up. As I get the moves into my brain and into my fingers, I dial up the BPMs.

I occasionally jump to full speed on the metronome to see if I can pull it off. Sometimes I can, and that is when I practice the passage 50 times or more at full speed to lock it down. Sometimes I can't--and I go back to walking speed until I can work up to running.

ninworks
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Middle Tennessee

Too Much GAS
Mar 17th, 2019 02:57 PM   Edit   Profile  

"You have to know what the proper technique is for a run you are practicing"

I have a pretty good handle on how to do that. However, I still occasionally will find an easier way to implement a particular stream of notes when tieing different patterns or lines together. If I learn how to play, say, two different patterns. Each one is calculated out and has all the kinks worked out but, when connecting one to the next the approach has to be adjusted to do it seamlessly. For me it's usually picking that has to be changed. That means a different number of notes needs to be played on a single string to swap the picking direction. The fretting has to be altered to fix the picking.

windmill
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Australia

older,better
Mar 17th, 2019 02:58 PM   Edit   Profile  

A good point in the original post.

The dictum that you learn a new piece "at a speed where you can't get it wrong" is as much about not wasting time getting things wrong as getting it right.

I tend to start slow then up to a medium tempo still below required speed, then try it at proper tempo. Then all going well, to play it above the required tempo on the basis of knowing it well enough "to not get it wrong".

But it all varies on the piece, I have worked on some pieces at 10 bpm increments before I was able to get it to speed.

Hushnel's advice is the old "learn the basics right and you will save a lot of time in the future" stuff I wish I had listened to when I was 14 years old.

But now,like then, I don't think I have enough time to do that, I just want to learn what is in front of me :)


Achase4u
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U.S. - Virginia

Mar 17th, 2019 05:00 PM   Edit   Profile  

"Each one is calculated out and has all the kinks worked out but, when connecting one to the next the approach has to be adjusted to do it seamlessly."

Indeed, indeed. That is another interesting facet of learning measure by measure or phrase by phrase. The links in the chain need to be worked out to get from one to the other. I will sometimes zoom in on 3 and 4 of one bar into 1 and 2 of the next just to get that down.

Also, just to be clear, I didn't mean you as in just you Ninworks, I meant it in general as in "people who are practicing" - so I hope you didn't think I wasn't lecturing you at all. Quite the contrary, just theorizing a bit out loud from what I have learned.

Another interesting thing that I am challenging myself on is my mental attitudes and beliefs about things that I think are incorrect or harmful in practice.

For instance, I have always been the guy to drive a single thing down for 3 hours and that's my practice for the day. Then do the same thing, same topic the next. My over ambitious playing attitude has caused me much strife over the years, and it is partly the belief that if I drill something 1000 times today, that I will have "learned it".

That isn't really the case, though. The mind works a little differently than that. Actually, some studies seem to point to the fact that sleep itself is an important part of practice. I have found that to be true. If I practice a passage 1000 times in a day, vs 143 times a day for 7 days, I will have made more progress in the latter scenario. This means I can also play other things those 7 days, and learn them as well.

It's not just sleep, though. It's how we engage our brains. That lick you learned the day before doesn't seem as slick as where you left it off the night before. You have to "remember" what you did. Well, as frustrating as that internal experience is (why don't I know this, I played it yesterday so many times!) it has been proven to be GOOD for learning. This re-engaging of the mental processes doesn't feel great, but actually means you are teaching yourself that skill effectively.

Noa Kageyama wrote about this in a blog. Playing a passage a few times, then a different passage, then going back to the original one is more effective. It's easy to "run into a groove" on a passage and get a momentum going that feels good by your 50th take, but it's more mentally engaging and permanent to break those up with other material. Certainly doesn't feel as satisfying, though.

So I think to be efficient, it's best to stagger your practice topics so that you "round robin" them. Then do that for any number of days in a row.

Jens Larson said something that really resonated with me, and that is that when you are practicing, you aren't usually learning anything, you are on your way to learning something. So don't feel bad if you don't "get it" in a day or a week. Just keep hitting it.

windmill
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older,better
Mar 18th, 2019 06:49 AM   Edit   Profile  

well I've just started working on an exercise that required starting at 40 bpm and I have progressed in jumps of 20 bpm up to 80 bpm.

I find once I have something under my fingers at slow speeds it doesnt take long to get right at the right speed.

Achase4u's comment about practicing in short bursts and then having a rest reminded of a article I read about learning to type.

