Actually playing is hard!

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MojoJim
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Actually playing is hard!

Post by MojoJim »

As I slowly climb the hill to actually playing the blues new challenges appear (which I didn't anticipate) and they move down my list as follows:

1. Oh, crap! Something else new I've got to learn. Nobody told me about that. Doesn't this ever end?
2. OK, I think I understand the challenge and I know how big a problem it's going to be to learn it.
3. I've got the basics down now and I don't have to be scared any more. I can keep moving.
4. I'm getting pretty good at it and I can incorporate it into my playing at a basic level.
5. Now it's just something I have to remember to include in my practice sessions and to continue to get better at it.
6. I'm the master of this particular challenge. (I don't know what this feels like yet - on any challenge)

A few weeks ago I recorded myself for the first time and that produced a bunch of new challenges. These included: playing behind the beat because I'm still tentatively trying out notes, no flow because I'm playing isolated notes like you do when you are practicing scales, no drama or coherence in terms of overall feeling - because I hadn't even thought about things like that yet.

I've been working on these and most are now between a 2 and a 3 on my list.

Here's one that maybe someone can give me some advice on. When I play a note and I fret it cleanly it sounds good on the initial attack. If I lift that finger to move to the next note the first note is cut off abruptly and the note sounds isolated (see above about "no flow..."). But if I keep the note fretted and move another finger to the next note my first finger is pulled and often slides on the fret and the note moves off pitch. This leads to a lot of notes that start strongly and end by wavering off pitch. It makes my playing sound like something from a junior high school orchestra.

Some of that I have corrected by myself. I try to come down directly on the fret rather than from the side. I try to pay more attention to my fingering to keep it clean. Sometimes I can disguise it with a bend or some vibrato. I'll bet some of the more experienced players have some tricks or exercises to help with this. Any help?

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VikingBlues
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by VikingBlues »

I think your problem might be lessened wth a concentration of more hammer ons and pull offs and slides which should help the flow. But I am probably not the best person to advise as (and I've mentioned this a few times!) my knowledge of theory is somewhat shaky. I only say this on the basis that I know from my own recordings that my playing has sounded more fluid as I get better at doing these. Then the action of stopping one note and playing the next separately can be used more where you want to have spaces in the phrasing - where the singer would be drawing breath if your guitar was singing (and it will sing more and more as you get better).

Your list of 1-6 sounds very familiar! I'm not sure if step 6 is ever fully achievable :wall: . I have heard very experienced players / teachers that I respect say that if you feel you are the master of playing the guitar or af particular elements of playing guitar that you're deluding yourself - there's always more to learn and there's always that extra bit of finesse to be found to get to make things even better. If so (and I've not encountered anything to cause me to doubt it) it does at least mean that playing guitar can be a lifetime journey that always holds new challenges and room for improvement.

The better you get at 2 and 3 on your list the more 4 and 5 will start to happen. :thumbsup:

The fact that you recognise and can hear these "faults" in your playing is good - it means your developing your inner critic :naughty: and without him giving you grief it's more difficult to get better. :big_smile:
An improv a day keeps the demons at bay!

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12bar
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by 12bar »

JimRR wrote: Here's one that maybe someone can give me some advice on. When I play a note and I fret it cleanly it sounds good on the initial attack. If I lift that finger to move to the next note the first note is cut off abruptly and the note sounds isolated (see above about "no flow..."). But if I keep the note fretted and move another finger to the next note my first finger is pulled and often slides on the fret and the note moves off pitch. This leads to a lot of notes that start strongly and end by wavering off pitch. It makes my playing sound like something from a junior high school orchestra.

Some of that I have corrected by myself. I try to come down directly on the fret rather than from the side. I try to pay more attention to my fingering to keep it clean. Sometimes I can disguise it with a bend or some vibrato. I'll bet some of the more experienced players have some tricks or exercises to help with this. Any help?
That's a very common problem, especially if you step from acoustic to electric, because all unwanted noises are amplified, too. Practice will help, try to play without staring at your fingers, try to feel the string. You have to learn how to mute the strings that are not used.
You may post as a short piece (you can now upload it directly here :dance: ) so we can listen and give more specific tips.

