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> Is Alt Picking An Athletic Endeavor?
JamesT
post Oct 23 2011, 06:07 AM
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I think I'm gonna have to put my guitar on ebay. mad.gif I've been taking some time out these days to work on picking and I'm beginning to think I just ain't gonna get there. My latest theory is that after I've learned about a hundred of these fast picking songs, if I play them at "my level" for a year, then I will one day get faster. At least if I don't I will have learned a bunch of tunes in the process.

What do you guys who can already play fast think? Has your picking hand always been able to move as fast as it does today? Or does it take years? I've been focusing heavily on picking for about two years now with little gains. Is picking speed something you have to train for like an olympic swimmer?

See the videos below. I can play clean, but not fast. I just can't seem to get to that next tempo of the backing tracks on these...









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Cosmin Lupu
post Oct 23 2011, 07:37 AM
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James smile.gif those PRS's are way to nice to be put on eBay! Let them stay at your home and enjoy them smile.gif alternate picking is a tool not a mission biggrin.gif

Relax and give your body and mind the proper time to develop - if you study alternate picking in a focused way with a correct position and relaxed body, you will get there! But not tomorrow smile.gif Practice and record, push yourself a little everyday, but just little enough to manage to see improvements, not frustrations.

Always use your wrist for AP (I've noticed you are picking by moving your whole armin the Muris recording)!

If you increase 5 BPM/ week starting from 80 BPM, let's say you can play at 200 BPM in about 24 weeks. Some people take a lifetime to write a song smile.gif so, think about it. Exercising properly will give you the right technique, but there are more important things which will give you satisfaction.

What will you do when you achieve that technique? I say, patience and diversity are the right combo here - practice diligently and diversely so that you may grow as a whole.

It sounds a bit philosophical, I know, but it's the only way as I see it.

Best of luck

Cosmin

PS: How's that single coil maple neck PRS? I'm planning on getting one for myself and I wanted the opinion of someone who had a thorough experience with it smile.gif


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Ben Higgins
post Oct 23 2011, 12:37 PM
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Hi James, to answer your question.. in a way, yes. You don't have to train ruthlessly like an Olympian would but the thing with picking faster is that, in order to pick faster you have to... pick faster.

Of course, it's not just as easy as doing it in one go.. but playing something perfectly at a slow tempo for aeons will just mean you're good at doing that task. Like pushing down on an accelerator in a car, if we keep our foot on the pedal at 50mph the car won't all of a sudden start gaining speed, we need to input the action to accelerate.

There's 2 main conflicting pieces of advice in guitar playing that I can think of, which can confuse people.

1- Relax... of course, being relaxed as possible during our playing is the ideal goal but taken to its extreme, if we relaxed completely we wouldn't be able to put any effort into anything at all and we wouldn't move wink.gif In our quest to remain relaxed we can sometimes forget that we still need to put in some physical effort to progress. Our muscles need to work harder to make gains in performance. Recognising this means we have to identify the 2 extremes ..too relaxed and we make no gains at all because we're not pushing anything. We're asking it to keep operating on the same comfort level that it is. Too much effort and we tense up, using too many muscles and too much force. The best way it to make sure you can easily identify the difference between natural muscle fatigue (should have a burning sensation, slightly aching, not too unpleasant) and pain/tension.. if you notice your elbow tighten up and the forearm muscles tightening up and hurting then chances are you're trying to compensate for the lack of wrist speed by using your arm.

2 - Wait until you can play something perfectly all the way through, before moving on and bumping up speed (by as little as 2 to 5bpm) In many ways this advice makes sense but in reality you need to consistently push beyond that speed in order to make gains. If we waited to play something perfectly all the way through for everything you learn before moving up a few bpm we'd all be here until armageddon. I do agree that perfect repetion is the key to learning something so that is why I advocate doing a minimal amount of reps at a higher speed that pushes you. Pick a higher bpm and do a few bursts of it, as clean as you can and as relaxed as you can. This is where each person will have to trust their own instincts and feedback their body gives them. It has to be a combo of pushing yourself at higher speeds and marrying this up to your lower speed repetitions. Somewhere in the middle it, it complements each other and will lead to better speed and stamina.

