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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-13-2015, 12:04 AM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
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Serious picking issues - need some help

Hi all,

I have only recently got back into guitar "seriously" over the past year or so after many many years of non playing or very minimal playing and have been having a raft of issues recently with my technique.

I was always more or less a legato based player when growing up but have recently tried to improve my picking as I have found that 90% of the players I like are more pickers then anything else.

As I am a massive Morse fan I have changed my picking style to how Morse plays to try and "start again" to see if I can overcome my previous bad picking issues as I always had pretty inaccurate picking when growing up.

Basically the issues I had were I was never very relaxed or a very accurate picker, so I always played more like vai or maybe a little Greg Howe inspired with legato and tapping. A guitar teacher thought it was from practicing poor technique, but as I was self taught I didn't know I was playing very tense and stiff at the wrist.

The issues I am having now with this new picking technique is even after months and months of playing and working with a metronome and having some really good nights where speed and accuracy is pretty good, I still can't play certain patterns or certain licks that in my opinion I should be able to play. I'm not talking Shawn Lane speed here, but more or less some basic pentatonic two note per string runs absolutely kill my picking hand for some reason, its almost as if only certain movements are impossible or feel awkward for me while others feel fine.

I have been struggling with the song "Stress Fest" by Steve Morse recently and I am convinced it is either that the picking technique is floored completely or there is some mechanical issue with my picking wrist.

I have practiced and practiced the main lick and even after proving to myself on many occasions I can play it up to tempo with a metronome, when I go to play it with the song its as if I get overly tense or I loose free movement in my picking wrist and can't play it up to tempo. After watching Morse play it live it looks as though even he has to pick quite wildly with exaggerated movements on certain picked notes to get the main lick down.

I am finding this is the case with basically all the issues I am having with my picking at the moment, I am not sure if its just me or the technique. The morse style does feel comfy though, that's the only reason I have stuck with it, picking with two fingers feels quicker but less accurate for me.

So my question is, what do I do know? I don't want to be a legato only player anymore but how can I "start again" so to speak if you have practiced poor technique for so long?
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-13-2015, 04:20 AM
 
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Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

I had that very same problem, I was self taught and mainly listened to satriani which most of it is a legato style so lots of hammering on and pulling off, I nailed that technique and can play some awesome licks this way at pretty much any speed humanly posible with spot on accuracy, but then i decided to have proper lessons and i struggled cus my teacher wanted me to pick everything, it was like starting all over again. He pointed me in the direction of frank gambale's chop builder dvd guitar workout to work on my picking technique which uses a very strict alternate pick technique. always has to be down up down up down up.

On 2 note per string runs it was dead easy cus u are always on the down stroke when switching strings going up the patterns and then on the upstroke when coming back. its the 3 note per strings that cause the problems cus u do a down up down then when u switch string its an up down up, which at first feels unnatural but with a bit practice becomes second nature. doing it this way gives a much more fluid running lick. it also taught me to think about whether i should be using a down stroke or an up stroke to start a lick. try starting the lick's on both, you will always find that one or the other will feel just a little more comfortable than the other thus creating a more fluid run with the lick in question.

It takes time to get right though, i still fall back into the legato style if i'm under pressure at a gig or feeling a bit nervous. the trick is slow and steady and gradually increase the speed
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-14-2015, 02:25 PM
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
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Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

Hi Six,

I've gone through exactly the same thing. I got back into playing from a 20 year break, 20 years ago I had been playing mainly hard rock/blues and thought that the type of stuff played by the gods was completely impossible, so I didn't try.