The article said the US Army manual on learning to type says to do each typing exercise for 3 minutes and then do something else,like read a book for 5 minutes, and the repeat the process five times for each exercise.
The Army would have a lot of experience of teaching people things so it is worth considering.

My version is to always have 2 different things to work on and swop between them after about 10 minutes. Or play a song between each exercise period.

Anyway it seems like we are all singing out of the same hymnbook about this.

:)

Peegoo
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Just beyond Mars

there's a world of fools
Mar 18th, 2019 08:01 AM   Edit   Profile  

Another very cool thing about fretted instruments is there are several choices available for a note in a given register. This means you can play the same lick in perhaps four different positions on a guitar.

I can read music, but I can't sight read and I don't use TAB. I am an ear player. When I'm stealing licks or leads when learning a tune, I usually try the same passage in a few different positions.

Oftentimes it's possible to determine the position used by the player on a studio track simply by the sound of the strings. Other times it's not easy to hear that subtlety.

For me, one position often makes it easier to play a passage than the other locations on the neck. I've watched vids of players pulling off fast runs and I've tried it at that same position, but I sometimes find it's easier to play the same run somewhere else and get the same sound.

So when I'm having a tough time keeping up with the metronome, I'll shift positions and see if my sausage fingers do better there.

Peegoo
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Just beyond Mars

there's a world of fools
Mar 18th, 2019 08:07 AM   Edit   Profile  

"a famous classical violinist who said something along the lines of 'practice slowly with fast technique'."

Sort of like the old gunfighter's mantra of "take your time, in a hurry."

I think these two bits of advice hint at being very deliberate and using economy of motion.

hushnel
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North Florida

A Friend of Bill W.
Mar 18th, 2019 09:11 AM   Edit   Profile  

I do adjust the location of my bass lines so that chord progressions are more convenient, or that my hands are in a more efficient location for the next note/bass line.

I play “Come Together” the same way as I learned it off the record back in 1969/1970 I use the D on the E string Paul uses the D on the A string and slides up to the A, I articulate the A strings G to the A. A minor difference and I do other things with this bass line that he doesn’t, I’m usually in a smaller three piece group and need to add just a little more bass.

Sir Pauls isolated track off Abby Road

ninworks
Contributing Member
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Middle Tennessee

Too Much GAS
Mar 18th, 2019 04:24 PM   Edit   Profile  

"....so I hope you didn't think I wasn't lecturing you at all."

I didn't take it that way at all. We're good.


"You have to "remember" what you did."

That is a big one.

After playing a particular line/riff/exercise a few hundred times, really being engaged in every aspect of what is going on in your lap, and playing it flawlessly, it boggles my mind that I have to intensely review what I did previously. Sometimes it's hard to remember each and every nuance it took to pull it off. For me, I can only concentrate on one single aspect of the technique at a time. Sometimes there's 5 or 6 things, or more, that have to happen at any moment to make everything work. I'll pick one aspect and beat on it a bunch of times. Then I'll notice something else and go after that. Sometimes those focused moments are spent learning what doesn't work as much as what does.

For example, pick tension and position, keeping both hands relaxed as well as shoulders, back, legs, arms, where the tension starts from. Breathing as well. I have caught myself not breathing regularly when working real hard on something. Picking direction...up or down, which way is the pick moving when I want to change strings and what do I have to do to get over one of them, keeping unused strings from making noises with either the palm of my picking hand or the fretting hand fingers. I could go on and on.

The point I'm trying to make is that I had tried dozens of different things when playing through the part hundreds of times. I don't always remember what worked and what didn't. When I'm really focused on the exercise, my brain is doing, what they call with computers, a serial function. There is a list of 20 things and my brain is constantly going from one to the next to the next, while I'm practicing the passage.

"For me, one position often makes it easier to play a passage than the other locations on the neck."

That happens to me as well. Every time I have this happen this almost always turns out to be related to my picking technique. I can't make the pick go where it needs to easily. When playing the line in a different position there are different numbers of notes being played on different, single, strings, that turn the picking around where it fits my technique. If it sounds better played in the position I couldn't make it work in, I'm off to practicing picking technique for weeks and weeks. I'm kind of OCD that way.



Peegoo
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Just beyond Mars

there's a world of fools
Mar 18th, 2019 04:44 PM   Edit   Profile  

There's a YouTube guy named Troy Grady who has done several video analyses of pick technique (slant, dipping, string skipping, up/down, etc.), which is mostly stuff many players just instinctively do without much thought.