Also, another thing I recommend is ditch long picking exercises. All these do is use up your time and stamina. Mostly, our hurdles are with a particular motion, for example, crossing from outside of a string to a lower string or something like that. Make the licks smaller so they focus on the area you want to improve instead of working your way through a long lick only to mess up at the problem area. Once you start to feel like you have control over these problem areas then you can work them into longer pieces but until then, you're just wasting stamina and brain power. I personally wish people would stop teaching that way but that's just me..

You might not have seen them but it's worth having a listen to what I talk about in my stamina school video, even if you don't practice the exercise. http://www.guitarmasterclass.net/ls/Stamina-School/

I hope all that makes sense. My ideas on alt picking may not be popular to people who are used to the old school way of doing things but I think it's time the guitar community realised that we're not all built like Yngwie and Paul Gilbert and that humans in general learn better when fousing on small tasks in incremental steps, not tackling massive things in one go. smile.gif






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Cosmin Lupu
post Oct 23 2011, 12:59 PM
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QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Oct 23 2011, 11:37 AM) *
Hi James, to answer your question.. in a way, yes. You don't have to train ruthlessly like an Olympian would but the thing with picking faster is that, in order to pick faster you have to... pick faster.

Of course, it's not just as easy as doing it in one go.. but playing something perfectly at a slow tempo for aeons will just mean you're good at doing that task. Like pushing down on an accelerator in a car, if we keep our foot on the pedal at 50mph the car won't all of a sudden start gaining speed, we need to input the action to accelerate.

There's 2 main conflicting pieces of advice in guitar playing that I can think of, which can confuse people.

1- Relax... of course, being relaxed as possible during our playing is the ideal goal but taken to its extreme, if we relaxed completely we wouldn't be able to put any effort into anything at all and we wouldn't move wink.gif In our quest to remain relaxed we can sometimes forget that we still need to put in some physical effort to progress. Our muscles need to work harder to make gains in performance. Recognising this means we have to identify the 2 extremes ..too relaxed and we make no gains at all because we're not pushing anything. We're asking it to keep operating on the same comfort level that it is. Too much effort and we tense up, using too many muscles and too much force. The best way it to make sure you can easily identify the difference between natural muscle fatigue (should have a burning sensation, slightly aching, not too unpleasant) and pain/tension.. if you notice your elbow tighten up and the forearm muscles tightening up and hurting then chances are you're trying to compensate for the lack of wrist speed by using your arm.

2 - Wait until you can play something perfectly all the way through, before moving on and bumping up speed (by as little as 2 to 5bpm) In many ways this advice makes sense but in reality you need to consistently push beyond that speed in order to make gains. If we waited to play something perfectly all the way through for everything you learn before moving up a few bpm we'd all be here until armageddon. I do agree that perfect repetion is the key to learning something so that is why I advocate doing a minimal amount of reps at a higher speed that pushes you. Pick a higher bpm and do a few bursts of it, as clean as you can and as relaxed as you can. This is where each person will have to trust their own instincts and feedback their body gives them. It has to be a combo of pushing yourself at higher speeds and marrying this up to your lower speed repetitions. Somewhere in the middle it, it complements each other and will lead to better speed and stamina.

Also, another thing I recommend is ditch long picking exercises. All these do is use up your time and stamina. Mostly, our hurdles are with a particular motion, for example, crossing from outside of a string to a lower string or something like that. Make the licks smaller so they focus on the area you want to improve instead of working your way through a long lick only to mess up at the problem area. Once you start to feel like you have control over these problem areas then you can work them into longer pieces but until then, you're just wasting stamina and brain power. I personally wish people would stop teaching that way but that's just me..

