Gaining fluidity and fluency after speed - any ways to speed it up?

So I can play fast, and have a good array of techniques under my belt; they can always be improved, but the foundation is there - and my next steps are essentially - continue to work on difficult pieces to gain vocabulary, work more on theory and fretboard fluency (specifically working on extended arpeggio patterns and variations right now and thinking about key modulation patterns), and learn patterns taught by other players that they commonly use and teach in their instructional material.

Are there any ways to optimize this process of building yourself up as a general musician, and any common blind spots in the process?

Is it better to hop from one thing to the next in a cycle during your practice time, so that spaced repetition comes into play? I work from home, and my free time comes in bursts that would certainly allow me to practice for a bit and come back throughout the day, and I want to take best advantage of that I can.

Has anyone followed the practice regimen of a particular player or developed their own that was particularly useful or seemed to improve on their previous approach?

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Listen, listen closely to yourself, listen closely to others, ear training, play with others.

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Just want to check if the question means what I think it means :slight_smile:

Are you asking about “cleaning up” a technique after the basics are established? I.e. minimizing the error rate in a performance?

Or are you talking more broadly about being a “better player”, having a bigger vocabulary, better phrasing etc.?

Mainly about cleaning things up - although if there are any particular ideas that have helped with the second thing at a more advanced level I’d love to hear them - mainly I’ve been focusing on cool patterns with extended arpeggios and stuff like this Rick Graham video on modal arpeggios

In the first case though - is there some consistent way to speed things up and reliably gain accuracy? I know if I take a piece and break it down, memorize it and play it slowly with a metronome, apply some spaced repetition, do the whole method of going through the piece to find the exact tempo I can cleanly play each part and work on problem spots, it does seem to slowly improve my playing.

But this feels pretty painstakingly long - maybe there’s no way around it. It has gotten faster, a bit, as I’ve built on my technique. For example, I’m closer and closer to getting Perpetual Burn in a single take, but it’s taken months to do so.

Maybe I could ask you for perspective - you said you had to break up The Thinking Man into several parts and that was a while back - have you gotten to the point that you can to a clean play through in one take? When you approach another Vinnie Moore song now, is the learning process faster?

No, I actually forgot how to play the song :rofl:

I am also interested in exploring various ways to get things cleaner and more repeatable. I know that Troy (among his 200 projects :wink: ) is doing research on the science of learning, so I’m sure he’ll eventually come up with some great advice on that :slight_smile:

For now, I can give you some anecdotal stuff: in my opinion you can do a lot of cleaning up when you work at “intermediate speeds”: fast enough that the movements are realistic / must be efficient, but slow enough that you have more control over the details of what you are doing.

Random example: suppose your target speed for song XYZ is 180bpm 16ths. At that speed you can play the piece but it is a bit hit and miss. Try to lower to something like 150-160 and see if you can clean things up. Go back to 180 and see if you improved. Etc. Etc. :slight_smile:

Another thing: don’t overpractice parts. Spend (again random numbers) max 5 minutes working on each challenge / section of the song, then move on. You want to get used to the fact that each part has to be played once (and well).

There’s a section of the Kageyama interview where he talks about interleaved practice, which I think is a more rigorous version of my crappy explanation :smiley:

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Well FWIW, I know we can all get better, but all the stuff I’ve seen/heard of you indicates you’re one of the very cleanest there is. IMO.

Definitely a great idea. I have probably linked this elsewhere for similar questions but I think this video has some really interesting ideas on how to clean things up:

I can’t remember if it’s that video or one of his others, but I also recall a method where you intentionally practice above the desire tempo and gradually reduce the tempo until it starts to clean up. Seems inline with the Shawn Lane methodology, and probably less fatiguing (and more fun!) than the tired old approach of starting really slow and working up to speed 2 bpm at a time :slight_smile: I can attest that approach (at least for me) does not work lol!

