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> Tensing Up While Alternate Picking, Discuss
Nihilist1
post Nov 28 2011, 08:05 AM
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So let's talk about this dreaded milestone almost all guitarists have to overcome. I tense up, and even after playing for six years, I cannot find a way to play fast without doing it. It may damage, nerves, muscles, and stress a musician out too much. So, how do the folks here at GMC handle this issue? If you can play without tensing up, what is your secret? Those of us who cannot, would really love to know.

Thanks to all who participate!


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Kalidia
post Nov 28 2011, 09:26 AM
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i used to tense a lot too but now i have almost overcome it. Unfortunately in my case i had a picking tecnique that wasn't perfect so i had to re-start learning a new approach. This involved playing completely relaxed, at a time that was very very slow ( quarter note at 80 bpm ) trying to reach a perfect execution. With time and patience i've gain more control of my picking hand and this prevent me from tensing too much, sometimes tensing maybe the symptoms that the hand are not perfectly confortable with the picking at that speed. That's my tensing story smile.gif Maybe you can check out also Ben's Stamina lessons -> https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/ls/Stamina-School/ many have found this very useful! (me included smile.gif )
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Ben Higgins
post Nov 28 2011, 09:53 AM
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QUOTE (Kalidia @ Nov 28 2011, 08:26 AM) *
Unfortunately in my case i had a picking tecnique that wasn't perfect so i had to re-start learning a new approach. This involved playing completely relaxed, at a time that was very very slow ( quarter note at 80 bpm ) trying to reach a perfect execution.


This is exactly the same with me too. In fact, I would say that for any guitarist who wasn't just lucky enough to get it right straight away, that they had to do the very same as Kalidia described.

I'm still doing it. Although I can get by with playing certain things fast for short sections, I know that the underlying technique is not yet sorted and developed and that's all there is to it.

It's not how fast you try to play everyday, it's the number of identical (or near as damn it), perfect reps you can fit in every day. Over time, the correct hand motion embeds itself into your body. This doesn't mean you'll immediately be able to bump up the metro by 30bpm and be able to do it.. but the hardest work is just embedding the correct technique. I did this by spending about 2/3 weeks just repeating the same licks at the same speed. Not increasing the speed at this point was the crucial point for me. I was determined I wasn't going to leave it sloppy so I learned to enjoy the pursuit of getting it more and more accurate everyday. There's always some aspect of the technique that can be improved.. it's not just about hitting all the notes, you can also tighten the timing, get the velocity of the pick strokes more even.

Does anyone ever get that thing where your hand almost gets 'jumpy' ? You'll be alternate picking on one string and your hand suddenly goes out of time or almost misses the note ? I noticed that a lot so I resolved to exterminate that effect as much as I could. I found that playing constantly on one string revealed that to me so it's a good way of guaging whether you're overcoming that jumpy effect or not.

The Stamina School approach is good for a couple of things.. mainly finding out what your preferred picking angle/method is... and giving you a mental boost. I would recommend it for a warm up but the bulk of your picking technique will come from the slow work. Give yourself time to get it right. Only getting it right will improve your technique. smile.gif


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JaxN4
post Nov 28 2011, 09:55 AM
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Hey Nih, I hear ya.... I often do the same....I am getting better at being relaxed while doing it....

This helped...



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Ben Higgins
post Nov 28 2011, 10:25 AM
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QUOTE (JaxN4 @ Nov 28 2011, 08:55 AM) *
Hey Nih, I hear ya.... I often do the same....I am getting better at being relaxed while doing it....

This helped...



Guthrie has a great point about thinking 'easy'. I wrote a similar thing the other day in the forum. Nihilist, if you didn't see it, here it is.. you may find it useful to apply to any alternate picking lick that you want to use to develop your technique

https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/guitar_fo...st&p=554638


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Kalidia
post Nov 28 2011, 10:27 AM
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Hey Ben, considering your playing now is very encouraging for me that you had the same problem smile.gif
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Ben Higgins
post Nov 28 2011, 10:45 AM
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QUOTE (Kalidia @ Nov 28 2011, 09:27 AM) *
Hey Ben, considering your playing now is very encouraging for me that you had the same problem smile.gif


