Question concerning chunking "mental awareness"

Hello Forum!

I have been a ctc fan for some years now and i am happy to finally post something here :slight_smile:

So here is my first Question (i have a wall-of-text-syndrom, if you want to skip right to the question just read the last blocks):

The pickslanting techniques are obviously super helpful.
However, despite this great tool i always had (still have) problems with what seems to be the most “basic” building blocks of progress: Clean and controlled chunks on one string (like the famous yngwie six-note-pattern moved up and down the scale).

In the series and the seminars there seems to be no way around just “learning them”, except the concept of chunking itself (making mental blocks and focusing on the first note of each).
Generally, guitar techique doesnt come easy to me but i always thought of these patterns in blocks or chunks. And mentally anchoring these blocks around the first note is a pretty natural byproduct of playing to the beat… its what i always did when tremolo-picking thrashy riffs. However, that didnt help me much to play, say, ascending 4ths on the high estring.

To summarize: I dont think that 1string-chunks are as self evident and basic as they are treated right now. I also dont see the average “amateur” metal-soloist blazing up and down through onestring-scales, which should be more common if it would really be “just” chunking.

As the mechanical aspects of onestring playing seem to be quite clear, i tried to focus more on the mental side of playing and i made some notable progress since then. Here is what i discovered: My right hand was playing chunks, all the strokes where there, and my left hand knew the patterns. However, there was no proper synchronization happening before i started to think about every hand movement “associated” to a sound. I find cognitive processes hard to describe but this is what i think happens mentally in my head atm:

  • I “play” the first note of a chunk, which feels pretty close to playing a note at a moderate tempo
  • I think about the other notes in the chunk as “sounds associated with hand movements”, which doesnt feel like i am conciously “playing” them as is the case with the first note. It also feels more in control and paradoxically slower (even though the speed is the same) but also more mentally demanding than if i would apply my interpretation of the hardcore just-focus-on-the-first-note+musclememory approach to chunking of ctc.

Ok, so please notice that i feel a bit stupid when talking about notes as “sounds associated with hand movements which do not feel actually played” but i know the only place people where might take this serious is here :smiley:
That being said, i hoped that some of you might try to elaborate in more detail what is going on in your minds when you play chunks.
Are you really “just” focusing on the first note and the rest is autopilot?
How much attention do you direct to the notes in between the landmarks ?
Do you dedicate any mental capacity towards “listening” to the chuck as it is played?
Do you feel like you are waiting for it to end? (edit: *the chunk to end. this got unintentionally sinister)
Basically: What would you see if we would put your mind on slowmo during chunks?

I know that these are hard questions to answer. I’d appreciate it if somebody would meditate under a waterfall for a day to come up with an answer because this really bothers me. I suspect that good players are about as ignorant what they do mentally as to what they do physically and that chunking might be a bit of an equivalent to lines like “the secret to alternate picking is to go down up, down up”.

… Also tell me if you think i am overthinking this :smiley:

Greetings and also thanks to the ctc-team for their amazing work, i love every minute of it!!

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Welcome aboard!

I aint gonna lie, I didnt read all of that lol.

I try to keep it simple. if you are having issues with the Yngwie 6 note pattern…dont do it in ‘sixes’, do it in “threes”

123,123,123,123

You ever heard the story about the millipede? The earthworm asked the millipede, “wow, how do you keep track of alllll those legs and what each one is doing?” The millipede said “I dunno, I never thought about it”

Then the millipede went off to think and try to figure it out. He got so confused that he couldnt walk anymore.

Personally I dont think so much of “omg, its a chunk, I gotta line up the downstroke on the first beat and then im good”. Thats too much to think about. After you’ve drilled it a fair amount you dont need to really think about it that much.

What all goes thru your mind when you are tying your shoes??

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I aint gonna lie, I didnt read all of that lol.

That was to be expected, i guess :smiley:

Thanks for your answer, anyway! I am curious if experienced players ever conciously tried to change their mental approach. So far we have one “No”.

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the main “mental” thing I have tried to change is my whole understanding and approach to practice. “how should one practice”…THAT is the key of all keys IMO. Thats how you get from “gee, im supposed to slant this or that way or whatever” to actually being able to play something

Once you have some speed built, you will be playing these licks WAY faster than u can think your way thru them

Think about a golf swing. Yeah you take your time to set up to the ball as you’ve practiced a million times. Then maybe your backswing is relatively slow and controlled, but once you are into the downswing its all a blur. There is simply no time to think or make corrections. It all has to be grooved by proper practice etc

Same thing can apply to guitar. Once these patterns are burnt in, there doesnt have to be a ton of thinking about them. If you are playing 13-16 notes per second…how much thinking CAN you do??

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I think that “chunking” is as important as pickslanting, although treated a bit like an afterthought in the teaching materials. I know I have always done it, but not in a methodical or systematic way. While the idea of pickslanting has been a real godsend in improving my pick technique, it is the “chunking” that makes playing long flowing lines possible.

So, like you, I wish there was a seminar on JUST chunking. How do you systematically break down lines into “chunks”? How do you create useful chunks? How do you practice them?

