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The Tipping Point - A question for advanced players

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by matrix, Sep 25, 2020.

  1. matrix

    matrix Tele-Meister

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    For those of you who might be considered by some (if not yourself) as an advanced player, in the course of your progression, did you encounter what I am call a "tipping point"?

    What I mean by a "tipping point" is a point where many different aspects of music learning and the guitar in particular all started to come together, resulting in a rapid acceleration of your ability to learn?

    I have been playing guitar for almost 30 years, with varying degrees of seriousness (but the same general lack of obvious talent for it). In the last five, thanks in part to the proliferation of high quality online learning material, I think I have advanced quite a bit more rapidly. And in the last few months, it feels like this (imaginary?) "tipping point" is starting to happen. It seems like I can learn phrases, licks and songs much, much more rapidly. Instructional material that might have taken me months to crawl through I can watch and internalize in weeks. New musical information (like a new lick) seems to drop into an existing framework, or be a seem more like a slight variation on something that at some level I already know, and thus much easier to learn, retain, and incorporate.

    Does this sound familiar to any of you? I am not saying that I am now a great player - there are all sorts of major areas of weakness that I am working on (and others that I am probably not even aware of). But it seems like in very short order, the whole process suddenly became a lot easier, and a level of musicianship that previously seemed unattainable could be in striking distance if I keep up the work.
     
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  2. Electric Warrior

    Electric Warrior Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    I have had (am having) this experience. The problem is I'm probably not advanced enough to explain what is going on. But the advancement really seemed to occur when I started thinking about chord construction and voice leading, diving into transcription - in my own rudimentary way - and breaking things down as small as I need to in order to hear and play something correctly. All stuff that I avoided before. I'm talking listening to the same 1 second passage over and over until I know what is happening.

    Some of the best advice I got was from my instructor. We listened to about five seconds of a solo and he said "No. There's too much going on." He meant not just the guitar, but the drums, piano, brass. It was overwhelming.

    It can be tedious for me taking it inch by inch, but I retain everything better and am less apt to BS my way through something. All that work = deposits in the bank.

    Just my experience, glad it's coming together for you!
     
  3. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    With me, the 'playing situation' ( still, after 46 years playing) is the tipping point.
    What I mean is 'the gig' and the pressure to learn new music for it, provides the pressure to learn more and quickly!

    I'm self-taught, learned chord charts and just picked up how to play with a good ear that seem to be good at making musical associations in my head.
    Then just a lot of trial and error with hands and fingers until things sound right....
    Here are some definite 'tipping points' that really accelerated my playing:

    I went to a Catholic boarding HS, loved the guitar and QUICKLY, learned basic rhythm playing/chords by joing the folk group and twice a week ( for 2 years) full school Chorus practice for music to be 'performed' on Sundays ( for parents and visitors)
    in the meantime, of course, I'm taking what I'm learning in the folk group to play R&R songs on ths radio...( it's the '70's!)
    - 1992 after being in a few Classic Rock bands, I quit to join a real Chicago-style/jump blues band. I'm given (2) 90 minute cassettes to learn asap- I do and turns out the band only plays half of the songs! But I learned them all!

    - 1994 the lead singer/harmonica player of above band quits to sell Life Insurance- we become a trio, change music a bit and I become the lead singer! Go figure- still doing this.

    - 2018 I become the guitar player for an onstage band in a Patsy Cline play- need to learn 25 songs in a few weeks- for 40 dates.
    Everyone but me knows how to read music, and done theater work but me. BUT, I really knew how to play Rockabilly and Country from the bands I've played in..


    .
     
  4. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yes. Learning is not linear. If you consistently apply yourself you will find that there are plateau periods and then there are unexpected breakthroughs.

    I have two recent examples. 1) Playing in bands I would often chart out songs. Sometimes those charts would end up being a bit of a crutch and I would have a hard time weaning myself off of them...to the point where I would do things like put the chart on a small 4x6 card, etc. Now I keep the charts in a binder for reference, especially if I haven't touched a song for let's say 4 months, but I committed to memorizing songs from the get go and always playing them without referring to any crib sheet at all. If I have a crib sheet I just pull it out and glance at it when I'm alone, prior to a rehearsal or gig just to remind myself, but I don't use it when playing with others. Once I committed to just memorizing a song-- structure, licks, chords, intro, outro, everything-- it got easier and easier. One small cheat I still do is since I'm the guy that makes the setlists, if there is a song with a particularly weird progression in let's say its bridge that I can't seem to store in my mental hard drive, I will put that small handful of chords next to the song title just in case I have a brain fart during the show.

    2) I've been working on "playing the changes". Working on a nice, melodic, smooth sounding solo with nice phrasing, melody, and harmonic structure that fluidly moves through a sequence of chords. For example, a song like Jaco Pastorius' "The Chicken". Lately I've been recording the "chorus" (the part you solo over) with a looper and then just soloing over it, over and over again, maybe 30 or even 50 times in a row, until I feel good about the way I'm putting it altogether. This seems to work really well for me to get nice and fluid over chord progressions that aren't basic 1-4-5 or something easy like that.

