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josephnyc
(@josephnyc)
Eminent Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 15
Topic starter  

Hi,

This may be too vague, but I'll give it a shot.

I started lessons (from scratch) 5 weeks ago. I practice 5 or 6 times/week, for anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes.

I practice fretting exercises (5-6-7-8, 5-7-6-8, 5-8-6-7, 5-6-8-7), Penta-minor scale, power chords (E5-A5-D5-A5, A5-B5-C5-B5, B5-E5-A5-D5, A5-E5-F5-G5, C5-B5-F5-E5), Octaves, and then small parts of blues stuff (Born Under a Bad Sign, You Shook Me).

I posted here before about correct left hand-thumb position.

So here's why I'm posting:

While I've learned a lot (everything written above was completely unknown to me 5 weeks ago), I'd like to progress faster.

My neck, back, arm and fingers hurt and even though I'm practicing the same thing over and over, it's not sounding as nice as I'd like it to (I frequently don't have clean notes, and miss strings, etc.).

Am I expecting too much? Is there a list of hints/tricks somewhere that can improve things?

Regardless of all my complaining, I'm very excited and motivated to be able to play (just for the fun of it -- my kids think it's very cool that I'm doing this in my early 40's).

Thanks very much,

Joseph


   
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TornadoAlley
(@tornadoalley)
Active Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 15
 

IMO, you have to learn to walk before you can run. You've already added a huge amount of knowledge and technique that you didn't have five weeks ago, and it's going to take you time to master it. I wouldn't add more new stuff until you master the stuff you're working on now. Unless you aren't at your learning capacity, in which case, add something related to what you are already working on, like say, a chord progression for one of those blues songs.

As far as your pains go, until someone more knowledgeable weighs in, treat playing guitar like you would playing a pick-up game of football. Ask yourself if you can do it without hurting yourself; it not, sit that game out and go for the next one. If you can, be sure to stretch and warm up first and stop when it hurts. You're developing muscles here, but fine motor muscles; not the big ones that benefit by a weight lifter's tear-and-rebuild scheme. It also sounds like your posture may not be good, so keep that in mind, too.

It's good to hear that you (and your family) are excited about this. That motivation will get you wherever you want to go.

"Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right..." - Stewie Griffin


   
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greybeard
(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

If you're anything like me, you're bored with what you're doing. Concentration slips and errors creep in. Change the routine for a few days. I posted an exercise, that I use (here). That'll help with finger dexterity.

Learn some "proper" chords. Start with A, C, D, E, G.

Spend some time learning how much/little finger pressure is needed to get a clean note. Ignore musicality, just learn to play notes, with as little effort as possible. That may well reduce the pain.

Learn to play without looking at the fretboard. Twisting the guitar to see what you're doing is one of the biggest factors in twisted wrists and finger pain. Many people sit in front of a mirror.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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josephnyc
(@josephnyc)
Eminent Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 15
Topic starter  

Thanks so much TornadoAlley and greybeard!

I didn't realize that I was using/exercising/developing muscles that were heretofor not strong/flexible -- that does indeed explain a lot.

Posture is a whole can of worms -- long history of back and neck pains, discomfort while sitting or standing, etc. I'm using a backless stool now, but I really have to get something with some support (just not ready to pluck down a few hundred now).

Am I Bored? Well, the actual repetitive nature of much of the practice is not exciting. I'm working hard at keeping the big picture in mind (i.e., that practice will allow to play well). The blues stuff is exciting. So, yea, there is some boredom.

Thanks for the exercise -- I'll work it into the routing.

I would love to learn to play without looking at the fretboard. I try not to look. But, I can do with the 6th, and maybe the 5th string, but not with higher (in pitch) strings -- except maybe while doing the penta-minor scale, where I've got a reference position for my fingers and I have a sense of how much to move them to get where I've got to go (trying to speak "guitar" without the vocabulary leads to long-winder, cryptic sentences like these (;-).

Any tips on how to learn to play without looking at the fretboard?

Thanks,

Joseph


   
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greybeard
(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

Any tips on how to learn to play without looking at the fretboard?

Joseph
It's all down to practice. I suspect that you have been concentrating on parts of the fretboard, for your exercises (Aminor, at the low E 5th fret?). Do the exercise that I gave you, starting at the 12th fret - so you play 12, 13, 14 and 15. Repeat a couple of times and move to the 11th fret, then to the 10th, etc. Only go as far as is comfortable. You will slowly extend your range over the fretboard and get good muscle memory of all the various fret distances. It is important that you don't try to race through the exercise, though. Concentrate on getting cleanly fretted notes, rather than fast, messy notes. As your hands get muscle memory, you'll find that you, naturally, skim over the fretboard quicker and with less effort.
As with the hare and tortoise, slower is sometimes quicker.

