Not terribly inspired to write much about anything going on just now. This week has been taken by so many other worries that I’ve been struggling to catch up with my daily routine. Thankfully most exercises were either easy or not terribly inspiring which meant I didn’t really need to spend an awful lot of time on them.
Still, I’m still liking the hybrid picking exercises and this week we introduced what I can only call a “metal run” on the legato exercise. While you think it might be easy to play sequences of the same triplet over and over again, once you start gaining speed what you have to really work on is the hand to hand coordination and that can really go out of the window even if the picking is just fine. The exercise was supposed to stop at 120bpm but as with previous exercises, that’s where I started, only I could only take it as far as 144bpm before I lost the plot.
Over the last couple of weeks, there’s been interesting boogie patterns to work on in the rhythm section. I certainly wouldn’t have known to change the rhythm to a “triplet feel” if it wasn’t for guitar pro. Certainly some interesting stretches and patterns to find there.
Finally I’ve been playing a bit of Gary Moore again recently, I wonder why…
… then it probably is. Let me explain.
Last week, I’ve been both tired and ill (still am, at its worst, hopefully) and so skipped both Thursday and Friday sessions, which tend to be the two techniques I less enjoy practicing, that is arpeggios (I normally don’t mind but lately it’s been nerve biting barred chords on the lower neck) and of course sweep picking. Since today’s exercise on alternate picking is relatively easy, I thought I’d catch up on those two and make up for lost time.
The arpeggio exercise went reasonably well (though I now know why, see later), but I was surprised at just how easily I went all the way to 112bpm playing 16th notes in sweep picking. A feeling of pride and achievement was filling me up when I suddenly realised something was in fact really quite wrong. Last week, I’d been practicing bits of the solo of Satch’s Mighty Turtle Head and in order to cope with the speeds involved and to get the patterns under my fingers, I’d slowed down the loop to 45% of the normal speed. Unfortunately, Guitar Pro kept that setting (despite a crash earlier) and so I was proudly playing sweeped triads at 45% of 112bpm… oh dear.
So if you think what you’re playing is too slow, then it probably is, in particular if you really were struggling the week before just as you did in previous weeks. These things do get better eventually but this is a slow and hardly noticeable process unless you take regular snapshots of your upper limits at regular intervals in your practice. As it stands I could really only play that exercise at 76bpm by really putting some serious attention to it, and even then it was quickly quite messy.
If my reckoning is right, it’s not 3 sessions I have to record, it’s 5 this time, so let’s try to be concise about them.
Last Saturday was my favourite session: legato, not so much because it’s the foundation of fast playing (I don’t think it is necessarily) but because it seems to be one of those things which come a little more easily. Not that I can reproduce that when jamming but as always I keep the faith that one day it will start to pay off. This time round I pushed myself a little, the exercise was quite straightforward and by the time I reached the final round at 120bpm, it still felt too slow for me to play so I kept pushing it in sections of 12 to see how fast I could play the exercise. I made it to 180bpm and decided to stop because of time, not because it was getting harder. I might have been able to reach 200 if it wasn’t for the fact that I don’t want to undo the things I try to train myself to do by breaking meaningless records when I’m not in my top shape to play accurately. But who knows, maybe next week.
On Sunday I didn’t practice for personal reasons so this got pushed to the following day. That rhythm exercise was reasonably easy and satisfactory to play but I found something interesting. As the exercise basically consisted of 4 ascending arpeggios to play while letting the strings ring at all times, my picking hand started to anchor itself to the scratch plate to make it easier to pick the arpeggios. Now I know it’s a standard way to play but despite having tried to play this way before, it always felt awkward. This time though, it was the most logical thing to do and made the picking easier and more relaxed, and thus easier to accelerate. This will probably only work in this circumstance but it was interesting nonetheless.
On to week 8 and there’s not so much to report on this week’s exercises so far. Playing with Guitar Pro does make it easier to reach the final 120bpm mark so I can really focus on tidying things like making sure extra strings don’t ring, adding some emphasis here and there for flourishing and so on. It makes the exercise more interesting and personal in some way. Finding ease in playing at certain speed over and over again is also very meditative in some way, you can focus on really being into the music, the repetition really reinforcing the concentration.
On today’s bend exercise I would say that although it helps to have supporting fingers to properly do a bend, once you reach certain speeds it just becomes too many fingers to move at once and so you can use the exercise to strengthen individual fingers so they can easily perform the bend without requiring support, a bit like having extra wheels when learning to cycle 🙂
I wasn’t feeling too great on Thursday so I thought it best to postpone my daily practice to the Friday and lump together the two. Whether that was a clever idea or not, I’m not too sure, but yesterday was a little frustrating when it came to those technique practice. The Thursday arpeggio exercise had so far been reasonably easy, but this week it uses a bar across the top 4 strings which I found extremely difficult, and also painful to maintain. In short up the neck it’s not too bad, but the lower you go the harder you gotta press on the strings to get the barred notes to actually ring, and arpeggios with dull notes surely have their place but not when the notation says Let ring throughout. I’m guessing this is more of a muscular problem than something I’m doing wrong but then again, I’ve been playing barred chords for years now, though generally they are focussed on the lower strings.
Sweep picking was a little better but again I couldn’t get past half the 8 speeds you’re meant to practice at. I think it’ll be some time before I can play clean sweeps at a decent speed. If the exercise maintain that same chord progression for the next few weeks then I may end up playing the right triads in the right order eventually, not that it’s difficult in principle but when doing it at speed it tends to go tits up. The backing tracks I consoled myself on where enjoyable but didn’t come up with anything too memorable.
Tonight however, I really enjoyed the legato exercise which mixed some slide and hammer-ons and triplets for good measure (pun not intended ;)). And I really surprised myself how smoothly I could keep playing those different legato and tempi at speeds up to the final 120bpm. It is quite gratifying to see progress get through your fingers, dare I say in real time (though this would be clearly delusional). I gotta remember to sneak triplets with 8th notes pairs next time I do a jam, you never know what might pop out.
Short session tonight, I just really wanted to get cracking with today’s lick. Legatos is something I have a bit more confidence in than Sweep Picking, so it was a reasonably painless session. Not much to report other than having worked out that you can give your licks that wee bit of a personal touch by either cutting notes short or letting them ring. Now I know this sounds rather obvious but when it applies to 8th notes played at 120bpm and you can still find the time to do this, in my book it’s pretty good. The other thing I noticed is how easy it is to let your mind wander off when the exercise is so easy you don’t really have to think about it much, but focusing is essential even in Am runs 😉
Also did another jamming session, still no recording, sorry (does anyone even care?). Mind you my Linux kernel just updated, maybe Audacity will behave now… well maybe not.