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You can't plough a field by turning it over in your mind.
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Ben Higgins
29 years old
Born Feb-26-1985
Guitar (surprise!), Karate, cars (American and European), reading, weightlifting (sometimes), horses.
Joined: 11-March 10
Profile Views: 26.440*
Last Seen: Yesterday, 07:24 PM
Local Time: Aug 29 2014, 06:17 AM
12.413 posts (8 per day)
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Ben Higgins

GMC Instructor

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25 Aug 2014
Have you ever noticed an occasion when you've practised something a certain way then when you performed it, you had to play it differently in order to make it work ?

I've encountered this many times when I've experimented with alternate picking and it's different angles and approaches. Being able to sit down and ponder over the minutia of a technique is easy when there's no music or beat to keep up with. We can try out new and as yet, less natural, hand positions and movements. We can even feel like we've found a new brilliant way of tackling a particular passage of music, or a particular tricky string crossing lick !
That makes us very happy doesn't it ?
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Then we hit record ! Oh, what's happening ?? This isn't working !! The sound isn't right. I can't keep up with the pace. But if I just alter what I'm doing to.... that's better. I can now control the tone and keep up with the pace.

This is an example of music directing our technique. By actually casting practise circumstances aside and actually performing a piece of music to a beat we get to see what we actually need in order to get the right sound for the job.

This makes me think of an analogy of a martial artist. In the comfort of their dojo or home they can practise numerous techniques, believing them to be effective. That's because there's nothing to suggest to them otherwise. But the first time they have to hit a heavy bag, kick pad or even a person, a different reality is thrust in their face. Now, all of a sudden, the situation has changed from what they want the technique to be to what the technique actually needs to be.

Music is no different. The guitarist who's never worked with songs, backing tracks or metronomes is going to have a shock when their quadzillion note picking runs don't seem to fit in any way over their friend's drum beats.

Someone who practises unplugged or on a clean tone may have a shock that they're not masking unwanted string noise when they try their stuff out with distortion.

Someone who believes that they have to only ever play with either an angled hand or classical position may have a shock when they have to play a piece of music that juxtaposes loads of string bends and vibrato next to legato runs and wide stretches.

In those above examples, there's no reason why any of those imaginary guitarists can't make those things work but they will have to adapt and trying things out 'on the fly' is often the best way to discover what works best.

If we play more musical passages (solos or songs) we can keep in touch with what technique the music actually demands from us. If we're unsure about the best fingering or hand positions for something then by playing it through to the best of our abilities we usually receive the answer because the stuff that will work, usually works and the stuff that doesn't work...... I'll let you guess the end of that sentence smile.gif
23 Aug 2014
This is something I did with a brilliant drummer I met on Facebook. I just threw together a neo classical-esque piece for fun and we decided to go OTT with it !!

22 Aug 2014
This is something that WeePee sent me. I gave myself a sore throat laughing at this one. 50 people who should never be allowed near food again. Enjoy smile.gif


19 Aug 2014
I briefly mentioned mnemonics on this thread, which is an umbrella term referring to memory techniques used to memorise and recall information. I idly wondered how it could be applied to remembering the order of the modes:

Ionian, Dorian, Phyrgian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian.

I'd looked to see if anyone had done this already. People suggest a few lists http://www.abrsm.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=40667 that used the 1st letter of each word but I didn't think they were particularly effective as there are two modes beginning with L and these weren't clearly distinguished by the lists. Not only that but Phrygian sounds like 'Fridge', it doesn't have a hard 'P' so it's not close to the actual word. Using a word list might work for some people in this instance but I don't like it for the modes as the words are too complex and can be confused too easily.

So I'm going to look at how we could use visual imagery to represent the modal names instead.

The first time I encountered mnemonics was in a book by Derren Brown. He described a linking system that used visual imagery to represent the words. The images had to interact with each other in some way to present a visual sequence of events that could be easily recalled by the mind. If you make the images silly or make them interact with each other in a ridiculous way, you're more likely to remember them more easily. http://www.skillstoolbox.com/career-and-ed...nemonic-system/

In order to represent a word with an image, the image can sound like the word in some way, or part of the word. Or, if the word is an actual object in real, like 'monkey' or 'chair' then that's very easy to represent. Let's go through the modes and I'll do my best to conjure up some examples.

IONIAN: The first 2 letters are I & O. This makes me think of 'I owe you' which is commonly abbreviated to I.O.U. So for this, I would visualise a piece of paper with I.O.U written on it.

DORIAN: This is easier if you know someone called 'Dorian'. For any British people who remember the series 'Birds of a Feather' we can just picture the character 'Dorian' ! Or you might prefer to use the first syllable of the word 'Dor' and turn it into a 'door' instead. But instead of a static door, give this door hands and feet and a big, smiley face. Make it as real as you can.

