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First world guitar practice problem

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Larry F, Nov 7, 2018.

  1. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Nov 5, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    As I repeatedly make it abundantly super-clear in this forum, I know all of my notes! Everywhere. And fast, really fast. Not only that, but I have been playing scales, chords, intervals, blah, blah since the 60s. My main focus right now is to combine 2 or 3 different sequences to make longer runs, usually no more than 2 beats long. This is kind of modeled after the blues singer's effect of ending a phrase by descending in pitch on the last syllable. SRV does this in a fairly exaggerated way, not that it is bad. Guitarists also use this technique when soloing. Otis Rush does this beautifully, while Joe Bonamassa does not, always. Not to bash Joe, as his ideas and emotional colors are often very rich and beautiful. Occasionally, he gets a little long-winded in those descending runs. Anyway, I'm interested in this technique, even if I hope that I don't come across as mechanical.

    Not only do I combine 2 or 3 different sequence patterns, but I also try to disrupt the flow by inserting an extra note or two somewhere. I might add the rhythmic value of the new note to the length of the run, or I might have to double up the rhythm for a couple of notes. I like both methods.

    Now, if you're also at the point where getting around the guitar in all keys is not an issue in itself, how do you practice when you are learning a new pitch/rhythm combination that you want to master and get under your fingers and ear?

    Some ways this might be done:

    1 key per day
    1 key per two days (I like this right now)
    2-12 keys per day
    no special keys anymore. You play things where and when you want, and try to make sure that you keep up the ability to freely navigate among keys.
     
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  2. Zesty feline

    Zesty feline Tele-Meister

    486
    Oct 12, 2015
    Australia
    My advice is it is coming across as mechanical, if the objective is to improvise well then this is okay because the scales etc do have a mechanical foundation, that is about all I can say as I do not specialise in improvisation.


    Personally as a solo guitar player my approach is that if the piece sounds good it is good and I just play a good tune regardless of mechanics, of course what you are trying to do is different from what I do.

    My best advice for what you are trying to do is just don't stop learning new material, devote HALF of your practice time to just finding quality material, the other half to learning it..

    Lastly I like the no special keys option because music theory is just that, theory, scales can be mixed and combines, there are no absolutes in the art.


    ZF
     
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  3. bftfender

    bftfender Friend of Leo's

    Dec 21, 2017
    York PA
    also..the hold back ..the pause..the timing..the touch..ya cant write that out on paper. I am the opposite..i play first and know the theory to ad to instinctive nature of playing leads...a way to get out of the box of copy cat..play original music..get away from what is written and write your own..opens up the guitar for a whole new realm..originality,,play with people who challenge you..this might sound stupid.. at nite sit with tv on and lead to everything...you have about 24 seconds to catch something and the randomness is fun..in that amount of time, you have to come up with a key..scale..or whatever ..to get to some type of continuity really teaches some natural music reflex verses thinking..
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
  4. Harry Styron

    Harry Styron Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Aug 2, 2011
    Branson, Mo
    Larry,
    I want to ask a very basic question about how you approach practicing. I understand that you are a music professor and composer as well as having been a professional guitar player and teacher since you were a teenager.

    One of my failings was that when I was young I thought that proficiency in physical performance, including solving algebra problems, was largely a matter of deliberate cognition, rather than muscle memory. Because I had a lot of verbal facility, I thought I was smart, when actually I was bright in a few ways and incompetent in many. Now I realize--too late--that using muscles is an essential part of learning most things, even things that are seemingly mostly mental, whether solving algebraic equations with pencil and paper, learning a language by speaking it, playing an instrument, or hitting a ball.

    I also thought that artistic expression was a matter of feeling and epiphany, not understanding that it could come out of performance of rote exercises.

    What are you seeking, in making longer sequences? To create something emotionally affecting? To find something that sounds new to you? To create a beautiful melodic phrase?

    I'm interested to know if you intend that practicing for you is a method of composition, sonic exploration, improving dexterity, dealing your chronic pain, or some combination of these?
     
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  5. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Nov 5, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    I'm working on responding to your excellent questions. I'll probably PM you, as I really don't want others to start dogpiling and questioning my motives, which are very suspicious to hobby players. I respond to you soon.
     
  6. bftfender

    bftfender Friend of Leo's

    Dec 21, 2017
    York PA
    hobby players ?
     