    Chorus to The Chicken:

    |: Bb7 | Bb7 | Bb7 | Bb7| Eb9 | Eb9 | D9 | G7 | C9 | C9 | C9 | lick | Bb7-Eb9 | Bb7-Eb9 | Bb7- Eb9 | Bb7 - Eb9 :|

     
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  5. Buell

    Buell Tele-Meister

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    Oh man, yes! The light bulb coming on. It was the moment I escaped from the dreaded box! All of a sudden the entire neck opened up in front of my eyes. To this day, I still get trapped in the box from time to time, but then I just relax and go to the zone and it takes me to that next level. I am not saying I'm a guitar God by any means, but dammit getting out of that box feels soooo good!
     
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  6. Henley

    Henley Tele-Holic

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    The "tipping point" for me was when I started playing properly set-up, low action, quality guitars. Everything else was a natural progression from there. A good ear for tone, intonation, blend and style with boat LOADS of almost daily practice for decades.
    Now I play chopsticks really well. :)
     
  7. Stanford Guitar

    Stanford Guitar Tele-Afflicted

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    I think the tipping point for any musician is when they realize, as all children do, that playing music is just about having fun, making mistakes and that looking silly in front of people is no big deal at all and is in fact part of the fun as well. Being eager to dive into things one doesn't know or understand. When I went to college to study music all the professors were overly serious. What I found was, most of them were not really good musicians, they hid behind this austere type personality and would only play things they were good at. Having perfect pitch always gave me a bit of advantage in music, I finally got bored of them and switched my major to engineering. That was my tipping point!
     
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  8. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Stanford Guitar, I don't disagree. However, were your professors from the classical world? The level of performance is pretty breath-taking, with the expectation being that there will be zero mistakes-- certainly zero mistakes audible to anyone but the most knowledgeable fellow musicians. I was recently watching Cory Wong's performance with Rotterdam's Metropole Orkest and was blown away, (although I shouldn't have been), by the consummate, flawless playing by this huge ensemble. This level of perfection is what professionals achieve and expect.

    For non-professionals, especially in the non-classical world, it's a different deal. Having fun, improvising, making mistakes-- it's all good.

     
  9. Stanford Guitar

    Stanford Guitar Tele-Afflicted

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    ^^^ Yep, I was a hardcore competition classical player for awhile.

    Here's a great short video on developing a growth mindset. Really, really powerful stuff. Carol Dweck is a psychologist at Stanford. There is a great guitar illustration in the video.

    Basically, people who don't want to seem non-accomplished, or not smart, will only do things where they know they can be successful to reinforce the belief that they are smart and accomplished. The believe intelligence and talent are a fixed quantity. This is a very limiting behavior, a fixed mindset. A growth minded person will take risks and chances to learn, not worrying about looking or feeling smart; they believe intelligence and talent are not fixed quantities, and in the process exceed the abilities of fixed mindset folks.

    The above is why I always tell my friends, and my kids, who don't have it, that having perfect pitch is an advantage. It is something you are born with, and it can't be developed. But it's only a 50 yard head start in a 26 mile marathon. Hendrix had perfect pitch, but likely non of the Beatles did, Elton John has perfect pitch, but I don't think Billy Joel does. Your potential is so much bigger than you know.

     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2020
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  10. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    My path to mediocre has indeed had many big-stride moments.

    A big part of this was simply getting an electric after playing acoustic almost exclusively for 25 years. The electric was so easy to play, comparatively, that suddenly my fingers were flying around and exploring.

    Another big step was letting myself explore open tunings. I just love the DADF#AD tuning, especially on the acoustic.

    Finally, them YouTube clips. Since I'm often too busy to jam or gather our "band," watching what others can do really opened a lot of mimicry that opened up a lot of invention.

    Then again, I've also had both long and weird periods of stalling out, where everything--especially my playing--seems very stale and repetitive. Probably someday They will plug brains into ultragizmos and we'll see the neurology of all this. But leaps of coalescence and synergy seem to characterize almost every learning process, creative field, or skill-improving person.

    Congrats on your own leap, matrix, and say hey, eh?, to Canadia for me.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2020
  11. matrix

    matrix Tele-Meister

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    @Stanford Guitar this comment on the mindset is interesting.

    I have seen many "naturals" in different fields of endeavor fall far short of their potential. It seems that it was almost too easy for them - they get bored with the rapid progress and drift away from the area, or they coast on the talent that lets them be better than most without really working. But in coasting, they never reach greatness.

    The true star performers, the Michael Jordans of the world, seem to be the ones that manage to line up both talent and work ethic in the same direction. It is a very specific combination of mindset and talent that leads to superstar levels of accomplishment.

    I dont think hard work can replace talent. But I am feeling encouraged about how far it might be able to take you.