As I said, before, try sitting in front of a mirror. You can check your posture and how you hold the guitar as well as see where your fingers are going.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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fibaz
(@fibaz)
Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 38
 

The mirror helps for sure.

Another thing to add about the hand tension.. Keep your fingers close and relaxed near the strings but not touching the strings when not in use. For example, when you are practicing finger exercises dont keep your ring finger a country mile away then have it swoop in for the fret. Improve accuracy and lessen the hand tension from the starting gate. That'll definitely help clean up the notes a bit.

I have found to improve new techniques, skills, tricks: it helps to really slow things down to a slower tempo and really get it spot on at say 60 bpm before trying to blister my way through it any faster. Not that I'm not a fan of the "Jeff Beck Method".


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

Greybeard has mentioned something that I think is an important issue - wandering concentration. Particularly with the repetitive drills your mind can wander and before you know it you are thinking about a problem at work or planning the grocery shopping or just about anything. It's sort of like meditation in that you need to keep the mind from wandering. If your mind isn't focused on the task then your body sort of goes through the motions mechanically.

This mechanical playing is actually the end goal you want - you want to be able to do these motions mechanically so that your mind can be focused on the higher level music making task. However, as a beginner you aren't doing these tasks correctly enough to want them become mechanical in their current form. You want to focus on them - perhaps only one small element of the task - and work at making it better.

One thing you can do to force your mind to stick to the task is to give it some job to do during the drill. That can be naming notes as you play them or monitoring the position of your pinky or even just counting repetitions. If your mind wanders then just bring it back to the task when you realize that you are now thinking about the shopping.

If you really focus on your drills and playing rather than just going through the motions then you will get better faster.

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


   
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josephnyc
(@josephnyc)
Eminent Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 15
Topic starter  

I've been playing exclusively on frets 1-10 and 90% on frets 1-7. Also, mostly on strings 6, 5, 4.

Does that change the recommendation to start on the 12th fret?

I tried your exercises on the 12th fret, and then on the 1st.

If I'm doing most of my work on the lower numbered frets, shouldn't I exercise there too?

Sitting in front of a mirror will be difficult -- I have my practice space cut out of my home office and there's no other place in the home that's "mine."

Thanks,

Joseph
Any tips on how to learn to play without looking at the fretboard?

Joseph
It's all down to practice. I suspect that you have been concentrating on parts of the fretboard, for your exercises (Aminor, at the low E 5th fret?). Do the exercise that I gave you, starting at the 12th fret - so you play 12, 13, 14 and 15. Repeat a couple of times and move to the 11th fret, then to the 10th, etc. Only go as far as is comfortable. You will slowly extend your range over the fretboard and get good muscle memory of all the various fret distances. It is important that you don't try to race through the exercise, though. Concentrate on getting cleanly fretted notes, rather than fast, messy notes. As your hands get muscle memory, you'll find that you, naturally, skim over the fretboard quicker and with less effort.
As with the hare and tortoise, slower is sometimes quicker.

As I said, before, try sitting in front of a mirror. You can check your posture and how you hold the guitar as well as see where your fingers are going.


   
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josephnyc
(@josephnyc)
Eminent Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 15
Topic starter  

I'll keep fingers close and relaxed and go slowly.

Hard to relax fingers/hand when I'm trying to get it to do things it's not used to doing and requires stretching and strength that's just no there.

Thanks!

Joseph
The mirror helps for sure.

Another thing to add about the hand tension.. Keep your fingers close and relaxed near the strings but not touching the strings when not in use. For example, when you are practicing finger exercises dont keep your ring finger a country mile away then have it swoop in for the fret. Improve accuracy and lessen the hand tension from the starting gate. That'll definitely help clean up the notes a bit.

I have found to improve new techniques, skills, tricks: it helps to really slow things down to a slower tempo and really get it spot on at say 60 bpm before trying to blister my way through it any faster. Not that I'm not a fan of the "Jeff Beck Method".


   
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greybeard
(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

I've been playing exclusively on frets 1-10 and 90% on frets 1-7. Also, mostly on strings 6, 5, 4.