After about 6 months back playing I submitted my first entry in the challenge, a member here kindly pointed out that my picking was as messy as hell, I re-listened to the track and had to agree. Then I began to attempt to improve it, I eventually bought the "Speed Kills" download by Michael Angelo Batio and that has really helped me with picking and speeding up my technique. The video is cheesy, however, the advice in the video still stands 25 years after it was recorded. I'll sum it up a little here:

1: Play everything really slowly, repeat, repeat & repeat. If there is any lick you can play fast try playing it slow. The golden rule is you need to slow everything down in order to play fast and accurately.
2: When alternate picking - stick to practicing up/down/up/down, if you miss an up down while speeding it up then go back and keep doing it again and again at a slower speed until you can speed it up without mispicking.
3: When your fingering is correct, but you're still fluffing that lick, slow down and watch your picking hand instead of your fingering hand. Do that for most licks where you're comfortable with the fingering. You'll be surprised by the results.

My own advice would be as follows:

1: Practice with headphones or in private and set aside an hour a day to practice. The reason for privacy or headphones is so as not to drive your gf/bf/husband/wife/relatives nuts as you play a single phrase slowly over and over for 15 minutes at a time. When people have been playing for a while, they feel a need to entertain those around them, so playing a lick slowly over and over can dent a persons confidence if they feel the pressure of listeners.
2: Be obsessive about the things you don't believe you can do. Try to set aside an hour a day to practice. During that hour, don't play anything you're really good at - you're wasting your time and stroking your ego. Practice 2 or three things that need improvement for that hour.
3: Start off by warming up properly. Practice each lick for at least 5 minutes before speeding it up, if you make a mistake slow it down again, find the problem and gradually speed it up again.
4: Pick the things that are difficult for you, practice them for days, weeks, months. As you begin to make some progress with one technique, find another difficult one and practice both during your session. Those little steps towards your goals will really give you the confidence to go looking for more.
5: Invent your own licks based on the techniques that you are learning
6: Treat every technique/lick like your first lesson - you don't know what you're doing so don't try to kid yourself that you do. Listen to every instruction and every bit of advice.

I don't think you have a mechanical issue with your wrist, it's you putting pressure on yourself, the pressure manifests as physical tension and then frustration a trinity of feelings which are detrimental to learning. So, slow it all down to a point where you can play it with your eyes closed and while holding a conversation or watching TV, that way you're relaxed. Treat a lesson as many separate lessons, so if you're working on a DVD, do not move on to the 2nd lick until you own the first and can apply the technique to other licks.

For techniques I would recommend lessons by the following:

Michael Angelo Batio - Alternate picking
Ben Eller (Humanfuseben on this site) - His lessons on sweep picking helped me put that technique together - he also has great lessons on Youtube on legato and many other techniques.
Frank Gamble - another master technician and more importantly a great teacher of technique.

The above 3 I would rate above anyone else I've seen or encountered as teachers for the simple reason that they really know how to teach and in my view are the best teachers around. There are lots of great lessons by great guitar players out there who are master technicians, but can't teach to save their lives. For more general learning I would recommend Youtube and the Lick Library, they go into some detail on technique but not as much as MAB, BE and FG.

By the way, I'm not a good player, I'm not even an average player, but I'm a hell of a lot better than I was, can now play much closer to the way I always wanted to and I can see my continuous progress. I never get into ruts anymore, there's always something new to learn and practice and as long as my arse points south there always will be.

Last edited by Laobi; 01-14-2015 at 02:31 PM.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-15-2015, 05:40 AM
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Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

Laobi it seems we are in the same boat! Lots of nostalgia from those times..... i remember trying to learn how to shred back in 1991 after quite some years of being a blues-> hard-rock -> metal -> thrashing guitarist. Frank Gambale, yngwie, steve vai, satriani, vinnie moore all those vids of the time, sweep picking, that were the times... times full of love, joy and youth!! oh and i forgot to say ignorance and purity as well!

Last edited by panix; 01-15-2015 at 05:47 AM.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-15-2015, 12:39 PM
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
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Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

Hey, you're basically me five years ago. Legato guy, huge Satriani fan, and pretty mediocre alternate picking that I compensated for by just really leaning on my legato technique.

A couple thoughts:

1) At the end of the day, if your legato is *that* good, it doesn't really matter. By all means, practice stuff that you're weak on and try to become more well-rounded, but I've been much more comfortable with who I am as a musician from the point several years ago that I realized a player's style is as much the things they CAN'T do as the things they CAN. But, if you want to get by on legato alone, it has to be pretty damned good.

