Question for some of the more advanced players...

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by jec, Dec 26, 2005.


  1. jec

    jec Member

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    Now that I have the attention of the experts:D


    I'm 27, been playing for 14 of those years, and would now rate myself an intermediate player. I would say that I can play faster lead lines, improvise, and contribute creatively to my band. To use a well-known ability reference, I would say that I could belt out the solo from Stairway to Heaven pretty much dead on live... However, I really want to start getting serious about taking my playing to the next level.

    I think one of my biggest problems is that I got into the habit early on of using hamer-ons and pull-offs for lead lines. While most of the time this sounds okay and I can spout out some faster stuff, it's not really proper technique. Also, I have been recording stuff alot more, and I notice that the hammered-on and pulled-off notes aren't coming through as cleanly as I speed up.

    I've really started focusing on my alternating picking technique, and have built up what I would consider a fast right-handed picking attack on one string at a time. BUT...When I try to play those same lead lines with proper technique, i.e. without hammer-ons and such, I am having some trouble. I know there is no substitute for practicing hard, but do any of you veterens/teachers/experts have advice on picking out faster lead lines without relying on hammer-ons and pull-offs???? You know, pick placement, exercises, good books/videos??? I don't want to be the next Yngwie, but I would like to be able to play improvised solos at faster speeds in a clean, fluid fashion.

    Or should I just shut up and practice for 14 more years???
     
  2. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

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    Since when are pull offs and hammer ons not proper, I think your getting poor information from someone. It doesn't matter how you play what finger you use in what position etc... It's all about creating music and sounding good. Many of the greatest players in the world used unothodoxed techniques, Wes Montgomery thumb only for picking, Merle Travis left hand thumb for bass notes, Tuck Andress personally states in his video learn how to play using any possible fingering for a chord as possible, Hendrix used is thumb, Albert King played the guitar upside down and tuned his own way etc... Hopefully by now you get my point.

    I used to think along the same lines, "Well the book says your fingers got to go here etc..." What I would do is work on your vibrato and do pull offs and hammer ons on a different guitar, preferrably an acoustic. Be super diligent about creating loud ringing notes, the louder the better. Also make sure everything is super clear and articulate, if not slow it down until it is.
     
  3. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    Nothing improper about hammer-ons and pull-offs...I've said it once here, I'll say it again: there is no standardized electric guitar technique.

    To answer your question, I'd approach it the same way I'd approach mastering any technical issue on the guitar, and something I do myself ALL THE TIME: play it really, really slow to a metronome as fluidly, evenly and with as little wasted motion as possible. When that feels absolutely "right" and comfortable, increase the tempo up two notches. Repeat. Stop when you feel you're at the limit of where you can do it RELAXED and CORRECT.

    If you feel your slurs (hammer-ons & pull-offs) are not even, rhythmically or dynamically, do this to those too.
     
  4. Tag

    Tag Gold Supporting Member

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    Sax players do not tongue every note. Mixing hammers, pulls and picking notes to make the phrase sound smooth and natural is the most important thing imo.
     
  5. jec

    jec Member

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    Thanks guys. All very good points.

    It's embarassing how long I've gone without a metronome. Looks like it's time to get one and slow things down. I don't really care about playing fast as much as I do playing fluid...
     
  6. neve1073

    neve1073 Member

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    Try to imagine solos in your head--without a guitar in your hands. Then go get your axe and try to play what you hear.
     
  7. retro

    retro Member

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    One thing I found that helped me a lot was putting the emphasis on rhythm. Rhythm brought the right and left hand together for me. I started to relax and things just naturally became more fluid. Maybe that's the same as using a metronome. To me the thought I could relate to was rhythm in sports. Once I realized it's the same thing I hit myself in the head for taking so long to come up with something that made me realize how important rhythm is.
    However I have to say I am no expert...
     
  8. da-boogieman

    da-boogieman Member

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    I really get your question. While learning Elliot Randall's solos in Steely Dan's Reeling in the Years, I found I was using hammer-ons (HO) and pull-offs where I should have been doing clean alternate picking on each note. It is a problem I still struggle with on faster solos.

    Good question ;)
     
  9. Red Suede

    Red Suede Member

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    Get the old Steve Lukather Starlicks video, if you can find it. He cracks me up when he says he used to sit in front of the T.V. set and alternate pick, building up his speed. I'm sure he was serious too, because that aspect of playing is a physical thing, and you just have to build it up. (There aren't any shortcuts).
     
