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> Advanced Vs Pro Playing, How to get that extra bit of mojo which makes all the difference?
Kristofer Dahl
post Mar 15 2014, 11:11 AM
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In order to work on my chops - I have been writing a new instrumental tune.

I structured it into sections that would cover different technique areas I need to improve - bending, vibrato, picking, swing phrasing etc. I made sure the song would be interesting enough for me to play it over and over without getting tired of it. It goes through several different arrangements/styles, and some key changes.

Eventually I did get sick of it though smile.gif and that's when I decided to record it and move on, you can check it out below. Not sure anyone would want to check it out after this introduction - hehe - but maybe this method of practicing can prove useful to some of you.

For me - I start to feel that metronome/drum machine practicing is no longer suitable. Practicing the techniques in a musical situation seems to improve the 'mojo factor' in my playing, in a way that is hard to achieve when I am not stimulated musically. And I really want more mojo in my playing!

To be more concise, this kind of practicing makes me work on the subtle nuances which, when combined with each other, is what I feel makes the difference between average and pro playing: dynamics, phrasing and tone. I know this is a typical cliché. To exemplify - some simple phrases would come to life in a way that surprised me, just by playing them a bit off the beat.

I have to say though - when looking back on this video, my biggest mistake is that I still played too much on the beat and tried to achieve midi/sterile type timing (in spite of my new insights!). So this is something I will keep working on. I guess this goes to prove once again how useful it is to record yourself (*hint* get REC:ing *hint*).

Also, I started experimenting with the volume knob for the first time - which opened up new possibilities. This also proved to be a challenge when recording, as it introduced some buzz/hum which I had to troubleshoot.

Speaking of sound - I have a vision of a warm guitar sound which does not have much treble to it (a bit like a typical clean jazz sound, but with thick distortion). This seems to be achievable in a amp-in-the-room kind of practicing situation - but not so easy to recreate in a mix.

My ambition for future recordings is to keep experimenting - and not rely on specific "safe" sounds/settings which I have used in the past (well actually I might not even be able to recreate those old sounds even if I wanted to - hehe!). In the short run this might give me some strange sounding mixes, but I hope that in the future I will be be able to dial in sounds/mixes that sound unique to the song I am working on - instead of having my standard go-to sound.



Have you reached new insights recently - which have made your practice sessions more fruitful? It would be awesome if you could share them with us so we all can help each other and improve faster!

November 2014 update: check out the follow-up thread here.


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Cosmin Lupu
post Mar 15 2014, 03:23 PM
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Hehe! Very, very nice playing Kris smile.gif

I agree with what you stated and to bring in my 2 cents - I started experimenting a lot with playing the same phrase in more than one way:

- use a different technique each time
- play it in about 5 spots on the guitar
- play it straight or with a shuffle/swing pulse
- play it loud or soft
- play with the pick or with the fingers or with both pick and fingers
- alternate playing it quickly or slowly
- as you said delay some of the notes and quickening others so that you may land on a certain aimed beat

I think this can pretty much help you really master a certain phrase smile.gif

This post has been edited by Cosmin Lupu: Mar 15 2014, 03:24 PM


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Gabriel Leopardi
post Mar 15 2014, 03:24 PM
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Hi Kris! It's great to see you creating new stuff again! I must say that the overall concept behind this thread and composition is totally inspiring and that can have a great impact here at GMC. I feel that you are covering everything that you need to grow as a musician without losing creativity and focusing mostly on meeting your own personality in your playing.

By creating songs in this way you are working on:

- Technique
- Dynamics and feeling
- Composition skills
- Arranging
- Tone experimentation
- Recording skills
- Connecting your mind with your guitar

and all this together helped to develop Mr Dahl's style. (and can help to develop our own style if we do the same)

Let me say that I enjoyed listening to the song, and I'm not very into instrumental guitar nowadays, I use to get bored soon. But here I don't listen to an instrumental guitar solo, I can hear your soul talking through the guitar. This is the beginning of a new journey so maybe most of this "talk" is still unclear and will be polished, but we all know that this is an endless journey.

Congrats!!

This post has been edited by Gabriel Leopardi: Mar 15 2014, 03:26 PM


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Darius Wave
post Mar 15 2014, 04:47 PM
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Kris! It's insanely interesting to watch this cool composition...even if the target was to make it practice tool smile.gif

You cought one highly important aspect. Practicing things with metronome is not even to being able to use those things in regular playing. It is probably much more important to practice lick or new concepts over the backing tracks. It opens the of creativity and widen the range of colors in Your playing. I learned a lot of licks that I probably never used in my regular playing...because I had no concepts where they could have sense. I had no...because I made not enough experiments with band or backing track.

