Plateau... I don't know what to learn next

Last time I created a topic it was all about increasing speed while playing tremolo picked patterns across multiple strings.
The tempo was 180 and I pretty much got it now.
In the meantime I bought an 8 string monster of a guitar.

BUT, I don’t think I am making any progress, not really - I mean, I noticed how most challenging part of things I play is just the speed. Most of the stuff I play is just tremolo picking, and it is not really difficult, even if the speed is out of reach, I can eventually get there through practice.

I want to get better, but WHAT exactly should I practice?
I can do some easier sweep-picking patterns, I can do some tapping, I am trying to figure out Tosin Abasi’s thumping technique, but I constantly have a feeling that something is missing.
I am not a beginner player, but I do not consider myself advanced either.

Should I just carry on practicing those sweeps/tapping until I become better?
Or is there anything else I could get my hands on?

Basically what I am looking for is some ideas on what to get myself busy with and would benefit my technique the most.

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Is your goal to learn to play songs or is it to write your own material?

Preferably - to write my own music, but to be honest with you, I have no clue on how to start, and better yet, I am torn between a few sub-genres such as progressive and black metal.

I have some riffs that I would like to glue together, but then again, if I try to use them and write some other riffs to fill out the blanks I am mostly dissatisfied with the results.

I have no idea on how to write other instruments as well - drums for me are something from outer space. I don’t have a bass guitar as well, so for now I can just jam along some tracks or play whatever riffs come to my mind, which accomplishes nothing really.

All in all I’d like to be a more accomplished instrumentalist.

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To me it sounds like you would benefit from learning & practicing songs that use the techniques you are interested in. Learning songs can also give you ideas to write your own stuff!

All the above applies to me as well :slight_smile:

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You mean, just take some difficult piece of a song I like, and practice slowly even though the song itself is lighyears beyond my abilities?
I haven’t done that in years :stuck_out_tongue:

It seems to me that you are focusing your strategy and practice around your technique, when your actual goals are musical, not technical. Technique is a tool for making music, not a goal in itself.

Here’s a radical idea: Lay off the technical focus, and start working on the musical goals you identified above. It’s easier to focus on technique because you know how to do that, whereas you say you don’t know how to work on the musical stuff. That should be your focus right now. Figure out how to practice writing your own material.

I’ll give you two hints that were helpful for me in this regard:

  1. Write by making recordings. It’s really hard for me to hear the flow of a composition while I’m playing it. I don’t know how people write music otherwise.
  2. Make your goal to write a finished piece in a specified period of time (e.g. ‘finish this song by next Wednesday’). The result doesn’t have to be good. In fact, tell yourself in advance you will never show it to anyone. Just finish it. You may discover that you like it and want to show it to people, but make that decision afterwards.

Most people have to write a lot of bad material before they get to the good stuff. Everything you write makes the next thing easier. While you’re writing this material, look out for things you want to put in that you can’t play, then focus your practice on those things.

Also consider not writing to fit into a pre-defined genre, but just giving yourself free reign to try whatever pops into your head. You may surprise yourself and discover your own voice.

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The benefit of technique is that it lets you play the music that you need to play. Piano teachers teach technique because it lines up perfectly with upcoming instructional material, but there is no such thing in the messed-up world of guitar. So why not work on repertoire that you love and let that drive the technique that you need to learn?

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Yes. Totally yes. Whatever it is - finish ti. Or one day you’ll find your harddrive full of records that you know you’ll never finish because of your perfectionism+laziness. T_T

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Actually you guys are quite right - one of the reasons is that I am afraid to fail, to use a good idea and turn it into some bad composition.
But fair amount of that is also not knowing where to start.
Currently, at this very moment, I am mixing some cover, but when I’m done I am going to at least try to write something my own. Let’s see how it goes.

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Totally understandable, but misguided. (No offense, I spent a long time there.) Turns out, ideas beget ideas. The more ideas you explore, and the further you take them, the more ideas you come up with, and the further you can take them. Songwriting is a skill that requires practice.

One way to reframe the concept of wasting good ideas on a song that you might not be happy with: the easiest (and probably most common) way to waste an idea is to not turn it into a song.

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Ah, well, I can see that this is a valid argument.
… however I am a notorious overthinker.
For example - I have an intro using something similar to arpegiatted ninth cord, less a third (so it is basically a powerchord with added ninth, then seventh, and then sixth… confusing, isn’t it?) but that’s just an intro. Then I can’t think of what’s next, as I almost exclusively come up with raging, agressive tremolo-picked riffs or worse yet a thrashy mash-up of random powerchords separated with galloping on the lowest string.
I don’t have a clue how to glue it or how not to jump from atmospheric beginning to blazing fire of black metal riffage. It is really difficult for me to restrain myself, and it shows that I don’t really know how to write good melodies.

Listening to music may help. I mean a lot of music, and a lot of genres.

I think you need to develop a method for finishing songs. One that you can apply to generate a song at will. Don’t conflate being able to construct a song with writing good parts. They are separate skills and both need to be developed.

I think one of the problems here is that you’re requiring the song to be good before it’s finished. Just finish a bad song for practice. Accept that the good stuff might be hiding out in your mind until it’s confident it’s not going to get wasted. Prove to your good ideas that they will get used by finishing a song. Don’t use any of your good ideas, just write from scratch. It will only be difficult if you demand that the individual parts be good. Remind yourself that you will never show this to anyone, and that you are just using the time and effort to learn how to finish a song, not to write your masterpiece. Write a verse, chorus, bridge, whatever you need, and stick them together. Don’t worry about whether they fit together perfectly or not (you’ll be throwing away a lot of interesting juxtapositions if you do). Just crank it out as fast as you can. Congratulations! You wrote a song!

Then come back to it at least a week later and listen to it without a guitar in your hands. Figure out what you like (if anything) and what you don’t. Then get back to work. Replace parts, change melodies, rearrange stuff as necessary until you’re happy. Congratulations! Your song is now good. You wrote a good song!

Then do it again. Since you have at least a week to wait, you can have multiple songs going at once.

Then do it again and again and again. Somewhere along the line, you will feel motivated to modify the process. Possibly to get better results, possibly to be more efficient or to introduce some kind of randomness. (I find that helpful, personally, since I write alone and don’t have other people to bounce ideas off of.) This is your brain figuring out its own songwriting method, which it won’t do until you give it the opportunity. If you keep it up, eventually you’ll be able to crank out songs in your sleep (not that you should), and your method may no longer resemble what I described above. You now have the skill of songwriting that you can apply however you wish.

Again, the important thing is to develop a method for writing finished songs, and then iterate on that method until it generates good songs. If you try to make the songs good on the first try, you’re far less likely to finish them.

Like the songs, the method itself does not have to be good at first. It just has to generate songs that you can work on revising. Same pattern for the songs as for the method: start with something bad, iterate until it’s good.

FWIW, in almost any creative endeavor, I find it very useful to break the creation step into two parts:

  1. Create a bunch of material uncritically (don’t even think about whether it’s good).
  2. Combine, revise, and restructure the material until you’re happy.

You can go back and forth between 1 and 2, but don’t mix them. Step 1 must be done with your inner critic turned all the way off. (The best ideas sound dumb at first. This teaches you how to trust yourself.) Step 2 requires your inner critic to be turned all the way up. Accept that your first draft will be crap, and don’t let that bother you.

If you find that you can just sit down and crank out a good song, excellent, you don’t need to do any of this. But if you don’t, I’ve found this approach to be reliable, both in terms of writing songs, and more broadly in terms of teaching myself new creative skills without a teacher or a lesson plan.

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