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's all in the wrist
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is gonna be a long post as I am gonna try to analyze my playing. I'll break it up into sections so it will be easier for everyone. I'm sure some of the stuff I'm gonna ask can be found on the forum but I feel like it's better if I make one thread for everything rather than look around and hope to find what I'm looking for. I'm a new member here so if you want some backround take a look at this: http://www.metalguitarist.org/forum/member-introductions/24640-greetings-cyprus.html


1. Alternate picking.


When I started out I was trying to emulate James Hetfield since Metallica is pretty much the reason I picked up the guitar. Seeing all the palm muting downstrokes while he played through songs made think it was the "right" way to be picking, so I didn't bother with alternate picking much at first. I was doing downstrokes all the time and that has pretty much stuck with me though the years. Now I can alternate pick pretty fast when playing on one string (think Fight Fire with Fire main riff).

The past few years I've been trying to alternate pick while moving up and down the strings. I can kinda do it when I'm ascending, even though a lot of the time the bad habit of downstroke picking kicks in. When it comes to descending I totally suck. It's really hard for me because of my bad habit to pick down all the time. I can't go from let's say the D string and hit the A string on an upstroke. I can do it very very slowly, like at 80 bpm. I've been doing some exercises this past week, like 1-2-3-4 and 4-3-2-1 up and down the strings while beginning with an upstroke instead of a downstroke and it seems to be working. I think a few more exercises would help. Any other pointers you guys think might be helpful?


2. Picking hand


I've noticed that when I'm doing palm mutes on the low E my wrist is almost at a straight position while resting on the bridge which makes me pick closer to the bridge. When I try to do faster stuff and go on the higher strings my wrist bends a lot and moves away from the bridge. My palm is at a distance from the strings, maybe close to 10cm. This results to me picking a lot closer to the neck instead of the bridge, I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. To get the idea think of an upside down "U". When I play fast in that position it feels that I'm straining my wrist. I tried keeping my wrist straight while resting on the bridge without muting the strings and I feel like it's putting a lot more strain on my shoulder. Maybe I'm straining too much and I need to be more relaxed. Is there a "right" or a common way of placing the wrist? Is it better to have the palm rest on the bridge or somewhere else? I'm wondering if I'm doing this wrong.

3. Fretting hand

My main problem with my fretting hand is that my pinky and my ring finger do not coordinate very well. Since I started doing the aforementioned exercises it's pretty obvious to me that those two fingers need to improve a lot. Are there any specific things I should be doing for that or should I just grind chromatics day in day out?

Stretching. I can't stretch at all. I can't do frets 1-3-5 without moving my hand. Which finger do ppl use for the 3rd fret, middle or ring? I don't have a clue on how to work on stretching my fingers so anything you can give me I'd gladly take!

Another thing about my fretting hand is that my fingers are not straight. They're slightly bent. I mean if you take a look from the side they don't look straight even if I try to straighten them up. Does that play a factor into my playing? Is it something I should worry about? How would you try to straighten them up?

Lastly, what do you do after a few hours of playing when you feel that your fingers are sore? Do you stretch them at all? Do you try to bend them backwards or something like that? With the exercises now my fingers become sore after a while and I'm wondering if there's something to help with the soreness.
 

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Total failure
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1) The main trick to getting good at ascending and descending alternate picking is simply to relax when you practice it. If you relax from the get-go while doing it, and keep practicing that way, you'll notice that your shred gets cleaner and less sloppy sounding over time. Don't overanalyze, just practice and relax! Just add ascending and descending scales to your normal practice regimen. Make sure that you're doing at least three notes per string, no less. Also, take a shot at ascending and descending thirds, you'll thank me later. ;)

2) I think the fact that your wrist is bending at different string positions may be what's making alternate picking difficult for you. First of all, you never want to strain your wrist. If it hurts, you're either doing something wrong, or you need to work up to it. Just play in a way that's comfortable for you. Secondly, when your wrist bends, the angle of the pick hitting the string changes, which will really screw up your alternate picking on those multi-string runs. Just try to keep your wrist in the same general position, unless you're doing it for a tonality reason or something.