About the metronome. I know many players (not only guitar) who suck if You make them record to the metronome...but...If You play the drums and the start to record....You can later see that it's perfect with the metronome (drums tracks muted). Metronome is grooveless. It helps but not always does the job (in swing for example being perfectly on beat makes the song square as hell)


Very interesting thoughts. I was thinking of similar things lately smile.gif


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Cosmin Lupu
post Mar 16 2014, 10:35 AM
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QUOTE (Darius Wave @ Mar 15 2014, 03:47 PM) *
Kris! It's insanely interesting to watch this cool composition...even if the target was to make it practice tool smile.gif

You cought one highly important aspect. Practicing things with metronome is not even to being able to use those things in regular playing. It is probably much more important to practice lick or new concepts over the backing tracks. It opens the of creativity and widen the range of colors in Your playing. I learned a lot of licks that I probably never used in my regular playing...because I had no concepts where they could have sense. I had no...because I made not enough experiments with band or backing track.

About the metronome. I know many players (not only guitar) who suck if You make them record to the metronome...but...If You play the drums and the start to record....You can later see that it's perfect with the metronome (drums tracks muted). Metronome is grooveless. It helps but not always does the job (in swing for example being perfectly on beat makes the song square as hell)


Very interesting thoughts. I was thinking of similar things lately smile.gif


Ah, right you are mate smile.gif For instance, when I come up with some riff I need to work with, I will record it with a click track, build the drums and bass line and then re-record against those. It will be way groovier and alive then before smile.gif


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Kristofer Dahl
post Mar 16 2014, 11:06 AM
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QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Mar 15 2014, 03:23 PM) *
Hehe! Very, very nice playing Kris smile.gif

I agree with what you stated and to bring in my 2 cents - I started experimenting a lot with playing the same phrase in more than one way:

- use a different technique each time
- play it in about 5 spots on the guitar
- play it straight or with a shuffle/swing pulse
- play it loud or soft
- play with the pick or with the fingers or with both pick and fingers
- alternate playing it quickly or slowly
- as you said delay some of the notes and quickening others so that you may land on a certain aimed beat

I think this can pretty much help you really master a certain phrase smile.gif


Thanks Cosmin, this sounds like a neat way to push yourself to break habits and to come up with variations of themes you are already comfortable with. The later is way faster and more effective than learning new material.

QUOTE (Gabriel Leopardi @ Mar 15 2014, 03:24 PM) *
Hi Kris! It's great to see you creating new stuff again! I must say that the overall concept behind this thread and composition is totally inspiring and that can have a great impact here at GMC. I feel that you are covering everything that you need to grow as a musician without losing creativity and focusing mostly on meeting your own personality in your playing.

By creating songs in this way you are working on:

- Technique
- Dynamics and feeling
- Composition skills
- Arranging
- Tone experimentation
- Recording skills
- Connecting your mind with your guitar

and all this together helped to develop Mr Dahl's style. (and can help to develop our own style if we do the same)

Let me say that I enjoyed listening to the song, and I'm not very into instrumental guitar nowadays, I use to get bored soon. But here I don't listen to an instrumental guitar solo, I can hear your soul talking through the guitar. This is the beginning of a new journey so maybe most of this "talk" is still unclear and will be polished, but we all know that this is an endless journey.

Congrats!!


Wow thanks a million Gabe! You make an important point here, practising by writing a song is probably the ultimate way to develop your own style. Since everything in the song will be done according to your personal preferences.

You are more likely to bring out the best of your chops if you get to play over what you hear in your head.

But then the opposite might be worth giving a shot as well - if you just get the feeling of being blocked in front of a blank sheet when you try to create something - then you should spend time over someone else's backing track instead, using someone else's licks. Try that for a while and then return to your own composition and see if you have new inspiration.

Playing someone else's material is also a way of developing your own style - as long as you make the selection. In other words it's important that you choose lessons that match your own musical preference - don't choose lessons based on someone else's taste!


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Guido Bungenstoc...
post Mar 16 2014, 11:48 AM
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Hi Kristofer,
Wow, fantastic playing and lot of really tricky techniques. I'm totally impressed about your interesting style mix. Just awesome!!!!

