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Developing picking technique

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Jon, Jul 13, 2006.

  1. Jon

    Jon Member

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    There's a ton of info out there about improving picking technique (& I've got a lot of it) but hardly any of it gives advice on exactly how much practice is required to make good progress. Obviously if you only do 1 hour a week on a Sunday afternoon you probably won't improve much, but if you know how to practice effectively, how much time per day do you need to devote to picking exercises to make long-term continuous progress?

    Also, I wonder how long it takes for the progress you've made to be lost if you don't carry out specific practice for picking? I always seem to hear about well-known musicians who are known for their great technique saying that they don't specifically practice any more, but rather they just play.

    I've go through phases of really trying to concentrate on picking, but usually end up getting sidetracked by other things (e.g. learning songs) - my technique has got better but I often wonder how much better it could be with a bit of dedicated practice for a few months.
     
  2. Mullet Kingdom

    Mullet Kingdom Senior Member

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    I'd pick a handful of exercises and spend half an hour with them everyday. After a week, pick a handful of new ones and work on those for a week. The week after that, try some more stuff. After a while you'll find a couple sequences and drills that work for you and develop a daily routine based around them.

    A metronome is also a huge asset; start out at a slow tempo and gradually increase the tempo until you can't play the passage you're working on without making mistakes.

    Try not to get too wrapped up in this stuff though because it will eventually lead to tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome if you over do it.

    At some point I reached my upper limit on the metronome and shortly thereafter stopped working on picking exercises. Mind you, I'd been doing it everyday for several years at that point and it just got to where it felt like a waste of time.

    Good luck. Hope this helps. :)
     
  3. Jon

    Jon Member

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    I know that feeling - if you are not using that type of technique all the time, is it worth it spending a disproportionate amount of time developing it? I would like to be able to play Strunz & Farah-style acoustic instrumental music but feel that you almost need to have the technique before you even try. However since it wouldn't be the only style I like to play, shouldn't I spend my time looking at improving the main styles that I love to play most of the time (jazzy blues & funk)?

    Who knows!!:crazy
     
  4. mkl13

    mkl13 Silver Supporting Member

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    I work on picking exercises from John Petrucci's Rock Discipling video. I try to do them every day (and have been for a year or so) and they seem to have really helped, especially in my cross string picking accuracy. I am still not a super fast picker at all but am more accurate.
     
  5. bettiefan

    bettiefan Member

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    This kind of question is one that students ask me all the time, and it's impossible to quantify. All the other comments so far have been along the right track. Your progress will always come in fits and starts. You won't progress linearly.

    One advantage of a metronome is that you CAN quantify your progress with a chart. For example--Yngwie solo excerpt 1, July 13, 108 bpm...July 14, 112 bpm...and so on. Then you have your goal on paper in front of you. That can help you determine where you're advancing and what needs more work.

    The only other advice would be to have as large a body of things to work on as possible, that way you're not getting bored or too familiar with the same stuff over and over. It helps keep the mind-numbing repetition more fresh.
     
  6. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    I'd say to start simple on one string with something like this on the G string: 9-5-7-9-7-5 in a sextuplet or triplet pattern very slowly. Use that pattern and practice the rest of C major up and down the G string. Start flying with that on one string, then practice all the other strings. I recently started practicing on a single string like that and I was surprised how hard it was to really play it fluidly. Break up the monotony by practicing all scales in all keys through the cycle of 4ths like that.

    I remember Fripp talking in GP mag way back in the 80s about doing it with a single note, like just playing tremelo on the open G for literally hours. My attention span isn't what his is and I could never do it for more than a few minutes without going nuts. But the exercise above makes it a little more interesting. I got it recently from a Guthrie Govan vid and he's a good enough picker that I think anything he recommends for better picking is worth trying.
     
  7. Shnook

    Shnook Supporting Member

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    What Guthrie Govan vid are you referring too? I completely dig this guys playing.
     
  8. rgsss14

    rgsss14 Gold Supporting Member

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    The real eye opener with the Petrucci video is when he points out that one must use the same picking technique when playing fast or slow. I had a problem with this is in the beginning - but I think it's improved.

