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Thread: My playing hasnt improved with practice

  1. #1
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    My playing hasnt improved with practice

    I dont know whether Im the only person this has happened to or not so I thought I would suss it out.
    I have been playing guitar now for 3, almost 4 years. I have played in a hard rock band for one of those years, in my churchs band also for one of those years.

    Over this last year I have taken my guitar playing much more seriously, actually practicing slowly, cleanly along with a metronome at a speed where I dont make any mistakes, every now and again speeding up the metronome to see if I can make any improvements. I practice evenly on both picking and legato, my practice usually goes for between an hour and 2 and a half a day. I have only started doing this over the last year, prior I would just play along with songs.

    Here's the problem. I can admit I now have a better sense of scales, what key Im in, chord progressions etc etc..... but I have not improved on my speed at all!!!! not one increase in bpm on any one excercise, left or right hand.

    This is absolutely driving me insane. Im not one of those guys obsessed with speed, or tone for that matter, I would just like to see some improvement in my playing so I can make up some more creative pieces of music, as well as being able to play some more challenging ones.

    Has anyone ever had this problem?? Im just losing my mind over this. I love playing guitar, but when you think about it its alot of hours to just have no speed increase at all.

  2. #2
    In the woodshed rmuscat's Avatar
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    1. monitoring improvement is like looking at a watch or clock and waiting for a particular time. It's frustrating and worst of all it looks like you're never progressing.

    2. Well if you are increasing the bpms on you metronome and you still manage to play cleanly and in time (whereas before you weren't) then i'd say there is improvement ... a LOT of it and of the best kind. Learn properly what you can do (impeccably) then speed up. So now i would suggest increasing further you metronome speed whilsttrying to stick to clean and accurate playing.

    3. Finally, some people seem to maintain a log book/journal to monitor their progress. You might consider doing that. Write down where you want to be in a months time, and work for it. After a month see that you attained you goals or why you didn't ...


    Hope that helped a bit

    and stick to it don't let this frustration make you consider your work useless ... just stick to it (obsessively)
    Edwin Land: Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.

  3. #3
    Registered User ashc's Avatar
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    I have suffered similar problems (as well as having a near namesake user name) - spooky!

    Thanks to some of the articles here and books, magazines etc. I have recently made some progress (still have those good old blocks of frustration though). Some ideas:

    - many exercises involve all the aspects of synchronisation, picking, string crossing all at once - it's tough to know which is the limiting factor. It's good to isolate.

    For just picking try single string, changing note only once per beat, or just one note constantly. You might be surprised how inconsistent your picking is at speed on just one note (well I was). Still concentrating on this alone you should see improvement quite quickly. The top E is toughest for me and by playing a scale, one note per beat, from open up to the high frets you get to experience the tension change against your picking without other things to worry about.

    For synchronisation you can try again on one string a very simple 1234-4321 type thing with and without position shifts.

    For string crossing, try taking an exercise and modify it to have string skips, if you improve on these string to string stuff in scales and chromatic patterns will get easier.

    These three areas could help with finding the weak spots.

    In practice I found starting really really slow and getting the synchronisation together at low tempo helps. Then biggish steps to your current max playing speed. Ideally an exercise should be repeated for enough repeats to build the stamina at that speed (say 2 mins)

    At this point there are some roads to try which seem to have different results for different folks:

    - small steps of increments (conventional approach).

    - bump the tempo say 15 bpm beyond what you can do, play in bursts and attempt to add skips etc. You won't likely be able to sustain the exercise, but try to build from a beat, to say a bar burst. Next go back to a few bpm above your old speed and you might get results in terms of higher sustained speed?

    - Play an easy exercise and keep ramping the speed to get everything moving and see if it helps on speed going to a more difficult one.

    AshC

    ps. disclaimer, I'm not a good player, but these ideas I've collated from other do seem to be helping me..

  4. #4
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    Hello again and cheers for the responses, Im just so frustrated!!
    Ive read through the messages and here's a couple of thoughts:

    *Yes, I do increase my metronome speed at times, but (I dont think I explained this well....my fault) I cant actually play properly at the increased speed. I try quick bursts, long bursts, breaks in between, bigger increases in speed, bigger decreases in speed, everything Ive read to try and I just cant get the speed accurately up.
    *Yes, I too have been keeping a log book, (its actually a sheet of paper on the wall ) to see the improvement but it gets depressing after about the 250th day at the same speed LOL
    *Yes, I have given the play only one note thing, the right/left hand coordination thing, chromatic scales, string crossing, single string only, no improvement

    You can probably feel my frustration ooze through this reply!!! I enjoy playing guitar, really do. I love jamming with other people, it gets depressing to always see great, noticable improvement in all of my friends playing whereas I have none at all

  5. #5
    iBreatheMusic Modthor phantom's Avatar
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    i don't know what you are playing at what metronome speed, but try this:

    take the speed where you usually get stuck / start to slop around.
    now instead of setting the metronome slower to get it clean,
    set it 20 bpm faster than you are able to play!!
    obviously you will suck and everything will just be toooo fast, but keep trying extra hard to match that "extra" highspeed for maybe 15 minutes nonstop.
    then go back to the tempo where you used to hit the barrier.
    it should definately be a bit easier now.
    TRY IT!

    it is great to practice slow and perfect, but with a good amount of playing out of control over the top you will get a better feeling of where the limits are and how to push them.

  6. #6
    Registered User LarryJ's Avatar
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    I heard Petrucci say that about playing over your max. speed in Rock Discipline, Ihaven't tried it, but it might work, just dont start to get sloppy!

    My second thought is to not be discouraged. Your not learning new things here, your working on old problems, and fundamentals of playing, of course it will be slow going. It's not like when you first picked up guitar, and every day you learned something new and you went from sucking to being decent, instead its more like being a sprinter in a race. The first week of training you might improve 10 seconds, but by the 4th week you will have to struggle to get even a second or two off your time -- your encountering plateus.

    Sometimes the best advice is to take a break for a while. Or maybe work on something different, or really analyze whats holding you back , is it too much movement of the pick , are your fingers too far off the fretboard etc, no detail is too small!

    Sometimes getting better means thinking about what your doing, as much as it means actually doing it.

    Good Luck!!
    -Larry

  7. #7
    iBreatheMusic Modthor phantom's Avatar
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    there is no reason to be afraid of playing sloppy when playing over your max. speed. it will be sloppy for sure cause it's faster than you can actually play it - the thing is to try really hard to keep up.
    try it larryJ - it works.

  8. #8
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    What I do with the metronome is to play over a range of speeds with a single exercise. Start at a speed you're comfortable with, play through the exercise a few times (depending on length), then turn the metronome up 2 bpm. That's such a small increase it shouldn't be very noticeable. Then just keep doing that over and over, increasing 2 bpm at a time, until you're well into your sloppy zone. The next day, start your metronome 2 bpm faster than your starting point the day before, and see if you can get your max speed up to 2 bpm higher as well.

  9. #9
    Registered User LarryJ's Avatar
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    Phantom, by getting sloppy I meant he would try to play everything max speed, and play it sloppily... in other words not go back to playing cleanly and precise after that. Thats also probably a great way to build up picking endurance.

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