You might not have seen them but it's worth having a listen to what I talk about in my stamina school video, even if you don't practice the exercise. http://www.guitarmasterclass.net/ls/Stamina-School/

I hope all that makes sense. My ideas on alt picking may not be popular to people who are used to the old school way of doing things but I think it's time the guitar community realised that we're not all built like Yngwie and Paul Gilbert and that humans in general learn better when fousing on small tasks in incremental steps, not tackling massive things in one go. smile.gif


Wonderfully stated Ben biggrin.gif we can make up a 'AP Philosophy' essay together tongue.gif


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JaxN4
post Oct 23 2011, 01:20 PM
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QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Oct 23 2011, 11:37 AM) *
I hope all that makes sense. My ideas on alt picking may not be popular to people who are used to the old school way of doing things but I think it's time the guitar community realised that we're not all built like Yngwie and Paul Gilbert and that humans in general learn better when fousing on small tasks in incremental steps, not tackling massive things in one go. smile.gif



Well said and I TOTALLY agree with that Higgy cool.gif


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Sickz666
post Oct 23 2011, 02:15 PM
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I'd like to quote some great guitar player i can't remember the name of at this very moment.

"Alternate picking is easy to learn, but hard to master".

You just have to give it some time, i havent had any improvement with my alt picking the 3 years i've been playing until this past 3 months.

You really have to focus on the core elements of your playing to improve as much as possible.

It just boils down to a few things (According to me, i can't say this is the actual case. I'm just speaking from personal experiences.).

When you practice you should:
Practice at the highest tempo you can play anything PERFECTLY.
It should be clean, EXTREMLY clean.
And you should be relaxed.

I started doing this 3 months ago, before that i was a more unserious guitar player that dident care if it was a little sloppy. But when i started follow this and used my practice method it became a little easier everyday to play stuff i was working on.

I simply play "Riff/lick" 5 minutes straight, 5 min break, 5 min again, 5 min break, 10 min play and 10 min break and the move on to the next riff/lick in the Song/solo.

I hope that helped, any instructor correct me if i'm wrong and i'm sorry if this sounded like some advertising. xD

Cheers, and happy practicing. smile.gif
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Satchstet
post Oct 23 2011, 03:30 PM
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I feel a lot like you James......I've been working at AP for almost 2 years with a lot of gain in accuracy but ZERO gain in speed. Very frustrating........ sad.gif
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JamesT
post Oct 23 2011, 03:40 PM
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Thanks for the advice guys. I'll come back to the thread to review it for awhile and maybe change some of my practice routine based on this. Today though, we leave for Logan Utah (a nine hour drive) to pick up our new doggie! We're getting a yellow Labrador Retriever. She's three years old already so not a pup but surely to be 70 pounds of dynamite at least for the first few weeks we have her. I'll post vids.


And back to guitar, yes, I'm still frustrated but maybe as you say Ben, I should start with shorter exercises and take at least the last few minutes of each practice day pushing speed to new heights instead of doing these longer tunes. The tunes are fun though even slow so I'm a bit torn to give that up completely unless you think I should.

Cosmin, regarding the maple neck PRS (Swamp Ash Special) . It's very strat like in tone. It actually uses double coil pups that are thinner. The thinner humbuckers give a more single coil like sound but without the hum. So it's great for that. And to me the best part is it still has a feel and playability just like my C24 so I don't have to get used to different ergonomics when going for a more strat like tone which I like a lot for certain tunes.



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Frederik
post Oct 23 2011, 04:57 PM
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To me your goals seems way off.
Playing AP fast is such a little thing in the big picture
Maybe you should find some other guitar idols
You don't have to show of speed to express yourself, just let it out and don't worry what the guitarists say
They are mostly interested in your guitar technique than your message.
Focus on speed and peripheral technique is to me the most misleading thing that comes from being on a guitar-site

To me you seem to have a LOT of tools to express yourself. Better than the beatles and keith richards and other stars of music
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jstcrsn
post Oct 24 2011, 02:20 AM
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QUOTE (JamesT @ Oct 23 2011, 03:40 PM) *
Thanks for the advice guys. I'll come back to the thread to review it for awhile and maybe change some of my practice routine based on this. Today though, we leave for Logan Utah (a nine hour drive) to pick up our new doggie! We're getting a yellow Labrador Retriever. She's three years old already so not a pup but surely to be 70 pounds of dynamite at least for the first few weeks we have her. I'll post vids.