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I’ve seen and worked on incorporating all the above, it might just be psychological here, and I think it might be boiling down to frustration with the speed of improvement being kind of logarithmic - I’m not improving at the same rate as before so it feels like I’m not improving at all, but I know I am and when I go back and look it’s obvious.

I think my rate of improvement has dropped below the rate that I adapt to hearing what I’m doing as “more or less the same as last time”. So maybe the answer is keep learning a diverse array of riffs/songs/etudes and theory with some focused work on weak areas. I’m sure I could also go for a new technique like improving hybrid picking or finger picking to get the feeling of making faster progress.

But I think learning multiple 5 minute long shred-fest song and getting it perfectly in one play through just does take tons and tons of refinement over time.

I think that experience must stack up over time as you build a wider vocabulary and master it - looking at e.g. Dean Lamb demonstrating the amount of time it takes to learn difficult small segments as an elite player I’m imagining it would still take him plenty long to master a song (this section of a Revocation solo for example )

Part of why I love when players post raw material like that, I imagine it would take to at least a week for him to get that whole Revocation song down and probably significantly longer to really refine it.

I can say, working on Mabel’s Fatal Fabel now feels much more manageable than when I was starting on Perpetual Burn for example, so I know things are getting easier on that front.

Is this even humanly possible? :slightly_smiling_face:

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Apparently if you’re this guy EDIT: I can tell this isn’t perfect but it’s pretty damn solid for an entire album playthrough in one sitting (assuming it’s not doctored which could be the case)

Obviously being “close enough” to perfect is going to be relative - no play through is a perfect mechanical guitar pro rendition, but top players can certainly get to the point that they can whip out live performances of their solo work with very few flaws. Paul Gilbert might be one of the most ridiculously consistent examples of just spot on playing every time, but Jeff Loomis for instance can do it with a little more leeway on consistency, plenty of players in that camp. And he can keep it up for multiple difficult songs.

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From 8:38 onwards there is some stuff that definitely looks sped up in my opinion.

The way the right hand twists when doing the descending sweeps is a big give away. I get that he’s playing really fast and the quality isn’t great so maybe that’s the reason it looks odd but even in footage from 1989 of Jason sweeping his right hand looks way more natural:

EDIT: Checked out his other videos on his channel as well and they also seem to be sped up, the movements are unnaturally frantic and the vibrato is really fast in a way that I wouldn’t call “bad” but actually impossible for a human to make (here is an example from the same video on the pinch harmonic at the end of the phrase):

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Yeah I was getting some impression of that from re-watching the video - specifically if you look at how the headstock is jerking around it doesn’t look right either.

It does go to show how rare the ability to play that sort of thing faithfully is that most of the covers of Jason Becker on YT are clearly produced and edited - probably with many takes and cut together portions.

@tommo I’m wondering about the practicing speed - yes if you are familiar with a motion, you can practice at intermediate speed and maintain correct form. Many classical Violinists suggest working at very slow speeds to memorize the piece and get good form - I think part of this comes from how exact the fingerings need to be for intonation.

However, I watched Ithzak Pearlman talk about practicing slow - so, I’m trying practicing at slow speeds today, and realizing, I don’t put enough thought into transitions - I let my muscle memory take over, but going into an arpeggio sweeping staring on downstroke vs upstroke vs legato etc in a sequence of changes from alternate picking to sweeps like in Becker is good to pay attention to - I’m going through and refining my form and consciously adding wrist extension for escapes if I’m in a downstroke trapped form and vice versa and I feel that knowing and being familiar with multiple picking forms and their escape motions, there really isn’t an issue with maintaining proper form when practicing slowly.

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I watch this guy too. I get good advice from him.

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I don’t know if this will help you, but I’ll toss it out there with my experience working through stuff lately.