3) As for the ring finger/pinky problem, that's something I'm always having to battle against myself. There's not much else I can tell you about that other than practice, practice, practice! Try doing some true legato chromatic runs. When I say "legato", I don't mean hammer on, pull off. True legato is the same up as it is down, tonewise. To achieve this, you basically have to hammer on up as well as down. Basically hammer on both ways. It feels really weird at first, but after a while you start to float on the strings like a butterfly.

For the stretching thing, I typically use index, middle and pinky for frets 1-3-5, respectively.

Hope that helps! ;)
 

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's all in the wrist
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859 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Make a video and post it in this thread:

http://www.metalguitarist.org/forum/guitar-theory-playing/22407-critique-my-technique-thread.html

That way we can visually see the problems and comment on them.

~Sean
Well I don't have a working camera right now to make a video but I made a video over a year ago playing Neurotica Rampage by Soilwork. I don't know whether this is good presentation on how I play now so I don't know if it's a good idea to post this :roll2: I'll make a new video of improvisation or something when I get a working camera.
 

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Pallin' around
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Your technique seems to have a pretty solid base. Once again, I would go through the thread Matt suggested for ideas on practicing and improving. Your technique isn't bad, so just keep at it.
 

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Stretching. I can't stretch at all. I can't do frets 1-3-5 without moving my hand. Which finger do ppl use for the 3rd fret, middle or ring? I don't have a clue on how to work on stretching my fingers so anything you can give me I'd gladly take!
If you were playing frets 1, 2, 3, and 4, it would be pointer for 1st fret, middle for 2nd, ring for 3rd, and pinky for 4th. But, if you are playing frets 1, 3, and 5, it would be pointer for 1st fret, middle finger for 3rd fret, and pinky for 5th fret.

Stretching just takes practice. If you don't force yourself to stretch, then you'll never be able to do it. It just takes time.

Now, you might not ever be able to stretch as much as Rusty Cooley or Shawn Lane, where you're going across 7-9 frets in a single stretch, but there is no reason you shouldn't be able to do 5 frets in a single stretch if you practice.

I have arpeggios where I'm using all four fingers, stretched across 5 frets, but I never could have done that 8, 9, or 10 years ago.
 

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's all in the wrist
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I've been doing exercises and I find that after maybe 25-30 minutes my fingers become sore to the point that they start to hurt. That's when I stop. Is that normal? I mean isn't 30 minutes a bit short period of time for my fingers to get sore? Shouldn't it take longer? How long does it take for you guys to reach that point? Will it take longer the more I practice? Hypothetically speaking, in 3 months or 6 months will I be able to do exercises for like 40-50 minutes?

Thanks for all the comments so far, you guys have been very helpful! Much appreciated! :metal:
 

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It's my picking forearm getting fatigued. I feel it more when I use the pinky and the ring.
Pointer and middle are ok, I mean I feel the strain but it's not as pronounced as the other two, especially my pinky. I guess I need to build my muscles there?
YES. Exactly.

I've always tried to use every finger equally, but I remember in the first 2 years I played guitar, I didn't use my pinky as much as I should have, so when I did exercises that focused on the pinky, my pinky would get sore pretty quickly.

But when you exercise those muscles a lot, they will stop getting sore. Just think about how much the tips of your fingers hurt when you first started playing guitar.

I've always played really fast songs, but I remember when I was having trouble with really really fast stuff, so I practiced with a metronome at 210 bpm every day, doing nothing but straight 8th notes and straight 16th notes. Back then, my picking arm would start to ache like CRAZY. But, after exercising it enough, the aching went away and my band even has some songs at 215, 240, and 260 bpm.

The phrase "Practice makes perfect" really is one to take to heart.
 

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Pallin' around
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Trills is a good way to build muscles right? I do it for like 30 seconds and I start to ache :rofl: Gotta build them muscles! Practice, practice, PRACTICE!! Ah, the pain!
It isn't necessarily all building muscle. I would say less than half of it is building muscle.

If you can only play for 30 minutes, you have FAR too much TENSION in your technique, so you need to focus on that primarily.

Trill exercises will probably wear your forearm out a little, but stuff like picking shouldn't really make your picking arm burn. If it does, you are picking with too much tension in your forearm. Same goes with left (fretting) hand technique.

What you need to do is short "bursts" of exercises, and focus almost entirely on being relaxed. Once you are relaxed, you should be able to play for 5-6 hours with minimal fatigue.

