Such A Thing As 'Bad Habits' For Playing Guitar?

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AlexCAlexC Frets: 340
edited September 11 in Theory
Bought a guitar recently from an independent shop. The guy that ran the place makes most of his money from teaching - he had a kid playing Apache in there while I was browsing. Anyway, we got to talking (obviously) and he said a couple of things I'm stil scratching my head over but couldn't be arsed picking him up on, but one in particular...
I told him I was mostly self taught (as in never paid for or been to formal lessons) and he said the 'trouble with that is you develop bad habits.' 
Eh? I' ve been playing and gigging for 37 years and I'm not bothered by criticism but what exactly is a bad habit? I get that trained classical players are taught how to sit, which finger hits which note etc, but surely part of the pleasure of rock and pop and everything inbetween is everyone develops their own style. It's the sound you produce not how you go about achieving it IMO. So what is a bad habit? Am I missing something? Do you agree with this guy, or think all is fair in self expression?
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  • IMO the only thing that needs to be corrected post-haste would be things which cause pain (or will end up doing so - like really crooked wrists). On the other hand, informing a beginner that never using their pinky might limit them in the long run is not quite as mandatory, but I'm sure would be appreciated...
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  • bbill335bbill335 Frets: 445
    I guess things like holding a pick wrong constitutes a bad habit. I use the round edge to soften the attack but I have a hard time using a pick "properly".

    It irks me when I see players holding a pick with a closed hand/fist. It looks really amateurish and, as said above, it can't help with having a loose, comfortable wrist.
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  • stratman3142stratman3142 Frets: 539
    edited August 14
    IMO the only thing that needs to be corrected post-haste would be things which cause pain (or will end up doing so - like really crooked wrists). On the other hand, informing a beginner that never using their pinky might limit them in the long run is not quite as mandatory, but I'm sure would be appreciated...
    Good answer that deserves a Wis.

    A teacher might offer pointers to smooth the way and give a player ideas to try, but I'd be very wary of anyone that's too dogmatic about 'right and wrong'.

    My youngest daughter briefly studied rock and pop music at college and recently told me that a teacher actually told her not to rest her pinky on the guitar body, which she occasionally does during picking. If I'd heard it at the time I would have told her to ask the teacher to check out players like John Petrucci, Alex Hutchings,.... Even Guthrie Govan rests his pinkie occasionally.

    This could be a good game. For each supposedly 'bad habit' that's suggested, try to find a great player that does it. Here's one.

    bbill335 said:

    It irks me when I see players holding a pick with a closed hand/fist. It looks really amateurish and, as said above, it can't help with having a loose, comfortable wrist.

    Tell that to Frank Gambale:


    It's not a competition
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  • AlexCAlexC Frets: 340
    'Dogmatic' is a good word here. This teacher also explained to me that he gets all his pupils to master the Iron Maiden Gallup. Which is great if you want to play Maiden, but I can't see that it's extremely useful if your hero is Muddy Waters or Django Rheinhardt. I know we all practice and noodle around in styles that we might not actually use in public, but I just got the impression his approach might put more aspiring players off than it benefits. The kid I saw him with was also playing an unamplified electric - which I also don't get (yes, I know we all do it at home) because a large part of electric playing is about controlling tone and volume and sustain, etc is it not?
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  • vizviz Frets: 4202
    IMO the only thing that needs to be corrected post-haste would be things which cause pain (or will end up doing so - like really crooked wrists). On the other hand, informing a beginner that never using their pinky might limit them in the long run is not quite as mandatory, but I'm sure would be appreciated...
    Good answer that deserves a Wis.

    A teacher might offer pointers to smooth the way and give a player ideas to try, but I'd be very wary of anyone that's too dogmatic about 'right and wrong'.

    My youngest daughter briefly studied rock and pop music at college and recently told me that a teacher actually told her not to rest her pinky on the guitar body, which she occasionally does during picking. If I'd heard it at the time I would have told her to ask the teacher to check out players like John Petrucci, Alex Hutchings,.... Even Guthrie Govan rests his pinkie occasionally.

