Have you improved your technique at a later age?

Rufus

Platinum Supporting Member
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1,776
And if so, did it stick?

Disclaimer: I am well aware of the general idea that musicality is more important than technical skill, and have worked on that a lot. This thread is not about that.

Context: I'm 52 and grew up the shreddin' 80s. And while my tastes have broadened and "matured" over the years, I sometimes still like to work on some classic 80's riffs and licks. I have passable technique for that kind of stuff, but would like to improve it. And thanks to the resources available today, there are plenty of avenues to pursue.

What I am wondering is whether, at this age, I am basically trying to push a rock up a hill that will roll right back down again once I stop pushing. I'm not necessarily talking about age-related losses—I don't feel like I have reached that point yet. More along the idea that any improvements I might make will disappear once I stop practicing them as much. Granted, there's always going to be some level of that. I understand the concept of woodshedding to get back into playing shape. But when I was younger, techniques I developed would "stick," meaning even if they got a little rusty, they never went away.

I'm wondering what people's experiences are with this in, uh, middle age. Did you add or perfect a technique that stuck with you? Or did you find you essentially had to re-learn it if you stopped practicing it?
 

Jim Soloway

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14,372
I'm going to start by disagreeing the "musicality is more important than technical skill". Improving my technical skill increases my ability to translate my musical ideas into sound. Used in that way, improving my technical ability actually increases my musicality.

That being said, my primary technical focus for the last few years has been to improve the efficiency of my left (fretting) hand. That has in turn, inspired me to change fingerings, chord voicings and even harmonic movement. So, I believe that my focus on improving technique has worked symbiotically with improving my musicality.

BTW, I'm 68. The objective is still to get better.
 
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14,876
I learned Sean McGowan's fingerstyle technique very recently. Never would have thought of that approach in a 100 years on my own. So yeah, going from zero skill in this technique to being able to play a couple of tunes with it constitutes an improvement for me.

It helped that I'd previously learned, and still use, Gustavo Assis-Brasil's approach to hybrid picking, which makes frequent use of the pinky. This was also completely foreign to me when I first took up guitar in my 20s.

Oh and I think I did hit a pickup with my pick at lot more when I started out. Hasn't happened for a while now so that's also an improvement.
 
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Jon

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1,567
My technical ability with lead playing has improved over the last 6 months (I'm 57) - I've been practicing economy picking and 3-note-per string pentatonics (and 3-note-per string blues scale as per one of Paul Gilbert's old videos) for around an hour most mornings, as well as practicing standing up, and it's definitely made a difference.
 

jogogonne

Member
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604
I would say my technique improves noticeably every 2 to 3 years or so.

If I play a lot, maybe a little faster. If I play less, then longer.

Just for the record, I define technical ability as fluidity. So, if as a barometer, I take a solo, maybe something I've been playing for 20 years, and gauge how easy I'm able to play it, not how fast.

And basically I find that a lot of the stuff I 'thought I could play' 20 years ago I was playing terribly, or with a lot of effort when I can do those things much easier today.

But it's so gradual I don't notice. The metronome, 1 bpm per day thing has never worked for me, at least in terms of 'cleanly' pushing past plateaus.

I compare it grey hair and bald spots. You don't notice and then one day ... OMG, what happened?
 

ivers

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3,940
I wasn't one of those players who did the right thing early on, so I've spent a lot of time reversing bad habits and then forming new and better habits based on more knowledge.

My first focus was to get my alternate picking going. This has been a slow process of improvement mostly, but over the years the change has been significant.

With the fretting hand, it's a bit different as my skills has improved radically in just the last couple of years. This is because I've counsciously focused on being able to move the fingers in time without a pick bossing them around. I've paid a lot of attention to relaxing the muscles, and strengthening the mind-muscle control.

One of the things that's been very effective for more control and less tension has been to just bounce on the strings in rhythm without actually pressing them. As someone who tends to default to using too much force with anything, this has really helped to counteract that tendency and made a much more effortless playing technique.

When I talk about technique, it's not just about playing fast BTW. Less tension and effort and precise and controlled fretting or picking helps a lot for phrasing and nuances too. And tension is a great enemy of rhythm.

Another thing I've worked a lot with and gotten results from is to breathe better and
more relaxed, which affects the ability to play with less tension.
 
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Rufus

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1,776
Thanks for the responses, everyone. And to be clear, when I say "technique" I'm also not necessarily referring to speed. More like efficiency and accuracy and anything else that helps you play better. I'm also one of those people that tends to play with way too much tension and am really trying to work on that.
 

