This clarinetist/practice expert stumped me

I wonder how much of this is really useful, and how much is just due to traditional thinking of the form “you have to do a lot of boring stuff to get good” or the more modern “no pain no gain” :slight_smile:

We also have to be careful that great performers are not always the same as great educators and / or good scientists of motor learning. They may think that they got good by doing X, while in reality it was Y and just a bit of X.

Just to be provocative once more, it could be that out of the 8 hours of practice they did really useful stuff only for 1 or 2 of them.

But you are perfectly right that other instruments have well-established techniques, so whatever you do with them in your practice your probability of success will probably be higher than “self-taught shred guitar”.

Again I’m not sure this is true if we look at the “elite” players. Think of the original G3 formation:

  • Joe Satriani
  • Steve Vai
  • Eric Johnson

Or also modern players like Lari Basilio, Rick Graham, Tom Quayle, Andy Wood, Molly Tuttle etc.

Every single note they play is shaped to perfection. Or more poetically, “they make the guitar sing”. That can only be achieved by paying great attention to the details you mention (either consciously or just by “using their ears” as they play and practice).

I think this method is more in line with my current “beliefs” i.e., that quality is much more important than quantity.

Having a clear idea of exactly what you would like to hear, trying it, listening carefully, assessing what needs to be changed etc. seems the optimal way to proceed to get really good.

It involves much less playing than the mindless metronome reps, but I think it is much more difficult yet rewarding.

That being said… do I do this all the time? No because it requires high levels of concentration that I can’t reach that often. I wish I could though :slight_smile:

I think this makes a lot more sense when you consider this is specific to practicing on a clarinet, not a guitar.

On a clarinet, you don’t have the mechanical challenge of getting the pick over the string to contend with. Your mechanic at a slow speed is identical to your mechanic at a fast speed, and the only limits here are how fast you can move your fingers and blow (heh). On a guitar, it’s as much a physical challenge as anything else, and mechanics that work just fine at slow speeds can’t be done fast enough to work at higher tempos. “Starting with speed” is basically a way to force you to learn/adapt to one of the techniques that CAN be done at speed, since alternatives quickly become impossibl.

i still think starting slow/ascending can be useful for things like hand coordination and developing a sense of timing and feel and getting in the pocket. As a guy who spent long hours gradually increasing metronome speed in his dorm room in college, though, I’ve come around to the belief that it’s not a very effective way of building alternate picking speed on a guitar (I still can see it being useful for something like legato, when you’re working on smoothing out and evening out your playing technique, and some of the mechanical challenges present in picking don’t exist).

I’d argue that this is what makes the elite players elite - not their technique (if I’ve learned anything from YouTube, it’s that really fast technique is not really all that rare anymore, or at least is common enough thay there are a whole bunch of guys in their bedrooms who can blaze through scale runs), but in their touch on the guitar, the way they phrase and accentuate lines, their note choice, and their compositional ability. I think the thing that seperates the aforementioned youtube bedroom shredders from the guys who do this for a living and, at least in a pre-Covid world, could at least break even on touring, is what you describe as their ability to “make the guitar sing.”

Ironically, after a little more than a year at CtC, and after a period where I haven’t been THAT diciplined about practicing due to the insanity in the world around us cutting into practice time, I think I may have gotten pretty close to the point where I don’t really see my ability to alternate pick as a limiting factor for me. Increasingly, I’m finding it’s things like my abilty to play a fast line and resolve keeping it wntirely in the pocket, or finding interesting/melodic things to say on the guitar while using speed as an accent. I’m finding that the best way to practice this stuff is actually to slow down and spend more time thinking about quarter note runs or really making sure my vibrato is in sync or playing fast lines comfortably inside my comfort level buy really focusing on nailing the downbeats and making sure I’m not rushing the beat, etc, and really thinking about some of those things that help a guitar melody line or solo “breathe” and “speak.”


The pianists have a pipeline where they suck in normal people in and spew out some very impressive players, where the students only need do what they’re told. I think that the teachers are so pragmatic that they would take any shortcut to get students ahead faster, and they’ve been working on this keyboard thing for hundreds of years, where their instructional material is untouchable. I’m not sure if I suggest this or not, but if there is a master class near you with a famous pianist, cellist, or violinist, possibly go and see (a) just what should a 7 year old sound like, and (b) what is wrong with their rendition of the piece? Once seen, it cannot be unseen, and then walking into Guitar Center is just never the same again! :smile:

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Wow, that escalated quickly. We have to think about regular performers who get ahead through average workouts.

The giants you’ve mentioned are virtuosos whose practice routine might help develop their talent but we will never be on their level even if we practised as much as they do. (In saying that, Steve Vai’s 10-hour workout routine is as exhausting and mind-numbing as it gets…).

The average guitarist is good enough to play a lot of fast solos but will not last in a studio session, whereas most other musicians hold their own pretty well in session. There has to be a lesson to be learnt.

I’m sure this community has cracked the code on certain mechanics -and some of the lessons we have learnt go against conventional wisdom-, but we have to be careful not to discard the entire corpus of music training that came before just because we have figured some mechanics specific to our instrument.

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Ops, sorry it was not my intention to confuse things by mentioning the G3 members. It was a little digression where I wanted to show that it is possible, in rock music, to pay as much attention to detail as in classical (phrasing, dynamics, etc.).

Back on topic:

Of course! I hope I was not going too far with my provocations! :slight_smile:
I certainly don’t want to discount all the “traditional” practice methods, and that is certainly not the intention of CTC, sorry if I gave that impression. You and others on this thread have given very good arguments in favour of certain types of metronome practice.

…because indeed there is not a single way to use the metronome!

I should clarify that I am also not against metronome practice :slight_smile:

But looking back at my hours with the metronome, I thought I was working on “X” but really i was working on “Y”, or more pessimistically, I was just wasting good chunks of my practice time.

So… I just think we should question all the practice methods critically (no matter how rooted they are in tradition), and figure out what each of them is good for. Most of us are willing to work hard on the instrument, so it’d be good to put these efforts in the right direction.

Do I have the answers? Unfortunately not, at the moment I have mostly questions :smiley:

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I take your point, and for sure it’s true that elite players are shaping every note to perfection, as you put it. What I mean to say is that while the metronome can be used to work on exquisite musicality, that’s often (usually?) happening at slow tempos. That’s using the metronome to keep things slow so you can focus intensely on all the finer points.

But Hadcock is talking about using the metronome to speed up - which is what most of us here are trying to do when we play with a click. That’s the kind of metronome use I’m trying to figure out.

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I think it’s worth mentioning them tangentally, though, for the point tommo seems to be making here - those three guys are notable not JUST for their technique, which is world-class but also it’s become far more common to find bedroom shredders who are capable of playing legato runs like Satch or picked runs like Vai, and there are a couple members here who have posted absolutely amazing Eric Johnson covers, or improvised solos in his style. Increasingly, that raw level of technique is becming pretty attainable.

It’s more their touch on the guitar, their phrasing, the solidity and control when they fret a note even at tempo, their vibrato, and their composition, that makes (ignoring the fact his technique is just better than mine, anyway, lol) Joe Satriani fill arenas, while I’m stoked to get a couple thousand youtube views for one of my videos I cut in my bedroom.

That stuff absolutely matters, and has very little to do with pure “playing notes fast” technique.