2) Definitely focusing on keeping your picking hand and arm (and, for me, I found I was often tensing up my shoulder while picking, so I'm trying to keep it relaxed consciously when I practice these days) loose. What you're seeing in Morse's playing may not be "wild" picking, so much as fluid and relaxed. I've found feeling like there's a bit of "snap" in my wrist helps a lot, especially with articulation and "energy" in a part.

3) There are two resources I'd start with, for alternate picking advice. The first is this awesome Paul Gilbert video - Gilbert is about as good as anyone has any right to be, and happens to also be an excellent teacher:

http://youtu.be/CpJNUGHxC3M

Second, Troy Grady's "Cracking the Code" is actually really, really good. Here's the first episode of Season 1 - he doesn't really start diving deep into mechanics until Season 2, but Season 1 actually lays a pretty solid groundwork, while also just being really good entertainment - I think I binge-watched the entire first season over a couple drinks one night, jamming along, and it just really took me back to the feeling of being a teenager, and hearing someone like Satriani or Vai for the first time and just going, "What the f....?!?!?" because I couldn't even comprehend what they were doing.

http://youtu.be/VKiO3VhdNmY

Also, don't feel bad if you're struggling playing Steve Morse parts. The guy's DAMNED good.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-15-2015, 07:41 PM
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
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Posts: 5,174
Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

You know who has some really nice picking and strumming to model yourself after? Uli Jon Roth.

Watch the way he plays in this old video of Sails of Charon. it7s fluid and he looks like he's playing lazily, but it's really fluid and relaxed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoI7deS76Ck
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-16-2015, 03:06 AM
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Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

Uli Jon Roth has been the father of rock shredders.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-19-2015, 06:44 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: Australia
Posts: 189
Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

Thanks for the replies, really appreciate the input.

Picking has been a lot better the last few days, had to really try and relax my playing, I have gone to 11-49 string which has helped a lot as I think something as simple as having thin strings didn't help, I must be a pretty hard picker
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-19-2015, 06:56 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: Australia
Posts: 189
Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew View Post
Hey, you're basically me five years ago. Legato guy, huge Satriani fan, and pretty mediocre alternate picking that I compensated for by just really leaning on my legato technique.

A couple thoughts:

1) At the end of the day, if your legato is *that* good, it doesn't really matter. By all means, practice stuff that you're weak on and try to become more well-rounded, but I've been much more comfortable with who I am as a musician from the point several years ago that I realized a player's style is as much the things they CAN'T do as the things they CAN. But, if you want to get by on legato alone, it has to be pretty damned good.

2) Definitely focusing on keeping your picking hand and arm (and, for me, I found I was often tensing up my shoulder while picking, so I'm trying to keep it relaxed consciously when I practice these days) loose. What you're seeing in Morse's playing may not be "wild" picking, so much as fluid and relaxed. I've found feeling like there's a bit of "snap" in my wrist helps a lot, especially with articulation and "energy" in a part.

3) There are two resources I'd start with, for alternate picking advice. The first is this awesome Paul Gilbert video - Gilbert is about as good as anyone has any right to be, and happens to also be an excellent teacher:

http://youtu.be/CpJNUGHxC3M

Second, Troy Grady's "Cracking the Code" is actually really, really good. Here's the first episode of Season 1 - he doesn't really start diving deep into mechanics until Season 2, but Season 1 actually lays a pretty solid groundwork, while also just being really good entertainment - I think I binge-watched the entire first season over a couple drinks one night, jamming along, and it just really took me back to the feeling of being a teenager, and hearing someone like Satriani or Vai for the first time and just going, "What the f....?!?!?" because I couldn't even comprehend what they were doing.

http://youtu.be/VKiO3VhdNmY

Also, don't feel bad if you're struggling playing Steve Morse parts. The guy's DAMNED good.
Funny thing is I thought my Legato was really pretty good, but then I realised that I was more or less economy picking or playing more like Brett Garsed ie using fingers and more sweep based shapes. Brett has epic Legato but most of his faster lines are a combination of many techniques and not your "standard" 3 or 4 note per string runs like most Rock players.

