Trying to get better (alternate picking, exercises, optimal practice)

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by RobPhoboS, Jul 27, 2020.

  1. RobPhoboS

    RobPhoboS SS.org Regular

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    I recently picked up my guitars again due to being on furlough, I've not played for many years.
    When I started playing back in 94ish, I only ended up writing my own music and rarely played anyone's stuff. There just wasn't really the resources for me at that time.

    So from a technical stand point, I didn't progress that much over the years and stopped playing due to various things in life.

    Fast forward to a few months ago, and what I'm doing now is finally learning all those songs I love. I'm doing this for fun, and who knows maybe I'll try and write stuff again later.
    I signed up with Ultimate Guitar and began using tabs, learning at a slower speed and ramping up if a song was tricky.
    I started with several songs from bands like Obituary, Crowbar, Acid Bath.
    Then some early black metal stuff, and a dip into any of the slower death metal.

    Specific technique issues
    Alternate picking

    Examples in songs, as it might give a clearer idea of the kind of riffs I mean:

    Then I thought, hell I've got to give Pantera a shot too and that's where the first hurdle in my lack of skill was highlighted on the bridge section of This Love:

    (Skip to 8mins)
    I've seen the other lessons from too:

    (skip to 16:28)
    They're playing it alternate picking from what I can see or hear them say.

    Another example is Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Morbid Angel:

    (skip to 34 sec)


    (skip to 13:13 - when the riff moves up and it's octave alternate i think)

    Solution (?):
    What I decided to do, and please let me know if this is stupid or on the right path.
    20 mins per day of alternate picking exercises (Ben Eller vids for ex).
    Learn the fingering of such riffs I'm struggling with at a slow pace, gradually build up speed as and when I can.
    I'm also trying to ensure my pinky gets used as it never used to !

    I appreciate any help on this, it's extremely frustrating when people make it look soo easy.
     
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  2. Metropolis

    Metropolis SS.org Regular

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    @RobPhoboS These kind of riffs have specific dynamics on them, they're accented on certain beat and note. Try to get that right with slower speed, and gradyally go up from there. But you can't always play slow to teach yourself play fast, because efficiency of movement is different especially with the picking hand. Movement has to be efficient, but still you have to pick pretty hard to have those accents.

    Regarding to picking technique most players play this kind of stuff pick slanted down, except Ola because he has that weird backwards slanting technique going on. This makes pick to jump over strings in a more efficient manner when alternate picking. Ben Eller has videos on this subject too. For most it's quite natural thing to do and more like an observation what's going on.

    Playing to a metronome or at least with backing track is also sometimes a good idea to see how it really goes, and recording yourself playing.
     
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  3. TREYAZAGHTOTH

    TREYAZAGHTOTH 'bone' carpenter

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    @RobPhoboS : I tend to use circular motions of my pick, when i alternate pick...think of a down pick as a clockwise and forward/downward motion, and the up pick as an anticlockwise and upward/backward motion.
    The second point is... the circular motion, comes from my shoulder.. i am using my shoulder to create the circular motion.
    Third point : keep the entire right hand looooose... by that i mean..there shouldn't be any tension in the right hand...and that is one reason , i use my shoulder to pick

    let me know, if you need any clarifications
     
  4. RobPhoboS

    RobPhoboS SS.org Regular

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    Many thanks guys !

    I've started using Frank Gambale's exercises (Chop Builder), these seem well thought out and progress in a good way (imho).
    Someone put the tabs onto Ultimate Guitar too, which makes it perfect to follow along with.
    A couple of the riffs really get my little finger doing something too, which for many years it wasn't used on the frets at all !

    Yep, I did watch the pickslanting stuff from Ben as well as the Troy Grady series :yesway:
    Granted, I think it's one step at a time, getting comfortable with alt picking, and over due course making sure my pick is angling in an efficient way.
     
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  5. jaxadam

    jaxadam SS.org Regular

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    This is the way.
     
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  6. HungryGuitarStudent

    HungryGuitarStudent SS.org Regular

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    My 2 cents.

    If it's speed your looking for, then I agree with Martin Miller, Andy James, etc. in that a metronome will not help you much.

    It's a great tool to practice timing and is essential, but not for building speed.

    Alternate picking has been my weakest technique by far.

    I was stuck at 110 bpm three notes per string 6-tuplets for 6 months making little progress using the "increase tempo only if you can play it clean" approach.

