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> Don't Rush To The Metronome
Ben Higgins
post Nov 1 2014, 10:44 AM
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When we're working on a new lick we're always encouraged to start practising it with a metronome. But let's look at exactly why we need to practise it with a metronome and what we may or may not be getting from it.

I'll start with a potentially unpopular statement and go from there.

I don't think metronomes improve technique.

There, I said it. But there's an addendum to that.

I don't think metronomes improve technique. What they do is help develop stamina.... and timing. Now those two attributes are essential to have but are they actually the technique itself ? I would say no.

The execution of a technique is a separate issue. When you take a lick you have to use your developed motor functions to play it. You may need to figure out the best pick strokes to use, you may need to figure out whether an angled fret hand position or classical position enables you to play the lick easiest. You may want to focus on what actually gives the best tone. (I find that when players focus solely on efficiency of technique they may be sacrificing tone as the pick might not be meeting the string at the optimum point or the hand may not be covering the strings as to offer the strongest, clearest tone.)

You also need to spend time judging the level of clarity you're achieving with the lick too. Do you need to make any physical adjustments to stop any strings ringing or is it just a case of co-ordination ?

All these things are factors which need to be considered and, preferably, addressed before you hurl yourself into the deep end and try to swim. Ready, steady, go !

Now imagine an inexperienced player has learned a new lick and has not been made aware of all those issues I just mentioned and the first thing he or she does is set up the tick-tock and just start hammering away. Even if they somehow manage to increase their speed over time they may wonder why they just don't.... sound right. Well, looking at technique, stamina and timing as separate issues we could surmise that they've probably increased their relative stamina and, possibly, timing (although that's not always a given, despite the metronome) but in terms of technique, they're executing it poorly and when you take away the bmp numbers you're left with an under developed and poorly understood technique.

This is something we don't want to see, as teachers and as fellow players so I think it's important we remind ourselves and each other that, although metronomes are very useful to develop timing and stamina attributes, we shouldn't rush to them before we've really gotten comfortable with the technique and all the physical and tonal considerations that comes with it.

We should be comfortable with playing with metronomes but we should also be just as comfortable playing without one. Look at it like this, it's a bit like having stabilisers on a bike. If you take the metronome away would your technique still hold up or would it fall apart ? The ideal answer is 'It holds up'.

That's because technique doesn't only exist within the context of a metronome, it exists all the time. Regardless of tempo or timing, technique just is. So take care of technique first and don't rush to the metronome.. it'll still be there waiting for you when you're ready !


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Hexabuzz
post Nov 1 2014, 01:30 PM
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Ben,

Great comments!

I have to say that sometimes we're too quick to just jump in mechanically, plodding through a lick or exercise, and losing sight of the "forest for the trees" of everything else that's happening besides just playing the notes to a click...

It reminds me of how I like to train people at work when learning a new job or skill... It seems like everyone is quick to get out a pen and notebook, and start writing down the tasks I'm showing them, all while not really paying attention to what they're actually doing... They've got their head down, writing away, and not really paying attention to what they're trying to learn...

I like to reassure them that there will be plenty of time later to make and take notes, but when first familiarizing themselves with what they're doing, to just take the time and get the feel of the overall experience, and in a short time, when it's time to make those notes and repeat the task, it will at least be familiar...

Make sense?

Thanks again for the great post!!!

David
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klasaine
post Nov 1 2014, 06:52 PM
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The metronome, when used properly, can allow you to improve your accuracy. Speed is a by-product of that accuracy.
Once you have the 'technique' relatively under your fingers as you push the tempo the metronome reveals where your deficiencies lie. And we all have deficiencies. Timing issues, position shifts, fingerings, etc.

This post has been edited by klasaine: Nov 1 2014, 08:48 PM


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Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 1 2014, 08:09 PM
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Great points Ben smile.gif One that has been used to be aware of what he is doing usually, will see fit that he first understands what he has to do. But most folks want to get straight at the job without understanding the processes behind the technique they are trying to learn very thoroughly or at all sometimes. But hey, I remember myself doing the same smile.gif Wisely added thoughts from Ken as well smile.gif


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Ben Higgins
post Nov 1 2014, 09:22 PM
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Great input from everyone... as always, we may see different things to each other.

The metronome most definitely does show up the holes in our technique. Once we know what they are we can work, with or without the 'nome, to improve them.


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Rileyandrew29
post Nov 1 2014, 09:44 PM
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Excellent post Ben. And by jove you're right smile.gif

Over the past three weeks I've been trying to get a very fast lick up to speed with the metronome.
I was pushing and pushing to get it faster, playing it over and over every day, but I didn't improve much at all.

Then earlier today I looked at my technique. I looked at my fretting hand first, and realized I could play it much faster if i only used my fretting (left) hand, ie didn't pick strings at all with my right hand. So my picking might of been the issue.
Or the coordination of my two hands!

I focused on keeping my right hand fingers, (holding the pick) more rigid, because Gabriel had pointed this out in a previous rec video i posted. Commenting on my loose thumb as bad technique.

And guess what.....I played nearly twice the speed. It sounds cleaner/smoother and feels much easier to play.
A true breakthrough!!


