Speed Question/Advice

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by TJe153, Feb 13, 2008.


  1. TJe153

    TJe153 Supporting Member

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    Hello Everyone -

    To begin, im a self-taught guitar player strumming for about 10 years.

    I have a question about speed - It seems when I play, 80% of the time im mostly using wrist/finger movement. Is this normal? Should I change to more forearm/elbow movement?

    Additionally, Has anyone had any positive experience with the Gripmaster strength tools? Will these devices increase strength in my fingering hand?

    Thanks For any Response in Advance!
     
  2. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Depends. For basic strumming, forearm movement, pivoting at elbow, is best, if tempo allows. You get a more positive response and a firmer sense of time. (Watch pro rhythm players.)
    But other kinds of moves suit different rhythms or tempos. Fast downstrokes, esp with amy damping, obviously need less arm movement (I usually anchor my wrist on the bridge, for better precision).
    Same if you need to be precise about which strings you are hitting, as in arpeggiation, or (of course!) in lead playing.
    The simpler the rhythmic feel, and if the tempo is medium to slow, go for as wide forearm movements as you can manage. (I would also use a thinnish pick for this style, so it bends as it hits the strings, however tight you grip it, and will compensate for the reduced precision of attack. You can then relax more and just swing.)
    Yes, they will increase strength in your fingers. But strength isn't everything!
    I think those things are good to carry with you if you have to be away from the guitar for any length of time.
    Be aware that they don't improve dexterity, flexibility or speed, and don't aid the toughening of fingertips. (Although, after 10 years, I guess yours are OK... ;) )
    Never think of using one in preference to practising on the guitar! If there's a guitar handy, use that!

    I have one myself, and did use it for a while; but I haven't touched it in years. I think they are most useful for getting that pinky working - but that applies more to beginners, I'd say, than for someone of your experience. Unless, that is, you need to spend several days away from the guitar, and want to keep in shape.

    It's not a magic shortcut to great chops - but then nothing is. And they're cheap, so what the hell.
     
  3. TJe153

    TJe153 Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the response -

    I think another thing to mention is that ive always been a fan of thin picks - not sure if that matters but im starting to expand into med. and heavy. Speed does increase with that small equip change.

    As far as the gripmaster goes, most of my soloing is focused on major scale (with minor deviation into some minor scales and short tonal changes) but it seems like my index and ring finger do the majority of the work. I was looking at a gripmaster to strengthen my pinky for some more depth and extension. Still cranking out the scales.

    My chops are decent - but i'm not wailing on some 16th sweeps. Ill leave that to Jon Petrucci.
     
  4. ivers

    ivers Member

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    Rather than working on getting more strength, I'd recommend working on using as little strength as possible, through precise and careful left hand fingering.
     
  5. Birddog

    Birddog Member

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    +1. This has improved my playing. A deathgrip isn't beneficial in very many styles.
     
  6. countandduke

    countandduke Member

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    To me, speed doesn't get any better than Shawn Lane but then look at Holdsworth. Two amazing musicians with great technique but Holdsy picks WAY less than Shawn did.

    Gripmasters are nice for keeping the fingers warmed up and strengthened a TAD, DO NOT try and build massive strength in your fingers, you be asking for carpal tunnel.

    Good luck...

    To me, speed comes with time and you can approach it lots of different ways but one way is to look at it like lifting weights. If your goal is fast as possible speed then you have to constantly push yourself. For instance, if you want to bench 200lbs. you don't just start lifting 200lbs you gotta start a lot lower and work your way up. BUT, occasionally you should really push yourself past your plateau. For instance, if you can play 150bpm comfortably, then jump up to 190 and see if you can hang, even if it's sloppy just see if you can do it. Doing that will show your body what you want to do and slap it around a bit. Your body will get the idea that it needs to push itself.

    Consistent accurate practice is really the way to go like 90% of the time though don't hang in the sloppy area for too long. Try to bench 195 for even one rep (once you're warmed up) will show your body that it still needs to build some muscle so that lifting 195 NEXT time, will be easier. Make sense?

    Good luck,

    Chris
     
  7. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    The best thing for me was simply watching others that I admired. It broke down the psychological thing and made things so much easier.

    BTW, speed for most of those guys didn't happen gradually, laboring over a metronome. The way they say it, is it's like a light goes off and bam, it starts to click. That's the way it was for me. But a metronome sure doesn't hurt to monitor progress and raise the bar.
     
  8. TJe153

    TJe153 Supporting Member

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    Thanks for all the great advice!

    I think my big problem is not being able to nail the hammer-on hammer-offs. For example - When im playing solo stuff - 90% of the time im picking each note. This obviously limits my speed and mobility.

    Practice makes perfect - ill keep on strumming.
     
  9. countandduke

    countandduke Member

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    Yeah, you should work on hammers then, picking every note of a solo always sounded weird.

    Jzuckers's "Sheets of Sound" book is GREAT and very well may be a help to you.

    Chris
     
  10. JohnM

    JohnM Member

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    To add to what's been said, beyond the physical aspects, which are obviously important, being able to visualize playing fast is a crucial factor.
    Like in sports you have to see where you're going before go even start...plenty of analogies like a race car driver doesn't just look 5 feet in front of his car...etc...

