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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been playing on and off for eight years and I suck. I'm trying to find out why.

Where I want to be: playing awesome Dream Theatre shred guitar

Where I am: mired in power chords and the one pentatonic scale shape I can fiddle my way across to sound passable

I've never had lessons and I've developed a lot of terribad habits. One I managed to identify was my picking. I was pinching the pick between index finger pad and thumb rather than like a pencil. As a result the pick was too flat to the strings and a lot of the picking movement was in the fingers rather than wrist. Untraining this habit is incredibly difficult and this is probably just one of the things that needs undoing.

Changing everything from the ground up seems to be the way forward, and on the advice of the internets I've come up with this training scheme:

- Do the 1-2-3-4 exercise until death to develop good left hand finger independence and right hand picking coordination
- Learn all the notes on the neck, then start to learn all the music theory I never bothered with

PEOPLE WHO DON'T SUCK; I need your help here. What else should I be doing? Is it worth learning the notes and music theory? Do you think about the notes as you play or do you just know a lot of licks you can transpose around the fretboard? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Something that really boosted my playing and techique was Dave Weiner's "riff of the week" and Rob Balducci's (an awesome guy who i had the pleasure of meeting) Lick of the week. These are all on youtube, and Riff of the Week has an awesome website with tons of goodies!
 

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Something that really boosted my playing and techique was Dave Weiner's "riff of the week" and Rob Balducci's (an awesome guy who i had the pleasure of meeting) Lick of the week. These are all on youtube, and Riff of the Week has an awesome website with tons of goodies!
Just play! Learn different riffs and licks and it'll develop naturally. While I am not on Dream Theater shred level, I am comfortably playing a few Paul Gilbert songs, yet I have only played for almost 2 years. From day 1, I took a different approach, I just played. Maybe my technique is flawed somewhere, but I can play cleanly, accurately and quickly. I mean what more can I ask for?
 

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If you want to play DT covers and such, lower the priority on theory. Mostly that's interesting for composing but not really for copying.

Notes on the neck - key
Scales - key - by this it is important to know what notes fit into what scale, and not just the shape of the scale.
How you hold your pick - i've always thought of this as a personal thing. whatever is comfortable. George Lynch, Marty Friedman, Vai, all seem to hold the pick differently, and yet sound pretty damned good.
Practice - you can do the finger exercises indeed, plus scales, different positions and progressions.
 

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The easiest way to get alot better fast is to play with players better than you and learn from them and to grow in a musical setting not just doing finger exercises in your bedroom. Rusty Cooley has like crazy sick speed and dexterity but his playing sounds like someone who did finger exercises in his basement for 20yrs.Playing Petrucci stuff vs coming with your own Petrucci like stuff or whatever it is you want to create is a whole different skill set. Copying is great but if you want to be a real player you gotta find your own voice and creativity. If you just wanna do note for note copy stuff buy the tab books and download the songs and just grind it out till you got it all.Do whatever mmakes you happy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
i've always thought of this as a personal thing. whatever is comfortable. George Lynch, Marty Friedman, Vai, all seem to hold the pick differently, and yet sound pretty damned good.
Maybe but I'm not a talented guitarist so I'm trying to reduce impedence to progress if you get me. I'm told that picking should come from the wrist by a bunch of players who are better than me, and the way I was picking it mostly came from the fingers. It's uncomfortable changing the technique I use after all this time but I can already tell it works better because the pick doesn't rotate out of position as much, there's less resistance, and I get more picking for less movement.

Notes on the neck - key
I'm really, REALLY interested to know if you think about the notes as you play. Is this how you find your way around scales, or is it more like "this scale is in these positions, I know this because I've played it a billion times, so if I play this shape over this rhythm it'll sound good". I ask because the latter is how people do good improv.

I feel I should've been more specific, I want to be able to shred like Petrucci (shoot for the glass moon and all that), but I don't want to be doing just covers. I'm most interested in being able to improvise. If I can learn to improvise lead at a decent pace then I'll be a happy man.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Something that really boosted my playing and techique was Dave Weiner's "riff of the week" and Rob Balducci's (an awesome guy who i had the pleasure of meeting) Lick of the week. These are all on youtube, and Riff of the Week has an awesome website with tons of goodies!
Cheers for pointing these out by the way, I reckon these'll be useful for getting ideas on how to apply music theory.
 

