Pathetic speed and technique after many years of practicing. Can you help me?


#1

It’s my first post here, so hi, I’m Chris from Warsaw. I’m 28 and I’ve been playing for something like 13 years. Initially on acoustic and not very seriously, but for at least 8 years I’ve been trying to learn to shred.

Unfortunately I totally suck. I could always do tapping fast, and maybe I should have held on to that and build my style around it. But I’ve been trying to learn alternate picking too. Someone showed me this lick and I’ve been working on it for at least 3 years, and was never able to get past 150bpm 16th notes / 200bpm 8th note triplets.

Here is how I tremolo pick. From slow speed to a point where I can’t do it:

Here is the lick that I mentioned. Look… I always have to start extremely slowly and graaaadually increase the tempo, otherwise I suck even more than in the video:

I learnt a lot from Cracking the code. I understand that I’m doing upward pick slanting. I also believe string crossing is not an issue here. Playing such triplets on one string is to me even more challenging:

Guys please help me out. I’ve seen a lot of videos on the internet. Took lessons face to face. Took lessons online. Some people after 2 years of playing can rip it all over the neck. Maybe I’m just hopelessly talentless when it comes to shred? Is it worth spending more time on this, or should I just stick to tapping and master it?

If you think I should keep trying, please tell me how exactly you think I should practice this stuff to gain some decent speed? Let’s say I’d like to be able to pick at 250bpm with 8th note triplets, and make every note sound good, not so out of control as it is now.


#2

Welcome aboard!

you arent as bad as you make out to be lol. We are all trying to get better

The main advice I could give would be that doing the WHOLE SCALE is like the hardest way to learn IMO. So if I were you id break it down into smaller sections

for instance maybe small repeatable sections like this:

triplets or sextuplets
D-------------------------------------------------
A---------------5–7--8–10–8--7------------
E—5–7--8--------------------------10–8--7— repeat

6 notes up then slide up one position and 6 notes back down etc. Thats one way Paul Gilbert showed on his old Intense Rock vid

thats an easy pattern that repeats and you dont have to worry about your pickstrokes or pickslanting. just keep your UWPS etc

Then you can experiment with stuff like varying the tension in both hands etc. A little firmer, or more relaxed or whatever and see what feels good as you try to speed up


It does look like the left hang fingers are sort of flapping around a bit excessively. Others can chime in with their advice on that but maybe start trying to get the motions a bit smaller and more controlled…in other words you dont have to lift the fingers so high off the fretboard.


lastly, to confuse you even more. You can consider your right hand anchoring approach. Some people do “hard anchor” with the arm like you are doing. In other words you are anchoring with the arm and never moving it as you go to higher or lower strongs.

Another approach is to let the arm and hand move a little more freely as you go to higher and lower strings.

The way you are doing it with the hard anchor, you have to change other things each time you go to a different string. The wrist angles have to change or the fingers have to be manipulated. Also of course the pick angle against the strings will be varied.

I used to do it the way you are doing and I really struggled to pick the e and b strings because the angles got so weird.

If you let the whole arm and hand more freely move up or down to better track the string changes, it takes away some fo the other variables etc. You will no longer have a different wrist angle and different finger manipulations etc.

I dont think either way is “right” or “wrong” but you might experiment some the other way to see how it feels


if you take the 2 things I mentioned…1) doing the WHOLE SCALE at once, and 2) using the hard anchor and therefore having different picking angles on each string, you can see that you are trying to groove like 9 million things at once

Thats why I suggest trying smaller scale fragments, like just work on each different set of 2 strings at a time etc.


also of course you cant go wrong just working on your speed and efficiency with stuff like the 6 note pattern on one string. This will help with coordination and you can more easily focus on keeping those fretting fingers from flapping around quite as much

Triplets or sextuplets
B-----8–5--7–8--7–5—repeat or move up or down the scale etc


oh btw, its not that odd to be “struck” for several years at a time lol. You can be at one level for a while and all of a sudden you move up quickly. I had been playing to 27 years before I heard anything about pickslanting. I was a pretty good player but I never could do stuff like 3nps scales lol. Now I have worked on the various pickslanting options and it has really helped me become WAY better

So dont get discouraged

Cheers, JJ


#3

I suggest taking a look at two very informative forum posts by @Troy:

To me, they sum up a general philosophy/approach to practicing that is perhaps counter-intuitive, but known to work.

Perhaps you will find them as helpful as I have!


#4

Lol @ pathetic.
I understand the feeling but I think guys like us who already know how to play are in a good place here.

As I uptake the accurate info here my technical leaps happen pretty fast.

You have all that past experience and that frees you up to focus on a few details.

I don’t think we are bad people we just didn’t have the info. Lol

Imagine 12 years from now where you will be.

Peace


#5

Hi,

Thanks for the replies. Look I know you’re joking a bit, but just in case, I’m gonna say it. I didn’t mean my post to sound in any way like a complaint. I was just pissed at my ethernal lack of progress.

