Today’s exercise was on sweep picking, a kind of technique that I’ve always had issues with due to a rather shaky hand coordination. At first I was doing the exercise with clean sound – bad mistake when you practice sweeping. I realised, well if it’s clean I won’t necessarily notice if each note rings individually as arpeggiated notes can simply blend in. So I switched to a lead tone and sure enough, it was much harder to get a good consistent ring of each note. The exercise itself was quite simple, a chromatic G major chord progression in triads along the first 3 strings, nothing too difficult… well until you reach 108bpm that is, then it becomes a mess. What I probably need is a few more sessions with slower tempo and a definite decision on how to tackle the barred triads. I kept switching between my first and second fingers and could never quite settle on which one made things easier to play (well actually I did, for the finger transition between chords, the second finger works best but for “finger rolling” the notes, the first seems to be better…)
Still that was quite enlightening in a way, I then relaxed into a couple of jams over that Am blues backing track I recently got which I quite like the sound of and for which I have the perfect sound setting. I tried the settling into the pentatonic shape we discussed yesterday and it does feel somewhat more natural to think about playing this way, certainly in terms of playing a certain kind of tone, I really liked that. Sadly, Audacity on Linux just doesn’t seem to like the input from the guitar and crashes after a few seconds of recording, so I wasn’t able to record this time round. But next time, I’ll definitely try to.
I do wish it wasn’t so much of a faff setting things up to record…
Edit: I forgot to say, when I was practicing sweeps I noticed the type of pick I used was making things more difficult to achieve. So I pondered who to best draw inspiration from and decided to try switching to my Malmsteen pick. It’s thicker and has smoother edges, perfect for sweeps. Sure enough, it helped a little. Of course my technique still needs improving but every little helps 🙂
Another week, another lesson night. Since I wasn’t too sure whether I would have time to do some practice after coming home from the lesson, I got home from work a little early and set myself up to do today’s workout before heading out. If it’s Thursday it’s Arpeggios day. Since it’s still week one, the chords used for arpeggios aren’t too hard (yet) and still I was having issues with correct finger positioning for my D and C chords, which really should just not happen. As it turned out, my fingernails were just a little too long and were snagging strings and just not helping getting the chords right. Sure enough once I trimmed them, I tried the 2 fastest tempi again and it was much easier.
Tonight’s lesson was focused on the blues pentatonic scale again with some additional licks I shall make sure to add to my vocabulary. Interestingly, one of the things I’ve retained from tonight is how to keep the hand within a “box” shape to keep that blues sound going. I shall try to remember that advice for future jamming sessions and see what difference it makes. As it stands, I often opt for a more horizontal exploration with my fingers not always knowing which fret they should focus on.
Finally finished Parisienne Walkways too, and that fast bit is starting to get quite easy, so now it’s just practising those random little licks at then end and we should be good. I wonder what else is in the works 🙂
I wasn’t planning to practice for as long as I did tonight but I’m not going to complain because it was actually quite productive. First I set out to practice my daily exercise from Guitar Aerobics and today was bends. Well it was quite an effective session judging by the state of my fingertips :p I’m starting to really appreciate not only the benefits of each of the target techniques but also figuring out the proper timing of the riff. See the CD with the example only plays the lick once at a specific tempo, and so if you’re not used to slowing things down or speeding things up in your mind, it can be challenging to properly play the exercise at the right tempo. So for me it helps to do the mental one-and-two-and-three-and etc.. when you have a series of 8th notes for instance and really get the rhythm going in my head. Once I’ve done it two or three times, I don’t really need the mental metronome but it’s definitely good practice.
Later I jammed a bit on an Am blue backing track I have and I seemed to have picked just the right sound setting on the Zoom as it was almost a breeze playing though it. What I mean by that is how natural it felt to simply run along the pentatonic minor with a few added blue notes here and there. Sadly I didn’t record it, I should have but spent enough time setting up software today as it is, I really just wanted to play.
I also went back to Call of Kutlu as I was inspired to play some more Metallica after watching some licklibrary.com videos earlier this afternoon. Still much work is needed to pin down that solo but I’ll get there eventually.
Since my subscription to Guitar Techniques doesn’t start until next month, I figured it was the right time to go find out whether October’s issue was out yet. Since this afternoon I had to run an errand that would take me past the only newsagent in town I know that sells it, this was my chance. So I was pleasantly surprised to see an issue dedicated to “Electric Blues” with the main feature including lots of licks arranged in a chronological order whereby the first lick is from a player that influenced the player of the next lick and so on. This fits perfectly with my earlier post requesting more blues licks to work on.
The main lick I was working on tonight is from Charlie Christian, a blues / jazz player from the 1940’s who helped popularise the electric guitar. It’s an interesting motif in A6 which does sound very jazzy. I’m not sure this would have any place in my own playing but it’s definitely a good workout for string skipping if nothing else. I also practiced the next lick by T-Bone Walker, though not as thoroughly as the first one. My problem with this lick was the A6 triplet chord where only the C is slightly bent. Somehow my fingers just want to bend all 3 strings and it’s tricky to just bend that while keeping the chord ringing as I have very little room (thankfully it’s only a quarter bend).
Finally a play over a new A minor backing track I just got got me thinking that I should maybe try to listen to what I play and have a feel for where I want to go next rather than just play notes within the scale just because they’re there. I know this approach is doable, I just need to find the right harmony with my state of mind. A whole different level of playing altogether 🙂
Last night I was watching Jon‘s announcement that among all 442 entries for the “Blue Noize” contest, a top 20 had been selected. Needless to say I was relieved to have not been selected, seeing how dissatisfied I was with my entry. Watching some of the selected entries two things struck me. The first is how similar melodically many of the entries I watched are (except for one, but maybe I’m biased, I dunno), maybe it’s a natural occurrence of picking a track in C minor, but maybe it’s something else, like the tempo (for a “slow” contest there are some who were serious speeders) or perhaps more likely the fact that many sound like they’re playing in a “safe” zone within the scale and don’t go much exploring outside. However the second point is where I’m getting at, there seems to be a wealth of blues licks all these folks can tap into that I’m yet to be familiar with.
That reflects itself in the way I improvise. More often than not, I feel like I’m trying to write a novel by picking letters instead of words. In other words my vocabulary is still quite poor. What would be nice would be to both increase my technical abilities and my catalogue of licks, regardless of the style (I would like to start playing heavier rock again at some point in the future). Now I do have some licks I can try to use but blues is such a versatile style that some licks don’t sound right in certain tempos and so it’s a matter not just of having a wide range of choice but being able to pick the right ingredients for that juicy tune (sorry I don’t like the word “perfect”).
I’m expecting a new book I randomly found on Amazon called “Troy Nelson Guitar Aerobics“. It’s a book which offers one lick to play per day to work on certain aspects of your playing thus offering what I was looking for above. The reviews seemed good and it was affordable, so I’ll give it a shot as something to complement my usual playing. I’ve got exercising books but they seem rather hard to tie in with any specific style / tempo and thus make them harder to get motivated to practice them, hopefully this one will be different.