  7. kennl

    kennl Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 6, 2007
    Moon Township, PA
    I like the Cycle of 4th's method
    Play the scale / phrase / motif or lick then shift up a 4th and repeat through all 12 keys
    It tends to disrupt you ears from getting "focused" on a tonal center
    And promotes the audio aspect (intervallic relationships and sound colors) instead of the visual patterns or "shapes"
     
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  8. bftfender

    bftfender Friend of Leo's

    Dec 21, 2017
    York PA
    throw in alternate picking...that really got me moving forward
     
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  9. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Nov 5, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    These are good. More?
     
  10. P Thought

    P Thought Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    I don't think @Larry F meant that perjoratively. I qualified, I know, for the description for the first 30 years I played guitar, playing chords only the way they were shown in the songbook diagrams I learned songs from, and skipping chords that were too fast or two hard for me to finger, all with no understanding of keys, scales, or chord harmony.

    I'm so far behind all the long-time, experienced musicians on this forum that I'll probably never catch up, but I'm working at it. I've learned a lot from Larry and others on TDPRI, especially on this subforum.

    It's been my goal to be able to improvise fills and solos to go with the songs I know, and to become comfortable playing in any key. For several years I've been practicing CAGED scale patterns up and down the neck. For me everything is built around the five diatonic major scale patterns, and the minor and pentatonic scales that live inside them. Only recently I've been able to sometimes improvise tunes that I hear in my head, using variations from the scales as I need them.

    In practice, I try to choose a song that I know, then work with its key to play its chords in different places, use all the basic chords (I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, and vii dim) in the key as much as I can, find my solos and fills in different parts of the neck, and work on my picking technique. The song itself kind of comes and goes in practice sessions; I change up my phrasing, too, and sometimes the register of my singing. I might play it once or twice through the way I'd perform for an audience. . .it's not like I have any gigs coming up.

    Larry, I'd be interested to hear your response to Harry Styron's comment, too. I certainly have no suspicions about your motives, and I found your "dogpile" comment disturbing. I hope no one here would do that.
     
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  11. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    60
    Mar 31, 2007
    victoria b.c. CANADA
    I'd be interested in hearing your response as well Larry.....you are one of the most experienced and respected 'elders' of the forum and I find that you have a very unassuming and 'beginner's mind' attitude despite all your experience and knowledge.

    Perhaps what Larry means by 'dogpile' is that people are not really responding to the question he posted. He wasn't asking to be taught how to approach practicing.....he quite simply asked how other people practice....two very different things IMO.
    He wrote "Now, if you're also at the point where getting around the guitar in all keys is not an issue in itself, how do you practice when you are learning a new pitch/rhythm combination that you want to master and get under your fingers and ear?"
     
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  12. RCinMempho

    RCinMempho Friend of Leo's

    Jul 8, 2003
    Maryville, TN
    I am a hobby player, and I am not offended. I can fix a faucet, but I am not a plumber. It is silly to compare the depth of experience a guy gets doing something for a living versus what we learn doing something a few hours a week. Even if you gigged every weekend of your adult life, a working musician will have five times more hours of experience than you.

    That said, I do find value in practicing phrases in different keys. The movement by fourths sounds very useful and I will try that. This is really good for expanding both your muscle memory and your musical "vocabulary".

    Having said that, I do NOT practice things I perform in any other key than the performance key. I find that distracting from the goal of a nuanced performance. In performance mode I want to exploit all the tricks available to me which will include things that are not there in all keys both as a guitarist and a vocalist.
     
  13. RCinMempho

    RCinMempho Friend of Leo's

    Jul 8, 2003
    Maryville, TN
    There is that trailing effect at the end of the phrase.

    I might also suggest listening to Bessie Smith. She tends to flourish into the resolution rather than after.
     
  14. Jim622

    Jim622 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Age:
    55
    Apr 1, 2011
    Far N.E. Philadelphia
    Larry, I'd be interested to hear your response to Harry Styron's comment, too. I certainly have no suspicions about your motives, and I found your "dogpile" comment disturbing. I hope no one here would do that.[/QUOTE]

    I also would be interested in your response to Harry, but I kind of find your "dogpile" comment understandable.
     