    Also - and returning to your original post - I do think a sense of playfulness, experimentation, and joy in music is crucial. I really dig Kenny Werner's book "Effortless Mastery", which has a lot to say about mindset that is very useful to not take oneself too seriously while at the same time setting a seemingly lofty goal (mastery).
     
  12. Stanford Guitar

    Stanford Guitar Tele-Afflicted

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    I think hard work is a talent in and of itself, and likely the most useful talent.
     
  13. Stanford Guitar

    Stanford Guitar Tele-Afflicted

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    I do hope I reach a tipping point one day where I can sing and play like this guy. A true musical prodigy.

     
  14. matrix

    matrix Tele-Meister

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    One thing I would like to clarify from my original post - I am not talking about plateaus and periods of growth. I have gone through both of those in guitar and in other fields of endeavor.

    This idea of tipping point seems to me like something different, like a moment when there is almost a paradigm shift, and a whole bunch of things that one can comfortably progress with hard work become much easier to progress, and move forward much more rapidly.

    Sort of like you have been pushing an out-of-gas car forward for ages, sweating out every inch of progress, and suddenly someone released a half-on parking brake. You still have to work, but you are covering way more distance with way less effort.

    Hence this post - maybe this is just the euphoria of breaking though another plateau. But it feels like something different.
     
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  15. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    I agree. When you buckle down and focus your learning powers on a task, you synthesize all inputs and assimilate things at an incredibly fast rate.

    It's one of the reasons young children can learn complex concepts such as language, math, and music so fast: their brains are not distracted by the realities of life that pollute the minds of adults and distract their focus from learning.

    Anyone that has crammed for an exam the night before knows exactly how this works :twisted:
     
  16. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Say, OP, I think you may have learned the fretboard.

    That's what really greased the skids for me. That, and playing three-chord songs so much in every position that I don't even think about "position" any more.

    "Advanced" is not a word I'd use, though. The terms are relative. My "advanced" is Pitiful Grasshopper Level to 10,000 other guys and gals around the world.

    I'll never play as well as the guys I most admire, so all I care about is "advancing" past the point I'm at right now. This guy is lighting me up these days:

     
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  17. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm not a sophisticated or complicated player, just Blues and Country- based on everything I play ( solid, perhaps with a lot of depth and variation),
    but I still feel like I learned most of what I know ( or 'how to teach myself' ) the first 3 years of my playing, mid-1970's.

    Something happened then- I could not get enough!
     
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  18. Telenator

    Telenator Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Sounds like you suddenly learned how to learn.
    People who can put there own ideas aside and begin to accept the good information that is being given, seem to make sudden advancements in their ability to learn and progress.

    For me it was two things.
    1) My guitar teacher told me to stop playing scales and start playing "ideas" that were related to the chords I was covering. That was HUGE!
    2) He told me to play a major scale and flat the "1." Then play the scale again and flat the "2." Then the "3" and so on. The sounds that came forward were astonishing and I was able to relate them all to the major/ionian scale and thus pulled myself out of the "pentatonic rut" I had fallen into. Th purpose wasn't to learn new scales. It was to learn the way all 12 notes relate to the ionian, the mother of all music.
    My playing took a huge leap forward and I became fearless to take the stage with anyone. I've had the opportunity to play with some of my all-time favorite musicians and actually landed on my feet. One key ingredient, beyond knowing what you're doing is, to know when to sit back if you're not positive of what's happening. LOL.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2020
  19. hepular

    hepular Tele-Holic

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    Not sure I'd really wanna use Jordan as an example, given how much of an ******* he was. Yadda, yadda, committed. blah, blah BUT: the thing i've come to appreciate about music versus sports is that in competitive sports the point is to assert yourself in such a way that someone else (or large groups of someone elses) are pissed off about your success. That's what got Jordan off. Same with Lance Armstrong--as Floyd Landis put it, Armstrong cared more about making someone else lose than winning.

    Music, otoh, as afar as i'm concerned, the goal is to make the entire audience happy by the end. So true musical excellence is always gonna be about making everybody better in the process. Now, there are certainly a lotta Buddy Riches in the music world, but . ..
     
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  20. Mickey

    Mickey Tele-Holic Gold Supporter

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    There's a Pat Martino interview on YouTube somewhere, he makes the comment that he had all sorts of toys laying around as a kid, and the guitar is just one of those toys he kept picking up.

    In areas where I am advanced, the tipping points have come when I started asking myself: "How the hell did they do that?" -- and then really started trying to figure it out as a kind of game. Amazingly when this window of curiosity opens, I'll get there - or at least my version of it.

    That said, I don't know if it's voluntary. The source of fascination and curiosity is mysterious and sometimes downright weird. For me, it's typically an inexplicable compulsion. I just find myself trying to figure out "that thing" whenever possible. It's also a gift, because it never feels empty or unfulfilling when engaged in it.

    Right now I may be breaking into an adequate musician. If I'm hitting a tipping point it's been rhythm rhythm rhythm, rhythm rhythm. A book of clave exercises has really helped.
     
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