How Good is Your Technique?

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Old_SwannerOld_Swanner Frets: 20
edited May 2017 in Technique
This one's set the cat amongst the pigeons a few times over the years ... A favourite test of mine, and the subject of my latest blog post.



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  • sweepysweepy Frets: 3301
    It's akin to saying that you can type at 60wpm, does it mean you can play a guitar ? of course not 
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  • DanjiDanji Frets: 224
    sweepy said:
    It's akin to saying that you can type at 60wpm, does it mean you can play a guitar ? of course not 
    I agree, to take that analogy further, anyone can learn to type fast, but isn't writing the book/article/thought more important, something that transcends the physical? 
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  • vizviz Frets: 6509
    edited April 2017
    I don't quite understand. I mean it's a truism that when your practice regime stops driving progress, it ceases to be an effective regime for driving progress; I think most people realise when they reach a plateau, as they don't continue to get any better. Do you have any further insights for what different approaches to take once this becomes apparent? Cheers. 
    Misogyny ... enforces sexism by punishing those who reject an inferior status for women and rewarding those who accept it. - Guitartango
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  • sweepy said:
    It's akin to saying that you can type at 60wpm, does it mean you can play a guitar ? of course not 
    ??  Don't follow, sorry.
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  • Danji said:

    I agree, to take that analogy further, anyone can learn to type fast, but isn't writing the book/article/thought more important, something that transcends the physical? 
    I don't consider this anything to do with musical choices/taste (fast v slow playing which is better debate). it's purely a technical test.

    Writing isn't the best analogy as there's no time constraint involved.
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  • viz said:
     I think most people realise when they reach a plateau, as they don't continue to get any better.
    I wouldn't necessarily agree on that, human nature intervenes all too often IMO.  If we measure, there's no debate about it, just facts.

    viz said:
    Do you have any further insights for what different approaches to take once this becomes apparent?
    Yes, and nothing too off the wall.  Work to increase left hand finger strength and independence, and/or build strength and control in relevant picking muscles.  How to do this is also debated, so I don't think there's any set method that will work for everyone.  If you're measuring though, you'll be able to see what works for you, and just as importantly, what doesn't work!
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  • DanjiDanji Frets: 224

    Writing isn't the best analogy as there's no time constraint involved.
    Not in the literal sense, but there's syntax, grammar, and narrative in both.

    While I think technique is important, I certainly practice enough everyday. I don't equate playing a fragment of notes fast successfully as being a guitar god.

    Speed of thought, and the ability to move an idea into another idea is vastly more attractive. Technique is the vehicle to achieving that.
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  • Danji said:
    Speed of thought, and the ability to move an idea into another idea is vastly more attractive. Technique is the vehicle to achieving that.
    Exactly, so having better technique is a benefit.  As is knowing when your technique has ceased to improve, and working out how to break through that barrier.
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  • TheBlueWolfTheBlueWolf Frets: 1535
    Technique is a means to an end, not an end in itself ;)

    I understand what @sweepy meant; practicing a set amount of notes will make you great......at playing that set of notes. @Danji makes some good points too. There's a hell of a lot more to playing guitar than purely technical exercises.

    Anyway, I consider my technique to be good enough to play the music I want without too much hassle. If I'm finding something difficult I isolate the tricky parts and spend more time on them :)

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  • punchesjudypunchesjudy Frets: 385
    My technique is shite.. Thanks for asking. 
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  • sweepysweepy Frets: 3301
    edited April 2017
    You do reach a series of plateau's in your playing, this is why It's always advisable to listen to different artists and forms of music. I also can recommend very highly taking a month off playing altogether and go back to listening to music for musics sake and not " oh I wonder how you play that" you'll be surprised how many fresh ideas pop into your head
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  • Old_SwannerOld_Swanner Frets: 20
    edited April 2017
    There's a hell of a lot more to playing guitar than purely technical exercises.

    For sure, and I don't think I've claimed any different.  I'd push a little though and say there's nothing more to practising guitar than purely technical exercises.  

    One of my mantras .. "Playing and practising are 2 separate things."  A topic for a future blog post!
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  • TheBlueWolfTheBlueWolf Frets: 1535
    @Old_Swanner in that case I may have misread something ;)

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  • :)
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  • richardhomerrichardhomer Frets: 21262
    My technique is entirely adequate for what I want to do musically. I'd like greater harmonic knowledge - but I don't need 'more' technique.

    My sense of melody and phrasing (in other words my musicality) has improved enormously over the years - but I could probably play faster 30 years ago.....
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  • earwighoneyearwighoney Frets: 2596
    This one's set the cat amongst the pigeons a few times over the years ... A favourite test of mine, the subject of my latest blog post.

    https://www.oldswannerguitartuition.com/single-post/2017/04/29/How-Good-is-Your-Technique

    I had a look at the exercise and it's of the ilk of many in learning to play, which from my experiences has involved playing a number of different exercises for particular techniques starting slowly and gradually working up speed to play faster and faster. 