  10. reddgeetarzan

    reddgeetarzan Supporting Member

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    I see what you mean- if you are using all hammerons and pulloffs then you really do miss some other ways to "vocalize" your playing.
    Try practicing some sliding scales- where you slide up and down into different positions- try bending into notes when you can- instead of doing that single note hammer trill- go one fret behind and get a bend right into the last note of the phrase.
    A couple of things that REALLY helped me- I stopped listening to guitar players all together for a while- I listened to sax players, B3 and piano players, violin and cello parts and even drums- I tried to emulate what those guys were doing and came up with some really cool and different ways to play- now the same old dribble immediately came back to life, and if it didn't, I at least had a slightly different perspective when I came back to it, especially when I played in the band context with other instruments.

    Another exercise that really will take you out of the rut is working on double stops.......if you need any more info, look them up or email me- there are a ton of things you can do with them that are not hammer ons or pull offs- but don't completely throw those out of your repertoire!!!

    and remember.......speed does NOT equal great guitar playing, but saying something from your heart and soul DOES!!!

    On that note........I need to go play!!!!

    RG
     
  11. Randy

    Randy Member

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    I've been playing over 25 years now and any amount of speed is have is entirely from legatto runs. My right hand picking speed is almost non-existent. For every 4 notes I play I probably only pick one. It frustrated me for a while but I finally learned to accept it as my style and now I'm glad I did. IMO you get more flavor squeezing and hammering out notes then you do by straight picking them. Maybe that's just me rationalizing my own style but I love the little inflections that come out of a fast legatto run.

    Listen to Alan Holdsworth for an example of some great fast, clean leggato playing.
     
  12. BFC

    BFC Supporting Member

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    It sounds like you need to work on your picking technique and work on making your slurred notes pop a little more. Picking technique is a matter of getting a good technique book and a metronome and really digging in. I would recommend this old Mel Bay book...

    http://www.melbay.com/product.asp?productid=93225

    ...by Roger Filiberto to start and then you might consider moving up to Jack Zucker's Sheets of Sound...

    http://www.sheetsofsound.net

    ...once you're ready for a more advanced workout.

    The cool thing is that you can use many of these same exercises to practice articulating your hammers and pulls. Making hammer ons pop might just be a matter of coming down a touch harder on the upper note. Making pull offs pop, for me anyway, is a matter of pulling kind of downward off the string almost like I'm plucking the string as I'm coming off the upper note. Took a while to make it work but well worth the effort. Once you can make your slurrs more articulate you can work on using more or less articulation depending on how you want things to sound. Practice these with a metronome as well.
     
  13. guitarplayaman

    guitarplayaman Member

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    If you check out the vid clip on my signature...I can rip pretty fast. You do have to build the strength in your arms to be able to explode like that....someone said earlier about sitting in front of the T.V. and practicing...yes by all means. Now I'm not a doctor or a physical therapist but lifting weights to build strength in the arms has helped me...
     
  14. jec

    jec Member

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    You aren't lying!

    Thanks everyone for your responses. Actually since I started this post, I've been working on right-handed technique pretty much every night. I can already tell a difference. I'll probably pick up some books/videos too. I think I need the discipline of a training program.

    Anyway, THANKS.
     
  15. Ogre

    Ogre Member

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    Practice your scales: major, minor(natural,harmonic, melodic),pentatonic(major & minor), whole tone, diminished. Concentrate on relaxing and playing smoothly. Speed is over-rated. It impresses guitar players and bores most everyone else. Find phrases that "speak" to you, and you will develope your own style. Incorporate the hammer-ons and pull-offs, just execute them cleanly and so that they make harmonic sense. Is the line you are playing enhanced or disrupted by any flash you include? Hope this helps!
     
  16. matte

    matte Senior Member

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    You're playing closed intervals/sequential scale steps. The most rudimentary clarinet studies address this. Here's a thought. Try outlining a harmonic progression (also known as compound melody, check out Bach's solo violin or cello pieces), Stravinsky's clarinet solos, etc.

    To my thinking(a perspective and not an absolute), the picking hand initiates the (A) attack and the fretting hand shapes(DSR) the note. They work together. It's quite possible to play legato and pick every note.
     
  17. 1-Take-Wonder

    1-Take-Wonder Member

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    I read a classical guitarists' intro to some picking excercises where he was suggesting that many players right and left hands are far from being in sync and that, with practice, a very fluid legato style can be developed without the need for hammer-ons...this is a necessity in the classical world, but other guitarists get away with it through amplification and higher gain setting hammer-ons. Its not that its wrong, but if its limiting you in terms of tonality, then its a problem. hammer-on's just don't sound the same as picked notes without extreme gain settings and then you might as well quit picking altogether...
     

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