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> Sunny's Guitar Corner, My practicing routine, lessons, and links to forum topics
post Apr 16 2012, 12:27 AM
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Two weeks have passed since I joined GMC and it's time to reflect. Just to recap briefly: I love guitar; I played it a lot when I was young; when I got a job and later family my playing time reduced to little and later to near none.

I would estimate my peak skill in playing to intermediate, that would be difficulty 4 in GMC terms. My weaknesses are keeping rhythm and left-right hand synchronization; my strengths are fine motor skills and good analytical skills. As a bonus I have 10 years of formal piano and music theory education.

My main goal is to make guitar playing a habit and establish a progress path that I can follow, which would include both technical practice and learning songs. An additional goal that formed during these two weeks is to get fluent in musical theory as well.

So, to get there I made an initial plan:
1. No matter what, keep playing regularly every day 30-60 minutes.
2. Practice gently with the left hand to get the fingertips durable.
3. Prepare a practicing routine.
4. Define long and short term goals.
5. Draft progress path.

The results:
1. I ended playing for 1-2 hours, only skipping two days during the first week, which was completely acceptable considering point 2.
2. The fingertips are getting in shape well, no signs of overdoing it - the worst is when the skin thickens too fast only to peel off a week after.
3. Practicing routine is in the following post and I'll keep posting it in this thread on a (bi-)weekly basis. Feedback and constructive criticism will be warmly appreciated, TIA.
4. I'm doing that right now.
5. I'll let it flow freely at this point. I need to find my limits first and (re-)learn some concepts.

Practicing routine week 14

I'm starting with difficulty 2 lessons.

Warming up
I was searching for some chromatic warm-up stuff ideas and was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon this Marcus Siepen lesson where he uses familiar warming up exercises and also covers scale exercises.

Left hand workout
None yet, growing skin on fingertips.

Right hand workout - Picking
Since I received a pleasant PM from Ben with an invitation I couldn't decline to join his Bushido course, I boldly picked the first of his beginner oriented tasks.

Right hand workout - Rhythm
Starting with easy stuff.

Practicing routine week 15

Last week I was working mostly on Bushido and alt picking.

Warming up, stretching, massage
I found out about stretching and massage prior to playing. I already did massage my arm muscles and warm-up my wrists and hands, but am adding stretching to the routine too.

Left hand workout
Still none, growing skin on fingertips.

Right hand workout - Picking
Alt picking proved to be tougher than it seemed. I got up to 110 bpm easily but passing that seemed impossible, until I spent a session researching forums for everything about "alt picking".

Right hand workout - Rhythm
Both going well, playing at full tempo, but still need to practice on two places.

Alternate picking theory

I got stuck at alt picking Ben's Bushido lesson beyond 110 bpm. I'm talking about the third part where there is a mixture of 8th and 16th notes. My fingers just couldn't move faster no matter how hard I tried. People are generally able to pick at speeds over 200 so there has to be a catch. A thorough search of forums and a session spent reading instead of playing brought me to a solution.

First advice that is all over the forums, and I want to thank the community for, is the advice to experiment and try do it my way, the way that feels the most natural to me. So I did exactly that, experimented, keeping in mind all the advice I picked up from different threads: which pick to use, how to hold it, to keep my arm relaxed all the way, pick from the wrist.

While experimenting I realized that the only way I could pick really fast was if I am slightly "shaking" my hand, from the wrist. I realized that earlier, while I was practicing, I was picking with my thumb/pointing finger only. But this fast "shaking" motion seemed to be irregular and out of control. Being a supported of the KISS method, I decided that in order to succeed at Bushido task 1 it would be enough if I managed to put my "shaking" under control; practicing that I won't unlearn my picking with two fingers so no harm done. tongue.gif

It took me about 2 or 3 hours to get the "shaking" into a state that I felt could be controlled in time. After all muscles need repeating but also time resting to learn the motion. What I did during these hours was exactly the opposite of what I am otherwise used to do: I mentally isolated four strokes for 16th notes, d-u-d-u, and set my metronome to 140-150-ish bmp where I heard that I had 4 notes on one beat and then kept playing them over and over again gradually decreasing the tempo, slowing down my "shaking", and working on making notes of equal duration, until I hit 90 bmp. At that speed I was able to keep up a clean regular beat of all 16th notes while using the wrist shaking motion. I noticed that I was doing "wider" shakes at slower speeds and "tighter" shakes at higher speeds. My arm was totally relaxed all the time and if I felt any stiffening I just relaxed it. The motion seemed to emanate from the elbow, but my lower arm was still, picking was coming mainly from the wrist.

In the end I managed to pick the Bushido task of utter misery at 120 bpm and, while it was horribly full of mistakes and un-even-ness, I felt that cleaning it up won't be a problem and that the hardest thing was over. I also tested picking for longer periods of time in one go and never felt any stiffening in the arm/hand nor signs of wearing out. Todd's picking lessons helped immensely in this practice as playing each beat (4 notes) on a separate tone made it very easy for me to synchronize with the beat and not lose track of my 4-strokes mental pattern. Thanks!

I am posting all this because the whole thing feels very uncommon to me and I wanted to keep the links in one place. I'd also like to hear from others if what I'm doing makes sense or if I am on a way to hurt myself. smile.gif

Todd's Video Chat Lesson Notes
Fantastic alt picking guide and lessons from Todd. Following this made me reach 130 bpm in a breeze. I mean hours of hard work, that's what I mean.

How Physical Is Fast Picking?
Topic that explains how picking feels like.

Is Alt Picking An Athletic Endeavor?
Lots of quality tips on alt picking.

Stamina School - Lesson by Ben Higgins
Great tips and a video lesson from Ben on how to reach those speeds. I am totally on the same page as he.

Practicing routine week 16

"I used triplets here not to confuse you, but to introduce you gradually to a higher speed."
Cough! Last week I spent with Bushido taming the sneaky "triplets from Hell" which were totally throwing me off the rhythm, and cleaning up my play at 120 bpm.

Warming up, stretching, massage

Left hand workout
Won't take any yet, waiting for that burning feeling to go away completely.

Right hand workout - Picking
Playing at full speed smoothly, working on smoothing it at 130 bpm. Soon ready for rec I guess.
Starting with another one, Bushido for beginners task 2. Suicide.

Right hand workout - Rhythm
I'm satisfied with my play and I'll keep these lessons on my play-through repertoire.
Picking new songs, in the same manner. Slightly more difficult.

Forum glued all my posts together.. I hope nobody was killed by this huge wall-of-text. ^^

Thanks for reading,

This post has been edited by Sunny: Apr 16 2012, 12:33 AM

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Alex Feather
post Apr 16 2012, 12:32 AM
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Wow! That's very nice! You have a great and organized routine! I am sure you will see the progress very very fast!!!!

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post Apr 16 2012, 06:01 AM
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Wow - that's all I can say too smile.gif Your organized practicing is really inspiring. Thanks for sharing it. I'm looking forward to your progress smile.gif
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post Apr 16 2012, 06:26 AM
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Very nicely laid out. I look forward to watching your progress, and reach your goals. That's what I really like about this site, is that we share in the journey. If you haven't already check out some of the threads in my signature on practice, and game title's, The game title thread actually turned into more of a "How to get the most out of your practice.". I can see already you are watching how much time you practice. I think it would be cool to do a 1000 hour graphical representation of when things sunk in, that moment where you go "I got it!". Good luck!

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