Ideas on quickly forming new habits?

Hey Guys,

I’m working on improving/experimenting with my picking mechanics (pronating my forearm, curling my index finger, slightly adjusting my grip) and one thing I’m really struggling with is forming these things as new habits. I can utilize the new techniques well while I’m consciously focusing on my right hand but if I try to play through something without focusing on my right and the specific changes then it reverts to the old ways.

I did some searching in the forum and found plenty of scenarios where people mention similar issues but they all seem to get diverted to “is the new thing you’re trying to do the right thing or even necessary?”. I’m pretty sure I’m moving in the right direction with the things I’m trying and either way, any change I try to make at this point will likely encounter the same problem so I think the question is valid on its own.

Does anyone know of ways to quickly form new habits or over ride old habits? I think conventional wisdom says to just keep practicing while focusing on it and eventually it’ll become the new habit but I have this awesome forum of experienced guitarists at my fingertips so I thought it would be a good idea to see if anyone has a better solution.


One thing that I think makes sense is that the new thing needs to be sufficiently different from the old thing so that you have less temptation to go back to the comfort zone.

Maybe that’s too abstract so here is an example: when I get stuck on some picking pattern I sometimes try to do it with a three-finger grip, which I never normally use. Just to give myself more chances to discover the “correct” movements.


What tommo mentioned is very interesting as in my own obsessive focus on right hand technique, I’ve tried many different ways of holding the pick. I’ve done loads of practice with three different versions, eddie van halen, marty friedman and jason becker.

I’ve found it takes quite a bit of time to get comfortable in each new type, like months. And then you can switch from each style depending on the situation.
The evh three finger for example is incredibly loose, yet gives you loads of joint range and can help you play a lot of akward picking patterns.
And with that added range of motion comes new data to the brain that it can process and feel out the most efficient paths for the pick to move.

So to get to your point of a fast new habit. Try doing something fairly different from what you were doing before, and give the brain a new “perspective.”

I think if you give your unconscious brain enough information from different angles it can form a truer picture of the world, or a more solid foundation to develop a movement.

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Good tips for the subject in general. In my case, two of the things I’m working on are very different from what I’m used to so I think I’m already utilizing these tips.

On this same subject, are there any tricks for breaking down what has to be a mental block? I’m trying to form a new habit of doing two down strokes in a row. Before I joined this forum, I was alternate picking 100%. Now that I’m trying to embrace my pickslant, I want to be able to pick the way suggested by the pros here which occasionally requires two downstroke in a row (the CTC Solo1 has the perfect example when it hits the 15th fret). However, the two downstrokes in a row is killing me. I’m playing something that’s really very simple 15-11 on the E, 14 on the B, and then repeat but I’m maxing at roughly half the speed of the rest of the lick and I known it has to be a mental block because of how slow I’m playing something so simple. I just don’t know how to break down that damn wall.

Do you mean sweeping? That was (and sometimes still is) a problem for me. I could do sweeping in descending direction, but as I moved on highest strings my ‘alternate’ ego took over. For example, when I played ascending scale 3nps my hand started to stuter at 110bpm.
So, I sat at my computer, turned on a movie and started to play the scale over and over. Slowly, hyperrelaxed (I loose my pick couple of times), and not looking on my hand focusing on sensation. Obviously, I wasn’t playing all the time, since movie was more or less interesting ) But after 3 or 4 of such sessions (couple of movies and a lot of youtube videos) I was able to play the scale with sweeping in 160-170 bpm. +60bpm in 3-4 days was a sign for me that it was mental thing indeed, not my wrong mechanics or whatever physical.
The only addition is that hand must be totally relaxed before and after a pickstroke. Reststrokes were helping a lot.

I think thinking of habits on guitar is different from habits in everyday life. In everyday life you have triggers, environment. An outside force that can help trigger a habit.
But holding the guitar is always the same (relatively) there are no real triggers.

Perhaps learning a new passage or song with Just the technique you are intrested in could be useful?
For example, 5150 by van halen has a quadruple downstroke double stop on the major chord.

This has helped me develop my picking in terms of double down strokes, James Hetfield style. Hope it helps :slight_smile:

I’m not sure it qualifies as sweeping but effectively, yes. It’s a down, up, down, down, up and the downs are switching strings.

I saw your response last night on my phone while watching tv and started this process lol. I normally do something similar but usually find it hard to focus because I’m trying to play an entire run but last night I played just this little thing over and over for a couple episodes of Desperate Housewives haha. Hopefully doing this every night for a week or so will produce some results.

Another good tip, this is something I’m currently doing and just kind of hoping that I’ll be able to apply it to things I learned years ago lol.

In CtC terms - it does. We may say that there are two… actually, there are three things called as ‘sweeping’.
Sweeping as a mechanic refers to changing strings with one stroke (downstroke or upstroke).
Sweeping as an overall technique is something people usually think about when hear the terms: movement across multiple strings in one direction (for arpeggios or whatever). And sweeping as a playing strategy which is synonymous to ‘economy picking’, which implies that most of the time player use sweeping.

Same here. It’s hard to keep the balance between loosing a focus and being too consious. I’m not a practice guy so once I feel that I’m forcing myself I stop. Not the best approach but it works somehow… sometimes…

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Hi! One of the best tools I’ve acquired for quickly adapting any new habits (on guitar and life in general):

  1. Write it down! The devil is in the detail when it comes to guitar technique, especially when playing fast. So many mistakes can blur passed our awareness due to the speed, it can take years to correct them or to realize exactly what mistakes you have been making. When I sit down, I always have a notebook handy. Anytime I try something new and it seems to be an improvement, I jot it down, then read it again the next time I pick up the guitar. This has accelerated my habit adaptation abilities and I strongly believe can save years of inefficient practice!

That’s an interesting idea that I never thought of. I’ll have to start working that in :slight_smile:

A variation on this idea is mentioned in many books on time management. You often see descriptions of a meeting between consultant Ivy Lee and steel magnate Charles M. Schwab. Lee’s advice for Schwab’s executives to increase their productivity:

  1. At the end of each workday, write down a list of six things you didnt get done today that need to get done tomorrow.
  2. Identify the single most important item on the list.
  3. When you arrive at work the next day, dedicate your time and attention to that “most important” task.
  4. When the “most important” task is done, move on to other items from the list (more important first).
  5. At the end of the day, make a new list for tomorrow, (consider whether that should include any unfinished items from today).