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> Using Performance To Decide Technique
Ben Higgins
post Aug 25 2014, 10:29 AM
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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

This post has been edited by Ben Higgins: Aug 25 2014, 10:29 AM


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Cosmin Lupu
post Aug 25 2014, 12:18 PM
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Hey Ben - great words and observations here, especially that the comparison with the martial arts is very true. Now, I don't mean to take my sword out and try to cut bad guys on the street, but the real deal in both martial arts and music is implementing things in REAL contexts.

That's why, for me, the best practice is the stage or the recording session. You have to be ready to deliver, having a lot of stuff under your thumb and foremost, being put under pressure more often than not.

Time spent home practicing the songs you are about to perform is very valuable, but most times, there's a HUGE difference and that difference will be felt to a lesser degree if you spent your practicing time in a right way.

What do I mean with that?

Try to be relaxed and know what's coming next with a natural feeling, almost like you aren't even paying attention - you need to be able to listen to both yourself and THE OTHERS around you - especially them, because if something goes a little different than you were used to, you should be able to follow - if you are stuck with your head in your guitar/instrument, most likely that any change will take you by surprise and it won't be a nice surprise, I can vouch for that smile.gif

This can be a first step - what were your experiences in respect to these matters? Where did you find yourself in a situation in which you found yourself unprepared, even if you thought you were? Did you take all the situations into account when preparing?


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PosterBoy
post Aug 25 2014, 12:42 PM
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I found something like this the other week, I was working on a little 2 string arpeggio motif that shifted up the pentatonic positions and when I practiced it slowly it was strict Alt picking, but when I played it up to speed I magically changed to economy picking, which is something I've never really focused on, but obviously my right hand knew better.


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Mith
post Aug 25 2014, 01:34 PM
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QUOTE (PosterBoy @ Aug 25 2014, 07:42 PM) *
I found something like this the other week, I was working on a little 2 string arpeggio motif that shifted up the pentatonic positions and when I practiced it slowly it was strict Alt picking, but when I played it up to speed I magically changed to economy picking, which is something I've never really focused on, but obviously my right hand knew better.


I feel u there. I economy pick naturally and i actually find it harder to do strict alt picking


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Ben Higgins
post Aug 25 2014, 02:21 PM
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QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Aug 25 2014, 12:18 PM) *
Where did you find yourself in a situation in which you found yourself unprepared, even if you thought you were? Did you take all the situations into account when preparing?


I remember a gig with my first band. I had this intricate tapping thing worked out for a solo section. I'd only been working on it for a week or so.. when it came time to do my solo I barely managed to struggle through it as it was hard to remember.

There were also times where I was experimenting with some different picking technique and when I came to section where I needed to play intricate lines, it just didn't cut it and I reverted to a style that I'd previously been using because, in retrospect, it was more natural and better for the job.

QUOTE (PosterBoy @ Aug 25 2014, 12:42 PM) *
I found something like this the other week, I was working on a little 2 string arpeggio motif that shifted up the pentatonic positions and when I practiced it slowly it was strict Alt picking, but when I played it up to speed I magically changed to economy picking, which is something I've never really focused on, but obviously my right hand knew better.


This is exactly the kind of examples I'm thinking of... when we plan to approach something a certain way but full speed and 'in the moment' changes it into something that is more 'within our natural abilities' or our natural strengths.

People might be surprised how often they use techniques such as economy or sweep picking in certain phrases. A lot of people shy away from using it but that's probably because it's presented as some kind of life choice that has to dictate their playing style from then on out. But it doesn't have to be.. you can use alternate picking 95% of the time but still have certain licks where economy is an easy option and, more importantly, really natural and doesn't detract at all from your alternate picking habits.

QUOTE (Mith @ Aug 25 2014, 01:34 PM) *
I feel u there. I economy pick naturally and i actually find it harder to do strict alt picking


It is a very natural thing to follow the path of least resistance when it comes to a physical task, especially something which is supposed to be fun and relaxing like music.

I really believe (and many players like Eric Johnson and Yngwie prove it) that alternate and economy can live happily side by side in any guitarist's technique & phrasing and it doesn't nullify or erode the natural skills of the other.


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klasaine
post Aug 25 2014, 05:03 PM
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+1 to all that!

Ultimately you never know what it's really going to be or need until you play it with a song performance of some type.
Even a band rehearsal environment instills a false sense of security. It's a 'known' and usually (relatively) comfortable place. It's not until you finally play a gig with the new material that you learn what it is you need to work the most on.

A simple 'check' I have for if a technical part will work under pressure is to make sure I can at least do it standing up and without looking.


