Maybe a good way of practicing to get faster


#1

It has been discussed before, the way to get faster and how to practice.
i think we have 3 ways of doing it.

1: Start slow and build up gradually
2: Just go for the fast motion and then try to clean up
3: burst method: you play a certain fragment 2 time slow and then immidiately 4 times at double speed, repeating it and then try to increase the start speed

Since i am old school nr 1 what always did, but lately i practiced things with method 3 and it seems to work great.
I still think nr 1 is great way but what i think the problem with this is the way you make the movents at a slow speed compared to the motions at faster speeds.

Looking at most guitarplayers (also myself) i think the motions at a slow speed are different from the motions at high speed.
Most players use bigger motions at lower speeds and smaller with a bit more tension in the mucles at higher speeds; some will also switch from wrist to more forearm motion.

So, what i am trying now is to copy the small motion and muscle tension i have at high speed to my low speed playing.
It still feels a bit strange but i can alredy feel the benefit of this.
Now the muscles and the movements at low and high speed are exact the same, there is no transition, and therefore the muscle and brain will learn faster what to do using the nr1 methode. I try to keep the muscle tension as low as possible to avoid injuries.

Maybe it just complet stupid thought of me though, so i would love to hear your opinions on this.


#2

Interesting, seems tough to achieve. I guess you could record yourself and compare slowed down fast vs. slow. I can kind of see how it could work when picking from the elbow by tensing the bicep but for complex combo movements I imagine it will be hard to copy the motion and feeling.


#3

It is indeed difficult to keep it the same.
But the smaller movement you use when playing fast can easily be done playing slow. The muscle tension is another story, but maby not that big of an issue.


#4

It doesn’t feel secure without the tension because the measurements are haphazard(in other words there really isn’t any swing), I feel even in playing slow there should still be the feel of fastness in it but no rushing or especially dragging the tempo. The major problem with playing slow is you can cheat, almost any technique will work(like string hopping), and poor left hand expression can’t really be felt as sound considerations as in “playing with feeling” tend to take over, but when the time comes for eighth/sixteenth note bursts it all falls apart. Perhaps the fretting hand in of itself is just as important as the picking hand and should inform the picking movement so the tension is felt on both sides at once, because I found that once this “shared” tension can be sustained the speed can come very quickly provided one understands the issues at hand(appropriate pick thickness can make all the difference as well). This is what I have seen so far.


#5

I always kind of chuckle at these conversations

Its always presented in terms of “fast” vs “slow” and we all repeat the mantra “but slow motions arent the same as fast motions”

So those are our choices? “fast” vs “slow”. Like those are the only things that exist. yeah if that were the case then id get the argument. buts its NOT the case.

Lets say bleeding edge for me on a certain lick is around 176bpm. Ok, so “slow” might be around 100. Yeah, I get that the motion at 100 isnt going to be exactly the same as it is around 176. But what about 160??? What about 152?

The motion at 152 or 160 is going to be pretty similar to that at 176.

I see Joe Stump mention this on his instructional vids. Let say he can play Sextuplets at around 13.5 to 14nps. That would be around 135 to 140bpm. So he did a whole vid around the Yngwie 6 note pattern and he mentioned had the metronome around 116bpm. He calls it “aerobic” practice. Its fast enough to challenge him but not bleeding edge and its slow enough to be controlled without one falling asleep

so if you do the math it means he is playing a lot at around 85% of his top speed

I feel its a bit of a straw man to say “the motions done slowly arent the same as done at top speed.” I think we are all sophisticated enough to know that the motions at 80 will be different than at 160

But if we take the Joe Stump example above, if he took all those licks at 116 and then bumped it up to 120 until comfortable, then later 124, he is simply getting faster IMO. Has nothing to do with him going back to 80bpm


another point to be made: we were presented with 3 methods to increase speed. But why do we have to choose ONE?? Cant we use them all?? of course we can

on one of Claus’ vids he shows several different ways to use a metronome. One is called “TV practice” where you take a new lick and work it with a metronome until you understand the lick and have it grooved enough to play without thinking about it. Then you take it and play it without the metronome as you watch TV. So I assume that would be around 80% of your top speed. This is his version of “slow” practice WITHOUT MISTAKES.

But then he has other methods where you are pushing into speeds where you WILL make mistakes because its simply pushing your capabilities. he has one called “double time” where if your top speed is, say, 160. Okay so you set the metronome around 85 and you play the lick a certain number of times and then you play it double time so you are attempting it at 170. I suppose its a version of burst but its trackable etc.