But I have to say that I'm not a fan of this style of music at all, it sounds to constructed to my ears. I prefer more linear compositions. But that's just my personal taste. So please don't take it personal! :-)

And you're absolutely right it makes a lot difference if you practice to a metronome or to well a produced backing track. It can immediately change your mood and inspires you to make your lines a lot more musical. When it comes to real music i always do it this way. And if I'm working on just small technical things i switch to metronome.
Playing with real musicians can change the groove dramatically too, of course. When I'm recording with my band Sometimes it's really interesting if I'm using the solo functios in logic and I notice some little timing issues on each instrument. But then if I put all together it's sounds totally groovy and I can see the whole picture. This shows me that sometimes it's this special mojo what brings a song to live and NOT the absolutely perfect timing!

I can stress enough how important it is to play with real musicians to get a better groove player. My private students
heard this from me about million times, haha

Keep rockin, mate!!!!


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Gabriel Leopardi
post Mar 16 2014, 05:24 PM
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QUOTE (Kristofer Dahl @ Mar 16 2014, 07:06 AM) *
Thanks Cosmin, this sounds like a neat way to push yourself to break habits and to come up with variations of themes you are already comfortable with. The later is way faster and more effective than learning new material.



Wow thanks a million Gabe! You make an important point here, practising by writing a song is probably the ultimate way to develop your own style. Since everything in the song will be done according to your personal preferences.

You are more likely to bring out the best of your chops if you get to play over what you hear in your head.

But then the opposite might be worth giving a shot as well - if you just get the feeling of being blocked in front of a blank sheet when you try to create something - then you should spend time over someone else's backing track instead, using someone else's licks. Try that for a while and then return to your own composition and see if you have new inspiration.

Playing someone else's material is also a way of developing your own style - as long as you make the selection. In other words it's important that you choose lessons that match your own musical preference - don't choose lessons based on someone else's taste!



Good point here! This is the reason why I motivate students to go deeper with lesson and don't stop just when they can play the licks over the backing. Once you can play the lessons I think that as you said, it's time for your selection, and also it's time to create variations of the licks to explore what things are waken in you thanks to those licks. The more you experiment with this two ideas, the closer you'll be to create your own stuff recreating what you learnt from a GMC lesson or song.

So the learning process could look like this:

1. Learn the lesson.
2. Record your REC take.
3. Take your favorite licks and jam over the backing track filling the gaps with your ideas.
4. Create variations of the remaining licks.
5. Record yourself and listen to it: BINGO! That's your own style talking to you.

The more you practice like this, the clearer your style becomes.



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Cosmin Lupu
post Mar 17 2014, 09:08 AM
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QUOTE (Gabriel Leopardi @ Mar 16 2014, 04:24 PM) *
Good point here! This is the reason why I motivate students to go deeper with lesson and don't stop just when they can play the licks over the backing. Once you can play the lessons I think that as you said, it's time for your selection, and also it's time to create variations of the licks to explore what things are waken in you thanks to those licks. The more you experiment with this two ideas, the closer you'll be to create your own stuff recreating what you learnt from a GMC lesson or song.

So the learning process could look like this:

1. Learn the lesson.
2. Record your REC take.
3. Take your favorite licks and jam over the backing track filling the gaps with your ideas.
4. Create variations of the remaining licks.
5. Record yourself and listen to it: BINGO! That's your own style talking to you.

The more you practice like this, the clearer your style becomes.


Well said Gabi - I think that students should take more advantage on these lessons and not only take them literally. The majority stops at step 2 and then, maybe some are deriving licks but they don't show it in here or discuss this too much smile.gif


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klasaine
post Mar 17 2014, 04:08 PM
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QUOTE (Kristofer Dahl @ Mar 15 2014, 02:11 AM) *
Have you reached new insights recently - which have made your practice sessions more fruitful? It would be awesome if you could share them with us so we all can help each other and improve faster!


That was great Kristofer!
Because I don't 'know' your playing none of it sounded stiff or mechanical to me - ? Which leads me to an insight that I've been realizing, thinking about and dealing with over the last few years.

Even when we record ourselves we as players can have a distorted view of our own playing. Especially if we listen back immediately. I feel that you hear your 'intent' and not necessarily the music you actually made. Also, I'm always curious as to what others hear in my playing. Many times it has nothing to do with what I think ... even from other musicians (especially rec engineers, producers and the artist). Sometimes (many times laugh.gif) what I think is great no one even notices and what I cringe to hear back they thing is genius - ? Go figure.

So for me, since most of my playing is with bands and recording - nothing that I 'practice' is etched in stone until I feel or someone else feels that it works 'live' or at least 'in context'. So ultimately I don't stress out over minor articulation or even phrasing issues that may not even be perceived by anyone but me.