I first noticed issues when playing "In the name of God" solo by Dream Theater, still can't get the legato section down. For me its always a real bummer when you can youtube some 15 year old playing it note perfect but I can't.

It made me really review my playing. I realised that I wanted to be a more of an all round guitarist, so I could pick up an acoustic or Jazz guitar or a les paul and be able to still play quick and precise without being "I can't shred properly on this because its not set up for legato", which is pretty much how its been for me until now.

With regards to Morse, I think he has had tendon issues and wrist issues so I think that has made him change how he picks. I was just watching his concert with Larue from the early 90's and he looked a lot more wrist based back then. That's one thing I have to be really careful of, but that comes down to the whole anchoring vs non anchoring debate.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-19-2015, 07:04 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: Australia
Posts: 189
Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laobi View Post
Hi Six,

I've gone through exactly the same thing. I got back into playing from a 20 year break, 20 years ago I had been playing mainly hard rock/blues and thought that the type of stuff played by the gods was completely impossible, so I didn't try.

After about 6 months back playing I submitted my first entry in the challenge, a member here kindly pointed out that my picking was as messy as hell, I re-listened to the track and had to agree. Then I began to attempt to improve it, I eventually bought the "Speed Kills" download by Michael Angelo Batio and that has really helped me with picking and speeding up my technique. The video is cheesy, however, the advice in the video still stands 25 years after it was recorded. I'll sum it up a little here:

1: Play everything really slowly, repeat, repeat & repeat. If there is any lick you can play fast try playing it slow. The golden rule is you need to slow everything down in order to play fast and accurately.
2: When alternate picking - stick to practicing up/down/up/down, if you miss an up down while speeding it up then go back and keep doing it again and again at a slower speed until you can speed it up without mispicking.
3: When your fingering is correct, but you're still fluffing that lick, slow down and watch your picking hand instead of your fingering hand. Do that for most licks where you're comfortable with the fingering. You'll be surprised by the results.

My own advice would be as follows:

1: Practice with headphones or in private and set aside an hour a day to practice. The reason for privacy or headphones is so as not to drive your gf/bf/husband/wife/relatives nuts as you play a single phrase slowly over and over for 15 minutes at a time. When people have been playing for a while, they feel a need to entertain those around them, so playing a lick slowly over and over can dent a persons confidence if they feel the pressure of listeners.
2: Be obsessive about the things you don't believe you can do. Try to set aside an hour a day to practice. During that hour, don't play anything you're really good at - you're wasting your time and stroking your ego. Practice 2 or three things that need improvement for that hour.
3: Start off by warming up properly. Practice each lick for at least 5 minutes before speeding it up, if you make a mistake slow it down again, find the problem and gradually speed it up again.
4: Pick the things that are difficult for you, practice them for days, weeks, months. As you begin to make some progress with one technique, find another difficult one and practice both during your session. Those little steps towards your goals will really give you the confidence to go looking for more.
5: Invent your own licks based on the techniques that you are learning
6: Treat every technique/lick like your first lesson - you don't know what you're doing so don't try to kid yourself that you do. Listen to every instruction and every bit of advice.

I don't think you have a mechanical issue with your wrist, it's you putting pressure on yourself, the pressure manifests as physical tension and then frustration a trinity of feelings which are detrimental to learning. So, slow it all down to a point where you can play it with your eyes closed and while holding a conversation or watching TV, that way you're relaxed. Treat a lesson as many separate lessons, so if you're working on a DVD, do not move on to the 2nd lick until you own the first and can apply the technique to other licks.

For techniques I would recommend lessons by the following:

Michael Angelo Batio - Alternate picking
Ben Eller (Humanfuseben on this site) - His lessons on sweep picking helped me put that technique together - he also has great lessons on Youtube on legato and many other techniques.
Frank Gamble - another master technician and more importantly a great teacher of technique.

