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Thread: Im not getting any better - Any advice?

  1. #1
    Registered User Maher McD's Avatar
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    Im not getting any better - Any advice?

    Hey Im pretty new here, so forgive me if this has been covered before.

    Ive been playing for about a year now, been teaching myself because cant really afford lessons (theyre a bit of a rip off around my area!) from Troy Stetina books. Theyve helped me out a bit but i havent stuck to them much because of school getting in the way. Ive just reached a point where im not improving at all anymore, and my speed especially just wont increase! the worst thing is ive been listening to Cacophony and starting to feel a bit disheartened! I suppose thats expected though hehe. Im not too bad with chord progressions, and just simple solos i can do aswell. Learnt natural harmonics and pinch harmonics(although they need a little practice). Im just wondering where to go from here. Any advice would be great! cheers.

  2. #2
    Afro-Cuban Grunge-Pop Bongo Boy's Avatar
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    You've likely made far more progress than you think, but I understand the feeling. I've spent about 2 years with the guitar now and sometimes I don't feel there's been much progress either. I've also chosen not to take lessons from an instructor, for a variety of reasons and excuses.

    With those qualifications, I'd really recommend two Big Things I think will do a lot for your real progress, and for more accurate self-assessment of that progress.

    First, stop thinking about speed. Period. My opinion, and the opinion of many professional musicians from whom I HAVE taken advice, is that speed will come when a bunch of other things are right.

    Second, find a way to record yourself. I'd recommend doing whatever it takes to enable yourself to produce an mp3 file of at least a few exercises, etudes or whatever, each week. Store them away, filed by date. I put mine in folders named in the format "mmmyyyy".

    Other than those two things, I won't give any other advice. But here's an example of how I failed to observe a SERIOUS problem that would certainly prevent me from getting any better or any faster.

    Early last week I was reading Steve Vai's "30-hour Workout" in Guitar Player. Exercise One is a simple, 4 note-per-string (chromatic) exercise. Four fingers, four adjacent frets, then on to the next string. With this silly exercise I suddenly discovered that, when descending in these patterns, my second finger almost always (80% of the time) failed to get to the fret properly, and that note would not sound (poor coordination). I never noticed before just how bad it was. I recorded the exercise as best as I could do it--and quite slow--and noticed this and several other nasty problems.

    Now, a week later, I only screw up about 10% of the time or less. Listening to last week's recording and comparing to the one I just did a few minutes ago is like night and day.

    Point is, only YOU can find these faults (if you don't have an instructor), and I think only by carefully listening for (and working to correct) this kind of sloppy crap can you ever hope to go faster. Don't spend so much time trying to 'go fast' that you build in nasty, crippling habits.

    But I think there's another point, too (naturally). Not until this stupid exercise sounds musical do I feel I should try to move it faster. It shouldn't sound like a dimestore toy whistle in the hands of a kid--it should sound like a musician playing beautiful music on a guitar. Even though it's 'just a finger exercise'. Just my opinion--remember my qualifications: I can't play jack.
    Pulsing the System with Confirmed Nonsense.

  3. #3
    Metal Messiah Sakkaku's Avatar
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    My advice is to isolate the areas that you aren't progressing in, and really stick at them until you can nail them. Remember - when you're learning something new, learn it at a speed where you can play it cleanly and accurately and THEN increase the speed.

    Use a metronome. Practice, practice, practice. And don't be disheartened by music like Cacophony. Those guys practiced for literally 1000's of hours to get that good.

    Look at the music you love as INSPIRATION, not INTIMIDATION, and you will progress even further as a player!

    Take every day as a day where you can improve slightly - because after a few months you will have improved a LOT, if you put in the hard work at the beginning.