Good, it's never too late to correct a technique. smile.gif


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Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 28 2011, 05:53 PM
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Mate, your approach in the video chat - when you were playing that strangely unique shaped acoustic guitar that your father built - was absolutely inspiring smile.gif I used to do that in the past but chaos engulfed me and I remembered how good it feels to pick REALLY SLOW tongue.gif the results NEVER wait to much until they appear! tongue.gif


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Azzaboi
post Nov 28 2011, 06:17 PM
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If you tense up at any time, STOP, it's a bad habit to continue tensed and will just slow you down.
Teaching yourself to break that habit can take a bit of time, but it's something everyone will encounter. Stop, shake it out, continue when relaxed.

First check the pick, does it flex? For fast alternative picking, a flex in the pick will slow you down due to it's still bent on the way back. Those few seconds it needs to regain shape is fine for slow playing but cause huge resistances at speed. A thick, pointed pick is ideal when playing this stuff.

Check the attack angle of the pick. You might find you angle the pick up or down, don't use this bad habit, it makes it easiler to play in one direction (eg. downstrokes) but very hard in the other (eg. upstroke). Keep the pick straight to the string and choke up on the pick, ensuring the tip is just sticking out and grazing the string. You also can use an attack angle rather than flat picking the strings, for example rotating the pick left or right (remember not up or down), I recommend Paul Gilbert style picking where the thumb is pointing downwards, pick rotated about 45 degrees.

Don't flex the thumb, this is great for slow blues, digging into the strings, etc, but at speed will slow you down. Lock the thumb straight when playing fast alternative picking, all the movement should come mostly from a slight rotation of the wrist.

What you're trying to achieve is less flex and less surface area from the pick = less resistance / more relaxed speed!

Check the lifting of the pick away from the strings, this should be minimum to none! Keep the pick tip (remember only the tip) inbetween the strings, practice on one string, then two, then when your good with those move to string skipping. The hardest part is moving from string to string keeping the same flow of speed.

Check the palm of the picking hand location, is it moving up and down? Try find it a centre place and not move it, instead rotate the wrist to reach all the strings.

When alternative picking the strings, check how far the pick is travelling, minimise the distance, it should only be a slight movement from the wrist. So the pick tip just grazes enough to make it clearly sound, the pick doesn't move away from the string or lift up, the pick stays inbetween the strings and just needs a few millimeters each side of the string before going back again.

What you're trying to achieve is less movement for the pick = less distance / more relaxed speed!

Focus on one hand at a time but ensure that the pick speed is in synced/time with the fret hand, else your'll become a sloppy player. The same applies to the fret hand, work on the 'light' touch, minimum pressure to fret each note (your thumb shouldn't be applying any force either) and minimum distance of each finger from it's correct fret locations at all time, without flicking up, distance away from the strings.

Once your achieved those at slow speeds building up to the sloppy point and back down to clean, the speed tends to comes naturally in large bursts! Remember the important thing however, is to correct any bad habits before it occurs (if it's already happened, it's too late to correct, correct it the next time), then distract yourself from the playing, close your eyes, watch tv or whatever while playing. You don't want to focus too much on when playing correctly, so long your not doing any bad habits, as the strong focus can actually tense you up as well. You want to be able to do this in your sleep instead and naturally.

This post has been edited by Azzaboi: Nov 28 2011, 06:30 PM
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Ivan Milenkovic
post Nov 28 2011, 06:27 PM
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The only cure is to relax the hand while practicing. You'll start noticing results right after few weeks, and over a course of several years you can completely alter your picking technique. Start practicing right away, don't let this thing be a problem to you.


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Todd Simpson
post Nov 28 2011, 09:59 PM
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QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Nov 28 2011, 03:53 AM) *
This is exactly the same with me too.....
Only getting it right will improve your technique. smile.gif


This is some KILLER advice from Ben. Honestly, the approach, the path, pretty much lays it out. Well said smile.gif

QUOTE (Azzaboi @ Nov 28 2011, 12:17 PM) *
If you tense up at any time, STOP, it's a bad habit to continue tensed and will just slow you down.
Teaching yourself to break that habit can take a bit of time, but it's something everyone will encounter. Stop, shake it out, continue when relaxed.... You want to be able to do this in your sleep instead and naturally.


