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Clean playing - I just can't seem to crack that egg

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by johmica, Jan 29, 2021.

  1. kennl

    kennl Tele-Afflicted

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    Years ago, I concluded that I needed to "clean up" my technique. I found that purple Tortex Dunop Jazz III picks got my picking hand under control.
    For the fretting hand, I find chunkier neck profiles encouraged proper thumb positioning, which, in turn, improved fretting accuracy.

    Once you sort out the details preventing "economy of motion", it's just a matter of practice
     
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  2. Wallaby

    Wallaby Friend of Leo's

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    My humble advice - go as slowly as you need to, and don't get fogged up with what you want to hear instead of what you're actually hearing.

    Strengthen the brain, hands and ears connection.

    Don't accept bad sounds - if you can't play something clean and perfect at a particular tempo, practice it at a slower tempo, and speed up later once you have it nailed.
     
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  3. buster poser

    buster poser Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    If it hasn't been mentioned already, the 'Spider' exercise and its many variants should help. Helped me anyway.

    I do one or both of these at least once a day for at least two minutes, and generally before or during any noodling session.

    As others have mentioned, take it as slow as you need to and play clean. I've heard Justin (below) say "Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent," and that is so true. It's remarkably easy for me to embed bad habits or a sloppy section in some song.

    Though it's surely not all I work on, daily rote technique practice is really helpful to me.



     
  4. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Lesson n:

    Take any scale, and start playing in the middle. Proceed by playing the scale up, then change direction to go down, then change direction to go up. Keep going until you want to stop.

    Considerations:

    Play with equal note values (such as all 16ths). Eventually incorporate other note values and mix them up.

    One method is to disallow skips and repeated notes. Then allow skips at will and repeated notes.

    Warmup m:

    Play on any string, a chromatic pattern on frets 1, 2, 3, 4, played by fingers 1,2,3,4.

    Do this at a tempo that allows you to finger each note firmly and deliberately.

    Use all downstrokes, all upstrokes, and alternate picking. Play each note deliberately and cleanly. Really cleanly. Experiment with amount of finger pressure.
     
  5. BerkshireDuncan

    BerkshireDuncan Tele-Meister

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    Yup 'Practice makes Permanent'
     
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  6. burtonfan

    burtonfan Tele-Afflicted

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    It could be you're making mistakes because you're concentrating on your mistakes. Concentrate on the things you do well, success will start to seep over to your weaknesses.

    I say this with humility, but I am often complimented on my "clean" playing. It always surprises me a little because I MAKE MISTAKES! I guess it comes down to how you react to your own shortcomings. If I play what-I-feel-is-a-mistake, I don't acknowledge it outwardly. I don't roll my eyes, drop my head/shoulders, smirk, groan, or do any of the other things outwardly associated with a "mistake".

    The best advice I can give is to practice slowly. It's the sole secret to building speed and dexterity. Be consistent in your practice. 10 minutes a day before you leave for work will get you much further than a 3 hour session every other week. Lastly, be patient and kind to yourself. Rome wasn't built in a day.

    G'luk!
     
  7. teletail

    teletail Friend of Leo's

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    Actually with Skype and so many world class players out of work, it's the BEST time to find a good teacher.

    OP - Work on your technique. The whole POINT of good technique is to be able to play cleanly. Yea, there are world class players that have poor technique and still play well, but for we mere mortals, having good technique can be invaluable in helping you play cleanly. Almost every time I'm having a problem with a passage, when I break it down, I find there's a problem with my technique.
     
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  8. Jett Rink

    Jett Rink TDPRI Member

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    Guitarprinciples.com
    I could say more, but it is all said there. Good luck.
     
  9. Telenator

    Telenator Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Just accept that there will be styles and techniques you'll be great at, while others will challenge you endlessly. Play to your strengths and use the stuff that doesn't come easily to learn from.

    It is entirely possible that you truly do know the parts you're referring to innately, but the soul, spirit, heart you bring to the music just makes you want to express it differently. If we were talking techno-pop, then yeah, you have to play it exactly right. But blues based music is simply a platform to build on and then make your expressions as an interpretation of the original.

