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Problem missing strings, both hands


(@bigh29)
Active Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 17
Topic starter  

Hello all.

If you missed my post in the meet and greet forum, here is where I am at. I purchased a fender mex strat about 7 years ago. I tried teaching myself how to play, but I don't think I approached things correctly. Didn't buy any books or dvds, and didn't take any lessons. Didn't practice everyday, as was frustrated with my progress. After a couple years, life got busy, and I got sick of stinking, so the strat sat idle for 3 years.

At the start of this year, I decided to try and learn again. I still haven't taken any lessons, but I have been working through BYCU (only on lesson2), and have been reading lessons here and on other websites. I don't include the first 6 years when people ask how long I have been playing. Think of me as someone who has only been playing 6 months.

My chords are progressing nicely, I think. Much better than before. But my riff playing seems to be stuck. I have been practicing scales every day. Well, I have been practicing a scale everyday I should say: pattern 1 of the minor pentatonic. I just started trying to learn pattern 2. My problem is that regardless of what key I play in, I struggle with missing strings. If I look at my left hand, eventually, I will go to strum a string with the pick, and there won't be anything there. I stop, and look at my right hand, and its just off in space somewhere. The first two strings give me the most problems.

I have a similar problem with my left hand, particularly with the ring and pinky. The pinky, I understand, it just takes time. But my freaking ring finger, I hate it. I am just not developing any consistent precision. As I move up and down the scale, eventually I put my ring finger down and miss the string, or miss it enough to buzz the note. Descending the scale seems to be more problematic. Maybe 1/3 of the time and can ascend and descend the scale at a slow, steady pace without any mistakes. But most of the time, either I miss a string with the pick, or I miss a string while trying to fret the note.

Any advice? I know this takes time, but I just haven't seen any measurable improvement in the last couple of months. Sometimes, I give my ring finger a good tongue lashing, but that almost never seems to help.

Oh, and before I forget, I am using economy picking with my right hand. I seem to have better luck with that than alternate picking. I maybe miss half as many strings then I would if I used alternate picking.

Any advice is welcome.
H


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(@wes-inman)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5599
 

Well, it does take time to play guitar well and not miss strings, so try to be patient. If it makes you feel better, I have been playing 35 years and still miss a string now and then. :D

Take your time and play slowly. Work on precision, not speed. For your picking hand, keep it close to the strings, it often helps to lightly rest the side of your hand on the bridge. Use as small a picking motion as possible, if you flail around you are gonna miss strings. So keep picking or strumming motion to a minimum. That said, do not tense up trying to be so precise... Learn to relax when you play at all times.

As for the fretting hand, keep practicing the Minor Pentatonic position 1 scale, that is probably the #1 scale used in Rock and Blues. Work on positions 2 and 4 as well as these are also used heavily by most guitarists. The Major Pentatonic is easy, just move the Minor Pentatonic scale down 3 frets and you are playing the Major Pentatonic. Easy.

If you have a metronome or drum machine, try practicing along with that. Start out as slow as necessary, maybe 60 BPM. When your precision increases, slowly speed up.

But don't get discouraged, everyone has these problems at first. The big cure is practicing on a regular basis.

Wes

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


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(@rmorash)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 108
 

I think the question you have to ask is "are you having fun". From what you wrote I assume the answer is yes and it sounds like you're progressing nicely. Like Wes, I've played off and on for decades and still miss strings/notes. Better to miss a note or two than to play a bad note because I'm not good enough to cover it up. I find there are some songs/patterns that for some reason I cannot play then all of a sudden I've got most of the pattern - Led Zeppelin's "Baby I'm gonna leave you" comes to mind as does "Love me two times" by the Doors. The hardest lesson (and probably one of the most important) for me is to do what Wes suggested - start playing slowly (sort of like reminding yourself to keep your head down when playing golf....). I also recently bought BYCU and if it's any consolation I miss notes throughout the lessons as well. Some days you're going to nail it and others you might as well try something else and come back to it later rather than force it and get frustrated.


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(@voidious)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 153
 

Patience and practicing slowly (as has been said) might be the most important things to keep in mind here, but as another relative beginner, there are some other things I've noticed, too.