    You have to think more in terms of larger groups of notes than the individual notes themselves...like when you read a book you don't think individual letters - you take in the entire word, sometimes a few words at a time. This is exactly the same with music. If you just practice 'note-by-note' you will always have a sort of self-imposed speed limit. I used to see it all the time when I was teaching. Of course, you have to 'START' with the individual notes, but I mean as you progress.

    Once you get the basics of movement, you slowly start training your mind to see the lines and shapes even when you aren't playing the guitar. It's all about that visualization.
     
  11. theohartman

    theohartman Member

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    i really appreciate this post john. i'm deep in the middle of sheets of sound right now and i'm just starting to see the 'words' lines/shapes/groups phases, whatever you want to call it, as it relates to the mechanics of playing the instrument, particularly the rh.

    the experience is kind of like staring at kanji for 30 years and suddenly starting to know what they mean. i've never experienced more motivation to practice than right now. -t
     
  12. PFCG

    PFCG Member

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    for playing fast, i have a few techniques.

    Now i know alot of guys like to "dig in" and thats cool and all with big time bends and bluesy crap, but for straight up speedy runs, trem picking, economy picking and sweep picking, you have to keep your dynamics in check.

    When you play fast, your not trying to strangle your guitar, your trying to most easily execute the passage so that it sounds correct and gets the emotion/feeling/point across.

    for straight up playing fast, i just use a regular alternate picking motion. I try to keep my wrist firm, but not tight, and not loose. elbow is relaxed unless your going berserk, then you tighten that puppy up nice and tight and let it rip.

    If you wanna play really really fast alternate picking like DiMeola, you need to get your fingers involved in a small circular motion. EJ does this as well. You also use a slightly tighter wrist and elbow. This should get you as far as you need without killing yourself. I do try to use the least amount of elbow power as necessary. Its not really needed and its just more energy.Use a regular pick grip except for really really blistering speeds maybe get a little tighter. Your pick grip makes a huge difference.

    DO NOT OVER EXERT YOURSELF! i see guys do this at school all the time. they try so hard to play faster and faster and they eventually do the opposite because they get all bent out of shape. Its an instrument, you tell it what notes to play, not the other way around. It will listen to you.

    Trem Picking really really fast like a slayer deal would be in the tight elbow department. I have noticed it is somewhat easier if you relax your biceps and have a really tight elbow and wrist. Then you kind of in a manner of speaking, shake the **** out of your whole lower arm and use the circular fingers deal. This will get it done, but dont do it for too long or youll get hurt. Hold your pick relatively tightly.

    Economy picking is my personal favorite but its really hard and takes a long time to really get the hang of it, never mind master it. I use a mix of economy and alternate constantly, but eventually will get to the economy picking constantly during fast runs. for this i keep a relatively loose feel, and try to let my wrist do all the work as well as my fingers. metronome really helps in this department. Regular hold on the pick, nothing severe.

    Sweep picking is a thing of beauty if executed correctly. You need a loose wrist and fingers. No need to really hold the pick too tight unless you want a really bright attack on each note. Use smooth wrist motions and dont make ridged movements with your fingers or elbow. This should have little elbow involvement if any. Its all about your wrist here. You gotta be smooth and know how to pick across your strings evenly so it dosnt sound choppy and you could play faster. also make sure your left hand is in time. this makes a huge difference. Alot of guys think they cant do it, but its usually just some slight coordination issues that could solve alot of problems.

    No gripmaster, they are bad! They make your hand muscles too big and they make you slower! You need to be limber and precise, not buff and strong. Play more guitar in the time you would use the damn gripmaster. if guys practiced more of the time than they spent jerkin off with stupid little contraptions, they would be better players.

    I am definitley in the camp of visualization and hearing things in your head. If you cant play it with your fingers in your head, youll never play it on a guitar in real life. Its gotta make sense with the passage in the music rhythmically, melodically, and dynamically. If you dont get these three things down your f*cked from the get-go.

    Another tip i give to people who want to play faster is a metronome tip. Always play with a metronome, but dont go up in these slow increments. Whenever you do that, your always at your max limit for the most part, playing it over and over until you feel comfortable. and this is good in some instances, but if you play at a comfortable level of speed first, and you really have it down, juice that thing up to something a little past what your comfortable with. You may make a few mistakes, but you can just give it a rip and you wont feel so nervous about going up and getting everything perfect 2 beats faster at a time. so say your at 80 bpm, playing a 3 string sweep arpeggio with a 6 note pattern, split 3 notes and 3 notes in 8th note triplets. You practice that until you have it down really good, and your current threshold of keeping it together is say at 95 bpm. put the metro at 110 and just try for a little bit. You will be surprised at how much faster you could get in a shorter amount of time due to less critical thinking and having a relaxed mindset. Now my example was a slow tempo but its good for beginners that have no sweep experience. For the fast guys, if you wanna get faster, do this.

    Do the same pattern but instead of triplets, do double time and do sextuplets. Start at 100 bpm, and get it down perfectly, then go up to 144 bpm and let it rip, youll be surprized how many guys could get it in about 15 solid minutes of practice.

    rant done, contact me if you need help with your speed, maybe ill do some videos.
     

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