The above 3 I would rate above anyone else I've seen or encountered as teachers for the simple reason that they really know how to teach and in my view are the best teachers around. There are lots of great lessons by great guitar players out there who are master technicians, but can't teach to save their lives. For more general learning I would recommend Youtube and the Lick Library, they go into some detail on technique but not as much as MAB, BE and FG.

By the way, I'm not a good player, I'm not even an average player, but I'm a hell of a lot better than I was, can now play much closer to the way I always wanted to and I can see my continuous progress. I never get into ruts anymore, there's always something new to learn and practice and as long as my arse points south there always will be.
Thanks for the Advice, I am taking everything on board.

MAB is a freak, I don't know how he picks like he does. My only criticism of Batio would be his playing is always very 6 note pattern based when playing quick, like the exercises you do to build up speed, 3 note per string stuff. Which is fine but I wish he would vary his playing a bit more.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-20-2015, 02:54 PM
 
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Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

Quote:
Originally Posted by eightsixboy View Post
Thanks for the Advice, I am taking everything on board.

MAB is a freak, I don't know how he picks like he does. My only criticism of Batio would be his playing is always very 6 note pattern based when playing quick, like the exercises you do to build up speed, 3 note per string stuff. Which is fine but I wish he would vary his playing a bit more.

Yes, his picking is great, but as you say he does rely on that 6 note pattern too much. I think it has become his crutch, the weird thing is on his lesser known tracks he does lots of amazing jazz influenced licks that you'd expect from Vai or Shawn Lane, just he seems to publicise his "trademark" licks a lot more. My main reason for recommending his video is his teaching method and the learning curve really make you feel like you're making progress coupled with the explanations he gives. However, when you run the video you'll think someone gave you the keys to a Delorean.
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-17-2015, 11:32 AM
 
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Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

The way that I found works the best is I jam on a metronome or a backing track for a while. I listen to what I hear I want to play and then try it. Normally one or more of a couple things happen.

1. I can't figure out the notes immediately, so I pause and find them.
2. I physically can't do the part cleanly.
3. What I wanted actually sounded like garbage.

If two happens, I immediately zone in on that, stop jamming and practice whatever run was plaguing me at the time. I will play it as a stupid slow tempo and concentrate on my fingers, not just zone into the distance while playing it, because I think the key is concentration. Then I gradually pick up the speed. If you find you can't hold concentration, take a break, smoke a cigarette, what a movie, etc. Actually being mentally present while doing something is, what I think, one of the most important part of practicing.

I am a little crazy so I will sit there normally until either my mind can't stay concentrated, or until my fingers are tired and then I will sleep on it. For whatever reason, when I come back to it the next day, it is MUCH easier. Maybe that is just how my brain works. But give it a try, I see most people are saying the same thing as me.

Keith
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-17-2015, 04:27 PM Thread Starter
 
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Location: Australia
Posts: 189
Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

Quote:
Originally Posted by satch89 View Post
The way that I found works the best is I jam on a metronome or a backing track for a while. I listen to what I hear I want to play and then try it. Normally one or more of a couple things happen.

1. I can't figure out the notes immediately, so I pause and find them.
2. I physically can't do the part cleanly.
3. What I wanted actually sounded like garbage.

If two happens, I immediately zone in on that, stop jamming and practice whatever run was plaguing me at the time. I will play it as a stupid slow tempo and concentrate on my fingers, not just zone into the distance while playing it, because I think the key is concentration. Then I gradually pick up the speed. If you find you can't hold concentration, take a break, smoke a cigarette, what a movie, etc. Actually being mentally present while doing something is, what I think, one of the most important part of practicing.

I am a little crazy so I will sit there normally until either my mind can't stay concentrated, or until my fingers are tired and then I will sleep on it. For whatever reason, when I come back to it the next day, it is MUCH easier. Maybe that is just how my brain works. But give it a try, I see most people are saying the same thing as me.

