Magnet Users: Has having the magnet impacted your improvement?

I’ve backed the magnet and look forward to using one eventually. I’ve been continually impressed by @Troy’s improvement and wondered how much this is due to being able to evaluate one’s own playing using the magnet rather than just having an understanding of the techniques necessary for a given phrase. (Which Troy obviously has a deep understanding of.)

I have a tripod attachment for my phone and ipad but can’t quite get the same angle as the magnet nevertheless when I have recorded and slowed down the playing I am often surprised (and disappointed) at what I find. It seems my ear simply cant keep up with certain deficiencies until I really know what to look and listen for.

And even though I have often been dismayed to find sloppy playing when under the microscope, I will admit that I have been better able to make changes to eliminate technical problems more quickly.

What’s your experience?

2 Likes

I assembled a magnet a few years ago because I wanted to learn the Andy Wood system. In particular I wanted a crosspicking mechanic and an USX form.

I threw together an app one weekend and bought a $20 USB footswitch. When I clicked the footswitch I would record a snippet and then play it back in slowmo on the computer monitor. This gave me a pretty nice feedback loop.

This project has been fun, and I’ve sunk a lot of hours over the years into experimenting with different forms (or more likely the same wrong form over and over again), but I still can’t do USX with the AW form or crosspicking.

Recently I haven’t been using the magnet at all, except when posting here. The problem isn’t knowing that I’m not doing it right, that is usually obvious. The hard part is what comes next. I can’t look at the magnet footage and know what to adjust. Similar movements feel really different, e.g. if you change the physical pickslant / anchor points etc yet do the same movement it can feel like you’re generating a new movement, but you’re really just treading water.

3 Likes

Man this sounds super-useful! Is it something you’d be willing to share?

If by ‘share’ you mean send you a zip file with the worst shitcode you’ve seen in your life and then provide zero support, then yes. You’d have to modify it to work in your environment, though, and compile the android app yourself. I’ve literally hardcoded some ip ranges in the android app because I didn’t want to spend time on having the backend and frontend find one another in a more robust way.

If there’s an app developer here that wants to write some OSS and take this beyond ‘works on my machine; good luck!’ I’d be happy to write the backend part of that project.

5 Likes

Hahaha I love this. You clearly haven’t seen my codes!

1 Like

That would be awesome! I really struggle with filming and can’t wait to get the magnet, but a footswitch controller to record snippets is a great idea. I smell a CTC app cooking!

This is all great stuff. I remember when you posted about this originally and of course have thought about this since. I’m sure it’s something people would use.

The one pitfall here is constant filming and looking becomes a bit of a crutch that doesn’t really teach you much. It just keeps confirming what you already know. I really just use the Magnet as a check once in a while, not every single take or repetition.

The number one challenge in acquiring a skills you don’t yet have is learning to recognize, by feel alone, when something is right. You can’t do it by sight. You can’t look at video and adjust. You can’t even look in a mirror. You can actually learn the mirror visual to the point where you can’t do the technique without the mirror. I’ve experienced this. You learn to adjust your position and motion until it looks a certain way in the mirror and then in the daytime when the light is different you can’t remember how to do it any more. You weren’t learning alternate picking. You were actually learning “nighttime mirror picking”.

Feel and sound are the only consistent sources of feedback you can rely on as a player. So eventually, everything has to be learned based on those two things alone.

So, one thing I can recommend not looking at your hands at all as you’re trying to learn. Only look infrequently, about as infrequently as you would look at Magnet footage for confirmation of correctness or incorrectness. Maybe after you’ve been playing for fifteen minutes, for example, and you think you might have made some kind of progress, you might film yourself or observe yourself in a mirror to see what things look like. And only then if you actually feel you have something to look at, because things sounded or felt different than they did before.

That last part is key. To get a different result, your form has to actually feel different and hopefully also sound different. If you’re stuck in a rut where you keep making the same errors, then you have to ask yourself, does it really feel any different when I do it?

In order to get a result that is qualitatively different, you need to actually do something to make your technique feel different as you’re playing. And most of us have some comfort zone form that we like to stay in, and we have a strong tendency to want to stay there. We convince ourselves that we’re making meaningful changes. I’m using more supination! I’m using less supination! But it doesn’t feel that different when you’re doing it, I can almost guarantee you’re not changing the motion all that much. You’re just tilting your arm a tiny bit and making the same motion as before. Watching the tape should confirm this.

So one game you can play with the Magnet is, can I make the tape look different? Like, just for kicks, can I actually do something where the motion itself really looks very obviously different when I film it? For example, on pattern X, I notice that such and such pickstroke always traps when I want it to escape. Ok, great, let’s keep trying weird things and I see if I can get that to escape. Just that note. I don’t care about the rest of the lick, or if it even feels good or sounds good, or even if it’s fast or anything. I just want to see if I can get any difference at all in that motion that I can legitimately and obviously see. Generally, when you succeed in making that particular motion look different, you’ll notice that it also felt different when you did it. It still might not be right, but you might learn something about what your comfort zone rut is, and what you have to do to get out of it.

So the short answer is, it’s a constant battle for change. If things aren’t working, you must make them be different, using everything you’ve got to fight your instincts to always be the same. The Magnet is a super helpful tool for me in doing this because otherwise you’d never really know. It can’t tell you what to do to actually produce that change. That has to come from instructional material that you’ve watched, or from pure trial and error like the greats did it. But you must change something to get better.

11 Likes

Thanks for the replies. Very interesting observations.

After further reflecting on it, the two main things I feel like are at issue with my playing are: 1. unintentional swiping, and 2. left- and right-hand coordination. That’s the stuff I see at slow-mo speed that don’t always recognize when I’m playing.

Swiping almost never happens during single-escape type playing, like the EJ style or Yngwie style stuff. So if you’re seeing it there it might mean that the motion simply isn’t working and a “Technique Critique” post is the way to go so we can take a look at what you’re doing.

Even in cases where you want to make both escapes, like for scale playing, even if you tried to do that with a single escape motion, look at the results Batio gets. He doesn’t even bother avoiding the strings when he plays a descending scale. Because of the downstroke escape motion he’s using, he would only hit the strings once every six notes and when he’s playing a straight line scale you really barely hear it especially on the low strings.

Even when he plays more complicated patterns which incur more swiping, the results are still good. Take this for example, can you hear the swipes here?

I can. But they’re muted pretty well which is interesting considering he’s got no palm muting happening here. It’s all left hand muting. And they occur mostly where we would expect them to occur, not on every string change, but only when he’s doing an upstroke that goes to the lower string.

Even if you can hear them, I still think this sounds pretty good overall. And I think most people would be pretty happy to be able to pull out something like this when they need to. On high gain electric, Mike has played this way for decades and to my knowledge we are the only ones who ever pointed it out.

My point is that even a simple single-escape picking motion can make you an all-time great if your hand sync is good and muting is on point. So I tend not to get too hung up on swiping as a thing unless it’s making really loud open strings or something. I don’t try to swipe, I try not to. But if I can’t tell and it sounds great then I don’t get too hung up on it. That’s the best way to handle it.

As far as hand synchronization, that’s purely a chunking thing, repetitive patterns on a single string with the accented downstroke. If there’s a way to make that work better I’m open to suggestions.

7 Likes

@Troy Thanks so much for your reply!

This is actually an amazing answer to many questions,

2 Likes

You were actually learning “nighttime mirror picking”.

Man I used to do this as a teen all the time, made a mess of the mirrors…

2 Likes

This is so amazing, I can’t stop laughing

1 Like