Then he has “stop and evaluate” where you set the 'nome near, or at, or just above your top speed and you play your lick once, then you pause for the same amount of space and evaluate what you just played. Then you play it again once more and stop and evaluate again. Its actually pretty cool because you CAN feel where your weak point is on a lick. like for me its almost always going to be upstrokes going to a higher string. Then of course you can isolate that weakness and work on it. Its also cool because you are playing the lick from a dead stop each time as opposed to just “getting it going” and keeping it going etc.

So we have way more choices than just simple “fast” and “slow” methods


#6

I don’t think that option “2” means “only fast”. It means “start fast”.

A player who has never done a movement before doesn’t know what it feels like to do it correctly. Even if that player were to do the movement correctly at a slow speed, they wouldn’t know they were doing it correctly, because slow movements feel quite different from fast ones. Good teaching doesn’t even completely solve this. I can tell someone exactly where to put their hands and how to move, but it won’t feel like the real deal, and they won’t go “oh wait I think I got it!”, until they get it at least once, somewhere near a speed that is realistic for that motion.

That’s the first step. From there, it’s a lot of ping-ponging back and forth between speeds, attempting to recreate that a-ha feeling at a slightly slower speed where accuracy can be worked on, while continually testing smoothness and accuracy at higher speeds.

It’s definitely a long-tail type of process, but rather than the classic “start slow, get faster” approach, if we’re going to oversimplify, “start fast, get slower” would at least be better. In reality, a more accurate but less catchy summary would be “start with a narrow range of mostly fast speeds, and gradually widen that range while maintaining smoothness and improving accuracy”.


#7

it sort of gets into “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” territory doesnt it?

SO many factors involved. Mechanical awareness is a huge one. back in 91-92ish when I first got Intense Rock and tried the PG lick, I was totally unaware that how one held the pick made a difference. So I simply was not able to do the PG lick fast no matter how I practiced. trying to force it fast wouldnt have done much good…and I am sure I tried that as well as trying to work it up gradually.

This is why I simply cant believe there is a one size fits all “fast first” method. these days we actually DO have a good idea of what goes on mechanically for this and that type of lick. So IMO we can in fact do a decent job of approximating fast motions at slow speeds…OR we can just try to jump in at a fast speed and see what happens. maybe we work it out that way but in any case I feel we will have to pay the piper and do some slow reps anyway.

What if we flipped the script and said “how can we best practice to end up being a sloppy, undisciplined player??” Answer…practice faster than you can actually handle

if I had the CTC type slow mo views of players doing 2wps back in the 90s, I could have easily worked it out slowly to get a basic feel for what was going on.

6 of 1, half dozen of another.

of course we could always test it out lol. flip the guitars over and play them upside down Albert King style. Now, how is that “play fast first” gonna work out? Gonna be a train wreck.

So I think a lot of the “start slow and work it up” advice is aimed at lower level players or maybe for someone doing a skill for the first time. Pretty sure the CTC forum crowd isnt mainly beginners. But when we hear the Rick Grahams and others saying “start slow”, a lot of their crowd WILL be beginners

I just dont buy the “its a different motion” angle. yeah of course it is at first! But as the speeds increase it starts getting closer and closer and starts morphing into the more streamlined form. But a beginnerish player aint gonna find that streamlined form in a few tries. Gonna take some slogging it out at lower speeds to build that fine motor control.

But like I say, we can all test it out. Ive never really tapped much before. Let me just all of a sudden try Jeff Watson style 8 finger tapping. yeah, lets everyone post up our “fast first” 8 finger tapping lol. Even Jeff said he had to work it out slowly finger by finger


#8

I think it’s pretty easy to imagine the human motor system works a particular way and doesn’t work other ways. But even if you set that aside, simply “getting the hang” of a motion at a normal-ish speed as a first step isn’t really such a radical concept. I’m sure we can all think of some physical motor skill we acquired this way.

But you’re right we can definitely test these things, and we already have some great examples of this on the forum in the forum of players trying out different things and posting clips. The good news is you can’t get any worse than where we are now. Players come to us who have done methodical, “get all the notes correct” type of practice for decades and can’t play a scale with alternate picking. This includes players from places like Musicians Institute, Berklee, you name it. In some sense, we are currently living in the world that is the result of a large-scale test of that approach, and the hit rate doesn’t look good.