Keith
I have done all those types of things, I think there is actually a physical limitation in my wrist of something. Same with my left hand, I'm fine with linear 3 or 4 note per string runs but once I start trying to do 2 note per string quick lines, especially ascending its very hard for me, for what ever reason.

I was jamming on scarified last night, and got to the arpeggio section where its 2 note per string (skipped strings) and I physically couldn't do the left hand cleanly at speed, very frustrating

Sort of at a crossroads now where I feel I have looked at all the options, ie legato only, holding the pick like morse, holding it like yngwie etc etc and I think maybe I have just reached my physical peak in terms of playing, i'm sure everyone has such a limit, I think everyone reaches a level where no matter how much they practice gains are super slow.

Taking a break for a few days and see if I wanna play anymore, I'm one of those people who if I can't reach my goal I will just forget about it all together.
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-17-2015, 04:45 PM
 
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Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

Quote:
Originally Posted by eightsixboy View Post
I have done all those types of things, I think there is actually a physical limitation in my wrist of something. Same with my left hand, I'm fine with linear 3 or 4 note per string runs but once I start trying to do 2 note per string quick lines, especially ascending its very hard for me, for what ever reason.

I was jamming on scarified last night, and got to the arpeggio section where its 2 note per string (skipped strings) and I physically couldn't do the left hand cleanly at speed, very frustrating

Sort of at a crossroads now where I feel I have looked at all the options, ie legato only, holding the pick like morse, holding it like yngwie etc etc and I think maybe I have just reached my physical peak in terms of playing, i'm sure everyone has such a limit, I think everyone reaches a level where no matter how much they practice gains are super slow.

Taking a break for a few days and see if I wanna play anymore, I'm one of those people who if I can't reach my goal I will just forget about it all together.
To hit on one thing you said, I don't think there is a physical peak in terms of playing. Some people will pick up certain things quicker than others, this one may need more dedication than you think. Just keep practicing is a lame thing to say, but it is true. It isn't potential, it is dedication. Whatever 14 year old you see on Youtube isn't any different than you or I. They have the same hands, muscles and tendons, etc.

I watched or read something that Vai said once that kind of hit home with me about practicing. It was something to the effect of "You have to imagine yourself playing it perfectly before you can actually play it perfectly."
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 02-17-2015, 09:26 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Serious picking issues - need some help

Quote:
Originally Posted by satch89 View Post
To hit on one thing you said, I don't think there is a physical peak in terms of playing. Some people will pick up certain things quicker than others, this one may need more dedication than you think. Just keep practicing is a lame thing to say, but it is true. It isn't potential, it is dedication. Whatever 14 year old you see on Youtube isn't any different than you or I. They have the same hands, muscles and tendons, etc.

I watched or read something that Vai said once that kind of hit home with me about practicing. It was something to the effect of "You have to imagine yourself playing it perfectly before you can actually play it perfectly."
I think in terms of left hand stuff your 100% accurate, but after watching cracking the code I have realised that with picking there is more to it then just practice, it really comes down to how you play ie; certain things you literally can't do unless you employ certain techniques. I always wondered (as an example) how yngwie played the way he does, and now I know that you have to almost mimic his technique to play like like, same with Gilbert etc etc. Its like how when I used the "morse" style picking, I don't think it would be possible to play as quick as Gilbert, just because of the techniques limitations.

Personally I think everyone has some form of limitation, whether its a cognitive/coordination thing or a physical thing, some people as just more adept at playing guitar then others. If that wasn't the case then you would see everyone playing like Holdsworth or Shawn Lane just by practicing 8 hours a day, when in reality only a very small handful of people would get close to that level. I think these limitations are what make everyone different and approach guitar differently.

But in my case I just feel like I have hit such a plateau, some of its picking, some left hand, and its hard to know whether its technique or a physical limitation.
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Picking paulvai Players & Bands, Music & Sounds, Tours & Jams, Lessons & Theory! 8 03-21-2006 11:46 AM

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