Forum Blog - ALC0's Guitar Practice Journal Blog - Description
- Blog posts: 30
- A place where practice activities are logged, notes are taken while watching Pebber's awesome instructional videos, and to record goals, reflections, and progress...and lots of random guitar-related thoughts!
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When I first began playing guitar, I was interested specifically in Classical Guitar (CG) and CG music. Thus I adopted a CG left-hand technique from the beginning.
Unfortunately, my emphasis on emulating the form was incorrect insofar as my left hand (LH) was tense and unrelaxed. This may have also been due to gaining/building strength in the LH. But it became a matter of habit.
Later, when I began playing more rock music, I discarded classical LH technique, and deliberately broke the rules, ESPECIALLY with the aim of feeling RELAXED as I played, and not tense.
As I have worked on the goal of having a relaxed left hand, it astonished me that I could swap between using a CG LH position without it "hurting," and the more typical "thumb over the fretboard" position.
It is helpful to get the feedback from videos that using the CG LH technique is ideal for many applications, but that there may be some utility to hanging the thumb over during certain types of bends, etc. My goal, moving forward, will be to deliberately choose when the break the "rule" of the CG LH technique, with this set as the default.
Playing with some gypsy jazz and bebop lines today...finding them surprisingly easier...and it's obvious that this stems from the "boring" LH and RH exercises from Pebber...
The problem: I'm SO bored of some of these exercises.
Solution: make them HARDER.
Tempo on the Esus4 up/down picking increased! (Now playing these faster than I ever thought I could...)
Reversing direction at random during pentatonic picking added! (Tremendous workout for LH with this...)
Picking all up strokes/ all down strokes, INCREASED speed. (Which is now possible, it seems, because muscles are being built/trained? Increased strength?)
Seems like a LOT is happening in just a LITTLE amount of time!
Practice of fundamental techniques beginning to show effects during band rehearsal.
*Scalpel picking now automatic that it is used as preference.
*Speed/strength beginning to affect improvisation.
*Movement between strings, and comfort playing, noticeable.
*Thumb not creeping over fretboard. Classical style hand position maintained.
Continued work on Esus4. It's feeling more automatic, with few accidentals.
Pentatonic picking, especially with 2 picks/note, getting much easier also. Switching between strings seeing improvement generally.
Spider exercises very easy now, the workout of getting the hand burning with the speed good.
Need to work on increasing time to routine practice.
Reviewed Pebber's intro to the scaleform system on Youtube.
"Guitar time" yesterday evening and today has been devoted to getting my Flying V working again. The electronics in it never worked to begin with, thus new pickups and modding a Les Paul style wiring harness for 3-knob V.
Unfortunately, while each of the functions on the V works, getting them ALL to work at the SAME TIME has yet been elusive. Some problem is occurring when everything gets stuffed down into the cavity, and it has yet to be resolved...
Still working Esus4 and Pentatonic Picking.
Over the past few days, I've dramatically improved my ability to play ascending/descending vertically on the strings using the Esus4 Chord, as well as by practicing all-picking pentatonics. These have traditionally been areas of playing where, if required, I'd turn to fingerpicking (and in the name of being able to produce music without learning new skills, this isn't entirely without fault). However, it does highlight how areas of weakness can be deliberately ignored, for years, and alternate pathways found. My other excuse, which is also not entirely without fault, was that I was not able to envision exercises such as are given by Pebber which focus on these skill sets. Yet even here, it is noteworthy that I encountered some resistance to practice the exercises that cause the most difficulty for me.
"Resistance to learning" might well be confronted by the Zen idea of Shoshin, "beginner's mind." Playing an instrument for years, like any practice, causes persons to favor those methods and ways of working which are more comfortable to them. Thus it is disarming to encounter ways of playing that do not come immediately. Therefore openness to failure, and therefore the opportunity to learn for mistakes, i.e. to SUCKING at guitar, cannot be underestimated in value.
One of the rules given to beginners, which applies here also, is the necessity of playing things well and slowly. It might seem, for instance, that players with some competence in other areas would have learned that this would be necessary to acquiring other new skills. Yet there can be a cognitive dissonance between the success itself, that "I can play certain things well," that makes it easy to ignore the area of growth: i.e. "I can't play these certain things well."
