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Thread: A few quick questions?

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2007

    A few quick questions?

    I have encountered a few issues while practicing lately and made a video asking about it on youtube. My basic questions include: how do you relax while doing a closed handed picking grip like Paul Gilbert? I always get cramps in my pinkey finger while I play, I try to relax but it hasn't improved. I'm also having issues with the volume knob on Strats. I love my strats and do not want to move the knob, so how does one adapt their technique to slove this issue? Finally, I have been doing picking workouts and working on my right hand alternate picking for about 4 hours each day, but I do not see any improvement....What am I not doing right and how can I improve? Here is the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EJ9-fYNH2g

    Any and all help or comments are appreciated. Thanks so much guys!


  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    I don't own a strat so I cant comment on the volume knob question.

    pain in the pinky? that will go away eventually. Just persist. Consider your posture when playing though. I notice in your video you have the guitar high, which I prefer personally, try sitting straighter though. Any new position will feel odd to begin with.

    I find if you can get used to keeping your torso vertical, no slouching, it makes the whole body respond better to the instrument.

    4 hours a day and not improving? Are you 100% focused for those 4 hours? or are you watching TV while you mindlessly run patterns? if its the latter, you need to be more aware of everything you are doing.

    Try playing slower, but with more accuracy, then speed up. Then slow down and so on. This should help somewhat.

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Deep East Texas Piney Woods
    Only one comment. That first thumb pick - up stroke - unless you hold the back side of the pick with your index finger you will have problems with the up pick or alternate pick with that type of thumb pick. My hands are 75 years old and a plectrum for a whole gig is a thing of the past. So about half way into the gig I switch over to the thumb pick and hold it on the back side - this allows me to alternate pick.

    That adjustable pick you used looks interesting, never have seen that type before.

    Well, couple of things. Four hours of picking builds good muscle memory, but four hours of doing the same thing --- you get real good doing the same thing.

    Good luck.

  4. #4
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Twickenham, UK
    I don't see any problem with your picking technique. The problem with that first type of thumbpick is easily solved - don't use them! (You've clearly found a different type that works.) The first type is - IMO - not designed for upstrokes at all, but for fingerpicking styles where thumb plays downstrokes only.
    It looks to me as if the volume knob and pinky problems are related. You're trying (subconsciously maybe) to lift your pinky out of the way of the knob, and that means a constant level of tension in the muscles or tendons on that side of the hand.
    I don't play a Strat myself (currently), and don't use that kind of pick or grip, so can't offer a solution - other than a totally different hand shape: a tighter or more open position. Or maybe playing further along the strings, nearer the neck (I realise that is hardly a perfect solution!).

    As for feeling you're not improving, that's a common sensation and is usually (IMO) mistaken. It comes from practising the same things over and over - or simply practising too much - and getting bored. Your fingers are improving, but your mind (understanding) is improving more (or getting distracted), so it feels like nothing's happening (or worse, like you're going backwards).
    4 hours a day simply on alternate picking is insane, IMO. There's a physical limit to how fast you can get at that, and the nearer you get to the limit the slower your progress will inevitably be. OK, you're not there yet by the look of it, but you're pretty good, and there's plenty of other stuff you should be practising that will keep you challenged and interested.
    1. Transcribe melodies and solos. (bearing the chord/key associations in mind.)
    2. Improvise to backing tracks, with imposed limitations, such as working with only 3 notes, or only long notes.
    3. Practice playing really slowly, as a change to playing fast. Focus on tone, timbre, articulation, dynamics and rhythmic/timing ideas.
    4. If and when you practise scales, avoid playing them up and down note by note. Pick arpeggios out of them, and melodic patterns.

    You may be doing all the above already, but if so, do more - reduce the proportion of sheer technical practice that you do. Practice music, not techniques. (The kind of chord-based noodling you were doing at the beginning of the video is fine - do more of that kind of thing; if it's a sequence you learned somewhere, expand, adapt and improvise on it.)

    Remember that the more you play anything, the faster you will get, the smoother your technique will get. So play interesting stuff.
    This may be controversial (and it depends what kind of music you want to play) but I think you are as good as you need to be, technically, for almost anything. I'd say stop practising and start playing.
    Then - when you find something in a piece of music that you can't do - practise only what you need to do to get over that specific hurdle.

    Just my $0.02...

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Have you considered removing one of the tone knobs and putting the volume in its place?

    Oh, you said you didn't want to move the knob... missed that.

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