Rufus

Platinum Supporting Member
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1,776
And basically I find that a lot of the stuff I 'thought I could play' 20 years ago I was playing terribly, or with a lot of effort when I can do those things much easier today.
Ha ha, yes, I totally get that. While there are many things I "could play" for years, I was not playing them well or easily.
 

Rufus

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
1,776
I'm going to start by disagreeing the "musicality is more important than technical skill". Impriving my technical skill increases my ability to translate my musical ideas into sound. Used in that way, improving my technical ability actually increases my musicality.

That being said, my primary techjical focus for the last few years has been to improve the efficiency of my left (fretting) hand. That has in turn, inspired me to change fingerings, chord voicings and even harmonic movement. So, I believe that my focus on improving technique has worked symbiotically with improving my musicality.

BTW, I'm 68. The objective is still to get better.
Yes, that makes sense. I dropped the musicality line in there mostly to head off the "why are you trying to improve your technique when you should be focusing on things like phrasing and timing" or the "I've learned to do more with less" comments that tend to pop up whenever anyone brings up technical facility. I do understand those ideas.
 

FwLineberry

Senior Member
Messages
380
My picking hand technique disappears the moment I stop pushing the envelope, but it always has. My fretting hand technique seems to have always been pretty consistent over the years.

The main thing I've noticed with age (54) is that the amount of work I have to put in to see a little improvement is growing steadily.... law of diminishing returns in full effect.

.
 

brocktoon

Member
Messages
82
That pushing a rock up the hill metaphor his what building/maintaining facility on the instrument has always felt like to me. At 48, that's the same as it was at 18. However, my vocabulary and ability to apply it just keep progressing. As far as physical technique goes, what improvements I do see come from recognizing and focusing on what sounds good to me vs. practicing techniques just for the sake of it (which I used to do).
 

-sku-

Member
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723
Started playing around 16-17. Only knew some riffs and solos and didn't even know the name of the frets until I was 25.
Then from 25 till 27 I learned some music theory and got a little better.
Then from 27 til 30 I got a LOT better.
 

macrossgeorge

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
799
Yes, absolutely, several times and still going.

First with lessons.
Second with learning bass.
Third with going sober.
Fourth with learning from books / videos / further experimentation.

When I first started playing guitar in 1988 I immediately took lessons and kept taking lessons for about 6 years with several different teachers. By then I had learned what I needed and was focusing on playing in bands.

My technique did not change much until I started playing Bass guitar in about 2007 or so. And I started playing bass mostly, putting the guitar on the back burner and learned how to play bass in a band context too. Learning to play bass really helped me improve my guitar playing and for several years I played guitar and bass almost equally.

The last few years bass has gone to the back burner and I have been focusing on guitar more again.

I went sober almost 4 years ago and at first it took about 6 months to figure out how to play sober but then I started getting better and better again. Then I started writing more, coming up with more ideas, thinking outside of my ingrained boxes.

In the past several months I have been also learning from some books and videos. I have always wanted to learn some classical guitar as I have a nylon string acoustic but never knew any classical pieces so I got a book on classical guitar and am having a lot of fun learning from that. I also got a book on blues and some downloads on finger style blues which is helping my finger picking technique. I also got a book on Legato playing although I have barely started going through that curriculum. Additionally I rented some videos on how to play some Jimi Hendrix songs and am learning a Santana song as well. For me now I realize that I have to be self disciplined to get out of my habits and play other things. Then what I learn comes back into my own playing.

At my last several jams I have noticed that my playing has improved a lot in the past year and because I am continually learning and practicing and pushing myself in new directions that I am getting better and probably the best I have ever been.
 

RevDrucifer

Member
Messages
149
I’m 38, so I dunno how much I count in this.

I’ve certainly improved over the last few years. Once I built a home studio and got fanatical about how clean my takes were, there was a vast improvement.

It’s certainly been easier to see with singing. I’m continuously improving my vocal techniques after years of just thrashing my throat.

As long as I keep playing, I’m good to go. There’s always improvement. It’s when I stop playing/singing for weeks at a time that it all goes to hell.
 

chanley

Member
Messages
276
Definitely YES for me. I played mostly acoustic when I first started, (early teens), then continued to play mostly acoustic in my late teens and most of my 20's. I never really understood, (or bothered to properly comprehend), the concept of "touch". I developed some pretty bad habits and a rather fretting heavy hand. When I switched to playing primarily electric, (mid 30's), I was always pressing too hard and pulling things sharp. I am now 48 and still working on developing a better "touch".
I would say that my technique has seen the most noticeable improvements, (for me), more in the last 4 or 5 years. I think that is mostly due to a more focused desire to be a better player.
 




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