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when to use exercises to improve?


 pab
(@pab)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 103
Topic starter  

i just posted on another thread here about how the early lessons in scott tennant's book on finger independence (for the left hand) really helped as i really struggled with that at the beginning. now (about 1.5 years into learning guitar), i don't ever do any exercises and just concentrate on learning songs that my teacher gives me. these songs do work quite a bit on items that are difficult for me, so they are certainly not just songs that are fun to play - they also have helped me improve areas that i either have never worked on before or was doing poorly. for example, we work a lot on acoustic blues and that means bending, and it's amazing how hard i've found just getting the timing down with bending and also ensuring that the note is "choked" off if there is no release bend indicated. not easy (at least for me). in a sense, when i practice i will practice the bends on their own and work on choking off the note, and do this for a while, so i guess you could call this an exercise.

my question is - when do you decide that an exercise is beneficial to improving your playing vs. just trying to improve with songs? i'm struggling with moving around the guitar with songs that require a lot of real estate. while i've improved on these songs (blackbird, 32-20 blues, deep river blues), i wonder if this is something that i could find an exercise to work on that will help with the coordination so that my movements are more fluid and exact. For those of you that have been playing for years without doing exercises (ie just playing songs) have you found that you've improved in this are by just playing the songs? if anyone has an exercise for this, that would be appreciated too.

thanks!

paul


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(@welchsboy)
Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 16
 

I've been playing the guitar for about 1.5 years, entirely self taught but using online free material and watching other guitarists play, I do practice a few exercises every day but I mostly practice by learning songs that are fun or hard to play. I think this method works great for me, but then again I've never had a teacher (planning on getting one soon though..) but the people that I play for say that I've been progressing very nicely (although I mostly just play for family and friends... :? :O ) I play the guitar for fun mainly, but that doesn't mean I slack off on technique or anything like that, since playing with crappy technique, well, just isnt fun :/.

What I've found that works for me is to take a great popular guitar solo like Stairway to Heaven, find the tabs for it, and then play it in very small sections while listening to the related studio recording over and over, then playing it myself, making sure it sounds as much like the recording as much as possible. Then i'd go to youtube or some other video site and watch others play it, looking at their fingers and how they play, and then I'd go back and play the song myself so that I can hear whether it sounds as good, better, or worse than the best videos I've watched. I'd record myself playing, then compare it to the studio recording, other players, etc. And then I'd change the solo according to what I thought sounded best, from other players and from just experimeting with myself.

If I found that, for example, my pull-offs were lacking, then I'd search the web for pull-off exercises I could do, and practice those until I could get them sounding decent, then play the part of the solo requiring the pull-off, making sure that I could play the pull off and make it sound good in the song.

Once my playing gets good enough to make the solo sound decent, I've found that I've also gotten better in many other aspects of my guitar playing. I could then have a good base around which to put some creativity or improvisation in my playing, I'd begin with little easy variations in my playing of the solo but eventually change it enough to make a song sound different than the original version, at first I found this difficult, so I'd search the web for exercises on scales and improvisation (Since I already knew the solo was based off a pentatonic scale I could go from there) and then come back to the solo and work on playing it some more.

I also use multiple songs in this approach, so that I can make sure that the songs I play cover a "spread" of different skill sets, for example I worked on Canon Rock, stairway to Heaven, Hotel California, Fade to Black, etc for several months at the same time, switching songs whenever I got frustrated or bored. As I got better with a song like Stairway or Fade to Black I'd find I could play sections in Canon Rock easier and more effectively. And As I got better at this kind of practice I found I could choose more obscure songs that I was more passionate about from less famous bands.

From time to time I'd turn off the stupid metronome or whatever and just turn up the stereo and rock out with the song, even when I knew I couldn't play it effectively, but after doing this I'd know exactly how far I'd progressed and I'd have an idea of what I still needed to work on and how far I still needed to go.

When I played I'd always make sure that what I was playing sounded good to my ears, so that I was satisfied with the sounds I was playing. I've found that I could get the note, bend, pull-off, etc to sound absolutely awesome to my ears, almost 100% of the time the technique would also be good, I didn't worry about each individual muscle as long as it felt comfortable and sounded right, and I was having fun playing :)

Umm so yeah that's how I practice the guitar, I am ALWAYS working on a song even when doing exercises, the inspriation for doing that certain scale exercise 100 times in a row would be from the desire to master a particular song. So I'd always feel like I was working toward a goal even when doing some obscure finger exercise.


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(@clau20)
Reputable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 351
 

My teacher gave me many exercice to practice my scales a different way from the original pattern played note by note in order.

If you're interested in that kind of exercice, let me know, and I could post it here.

He alsp gave me a few pages of Steve Vai 10 hours workout. Some exercice that Steve Vai was doing to improve his playing. Some are very easy, some are hard. These exercice are helpful to built speed but most important, finger dexterity. Again, if you are interested, let me know!

" First time I heard the music
I thought it was my own
I could feel it in my heartbeat
I could feel it in my bones
... Blame it on the love of Rock'n'Roll! "


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 pab
(@pab)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 103
Topic starter  

thanks a lot guys. people's experiences are often helpful in trying to improve and i thank you, welchsboy, for your post.

as for the steve vai workout - i do have it - it was reprinted in guitar world last year and is pretty impressive, especially considering how much time he spends on it. nothing though that is specific to horizontal shifting, but i'm sure if i was able to do those exercises thoroughly that i wouldn't have problems with it.

paul


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(@blueline)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1705
 

My teacher gave me many exercice to practice my scales a different way from the original pattern played note by note in order.

If you're interested in that kind of exercice, let me know, and I could post it here.

He alsp gave me a few pages of Steve Vai 10 hours workout. Some exercice that Steve Vai was doing to improve his playing. Some are very easy, some are hard. These exercice are helpful to built speed but most important, finger dexterity. Again, if you are interested, let me know!

I'd certainly be interested in the Vai stuff. Since I am 100% self taught, this would help me out tremendously. PLus...I really stink at playing lead.

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


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(@jwmartin)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1437
 

He alsp gave me a few pages of Steve Vai 10 hours workout. Some exercice that Steve Vai was doing to improve his playing. Some are very easy, some are hard. These exercice are helpful to built speed but most important, finger dexterity. Again, if you are interested, let me know!

I'd love to see those exercises as well. I'm self taught and have never been much on exercises, I just play. Which is probably why I can't play lead well.

Bass player for Undercover


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(@hyperborea)
Prominent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 833
 

He alsp gave me a few pages of Steve Vai 10 hours workout.

That's the one for wimps! You need Vai's 30 hour workout!

I downloaded this a year or so ago after it was discussed on a web board (maybe it was here or somewhere else). If you just google "Vai 30 hour" you'll find it - it's on the first link that comes up.

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


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