Forum Blog - ALC0's Guitar Practice Journal Blog - Description
- Blog posts: 48
- A place where practice activities are logged, notes are taken while watching Pebber's awesome instructional videos, and to record goals, reflections, and progress...and lots of random guitar-related thoughts!
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After warming up with scalpel and serod on each string for some time...focusing on my nemesis again today...
Alternative picking easiest, up-strokes next favorite, surprisingly all down-strokes the most difficult...
The motion "towards" the angle of the up or downstroke very different than the motion "away." Towards, the pick, wrist, and thumb, move in the same direction. Away, the thumb and wrist reach out and then "pull," (or "climb" is the feel I get from it).
There is also a choice between a "floating wrist," and a wrist that sits on the bridge of a Gibson style bridge. Thus far, I have paid little attention to this variable. Preliminary results suggest that a planted wrist is less vulnerable to error; many errors seem to spring from too much gross motor movement of the arm supporting the wrist and over the "reach" of the wrist and thumb's delivery of the pick. (Reviewing Pebber's example). It appears he uses a floating wrist style for this technique, so it is not unreasonable to also expect this to be a possible method.
Proper holding of the pick also has come under needed scrutiny. Especially with the new picks, I tend to grip too high-up on the index finger, and adjusting for slightly lower makes picking easier.
Making massive progress on this exercise.
All Spider Walking Patterns up to 120 bpm without difficulty or strain!? Boom!
Doctor of Music Composition Professor Lawrence Fritts describes the pentatonic scale as conveying the following flavors in blues music his encyclopedic 2000 Blues Licks that Rock (pg 2, 2012):
1: "stability, resolution, and finality."
b3: "sadness, anger, ...[or] aggression."
4: a "passing tone" from b3 to 5, which often resolves to b3 when "held for a beat or more".
5: "stability" or a path to resolve to the root.
b7: "sadness, longing, and rootlessness."
The DULL fact that much practice is important but gets BORING after a while begins to hit home.
The Philosopher Gurdjieff can help though: at the beginning of any endeavor, he asks us, can we identify our own obstacles and so prepare ourselves to confront them from the onset?
"Boredom," as an affective state, signifies frustration. And it's important to look more deeply than that, and unravel the MEANING what really peeves us. By understanding that obstacle, it' easier to find one's own motivation to reframe and overcome boredom.
For some people, "boredom" might mean, "I'm sucking, and that destroys the fantasy that I'm Eric Clapton." For others, it might take the form of a false underlying belief, "I'm never be able to get better no matter how long I try." Desire for instant gratification is another source of boredom: "I want to be good NOW, and since I'm sucking at this exercise I don't like doing it."
There are literally millions of reasons why practice might make people feel bored! Often, there will be multiple reasons at the same time. So take some time and think about it. That might hurt a bit to look at, but your knowledge of WHY you are bored is POWER. Because now, you can weigh the way you feel against reality.
If boredom springs from the desire for instant gratification, for instance, it's important to confront the reality of how hard, and how long, someone must practice before they start to "get good." Furthermore, it begs the question of examining why the exercise is too difficult: is it above one's level? Is the exercise being taken at a breakneck speed without warming up or playing it slowly first? Finally, it suggests that, instead of expecting immediate progress, to think in smaller, more concrete steps. Maybe today it's important to work on hammer-ons and pull-offs, because those are giving continual struggles during practice.
The belief that one simply cannot improve, no matter how hard one tries, is FALSE for the vast majority of people. People will have many different reasons for this, perhaps past failures at other activities, or having made many attempts that seem to go nowhere. In any case, step back and think about it for a moment: how long have you been playing? And not just how long, but how often? How have you been practicing in the past? Take a realistic appraisal of what you've been able to accomplish so far, and give yourself a little credit! And, think again of the lure of instant gratification: it's not gonna happen without work. So ask yourself the important question: what can I work on now that will help me reach the next step?