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Riff of the week is golden! GOLDEN i say! you will learn so much form it, and its in bitesize format, also i would create a practice scedule for yourself if you find that you noodle for an hour and never acomplish anything. There are many ways to create these scehdules, i found that alot of the theory involved reading and watching youtube videos about theory rather than playing the guitar, naturally you have to understand what your trying to acomplish when building chords etc before you can apply it to your guitar.
 

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Cheers for pointing these out by the way, I reckon these'll be useful for getting ideas on how to apply music theory.
I have been playing a while, and I have moments of feeling the way you do. My problem has always been time. When I had time to practice an hour a day I did actually improve consistently. I am afraid that there is no substitute, whatever your goals to sitting down and practicing.

I actually had a 1-2-1 lesson with Dave, and he gave me a golden piece of advice.

What ever practice regime you have, however much time you have, make sure you include a section of improvisation, preferably along with music. Even if only have 5 minutes, put on some dream theater and just play along and try different things.

The point of this is that even if you don't learn the scales, modes (which you should) you will learn to play along to other music by ear, and pick out appropriate phrasings to sound cool.

He has some backing tracks on his site which are in a given style/key and or mode. My approach has been to decide on the track, learn the key to a reasonable level (say learning three different positions) then jamming over the track and thinking about a motif, and deliberatley planning a structure to take that idea and move it around, imbellishing it more as you go and finally returning to the original ideas as a conclusion.

Once you have done that move onto the next one, but revisit your work at least once a week so it stays in your mind.
 

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If you want to play DT covers and such, lower the priority on theory. Mostly that's interesting for composing but not really for copying.quote]

I would like to respectfully challenge this advice - I've been playing for 20+ years and I never really bothered learning theory until a few years ago and learning the theory side of things (intervals, scale/chord relationships, etc.) really helped my playing and my overall understanding of music.

I wish I had invested the time earlier to learn theory before I started developing long lasting habits - and if I had taken the time to learn theory years ago then I'm willing to bet any money that I would be a better player than I am know...now I feel a bit like I'm playing "catch up" learning what I should have taken the time to learn years ago.

I also believe that taking the time to learn theory helps you develop the discipline that is needed to stick to a practice regimen that will make you better faster instead of just playing licks when you pick up your guitar. Don't get me wrong - I think it's good, and fun, to learn new licks by players you like but I think you need to take a more strategic approach to learning the guitar if you want to get to the next level. Players like Petrucci did not get to that level without doing things like learning theory and having a disciplined approach to practicing. imho...
 

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What ever practice regime you have, however much time you have, make sure you include a section of improvisation, preferably along with music. Even if only have 5 minutes,.quote]

I think this is also very very good advice. and there are tons of backing tracks available online. I also think it's really good to record yourself and listen back...you learn a lot about your playing and it really helps you develop your phrasing, which is key.
 

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Just responding to doriangrey - my advice regarding theory was primarily from a "cover band" perspective where you simply need to copy. Assumption being that you don't need to understand what you're playing when you're copying

Since Jolly did mention that it was the improv part that he actually wanted, I completely agree that theory becomes a key ingredient.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Hey guys,

Just to let you know I decided on a practice regime to try and not suck, feel free to pick at it, simple as it is. I spend about an hour a day, during which time I work from this book for music theory (really, really good so far), this book for speed technique (undecided about this one, but was recommended on this site), and then spend the last 5-10 minutes playing over the top of some music whilst really trying to think about what I'm doing in terms of hand position and scale usage. The reason I'm using books and not the internet is because I want one teacher's system to work from. Being cheap and relying on Google to get me by hasn't been working for me.

I have some samples of me playing before this. About a year from now I'm going to come back and compare. I'll let you know if it's good news!
 

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put your hand in your pocket and get some lessons and play with other musicians. you can still practise and learn from your books and articles in magazines.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Just because I put my hand in my pocket doesn't mean I'm going to find anything there. Lessons are -expensive-. As in not just uncomfortably expensive; I can't afford it full stop.
 

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Well make friends and hangout with other players then that is only a minor expense. Immerse yourself in a musical atmosphere with players better than yourself and you will get better.Hang out,jam,discuss music,go to concerts,go to clinics,sit in bands.teach some students,take some lessons just immerse yourself in a musical environment and always take a chance and play with anyone,you will get better fast.Stick with your practicing plan on your own as well. Good Luck
 
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