Technique building

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Larry F, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Posts:
    16,268
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    Location:
    Iowa City, IA
    Because I was away from guitar for so long, there is a whole generation of books that I have rarely even looked at.

    In my journey back to playing again, my ear, heart, and brain were already in great shape because of my training as a theorist and composer. What was, and continues to be, a problem is my hands. My posts over the past 6 years sometimes focus on stretches, exercises, squeezers, and massagers. I made a big jump in progress on that end of things when I started studying the mechanics of muscles and tendons of the hand and forearm. This help me zero in on specific problem areas. Overall, I'd say that this approach paid off big-time for me.

    Back in my early years, I did a lot of scales, but then supplanted those with patterns, such as: C D E C D E F E E F G E, which is probably the most basic pattern there is. When I do variations of these now, I find some tricky situations from time to time. Here is one: C G D E D A E F, etc. If I am playing these on the first two or three strings around the 12th fret, I find that it is difficult to reliably and cleanly go from my first finger on string 2 to my 3rd finger on string 1, followed by a roll of the 3rd finger to string 2. If I use a pent or minor pent, then the 4th finger would be the one that rolls.

    This is not a reliable and clean move for me, especially when above the 12th fret using the 4th finger roll from string 1 to 2 (or 2 to 3).

    I wonder if it would make sense for a guitarist (or book author) to explore other moves that are mechanically more demanding than usual. Maybe the thing to practice would not end with the exercises of the type I mentioned above, but also include exercises that focus specifically on difficult moves. This would give the guitarist a chance to really focus on finger placement, and also develop the kind of strength needed for certain moves like that. Or, instead of strength being the target of an exercise, it could be a stretch. I haven't even mentioned picking and slurs.

    Two questions: are there books in existence that focus on the kinds of issues I raised? And, would it make sense for a guitarist to have some training in the kinds of specific mechanical moves that I mentioned?

    To take it to another level, you could write out a sample lick, then identify which muscles and tendons are involved. Then, write out some exercises that focus on those areas of the hand and forearm? And by exercises, here I am thinking of isolated, repetitive moves such as those done in a gym. But wait, there's more. If you are going to do a certain repetitive move, how many reps and sets should you do? How is such information arrived at today? It seems that it is something handed down from teacher to student, or one's own experience. What would a sports medicine specialist and a hand specialist say? Would they make recommendations that are in line with how we arrive at that practicing technique as musicians, or would they say, "oh, no, don't do that x number of time, do this instead, or do this x times, that y time and the set of those two 10 times.

    What I am getting at, is should there be some medical research applied to improving guitar technique?
     
  2. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    8,564
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    Location:
    NELA, Ca
    I don't know if there's specific guitar technique exercises that have been correlated to medical/physical research or therapy but there's some general stuff.
    The 'Alexander Technique' for public speakers and musicians has been shown to be really effective in dealing with and avoiding injury.
    When I have neck/shoulder/forearm issues I go to a chiropractor that specializes in dancers and athletes. She stresses more about what I do away from the guitar - and it seems to help both with pain and my technique.
     
  3. GuitOp81

    GuitOp81 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    561
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2013
    Location:
    NJ
    I don't think there is more than sparse studies but some physicians actually works specifically on this kind of "trade-specific" problems.
    For instance, I found this MD Marco Franchini (http://tinyurl.com/franchini), specialty in Orthopedics and Traumatology, who gives seminars for guitar players, especially shredders who spend hours in daily practice trying to build up speed and accuracy.
    Here is the program of the seminar:
    Page 1
    Educational Program
    Introduction
    • Anatomy and biomechanics of the spine and
    Limb applied to the top guitarist
    • Joints and muscles
    • Posture
    Prevention, recognition
    • Tendinitis and tenosynovitis
    • Trigger finger
    • Trauma to the hand
    • nerve compression syndromes
    • joint laxity
    • dystonias function
    • Practical exercises
    Examples of diseases of famous musicians
    • Paganini
    • Django Reinhardt
    • Tony Iommi
    • Steve Vai
    • Adrian Vandenbergh
    • Leo Kottke
    • ... many other
     