    Following a recommendation by Martin Miller, I decided to practice way above the tempo I'm used to just to get a sense of where the wheels fall off the wagon (around 120 bpm for me for 6-tuplets, 3 notes per string).

    I've then had sessions of playing, mostly without the metronome, as fast as I can and experimenting with:

    1. pick grip;
    2. pick angle;
    3. right arm position;
    4. wrist position.

    Taking a lot of short breaks and experimenting with this helped me figure out what works, feels natural and generates less tension at high speeds.

    After 1-2 weeks of that (with metronome tests to measure my success), I found that I pushed my limit to 125 bpm 6-tuplets (3 notes per string).

    It might take me 6-12 months to tighten everything up super cleanly, but that approach made me break through a wall I was stuck at. I obviously also use the metronome to make sure my timing is correct at those speeds, but as a second step.

    My point: there's a lot of experimentation that should be done to figure out the picking technique that's good for you. That experimentation should be done at high speeds without the "increase tempo only if you can play it clean" approach.

    You need to fail a lot and fail often to improve.
     
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  7. RobPhoboS

    RobPhoboS SS.org Regular

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    Howdy !

    I appreciate you taking time to post up your thoughts and methods too :)
    I will definitely take your experience into account too, as we're treading similar paths of course.

    I'm definitely finding Frank G's exercises really helpful, especially on UG because I can get the tempo comfortable and raise it up each time:
    https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/ta...alternate-picking-triplets-guitar-pro-1200682

    That stuff alone has helped me use my little finger, and of course getting into the habit of alt pic.

    Are there any specific clips/examples you're learning that help ?
    :shred:
     
  8. HungryGuitarStudent

    HungryGuitarStudent SS.org Regular

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    With alt picking, there are a lot of patterns to explore with 2 or 3 notes per string.

    I stray away from purely non-musical scalar exercises (although I do so from time to time, but not for too long).

    I tend to practice alt picking by learning songs or solos that are heavy on that technique.

    For example, I've spent a lot of time learning Stephen Taranto solos (and some riffs).

    If you're a John Petrucci or Paul Gilbert fan, there's a lot of songs that'll practice the hell out of your alt picking (for ex., the ending solo of This Dying Soul by DT is just a long alt picking exercise).

    There's no magical exercise that will make things easy (unfortunately), you gotta put in the work.

    Namely for the experimentation phase (pick grip, arm/wrist position/angle, etc.), you can for example try various grips and angles by testing them on licks/riffs that you're learning, or simply test them by alt picking sextuplets at full speed on a single string (single note) and see how they feel.

    Troy Grady's cracking the code is great if you want to get into analysis of various player's techniques.

    Obviously, you gotta put in the time and effort to actually play.

    I try to always play things at speeds that are slightly above my max level.

    Learning songs/musical stuff will keep you motivated.

    Good luck !
     
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  9. works0fheart

    works0fheart Tike Myson

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    Reading down this post, I'm glad to see you've went the Frank Gambale route. While all of the other mentioned lessons are great, the Chop Builder stuff is some of the best out there since Frank tends to use a lot of interesting shapes and phrasing that not many other people do. Building speed can be done many different ways, but building up other key areas at the same time like you can with Chop Builder will definitely benefit in playing tricky shapes and stuff in the long run as well.

    Just to throw my own 2 cents into here, I'll never not throw a plug out there for Rick Graham. I know I'm always harping about his content, but the man helped pull me out of a rut with my playing that I was in for a very long time. His youtube videos are more than enough to suffice for most people, but I picked up a few lessons from his sight on hybrid and economy picking and the latter of which had been the answer for me. I was stuck at around 140 to 170bpm picking speed (16th notes, alternate picking) for a long time and it just felt like that barrier was never going to break for me. With the economy picking stuff not only did I pass it, it actually felt easy doing so.

    Anyways, back on subject... As people always say, speed is important, but most important is note clarity. As others mentioned up there, concentrate on accentuating the correct notes and efficiently shifting positions when needed. Most riffs that seem super difficult do have a pattern in them, it just may not always be super apparent.
     
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  10. RobPhoboS

    RobPhoboS SS.org Regular

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    Many thanks for your post too !
    I had a couple of months off due to various stuff in life (getting married abroad during a pandemic was quite something!)...So I'm trying to chip away at this piece by piece :)
     

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