And back to guitar, yes, I'm still frustrated but maybe as you say Ben, I should start with shorter exercises and take at least the last few minutes of each practice day pushing speed to new heights instead of doing these longer tunes. The tunes are fun though even slow so I'm a bit torn to give that up completely unless you think I should.

Cosmin, regarding the maple neck PRS (Swamp Ash Special) . It's very strat like in tone. It actually uses double coil pups that are thinner. The thinner humbuckers give a more single coil like sound but without the hum. So it's great for that. And to me the best part is it still has a feel and playability just like my C24 so I don't have to get used to different ergonomics when going for a more strat like tone which I like a lot for certain tunes.

coming up on 4 years for me ,and I like to think that I am almost there
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Gary
post Oct 24 2011, 03:41 AM
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Been working on improving myself in this area as well.. it's tough. I did notice in your first vid that your arm is moving, basically its driving your picking movement. In the second vid your wrist is much more involved.

This is something that I struggle with myself. I am now trying to make a conscious effort to make small wrist movements and adjust the angle of my wrist as I navigate through the strings such that the knuckles on my picking hand are pointed a little below the neck of the guitar while alt picking on the low E string and end up pointing much more towards the floor when I get to the high E. If you watch vids of Muris where he is alt picking fast, his armed is pinned to his guitar and "it's all in the wrist" as they say.

Gary
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thefireball
post Oct 24 2011, 03:58 AM
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QUOTE (Frederik @ Oct 23 2011, 10:57 AM) *
To me your goals seems way off.
Playing AP fast is such a little thing in the big picture
Maybe you should find some other guitar idols
You don't have to show of speed to express yourself, just let it out and don't worry what the guitarists say
They are mostly interested in your guitar technique than your message.
Focus on speed and peripheral technique is to me the most misleading thing that comes from being on a guitar-site

To me you seem to have a LOT of tools to express yourself. Better than the beatles and keith richards and other stars of music


True, but he may want to express himself with speed. Some people do. But yeah, speed is a bit overrated.


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Gabriel Leopardi
post Oct 24 2011, 04:53 AM
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It took me some time to develop my alternate picking. I trained a lot every day with metronome and drum loops different technical exercises. I also used to jam a lot using that technique. I always recommend "Speed and Accuracy" by Vinnie Moore for AP technique. It includes really useful exercises.


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Azzaboi
post Oct 24 2011, 05:13 AM
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I love to be a clean player, I think it's better to play something clean slowly than it is to play too fast and being sloppy. There are two types of players thoses who start off slow but clean and those that start off fast but messy. To start off as slow and clean seems better in the long run so don't worry!

As Ben suggested: in order to pick faster you have to... pick faster.

I believe that is only half correct, shredding or playing fast isn't all just about speed. I was a slow player and when rushing at speed, I would just get messy and make mistakes. I made very little to no progression in speed. It would add tension (which locks you up and slows you down), pressure (more likely to make mistakes), and the pick would move around (fly across the room).

Slow down first and get the technique down. You look like your already there with a good picking style. However, notice how much your moving your hand.

The real key to speed is not just playing faster but...

Reducing Distance and Resistants = Shred!

Practice choking up on the pick to the tip and work on getting the pick angle correct, not angled up to the ceiling or down to the floor, but you can rotate forward (or backwards) to get a sharp attack. The whole idea for this is to get the less amount of surface area of the pick grazing the strings (plus it sounds cooler, tighter and more agressive with a good attack angle).

Just graze the string enough to make it sound out clean and clear, alternative pick up and down on the same string for starters, then jumping between two strings and finally string jumping without losing tempo. You really want to cut down on raising and digging the pick in the strings and just have the minimum amount of movement required to graze. Don't lift the pick away from the string too much. Use a pointed thick pick for better attack and less resistants.

When learning to play fast start off slow tempo and increase slowly to above your breaking point (when it gets sloppy), then slow down to final finish on clean playing. This helps you stay clean and relaxed when you get faster.

Here's the other hook - remember to stay relax and not tease up! Teasing will slow you down and it's naturally happens. Never continue playing if this occurs, stop and shake it out. Playing tease is a really bad habit which will keep you a slow player. Check both hands for this, the thumb should apply no pressure and the fingers should be as light as possible on the fretboard, while the picking hand thumb actually is ridged straight (can be flexable at slower speeds for more dynamics), however at speed lock it into place and small movements is mostly all from the wrist when playing fast.