    If you have already established your pinch harmonics and chord progressions need practice, then guess what you should do ? Practice them

    Also - what styles are you into ? You have the Troy Stetina books - which are great for learning from - but what else tickles your fancy ? I have found the John Petrucci book - Wild Stringdom as a great asset to my learning. Piece by piece I have dissected the book and learnt a lot - but it all comes after practice. Heck - I didn't even know how to play a proper 'Cmaj' chord until just over a year ago - so you're doing good man. Keep at it, and don't give up!
    Last edited by Sakkaku; 04-15-2004 at 06:18 AM.
    Sakkaku
    -Gitarrenmeister-

  4. #4
    Registered User Maher McD's Avatar
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    Yeh i think ill need to work on just perfecting what i know, and then ill work through the Troy stetina metal series. I was just a little concerned with stiffness in my fingers and thought id possibly reached the limit of my speed. I think a little patience and ill get there cheers guys!

    btw, Sakkaku, that john petrucci book is it worth buying since ive already got troy stetina's "Total Rock Guitar", "Metal Lead Vol. 1" and "Metal Rhythm Vol. 1"?

  5. #5
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    I suck too so take everything I say with a grain of salt but if your goal is to play like Cacophony its gonna take ALOT of time and practice. I agree with whoever said don't be too obsessed about speed yet. I don't know how advanced you are or what your goals are so these may be dumb questions but do you know the 5 pentatonic shapes (and for all this stuff I mean REALLY KNOW backwards forward front and back not just half a$$ know them) ? Do you know the major scale and its various modes all over the fretboard? Do you know how to play major and minor arps and their inversions all over the fretboard? Diminished arps? You know how to harmonize a major scale? Can you improvise over a jam track utilizing these scales? For a little more advanced stuff do you know the 3NPS Pentatonic shapes? The harmonic minor scale? Can you string skip effectively. If you are into the style can you sweep pick and/or tap.
    Always start with the basic stuff first and then progress up too the more difficult stuff after mastering the basics first. Just a few ideas
    Yeah somebody said record yourself, thats great advice. Even better would be to record yourself and post it here. Believe me, people here will be more than happy to critique your playing and tell you what you need to work on.

  6. #6
    Registered User Maher McD's Avatar
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    ..erm.. half the stuff you mention i dont have a clue what your on about. So maybe a little studyin could be good lol, do you know anywhere i can find info on those, Flathead? be much appreciated!

    I really am taking your advice, im going to concentrate more on just learning some songs to push my ability further. Im really into jason becker and cacophony etc i doubt ill get that good any time soon, but recording myself sounds like an idea worth trying just need to find something to record with lol. I think your right though im focusing on speed too much rather than getting stuff simply played properly. Thanks again!

  7. #7
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    The thing to remember is you can't play any faster than you can think. If you don't know the fingerings cold you are never going to be fast. You must also realize that a LOT of traing has to take place to strengthen the muscles and coordination. This takes YEARS. You must be diciplined to preactice some mindless exercises daily and try to push the edge constantly, keeping in mind that it doesn't count if it isn't clean.
    Read the idea for a group effort thread and participate if you like. THis is the kind of thing it is going to take endless hours of disciplined practice on the things you are NOT good at.
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
    Hidden Content

  8. #8
    Afro-Cuban Grunge-Pop Bongo Boy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by szulc
    The thing to remember is you can't play any faster than you can think.
    That is a wonderful way to put it. Here's another example of my own of NOT knowing something cold, but not realizing it until it's too late.

    I've been working a lot on blues scale patterns--in particular playing Bb blues up and down the fretboard. Thing is, I always start from string 6 and move up...even if I start in say 11th position and move to 1st position, for each PATTERN, I begin at the bottom.

    So..I can go up and down the pattern, and up and down the fretboard. Seems like I 'got it'. But then I think, hmmm...let's try starting at the 'top' of the pattern on string one, at the top of the fretboard (position 13, say) and move down. No can do. Kind of important for speed and improvisation, eh?
    Pulsing the System with Confirmed Nonsense.

  9. #9
    Metal Messiah Sakkaku's Avatar
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    Yeah man - the JP book is definately worth buying. It helps me a lot... and each time I read it, I pick up on something new that didn't really hit me in the face... I'm an abstract learner.

    Always practice what you don't know - John Petrucci.
    Sakkaku
    -Gitarrenmeister-

  10. #10
    Nice guy MSH1601's Avatar
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    Okay, learning sonthing new is something that can be done,,,, but stoping your hands getting stiff when playing a gig?????????????????????
    WHAT'S THE CURE>???????
    Mark Hitchen

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