    The reason I bring this up is that whatever exercises or songs you practice - this is really a key thing. The same thing goes for hand and wrist position when sitting or standing.

    The other thing - do some of this "exercise" type stuff on an acoustic with heavy gauge strings - 012's or 013's. When you get back to the electric, it will feel like spaghetti.
     
  9. gennation

    gennation Member

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    There's some great points here.

    The technique being different between playing fast and slo... that's something that a LOT of people miss. Technique changes as the speed changes. So, you can spend a year practicing something slow that has nothing to do with the way you are playing it fast.

    Watching your hands, and learning your hands, will help this a lot.

    And, observe your playing standing and sitting. That was a great point also, because they are different.

    I do most of my playing on acoustic, whenever I have something coming up to play on electric it does take me a couple of days to get used to those wet noodles ;)
     
  10. bettiefan

    bettiefan Member

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    I've heard this before, and Petrucci is an all-time favorite of mine, but I don't necessarily buy this theory. When I'm picking really fast, the motion comes from my wrist. Below a certain speed, I "circle pick" moving my thumb and forefinger back and forth. The circle picking technique helps me to get around awkward string crosses--I just can't do it as fast as I can with my wrist.
     
  11. Jon

    Jon Member

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    The question is how much practice every day will lead to progress, not how much progress will be made with x amount of practice. I understand that the progress will not be linear, and that doubling the amount of practice would probably lead to more progress, but I'm more interested in the lower end of the scale i.e. what level of practice isn't going to make any discernable difference. I'm sure that 10 minutes of concerted picking exercises a week would not provide much in the way of measureable improvement over the space of a month or a year - at what point are you wasting your time?

    I know the answer will be different for different people, but surely as with fitness where 40 minutes of cardio work at 70% of maximum heart rate 5 times a week will provide a measureable improvement over a given period of time, there must be a corresponding level of effort/time which will, on average yield measureable improvement. The flip side of this is that jogging for 10 minutes every other Sunday is a waste of time.

    I think the problem is that no-one has ever studied this in any depth. Still, I reckon 30 minutes a day will do the trick.

    Here goes!!:RoCkIn
     
  12. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    It was something from licklibrary.com. Actually it wasn't a terrific video, almost more of a 10 minute blurb. But he gets a few good points across, angle of the pick, use thicker picks, a bit about how to pick and some exercises. Paul Gilbert's vids are a lot better, but they're feature length vids. I do think Guthrie comes out of the Gilbert school of pickers though, and he quotes an old Gilbert alternate picking lick in that video I mentioned.
     
  13. himey77

    himey77 Member

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    http://www.tomhess.net/articles.php?article=33
     
  14. jazzandmetal?

    jazzandmetal? Supporting Member

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    A metronome is essential to develop good picking. That will get you where you want fast.
     
  15. Madgansound

    Madgansound Member

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    I'm a firm beleiver that picking should always come from the wrist regardless of the speed. That is something I had to work a lot on at one point in time. Something else very often overlooked is anchor points. If you anchor your unused finger(s) on the guitar when picking, your building a wall in front of your playing. String skipping will be next to impossible at speed as will many other things. Your forearm on the body of your guitar and maybe a little palm on the bridge is about the most you want to restrict yourself. If someone is having a hard time focusing on their right hand when practicing/playing, watch yourself in a mirror. It sounds a little queer, but it's a way that you can really pay attention to what's going on with your technique- why do you think dancers do it? It definately works. When I was spending the majority my younger days woodshedding back in the 80's, I found a great way to pound my right hand by playing along with some DiMeola. "Race with a Devil on a Spanish Highway" off Elegant Gypsy is a fun tune to jam with and a large chunk of his stuff I think is available in book form now, save you some transcription time. These are just general statements if applicable - and not directed towards you Bettiefan. Peace out:)
     
  16. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    The trick to learning to play fast is to master stuff at slow tempos. Also, don't work on just one exercise for hours and hours, day after day. Vary your practice schedule because little bits of technique you derive from one application end up helping you in another application that is seemingly unrelated.
     

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