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Tricks to breaking through a wall in your playing...

FantomasXD

Inspired
Hey guys... Just wondering what tips people have for pushing through walls and making guitar playing/learning feel fresh again.

I know an obvious one would be to learn different things then what you're used to..

What have you guys found have progressed your playing the most?

Learning other bands songs to see what they are doing?, Practice modes and scales to try and create your own songs? Etc.

Thanks in advance!
 

Zwiebelchen

Fractal Fanatic
I think that really depends on the level you are at and your personaly preferences.

I always liked pragmatism and thought the only good way to really improve my playing was just learning song after song after song..., but I eventually hit a wall where I simply could not get to play fast solos, no matter how often I tried. I realized it was not my dexterity that was limiting me, but my actual technique.
So I went back and did training exercises. Day by day, nice and slow, as you get it learned by any teacher out there. I noticed that all the excuses I always used for not doing exercises were just what they are: bad excuses. You got the time, no matter what you say. So I finally put my stuff together and started practicing, not just playing.

The progress I made during the last 3 weeks exceeds the progress of the last two years combined. Not only did I got faster, but I also noticed that all my playing got smoother, cleaner. When I recently made some dry guitar track recordings for older songs and compared to my old ones, I can't believe how much has changed since then.


As I said, it really depends on your current level, but there are three advices that really helped me improving (and I consider myself a very amateurish player):
1) daily but short practicing ... develope a routine! It's better to practice for a short time every day than practicing once a week for several hours - it's also much better for your fingers
2) compare your progress ... I can't tell how much that helped me getting back confidence in my playing. Do dry records of your songs every now and then and compare them some weeks later - you WILL notice the difference and it's motivating as hell (the light version of this is using a metronome and increasing the speed over time, but playing is more than just speed, so I highly recommend making recordings)!
3) When you are done with your daily training, relax by playing whatever you want! This is important, as technical exercises are very exhausting and might suck some of the fun out of playing - and you certainly don't want that to go.

Actually, trying to create your own songs is also a good idea. I did that right from the beginning (as I don't like covers) and I can only say that it helps so much to improve your general feel of music. I listen to music totally different now compared to when I started writing songs - in a positive way.


One more thing I noticed over time:
Practice standing! Guitar teachers tend to forget about this little thing and 99% of the people you see on youtube you admire just shredding the shit out of your favorite songs are always sitting when playing. It makes an enormous difference. Just because you can play fluently and clean when sitting on a chair doesn't mean it translates very well to a live performance on stage.
It really helped improving my live playing. Do it! When you finally get your desired solo done while standing and then sit down again and try it again, playing will feel like a breeze, which is also a big motivation thing.
 
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don_joe

Experienced
I think that really depends on the level you are at and your personaly preferences.

I always liked pragmatism and thought the only good way to really improve my playing was just learning song after song after song..., but I eventually hit a wall where I simply could not get to play fast solos, no matter how often I tried. I realized it was not my dexterity that was limiting me, but my actual technique.
So I went back and did training exercises. Day by day, nice and slow, as you get it learned by any teacher out there. I noticed that all the excuses I always used for not doing exercises were just what they are: bad excuses. You got the time, no matter what you say. So I finally put my stuff together and started practicing, not just playing.

The progress I made during the last 3 weeks exceeds the progress of the last two years combined. Not only did I got faster, but I also noticed that all my playing got smoother, cleaner. When I recently made some dry guitar track recordings for older songs and compared to my old ones, I can't believe how much has changed since then.


As I said, it really depends on your current level, but there are three advices that really helped me improving (and I consider myself a very amateurish player):
1) daily but short practicing ... develope a routine! It's better to practice for a short time every day than practicing once a week for several hours - it's also much better for your fingers
2) compare your progress ... I can't tell how much that helped me getting back confidence in my playing. Do dry records of your songs every now and then and compare them some weeks later - you WILL notice the difference and it's motivating as hell (the light version of this is using a metronome and increasing the speed over time, but playing is more than just speed, so I highly recommend making recordings)!
3) When you are done with your daily training, relax by playing whatever you want! This is important, as technical exercises are very exhausting and might suck some of the fun out of playing - and you certainly don't want that to go.

Actually, trying to create your own songs is also a good idea. I did that right from the beginning (as I don't like covers) and I can only say that it helps so much to improve your general feel of music. I listen to music totally different now compared to when I started writing songs - in a positive way.