    This could be a good game. For each supposedly 'bad habit' that's suggested, try to find a great player that does it.
    Good game! Here's one: thumb over. 
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  • stratman3142stratman3142 Frets: 539
    edited August 14
    viz said:
    This could be a good game. For each supposedly 'bad habit' that's suggested, try to find a great player that does it.
    Good game! Here's one: thumb over. 
    Too easy. Mr Gambale's doing it in the clip I posted earlier. It would be a harder challenge to find a rock/blues player that never does it .
    It's not a competition
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 1261
    It's easy to view something as a bad habit if it doesn't fit with a particular style of playing, when in reality it's only an inhibitor to that style. Thumb over is an old debate. Strumming hand open or closed is similar. Even bending without supporting fingers has its place, as long as it's done by exception rather than always.
    AlexC said:
    Do you agree with this guy, or think all is fair in self expression?
    I agree in relation to doing things which will lead to injury, and also where the student needs to be aware that certain styles require you to play in particular ways.
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  • bbill335bbill335 Frets: 445



    bbill335 said:

    It irks me when I see players holding a pick with a closed hand/fist. It looks really amateurish and, as said above, it can't help with having a loose, comfortable wrist.

    Tell that to Frank Gambale:


    It *LOOKS* amateurish, that doesn't mean I think it is!
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  • Bad habits can include fretting notes too hard so they go sharp, bad posture, not using the most efficient fingering to play scales maybe. Not striking/muting all strings when strumming chords perhaps. But I guess that's more not learning to strum correctly and tecnnique.
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  • AlexCAlexC Frets: 340
    Some interesting points being made. Obviously there's a difference between being able to play a guitar (or any instrument) and just being cack-handed and making a racket.
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  • HoofHoof Frets: 321
    Not using a particular finger (usually pinky)
    Wrapping the thumb over the fretboard edge (although not always an accidental/poor technique)
    Fretting too hard and pulling notes sharp
    Misusing 3rds when playing barre chords
    Poor string muting technique or none at all.
    Poor picking accuracy 
    Bad timing to the point where it alters the feel of the rhythm
    Wearing a guitar at a fashionably low/high pont on the strap to the point where it worsens playing or even causes physical harm to the player. 

    The flipside is that sometimes less than perfect playing techniques/lack of discipline are the things that result on a player's unique sound but those that are truly good have a style that comes from excelling at one element rather than lacking in another.
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  • SporkySporky Frets: 10775

    My youngest daughter briefly studied rock and pop music at college and recently told me that a teacher actually told her not to rest her pinky on the guitar body, which she occasionally does during picking. If I'd heard it at the time I would have told her to ask the teacher to check out players like John Petrucci, Alex Hutchings,.... Even Guthrie Govan rests his pinkie occasionally.
    Might they be even better if they didn't have that habit?
    Ich bin ein Hamburgler.
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  • stratman3142stratman3142 Frets: 539
    edited August 14
    Sporky said:

    My youngest daughter briefly studied rock and pop music at college and recently told me that a teacher actually told her not to rest her pinky on the guitar body, which she occasionally does during picking. If I'd heard it at the time I would have told her to ask the teacher to check out players like John Petrucci, Alex Hutchings,.... Even Guthrie Govan rests his pinkie occasionally.
    Might they be even better if they didn't have that habit?
    Nothing is certain in life but I'm pretty confident that the answer to that is no.  I think whether or not you rest fingers on the guitar body isn't the key point, provided things are relaxed and you can execute the lines you want to with a decent tone from your picking.

    Oh I lightly rest my pinky as well, so maybe I'm biased .
     
    It's not a competition
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  • BellycasterBellycaster Frets: 1988
    Hoof said:

    Wrapping the thumb over the fretboard edge (although not always an accidental/poor technique)


    Don't know why you put that in then? Funk players and Blues Players use this for good reason.
    2 + 2 = 5
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  • stratman3142stratman3142 Frets: 539
    edited August 15
    When I read the original post I was thinking in terms of the 'bigger picture things' (for want of a better expression). Maybe @AlexC was thinking the same, although I wouldn't want to speak on his behalf. It also rekindled some of the anger that I have felt about things I've been told by 'so called experts' (and stupidly taken seriously for a while) that actually held me back.

    As others (such as @Lestracaster and @Hoof) have correctly pointed out on this thread, in addition to things that might cause physical/pain problems, there are clearly other things that need correcting  (e.g. fretting too hard, too light, poor muting etc). So I agree that there are some beginner things (that didn't initially occur to me) that need correcting. I think an absolutely dedicated learner would eventually figure those things out, but a teacher would certainly speed things along.