*None of this is advice - just a personal observation.

This post has been edited by klasaine: Mar 17 2014, 08:11 PM


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Todd Simpson
post Mar 18 2014, 12:23 AM
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KILLER Playing and composition on this one smile.gif STUDENTS TAKE NOTE: watch his hands. Notice HOW LITTLE FORCE HE"S USING ON PICKING AND FRETTING. smile.gif

This is something that takes practice but it well worth investing time in. Our hands often instinctively "Tense" when we play fast or when we play a challenging passage. Often, too much tension can DESTROY your playing. NOT ALWAYS OF COURSE smile.gif Sometimes you want to dig in and beat the crap out of it. But this is a great example of what's possible with a lighter touch.

Todd


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Kristofer Dahl
post Mar 18 2014, 09:16 AM
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QUOTE (klasaine @ Mar 17 2014, 04:08 PM) *
Even when we record ourselves we as players can have a distorted view of our own playing. Especially if we listen back immediately.

Thanks Ken. I think you are right about this - I don't feel as bad about it now as I did after the recording.

To those who are unsure what I am referring to - the canon section starting at 01:50 doesn't have any real pulse to it, and this would have been a golden opportunity to play slightly behind/off the beat. I played it very straight (and I even added slightly out of tune bending here and there... )

However - there are probably some people wondering what I am complaining about. And this sort of "mistake" is not something which usually bothers people - rather it's the kind of thing that if you nail it at the right time and spot in a song - people will get a much stronger listening sensation (read WOW experience). Most likely, they won't be able to identify exactly what made them appreciate a particular piece of music so much. But I want to analyse that mojo.

It's subtle - sure! But this thread is about all those small nuances which together can raise the perceived quality of your playing from average to pro.

Other techniques need to be mastered first (playing in pitch, clean technique etc) - but that doesn't really give you mojo, which is what I am searching for. And I think we have taken a few steps in the right direction with this thread! smile.gif

To those wondering how on earth they are ever going to learn the subtle stuff, when they are struggling with the 'obvious' stuff: You CAN start working on it right away: Just grab any lesson which gives you a powerful musical sensation - and try to nail every nuance of it. At first progress will seem slow/non-existing (especially compared to an hour of metronome practicing). However if you are persistent and give it a few months - you will soon realise that this is the true path to mojo!

Well...at least if you ask me! wink.gif


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Cosmin Lupu
post Mar 18 2014, 09:18 AM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Mar 17 2014, 11:23 PM) *
KILLER Playing and composition on this one smile.gif STUDENTS TAKE NOTE: watch his hands. Notice HOW LITTLE FORCE HE"S USING ON PICKING AND FRETTING. smile.gif

This is something that takes practice but it well worth investing time in. Our hands often instinctively "Tense" when we play fast or when we play a challenging passage. Often, too much tension can DESTROY your playing. NOT ALWAYS OF COURSE smile.gif Sometimes you want to dig in and beat the crap out of it. But this is a great example of what's possible with a lighter touch.

Todd


True words here Todd - with experience, we usually discover when it's time to beat it or caress it, but it takes a lot of conscious playing to get there!


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verciazghra
post Mar 18 2014, 10:47 PM
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Very nice indeed, not a bunch of clichées, always interesting to listen to, it feels like your own expression. You're THERE, where we all should aim to be. If you keep doing what you're doing you'll keep inspiring everyone who listens to take their own path and make the most out of it.

The only fruitful experience I've had practicing lately is that if I can't feel it, it doesn't matter. So unless I feel it after 20-30 minutes of practicing a particular thing(even if it's something like chromatics), I'll start beating myself up over details instead of just feeling the difference between how it is and what I'm trying to do. The difference is small but it's incredibly important(to me at this point).

Loved this, truely inspirational.


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Kristofer Dahl
post Mar 19 2014, 09:45 AM
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QUOTE (verciazghra @ Mar 18 2014, 10:47 PM) *
The only fruitful experience I've had practicing lately is that if I can't feel it, it doesn't matter. So unless I feel it after 20-30 minutes of practicing a particular thing(even if it's something like chromatics), I'll start beating myself up over details instead of just feeling the difference between how it is and what I'm trying to do. The difference is small but it's incredibly important(to me at this point).

