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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've noticed that I very frequently tense up while I'm playing, mostly in my picking hand, forearm and shoulder. I do it with my left hand too, but not as bad and for some reason I seem to have an easier time correcting that if I concentrate, even while playing full speed.

Can you guys recommend any good drills to help with this? I've found plenty that basically involve slowing waaaaaaay the hell down while playing relatively simple stuff and focusing on staying relaxed, but I don't really have a problem doing it at slow speeds or moderate speeds. I'll practice it slow to a metronome and gradually speed up, but I eventually hit a speed where I can't focus on playing stuff right AND staying relaxed, even if I can do it consistently at 5 or 10 bpm slower.
 

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When I am doing rudiments and exercises the point when I tense up is my target. I dont think its a detriment, I think its a sign that your body/mind are saying you are pushing yourself.

I have a metronome app that will automatically increase speed every so many bars and as I am doing exercises, I will keep an eye on when I hit that point. I will note the speed and then slow down a few beats and keep working. Then after a few days/weeks I will keep the auto increase going until I tense up again and I usually find i get get a few bpm higher before it happens. Its small increases, but it is a steady increase over time.

I dont have a naturally fast right hand so it takes A LOT of work to get decent fast clean picking out if it.
 

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Play very, very short phrases, not long ones, and focus on staying relaxed at speed. You will find it much easier to stay relaxed for 4 notes that you will trying to play some long phrase. Then, instead of just working on speed, work on relaxed phrase length and THEN bump up the speed.

Rinse and repeat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Alt picking, mostly, especially when I'm alt picking across different strings. For example, I've been working on learning Across the Folded Line by Allegaeon. It's not a super technical or complex song, but it's pretty fast and it's basically steady alt picking all the way through.


I have a guitar pro tab, and I learned that song at 60 or 70% speed, which is completely manageable. I've been slowly working my way up from there, making sure I have everything down and that I'm staying relaxed while playing it before bumping up the speed. I think the GP tab I have has the tempo at about 240 (which I believe is actually a bit slower than the actual recording, and I can comfortably play the song without tensing up at around 215 or so. I've been playing it that speed for a while, and have it down, but if I try to go any faster it all starts to go to shit. :rofl:

Play very, very short phrases, not long ones, and focus on staying relaxed at speed. You will find it much easier to stay relaxed for 4 notes that you will trying to play some long phrase. Then, instead of just working on speed, work on relaxed phrase length and THEN bump up the speed.

Rinse and repeat.
This is a good idea. I tend to try to play through an extended section or a whole song most times, so breaking it down into chunks might help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm actually talking about the rhythm parts, haven't even taken a crack at the solo yet. This isn't a particularly difficult or complex song, but for some reason it just causes me a lot of problems. I run into that a lot, actually-I can play x song/riff/lick just fine but y, which may not even be as difficult as x, just causes me to tense up and run into problems.

That's sort of why I posted the thread, because I'm having trouble diagnosing the actual problem since it's not something that happens consistently. There's a riff in one of my band's songs that's in sort of a similar style, and I can play that with much less trouble.

I'll try to make a quick video if I get a chance tonight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
I completely lose all ability to play after a couple of drinks, and I'm very jealous of people who don't. :rofl:

I had a roommate in college who got better when he was hammered. He'd come home rip roaring drunk, plug in, and start shredding on John Petrucci solos that he had been struggling with earlier that afternoon. Fucker.

Edit: Got home from work late last night and didn't have a chance to bang out a video. I should have some time to do it over the weekend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Ok, FINALLY got around to doing that video after being completely swamped all week. Finally found the time, but I Spent far more time figuring out how to rout the audio from ampkit and how to edit the two clips together, etc than I did recording the thing, so it's pretty quick and dirty. :rofl:

Anyway, here it is. Not my best work, and not great quality, but there you go.
 

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I had a roommate in college who got better when he was hammered. He'd come home rip roaring drunk, plug in, and start shredding on John Petrucci solos that he had been struggling with earlier that afternoon. Fucker.
:lol:

For me, it's a two way street. When I've had more than a couple drinks, I unquestionably lose some technical control and get a bit sloppier, however I also tend to play more aggressively and with a bit more confidence. It makes me a better "blues jam" player, but definitely less clean and accurate.
 

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Where exactly are you finding the tension building up? From the looks of that video, most of your picking is coming from your thumb as opposed to your wrist.
 

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Where exactly are you finding the tension building up? From the looks of that video, most of your picking is coming from your thumb as opposed to your wrist.
Yeah, on the slower, more strummy parts, you use your wrist and forearm more, but on the faster consecutive 8th note triplets you start using the the fingers to move the plectrum more.

There's nothing wrong with that technique, per se (I do a lot of my fastest alternate picking like that), but on a fairly hard staccato and sustained section like that, you're likely to fatigue your muscles and tendons, which is probably what's causing the sensation you're having and the dropped/miss-hit notes.

Without a guitar, hold your hand in the picking position and try these three movements and notice how they feel different:

Keep your wrist and forearm still, and move the pick up and down with just your thumb and forefinger (kind of what you're doing here).
Keep your fingers and forearm still and move the pick up and move just your wrist.
Keep your fingers and wrist still and move the pick up and down with just your forearm.

For me, the second one is the easiest-feeling of the three. The others are ok in shorter bursts, but I notice the strain much quicker.

All of these are valid techniques (anyone who says 'never do this' or 'always do that' is usually being far too dogmatic), but they each have their appropriate times to be used. This riff sounds like it's more of a wrist thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
That makes a lot of sense actually. For a while I was really focusing on making my picking motion more economical because I was working on a lot of songs with real fast trem picking, but I think without realizing it, I got into the habit of using my fingers instead of just making my wrist motion smaller.

Slowing things down and focusing on keeping relaxed works really well with my fretting hand, but like I said, I have a hard time translating it to faster speeds with my picking hand. That could definitely be why. Thanks for the feedback. :yesway:
 
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