    Going into old git mode, it occurs to me that, when I started playing over 48 years ago, there weren't the teachers around to teach the stuff I wanted to learn, so players like me would eventually get there by obsessively practising for hours and hours a day until they found a way. Things are different now and there's much better information available. But I still think that players need to find their own way to a certain extent and determine what works for them in what they want to do, being wary of those that try to impose their own view of a "correct way".

    Perhaps we need a better definition of what is mean by a bad habit in the context of this thread, as we might be talking at cross purposes. But it's fun debating these things.

    @Hoof: Regarding your first two points
    I use all four fingers, but watching clips of players such as Gary Moore and Slash (that I highly respect) they seem very effective in the style of music that they play, whilst mainly using just three fingers. So, if it allows someone to play the music they want to, I guess it's OK for them. It may even help them with their specific style.
    I agree that 'thumb behind' is often needed for such things as full chords and big fret spans. But I don't think that 'thumb over' is bad. I find it makes my left hand feel more relaxed for some things and isn't it necessary for string bending? Maybe I misunderstood your point.


    An afterthought:
    Here's a personal example. I'm left handed, but play right handed. This is probably why my biggest challenge is right hand technique. I have to work at it and practice regularly, even to maintain what I've got. I continue to study right hand technique and experiment with different approaches. I've really tried to analyse what players do regarding right hand picking, because I find it so hard. I've heard a lot of views on the supposedly right and wrong way over the years, of which some was genuinely bad advice for me (but might work for others). It's obviously led me to Troy Grady. What I really really like about him is that he objectively presents information on players and offers potential solutions, without being judgemental or dogmatic. It's remarkable how many different players' approaches he presents that are highly effective. There's more than one way to skin a cat.
    It's not a competition
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  • AlexCAlexC Frets: 340
    Thanks @stratman3142 You have articulated exactly my point - it is the bigger picture. I learnt in the 80s. Picking up tips and tricks from people I knew and books and practice, practice, practice!
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  • HoofHoof Frets: 321
    edited August 15
    Hoof said:

    Wrapping the thumb over the fretboard edge (although not always an accidental/poor technique)


    Don't know why you put that in then? Funk players and Blues Players use this for good reason.
    Because it's misuse is as a result of poor technique or bad habits. While it's handy for funk rhythm,  it certainly wouldn't help with metal lead most of the time, but that doesn't stop some players from doing it. 
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  • DulcetJonesDulcetJones Frets: 336
    "If it sounds right, it is right" could be changed to "if it feels right, it is right" here I think.  I'm coming in on both sides,  a self taught player and a guitar teacher.    I know I do have what some would call bad habits, but I've seen enough  amazing players using what some would call bad habits.  The only things I call out students for  are things could lead to health issues, like playing with all downstrokes etc...

    Whoever called it "rush hour" should not be allowed to name anything else.

    Dulcet Jones Creepy Music Blog http://dulcetjones.blogspot.com/

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  • HoofHoof Frets: 321
    DulcetJones said:
    "If it sounds right, it is right" could be changed to "if it feels right, it is right" here I think.  I'm coming in on both sides,  a self taught player and a guitar teacher.    I know I do have what some would call bad habits, but I've seen enough  amazing players using what some would call bad habits.  The only things I call out students for  are things could lead to health issues, like playing with all downstrokes etc...

    But if Johnny Ramone's teacher had 'fixed' that then an entire genre may have never existed. 

    Perhaps the advice is "If you wannna play great, perfect your technique. If you wanna be great, do what whatever works for you".
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  • BellycasterBellycaster Frets: 1988
    Hoof said:
    Hoof said:

    Wrapping the thumb over the fretboard edge (although not always an accidental/poor technique)


    Don't know why you put that in then? Funk players and Blues Players use this for good reason.
    Because it's misuse is as a result of poor technique or bad habits. While it's handy for funk rhythm,  it certainly wouldn't help with metal lead most of the time, but that doesn't stop some players from doing it. 
    Ahh, yeah, I see what you mean there.
    2 + 2 = 5
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  • TheBlueWolfTheBlueWolf Frets: 1439
    Posture is my bad habit, and nemesis, when playing. If I don't sit or stand correctly when playing my left arm/shoulder hurts like hell. In fact I had to stop playing for a couple of months at the start of the year.