    When I hear Ronnie Earl play a Freddie King tune, he doesn't play it exactly like Freddie King. He plays a very respectful interpretation of what Freddie King did in the first place, and then adds a big dose of "Ronnie Earl" to it. That's a HUGE part of what blues is about. It's NOT supposed to be mimicked like a cover band. It's very purpose and simplicity invites the player to tell his own story using only the same chords and vibe. It's about storytelling. I would guess that you are feeling the urge to tell your story, not as if you're making mistakes, but because you have practiced this to the point that you now know it well enough, and the very nature of blues is calling you out to put it in your own expression.

    Try it. See how it feels. When you look at it, that really is the purpose of this whole exercise.
     
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  10. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Friend of Leo's

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    I actually don't know at this point how I am able to make the pick hit any of the strings, other than to say that was built up over years and years. I've been playing for over 40 years but it came pretty slowly and if I'm trying to play a specific thing I still make plenty of mistakes.

    I can't think of anything other than persistence, keeping it in the range where you're playing it correctly, and having an attitude of "whatever happens, happens" so you don't get frustrated and quit. I also took up bass early on (seriously)!
     
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  11. 4wotitswurth

    4wotitswurth TDPRI Member

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    If you want to ‘see’ and hear progress, one thing I’ve done over the years is stick the phone on a stand and mess around noodling, practicing, whatever, with it recording video. I have hundreds of little clips... don’t go back to them really, but in the moment, it’s satisfying to recognize somethings changed in the quality of your playing... or to recognize that there’s something in there that just doesn’t sound quite right.
     
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  12. Engine Swap

    Engine Swap Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm in the same boat as the OP - long-time player, never able to play consistently.

    I've been playing more in the last year and have gotten "better" by slowing down, figuring out notes and picking, and using a metronome. I find that I have to play painfully slow, and even then I have trouble. Thinking some picking exercises might help. When I play fast, I tend to add extra notes and pick strokes.

    Something that I recently discovered was exploring alternate fingerings. I'm slowly realizing that if a passage has awkward movement or positions, there is almost always an easier way. This helps prevent mistakes. Took me decades to figure this out. Just recently, I've been able to play over the entire fretboard.
     
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  13. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I guess a question might be: Who keep moving on to subsequent lessons before getting the former right?
    Basically you teach yourself to play sloppily by learning each new thing instead of getting the old thing right.
    I find any advances need to be followed by some clean up time.
    Though cleaning up some new techniques IS an advance, you just need to want to make that advance.

    Playing really loud might be a tool to try.
    Mistakes at high volume are less tolerable.
    You need to change your tolerance level, make yourself less tolerant of sloppy playing.
    If slurring along at low speed and low volume is tolerable enough that you're "satisfied" enough with what you just "learned" to move on and learn something else, just develop increased intolerance.

    I wonder if this is one key role of a teacher?
    I've never had a guitar teacher, but it makes sense that a teacher would not let the student move to the next lesson until they finished the last one?
     
  14. scelestus

    scelestus Tele-Holic

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    One thing to try is to constantly record yourself and be a perfectionist. If you have a way to get your guitar signal/tone into your computer there is great free recording software out there.

    Recording and playing back forces many attempts and makes you hunt for mistakes to fix.
     
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  15. Middleman

    Middleman Friend of Leo's

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    The game is about muscle memory. The brain can't always think fast enough to think about individual notes of a series of fast notes. When you get really good and playing fast, you're thinking about frameworks and chordal structures out of which a lead pattern can be exited to or entered from the chord. You aren't thinking about individual notes but thinking about the phrase and note patterns. Disciplined repetition is your friend.

    Hot wired by Brent Mason is probably the most difficult guitar part outside some of the classical pieces I learned in college. It took me 2 years to get up to his speed. It was a pattern my fingers had to learn, memorize and repeat. I could do it in my sleep now but it takes a lot of focused work.