Andy

This post has been edited by Rileyandrew29: Nov 1 2014, 10:52 PM
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Ben Higgins
post Nov 2 2014, 09:24 AM
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QUOTE (Rileyandrew29 @ Nov 1 2014, 09:44 PM) *
Excellent post Ben. And by jove you're right smile.gif

Over the past three weeks I've been trying to get a very fast lick up to speed with the metronome.
I was pushing and pushing to get it faster, playing it over and over every day, but I didn't improve much at all.

Then earlier today I looked at my technique. I looked at my fretting hand first, and realized I could play it much faster if i only used my fretting (left) hand, ie didn't pick strings at all with my right hand. So my picking might of been the issue.
Or the coordination of my two hands!

I focused on keeping my right hand fingers, (holding the pick) more rigid, because Gabriel had pointed this out in a previous rec video i posted. Commenting on my loose thumb as bad technique.

And guess what.....I played nearly twice the speed. It sounds cleaner/smoother and feels much easier to play.
A true breakthrough!!


Andy


That's brilliant news... there's nothing better than a technique breakthrough !! smile.gif


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Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 2 2014, 10:01 AM
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QUOTE (Rileyandrew29 @ Nov 1 2014, 08:44 PM) *
Excellent post Ben. And by jove you're right smile.gif

Over the past three weeks I've been trying to get a very fast lick up to speed with the metronome.
I was pushing and pushing to get it faster, playing it over and over every day, but I didn't improve much at all.

Then earlier today I looked at my technique. I looked at my fretting hand first, and realized I could play it much faster if i only used my fretting (left) hand, ie didn't pick strings at all with my right hand. So my picking might of been the issue.
Or the coordination of my two hands!

I focused on keeping my right hand fingers, (holding the pick) more rigid, because Gabriel had pointed this out in a previous rec video i posted. Commenting on my loose thumb as bad technique.

And guess what.....I played nearly twice the speed. It sounds cleaner/smoother and feels much easier to play.
A true breakthrough!!


Andy


Once again, your breakthrough shows that paying attention to the little things is always recommended - things that might not seem so important:

- how do you hold your pick
- your picking angle
- do you pick each and every note?
- the picking movement cycle - alternate, economic, just some accents?

One other thing would be - maybe you should also try to see how you cann get to the same speed using more techniques, such as strict alternate picking, for instance - see how far you can get with this one and what details are there to take into consideration smile.gif In this way, you will also learn about yourself, in terms of understanding which technique(s) come(s) more natural to you and you should definitely put time in that one, in order to get the most out of it smile.gif


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Rileyandrew29
post Nov 2 2014, 05:06 PM
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Thats a great idea Cosmin! Think i will give that a try wink.gif

And thanks for your comment Ben

Andy
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Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 3 2014, 08:41 AM
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Glad to know we could help wink.gif

Just take the time to understand what you have to do in the first place and then things will click a lot faster than you think smile.gif Understanding your natural abilities and inclinations towards a technique, could make a very big difference in your musical development - know your strengths and use them wisely. This Steve Vai video can tell a lot about the idea - around 01:17 wink.gif



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klasaine
post Nov 3 2014, 09:57 PM
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QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Nov 3 2014, 12:41 AM) *
Glad to know we could help wink.gif

Just take the time to understand what you have to do in the first place and then things will click a lot faster than you think smile.gif Understanding your natural abilities and inclinations towards a technique, could make a very big difference in your musical development - know your strengths and use them wisely. This Steve Vai video can tell a lot about the idea - around 01:17 wink.gif



Really, really important to put this into context ...

Steve Vai 1) has very few 'weaknesses' and 2) is one of those guys that will practice 10 hours a day (no lie) for days and weeks at a time and he has done that since he was a little kid.

When he says focus on your strengths and don't worry about your weaknesses what he means is that if you have a propensity for speed or really weird intervallic jumps and shifts - work on that. Conversely, if you don't dig country or jazz (or whatever style) - don't worry about playing those things.


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Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 4 2014, 06:17 PM
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Very good additional comments here from Ken!

smile.gif Steve's words are true but they should be regarded as guidelines, but one thing is for certain - practice what you like and you will play with a good energy and put those 10 hours into that, if you have them and if you are willing to spend them like that. If you will try to practice something just because you've heard that some guys have and that made them cool and full of knowledge, chances are you might end up burnt out, because certain styles are not appealing and instead of enjoying your practice time, you will begin to resent it.


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klasaine
post Nov 4 2014, 06:27 PM
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Absolutely!
And it also depends on what you want to do as a guitar player/musician - ?

Steve Vai wanted to be 'solo' artist. It's what he wanted. That means writing, arranging, being the lead instrument, defining a sound, style and personal 'tone' on his instrument, being a leader, etc. If that's what you want to do you better love it and yeah, that's what you focus on ... because you love it!

But trust me, those years with Zappa, Alcatrazz and David Lee Roth (as well as plenty of other session work) forced him to do things, yes *focus on things* (at least momentarily), that probably weren't his 'strengths'. Those years with those artists are also part of Steve Vai today.
He's also a really good business man (the Zappa era probably taught him that).