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MojoJim
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by MojoJim »

Thanks 12bar,
I really like your idea of play without staring at my fingers. It seems just the opposite of what I think I should be doing - but it has a real intuitive sense to it. And sensing the strings (and your fingers) by touch seems like correct technique. I'll give it a try.

A technique I tried yesterday is to place my finger directly on top of the fret - not just behind it. By touching the fret on either side of the string it seems to anchor my finger so that it doesn't slide. But that's a "stare at your fingers" type of technique and I don't think it will help in the long run.

Muting unused strings is another thing that has come up. The 5 and 6 strings seem to vibrate sympathetically with the higher strings. So I suddenly find the A string producing a low drone while I'm playing on the higher strings. It's always something.

My wife says, "Why do you work so hard on your guitar playing?"
Me: "Because I love it."
She: "But you mope around unhappy and complaining about the problems you haven't overcome."
Me: "Wait, listen this recording of my playing from a few weeks ago - and now listen to this recording from yesterday. See how much I've improved? This makes me very, very happy."
She: "OK, if you say so. I just wish you seemed happier."
Me: "Remember, I've got a Type A personality and I'm a perfectionist. But I'm really pleased with my progress. I'll be sure to show it more."

So I hope my friends on the forum don't think I'm nothing but a sourpuss with constant whining and complaining. I'm having a great time and I really appreciate all the help and advice.

Posting a short segment of my playing to the Blues Room also sounds like a good idea. I'll see about doing that.

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Blindboy
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by Blindboy »

Some good advice on here. As playing the blues is pretty subjective, you should take mine with however many grains of salt you wish... :big_smile:
I don't reccommend playing directly on top of the fret. You will probably have buzzing and noise problems as you progress if you do that. Keep practicing moving from note to note cleanly. You will want to eventually be able to make it sound either staccato or legato (smooth). Muting unwanted strings is also a good thing to work on. I use my palm of my picking hand, as well as the thumb or fingers (depending on the string I want to mute) of my fretting hand. It sounds hard, but it really isn't that bad. I will also sometimes mute all the strings but the fretted note with my fretting hand, and hit several strings including the one I am fretting for a percussive effect. (think SRV)
Hope this isn't too much information. :thumbsup:
"Throw yo' big leg over me Mama, I might not feel this good again!"

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Golfxzq
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by Golfxzq »

JimRR... I have been having the same struggles, as you know. Great post, I am sure we will get some great suggestions.

Viking... speaking of hammer-ons and pull-offs... I am OK with the hammer-ons, although a little weak but my pull-offs are almost non existent!!! What is the trick to this? They are OK on the high E but when I get over to the lower strings either I twang a few extra strings if I try to flick the string very hard, or if I just pull my finger straight up they hardly resonate.

12Bar & JimRR .... posting to the blues room at my level is VERY scary, but if I could handle the embarrassment I am sure it would be the best thing to do. I believe JimRR is a few months ahead of me so maybe in a few months I can screw up my courage enough to do that. Right now I'm mostly at step 2 of JimRR's list.

Chuck

P.S. 12Bar... I sent you an e-mail about the new site... did you get it or was it spam blocked?

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MojoJim
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by MojoJim »

Golfxzq,
I agree. Pull-offs are hard. I guess I don't have the finger strength or the control yet to do it well.

Here's something that's off-topic but I think it's funny and worth a mention - but not a whole topic.

I just realized your avatar is an ostrich (or an emu). It blinked at me today and I realized it. (I don't think it was animated before).
If you cover the eyes with your fingers the nose of the ostrich looks like some kind of sock puppet with a fringe of crazy hair. And that's what I thought it was for the past couple of months.