Does that change the recommendation to start on the 12th fret?
No, the point about starting at the 12th fret is that beginners (and "older" players) tend not to have the ability to stretch across frets 1-2-3-4 without warming up, first. Working down the fretboard will act as a warm-up exercise as well as embedding the fret distances into your brain, so playing without looking will become second nature.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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Dylan Schwartz
(@dylan-schwartz)
Eminent Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 26
 

A couple points:

1) Learn some actual music. That is what your technique practice [which is also extremely important] is designed to support.

2) Chill. 5 weeks experience = infant. Keep playing and you'll get your skills, just recognize that the physical body acclimates to these new skills at a slower rate than your mind.

Honor the process. Guitar playing is a long journey. Luckily, the scenery is freaking amazing : )

Chicago Guitar, Bass, and Improvisation Teacher
blog.stillstrings.com
www.stillstrings.com
http://www.myspace.com/buddhajones


   
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josephnyc
(@josephnyc)
Eminent Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 15
Topic starter  

I hadn't planned to, but I am learning some music. And I'm actually putting some effort into it -- string names, fretboard notes, chords and their relation to notes/strings.

Nonetheless, it's all to further my goal of being able to play a bunch of songs.

Thanks for the reminder and reinforcement that 5 weeks = infant!

I feel like I'm being exposed to more and more things (techniques, ideas, skills, etc.) while not mastering any of them. So I'm trying to get a handle on the best way for my training to go forward.

Regarding The Process: I thought well before starting this and contemplated the fact that this is a long, arduous process. I frequently remind myself of that, and focus on the behaviors that make up the process, instead of the speed of progress, for example.

Thanks!
A couple points:

1) Learn some actual music. That is what your technique practice [which is also extremely important] is designed to support.

2) Chill. 5 weeks experience = infant. Keep playing and you'll get your skills, just recognize that the physical body acclimates to these new skills at a slower rate than your mind.

Honor the process. Guitar playing is a long journey. Luckily, the scenery is freaking amazing : )


   
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KR2
 KR2
(@kr2)
Famed Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 2717
 

The thing about being in a hurry to learn to play the guitar is that you are going to strain some muscles when you begin.
This is going to cause you to tense up in all parts of your body; neck, shoulders, elbow, fingers . . .

Try to relax . . . when you pick up the guitar it's to ultimately enjoy what you're doing.
And although you aren't able to make the music you want to yet . . . you don't want to associate stress and strain with playing the guitar. Otherwise, every time you pick up the guitar you are going to tense up . . . just by association (sort of Pavlov's dog type of thing).
So, slow down.
Check to make sure that you are relaxed as you practice . . . and if you are not, take a break and come back when you are relaxed.

Five weeks is nothing compared to the amount of time it's going to take you to begin playing the guitar the way you want to.

Enjoy the journey.

And although the destination is worth it, the journey of LEARNING to play the guitar is rewarding in itself.
It teaches patience, coordination, creativity, memory skills, gives an outlet for expressing yourself, and is self rewarding as well as frustrating (thus the patience).

You will not only learn the guitar, you'll learn about yourself.

Take your time, relax, have fun, enjoy the ride.

It's the rock that gives the stream its music . . . and the stream that gives the rock its roll.


   
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old lefty
(@old-lefty)
Trusted Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 43
 

Lots of good suggestions have been posted already, I can only add (as a fellow newbie) there's some real satisfaction in finding a song that you really like and learning to play it. There are more than a few websites with tabs for thousands of songs. As you get better at the song you've chosen you'll find yourself making fewer mistakes and having the speed to add sustain, bends, slides or other effects as you see fit. And that helps your confidence as well as your motivation. Good luck on your journey.

Brian


   
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Philtho
(@philtho)
Active Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 10
 

My back and neck started to ache a lot as I got more and more into practicing the guitar. It was mostly from setting a book or sheet on the couch or table while I constantly looked down to it. Or I was working through pages of a beginner book while constantly looking down. After a while you begin to ache because of this. Even when sitting down you're typically looking down at the book/sheet/frets.

I went out and bought a music stand that can go right up to my face and I keep it at eye level, rather than below. This has helped really well. Also I try as hard as possible to NOT look at the fret board. All of this has helped the aches that I was noticing. When I read your post it was the same thing I was running into.

Also, just having a guitar slung over your shoulder will cause some strain regardless. It's a good idea to just put the guitar down on your stand and sit down and read for a little while, and then go back to it. Guitar magazines work great for this. :)


   
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