    It can be pretty boring at times but it's necessary if you wish to learn to play certain musical styles where speed is a vital part of the musical vocabulary. 
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  • sweepysweepy Frets: 3301
    Just as a little aside, Shawn Lane, poo-poo'd the idea of learning stuff slowly and then speeding it up,he had the theory of just going for it,  seemed to work for him ;)
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  • Old_SwannerOld_Swanner Frets: 20
    edited May 2017
    sweepy said:
    Just as a little aside, Shawn Lane, poo-poo'd the idea of learning stuff slowly and then speeding it up,he had the theory of just going for it,  seemed to work for him
    I'm guessing he wasn't restricted by the problems that most of us face, ie. he was blessed with a natural abiity (probably in the top 0.001%).  For anyone else in that privileged position, this level of investigation is likely unnecessary.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcRHVkjLub4
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  • Old_SwannerOld_Swanner Frets: 20
    It can be pretty boring at times but it's necessary if you wish to learn to play certain musical styles where speed is a vital part of the musical vocabulary. 
    A big benefit of the process as presented is that it should never be boring.  Instead of merely employing endless repetition in the hope that we'll get better, we are pushed to investigate, a very different and far more satisfying approach IMO.
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  • earwighoneyearwighoney Frets: 2596
    It can be pretty boring at times but it's necessary if you wish to learn to play certain musical styles where speed is a vital part of the musical vocabulary. 
    A big benefit of the process as presented is that it should never be boring.  Instead of merely employing endless repetition in the hope that we'll get better, we are pushed to investigate, a very different and far more satisfying approach IMO.
    I don't find practise of such a nature boring, but  I imagine many others could though - I can appreciate practising exercises of such a nature isn't for everyone. 

    I agree though it's important to be able to quantify one's progress which makes practise more satisfying. 


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  • BarneyBarney Frets: 444
    I think technique as got to be so much more than bpm..in fact im not really sure iff i know the meaning of it in the context..

    I understand phrasing..timing ..feel..accuracy ect but never really understood the word technique..i normally associate it with flash :)

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  • dtrdtr Frets: 866
    Out of interest, is there a benefit to 'speed' other than playing fast?  Most of the instruction in Technique I've seen has a focus on playing faster.  I mostly play acoustic fingerstyle, and have found the best benefits in terms of practicing technique to come from doing the opposite and slowing things down.  I almost never play pieces over tempo.

    Am I missing something by not learning to play fast, and if so what benefits might I expect to see in the kind of music I play from engaging in Technique exercises like this one?
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  • Old_SwannerOld_Swanner Frets: 20
    Any disagreement on these two statements?

    The easier something is for you, the more musical you can be with it.
    The easier something is for you, the faster you can do it.

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  • BRISTOL86BRISTOL86 Frets: 1872
    I can play that at 260bpm but I can't change from an open chord to a barre chord. 

    I'm a long way from a guitar god!
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  • CarpeDiemCarpeDiem Frets: 178
    This type of exercise is useful in a number of ways, such as; dexterity, timing, speed, coordination. The ability to play fast can add more interest and intensity to songs, eg where the pace builds gradually to a climax in a solo. Where and how you use speed depends on how fast you can play and also the style of music you play. It's an essential skill if you play metal, but likely to be used less often if you play soul music.
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  • TheBlueWolfTheBlueWolf Frets: 1535
    dtr said:
    Out of interest, is there a benefit to 'speed' other than playing fast?  Most of the instruction in Technique I've seen has a focus on playing faster.  I mostly play acoustic fingerstyle, and have found the best benefits in terms of practicing technique to come from doing the opposite and slowing things down.  I almost never play pieces over tempo.

    Am I missing something by not learning to play fast, and if so what benefits might I expect to see in the kind of music I play from engaging in Technique exercises like this one?
    Years ago I worked through a few of David Mead's books one of them being "Rhythm". He had several exercises that focused on a scale fragment, going from eighth notes and triplets to sixteenth notes. The tempo was increased after about a week IIRC.

    His theory was that if you find, for example, triplets at 100bpm the edge of your technique level, trying to play at 120bpm makes 100 feel more comfortable.

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  • VibetronicVibetronic Frets: 625
    speed can be useful and fun, but it's by no means a measure of overall "technique"...and "technique" can't really be assessed by your ability to play a four note lick at speed across two strings, and nor should it. It's a decent enough practice exercise, but as a way to assess someones overall technical capabilities, not particularly helpful.
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  • Old_SwannerOld_Swanner Frets: 20
    Any disagreement on these two statements?

    The easier something is for you, the more musical you can be with it.
    The easier something is for you, the faster you can do it.

    No disagreement so far, hence using simple logic, we can conclude if a=b and a=c then also b=c.

    ie.  The faster you can do something, the more musical you can be with it.

    Any disagreement here?
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  • DanjiDanji Frets: 224
    Totally, 100%.

    I can play bloomin fast, but I really don't think that I could play Red House to the same genius level as Jimi.  Not in the car park of the ball park close.

    Speed is relative, and no is way an indication of ability. I learned to play fast in my teens, and although it's good fun, it's the same as playing slow, only faster.

    Note choice, placement (rhythm/time), dynamics, accents, narrative, and all the other idiosyncrasies that make up your playing should and usually is taken into account when you hear something.

    Plus, I think that the human condition enjoys to hear music not close to perfection.  I'm a massive jazz nerd, I love people like Clifford Brown who had an near metronomic sense of time. But my favourite band ever is the Stone Roses.

    Speed has little to do with musicality it concerns only with the physical. 
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  • guitarfishbayguitarfishbay Frets: 7718
    It's also a matter of how many hours there are in a day.

    To get to a really high level of clean and fast lead playing takes several hours a day.  There is really no other way, all the '[guitar] household name' types put in a huge amount of time to get as good as they got.

    Thing is, fast lead playing isn't the main thing for many players, it's rhythm.  I've met countless guitarists who can kind of shred, but can't do rhythm playing evenly in time and dynamics with good intonation... because they're not practicing it at all.
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