Joe Stump and Jon Bjork have also mentioned things about slow practice and to really listen and pay attention to what you are doing this is really good to do, but not too much. You want to train your muscles to do things cleanly and then not think about it when you are actually playing. “Flow” has repeatedly come up for me lately from various players like Andy Wood and Vinnie Colaiuta where they mentioned that thinking is the enemy of flow. So I think it’s a balance where you do structured refining at a particular thing for a short time, and then try to play what it is you’re refining (I don’t like the word practice). Tommo mentioned this too and I think it’s linked to “chunking” that is often mentioned by Troy.

I’ve been working on a particular solo again, relearning it and moving stuff around and changing how I play it to make it easier for me to do. I start by playing along with the solo, and I make mental note of the places that I’m having trouble with and then I go back and practice those difficult things for a short period of time slowed down and get it as refined as I can. Then I start at the beginning and work this into the solo in real time so that I’m putting to use what I just spend that time refining in context. I believe that this little regiment that I’ve started to do has helped a lot and I’ve nearly got it nailed how I want to play it now with not so much effort as I used to do. I’m now applying it to other things as well and they are coming quicker and I’ll probably refine this method further.

As usual it’s all about finding what works for you, and it may be different. I’m also quite brutally honest with myself and I record sometimes and listen back so I can hear what I’m doing and picking up on things I might have missed or blocked out mentally, I find this very useful too.

Hope it helps.

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To develop as a musician , it’s important not to lose sight of the underlying point, which is music, and to practice just playing music, playing a melody you hear in your head, feeling your way around.

We can drill all the techniques and shapes and patterns until we’re blue in the face but it’s like no matter how well you know the alphabet, that’s not going to make you a better writer.

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That’s a crucial point, I’ve made weekly jamming with a drummer friend a commitment to follow. It’s really easy to not stop and realize you have all these techniques already and haven’t really put them to work because you’re not writing enough or playing around enough

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this is why i highly recommend gypsy jazz rest stroke technique. if you follow the rules, and stick with it in the beginning its rough but i could literally learn a phrase in about one or two days and implement the proper mechanics or some kind of proper mechanic that i have engrained into my hands through very tediously learning it properly in the beginning. but boy was it a pain in the ass, and i still can only go about 70 to 80 percent speed of stochelo rosenberg, although if its ascended phrasing i might can match his speed or at least 85 to 95 percent of it, but on the descending side is where i am having problems as he has just had years of playing under his belt to get those downstrokes at mach speed when string changing from down to another down to another down to sometimes a painful 4th down stroke on a descending arpeggio across 4 strings, when in the heavy metal field they just upstroke it all. i originally was doing this but i decided to give the down thing a try. my double downs on an ascending diminished phrase is actually quite fast and i suprised myself. at first when you come across these it will shock you cause its like 10 down strokes in a row 2 notes per string crossing all 6. i actually prefer it, i am nowhere near as fast as the pros but maybe i might get a bit faster in my lifetime. :smiley:

so true i just learned this song there will never be another you. so i decided cause well its a really nice song to see who wrote it… big mistake some people are just lightyears ahead of everybody. :smiley:

i have just come to terms with it i can only do what i can do, i can keep trying, but i also am fully aware at how bad i am at music. :stuck_out_tongue:

and see my problem is i hear crickets in my brain i most of the time try to find sounds on the instrument not in my mind or wait for them cause i am not blessed with a musical bug. maybe some are i just never met one in person. however i have a pretty thorough understanding of theory and tetrachords so i know aurally what they sound like but not all of it from memory i just havent trained my ears enough to comprehend stuff to play things back in my own brain away from the instrument. but i also believe it doesnt just take a great ear it also takes creativity cause we all know how to write or haha maybe i write bad run ons as i dont try to proofread, but we arent all authors of best selling novels or even short stories. meaning even if you have perfect pitch or perfect relative pitch or can transcribe with ease that doesnt mean you are going to be creative and the most amazing artist.

and now onto the final point is even if during your lifetime all you create is one two or three songs be proud of yourself. even one good song could be a masterpiece. never give up hope.