- Keep good posture so you are well balanced. I don't mean like perfect posture or a back like a wooden board, just be comfortable and in a good position - you will unconsciously move around to regain balance if you're off balance, which is an easy way to miss your mark.
- If I don't focus on it, sometimes I end up with my thumb hooked around top of the neck (e.g., after doing an A chord), while sometimes it's pushed against the back of the neck. I think, for me, pushed against the middle-back of the neck gives me more control and accuracy, but I often won't notice that I am in the other position. It may be the opposite for you, but either way, something to pay attention to.
- Relax! I've seen this advice plenty of times on these forums and it's great advice. If your arm, wrist, or fingers are tense, you won't move as smoothly. This is another advantage of practicing super slowly - you get comfortable enough doing the chords/scales/whatever you are practicing that you won't get nervous/tense when you get up to higher speeds.

Hope that helps. Good luck. :D

-- Voidious


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(@bigh29)
Active Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 17
Topic starter  

Thanks for the advice everyone. It sounds like I am rushing my tempo. I am not a very good player, but I have improved enough where I can string 6 or 7 notes of a riff together at full speed. Eventually though, my skill catches up to me and I boink a note. It just sounds so cool to play something even remotely close to what the song really sounds like.

I have not been using a metronome regularly in practice. When I practice the scales, I either go slow and steady, or I go at my fastest comfortable speed (where I get 6 or 7 good notes, then a mistake). I think I will start incorporating a metronome, to force myself to not rush, and also to give me a way to ramp up gradually.

Wes, your advice on the right hand has already helped. I am missing less with the pick now. When I do miss, it is usually over the string. This is particularly a problem when fretting the string between the 10th fret and the neck pickup. (I forget, is that up the neck or down?)

rmorash, yes I am having fun. It is a lot of fun. But very frustrating too. I feel like my brain knows what to do, but my fingers won't listen. It is as if my fingers are out of control toddlers. Yesterday, while playing riff in 12th position, I reached a point where my ring finger needed to fret the B string at the 14th fret. Instead, my middle finger just hammered down, way out of control, up on the A string somewhere. I just stopped and thought to myself, "Where the hell are you going? Nobody asked you to fret anything".

H


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(@wes-inman)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5599
 

BigH29

One thing I can tell you about guitar (and I have played nearly every single day for the last 35 years), is that it can be frustrating. Guitar plays lots of tricks on your mind. One day you feel like you are the greatest player around, the next day you feel you can barely play at all.

This will never change. Never.

But... the longer you play, the more often you play well, and the less often you play poorly. But still, some days you just don't have it and play poorly. I always use this analogy, but it is true: Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world. But even Tiger hits the ball in the woods, or the sand trap sometimes. He even plays so poorly on occasion that he misses the cut. Now, if Tiger (who is the best) has bad days, you will too. So accept it.

You cannot let your feelings rule. You just have to commit to guitar and realize if you keep playing you will get good. This is the only real secret, just keep playing.

That said, there are better ways to practice that will help you improve quickly. Like any sport, you have to get the basics down first.

As for picking, relax and use as small a movement as possible. Keep your hands close to the strings. Rest your hand lightly on the bridge or use fingers for a foundation.

Here is a good video of a shredder. I can't play anything like this. I am not that crazy about this style of music. However, these guys have great technique, you have to have great technique to play like this.

Anyway, watch the very end of this short video. This guy filmed his picking hand in action. Notice how he braces his hand with his fingers on the pickguard. This will keep your hand at the same elevation at all times. Notice how he uses very short strokes to pick the strings.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOFxEfw9ZBc&mode=related&search=

You may or may not be into this style of music. Either way, you can learn a lot about picking from these shredders. It is all about relaxing and using good technique.

Wes

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


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(@rmorash)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 108
 

Wes:

My apologizes: I read my reply and I jammed two thoughts into the same sentence. I should have separated the sentence or been more clear where I meant to say I've played off and on for decades

BigH29: thanks for bringing this topic up because I hadn't opened that book for months so I started up the lessons again and getting way more out of it than I did the first time around.


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(@triple_c)
Eminent Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 49
 

For the missing strings, it's all about awareness. When First started I always got the pinky on my right hand and anchored it to the pickguard. I'm not sure if it's good for my technique but I believe it helped me.

Triple_C


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(@wes-inman)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5599
 

Troy's right arm doesn't look very relaxed to me.

I disagree. Watch when the guy switches his amp on, he drops his hand. When he starts to play again he just moves his hand up and away he goes. If you look very close he is very relaxed. You can't play steady like this without being relaxed. It is just that his movements are very small and concise.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


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