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  15. Donelson

    Donelson Tele-Afflicted

    May 31, 2011
    Nashville TN
    I had those wall calendars that I would fill in with "Key of the Day", for a few years. I used a web randomizer program to do that. Only took a few minutes to set up a month. I drifted away from that but reading this makes me want to get back to it. If you are into shedding, this is a good approach. Learn to feel & hear each key. Takes some work, maybe not for everyone.
     
  16. Nickadermis

    Nickadermis Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    53
    Dec 18, 2016
    Camden Point, MO
    That would be me :) My dreams, like my playing abilities, are modest. I still look to folks like Larry for inspiration though :) I am capable of discipline but I am not as steady in enforcing it as I should be. I play simply for my own enjoyment, but I am a terribly demanding audience :p
     
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  17. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    59
    Mar 2, 2010
    Maine
    Ooh, music!

    (I apologize for being self taught and musically illiterate, hopefully my words have some utility in the discussion)

    So I've been well served by the old chestnut: "Listen to sax players".
    The lizardy decending runs are all but impossible using typically pedagogically correct technique, and some of the stuff I've employed worked pretty badly for a year or more before I got phrases to articulate properly. Unintended inarticulate slurs still abound!
    There are certainly players who use the common classical guitar derived techniques and are known to sound saxy, but that was not where I chose to go, and further, I have a limitation of a butchered LH pinky from before I took up guitar.

    To get the liquidy feel of sax phrasing (or attempt such anyhow) I combine sweep picking on 2-3 strings with 2-3 or more fret slides, and of course some hammer-ons and pull-offs when needed, to keep the notes flowing, and only make the occasional stabbing attack when called for, though of course it is inevitable at times so I have to make up a musical reason for a stabbing rather than flowing note when I have no other option because I've used all my tricks and need to pause.
    I also mix scale types, as well as living the goal of choosing an unexpected note whenever possible, because music ceases to entertain me if predictable.
    I guess the pauses are both musical and also inevitable, but unless the sax player is a circular breather, there is the need for a breath, which is human, emotive, and musical, even if derived from an inability to play continuously without a pause.

    I'm proud to say that I have gotten compliments for my musical pausings!

    I remember when "string skipping" was a thing discussed in GP magazine (in the '90s?), and I found it odd that it was an idea, as if guitar players phrased according to the next string, rather than the next idea.

    In the '80s I was picking every note, but also set myself a rule of never playing an open string unless it was otherwise unavailable fretted; to avoid the trap of guitaristic guitaring.
    Just how I felt, not a fact, many players use such quite well.
    As such I have no preferred keys, which was a goal.

    WRT key changes, I've been playing alone now for the last few years and have fallen into a pattern of changing keys every bar (or even more frequently), cycling through keys constantly just to amuse myself. I've long had the inclination, but not always taken as much liberty.
    It makes musical sense to me though, thematically required, not flippant at all.

    Sadly, having no nearby oddball musicians to collaborate with, I suspect my ensemble ability has slipped.
     
  18. spauldingrules

    spauldingrules Tele-Holic

    Age:
    44
    919
    Dec 8, 2006
    Kansas City
    2000 Practice Habits That Rock. No credit to the Hobby Players he got the material from.
     
  19. Sounds Good

    Sounds Good Tele-Holic

    645
    Oct 2, 2017
    Luton UK
    I am a hobby player as well, but i practise with licks in many positions and keys as well and experiment with some sliding chromatics and ordinary chromatics and other simple scales i find they can be effective at times also.

    Also mixing scales up even can gets some nice licks going to sort of break up the rhythm in the playing abit, even more so when stretching around the neck they dont even need to be played that fast to sound good either.

    I suppose i try tons different ideas in between a few songs when i practise some like it so i just keep doing them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018
  20. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    59
    Mar 2, 2010
    Maine
    A conflict I find is that I need to clear my head of word thoughts in order to dive deep into music thoughts.
    The more words running in my head, the less musical, or the less musically creative, I can be.

    Is this familiar/ common/ strange?

    Maybe the basics are playing what we know when having to think in words to discuss with our cohorts, then switching off the word thought and going fully into music thought once engaged in a cooperative plan.

    Another side to this is that I mostly practice in the wordless state, but when I encounter a new solution to an old problem and hear something different, I'll then switch to purely mechanical practice to familiarize myself with what I just came up with.

    Oddly though, the wordless state does include a sort of joystick that toggles between sounding good and finding new solutions.
    Seriously, I wonder what other musicians have going on in their heads!
     
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