Get those right and speed will come naturally in bursts (with practice and corrections - one day something in your head just clicks and you get another shot of speed).

This post has been edited by Azzaboi: Oct 24 2011, 05:18 AM
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dark dude
post Oct 24 2011, 02:24 PM
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I'm with Ben and Shawn on this one wink.gif :


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djohnneay
post Oct 24 2011, 04:07 PM
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Alot has been said about this topic already, but I just want to add that I think you play very cleanly already it sounds very professional to me. What Azzaboi said about the two kinds of players is basically true, however I'm on the other end, being able to play very fast from the moment I picked up the guitar, but now working hard to fix all of the mistakes that came into my playing by doing so.

The trick you could imply would basically be to sit down with the guitar, and play VERY, VEEERY slowly (like, a quarter notes @ 60 bpm or something) and play a basic scale or excersize. Try to REALLY concentrate moving both of your hands as LITTLE as possible (like only a few mm away from the strings). Yes, this will be incredibly boring, but do this half an hour a day for say, 2 weeks, and you're sure to notice a lot of difference. Then, put it into your practice routine, and for the coming 2 months, practice the same thing for 5 minutes.

To vary things a little, on random intervals, put the metronome some 10-20 bpm's above your playing level and play fast bursts. You can also just play random notes, but keep the beat going while you practice.

Also, watch this video and see for yourself how little Ynwie moves his hands : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lwp4jN6TGYM...feature=related

This post has been edited by djohnneay: Oct 24 2011, 04:07 PM


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Todd Simpson
post Oct 24 2011, 04:57 PM
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WOW! What a great thread! I hope he reads this all when he gets back with his new Dog! I hope this al goes in to the Wiki in one form or another. All these tips are really quite good. Something is to be gained honestly from all of them. The through line, between them all is quite important as well. As with just about anything you are trying to learn that is, just plain hard, it takes two things.

1.)Time
2.)Defiant Determination

Both Higgy and Azza have some killer points here as well, points on philosophy and on physical mechanics. I'm always trying to stress the physical underpinnings of the mechanics of speed/accuracy during my chats and learning how to express the process by learning from Ben in his chats about his approach which lends itself to a very cool fast and fluid mode of play.

One of the best quotes I've found, that I just love, is from Marty Friedman. "The best thing you can do is not quit". Frustration is an integral part of the process believe it or not. It's the hump. The challenge, the thing separating you from your goal. It's one of many you'll face in life but luckily you have an entire community here to help you through this one. It will come. It won't be easy.

I was actually told by several doctors as a youngster that I would never play guitar due to lack of small muscle control. I still can't draw and my penmanship is horrid. But, I was simply defiantly determined to play guitar. After several instructors told my folks I was "unteachable" I taught myself. There is an aspect of sport to it. It's a game of one. You against you. The most important thing is that you don't quit on yourself. We won't quit on you smile.gif

Todd


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JamesT
post Oct 26 2011, 04:00 AM
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Thanks everyone so much for the terrific responses. I'll be reworking my practice regime to your recommendations soon. First I've got to get two collabs finished by the end of the week (won't see much AP in those) After that I do intend to change my focus a bit.

Returned home tonight from our doggie adoption road trip! Below are pictures. First time I've been to Logan, Utah. The fall colors were gorgeous...


Here's the new dog. Her name's Laney...
Attached ImageAttached Image

And here's Logan Utah:
Attached Image


Photos taken with my new Canon 60D DSLR. (I saved them out to a smaller screen resolution to save some upload time.)


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Gary
post Oct 26 2011, 04:07 AM
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Gotta love the western U.S. high desert areas... site to be seen. I was just up in Mammoth Lakes Ca. and the towns on the way up were awash in fall colors. My favorite time of year.

Congrats on the pup.

Gary

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ZX6
post Oct 27 2011, 12:50 PM
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Laney is beautifull cool.gif

Your tecnique is good and clean, just push it up a bit wink.gif , ( use your wrist )
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