Embracing beginner's mind thus both helps recognize one's real abilities, and creates a space for potential to flourish.
1: "successfully integrate more deep work into your professional life, you cannot just wait until you find yourself with lots of free time and in the mood to concentrate. You have to actively fight to incorporate this into your schedule."
2: "The second rule is to “embrace boredom.” The broader point here is that the ability to concentrate is a skill that you have to train if you expect to do it well. A simple way to get started training this ability is to frequently expose yourself to boredom. If you instead always whip out your phone and bathe yourself in novel stimuli at the slightest hint of boredom, your brain will build a Pavlovian connection between boredom and stimuli, which means that when it comes time to think deeply about something (a boring task, at least in the sense that it lacks moment-to-moment novelty), your brain won’t tolerate it."
3: "The third rule is to “quit social media.” The basic idea is that people need to be way more intentional and selective about what apps and services they allow into their digital lives. If you only focus on possible advantages, you’ll end up, like so many of us today, with a digital life that’s so cluttered with thrumming, shiny knots of distraction pulling at our attention and manipulating our moods that we end up a shell of our potential. In “Deep Work,” I introduced this idea mainly to help professionals protect their ability to focus, but it hit a nerve, and eventually evolved into the popular digital minimalism movement that I’ve been writing about more recently."
4: Drain the shallows: “Shallow work” is my term for anything that doesn’t require uninterrupted concentration. This includes, for example, most administrative tasks like answering email or scheduling meetings. If you allow your schedule to become dominated by shallow work, you’ll never find time to do the deep efforts that really move the needle. It’s really important, therefore, that you work to aggressively minimize optional shallow work and then be very organized and productive about how you execute what remains. It’s not that shallow work is bad, but that its opposite, deep work, is so valuable that you have to do everything you can to make room for it."
...and many more...
Have been studying some chords up and down the neck today. This video highlights unusual choices which captivate my interest.
Anticipating having my Epi Korina Flying Vee back together again, with new (working) Epi electronics and Probuckers...
Vee is a mids monster!
Scalpel/Serod picking for at least 45 min- 1 hour still helpful warmup. Massive improvement of Esus4 vertical picking compared to starting point; continued repetition of this to be committed. Will also do more work with ALL picking E-shape pentatonic, Spiders, and Trills.
Reviewed Pebber's video demonstrations of all-picking pentatonics. Pleased that work on these exercises allows me to play along where I could previously. Coordination between left/right hand a source of most errors at this point. Adding faster picking, with two beats per note, on pentatonic scale.
The technique feeling more "automated" today. Biggest danger seems to be getting inattentive and sloppy; though ideally it would also seem automation is ideal (especially for singing and playing).
Introductory picking exercises an absolute must, no idea how I ever played guitar before without warming up to begin with...BADLY?!? Yes...
Focus on fundamental elements of technique absolutely the meat and potatoes of improving skill...
After warming up with scalpel and serod on each string for some time...focusing on my nemesis again today...
Alternative picking easiest, up-strokes next favorite, surprisingly all down-strokes the most difficult...
The motion "towards" the angle of the up or downstroke very different than the motion "away." Towards, the pick, wrist, and thumb, move in the same direction. Away, the thumb and wrist reach out and then "pull," (or "climb" is the feel I get from it).
There is also a choice between a "floating wrist," and a wrist that sits on the bridge of a Gibson style bridge. Thus far, I have paid little attention to this variable. Preliminary results suggest that a planted wrist is less vulnerable to error; many errors seem to spring from too much gross motor movement of the arm supporting the wrist and over the "reach" of the wrist and thumb's delivery of the pick. (Reviewing Pebber's example). It appears he uses a floating wrist style for this technique, so it is not unreasonable to also expect this to be a possible method.
Proper holding of the pick also has come under needed scrutiny. Especially with the new picks, I tend to grip too high-up on the index finger, and adjusting for slightly lower makes picking easier.