This is trully killer stuff Azzaboi smile.gif I am just thrilled to see that a bunch of what I keep beating the drum about in vid chat seems to be sinking all the way in an going to the bone! These are killer tips you've lined up.


1.)A thick, pointed pick is ideal when playing this stuff.


*Bingo! Not great for everything or everyone or every time, but when working the kinks out of your fast articulation/AP, it's pretty much a great idea.

2.) I recommend Paul Gilbert style picking where the thumb is pointing downwards, pick rotated about 45 degrees.

*Again Bingo! Hard to go wrong using Gilbert as a template where this type of work is concerned.


3.)Check the lifting of the pick away from the strings, this should be minimum to none!

*Triple Bingo! "economy of motion" is the key smile.gif


Just highlighting some of the great points from AZZABOIs post here. The entire post is practically a clinic.


BONUS IDEAS
Also, the ability to relax below the wrist is something you can practice by itself. Essentially pick a single note, single string (no left hand work yet) and find where your "tension point" is. What BPM do you tense at. That is your work point. Slowly work to that (still no left hand work) and focus on relaxing below the wrists on purpose. Separating your body from your hands can help a lot. It's a natural instinct you are trying to fight. Millions of years of evolution is standing in your way but it's possible to overcome it. Once you can play without tensing at your old 'tension point" then bump it up. Once you can play at whatever your goal is on one note, one string, then start backing down the bpm and add left hand work in.

Trying to do both at once might make your head explode. Once you get the right hand working, the left hand almost happens by itself (with tons of practice of course) then once both hands are in harmony, get ready to LOVE picking up your guitar. You'll notice you are no longer thinking about playing fast, it's just sorta happening and your relaxed.

Todd


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Alex Feather
post Nov 29 2011, 09:38 PM
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I use to have the same problem a few years ago I could play fast but everything was sounding way too sloppy and my right hand was in so much tension and pressure...
What helped me is to set metronome at a very slow tempo and make sure that you feel comfortable and relaxed
start practicing your licks, scales and arpeggios until you feel that every note you play is smooth in dynamic and you don't feel any tension
It really helped me and after a few weeks all the tension went away!



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Daniel Realpe
post Nov 29 2011, 10:57 PM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Nov 28 2011, 10:59 PM) *
This is some KILLER advice from Ben. Honestly, the approach, the path, pretty much lays it out. Well said smile.gif



This is trully killer stuff Azzaboi smile.gif I am just thrilled to see that a bunch of what I keep beating the drum about in vid chat seems to be sinking all the way in an going to the bone! These are killer tips you've lined up.


1.)A thick, pointed pick is ideal when playing this stuff.


*Bingo! Not great for everything or everyone or every time, but when working the kinks out of your fast articulation/AP, it's pretty much a great idea.

2.) I recommend Paul Gilbert style picking where the thumb is pointing downwards, pick rotated about 45 degrees.

*Again Bingo! Hard to go wrong using Gilbert as a template where this type of work is concerned.


3.)Check the lifting of the pick away from the strings, this should be minimum to none!

*Triple Bingo! "economy of motion" is the key smile.gif


Just highlighting some of the great points from AZZABOIs post here. The entire post is practically a clinic.


BONUS IDEAS
Also, the ability to relax below the wrist is something you can practice by itself. Essentially pick a single note, single string (no left hand work yet) and find where your "tension point" is. What BPM do you tense at. That is your work point. Slowly work to that (still no left hand work) and focus on relaxing below the wrists on purpose. Separating your body from your hands can help a lot. It's a natural instinct you are trying to fight. Millions of years of evolution is standing in your way but it's possible to overcome it. Once you can play without tensing at your old 'tension point" then bump it up. Once you can play at whatever your goal is on one note, one string, then start backing down the bpm and add left hand work in.

Trying to do both at once might make your head explode. Once you get the right hand working, the left hand almost happens by itself (with tons of practice of course) then once both hands are in harmony, get ready to LOVE picking up your guitar. You'll notice you are no longer thinking about playing fast, it's just sorta happening and your relaxed.

Todd

Really good advice!