Although it can be fun to imagine, the "rockstar" fantasy often does not do any favors when practicing or playing. This is not to suggest that the SHOW of playing the part while performing live, like acting in a play or movie, isn't part of what people come to see. However, it's important to separate the act from the actor, and not fool oneself into overestimating one's skills and abilities when preparing for the act. For some people, the fantasy may serve the purpose of making up for the fact that they know, deep down, they aren't that good. Or that they aren't living the life they want to live, musically or otherwise. Here again, reality is the key to real mastery.
True story: I once knew a dude who broadcast everywhere that they were a musician, and acted like they were hot #### on guitar. But every time this person played in the dorms, every once in a blue moon, they practiced for maybe 15 minutes. Seven minutes of playing "I am Iron Man," badly. Followed by 7 or 8 minutes of fiddling around with mangled licks. I'm sure this person still believes they're a star, but it's frankly pitiable to everyone who sees it. Don't be that person.
One final reason for boredom, which I think is worthy of consideration, is the question of what one really wants with the guitar. What are one's goals? And are these goals realistic? Is it realistic to expect one to practice so many hours a day for so many years, etc? I know some players, for instance, who really don't have any aspiration to play more than a few chords or licks they hear on the radio. They own that goal, and that's just fine! Because the reality of what will make you happy playing guitar, like anything else, is knowing what you REALLY want. Because if you know your REAL goal, look at the REAL obstacle, and set REAListic steps for yourself, there will be progress. And that won't feel frustrating. It will feel good.
Wise words from Blues Boy Gino Matteo on cheap guitars:
This is not intended to put down the craftsmanship, value, or quality of any brand or luthier! The point is that there's a LOT of fantastic gear out there that isn't considered to be valuable, and what YOU DO with it is ultimately the most important factor!
Dunlop Tortex .88mm picks arrive today. These not catching on the strings like the Dunlop Nylons, and stay in hand well. Plenty of thickness, considered the lightest of the "heavy" tortex picks. Interested also in Dunlop Tortex FLOW picks, for smooth curves with sharp point, comparable to a Jazz Pick (but larger).
A. Spider exercises coming along faster than I thought would be possible in just a few days.
B. Picking becoming easier, very little strain in right hand after long duration (15-20 minutes) of picking.
C. Hand/pick coordination more automatic on various exercises.
D. Still some intermittent difficulty with picking between adjacent strings. The motion of moving the pick from hitting one string to the other while picking not refined.
E. Trills faster without effort, though soreness while working them setting in sooner.
F. Triplet pentatonics on diagonals up neck easy.
Did not work on ascending/descending pentatonics with just picking. I do not like this exercise because it is hard. Therefore it will be the first thing to be focused on tomorrow after warming up with picking.
Still need to add ascending/descending A7sus4 exercise.
Moving between adjacent strings seems to be an area needing focus.
One of the key concepts in Blues Soloing (say a million soloists) is hitting the "passing tones" when transitioning between the I, IV, or V. Thus the riff from the prior bar leads into a passing tone landing on the downbeat of the change, in sync with the accompanying progression.
Therefore, while working with any one of the standard CAGED pentatonic boxes, it is ideal to chart out the passing chords for the I, IV, or V in relation to that box.
Passing tones most immediately useful and accessible appear to be the 3 and b7, followed by the 5 and the 1. The I and V further includes the b3/#9, and the IV extends to 4/11. These tones should be identified in all 5 CAGED boxes.
The 12-position pentatonic Map is then formed by centering the root in either the low E, low A, or low D string, and connecting these with the adjacent pentatonic scales to the left or the right. These form the DCA, CAG, AGE, GED, and EDC maps. From any centered root, the I, IV, and V, also have horizontal adjacent maps, thus 9 Positions per centered root.
For instance From a Blues in A, with root Fret 5, the I takes the "E" box, the IV the "A" box, the V the "C" box. Sliding up a whole step, the I becomes "D," the IV "G," the V "A." Reversing the "E" pentatonic at root A at the fifth fret, the I becomes "G," the IV "C," the V "D."