Pick technique is a very personal thing that sort of becomes automatic after several years of playing.

I watched a few of these vids and discovered some things that enable players like Steve Morse to flatpick ridiculous patterns strictly by using economy. How you start the pattern (up or down) completely matters, and how you slant the pick makes a huge difference.

Practicing these things slowly to learn the mechanics has paid off because I can play stuff today that I would've thought impossible a year or two ago. I'm in no way a shred player, but my speed has come way up with actual practice--rather than aimless noodling.

But aimless noodling is way more fun!

ninworks
Contributing Member
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Middle Tennessee

Too Much GAS
Mar 18th, 2019 05:01 PM   Edit   Profile  

Troy Grady is THE guy. He is very good at explaining how it's done. He tends to be a bit long winded but, his realizations and insights are solid.

When I saw his first video on downward pick slanting I had an epiphany. I finally knew WHY some things I did worked and why some didn't. After that enlightening moment my picking speed quadrupled in minutes. All of a sudden I could rip through stuff that I had never imagined.

At that moment I signed up and paid for his Cracking The Code courses. If I could make such a gargantuan step in just a few minutes, what could I do if I learned a lot more from him?

One thing I learned was that even the best players are very selective about what they play fast. I had always thought that most of them could play anything fast. Not so. They pick and choose to play fast things that fit their picking technique. STEVE MORSE DOESN'T COUNT!! He can play anything. He's an alien.



Achase4u
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U.S. - Virginia

Mar 18th, 2019 05:24 PM   Edit   Profile  

All good points of what the inner and physical experience is with practicing.

The different finger patterns in different parts of the neck is a big one for guitar, and one that is also highly implicated when sight reading. I have a "logical fingerings" book in a series that takes some basic to advanced stuff(not shredding, but mode/arp/scale permutations) and shows how to go about the right positions, rolls of the fingers and shifting. You have to have a lot of ideas practiced up to recognize how to play something at sight. There are really a lot of processes going on that make an effective sight reader.

Sometimes you get in a fix anyway though, at which point several guys have mentioned to me "use your nose if you have to!"

windmill
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Australia

older,better
Mar 18th, 2019 07:25 PM   Edit   Profile  

Usually I find that if something is difficult to play it is because I'm playing it in the wrong position.

Just last week I was trying to play a run over two strings in the open position.

A move up the fretboard revealed it was a simple 3 finger run on one string, something I had been playing since I was a kid !

Achase4u
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U.S. - Virginia

Mar 18th, 2019 07:33 PM   Edit   Profile  

Indeed. There are many considerations to a part(where is the highest note, the lowest is what I look for first) and usually a position will work.

Mitch Holder said the same thing. You find where it lays best on the neck after fighting it a while and bam, whole world of difference.

However, there are some parts that just don't finger well on the guitar. Like some horn parts. Confirmation by Charlie Parker is rough.

Also, I have found two possible ways to work the turnaround of the 2-5 on "Tenor Madness" over the Cm and F7 - but none are convenient especially at the speed guys want to play that tune. Good for the brain, though.

Peegoo
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Just beyond Mars

there's a world of fools
Mar 18th, 2019 07:41 PM   Edit   Profile  

Trumpet and sax lines can be a real bee-yatch on guitar, but holy cats--they will open your eyes about note sequences that you've never thought of.

Achase4u
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U.S. - Virginia

Mar 18th, 2019 08:29 PM   Edit   Profile  

"Trumpet and sax lines can be a real bee-yatch on guitar, but holy cats--they will open your eyes about note sequences that you've never thought of."

Without a doubt! They are amazing for breaking out of the usual things that just fall under the fingers on guitar. There is certainly a lot of crossover between instruments in the form of scales, patterns and arpeggios, but when it comes to the more inventive lines, motifs etc, there can be a world of difference. I highly recommend it.

Also, violin is a good instrument to read on guitar. It's tuned in 5ths and is a little different in some ways. Lots of good lines.

ninworks
Contributing Member
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Middle Tennessee

Too Much GAS
Mar 19th, 2019 03:43 PM   Edit   Profile  

I ran across a sax instuctor on YooToob and he had some interesting patterns to work on. I have been going through modal tonalities of 1357 9876 5432 1. That alone has been a huge learning experience to put that under my fingers. I put together an exercise for that and it takes me a full 55 minutes to traverse the entirety of it. Yup, OCD runs rampant here.

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