@JonJon thanks, I’ll try playing shorter bits. Regarding the finger flapping - of course I’ve had some people pointing that out to me, but actually I’ve seen some video of Troy, in which he was saying that the size of the picking motion doesn’t matter. I think he was giving Van Halen as an example of huge but fast motions. I thought maybe it is also true for the left hand.

Also I tried to limit the finger movement, but at some point when I speed up, I can’t control it any more and I fall back into the old thing. What should I do? Practice at the slower speed and gradually speed up trying to maintain the new movement?

@Johannes, I read these whole theads, but I guess I need to make sure I understood the message.

First of all I already knew this post about these “4 stages” of speed, but I feel like I’m not competent to correctly judge, which one I’m at. E.g. I thought my right hand was ok, and my main issue was sychronization. But not to bias anyone I just put my post without telling you any of my suspicions.

I understood that I should just try some other techniques that people use, and look for the click? I’ll try, but I’ve been doing my thing so many years that I can’t imagine anything else will click any better. I mean I’ll just fall back into the old ruts, because maybe I’m using crap movements but I’m so used to that. Let’s say I’ll switch to forearm rotation. But how long should I be trying this before I can determine if it works better or worse than what I’m currently doing?

Also with the left hand motions - because I still think that’s the bigger issue - there isn’t that much information about that in here. E.g. should I try positioning by thumb differently? Bend my wrist more or less? Try not to move the wrist at all? Try thumb on top of the neck vs. behind the neck? Does what I do with the left hand look more or less correct, or does it need more experimentation and if so, what else could I try?


#6

My advice is to work on your left hand, control.
Your LH is out of sync, and it looks like the posture of your LH, is not correct.

You need to "break " your wrist and play on your finger tips, near the fret wire. Look up the “spider” exercise on YouTube and start practicing that slowly, perfectly. Check out the lead guitar series from Troy Stetina… good all around foundational stuff there.

Don’t be in such a rush. I don’t know many guys who can “rip it up” within 2yrs …
Slow down and articulate your notes.
Always pick hard…


#7

I have seen some pretty fast guys with the fingers, especially the pinky, sort of flying all over the place but usually thats on scales where the fingers go in order so the pinky is just following the ring fnger anyway so maybe it doesnt matter as much. But on other patterns it probably matters more

I think patterns like this would help you a lot

16ths
e---------5–8--7–8 etc then gradually expand it to the other scale notes etc so the different finger combinations get worked

e-----5–8--7–8 (2x etc)—7–10–8--10 (2x)—8–12–10–12 etc

That might help get the fingers bit more controlled


#8

You’re looking for something that works right away! You keep changing little things between tries, the grip, the arm position, the type of pick perhaps etc.


#9

Hi Lor90!

I’m late to the party here and maybe I’m repeating something that was already said in the thread, but I have some thoughts anyway. Most of them is stuff that Troy talked about so you might just about already know about it. Anyway…

The first thing, that has already been mentioned, is that the exercises your trying are kind of hard ones. The single string version with three repeated notes is very hard because a cycle of three notes is very short. I struggle with that one too. I would suggest doing the good old Yngwie pattern 8 5 7 8 7 5 first. It’s a larger chunk of notes and gives you more time between every cycle.

That leads into the second thing, and I might be wrong here, but I can’t hear or see any accenting of any notes in your videos. With accenting I mean that you pick harder or at least feel the start of every chunk physically or mentally. This isn’t always necessarily heard in someones playing but, to be able to play fast stuff, it’s very important that you FEEL the chunking somehow. That’s why the Yngwie pattern is so good. It has six notes which is ideal for chunking and it starts with downstroke on a very naturally accented pinky note.

Last thing is that, even though there still is debate about it, I would suggest practicing without metronome as long as you’re working on motions. I sense that you might be focusing on controlling the movements just to keep time. In my experience this is NOT a good thing. The motion or the lick your practising must feel “easy” to play first. The motions must be smooth and when working on this you shouldn’t be focusing on anything else but this. After you get that “easy” feeling you can work on getting your timing better. I’m still in the “getting stuff to feel easy” phase with a lot of the techniques I’m working on.

These are my thoughts anyway. Take it or leave it. :slight_smile:


#10

I agree! Great advice.


#11

Don’t take this too seriously, this is a mental kind of thing, but what I have found, and what drives me mad, is that often when I try to do a thing mechanically, I am not able to. When I just listen, inside my head, to what must come out, it happens correctly.

This became apparent some years ago when I was learning an etyde from Bill Leavitt’s Guitar Method book. One morning I woke up and heard the thing in my head. Immediately I played if flawlessly many times over, super fast, and then, somehow knowing what was going on, I consciously went on thinking about the pick strokes. It all broke down, as I had guessed.