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Phil66
post Aug 25 2014, 08:50 PM
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QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Aug 25 2014, 10:29 AM) *
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 ?
Attached Image

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


I'm finding that out for myself at the moment. Having to record for Cosmins lessons with a backing track really ups the anti, when you just strum alone without backing tracks it doesn't matter if you drift in and out of time, I find it much harder concentrating on everything when the backing track is running but it will be better in the end for sure. smile.gif


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SirJamsalot
post Aug 25 2014, 09:21 PM
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My favorite thing to say to bedroom practice warriors - "now try that standing up tongue.gif"


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Cosmin Lupu
post Aug 26 2014, 07:37 AM
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QUOTE (klasaine @ Aug 25 2014, 04:03 PM) *
+1 to all that!

Ultimately you never know what it's really going to be or need until you play it with a song performance of some type.
Even a band rehearsal environment instills a false sense of security. It's a 'known' and usually (relatively) comfortable place. It's not until you finally play a gig with the new material that you learn what it is you need to work the most on.

A simple 'check' I have for if a technical part will work under pressure is to make sure I can at least do it standing up and without looking.


Good point here - as I stated in my first post, our attention will be divided a lot onstage. You can't lock yourself up in your little bubble and play from there smile.gif So, being able to play and also focus on the other people around you, is one of the important things that make you a musician.

There's one more thing - standing up is a completely different thing! I always rehearse songs standing up before a concert and depending on the context, I even think of what sort of choreography stunts I can pull. There are spots in which you can move around and communicate with the audience and others in which you need to relax a lot and pay attention to what you are doing with your instrument. This is another very important part of practice, which comes into play when you need to put on a great show onstage.

Reading Phil66's post - I have to add another important aspect - timing! Whatever you play, make sure it's in good timing and that you know where it begins, how long it lasts and where it ends and what happens in between. Make sure you can play the correct note lengths and you can keep a steady groove with your foot only - it's pretty much the best test smile.gif


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PosterBoy
post Aug 26 2014, 08:30 AM
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QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Aug 25 2014, 09:21 PM) *
My favorite thing to say to bedroom practice warriors - "now try that standing up tongue.gif"


When you see a guitarist shredding a solo with his foot up on the monitor and his guitar balanced on his leg and you know you are in the 1% of people that knows he isn't just posing, he just couldn't do the solo with his guitar slung so low standing up!


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Ben Higgins
post Aug 26 2014, 09:10 AM
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QUOTE (PosterBoy @ Aug 26 2014, 08:30 AM) *
When you see a guitarist shredding a solo with his foot up on the monitor and his guitar balanced on his leg and you know you are in the 1% of people that knows he isn't just posing, he just couldn't do the solo with his guitar slung so low standing up!


Even the mighty Satch had to sit in a chair to play that monumental middle section for 'Crushing Day' due to the high frets and stretches



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klasaine
post Aug 26 2014, 02:09 PM
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QUOTE (PosterBoy @ Aug 26 2014, 12:30 AM) *
When you see a guitarist shredding a solo with his foot up on the monitor and his guitar balanced on his leg and you know you are in the 1% of people that knows he isn't just posing, he just couldn't do the solo with his guitar slung so low standing up!


laugh.gif
Good point!


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Cosmin Lupu
post Aug 27 2014, 07:27 AM
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QUOTE (klasaine @ Aug 26 2014, 01:09 PM) *
laugh.gif
Good point!


I will always keep in mind a video lesson from Billy Sheehan, in which he speaks about keeping the same body angles when you play sitting or standing - he keeps mentioning this into a lot of vids, but here, he emphasizes on the idea a lot and explains very important things about posture:



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SirJamsalot
post Aug 27 2014, 08:07 PM
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QUOTE (PosterBoy @ Aug 26 2014, 12:30 AM) *
When you see a guitarist shredding a solo with his foot up on the monitor and his guitar balanced on his leg and you know you are in the 1% of people that knows he isn't just posing, he just couldn't do the solo with his guitar slung so low standing up!


smile.gif

Cosmin is right ~ standing up is a completely different animal!

Sitting down, you can look over and see the dots on your neck - your forearm drapes over the butt of the guitar for support, and the angle of your hand (and therefore pick) are more parallel with the strings. You can (and do) practice for hours sitting down, because you're kickin back with your bowl of chips, gaining weight and perhaps even watching your favorite t.v. show!