EDIT: Keep this in mind. If it hurts, you are most likely doing it wrong.
 

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's all in the wrist
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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
It isn't necessarily all building muscle. I would say less than half of it is building muscle.

If you can only play for 30 minutes, you have FAR too much TENSION in your technique, so you need to focus on that primarily.

Trill exercises will probably wear your forearm out a little, but stuff like picking shouldn't really make your picking arm burn. If it does, you are picking with too much tension in your forearm. Same goes with left (fretting) hand technique.

What you need to do is short "bursts" of exercises, and focus almost entirely on being relaxed. Once you are relaxed, you should be able to play for 5-6 hours with minimal fatigue.

EDIT: Keep this in mind. If it hurts, you are most likely doing it wrong.
When I try to do tremolo picking as fast as I can my whole arm tenses up and the movement comes from my elbow. I can feel the strain right up to my shoulder and if I keep doing it for a while then my shoulder starts to feel sore. The same thing happens when I play downstroke palm mutes on the low E at 200+ bpm. I've been playing like that for so long that it seems natural to me. I'm sure I'm doing something wrong it's just hard for me to pin point because I'm so used to playing like this.

Does the picking movement need to come from the wrist instead of the elbow when playing fast? I'm a bit confused :confused: It really sucks when you have re-teach yourself something. I need to teach myself how to stay relaxed...

EDIT: I just watched a couple of Jeff Loomis videos and when he does tremolo picking his wrist "locks in place" and the movement comes from the elbow. I guess I'm WAY too tensed when I play like Sean said. Sigh...
 

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Pallin' around
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Yeah, picking technique can vary from player to player. Some prefer just wrist (Petrucci), and some prefer wrist and elbow (Cooley).

However, the key is that you are relaxed and not strained. You don't have to re-learn your picking if you chose not too, just practice being in a relaxed mindset and physical condition when playing.

It took me a long time to get there, and I still have a far way to go. What I did though is practice playing stuff fast for about 4 seconds, and then take a 8 second break to "drain" all of my tension and repeat.

To quote a section of an older post of mine:

After this, I will take some things that I have trouble with, and do a burst drill with them.

Example: Say you have trouble connecting 16th note triplet patterns ascending, a la: (beats in parenthesis)

(3)/////////////////(4)////////////////////(1)
----------------------------10-12-13-12---
------------------10-11-13---------------
---------9-10-12-------------------------
8-10-12----------------------------------
------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------

I would start my metronome slowly, so that it is rather easy to play. Then I would follow this rhythmic pattern. 1, 2, play riff, rest, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, play riff, rest, 2 ,3, 4.

Where the riff starts on 3 and ends the first beat of 1.

I would gradually speed the metronome up as fast as I could play this.

However, you do NOT focus on playing this cleanly. What needs to be focused on is relaxing. When resting between the riffs, take your hands off the guitar and let them hang and "drip" all of the tension out.

The point of this exercise is to increase how quickly you can play relaxed.
Try doing these types of exercises. You should be able to build up speed at a relaxed state somewhat quickly. Then the only thing left is to stay relaxed during longer runs and songs.

As far as where this has gotten me, this video kinda shows my picking. My technique falls apart at 200, but just before that I am focusing on smooth, easy picking motion, even though it is fast (for me at least :lol:)


Let me know if this makes sense. Hopefully this will be a breakthrough in your playing.

~Sean
 

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^:agreed:

A lot of people who normally play relaxed tense up when they get to something that they imagine to be difficult (such as fast playing), despite the fact that relaxing generally makes it a lot easier to play.

Relaxing is key.
 

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's all in the wrist
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·

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NSLALP
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Since in my line of work I don't use my hands very often I was thinking of getting something like this: Prohands - Hand Exercisers for Musicians : Prohands, Via, Gripmaster, Pro, Hand Exercisers, Flexibility, Dexterity, Strength. Do things like this work or are they not very useful? I figure I can do exercises with this thing while I'm at work and still work on my fingers while not being able to play.
Can not recommend, based on trying them and stress balls, as well as other people's experiences. They will of course build up your hand muscles and tendons a bit, but I think it's a waste compared to practice. Hulk Hogan may have huge hands, but he can't bend a string properly. Better than one of these would likely be a Shred Neck, though I won't recommend one of those either as I haven't used one. :yesway:
 
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