Besides knowing and focusing on what you want, you have to know (and hopefully focus on) what you 'need' too ... in order to be who you want to be on the guitar.

This post has been edited by klasaine: Nov 4 2014, 06:51 PM


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Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 4 2014, 07:24 PM
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Why not state what we want to be as musicians? smile.gif Maybe it's a good start for everyone to figure out what they want from themselves as musicians:

I will start out like this:

I want to keeep growing into a good song writer/guitar player/singer that is able to put his own work into practice in the studio and onstage, express his message clearly towards the listeners.

My current abilities are:

- I think I have a good melodic and rhythmic sense
- I can sing
- I can sing and play the guitar in the same time
- I can be expressive
- I think I have a pretty good ear

My favorite techniques:

- bending, vibrato
- riffing
- legato
- chordal play

What are yours?


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Ben Higgins
post Nov 5 2014, 10:00 AM
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QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Nov 4 2014, 07:24 PM) *
Why not state what we want to be as musicians? smile.gif Maybe it's a good start for everyone to figure out what they want from themselves as musicians:

I will start out like this:

I want to keeep growing into a good song writer/guitar player/singer that is able to put his own work into practice in the studio and onstage, express his message clearly towards the listeners.

My current abilities are:

- I think I have a good melodic and rhythmic sense
- I can sing
- I can sing and play the guitar in the same time
- I can be expressive
- I think I have a pretty good ear

My favorite techniques:

- bending, vibrato
- riffing
- legato
- chordal play

What are yours?


That's quite a deep question C-Maestro smile.gif Quite tough to answer.. but rather than think too long about it I'll say whatever comes first to mind:

I just want to be able to choose great notes and craft songs and melodies that are pleasing to me and, hopefully, other people. I try to be congruent with the tone of the song and try to choose sounds that reflect the topic well.

I'd like to continue to hone my overall technique and pick up new licks along the way.

In terms of strengths or whatever I'd say that my forte is in how I put everything together. Technically speaking I'm not anything special.. if you put me against loads of other Youtube bedroom shredders they've probably got cleaner technique or greater speed than me but I like to think I transcend the physicality of guitar and instead concentrate my energy on sound and how it makes me, and the listener, feel.




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Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 6 2014, 08:28 AM
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Tough indeed, but I thought it would be a starting point that would nudge some folks to try and see what they REALLY like and where they would like to go with music and playing. Well, it's tougher indeed when you don't have that much experience yet, but some of the guys here have already gone by their 6th-7th year of playing and they may have a slight contour on what they like best and on what they're feeling about themselves and their musical personality.

I met a 17 year old kid yesterday that plays guitar like a monster for his age - he likes pretty much everything and he is a bit lost for direction - 'I can play, but now what?' So I sat a bit with him trying to tell him how to channel his forces and energy into recording and writing music, because he already has the chops and the touch and he is very, very expressive for his age. I was happy to see and hear him play nevertheless smile.gif Anyway, it's a journey that takes everyone on different roads..

This post has been edited by Cosmin Lupu: Nov 6 2014, 08:29 AM


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Ben Higgins
post Nov 6 2014, 11:34 AM
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QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Nov 6 2014, 08:28 AM) *
Tough indeed, but I thought it would be a starting point that would nudge some folks to try and see what they REALLY like and where they would like to go with music and playing.


It's a great question. We often go through the motions without asking what we want from a situation. Sometimes, when we really ask ourselves we end up discovering that what we really want out of a situation is different from what we originally started it for.


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klasaine
post Nov 6 2014, 04:18 PM
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In a very realistic kind of way, I still don't know for sure. That's what keeps me searching ... and I LOVE the search!


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Cosmin Lupu
post Nov 7 2014, 09:39 AM
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QUOTE (klasaine @ Nov 6 2014, 03:18 PM) *
In a very realistic kind of way, I still don't know for sure. That's what keeps me searching ... and I LOVE the search!


It is indeed a search that goes on for all one's life, but it's great to have a direction - for instance, you knew you would like to be a session musician, correct?


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klasaine
post Nov 7 2014, 05:50 PM
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QUOTE (Cosmin Lupu @ Nov 7 2014, 01:39 AM) *
It is indeed a search that goes on for all one's life, but it's great to have a direction - for instance, you knew you would like to be a session musician, correct?


Not exactly.
Like many (or most even) I wanted to be as big as the Beatles, Led Zeppelin or Miles Davis but the hard reality is that I can barely write a f'ng song to save my life and I'm a miserable singer so ...
I loved music and I love to play music. I had to take a long, hard look at myself to find out what were my strengths(?).
The fact that I honestly liked a lot of different music equally (and that I was a decent music reader) led me to the freelance and session work thing. My 'direction' is, in a sense, purposeful in-direction.
The things that didn't come so naturally were:
Tone production
Ability to arrange parts quickly and
Speedy, clean technique (still a struggle).
So I actually do have to work on some things that don't come naturally in order to work. It's OK. Life's not a 24 hour party.

This post has been edited by klasaine: Nov 7 2014, 06:08 PM


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