Building motor skills (technique) for lead playing

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by nightlight, Apr 10, 2021.

  1. nightlight

    nightlight SS.org Regular

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    Sorry if this is too much of a beginner question.

    I've been trying to improve my lead playing and I realised that I can't even play some of the simplest patterns in groups of three, four, six, etc.

    My hammer ons are imprecise and my pulloffs are horribly sloppy to the extent that I play a lot of ghost notes. I can't seem to move up or down the fretboard smoothly either, and sideways isn't any better.

    My hands are also small and I find I can't even span six frets in the lower registers, and when I go too high, my one fret per finger technique doesn't give me enough space to fret the notes.

    To add to it all, my vibrato is lousy and I can't bend to desired pitch always. I keep trying to learn how to sweep pick but today I started laughing when I found I can barely pick even normally at higher speeds.

    Can anyone suggest some resources or exercises or strategies to improve my "motor" functions? I mean just the basics, getting my hands to do the right things when I'm soloing. Not the note choices, just how do I get my hands to work the right way.

    I know some and I'm working (really slowly) to build up speed, but any help would be appreciated.
     
  2. Velathnos

    Velathnos Displacer Beast

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    Here's what worked for me :

    For legato, practice one hand legato, even if you don't plan to use only one-hand legato. Start super slow, focusing on muting unwanted strings. Rick Graham explains it very well in his videos. Just search Rick Graham legato on youtube. Pick one exercise, do this for a week.

    For the hand size, I wouldn't worry about it, unless you want to play Allan Holdsworth solo note for note. There's always a work around.

    I used to have a nervous vibrato a la Kirk Hammet. Nothing wrong with it if it's your jam, but one thing that helped me get out of it is playing sections of Marty Friedman's (you can choose any guitarist with great vibrato) solos slowed down. Like 50% slowed down. You play it over and over, trying to mimic the intonation perefectly. Bring it slowly back to speed. Then do it again and again. Eventually it will become natural.

    For pitch bending, play a note, then go back one or two frets, and bend to the previous note pitch. Choose another note, and repeat. Then you do this every day.

    Those exercises helped me and I still do them. The trick is to start slowly to be sure that you're doing the right thing. Then you do it erveryday as much as you can. There's no shortcut but practicing the right way will at least ensure that you're improving. Again, Rick Graham has a lot of great videos on how to practice the right way.

    For picking I'd say watch Troy Grady's Cracking the code. At the beginning I thought it was a scam but it's not, it's, afaik, the best ressource if you're stuck with your right hand. It helped me A LOT, and his videos are great.
     
  3. jaxadam

    jaxadam SS.org Regular

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    Man, I wish you lived close by, because all I do is make up licks and shit for practicing leads. Like I've got a never-ending amount of practice licks that I have nothing else to do with. My specialty is not actually playing leads, but playing lead practice licks.
     
  4. USMarine75

    USMarine75 The man who is tired of the anus is tired of life Contributor

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    For bending what did it for me is playing scales like Jeff Beck and Marty Friedman. Basically play up the pentatonic shapes and hit the note then bend the note behind it up to that correct pitch.

    Eg Pentatonic Shape 5

    Practice these just on one string several times (12 15 14>15) then as a pentatonic run up or down strings.

    Work 3rd finger (or 4th on E strings later on once you master 3rd finger bending):
    12 15 14>15
    12 15 14>15
    12 14 13>14
    12 14 13>14
    12 14 13>14
    12 15 14>15


    You can work on 1st finger bending:
    12 11>12 15
    12 11>12 15
    12 11>12 14
    12 11>12 14
    12 11>12 14
    12 11>12 15

    Then combined:
    12 11>12 15 14>15
    12 11>12 15 14>15
    12 11>12 14 13>14
    12 11>12 14 13>14
    12 11>12 14 13>14
    12 11>12 15 14>15

    You can also work laterally on one string:

    Eg: on 2nd string:
    0 2 5 4>5 5 7 9 8>9 9 10 12 11>12 12 13 15 14>15 15 17 19 18>19

    Another practice lick - Do same thing with full step bends.

    Eg 5 7 9 7>9 9 10 12 10>12

    Pro tips - work these with and without vibrato. Also both clean and distorted.

    Tl;dr sound note the bend a previous note up to that pitch.
     
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  5. nightlight

    nightlight SS.org Regular

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    These are really good. Thanks so much.

    It's only now that I realise how foolish I have been to never have a structured practice regimen. These will help, thank you.
     
  6. Robstonin

    Robstonin SS.org Regular

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    Maybe you didn't need super solid technique for the music you've been playing so far, so maybe "foolish" is being hard on your self :) With that said, kudos for deciding to do something about it because lots of people never do. Instead they choose to call fast playing cold, soulless and more subjective criticism.

    About your vibrato. IMO a good vibrato is like a mini bend. It is wrist rotation + finger movement, not just finger tip shaking, and certainly not finger tips pushing into the fretboard. I'd suggest practicing bending accuracy to a tuner, aiming for half-steps first. And then you could go half-step, back to initial note, full-step, back to initial note etc. Ideally you want to use a metronome as well to practice all of that in time. Oh, and have a drone chord playing in the background for reference. I'm pretty sure your vibrato and sense of pitch will improve tremendously once you get the mechanic in your muscle memory. Disclaimer: you may cringe next time you listen to a Hammett solo ;)
     
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  7. nightlight

    nightlight SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for the tips, I'll try some of that out.

    I think someone famous once said that about the homogenisation of playing as techniques became more well known, i.e. soulless shredders being pumped out by teachers who were teaching them how to sweep pick without teaching them about how to play.

    Was trying to find out who, but don't remember. It's quite a well known statement.

    An alternative way of saying the same thing has always been that some players are more about technique than they are about feel.
     

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