Of all the “chunks” that are covered in the Seminars (Volcano, Antigravity, Cascade), the one that I found very useful was the 3nps major scale. Breaking the scale up into two string chunks (seven of them) has freed up my playing immensely. Of course I already knew seven positions of a 3nps scale; but they were six string eighteen note patterns that were barely useful. You will see these full six string “positions” all over the Internet. They were NOT “chunks” that I could recall with just muscle memory, nor were they useful as single musical element.

The two string chunks of Antigravity WERE useful. They made total sense. They are something I can drill. Something I can recall with muscle memory. Something I can use as a musical device. Something I can “crack” the picking for in advanced.

I took those seven two string six note patterns and worked out the correct TWPS. Then I drilled them. Over and over again. I generally practice at least two hours a day, usually more. Over the last few weeks since I discovered Troy’s seminars I have been drilling these chunks by working them in between other routines. For example, I’ll do a repertoire building exercise of playing a transcribed solo for a half hour. When my brain gets fuzzy, I’ll drill the chunks mindlessly.

As a result, I am beginning not to think of the chunks as having six notes. Rather I feel I am beginning to hear them in my mind as a whole. It is not so much that I am thinking “here comes a G, let’s start a chunk” as I am thinking “time for a six” (six being in my mind a two string pattern of wh/wh.) The whole pattern is one musical idea.

This process has JUST begun for me, but it promises to be quite powerful. I don’t know how far it will go. However, I am frustrated that there is so little material on this. I see other posts on “chunking” including one I started just a couple of days ago. What I don’t see is a lot of participation from Troy or the CTC people. I’m not sure why this powerful other side to the pickslanting coin gets so little attention.

In any case, I am scouring the Internet for other sources of “chunks” and systematic “chunking” approach even if they don’t call it that. There are things like TruFire’s “50 licks” series, but of course none of them seem to have the awareness of “chunk” learning. As Troy says in his seminars, six to eight note chunks seem ideal. Beyond that, to be useful they need to be self contained musical ideas that can be repeated, combined, and cascaded. The licks presented are rarely that, and if they are it is purely by accident.

I would gladly buy another seminar if it presented useful chunks from the greats like Django Rheinhart, Charlie Christian, Jimi Hendrix, SRV… The list can go on and on. So what about it Code Crackers? Is this something you guys can get behind?

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I had a long post and I’ve deleted it it because I didn’t like it, I’m going to try again and try to keep this as brief as possible.

There are two relevant notions of chunking* - memorisation or mental organisation, and then the actual physical playing of the thing.

You need the mental one because you’re not going to remember a massive run from one end of the neck to the other across all 6 strings with a load of position shifts as one long sequence of notes/frets, rather as a series of smaller, easier to remember sections. The easiest thing is when you have a pattern that simply repeats in different places but you can also make more complicated sequences into a series of chunks, and you just give these a little tag in your head or whatever it is you do, remember them as a picture on the fretboard, call them “flimple, dimple and shmob”, doesn’t really matter as long as you’re converting something from a long series you can’t remember to a group of smaller things that you can.

This kind of chunking is necessary regardless of how fast you want to play, it’s purely about memorisation.

The second kind of chunking is a result of the fact that after a certain speed/frequency (is this the same for everyone? different for everyone? I dunno) there isn’t time for a signal to go from brain, to hand, to brain saying “play note, did I play note? YES” for each individual note of a pattern, only time to go “play chunk, did I play chunk? YES**”

My tentative hypothesis is that problems might arise when the mental chunk doesn’t straightforwardly match up with the necessary motor chunk at the particular speed you’re trying to play at, hence why advice like “treat the six note pattern (mental chunk) as two groups of three/three groups of two (motor chunks)” can be helpful.

It isn’t that this is insurmountable by any means, just that it’s another thing you have to get a feel for.

*There might be a third one regarding accents/musical phrasing/something.
**Or I’m going to be honest in my case, as much time as not, NO

Afterword: I’m not sure how well this reflected my intention to write a brief post, but I definitely removed any equivocation between the two types of chunking. Don’t think it answered your question particularly either. I’m here all week.

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I’ve played around a bit and found the idea of mental and physical chunking very helpful.

I might have identified a problem of mine here: I feel like i am mentally much less aware of what is happening during the last notes of a chunk than i am at the beginning. In fact, i am already thinking about the next chunk. I remember i read an article years ago about being “ahead” of what you play, but i am not so sure if it is really that beneficial.
Because when i force myself to mentaly “finish” a chunk, i feel my results improve. Especially the transition from one chunk to the next becomes more controlled.

This is what i tried to describe in my original post with “waiting for the chunk to end”.

So i personally think it is possible that you have discovered an obstactle which causes some people trouble without them really being aware of it: Mental and physical chunks dont always fit.

Thanks a lot for your perspective!

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best thing that works for me is to not pay so much attention to every picked note … i was re watching the series and picked up on what troy said about feeling of lining up the notes with the down stroke and only paying action to the first picked note and the last note of the 6 note sequence …once i grasped what was being said it helped me that very second i was able to play the 6 note yngwie pattern ascending and descending with ease now im working on the volcano pattern and using economy picking 3 notes per a string trying to find a usable chunck for my brain haha

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