Making massive progress on this exercise.
All Spider Walking Patterns up to 120 bpm without difficulty or strain!? Boom!
Doctor of Music Composition Professor Lawrence Fritts describes the pentatonic scale as conveying the following flavors in blues music his encyclopedic 2000 Blues Licks that Rock (pg 2, 2012):
1: "stability, resolution, and finality."
b3: "sadness, anger, ...[or] aggression."
4: a "passing tone" from b3 to 5, which often resolves to b3 when "held for a beat or more".
5: "stability" or a path to resolve to the root.
b7: "sadness, longing, and rootlessness."
The DULL fact that much practice is important but gets BORING after a while begins to hit home.
The Philosopher Gurdjieff can help though: at the beginning of any endeavor, he asks us, can we identify our own obstacles and so prepare ourselves to confront them from the onset?
"Boredom," as an affective state, signifies frustration. And it's important to look more deeply than that, and unravel the MEANING what really peeves us. By understanding that obstacle, it' easier to find one's own motivation to reframe and overcome boredom.
For some people, "boredom" might mean, "I'm sucking, and that destroys the fantasy that I'm Eric Clapton." For others, it might take the form of a false underlying belief, "I'm never be able to get better no matter how long I try." Desire for instant gratification is another source of boredom: "I want to be good NOW, and since I'm sucking at this exercise I don't like doing it."
There are literally millions of reasons why practice might make people feel bored! Often, there will be multiple reasons at the same time. So take some time and think about it. That might hurt a bit to look at, but your knowledge of WHY you are bored is POWER. Because now, you can weigh the way you feel against reality.
If boredom springs from the desire for instant gratification, for instance, it's important to confront the reality of how hard, and how long, someone must practice before they start to "get good." Furthermore, it begs the question of examining why the exercise is too difficult: is it above one's level? Is the exercise being taken at a breakneck speed without warming up or playing it slowly first? Finally, it suggests that, instead of expecting immediate progress, to think in smaller, more concrete steps. Maybe today it's important to work on hammer-ons and pull-offs, because those are giving continual struggles during practice.
The belief that one simply cannot improve, no matter how hard one tries, is FALSE for the vast majority of people. People will have many different reasons for this, perhaps past failures at other activities, or having made many attempts that seem to go nowhere. In any case, step back and think about it for a moment: how long have you been playing? And not just how long, but how often? How have you been practicing in the past? Take a realistic appraisal of what you've been able to accomplish so far, and give yourself a little credit! And, think again of the lure of instant gratification: it's not gonna happen without work. So ask yourself the important question: what can I work on now that will help me reach the next step?
Although it can be fun to imagine, the "rockstar" fantasy often does not do any favors when practicing or playing. This is not to suggest that the SHOW of playing the part while performing live, like acting in a play or movie, isn't part of what people come to see. However, it's important to separate the act from the actor, and not fool oneself into overestimating one's skills and abilities when preparing for the act. For some people, the fantasy may serve the purpose of making up for the fact that they know, deep down, they aren't that good. Or that they aren't living the life they want to live, musically or otherwise. Here again, reality is the key to real mastery.
True story: I once knew a dude who broadcast everywhere that they were a musician, and acted like they were hot #### on guitar. But every time this person played in the dorms, every once in a blue moon, they practiced for maybe 15 minutes. Seven minutes of playing "I am Iron Man," badly. Followed by 7 or 8 minutes of fiddling around with mangled licks. I'm sure this person still believes they're a star, but it's frankly pitiable to everyone who sees it. Don't be that person.
One final reason for boredom, which I think is worthy of consideration, is the question of what one really wants with the guitar. What are one's goals? And are these goals realistic? Is it realistic to expect one to practice so many hours a day for so many years, etc? I know some players, for instance, who really don't have any aspiration to play more than a few chords or licks they hear on the radio. They own that goal, and that's just fine! Because the reality of what will make you happy playing guitar, like anything else, is knowing what you REALLY want. Because if you know your REAL goal, look at the REAL obstacle, and set REAListic steps for yourself, there will be progress. And that won't feel frustrating. It will feel good.