I think you've metioned an excellent point here, practice is important but you should not forget to have fun and make your own stuff. I'm also an amateur but I feel that the progress in my case always came from both for me equally important ingrediens. I still know more of my own songs than covers. On the other hand, practicing and applying new techniques can also make fun and bring you at some point further. My experience showed me that if I wasn't able to correctly grasp, play and apply some new technique from the beginning, at some point it just sat down and I could found a good use of it. Like arpeggios for example, it's extremely difficult to play from the beginning. You shouldn't even dare to play it, until it sits. If you play the basic ones it doesn't sound so special anyhow. But after enough of practice, your fingers find there own way and you just adjust it to your own variation. And this happens mostly when you have fun and try something out, not exactly while you're practicing. Techniques and practice are a good instrument to get your fun to the next level.

If you can decently play arpeggios go on to string skipping (like I recently did) or so. The only way to break walls is either to adopt something new or to change your approach in practice and playing. hmm? :) Sorry for my bad english...
 

Coldsummer

Experienced
Try playing with less gain, let the sound breath a bit, then you can practice the finer nuances of your playing. I spent years disguising sloppy technique with too much gain, delay etc but once I reduced that stuff I could hear the real tone coming through and I believe my playing has improved as a result.
 

guitvai1

Inspired
Tackle a different genre, put on a drum beat and jam. With the band I'm in now I'm forced to learn lots of disco funk stuff like Niles Rodgers. This has opened up a whole new world for me and my rythm playing has improved immensely, similarily in my previous band we played some blues and I got into SRV and Hendrix. Just try different things, I used to be stuck on Satriani and Vai stuff but realized this stuff limited me immensely.
 

Ben Randolph

Power User
Surround yourself with inspiring players who are better than you. A lot of times this involves finding a patient teacher who can help you get where you need to be.

Learn some jazz. Seriously. Even if you're a rock, metal, blues player. Jazz really opened up my eyes to theory, playing around changes, new chords, scales. It's a whole other world to open up.

Don't load up on the gain and effects. Imagine that you're at a pawn shop and someone hands you a 50s Strat and a Blues Jr. and nothing else and asks you to play. Make it a point to be able to make something beautiful with only that.

When you memorize solos, don't just memorize them straight through, be able to internalize your favorite licks and use them in your own playing. Get it to a point where it doesn't sound like you're just playing a pocketful of licks. Mix it in with your own stuff. Make it your own.

Above all, don't compare yourself to other players. You're you. We're all on the same guitar journey. Some of us are at different stages and on different paths, but its all the same journey in the end. Enjoy it. The ability to play guitar, even at a basic level, is a wonderful thing. Cherish that!
 

SmokinHalfNote

Inspired
One thing we've lost sight of due to the ubiquity of online transcriptions and the like is good old fashioned transcribing. I've been studying jazz for about three years seriously and I finally starting actually practicing what every jazz teacher I've had preached.

Transcribing is important in so many ways, the least of which is learning a new tune. It opens up your ears, makes you think and listen carefully. You also learn to carefully emulate nuances.

My advice is to learn some solos in a wide range of genres. Learn a Wes Montgomery solo, then some Brad Paisley, Zakk Wylde, Phil Keaggy, whatever. Mix it up. You'll improve exponentially and also increase your repertoire of licks and technique. It doesn't matter if you don't nail it 100%. The effort counts, and it's how most of the "greats" learned since they didn't have tab books, the Internet, etc. Just my $.02, but it's worked wonders for me.
 

SmokinHalfNote

Inspired
One more thing that is aimed at me as much as it is anyone . . .

Take the time you would spend on a message board and use it to practice the basics (chord voicings, arpeggios, scales, modes) in every key until you know them cold.

And yes, I'm aware of this post's irony. :)
 

Ron_R

Power User
Surround yourself with inspiring players who are better than you.

Some of us are at different stages and on different paths, but its all the same journey in the end. Enjoy it. The ability to play guitar, even at a basic level, is a wonderful thing. Cherish that!

Best advice ever.

The other thing I find really helps is listen to something you normally wouldn't. You may fall in love with a new genre and it will expand your repertoire and force you to try new things musically on your instrument. I was not a fan of progressive metal for many years. When I finally really listened to it, I found that I just had not been ready to really LISTEN in my musical journey. ONce I got to listening to it, I absolutely couldn't stop. It forced me out of the straight pentatonic stuff I knew too well and really helped me to stretch out. Believe it or not, that opened the door for me to fusion and then all the way backwards to Charlie Christian. Weird, but true.
 