#9

arent there just as many who have tried to play fast from day one yet still suck?

but like I said, is this forum really a broad cross section? Arent we skewed way over into the advanced end of the spectrum? Sure, perhaps WE can learn a lick fast or slow but I think we forget what it is to be a beginner or novice.

a lot of people who “cant play a scale after decades” have serious issues that prevent them. for example persons like myself who simply refused to work on anything consistently. Hell, a consistent approach would have probably worked no matter WHAT it was lol. Its taken me 30 years to do what could have been done in 5. I WISH I would have started slowly and learned at least SOMETHING lol. No, I just always had fun and improvised. Nice and sloppy

Look at it this way, CTC info has been out for what…10 years? its all solved right?? So everyone on the forum can now shred effortlessly?

no? Does that all come down to them being dummies who try things slowly? if they all just wailed then theyd get it right away? I dont think its that simple lol.

There are great players who worked it out slowly just as there are those who just wailed and figured it out that way. I dont think we will eliminate the Bell curve no matter what we preach lol

different strokes for different folks


#10

Discipline is great but you have to be careful. I have personally taught players from very good music programs who were fine musicians with super disciplined habits, who hadn’t made significant progress in picking technique since the '90s because they weren’t aware of the motions that we have, over time, been uncovering. In their cases the hyper discipline created a kind of blind spot. It was like, hey, I’m doing everything they told me and it’s not working so I’m going to pile on even more reps and more hours. More reps and hours of the wrong thing, with as little variation as possible, is only going to make it permanent. And some of the players I have taught have also been injured this way.

We interviewed Terry Syrek who talks about the culture at Berklee. Terry is a great player and super nice guy and it’s unfortunate what happened to him. He has worked around that because he’s a super creative guy at heart:

Cracking the Code went public with the pickslanting stuff about 4 years ago. That was the first real advice we gave people. And instantly, I mean overnight, the changes were pretty incredible. The piles of emails we have from players who were pretty much immediately able to do things they weren’t before, just by knowing something they were doing could be utilized in a certain way. We did a contest for playing ascending pentatonic fours and the videos we got were amazing:

We had working players in cover bands who doing pop songs sending us clips ripping on this pattern in a way that would have put them on the cover of a magazine in 1986. It was really cool. That was before we had the forum. But there’s plenty of that on here too in technique critique threads.

Room for improvement? Definitely. We were grossly unclear about how the motions themselves worked, how pick grip works, and how anchoring and forearm setup works. So for every player that had all that stuff right, there were tons who didn’t and who couldn’t make use of the insights about string switching. It wasn’t even until last year that we sorted out the difference between pickslanting and picking motion for real.

All that stuff is getting filmed now and going into the Pickslanting Primer. It will be our best attempt yet at explaining in plain English to regular people of any skill level exactly how to hold and move a guitar pick, and then build a picking style around those choices. This includes new players from square one.

If we haven’t “solved” everything it’s because I never claimed to have done so. This is definitely a work in progress. If anything, I like to think we’ve brought observation and testing into the real of instruction, which we haven’t really had before. The opinion of a guru sitting in his or her own echo chamber isn’t as valuable as a survey of what’s out there that works and doesn’t work. I have been wrong, I have said so, and in fact I am thrilled to say so because realizing this just means I’m that much closer to being right, and helping even more people.


#11

I could talk to you for an hour about what you just said about the difference between description(metaphor) and actual performance. When you do something well(even if it’s just two or three note phrases on one string), you get a feeling of being in the air(the movement reinforces itself and the continuity is the speed, bpm’s don’t really matter there is a certain tension that exists where “you” (that is to say little you), isn’t really doing it anymore of which I am sure you are aware. It must be like surfing only instead catching the wave, we ARE the wave that we are catching. I know this is so because even in the last 24 hours I have experienced this dramatically and without the tension that “speed” provided this would not have been possible because the awareness potential doesn’t exist in the way my playing was formerly attempted. Ah I see now what you are saying as well, what I am calling “Awareness Potential” you are calling range, but my metaphor feels more descriptive than just the word range.
A well known jazz drummer made the remark the Ballad playing was for mature musicians, at the moment I wouldn’t go near them.


#12

yes this is my same experience and sort of why I hate to see us get too dogmatic in how we prescribe practice methods. Without some mechanical knowledge, it may not matter HOW we practice. Whereas WITH the mechanical knowledge, we can probably achieve great speeds with most any decent practice strategy

Im quite pleased to see you say that you dont aspire to an echo chamber type forum. Independent minded players doing their own research is much better than turning into some Robert Fripp deal


#13

Fripp is amazing. And I can say that while realizing that the League of Crafty Guitarists thing was indeed super strange.


#14

well there ARE some perils in groups with charismatic founders/leaders. Often on the forum we see the phrase… “well Troy says.” I guess thats the period at the end of the sentence that stops all further discussion on the subject lol

But as common sense might show, someone quoting someone else can often be quoting out of context, or as you yourself have said, maybe they are quoting something very nuanced that you yourself have changed your views on.