    I forget to relax too and usually end up hunched over the guitar when learning new stuff. That gets painful too :(
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  • StuckfastStuckfast Frets: 120
    When you're recording other musicians you sometimes run into technical faults that they're obviously not aware of, which make it hard or impossible to get a good recorded sound. One of the most common is fretting too hard and sending the guitar out of tune on some chords, or playing too hard with the right hand.
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  • Stuckfast said:
    When you're recording other musicians you sometimes run into technical faults that they're obviously not aware of, which make it hard or impossible to get a good recorded sound. One of the most common is fretting too hard and sending the guitar out of tune on some chords, or playing too hard with the right hand.
    Yeah I get this sometimes, I've had to adjust my playing and tell myself I'm not playing live so I shouldn't hit so hard in the studio! Also just relaxing and playing "in the pocket" is my weakness, seem to rush parts a bit or lag just behind the beat.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 25744
    The only really bad habit I can think of is not listening properly to what you're playing. I'm sure we all have little things we do mechanically without really listening to what we're doing - I know I do, although I try not to. If you listen properly then a lot of the other bad habits - tuning, timing, overpicking, etc - should be obvious and get corrected.

    One of the things that most struck me in the video of Mark Knopfler playing and talking about guitars that someone posted here a while back, is that he really concentrates on listening to what he's playing.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • bbill335bbill335 Frets: 445
    I heard that playing songs and not skills is a bad habit!
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  • DanjiDanji Frets: 208
    edited September 10
    Out of all of my years playing I come to the conclusion there isn't really any right or wrong.  As someone has said before on here there are some ways of doing things that shortcut and help, but fuck it, it's not a sport. 

    When I think of a lot of my favourite musicians I think about their quirks or limitations that have defined their style.  Metheny looks like he shouldn't be able to play a single note (if you turned the sound down), likewise for Monk, Miles Davis cracked more notes that he played, and Ian Brown is rarely if ever is in the same key as the band, (but he's always been my favourite singer). 
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  • GrunfeldGrunfeld Frets: 2054
    For years I thought I had to use my small finger because it was inefficient not to.  It always felt awkward and always felt difficult but I thought if just kept at it another decade maybe it would be okay.  I wanted to do the "right" thing.
    Then one day I noticed that my favourite player hardly ever bothered with his small finger.  And at that point I stopped trying to practise "right" and got on with playing the way the felt easiest for me. 
    So like @WilliamAyerst mentioned, the only bad habit is one that's painful.
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  • paul_c2paul_c2 Frets: 399
    I don't think earmarking a bad habit then finding a player who breaks the rule is especially relevant, or helpful. If a teacher finds and corrects a bad habit, then 90/100 of his pupils are better players because of it, 9 are unaffected and one missed out on some new genre or sound or trademark technique/niche, I'm not sure it shows the correction to be wrong.

    Also it can be more subtle than simply having "bad habits" which are corrected. Formal lessons from a teacher can enable learning to be properly directed and time efficient - so while the self-taught may arrive at a level of proficiency after say 1 year or 10 years or whatever, the teacher-taught may achieve that level much sooner (and in the same timeframe, have moved on to more/other things). Also one would hope the teacher-taught would not have gaps in knowledge, where a self-taught might (and these might/might not restrict them now or later).

    Of course a LOT depends on the aptitude, and the attitude of the pupil themselves - unless very intensive, then the vast majority of the time will be practising oneself. And a lot also depends on how good the teacher is, too. I believe (only a hunch) that there's more 'variance' with guitar teachers than more classical instruments eg piano, violin etc
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  • paul_c2 said:
    I don't think earmarking a bad habit then finding a player who breaks the rule is especially relevant, or helpful. If a teacher finds and corrects a bad habit...
    I think it's highly relevant. Who's to say the 'so called' teacher is correct. I've been given and read some absolute bollocks advice in my 48 years of playing guitar. Things that have held me back because I was stupid and naive enough to believe it at the time.
    It's not a competition
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  • AlexCAlexC Frets: 340
    @stratman3142 Hear, hear! Agree with you wholeheartedly.
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