Everything changes when you stand up - your forearms are now perpendicular to the strings, and the only support your hand has is the palm on the strings and any fingers that touch the pick-guard - you no longer see the face of neck, and your thumb is no longer naturally in classical position - it's now in Jimi Hendrix position! You no longer have any spare elbow to tuck under the neck so that your fretting hand's little finger can reach the low E string for any frets higher than the 7th fret (unless you have paul gilbert's monkey finger). Melodic open string chord picking all of a sudden becomes challenging to avoid accidental muting from other fingers! You get tired of standing!

ahhhhhh!
if you want to perform, do yourself a favor and devote some of your practice time standing up! haha.

okay, back on topic. What was the topic again?



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Cosmin Lupu
post Aug 28 2014, 07:33 AM
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QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Aug 27 2014, 07:07 PM) *
smile.gif

Cosmin is right ~ standing up is a completely different animal!

Sitting down, you can look over and see the dots on your neck - your forearm drapes over the butt of the guitar for support, and the angle of your hand (and therefore pick) are more parallel with the strings. You can (and do) practice for hours sitting down, because you're kickin back with your bowl of chips, gaining weight and perhaps even watching your favorite t.v. show!

Everything changes when you stand up - your forearms are now perpendicular to the strings, and the only support your hand has is the palm on the strings and any fingers that touch the pick-guard - you no longer see the face of neck, and your thumb is no longer naturally in classical position - it's now in Jimi Hendrix position! You no longer have any spare elbow to tuck under the neck so that your fretting hand's little finger can reach the low E string for any frets higher than the 7th fret (unless you have paul gilbert's monkey finger). Melodic open string chord picking all of a sudden becomes challenging to avoid accidental muting from other fingers! You get tired of standing!

ahhhhhh!
if you want to perform, do yourself a favor and devote some of your practice time standing up! haha.

okay, back on topic. What was the topic again?


Hah! It is part of the topic mate - you haven't strayed tongue.gif Ben was referring at how we should practice in order to really implement techniques and ideas in our playing, not just doing it superficially and ending up baffled onstage because THAT thing didn't happen as we expected it to.

Take a few days to practice standing up for ANY gig - it's mandatory if you ask me and it will make a HUGE difference for you and your performance onstage.

Another thing which I find important - practice with your pedalboard in front of you and practice switching effects! It's an incredibly difficult task, if you don't take care of it when practicing and you will find yourself in a serious mess, if you can't focus on keeping playing smoothly and pressing your pedals or MIDI controller.

I've had the misfortune of having a short stereo cable, which I needed for my amp channel switch pedal and I had to keep my pedalboard close to the amp because of that. Well, it happen more than once or twice that I had to switch pedals and I remembered almost too late, so I had found myself running for the pedalboard as I had to toggle between going in front of the stage and then back to the pedalboard.


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Ben Higgins
post Aug 28 2014, 12:14 PM
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QUOTE (SirJamsalot @ Aug 27 2014, 08:07 PM) *
Sitting down, you can look over and see the dots on your neck - your forearm drapes over the butt of the guitar for support, and the angle of your hand (and therefore pick) are more parallel with the strings. You can (and do) practice for hours sitting down, because you're kickin back with your bowl of chips, gaining weight and perhaps even watching your favorite t.v. show!

Everything changes when you stand up - your forearms are now perpendicular to the strings, and the only support your hand has is the palm on the strings and any fingers that touch the pick-guard - you no longer see the face of neck, and your thumb is no longer naturally in classical position - it's now in Jimi Hendrix position! You no longer have any spare elbow to tuck under the neck so that your fretting hand's little finger can reach the low E string for any frets higher than the 7th fret (unless you have paul gilbert's monkey finger). Melodic open string chord picking all of a sudden becomes challenging to avoid accidental muting from other fingers! You get tired of standing!

ahhhhhh!
if you want to perform, do yourself a favor and devote some of your practice time standing up! haha.


Yes. All of this. A very good description of the physical differences that occur between the two.

How gutting is it when you think you can really nail a stretchy lick on the high frets and then you go and stand up............ rolleyes.gif


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SirJamsalot
post Aug 28 2014, 11:52 PM
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QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Aug 28 2014, 04:14 AM) *
Yes. All of this. A very good description of the physical differences that occur between the two.

How gutting is it when you think you can really nail a stretchy lick on the high frets and then you go and stand up............ rolleyes.gif


gutting - yes, I've been gutted before laugh.gif


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Cosmin Lupu
post Aug 29 2014, 07:14 AM
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QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Aug 28 2014, 11:14 AM) *
Yes. All of this. A very good description of the physical differences that occur between the two.

How gutting is it when you think you can really nail a stretchy lick on the high frets and then you go and stand up............ rolleyes.gif


There's always the option of going around it and placing your foot on the monitor- playing what you need to play and then going away at your usual place onstage to finish the business wink.gif



This post has been edited by Cosmin Lupu: Aug 29 2014, 07:14 AM


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