The 12 position pentatonic blues map thus removes the restrictions of hammer-ons and pull-offs in the standard pentatonic boxes, and forms a basis of connecting these boxes in a I, IV, and V progression. Thus the 6 root E box is also treated as a 6 root G box and 4 root D box. The 5 root A is treated as 5 root C and 4 root D. And the 4 root D is treated as 6 root E and 5 root C. Thus you get a slide up, or a pull-off down, from each root pentatonic.
While using a I-IV-V progression, 36 interlocking positions are thus formed.
One of the reasons I did not subscribe to Pebber's online lessons sooner was, sadly, that I was scared by trolling reviews on sites such as Reddit, which suggested that he teaches scalpel picking which causes Repetitive Strain Injury. While I am not an attorney, some of the remarks that insinuate that many students have to be retrained after injuring themselves seem libelous.
Given these negative reviews, it is interesting to compare some of the Pebber's preliminary exercises for his Module One and Module Two Introductory Videos with exercises given by German Schauss in "The Total Shred Guitarist."
Both teachers emphasize that, prior to practicing, one must warm up. German suggests a 10-15 minute warmup PRIOR to practicing. And, like Pebber, German teaches warming up both with picking exercises for the right hand, and finger independence exercises for the left hand. There are many similarities between the basic principals between the warm up exercises given.
As German states: "As always, practice this stuff warmed up. You don't wanna do it with cold hands. You wanna make sure that you're starting slowly so you understand the sound and the rhythmic grouping of the notes you are playing" (Youtube Video: "German Schauss - Alternate Picking Lesson 1").
Here's the kicker: German's video picking demonstrations (appear to) use wrist/tremolo picking.
In other words, both teachers, using different techniques, emphasize warming up as a preliminary to advanced athletic guitar work.
Given that there are numerous ways that people obtain RSI, it is both ignorant, and foolish, to suggest that, (within reason), any one method of moving one's fingers and wrists cannot result in injury and others only result in injury. Such statements seem to miss a more important point: as in any competitive sport, or strenuous vocal exercise, going in "cold" is a bad idea.
...and if it starts to hurt in a bad way, stop doing it!
A hilarious reminder that notoriously poor customer service does not bequeath gratitude...
In fairness, I have had many good experiences with Guitar Center employees. But it seems fair constructive criticism that the company on the whole would benefit greatly by improved customer service training...
One of the concepts that Pebber stresses numerous times: sticking with exercises and working them long enough to gain (some) mastery, instead of jumping from exercise to exercise long enough to fiddle with each but without spending enough time to play anything well.
Thus far, I've been able to stick with a handful of exercises from Module 1 (and a few from Module 2), and have vastly improved on them over the past 4-5 days.
Exercises of focus:
1. Picking single strings, for long periods of time.
2. LH Tremelo, until my arm falls off.
3. Picking A min pentatonic up and down on fret V.
4. Neo-classical pattern on high E, and Neo-Classical pattern on adjacent strings B and E.
5. Ascending triplet pentatonics
6. Spider exercises, walking with fingers 12-34, 13-24, 23-14.
I'm tempted to move on. But I think the key is going to be to keep repeating these patterns, and ADDING new ones. No flitting about, but increasing skillset.
Tomorrow, I think I'm going to start spending time picking up and down the strings from low to high and back again over an E7Sus4. Worked on this for a while today, have the sense that I can mostly keep up with the video, but I'm shaky and inconsistent.
"The ones that do it every day get real good. The ones that don't, don't. It's real simple."
After practicing TRILLS today until my arm SCREAMED for the MERCY of AMPUTATION...
...I noticed something curious...
Finger independence movement feels easier???
Like, before, there was a weaker signal between my brain and each finger???
Like...my BRAIN is building CONNECTIONS that were not there BEFORE???
Suddenly, playing trills between fingers...looks and feels SO much like chromatic patterns? 1234, 1423, 1324, etc...
There's some serious mojo in these modules...
Great 30 minute warm up this morning, was gladdened that it seemed like much of the "feel" of getting into the grove was available and didn't feel "cold" now some hours later as I continue with picking exercises...