Thanks - it sounds like your mindset is right for some mojo! smile.gif

To me - the only rule that ranks higher than the ones discussed in this thread, is to have fun. Nothing discussed in this thread is worth anything if you are not having fun when playing. I am mentioning this because sometimes it is easy to get lost in all the advice available. It is even acceptable to go against others advice - if it makes you enjoy your time with the instrument more. Just make sure you are aware of the consequences of [whatever you are doing].

write a song - fine
work on nuances - fine
jam randomly - fine
work on your technique - fine
follow someone else's advice without enjoying it - wrong

So in case anyone got confused by our discussion here, then just do whatever makes you want to play more. The advice given here will rest in the back of your head - and come to life when the time is right.

QUOTE (Darius Wave @ Mar 15 2014, 04:47 PM) *
About the metronome. I know many players (not only guitar) who suck if You make them record to the metronome...but...If You play the drums and the start to record....You can later see that it's perfect with the metronome (drums tracks muted). Metronome is grooveless. It helps but not always does the job (in swing for example being perfectly on beat makes the song square as hell)


QUOTE (Guido Bungenstock @ Mar 16 2014, 11:48 AM) *
Playing with real musicians can change the groove dramatically too, of course. When I'm recording with my band Sometimes it's really interesting if I'm using the solo functios in logic and I notice some little timing issues on each instrument. But then if I put all together it's sounds totally groovy and I can see the whole picture. This shows me that sometimes it's this special mojo what brings a song to live and NOT the absolutely perfect timing!


Awesome input Darius and Guido - both these comments are evidence of the magic that happens when you are exposed to real music. There is just no excuse for not doing it!

QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Mar 18 2014, 12:23 AM) *
KILLER Playing and composition on this one smile.gif STUDENTS TAKE NOTE: watch his hands. Notice HOW LITTLE FORCE HE"S USING ON PICKING AND FRETTING. smile.gif

This is something that takes practice but it well worth investing time in. Our hands often instinctively "Tense" when we play fast or when we play a challenging passage. Often, too much tension can DESTROY your playing. NOT ALWAYS OF COURSE smile.gif Sometimes you want to dig in and beat the crap out of it. But this is a great example of what's possible with a lighter touch.


Great observation Todd, I found that relaxing my hole body as much as I could was mandatory to nail the trickier techniques in this tune.


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Todd Simpson
post Mar 20 2014, 06:12 AM
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QUOTE (Kristofer Dahl @ Mar 19 2014, 04:45 AM) *
Thanks - it sounds like your mindset is right for some mojo! smile.gif

Great observation Todd, I found that relaxing my hole body as much as I could was mandatory to nail the trickier techniques in this tune.


Thanks smile.gif I noticed you had a very relaxed and fluid style on this that's a virtual clinic in how to play really crazy stuff without tensing! It's very hard to do at first. As KRIS shows here, it can really allow wonderful flexibility, reach, and precision. Nice!!

Todd



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Cosmin Lupu
post Mar 20 2014, 08:47 AM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Mar 20 2014, 05:12 AM) *
Thanks smile.gif I noticed you had a very relaxed and fluid style on this that's a virtual clinic in how to play really crazy stuff without tensing! It's very hard to do at first. As KRIS shows here, it can really allow wonderful flexibility, reach, and precision. Nice!!

Todd


Good point here Todd! One of the things that I started paying extra attention to, when practicing, is maintaining a relaxed posture and overall state of mind. As Musashi says: 'Be neither insufficiently spirited, nor over spirited'. These words underline the importance of being aware of and focused on what you are doing, but doing it in a relaxed and confident manner which allows you to observe things as they happen and act accordingly - i.e. when playing more demanding things, feeling when your body is tensing up and learning how to control it without altering your performance.


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Headbanger
post Mar 30 2014, 08:16 PM
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Sounded good to me Dude! cool.gif


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Darius Wave
post Mar 31 2014, 09:51 AM
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Yeah...the management of tension/release is a key to success smile.gif


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Kristofer Dahl
post Mar 31 2014, 12:32 PM
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QUOTE (Headbanger @ Mar 30 2014, 09:16 PM) *
Sounded good to me Dude! cool.gif

Thanks a lot Rod - it's always good to know a song is approved by a headbanger! =)

QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Mar 20 2014, 09:47 AM) *
These words underline the importance of being aware of and focused on what you are doing, but doing it in a relaxed and confident manner which allows you to observe things as they happen and act accordingly - i.e. when playing more demanding things, feeling when your body is tensing up and learning how to control it without altering your performance.

For sure - experiment with both. Generally if I can achieve a similar attack/tone while still being relaxed I will go for it - since I find that control comes form a relaxed technique.

However there are some extremely aggressive picking styles that probably can't be done without applying a bit of tension - I am not exactly sure how they are done though.


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