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> Should You Change Technique ?, Big and small changes in guitar playing....
Ben Higgins
post Dec 3 2014, 04:17 PM
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When you've been slogging away at something for so long without any progress it could be a sign that you may need to make a change.

The oft used / abused Einstein quote goes something like:

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"

Whether he truly said that or not it does have truth to it. How can one expect things to change if we constantly do the same things ?

But we need to perform consistent activities in order to improve at anything so this quote could be misleading as it doesn't take into consideration the subject of learning and mastering an activity. Let's say you want to learn a new lick. You're going to practise the lick daily aren't you ? You're not going to practise that lick one day and practise something completely different the next day and changing to something else again the next day after that. To improve at anything requires us to repeat, with effort and focus, in order to get better at it.

So it helps to have a bit of context when reading such statements. But to help apply context, it would be fair to say that to improve at anything we do slightly increase the difficulty, or hone certain aspects in order to make sure that we're making forward progress.

If we literally did exactly the same thing on the guitar, same speed, same number of reps or whatever, for months or years on end... then that's not conducive to stretching our abilities. In that case, that Einstein quote could be appropriate wink.gif

So, now that we can agree that some level of repetition and consistency is essential to practise we can look at the idea of making changes to our approach or technique.

Small changes. I once was introduced to an analogy of playing golf. If you made a slight correction that could be measured in milimetres it doesn't sound so much does it ? But if you bear in mind that a club that hits a golf ball in slightly the wrong place can lead that golf ball to be yards off target, it makes sense. This is also encouraging. Often we think that we're so far away from our goal. We think we need massive adjustments. But sometimes we're literally only millimetres out. If we make that millimetre change then it can make all the difference.

Big changes. For this I think of changing your picking technique or your fretting hand position. Things which seem central to your playing style. If you've been playing a certain way for a number of years then these aspects will feel very personal to you. But sometimes we may discover that a change in an area of technique (or gear / tone) is what we need. It can be intimidating when trying out something new. It's like hesitating on the edge of a diving board. Do we jump ? What if we jump and we can't swim ? What if we get carried in a direction we don't like ?

We won't know until we jump ! (Yeah I just thought of Van Halen too - you're welcome)

Has anybody made any big changes in their playing and what were the results - positive or negative ? What about minor changes that made a big difference ? Has anybody been thinking about making a change to some aspect of their guitar playing but is on the fence about it ?


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JamesT
post Dec 4 2014, 06:07 AM
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When I started GMC, and this was at least five years ago now, I decided to change the way I hold the pick. I used to hold it between my thumb and index finger with both fingerprints holding the pick. But when I looked at the way many of the instructors here held the pick, with index finger bent underneath the thumb (probably the more conventional way), I decided that this method would lend itself to the more aggressive picking style I was after. I also imagined that I could more readily increase speed this way.

It was definitely a drastic change as I couldn't immediately do anything at all with the new grip. But after a month or so, it began to feel more natural. This change though really effected my rhythm playing abilities, particularly on acoustic guitar, where I once had developed a pretty smooth nice sounding style, I basically lost that ability. And since my new focus was on picking and picking faster, I spent very little time during the next few years developing my acoustic rhythm guitar playing with the new pick holding method. So that aspect of my technique is much worse for it. On the bright side though, the new more conventional grip does lend itself to more control and yes even for me better speed. Not to mention that if you want to get into hybrid picking at all, you basically have to hold the pick the more conventional way. So during this last five or so years, I've been able to explore many areas of playing (string skipping, hybrid picking, sweeping (barely), etc. that weren't possible with the old way. Then I noticed that Lian Gerbino (GMC instructor) holds the pick basically the same way I used to do it. And Lian definitely does well with it. So Lian's right hand is much better connected to his brain apparently than mine is biggrin.gif .

Regarding changes I want to make, I currently want to begin focusing less on technique and more on being creative. My technique might advance anyway and in the process, at least I might come up with some cool riffs or something. I think that this will actually be a BIG change for me because I've spent so much time in recent years with technique. We'll see what the future holds.


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Ben Higgins
post Dec 4 2014, 10:25 AM
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QUOTE (JamesT @ Dec 4 2014, 06:07 AM) *
When I started GMC, and this was at least five years ago now, I decided to change the way I hold the pick. I used to hold it between my thumb and index finger with both fingerprints holding the pick. But when I looked at the way many of the instructors here held the pick, with index finger bent underneath the thumb (probably the more conventional way), I decided that this method would lend itself to the more aggressive picking style I was after. I also imagined that I could more readily increase speed this way.

It was definitely a drastic change as I couldn't immediately do anything at all with the new grip. But after a month or so, it began to feel more natural. This change though really effected my rhythm playing abilities, particularly on acoustic guitar, where I once had developed a pretty smooth nice sounding style, I basically lost that ability. And since my new focus was on picking and picking faster, I spent very little time during the next few years developing my acoustic rhythm guitar playing with the new pick holding method. So that aspect of my technique is much worse for it. On the bright side though, the new more conventional grip does lend itself to more control and yes even for me better speed. Not to mention that if you want to get into hybrid picking at all, you basically have to hold the pick the more conventional way. So during this last five or so years, I've been able to explore many areas of playing (string skipping, hybrid picking, sweeping (barely), etc. that weren't possible with the old way. Then I noticed that Lian Gerbino (GMC instructor) holds the pick basically the same way I used to do it. And Lian definitely does well with it. So Lian's right hand is much better connected to his brain apparently than mine is biggrin.gif .

