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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. Tuneup

    Tuneup Tele-Holic

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    For me what works is slow down, play through it slowly until you have it clean, then speed up.
     
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  2. farmcaster

    farmcaster TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    And I'll add: practice doesn't m
    100% this! I'd add not just without any mistakes, but with perfect form-no flying pinkie fingers! Made a big difference in ridding me of some old bad playing habits
     
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  3. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yes, whether a golf swing or guitar good form is key. Proper ergonomics makes it much easier to be accurate. A teacher can immediately see poor technique and offer fixes.
     
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  4. kbold

    kbold Friend of Leo's

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    Do you use any effects when playing? If so, turn them off (yes, even reverb).
    Effects will mask any/many mistakes.
    I don't use any effects when practicing for improvement or clarity.
     
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  5. SRHmusic

    SRHmusic Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    Guitar Player magazine had a few articles on improving musicianship and speed, etc. over the years. Two things that stuck with me:
    First- Practice new / difficult passages with a metronome. Find the fastest you can play it without making an error, then slow it down 20% (5 clicks on an old one) and practice it at that tempo for that day. Repeat each day (finding your new max error free speed, slowing down, etc.).
    Second- Record yourself. Work at getting it perfect. Then later listen critically and identify what to improve. Just the process of getting a clean take is quite an eye opener, as the OP indicated.
     
  6. StevesBoogie

    StevesBoogie Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    There is a ton of excellent advice already posted. I am going to share three very non-technical things that helped me this summer and fall to clean up my sloppy playing.

    I have to confess that the following three items are a bit unorthodox, but they have helped me greatly over the last nine months or so, when I started implementing them. I listed them in effectiveness order and to be honest the first dotpoint, by a large margin, is the one that has helped me the most.

    *Mentally force yourself to think that each hand is responding to the other hand. Don't approach playing the guitar with the mindset that you have a fingering hand and a picking hand. Approach playing the guitar that you have a team that works together. Instead of using a majority of your concentration on your picking hand (and perhaps your fingering hand suffers)...and vice versa ... concentrate on the fact that both hands are working in unison. Start thinking that each hand instantly responds to the other and work as a team, instead of thinking that you have a fingering hand and a strumming hand. Admittedly, this tip is more of a 'zen' type of thinking rather than concrete instruction. But this mindset is a real advantage to improving sloppy playing

    *Look down at your picking hand and where the pick is meeting the strings and concentrate on what strings need to be plucked. I had realized, during practicing difficult passages, that my eyeballs were literally zoning out and just looking into space but no matter how hard I was concentrating the sloppiness continued. I may have gotten further on the speed but the sloppiness remained. When I looked down at the picking hand, and especially the area of strings that get plucked, it greatly reduced sloppiness

    *Introduce your picking hand's lower palm and wrist area to assist with muting non-played strings. Here is a real example: I always wanted to improve my picking speed with pentatonic scales. I knew I could get to where I wanted to with my fingering hand but my picking hand was (and still is but getting better) the weak link. Well, I got the picking hand improved, but the whole thing still sounded pretty sloppy, especially on ascending. I began to introduce my lower palm/wrist area to lightly mute the strings that I just plucked, when ascending, as it was the non-plucked strings that were making sloppy noise......BUT ... here is where it gets really interesting. This 'wrist muting' method is closely tied to the first dotpoint. I realized that I could only get effective wrist muting if I was really on top of knowing my hand coordination. And actually, now that I think about it, trying to perfect this palm/wrist muting technique actually forced me to be better at improving my hand coordination (viewing my hands as a team instead of two separate functions).

    Lastly, @johmica, I wanted to share the above items, but what I really wanted to add is that sloppiness is probably the biggest challenge to mastering guitar. I know I have struggled with it ever since I learned Smoke On The Water, LOL! But you pose a topic that I feel never warrants enough attention, so your thread is a valuable one.
     
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  7. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    Compressor pedal
     
  8. Terrygh1949

    Terrygh1949 Tele-Meister

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    Practice, practice,practice. You will get there just work at it. Don't forget to enjoy the process while you're getting there.
     
  9. 421JAM

    421JAM Tele-Meister

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    This kind of exercise is something that I learned in the school band, and should be applied to personal and band practice. There’s no time for a whole orchestra (or band, or individual) to keep playing a whole piece of music over and over, hoping that the next time everything will be correct and will stay correct. Instead, the director would identify what the mistake is, which section of the orchestra was making the mistake, and work on it just with that group of players until it was played properly (or at east until they knew what they needed to work on individually before the next band class). Then the whole orchestra played it together.