    Rhythm chord movements can be a bit more challenging if the guitar neck is not built to your hand architecture. Are your hands big or little? If big, maybe the strings spacing is too narrow, maybe you need to focus on the right hand picking pattern, over and over. If your hands are small, maybe the neck is too fat or wide to work with. Jazz players, notorious for melodic chord patterns, use some of the best crafted necks i.e. easy of playing, not to mention flat wound strings. It all makes a difference for the type of music you are playing.

    At some point you move out of note patterns i.e. pentatonic and start listening and moving to the note you want to express. It becomes a process of expressed notes, repeatable standard patterns you play (while trying to figure out what to play next) then back to expressed playing, then maybe cliché's for effect.

    This is turning into a lecture, sorry, just wanted to pass along some experience. Last however, the right or picking hand will define your own style should you play long enough. This with either a pick or fingers. It's the beginning of the sound i.e. hard, soft, arpeggio, alternate string, open string/partial chord or arpeggio with open strings. Think I'll stop there.

    Practice makes perfect, the golden rule. It leads to breakthroughs in your playing.
     
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  16. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Yes, this is an xlnt observation.
    No YT vid, no DVD and no book can tell you when you've "got it", and most beginner to intermediate players who are using these tools aren't at the level where they actually know if they've "got it".

    I rarely teach private guitar lessons but when I do I have the (new) student play me something - anything they want. I can tell in less than 60 secs what they've worked on, what they know, what they don't know and what they need.
     
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  17. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    There are two sides to every coin. Playing clean, not sloppy, without misfretted notes, muted strings, buzz from pulling a string off the neck, and other sorts of musical imperfections, is impossible. Think of the Persian weaver who told everyone he wove a rug for that there is an imperfection in it, even if they can't find it, because only Allah is perfect. So if perfection is impossible, how can we reduce our error rate and give a more polished performance? Polishing requires polishing until it looks good and then polishing it again and again until you see a pure spectral reflection. Musically, you achieve that by practicing a number until you nail it. Then practice that same number over and over again until your performance is polished. That's work, more work than most casual players are willing to devote to a single song.

    Do this for one song you want to shine. You'll be so happy with the result that you'll want to try it on another, and another, and another. I promise you that this will take you to the next level. And I'll promise you more. Your picking and fretting accuracy will improve making a polished performance easier and easier to attain.

    I'm not saying don't have fun. I'm not saying don't noodle around on blues riffs. I'm not saying don't play a few songs just because you want to. What I am saying is that playing clean will become a habit. A good habit. This works. Thank me later.
     
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  18. Henley

    Henley Tele-Holic

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    Hello, you said the answer yourself...take it more seriously, practice with purpose. There is no quickie,.
     
  19. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    There are basically three things i do with a guitar when not "performing".
    1) Try to learn something new.
    2) Try to improve on what I learned (or what I do) by either cleaning it up or improving time and feel.
    3) Try to put my whole heart and soul into the playing so it comes out of the speaker and can be felt by the listener.

    Any given week might include working on two of those things, maybe even only one, seldom all three in a week of playing.
    IOW I don't learn a thing, practice it to perfection, then force emotion into it or whatever.
    ("Heart and soul" is not strictly "emotion", more like telling a story within an established story)
    More like the need arises and I face it. With the need changing several times a month.
    Playback is an essential part to recognizing and facing the next need.

    What I find is that there are incompatibilities present in my approach to I suppose being a musician.
    If performing or recording, I want to include all three, though only a dash of #1.
    Between whole heart and soul, or making it clean, I'm generally conflicted.
    Too much of any ingredient ruins it for me.
    I'd err toward heart and soul though, and gladly pepper a section with small mistakes if that's what it takes to get my heart to come out of the speakers.
    It would be great if I could get both?
    Probably never happen though.
    Allah I am not!
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2021
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  20. Harry Styron

    Harry Styron Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I believe singer Veronica Swift and pianist Emmet Cohen demonstrate the result of the kind of practice that Klasiane is referring to on this Dave Frishberg tune, I’m Hip.

    Swift’s precise intonation and articulation in negotiating Frishberg’s complicated runs is stunning:
     
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