Suhrfer

Experienced
A good teacher! Preferably one that is not semi-famous and at the same time has an ego the size of Mt.Saint Helens, because you will spend half your lessons listening to him talk about himself.

Once I found a good teacher I was able to get past some problem areas rather quickly. There were some minor adjustments in my technique that once addressed had a huge positive impact on my playing.
 

notalemming

Fractal Fanatic
One thing we've lost sight of due to the ubiquity of online transcriptions and the like is good old fashioned transcribing. I've been studying jazz for about three years seriously and I finally starting actually practicing what every jazz teacher I've had preached.

Transcribing is important in so many ways, the least of which is learning a new tune. It opens up your ears, makes you think and listen carefully. You also learn to carefully emulate nuances.

My advice is to learn some solos in a wide range of genres. Learn a Wes Montgomery solo, then some Brad Paisley, Zakk Wylde, Phil Keaggy, whatever. Mix it up. You'll improve exponentially and also increase your repertoire of licks and technique. It doesn't matter if you don't nail it 100%. The effort counts, and it's how most of the "greats" learned since they didn't have tab books, the Internet, etc. Just my $.02, but it's worked wonders for me.

And don't just listen to guitar players. Learn licks, patterns & phrasing from other instruments. It will open up a whole new world.
 

Geezerjohn

Fractal Fanatic
Find a local teacher who is a great guitar teacher, not just a player. Even if you have to travel to take some lessons, do it. Only a teacher can give you instant feedback and help correct bad habits that really do inhibit you ability to improve. Focus on picking techniques, not just fingering. Even if you just take a few lessons, the corrective feedback can really help improve your playing. There are some good tools on the internet, but there is no substitute for a skilled teacher helping you to identify and correct issues to improve your playing. Just my 2 cents.
 

Lawjac

Member
I thought I had calluses until I tried flat picking bluegrass. Those hammer ons and pull offs on acoustic are the quickest way to toughen up those tips... And in the mean time I gained speed. +1 on trying different styles than your used to.

Sent from my HTCONE using Tapatalk
 

aleclee

Power User
When you memorize solos, don't just memorize them straight through, be able to internalize your favorite licks and use them in your own playing.
The other thing I find really helps is listen to something you normally wouldn't. You may fall in love with a new genre and it will expand your repertoire and force you to try new things musically on your instrument.
Put these two together and you'd be well on your way to expanding your playing horizons.

I find it really tedious to learn stuff note for note but picking up cool concepts from a varied set of influences tends to get my juices flowing.
 

FantomasXD

Inspired
Damn! Thanks a lot guys! there is a hell of a lot of good information there! i have always been interested in trying some jazz so i will start there.
I watched a good youtube clip on how to sweep the modes of the major scale so thats a pretty cool exercise i have been trying. Also the John Petrucci spider exercise and his arpeggio exercise have been good to me as well.

Trying to write my own songs is a difficult one because as you guys probably know you are your own worst critic! its very hard to just leave something and say "oh well thats good enough" but as they say practice makes perfect and i will keep at it.

Playing with a metronome no matter what i'm doing has been great for my timing and sense of rhythm also... Time signatures is a bit of a tough one for me. I understand quarter, 8th, and 16th notes but thats about as far as i am with that stuff. I think figuring out that will help me to know what can fit in where. Any tips or comments about this? or is it just best to play how you feel and figure it out later?

Thanks a lot to everyone who responded, there is some great guys/girls in these forums. Absolutely love my axe fx 2 and being a part of these forums.

You guys rule.
 

Zwiebelchen

Fractal Fanatic
About timing, it's important to do some exercises on triplets and sextuplets if you struggle with those. Especially when combined with forced alternate picking (instead of economy picking), triplets can be a real pain in the ass, especially if you want to accentuate the first of the triplet, as then the second triplet will be an accentuated upstroke.

But it also depends on your feel of rhythm. I somehow never got a problem with triplets and accentuation, but I've seen a lot of people (especially those that came from a classical background and got used to 'counting') struggle with those.
 

Ron_R

Power User
I thought of something else.

Record yourself. Then listen back, and evaluate your playing critically. Don't beat yourself up over it, but listen to yourself and see if you tend to play the same licks over and over again. Then consciously try to break that habit. It's tough!
 
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