A relative newb might say “Troy says” to some 30 yr veteran player and that seems a bit backwards to me

How do you feel about that?

I think its a bit silly tbh. “Troy says so and so”…countered by “Rick Graham says so and so else”

shouldnt we all just speak on what we have experimented with ourselves, as opposed to quoting “the guru” as u said lol


#15

I’m super aware of this and nobody in this industry takes steps to un-self-promote more than I do. I don’t even say “I” or “me” in our official materials - I always say “we”, because it’s as much the contribution of Brendan, Adam, and the community here that we know what we know now.

And I’ll also tell you what: I don’t have that kind of clout. It’s annoying when I say stuff that is based on observation or research and people doubt me because “Guthrie” or “Vai” said something different once. I’ve even caught myself wondering when we’ll get big enough that “Troy Grady” said it for people to go, ok, well, he said so.

I just see this as a good thing. If our own paying customers are willing to doubt the material they are paying for, even when I think they’re wrong, then we have the right incentive to make the best stuff we can that produces results clearly and effectively.


#16

haha. on this forum you obviously DO have the clout lol. So the question becomes, do you want unquestioning “disciples” or do you want independent investigators who stand shoulder to shoulder with you while we all try to get better?

I think we are all aware of the contributions you have made to teaching. especially those of us who are around your same age and came up with Metal Method and Troy Stetinas stuff (which I loved lol) and who also were still somewhat stymied even after seeing all of our heros VHS instructional tapes

I take “Troy says” the same way I take “Vai says” or “Rick Graham says.” All of those are points to consider and add to our expertise. Sometimes the advises or conclusions may seem to contradict but they are simply coming from different directions. You have to take into consideration where someone is coming from before you judge their conclusions and advice.

I have quoted Vai where he says (paraphrase from ancient memory…and im sure someone can find the old interview lol) “id pick some weird pattern and start slowly on the metronome and increase it a few clicks at a time and after a few months you are wailing.” So that part I agree on for some applications…but then I think the “Steve Vai 10 hr practice routine” is probably the worst way possible for most people to practice lol. Yet I cant out of hand negate things a great player like Vai says.

Cheers, a most profitable discussion.

JJ


#17

Says the guy who routinely doubts things I say!

Kidding aside, it’s not just you, it’s everyone. Lots of people on here take issue with what I say even when the things I’m saying come from actual observation, including places like the motor learning textbook sitting on my desk, and the research papers cited in it which we’ve downloaded and also have sitting on our desks.

That’s fine. It’s better than fine, it’s good. It keeps us working harder. If we can’t convince or better yet help our own customers then we can’t help anyone.


#18

exactly! you should be paying me to post! One fiercely independent JonJon is worth 12 blind followers!

I think the only thing we have differed on is the “fast first” vs “work it up slowly” thing. Its just came up in a few threads. Im not against the idea per se…as I have stated. its the right approach for certain things but its certainly not the only way to go. Im only against the fact that you seem to make it a blanket method for all learning situations.

Its ironic but you yourself may have brought about the environment by which slow practice WILL work lol. A total newb could take some of your vids and explanations and learn them slowly and NEVER have to unlearn bad habits etc. Its speculation but im thinking that newb could almost have linear growth right to extreme levels since in a way he is “painting by numbers”

there are other fields that need fine motor control that start off newbs in slow motion. IIRC the Soviets used to start off all weightlifting newbs (kids) with STATIC practice using a broomstick to learn the positions that theyd later hit while in motion under great load. They didnt just throw the kid a bar and say “go for it”. They also use slow motion exercises on occasion to target areas that get glossed over at high speed.

its an interesting idea. if we REALLY know something, we can closely approximate it at slow speeds


#19

I agree. The just go for the fast motion and then try to clean up only may work if you already have practiced a looot to get things going smooth and in sync at a slower and medium speeds. It does not work for beginners or even when you already have some basiscs down, i know because i have tried this with students. You have to have already a more advanced technique going on, only then you can try for that extra fast and clean up method.


#20

That’s correct. It takes a dance expert to dance realistically in pseudo “slow motion”. Or an expert gymnast could maybe approximate a slow handspring by faking the momentum. It’s still hard. I personally find it hard to approximate my faster form when playing slow.

A new player is very unlikely to have any clue how to do a picking motion they have never done before realistically at very slow speeds. And again, even if they were to get it right, they would have no way of knowing it was right because the only way you can test for correct motion is playing fast to see if it still feels smooth.

Ergo, you end up at the same place in the end - fast to start.