People who play great don’t play with they hands. They play with their ear. This is my only guiding principle at the moment, now that the mechanical stuff has been largely demystified by CtC.

I am one of those who could not carry a tune in a bucket. During my recent CtC hiatus I concentrated on ear training exclusively. People who have great ear don’t get what this is about. I think it is the key thing, not only for musical excellence but also mechanical.

My experience is: if you know how it is done and you hear it, you own it.


#12

First, this is hardly pathetic - sure, we’ve all heard faster, but your raw abilities are probably enough to cover rather a lot of musical situations. So, start by recognizing that you’ve made a lot of progress, even if you’re not as far as you want to be. Hell, I say the same about my own playing. :slight_smile:

Watching these, there are two things that jump out at me.

  1. You look really stiff to me, particularly your picking hand, while you play. Try relaxing any way you can - keep a looser grip on the pick, try to consciously relax your arm muscles and not tense up (DO you feel tense as you play?), hell, have a shot or two of vodka first, anything to keep your body relaxed and not tense up as you play. It sounds like you’re kind of burying your pick, too - tough to tell for sure from the tremolo picking video, but it sounds and looks like your downstrokes are ringing out a lot more clearly than your upstrokes, and figuring out the mechanical reason why for that could be useful.

  2. I agree that the biggest issue I’m seeing here is coordination, and syncing your left and right hands. Spend a lot of time working on that - fast single string repeated licks - and meanwhile do a lot of single string tremolo picking “bursting” to try to get your pickspeed up. As your coordination improves and your speed increases, you’ll be happier with your single string playing, and at that point you can start worrying about string changing.

You’re also playing with a fairly clean tone for this kind of stuff - great for demonstration and practice, but is this your normal tone?


#13

After reading your post, and seeing your videos, to address what I think is your main problem, I would suggest this:

1.- Take your guitar and turn it 180º sideways.

2.- Now your fretting hand should be your right one, and the picking hand your left one.

3.-Try to play any music like that.

4.-Realice how much you really have advanced since you were a beginner.


#14

Wow, I happen to be holding my guitar when I read that so I flipped it
And tried to fret the d shape.

I think if I had to start all over from there I would quit. .

But you make a strong point


#15

Hi,

Thanks! Now this is really helpful. I’ve just summed all the advice up in a couple of points, and I’ll do it for like the next month or so. Let’s see how it goes.

@Drew, by burying my pick do you mean I might be putting it to deep into the strings? Sorry, my English is not perfect :slight_smile: The truth is when I play this kind of tremolo I am kind of chunking, although I’m not sure how exactly. I guess, I’m sort of thinking of each 8-note chunk as “1, 2, 3, 4”, and I’m trying to time the “1” correctly, but it could also be the mental reason why my “ands” end up being more quiet.

It is my normal tone. I’m only playing a Fender Frontman 25R. I’m now forming a band so probably soon I’ll get my self some bigger gear. But for now I’ve been trying to dial up a tone that I like, on what I have, and ended up with this. I don’t like too much gain, because it’s kind of harsh and buzzing, and I like distortion, when it’s smooth at the same time - like e.g. Allan Holdsworth. I know nothing about how to achieve it, but I tried my best to do it on my amp.

@petergrifindor I’m not saying I suck badly in general. For example I think my rhythm and chord playing is decent. And people usually like it :slight_smile: But this speed thing… it totally sucks. But that’s why I came here to this forum!


#16

@Lor90

I maybe repeating something but i don’t have the time to read every reply.
Your main issue in my opinion is syncing left and right hand, and maybe a bit to much lifting of the left hand fingers.

My suggestion would be to take that one string triplet pattern but accent every first note of 6, and play the other notes a bit softer.
In this way you are training your hands to be in sync because you accent every firts note of the beat.

You also could try a more downward pickslant or no pickslant, just to figure out if that maybe works better for you.

I made a little example of what i mean with the accenting.


#17

Yes, that, exactly.

As far as your tone - I wouldn’t worry about it much at the moment, but I DO think a little more gain would help you play some of this stuff more smoothly. Maybe turn up the gain, and turn down the treble a hair, and see if that helps?


#18

nice playing, but I do notice a little bit of chopyness. (ie, not quite fluid sounding)

One of the most important keys I’ve found to improving the overall sound of guitar playing, is to frett everything in a similar way to how you would frett legato. So play the pattern with just hammer-ons and pull-offs a few times, and get the feel of it, then play it the exact same way, but now add the picking. See if that helps your sound a bit.


#19

This is great advice - it forces you to make your fretting hand more rhythmic, and by isolating the hands it’s helpful to see if one particular hand is really alowing you down, if you’re looking at a fretting hand problem or a picking hand problem. And, ironically, as a guy who’s leaned on legato for much of his “career,” I’m increasingly finding a lot of my problems are fretting hand related. :lol: You can kind of slur the timing a bit legato in ways you can’t picking, for better or for worse!