  4. GuitOp81

    GuitOp81 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    561
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2013
    Location:
    NJ
    What I hear from doctors is the recommendation to stop playing as soon as you feel pain and to address seriously any persistent pain, i.e. that does not go away completely in one or two days. Rest is the only therapy unless some serious damage already occurred.
    From a personal point of view I struggle enough with what has been proven possible on the guitar to really challenge myself with passages that would require specific mechanical training, but I see the point underlying your questions: is there something more, never played before, that could be done with this instrument if we try to push the boundaries with a methodical, scientific approach? (Or maybe the same thing but applied to one's individual limits, at least that's what I understood).
    Regarding books that use a mechanical approach troy stetina's "speed mechanics" comes to my mind. Even more has been made in the field of classical guitar, especially in more recent years. My personal conclusion is that I don't play enough to waste time in mechanical exercises with little musical content (as effective as they might be, and I know they are).
    To explain my point:



    But there are methods that combine music with systematic study of all the mechanical possibilities of the instrument, for instance Emilio Pujol's "Escuela Razonada de la Guitarra", a pleasure to explore.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  5. WilburBufferson

    WilburBufferson Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,886
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    Larry, I've wondered about this same thing from time to time. And here's an easy one: how about fitting neck profiles to hand size, finger length and joint mobility? At the end of the day, preferences will rule, but if we have custom fittings for othodics, golf clubs, chairs, computer keyboards, and TEETH for crying out loud, why don't we have the same thing for guitar -- another repetitive (and possibly straining) task? The word "custom" should take this into account, but I've never seen a pro builder advertise on these variables and most will assume that the consumer "knows" what s/he needs when most will be asking for guitars based on what is supposed to be great.
     
  6. vincent

    vincent Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    735
    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2007
    Location:
    Big Rapids, Michigan
    I'd be interested in something like this. I have problems with my wrists and forearms from time to time. When they flair up I just take ibuprofen, put ice on them and try to remember to stretch before I play. Repeat the cycle every few months. I a visual learner so I think an ebook with links to video examples are a nice touch. Anyway let me know if you move forward with this book idea as I would be interested in something like this.
     
  7. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Posts:
    16,268
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    Location:
    Iowa City, IA
    Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts on this. Really good points of view.
     
  8. Mjark

    Mjark Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    12,442
    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2011
    Location:
    Annapolis, MD
    I know a brilliant jazz pianist who took lessons to learn to play without causing stress on his hands/arms. There must be someone who's worked out something similar for guitarists.
     
  9. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    8,564
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    Location:
    NELA, Ca
    That's most likely the 'Alexander Technique'. It works for all instruments including vocalists. Been around more than a century.
    http://www.alexandertechnique.com/musicians.htm
     
  10. AhJustFred

    AhJustFred TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    80
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2013
    Location:
    California
    The medical research on Repetitive Stress, Carpal Tunnel, and Thoracic Outlet syndromes is quite extensive and absolutely applies to musicians, as they are among the most common victims of these self-inflicted injuries. Repetition to the point of pain, bad posture, working/playing without a break---all contribute to a painful and frustrating fate. I know because I have dealt with it personally and had to make serious adjustments in my technique and my playing habits. Alexander Technique, as someone else mentioned, has been part of that process.

    As far as learning to do something new, I always apply the Jamie Andreas principle of "bringing up the ease instead of the dis-ease". For example, if I were learning to slide from the 6th fret to the 9th fret on any string, I would start by applying only the slightest amount of pressure to the string, and just grok the fret hand movement without even picking the string. Gradually applying more pressure, I would teach my fingers exactly how much was needed (and no more) to achieve a clean slide. The final test would be picking the string.

    Where do you find initially difficult musical ideas where you could apply alternative techniques? I found them in Classical guitar music and the Ted Greene books. In TG's Jazz Single-Note Soloing Book 2, there are dozens of examples of 3-, 4-, and 6-note melodic ideas that are meant to be played scale-wise, using every scale imaginable. Just doing that section of the book might take a lifetime to master.... Without injuring yourself!
     
  11. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Posts:
    16,268
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    Location:
    Iowa City, IA
    I had to quit playing 30 years ago due to tendonitis. By quit, I mean that the hand doc told me that I would never be able to play more than two hours a day. Things worked out fine, as I went into an academic career as a composer.

