Number: #7 - February 2008
Guitar Guru: Troy
as more and more guitarists have achieved truly perfect technique
and speed what do you see as the future of guitar playing; as
nearly everything has been done before? John Aiton
There are so many proficient players these days. The result of
that is that technical proficiency is not longer a big deal because
it's not unusual. What's important is the music itself. Of course,
that part has always been true. The only difference now is that
technique for technique's sake is forgettable. The thing to remember
is that technique isn't an end in itself, it is only the means
to achieve the music of your imagination... How relevant and interesting
and different and creative is that? Whenever you start to think
that "everything has been done" in music, it's time
for someone to come along and reinvent things in a new way. Pay
more attention to the music and less to the "how" of
Q. Hi troy, what would you say is the best way to make
use of a weekly 2 hour practice session? I know it's not enough
to become an awesome guitarist but i don't have much time. Currently
I seem to repeat the same thing every week to get myself back
up to speed, then stop. Do you think it would be better to do
different things each week, because i assumed if i had something
like a rota of 8 different topics, by the time the first one comes
round again it will have been 2 months and i will have forgotten
it all! Hope i am making sense, thanks for your help. 5th horseman
Two hours a week isn't much practice. Maybe write down a list
of the different practice approaches you want to incorporate and
then break it into that many segments. So if you have 4 different
practice areas, work on each for 30 minutes. I wouldn't recommend
rehashing the same thing every week. Review is important, but
you should always start at least one new thing every week, even
if it's just a single new lick or exercise.
Q. First of all, thanks for all the help Troy! Second,
I've got a legato-related question: How can you play legato licks
on different strings without picking, à la Allan Holdsworth?
Whenever I try it I end up getting loads of string noise (I'm
using a decent amount of gain though) when I change strings. My
muting when going down a string has gotten better, but I still
haven't figured out how to mute when you're going up a string,
from the E to B string for example. Thanks in advance! Kailoq
You're welcome. Stopping extra string noise is a critical part
of technique. The best advice here is pretty straightforward:
Look at what string is ringing in a particular situation, and
figure out how you are going to mute it. Basically, the higher-sounding
strings above the played string are muted with the side of one
or more of your fret hand fingers. The lower-sounding string immediately
next to the played string can be muted with the side of one or
your finger tips. In other words, if you are playing the 4th string
with your index finger, you can mute strings 1-3 with the under
side of that finger and mute string 5 with the top edge of the
fingertip. To do that you have to lay your finger at an angle...
not pressing straight down from above with an arch the way you
would to allow the other strings to ring (as in classical approach),
unless of course, you want those strings to ring out.
Now to move from one string to the next without picking, you need
to execute what is called a "hammer on from nowhere."
This is pretty commonly done in descending and repeating type
licks, where you might hammer your third finger onto the next
lower-sounding string without picking it. It is much harder to
do this ascending, as this usually requires you hammer your first
finger onto the next higher-sounding string. The reason that is
harder is because we are less accustomed to hammering the first
finger. But it's only a matter of repetition to get it down. Keep
in mind that most legato playing is not ALL hammers and pulls.
Usually the first note on each string is picked, and the line
still gives a legato effect overall. In fact, hearing the different
articulations of occasional picked notes against hammers/pulls
is part of the interest. Nevertheless, if you do want to perfect
the "hammer on from nowhere" technique, and you are
getting extra string noise in the process, the solution is most
likely that when you hammer the new finger down it is not properly
muting both strings on either side of it, as I have described
above. Look carefully at how that fingertip sits on the fretboard
after you hit it and adjust it's position so it lightly touches
the strings on either side and that should take care of the problem.
Q. Dear Troy, your Speed mechanix book is an incredible
miracle, but well you have not mentioned anything about how to
use the maximum time for practicing per day. we always hear that
the virtoso guitarists practice constantly between 8 to 10 hours
everyday. well I want to learn how to practice as much as them.
but my maximum practice time can be 4 hours per day or less.
I know that those ppl have a deep love for music and self-expression.
me... I have it too but I cannot use it as a motivator, please
help me a little about this topic. Thanks. KillerKid
A miracle? Wow that's pretty good! Thanks... Certainly how to
practice effectively is tremendously important. But it's not something
that anyone can tell you in a simple answer, "Do this for
X minutes, then do that for Y minutes," because it depends
so much on you... your focus, your skillset, your goals, etc.
The real answer here is the correct application of the principles
of practice. As I see it, they are:
1. Learn what you are inspired to learn. Forcing yourself to learn
things you really don't want to, just because someone told you
that you "must" learn this or that has the hidden drawback
of gradually diminishing your motivation.
2. Make total mastery your goal. Look deeply at every nuance of
your technique and listen. If it doesn't sound right, noisy or
uneven or whatever, there is a flaw in your approach. Seek to
understand it and eliminate it. The attitude, "it's good
enough I'll just pretend it sounds good" will not get you
there. My goal for technique isn't to get it right most of the
time, or 3 times in a row, or anything like that... it is to get
it right EVERY time. It is to make the entire physical operation
for that technique or phrase so correctly engrained in my nervous/muscular
system that it is automatic.
3. Isolate the difficulty. Don't repeatedly practice the entire
song, piece, solo, lick or exercise, when you find you can play
most of it but have trouble just in one spot. Look at that spot
and figure out what it is that makes it hard. Often this may come
down to one simply motion in one hand or the other. When you understand
the trouble motion, practice it repeatedly. Build exercises that
force you to do it over and over until it troubles you no more.
4. Practice slow and build. Obviously you want to do these things
correctly and consistently. The only way to do that is to slow
down and build up gradually. However, there is another contradictory
approch to apply as well...
5. Practice overly fast and reduce. This usually relates to faster
picking mostly. The picking technique that works for playing scales
at 120bpm in sixteenths probably will not work at 180bpm. The
size of motions has to be reduced and tension eliminated. Always
starting slow and building will hit a wall at some point that
you cannot seem to break through. The answer is to get a sense
of what the high-speed technique will ultimate look and feel like
(even though you don't yet have real control), then slow THAT
technique down while maintaining the same motion. When you build
this feel up with the right control and the "speed barriers"
will disappear. Be careful with this approach, though... a little
goes a long way. Most of your time needs to be spent in the slower/moderate
ranges, or you won't gain the control and stability in your playing.
6. Be patient. Any time you get impatient that you aren't developing
quickly enough, look for some music that inspires you and get
lost in that for a while.
7. Strive for balance. You cannot maintain motivation long term
without a good balance between the different aspects... performing,
practicing, writing/recording, etc. If all you do is shred in
your bedroom, how long is your motivation going to last? Eventually
you have to put it "in gear." Form a band, write your
songs, record and perform, etc. You don't have to perfect your
technique before you start making music. Everything effects everything
and you should progress in all areas simultaneously. That's a
mistake I see a lot of people make. Performing and recording offers
tremendous opportunities to learn and refine your technique.
8. Listen. A lot of aspiring shredders seem to look more at the
fretboard than listen to what comes out of the speakers. What
happens on the fretboard is not the relevant part. The only thing
that matters is what comes out of the speakers. Put more of your
attention there. That allows the kind of self-correcting feedback
you need to progress faster.