I got to a point where I became addicted to picking biggrin.gif I hope you get to that point, I just love the aggressive sound of it and it feels good in the hand


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Todd Simpson
post Nov 29 2011, 11:16 PM
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The same thing happened to me smile.gif I became a bit obsessive about it for a while. Just felt compelled to be able to recreate certain licks that seemed to have such a huge impact when I heard them. The way it adds aggression and pressure to given phrase or passage is just great wink.gif It can be overdone certainly, and sometimes is really overdone, but when used in a musical way it's just priceless.

As a guitar player you may never need to pick really fast. Ever. You may not like the way it sounds. Then again, you might. I've always believed that, as my classical instructor used to day,

"Your musical expression should not be limited by your technical ability"

I think he really had something there. I"ve been saying it ever since. Ideally, you should be able to play whatever you think should be played, fast/slow/medium/crazy/soft/loud, etc. during a given solo/passage/song etc.


Todd

QUOTE (Daniel Realpe @ Nov 29 2011, 04:57 PM) *
Really good advice!

I got to a point where I became addicted to picking biggrin.gif I hope you get to that point, I just love the aggressive sound of it and it feels good in the hand



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Nihilist1
post Nov 30 2011, 12:29 AM
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As far as playing fast goes. I want to hit at least 220-260 BPM. The reason for this is because I just want to know that I can play whatever I want. I won't be one of those guys who does nothing, but play fast because I would get bored after awhile. I just think, like Todd said, that I shouldn't be limited, and if the need arises, I should be able to play fast.


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Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 30 2011, 01:26 PM
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I am currently trying to increase stamina, while playing longer phrases which imply AP and trying to de-tense while playing. If I feel the right hand starts to tense I immediately try to relax it while performing. I gave this idea a try so that I may be able to have control onstage, where tension is most likely to occur due to various factors like: emotions, lack of sound control, low temperature and many others.

Have you guys experimented with this idea?


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Kalidia
post Nov 30 2011, 02:54 PM
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I also stop playing if tensing and try to relax. I found also that to play without tensing is foundamental to relax not only the wrist but also the entire arm and the shoulder. If i got some tension in my shoulder/arm it's more likely i will develop tension in my wrist while playing. Petrucci at the beginning of his video "rock disciplines" show some example on how to stretch arm/shoulder, maybe someone could find this useful... i do!
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Ivan Milenkovic
post Nov 30 2011, 11:21 PM
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Yeah, it's not only about relaxing the palm and fingers, it's about relaxing whole arm and shoulder. Brain should be tensing up! biggrin.gif


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Todd Simpson
post Dec 1 2011, 07:06 PM
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QUOTE (Kalidia @ Nov 30 2011, 08:54 AM) *
I also stop playing if tensing and try to relax. I found also that to play without tensing is foundamental to relax not only the wrist but also the entire arm and the shoulder. If i got some tension in my shoulder/arm it's more likely i will develop tension in my wrist while playing. Petrucci at the beginning of his video "rock disciplines" show some example on how to stretch arm/shoulder, maybe someone could find this useful... i do!


Yup smile.gif This is what I call "Relaxing Below The Wrist" essentially visualizing your hands as separate from the rest of your body. It works for me wink.gif


QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Nov 30 2011, 07:26 AM) *
I am currently trying to increase stamina, while playing longer phrases which imply AP and trying to de-tense while playing. If I feel the right hand starts to tense I immediately try to relax it while performing. I gave this idea a try so that I may be able to have control onstage, where tension is most likely to occur due to various factors like: emotions, lack of sound control, low temperature and many others.

Have you guys experimented with this idea?


Yes! Quite a bit actually smile.gif I added many of the extended AP/Stamina workouts to my video chat series and have been sharing them with students. I try to keep them fairly simple on the left hand in many cases as its' most about picking/stamina, and then we run the patter from first to 12th fret. For some workouts, it's every string and every fret up to 12 while cranking the metronome as we go.

It's really important to warm up before doing this. Starting stamina work cold can cause problems if not injury. So we do a bit of "finger yoga" and stretch a bit etc. After a serious workout, it's a good idea to cool down as well with some light hand/finger stretching and even using an ice cube on the tendons/muscles on the inside of the fore arm. It prevents swelling and speeds recovery. Extreme playing is similar to extreme sports in that it's an intense activity for the muscles involved.


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