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I need to improve

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yournightmare
(@yournightmare)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 108
Topic starter  

I've been playing guitar a little less than 2 years. I got my first guitar a little over 2.5 years ago, but haven't been playing that whole time.

What I need is a way to just generally improve my playing ability, my actual technique. Currently, "practicing" for me consists of trying to learn songs like "Mazurka" by Heitor Villa-Lobos (

), "Jerry's Breakdown" by Jerry Reed (

), or "Classical Gas" by Mason Williams (

). I can play most of Classical Gas, but the other two are giving me fits. I keep screwing up on the same parts over and over, so how should I address the parts I keep failing at?

And what I should I be doing for "practice" besides trying to learn very difficult (difficult for me at least, don't know about you guys) songs and learning new chords and scales?

It's frustrating a little bit because for a few months now I've felt like I'm just almost able to finally play this thing, I feel like being a good player is only a little bit out of my reach, I feel like there's just a few things that aren't quite clicking yet, and if I could just get those few things to click I'd feel like a guitar player instead of someone trying to be a guitar player. Does that make sense? Anybody familiar with the feeling I'm talking about?


   
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kent_eh
(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1882
 

Those are fairly ambitious songs.
Even though I've been learning guitar (very slowly) for about 3 years, I know Jerry's Breakdown is still quite a distance in my future.

When you can't get past a certain point on a song, and frustration starts to loom large, the usual advice is to set it aside for a short while and spend some time on something different (perhaps a different song or a different style).

Then revisit the song that was giving you trouble after a few weeks, the rest seems to help a lot of people.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
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Blueline
(@blueline)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1704
 

...the usual advice is to set it aside for a short while and spend some time on something different (perhaps a different song or a different style).

+1 to putting that aside for a little while. Just a short time away from it could help you see it differently when you do come back to it. You could also try to slow it down (if you are trying to figure it out by ear). Another suggestion would be to break it up into smaller chunks. Get two or three chord progressions down perfectly. Don't concentrate on anything else until you get those chords down cold.

Yes, I can relate to feeling you are one step away from reaching your goal. Thing is...you'll feel that way then you'll reach yor goal. You'll start the whole process over again when you set theh next goal for yourself. It never stops. You keep raising the bar higher and higher. And THAT"S a good thing!

Teamwork- A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.


   
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Hyperborea
(@hyperborea)
Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 827
 

One possible direction is to figure out what in your technique is holding you back the most - what is the thing that you have the most trouble doing (in general or for those particular songs)? Then either find or make exercises that work that area.

I have a block of time at the front of my guitar practice (15-30 minutes) that I use for exercises. I do 1 to 3 different types of exercises depending on the time available and what exercises I'm currently working on. Right now, I have some picking exercises, scales, ear training, and some chord drills. Not all of them get worked every time but they get rotated around. The specific drills get changed and the general area I'm working changes depending on what needs work in my technique and when I get tired of certain drills (need to keep it fresh).

Pop music is about stealing pocket money from children. - Ian Anderson


   
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TMarius
(@tmarius)
Trusted Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 49
 

It's frustrating a little bit because for a few months now I've felt like I'm just almost able to finally play this thing, I feel like being a good player is only a little bit out of my reach, I feel like there's just a few things that aren't quite clicking yet, and if I could just get those few things to click I'd feel like a guitar player instead of someone trying to be a guitar player. Does that make sense? Anybody familiar with the feeling I'm talking about?

Yeh, makes sense. I know how you feel, and getting a song down will make you feel proud and then you probably will be able to call yourself a guitar player. You probly can already. But, in my expereience, you will never be completely satisfied with the level that you reach. You will ALWAYS want to get better. i don't know much about it, but i bet clapton strives to get better too.

Tom


   
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unimogbert
(@unimogbert)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 174
 

I keep screwing up on the same parts over and over, so how should I address the parts I keep failing at?

Jamie Andreas has a book and some internet articles about Principles of Correct Practice. I highly recommend you check them out. They've explained some important concepts for me and improved my rate of progress.

One of the simplest is to stop and examine the passage that you're messing up. Play it as slowly as you have to in order to do it correctly. Do it over and over again CORRECTLY - even if it means it takes you 30 minutes to get out 10 notes!. This is creating muscle memory of the proper moves. Without doing it correctly when you try to speed up, you'll just do it wrong but faster.

Jamie also refers to "posing." (No, not telling everyone you are a Rock Star....) In this case it is getting the fingering in place and just holding that and relaxing and examining your body for tension. This too gets your muscles used to being in the fingering that is required and builds muscle memory.

I started working on a piece in January that had an intricate thumb pattern in the bass. (Paldanius' version of Livin' on a Prayer- you can find it on YouTube) I practiced that thumb pattern for about 20 minutes a night for 6 weeks before I could speed it up to a tempo where it was recognizable. It took that long because that's what it took to burn in the correct pattern. Now it's no big deal :-) But of course I have work to do on other parts of the song.....

This is part of playing guitar. Doing new stuff is a challenge and sometimes challenges take awhile to conquer. Even for the really great players there is always something else to challenge them.

Unimogbert
(indeterminate, er, intermediate fingerstyle acoustic)


   
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Minotaur
(@minotaur)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1089
 

When you can't get past a certain point on a song, and frustration starts to loom large, the usual advice is to set it aside for a short while and spend some time on something different (perhaps a different song or a different style).

Then revisit the song that was giving you trouble after a few weeks, the rest seems to help a lot of people.

Speaking only for myself, I think part of it is because in the time away from a "sticking point" I've learned or improved in something that allows me to get past that sticking point. So yes, time away helps.

It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.


   
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