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12bar
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by 12bar »

Golfxzq wrote:12Bar & JimRR .... posting to the blues room at my level is VERY scary
Nothing scary about it, and you don't even need the Blues room - you can now attach mp3 files to every post!

BTW - I didn't get your mail - when did you send it?

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VikingBlues
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by VikingBlues »

Golfxzq wrote:Viking... speaking of hammer-ons and pull-offs... I am OK with the hammer-ons, although a little weak but my pull-offs are almost non existent!!! What is the trick to this? They are OK on the high E but when I get over to the lower strings either I twang a few extra strings if I try to flick the string very hard, or if I just pull my finger straight up they hardly resonate.
I think (and I could be wrong on this - as you may have noticed I'm a bit hazy on theory) the pulling the finger straight up won't work, as the pull off to work requires the string to be effectively plucked by your fretting finger. It needs to sort of plucked sideways for it to work, but if you get a good contact and your finger plucks off the string in the right way it will sound right. It does all get better with practice too - honest. I sort of feel there is quite a similar feel between the way, as I don't use a pick, that my right hand fingers pluck the strings to sound notes and the way my left hand fretting fingers pull off a note to play down to the note held by the other finger.

Damn - I'm having trouble putting this into words. But I had to go and play some pull offs just now to see what I do - it's all done on automatic pilot. I notice that where I am pulling off from say the third fretting finger to the note held down by the index finger, that my index finger is at an angle to the string and dampening the next string so that if my finger that pulls off accidentally hits that string it doesn't sound. This could be bad technique though.

Here's a link with videos that might help. Or might not!! :icon_whoknows:

http://www.fretjam.com/pull-off.html

I don't want to make out that what I do is correct though as I know that I am weak on trills (alternating hammer ons and pull offs), so maybe the way I do one of them is flawed. I do know though that as I have got better at them the flow of the notes has sounded better. Also the better the action and set up on the guitar and the more the guitar suits your playing style the easier they get. Hammer on and pull offs are hugely easier on my Tokai than they were on the Vintage V100 as the guitar is so responsive I only have to brush the strings to get a good sound. :big_smile:
An improv a day keeps the demons at bay!

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Golfxzq
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by Golfxzq »

Lots of things I want to reply to but using my iPod. Hard to type much. At the Masters today.
JimRR.. Same avatar. But anamates on new site. Sort of looks like me.. Gray and confused!
12Bar.. Emailed couple of days ago.
Viking.. Thanks haven't thought of muting near strings. Will try that. And practice practice practice.
Will probably reply more tomorrow when I get home to my computer.
"Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right."
- Henry Ford

cruisemates
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by cruisemates »

This is how I learned pull-offs (from just playing the same thing over & over).

Play this combination of blues notes: b5 - 4 - m3 - 1

(as in the key of E) start by bending A up a 1/2-step to Bb (14-fret/3-string) with your third finger, have your first finger already holding G (12-fret 3-string) pluck that Bb and unbend it then PULL OFF that third finger with a plucking motion until your first finger is playing G. Do that all in one stroke and then land on E (4-string/12-fret). I can hear all four notes with one pluck every time. This is a Jimmy Page trick as in "Whole Lotta Love"

practice plucking the string as you move your finger, especially going from the third finger to the first.

I also suggest you practice your vibrato - how long can you sustain a note by "twirling" your finger on any single note?

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Golfxzq
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by Golfxzq »

Thanks Cruisemates.... looks like some really good practice tips. I can't wait to get home to give them a try. I am having playing withdrawals... out for a week on a little mini-vacation and at the hospital this week with my wife (broken hip - surgery went well and she is recovering - we may be able to go home tomorrow).

Thanks for the information, I'll let you know how it goes.
"Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right."
- Henry Ford

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SteveB
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Re: Actually playing is hard!

Post by SteveB »

Interesting thread and some good, practical advice.
We ALL learn from the bottom up.
As they say: Every Harlot Was A Virgin Once.

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