The spider also WAY easier today, yet again! Starting to feel a "burn" when working the spider, which is new, probably because I'm working the three more quickly than I could before. Need to keep at it today...and then sleep on it again!
Outlines of Pebber's practice sessions, and the various exercises he demonstrates, starting to sink into my brain. Have done some experimenting around with how these could be modified in various ways, though trying to stick with the exercises as given.
I'm reevaluating what type of pick might work best for me. Previously, I've used Dunlop Nylons, 1 mm and .88 mm, because I liked how the nylon kinda "caught" on the string so I'd feel where it was...
One advantage of scalpel picking over my former method of flat-thumb tremolo picking (it seems to me) is that you achieve a sense of control from how you're working your finer motor muscles, instead of just gross twisty wrist movements. Serod picking also feels more "controlled" than tremolo picking, because the wrist movement gets "locked into" the thumb muscles as the controller...
Thus the pick "catching" to let me know "where it is" isn't advantageous anymore. So I've ordered some various Dunlop Tortex picks of various gauges, since these are smoother and flow over the strings, to try out...
To be continued...
1. Ascending horizontally up the string...
2. Descending horizontally down the string...
3. Vertical ascent from bottom E to top E...
4. Vertical descent from top E to bottom E...
5. Diagonally, from bottom left to top right, ascending...
6. Diagonally, from top right to bottom left, descending...
7. Diagonally, from bottom right to top left, ascending...
8. Diagonally, from top left to bottom right, descending...
Insights regards structure of diagonals today:
1. Whole tone scale in ascending steps from bottom right to top left diagonal, and vice versa, 3 frets apart.
2. Diminished ascending steps from bottom left to top right, and vice versa, 4 frets apart, with a half step slide right.
3. Chromatic ascending scale in groups of 4 from bottom right to top left diagonal, and vice versa.
4. Chromatic ascending scale in groups of 5 (using a slide) from bottom left to top right, and vice versa.
5. Augmented ascending triads form ascending diagonals from bottom right to top left.
6. Guide tones 3 and b7 ascending diagonals from bottom left to top right.
7. Most ascending triads are formed bottom right to top left without changing positions.
8. Ascending triads MUST use slides and/or groups of five frets from the root to ascend bottom left to top right.
Several hours practice today...
Continue to flesh-out outlines of the exercises and instruction on videos being worked with...
It is EASY for some of these ideas to go over one's head the first time through...
Scalpel picking becoming more automatic. Ascending and descending strings much, much easier using this technique. More precise than flat-thumb tremolo style, because you can "grab" the next string on the upstroke or downstroke.
...in just several days work, I am playing things I never thought I would be able to play with a pick, at speeds that are faster than I have ever been able to achieve with a pick...
Some better success with "chickin pickin'." Problem isolated to middle and ring finger, which are relatively weak picking fingers for me compared to t-i. The angle of chickin pickin' also a new sensation to be worked with, compared to classical picking. Holding the pick becomes more difficult while using middle and ring.
Much improvement on the "The Spider" exercises over yesterday. Walking with alternate fingers still the most difficult. Occasionally I will do alternate walking well, but many more mistakes of lifting fingers than any of the other spider exercises. That's still HUGE from not being able to do alternate spider walking AT ALL two days ago.
Pebber's playful $###-talking to the viewer helpful. Like a sports coach that won't let you either settle or give up.
Warming up when preparing to sing, or play a wind instrument, has always seemed far more necessary than warming up to play guitar.
Given, previously I did "warm up" to get my fingers going by playing maybe an Eagles solo, or one of the Bach pieces I've memorized, or a few scales or chromatics once or twice, and a few stretchy chords for my left hand...
...but this is ENTIRELY different from actually "warming up!"
Spending time exercising fast scalpel or serod picking, or left hand tremelo, or spider exercises, for even as short a time as 15 minutes...there's a REAL difference in the fluidity and dexterity of movement afterwards...
Sometimes the most important lessons are the simple ones that nobody learns and most people ignore. Knowing the value, and necessity of warming up, every time, to feel that "on" feeling, is no doubt one of them...