    When I started playing again 6 years ago, I changed my right hand technique, which is where the tendonitis was situated (in the wrist). Before, I had anchored my curled up pinky on the top of the guitar or pickguard. This time, I went with a freer wrist/arm action. Only a few times have I experienced the same quality of pain that I did 30 years ago. Believe me, I stop right then, and avoided that kind of practice. Basically, I do better with a slurring style than with picking each note. I am generalizing, as some things sound better with picking every note.

    Last week, I had an electrical stimulation test to see how my nerves have been healing (they haven't) after being paralyzed 6 years ago. Interestingly, the doc said that she detected carpal tunnel in my wrist. I was quite surprised, as I almost never feel anything like that, except for what I mentioned above.

    Now, my mechanical work is broken up in different ways, so that I do not do a small number of basic moves over and over and over, etc. However, after listening to the picking video posted above in this thread, I thought I would give it a try. In the video, the player plays 16th-32nd notes non-stop for 10,000 times. He plays one string for a few beats, the next string for a few beats, etc. But at no point does he miss a note, or pause. This kind of thing has never sounded wise to me, but I thought that I would try it. I think I played a little of 2,000, although I did take some short breaks. The positive things was that I felt a lot more secure and at ease for the rest of the day. So, I am wondering if doing high rep activities like this has its advantages. Is there something particularly valuable that this kind of practicing can produce that more frequent breaks cannot? Or, is 2,000 reps with breaks just as good (or better or worse) as 2,000 rep without breaks? In other words, is the number of reps the important thing, or is playing without breaks more beneficial?
     
  12. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    61
    Posts:
    11,743
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2007
    Location:
    victoria b.c. CANADA
    Hey Larry. Along the lines of Ken's suggestion the Feldenkrais Method is another approach that is very helpful. It's benefits can actually be quite magical. It's not exercise but it's a re-education of your nervous system that works very gently. You can't even imagine anything is happening from the slow gentle movements but then you discover your body is able to move more freely and gracefully. Like the Alexander Technique I think it's worth looking at.
     
  13. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    8,564
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    Location:
    NELA, Ca
    In the 10,000 strokes vid (sounds like a porno movie - ala Truffaut) the fact that he 'accents' the first group of of every 16 completely negates any actual musical benefit. You might get a little faster and you might get a little stronger (endurance) but you'll probably end up accenting the downbeat of every bar, every time in every piece of music.

    I feel that exercises like that are mostly useless for anything accept recovery from an injury but you need to be careful to do them with good physical as well as musical technique. And vary them constantly. If you do that specific exercise for 25 minutes everyday ... that's how you're gonna play.

    Here's an all around great video lesson. He starts talking 'technique' at about the 33:00 minute mark ...
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2013
  14. AhJustFred

    AhJustFred TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    80
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2013
    Location:
    California
    The advantage of doing anything 10,000 times a day is that you get very good at it.

    If you have a limited amount of time to play your guitar every day, I would not recommend spending 25 minutes of it doing that picking exercise. As Ken said, there is also a real risk of developing a habit that can be detrimental to musical expression.

    I would also not recommend high-rep exercises for someone with a history of RS or CT or any other musculo-skeletal or neurological disorder. I'm not a medical professional, but I do have a condition and this seems like common sense to me.
     
  15. GuitOp81

    GuitOp81 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    561
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2013
    Location:
    NJ
    That was exactly my point in linking that video: it's too much time for me to spend on one single single narrow aspect of playing (right hand picking consistency), and I agree also on the danger of high repetitions in case of inflammations or physical stress of any kind, although I also experienced benefits from "training" the body with high reps if done lightly, with very little load and little force applied, not to mention the benefit of warming up in itself.

    That said, Miles Okazaki, the guy in the 10000 reps video, is a monster player, although he shows signs of what others mentioned here due to his "quantitative" approach: infinite streams of notes with very little dynamic, but I accept that as part of his personality as a musician. Path Metheny has an apparently similar warm up routine, which differs in a couple key aspects. He plays arpeggios all over the fretboard, at relatively slow pace and using only one way picking (no alternate, so he is actually playing at double the speed you hear) and focusing on synchronizing left and right hands and mapping the whole fretboard in any possible unfamiliar way, thus working on the connection between is brain/ears and the fretboard. His musicality definitely does not seem to suffer from that routine and I don't see that as a heavy workload for tendons and muscles.

    Mi take away is, whatever the approach, how seriously those musicians take their warm up routine.