PHRYGIAN: The first syllable of this word sounds phonetically the same as 'fridge'. So I'm going to use a big, white fridge.

LYDIAN: This one's more tricky. If you've played Skyrim then you might be able to conjure up a picture of the character 'Lydia'. If you know of anybody called 'Lydia' then use them if you like. Other than that, I'm stuck on what else to suggest so maybe we could get some suggestions on this one wink.gif

MIXOLYDIAN: I'm going to use the 1st syllable of this word, 'mix'. You'll see how I incorporate it later.

AEOLIAN: Simple. This word bears a similarity to 'alien' so we're going to picture a typical alien, with a big head and wide eyes.

LOCRIAN: Another simple one. I'm going to use the 1st syllable again, which is 'Lock' and turn it into 'lock.' This can be represented by a big padlock.

In the cases of Dorian and Lydian, they can be represented easily by people's names but if you can't picture anyone with those names then make some phonetic connection to the word.

Right, let's try it out and see how we can put them into a sequence. I'll be using my images now.

A piece of paper with I.O.U. written on it is lying on the ground.
Dorian from Birds of a Feather strolls over and picks the piece of paper up, putting it in her pocket.
She continues walking until she comes to a big, shiny white Fridge.
She opens the Fridge and sitting in the fridge is Lydia.
Lydia isn't just sat there, though, she's got a spoon and yoghurt pot and is Mixing fruit into the yoghurt.
All of a sudden, an Alien beams down from the sky, landing right in front of the whole scene.
He slams the fridge door shut and in the blink of an eye, has wrapped a chain and mighty padlock around the fridge.

It's pretty silly but you can see how it works now. It's probably a lot better if you can conjure up your own mental imagery but I bet you that you only had to run that sequence through your mind a few times before you can easily recall it. Whilst recalling it, can you put the modal name to the image ? Is there any other aspect of guitar playing or music theory where we might be able to apply this technique ?
18 Aug 2014
Do you know those occasions where you stumble onto a good thing and you just keep playing and playing well past the point where you should have put the guitar down ?

That surely has to be one of the hardest temptations to resist. When you're in that situation a different mindset seems to take over that says 'More of this can only be a good thing. Keep going. I really should stop now. No, just a bit longer' This state of mind totally ignores the fact that as humans we can only compute a finite amount of input each day and can only make a finite amount of progress at something, both mental and physical. But of course, it's hard to let logic talk loud enough to be heard over our obsessive practising !

I'm sure we all overdo it like that or is just me ? Tell me it isn't just me ! biggrin.gif

I've read more than once that humans can only remember up to 7 things at a time. http://phys.org/news178220995.html I'm not sure exactly how true this is or even if it's been debunked or not, but I think it's pretty fair to say that our working memory can only remember so much. Of course, you can do tricks such as pinning images to words and phrases which make lists easier to recall but that doesn't really have much application with what we're talking about here. I've digressed but mnemonics is an interesting topic worthy of anyone's interest in their own time. It might help someone learning theory, for example. Names and order of modes etc.. anyway, back on topic..

People often find it hard to learn licks and phrases. Most likely it's because they're trying to work with too many notes and movements at one time. A run crossing all 6 strings could be broken down so not only can it be memorised PERFECTLY with no hesitation or dodgy notes that don't belong in there (essential if you want to actually learn and improve a lick) but it can actually be drilled and sped up comfortably in a way where the brain doesn't hold back our physical movement because it's lost track of allllllll the notes/ movements. That's why we break things up.

There's a term I hate called 'chunking'. I seriously dislike that term, it sounds horrible but it's applicable I guess. I haven't read much into it but it seems to be what I've naturally been doing with complicated sections of music. (If anyone uses this approach or knows more about it / or if I've got it wrong then feel free to discuss it here if it's relative to our discussion) Breaking things up into small, workable pieces that can be remembered and recalled easily by the brain is the only way you can properly build co ordination in both hands, speed and dexterity. To me it's just common sense but I guess some people need magic names for things.

Guthrie Govan demonstrates an excellent use of learning a lick (and putting it up to speed quite quickly) whilst using a few notes and adding a new note each time) Check from about 2:30 or watch the whole video, it's really good as always.

I've kind of gone off tangent a bit. I was originally just going to talk about bad habits and playing too much when we know we shouldn't but it's veered off into another territory which is just as interesting. But to bring it back to my original intentions I wanted to discuss some common bad habits that us guitarists, or musicians in general, tend to make that can hamper our progress and create more frustration for us. Can you think of any ?
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Todd Simpson
Welcome! :) Great to have ya!
9 Jun 2010 - 2:11
Ben Higgins
Thank you man !! :-)
5 Jun 2010 - 15:24
Welcome to GMC!!!!!!! I hope you enjoy your stay and I look forward to cool lessons! :)
5 Jun 2010 - 0:14


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