Regarding changes I want to make, I currently want to begin focusing less on technique and more on being creative. My technique might advance anyway and in the process, at least I might come up with some cool riffs or something. I think that this will actually be a BIG change for me because I've spent so much time in recent years with technique. We'll see what the future holds.


Thanks, James, that's some great input there. I know exactly what you mean about the pick grip thing. I had to teach myself to hold it on the side of the index finger as I think that the natural response to most of us when we start off is to grip it on the pads of our fingers and thumb. The trouble with this position is that the fingers tend to flex more when the pick hits the strings.. so the reduction in stability is a trade off. But some players do seem to make it work despite this. Lian, as you mentioned, and it even looks like Yngwie might hold it that way too.

I think that the process of writing your own riffs and solos will allow your technique to develop alongside it. Technique is a very personal thing and if we create more, then I believe our technique can work with us better than ever because we're digging into things that have come from within, rather than moulding our technique to somebody else's creations. To do the latter is necessary but to allow our technique to mould itself around our creations is more likely to lead to technique that works with you and takes into account your style of playing.

This post has been edited by Ben Higgins: Dec 4 2014, 10:26 AM


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bleez
post Dec 4 2014, 10:04 PM
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earlier in the year I changed from 'side saddle' to a classical position. That was quite a major change I think.
It was on Todd's recommendation to try it for his bootcamp stuff. My hand position was a bit too awkward and 'stretchy' for some of the exercises we were doing. I wasnt that keen at first tbh, classical position didnt feel as rock n roll tongue.gif but I started switching to classical when working on bootcamp stuff and then back to 'normal' for everything else. After a while the side saddle started to feel really weird and awkward huh.gif so I just switched totally to the classical position.... its awesome smile.gif
maybe not for everyone but its really worked out for me. I got a lot better at the alternate picking drills from todd, and more comfortable playing them.


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JamesT
post Dec 5 2014, 07:39 AM
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QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Dec 4 2014, 01:25 AM) *
I think that the process of writing your own riffs and solos will allow your technique to develop alongside it. Technique is a very personal thing and if we create more, then I believe our technique can work with us better than ever because we're digging into things that have come from within, rather than moulding our technique to somebody else's creations. To do the latter is necessary but to allow our technique to mould itself around our creations is more likely to lead to technique that works with you and takes into account your style of playing.


I agree Ben. And it is a huge change in the way one has to approach practice. Instead of picking a lick or something to work on for the night, you have to kind of get your mind to imagine or hear something. It's a totally different thing. But I do remember the days when I was just starting with playing leads. I would play two notes that sounded good together (over and over) , then pick a third (playing them over and over) , then a fourth and so on until I had a phrase. I used to spend a lot of time just inventing phrases. This was before I had ever had any instruction. I built up quite a vocabulary before I realized I wasn't able to play in any particular key. That's when I realized I had to do some study from the theory side. But the process back then was very creative. I'm hoping to apply the same thinking to rhythm and riffs now. Except now that I've got some knowledge of theory, scales, harmony, etc. it might even be easier to get creative (don't know yet though). Anyway, tonight's practice was just a little more in that direction. Sure I spent some time warming up, but then after that, I went back to some stuff I used to hear in my head and tried to "grow" it if only a little bit. I plan to take the same ideas tomorrow and expand on them, again just a little. Hopefully, with time, I'll build up a similar vocabulary of interesting riffs & rhythms and start to link them together in interesting ways to as if to write songs or something.


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Ben Higgins
post Dec 5 2014, 10:15 AM
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QUOTE (bleez @ Dec 4 2014, 10:04 PM) *
earlier in the year I changed from 'side saddle' to a classical position. That was quite a major change I think.
It was on Todd's recommendation to try it for his bootcamp stuff. My hand position was a bit too awkward and 'stretchy' for some of the exercises we were doing. I wasnt that keen at first tbh, classical position didnt feel as rock n roll tongue.gif but I started switching to classical when working on bootcamp stuff and then back to 'normal' for everything else. After a while the side saddle started to feel really weird and awkward huh.gif so I just switched totally to the classical position.... its awesome smile.gif
maybe not for everyone but its really worked out for me. I got a lot better at the alternate picking drills from todd, and more comfortable playing them.


That's great to hear ! I still use side saddle but I might occasionally go classical.. it depends if I can be bothered to move the little pile of books that I use as a foot rest into position tongue.gif



QUOTE (JamesT @ Dec 5 2014, 07:39 AM) *
I would play two notes that sounded good together (over and over) , then pick a third (playing them over and over) , then a fourth and so on until I had a phrase. I used to spend a lot of time just inventing phrases.


Yes, that's it. When you say this stuff to a student they kind of look at you with a blank expression but this is what it takes to start composing. At first, you keep it real simple and you just add one note at a time, trying out different notes and deciding what you like best. This is the kind of stuff that students will bend over backwards to avoid doing but it really is that simple.

Playing guitar involves a lot of making decisions - and other people can't make the decisions for you. So NO, there are no exercises to help you be better at improvising or writing solos.. you have to start putting notes together and making your own decisions. smile.gif


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