    If the problem is the right hand then it's difficult to ease the workload more than you do by using a standard approach. It could be the way you hold the pick, squeezing maybe too much, that causes problems. Tuck Andress wrote a nice article available online on how to hold the pick (and then decided to do fingerpicking :lol:), but he focuses more on the best angle for the pick (something close to the way George Benson and Path Metheny old the pick, quite different from the fist grip typical of heavy strumming players) not much on the least stress for the wrist.

    Finally, I don't have a simple advice on how to reduce the stress for the wrist but I have seen somebody playing with a pick literally without the right hand, with the pick secured to the severed right harm, so there must be a way to use a pick with little or no engagement of the wrist even without cutting off the right hand.

    It could be an opportunity to reconsider the whole approach, the way Mick Goodrick did after studying classical guitar.
    For instance, I can't imagine a lighter touch than the guitar player in this video (check around the 7th minute for the picking technique), definitely not country twang but it is guitar playing, and pretty impressive and definitely closer to the blues than any other guitar tradition

     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
  16. upinthemteles

    upinthemteles Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    227
    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2008
    Location:
    usa
    so he plays it with all down strokes or all upstrokes? That's crazy, I gotta try that
     
  17. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    8,564
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    Location:
    NELA, Ca
    Pat M. improvises in that routine. He plays through chord progressions - sometimes they're even 'standards'. Way more of a brain warm-up than a hand warm-up.
    He also absolutely alternate picks (as well as plays legato and whatever else he feels like doing).
    Here's an example ...
     
  18. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Posts:
    16,268
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    Location:
    Iowa City, IA
    I have an old Downbeat around here (or is it GP?) that has an interview with Pat Methany soon after joining Gary Burton's group. In it, he mentions that he generally slurs his notes more than picking each one, which he says sounds "corny" to him. I hope I run across the magazine again, as the word "corny" is too cool. Remember, he was still, or still close to, a teenager.

    I prefer slurring, in general, and in my classical compositions, I write slurs when they're needed. My issue with the right hand isn't with picking a fast stream of notes, as that just isn't something that I would do much these days for musical reasons. But, there are a good number of occasions when I want to play 16th 16th 8th or permutations of that, but I risk stumbling at faster tempos. I have been doing rhythmic practicing all along, so its not a brain thing or maybe not a coordination thing. It's that my hand/arm doesn't make the second or third note securely. It's true even if I am playing one pitch.

    I absolutely have no interest in playing fast lines. But I do want the security and confidence that comes with good technique. I remember how it used to feel when I was younger and I just want to have that back again.
     
  19. GuitOp81

    GuitOp81 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    561
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2013
    Location:
    NJ
    I see that, he also alternates without specific constraints.
    I remember seeing a shorter video in which he was playing only slow arpeggios chasing pretty much an infinite cycle of 5ths all over the fretboard and picking everything without alternating, must have been the beginning of the same routine, or just a simplified version for the benefit of some student. Being a 60 years old who has been doing this since he was a talented teen I suppose he can switch gears at his pleasure. I remember also reading that his routine pre-show goes from one to three hours, but maybe three could be an exaggeration.

    He published a transcription of his warm up (ok, somebody did it for him) but I haven't seen it yet and I think that just reading and learning that is kind of missing the point. His explanation is that he really aligns mind, ears, hands and fretboard during that routine.
    It is such a simple and powerful concept: it's a kind of deliberate and conscious noodling, without any preset chord progression or other constraint. The method is what matters, not the notes.

    The point that I liked when I read about it years ago is that he does not waste time doing only mechanical exercises, which means that he does warm up his hands very methodically and he practices mechanical stuff but only while at the same time working on all other aspects of playing, not separately. It's all those things at once, not one more than the others. That's also what I was trying to point out in the context of this thread.
     
  20. GuitOp81

    GuitOp81 Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    561
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2013
    Location:
    NJ
    Well, if you find out how to do that please share it!:D
    I remember that too but after years of disappointment I, like many others I suppose, learned to cope with the disconnect between my memory of what I could do 30 years ago and what I can actually do now.
    But I understand that you are talking about a problem that requires medical attention and that could be actually solved, nothing like may vain hope of being able to outrun my kids.

    Maybe a very careful warm up and very slow and progressive work on the specific issue will solve it for you, it kind of worked for my Achilles tendon and ankles (a slow two years recovery).
     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.


  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.