    Of all the bands I’ve been in, the ones with people who had been in their school band reached their potential much faster, without exception, and this method of practicing is the reason.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2021
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  10. Ben Bishop

    Ben Bishop Tele-Meister

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    Point 1: Amateurs practise until they get it right. Pros practise until they can't get it wrong. Point 2: The metronome is right. I'm inclined to work on things using a little chorus or reverb, but I wouldn't argue with those who don't approve. I'm quite left-handed, my picking has to be simple. My fingers aren't very long so I must plan my moves and chord shapes and hold the guitar to optimize what I have. I've never had wrist/carpal tunnel problems because I was trained well; in my case on cello, but wrist and hand position allows you to take best advantage of what you've got. A good teacher can help you find what will be the easiest way to pluck or stop strings. If you watch the best players it seems that they think about what note/chord comes next - the ability to execute the plan comes from productive practice. Sooner or later during every practice I try and make my scales sound musical while working with a metronome. Sometimes I sing along, anything to make it a fun challenge. There's no goal post, enjoy the process.
     
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  11. rockclimber

    rockclimber TDPRI Member

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    Welcome to my world. The thing that has helped me clean up my playing the most is to concentrate on fretting notes with the tips of my fingers. That and working on various damping techniques with both picking hand and fretting hand.
     
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  12. ronzhd

    ronzhd Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    Loosen your grip, clear your head and relax, you are suppose to be having fun. Record your self practicing, take an "issue" one at a time. It will come.
     
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  13. DeepDangler

    DeepDangler Tele-Meister

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    Just keep playing brother! Try playing to a drum track or jam tracks and practice what you learn in the context of song. The beauty of playing guitar is that it’s an imperfect instrument that can truly express the player. If you mess up a note in a jam, just roll with it! The listeners don’t know your sour note wasn’t just an intentional pentatonic semitone :cool:

    I had a similar moment practicing in the pandemic. I hadn’t played much for almost 2 years and noticed my timing and playing was pure slop. Practice has helped and I’ve been evaluating my technique in new ways. Something that has helped me is trying to picks. I used to use sharp thin picks and years ago I somehow used brass metal picks. After some discovery, I play with V picks and jazz 3s now.

    Maybe try some Jazz 3 picks! They’re tiny but extremely accurate and it might just be the spark that gets your playing cleaned up.
     
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  14. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    If you use a pick, try going without it. Fingerpicking can make us more precise. Each digit has its mission.

    Conversely, if you fingerpick, try a pick. Because you've got to be precise with it, and it's louder than fingerpicking (sorta), it will promptly tell you when you're not being precise.

    And/or switch between these two approaches--using whichever one makes you more precise.

    For me, that's using a pick, as I can get sloppy, especially with my thumb, when fingerpicking. But it's very individual.

    I also knew a gent who would announce each note to himself when he had to slow down and get something right/conquer a sloppy habit. He would "talk the note" the moment he played it. Forced him to be sure to play them all distinctly, which he could only then put together melodically. It was also annoying to his bandmates and family, so he had the extra incentive of learning something well so he could shaddup about it.

    Record yourself, so you can hear exactly where and how you're flubbing something.

    Or you can teach a willing Rottweiler to nip your toes when you miss or slur a note.

    Good luck!
     
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  15. goodguy

    goodguy TDPRI Member

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    Blues is sloppy. That being said, choose simpler songs (not necessarily the complex ones you want to learn at the moment) & slow down to begin with. Get it right until it becomes muscle memory. Whatever the result the song should be your version of it from your soul and not some exact copy of someone else (no matter how great they are). Most players have things they can’t do so they tend to avoid & get around them somehow. Perfect is the enemy of good.
     
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  16. oldunc

    oldunc Tele-Meister

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    Balance; it's all balance.
     
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  17. this_grackle

    this_grackle TDPRI Member

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    I was just having this same feeling... been playing forever, and still have trouble switching between certain chords cleanly. I’d recommend trying to record a perfect take of whatever you’re working on... it’ll force you to play it over and over and understand exactly where your problem areas are.

    Personally, I kind of think “playing clean” falls more under the “chops” category where you can just be rusty and a little more regular playing will go a long way to reducing the amount of misfretting and mistakes you make... at least it does for me.
     
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  18. joebloggs13

    joebloggs13 Tele-Afflicted

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    Keep at it. It seems like it will never come, but one day you will nail it. Muscle memory, along with photographic memory take a bit to nail down, but once it happens....you will find that learning new pieces won't take as long....practice, there is no substitute for it. :)
     
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  19. DaveG

    DaveG Tele-Meister

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    To summarize a lot of the great advice shared here:

    • slow down till you can play it correctly, otherwise you are practicing in your mistakes
    • play with a metronome and record yourself when possible, even your scales, then listen with an objective ear: would you want to listen to that again?
    • ergonomics - pay attention to how you are holding your hand(s). Thumb over the neck? that's sure to make you play sloppy. Weird pick (or wrist/finger if playing fingerstyle) angle? ditto. look at how the classical guys hold their (esp. left) arms and hands - makes for speed and precision. and you won't get as tired
    • break it down - find the gnarly spot and master that so it's not a speed bump you are worrying is coming up
    • turn off the effects esp. gain/distortion >while you are learning the notes< BUT if you are learning a part that "needs" that, be sure to practice with the effect - you need to know how to control and "ride" it. after you learn the notes of course...
     
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  20. NGS Guitars

    NGS Guitars TDPRI Member

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