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Lesson 22 - Technique from Hell

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Previous page: Lesson 21 - String Skipping Next page: Lesson 23 - Barre Chords

Lessons of The Week was a series of guitar lessons circulated in "News", in the pre-web days of the Internet. 29 lessons were written before it died out, and I happende to write the first three. They represent a little bit of internet history, as they may have been the first guitar lessons written for the internet.

The lessons were all written in txt format - they were written around the same time as Tim Berners Lee were sitting in Switzerland specifing the first version of html. I have converted them to html, and may have added a few links from the lessons.

Lesson: 22
Title: Technique from Hell
Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced.
Style: Technique
Instructor: Tim Fullerton

Behold, the dreaded technique exercise from Hell! Use this to develop and maintain almost unlimited speed. This exercise covers and drills every possible combination of motions between the pick and the fingers.

I beg you not to do this until you are quite comfortable with all of the technical aspects that I provided across six lessons. If you are not using good ergonomic technique, and you reinforce these bad habits with this exercise, YOU WILL INJURE YOURSELF! If you are not using good tonal technique, your bad habits will be that much more difficult to dig out of your technique later.

Here is a summary of the points of good technique as I know it:

A) Guitar Position (see part I)

B)1. Left Hand Thumb Position and range of motion (midline [G string] to edge... see lesson II)

2. Left Hand Thumb Pressure (NONE! PERIOD! again, see lesson II)

C) Left hand wrist. (Straight as a ruler, palm away from the neck... again, lesson II)

D) Left hand wrist. (parallel to the underside of the neck... lesson III)

E) Finger placement. (close to the neck... lesson III)

F) Overall position of right forearm. (lesson IV)

G) The pick, angled for the least noise (Lesson IV)

H) Alternate Pick (lesson IV)

I) Do not brace the right hand

J) Use a very tiny motion to pick

K) Relax

If you are not absolutely comfortable with everything, for God's sake do not do this yet. Keep up with the six lessons until you can dependably keep track of all of these points, however slowly you have to play. I keep a consolidation of all six lessons on my hard drive; if you wish it, mail a request to fullerto@cis.ohio-state.edu and I will be glad to mail it to you.

SETTING UP THE CHART

Make this chart that you will practice from each day. First, write the permutations of 1234 down the left side of a piece of paper.

1234
1243
1324
1342
1423
1432
2134
2143
2314
2341
2413
2431

3124
3142
3214
3241
3412
3421
4123
4132
4213
4231
4312
4321

Write SABCD across the top. These are titles of columns, so put plenty of room between each.

          S               A               B               C           D
      
1234
1243
1324
1342
1423
1432

2134
2143
2314
2341
2413
2431

3124
3142
3214
3241
3412
3421

4123
4132
4213
4231
4312
4321

The letters represent various left hand fingerings, and the numbers are the orders that each note is played in each fingering.

Pattern "S" is a single string:

Finger =====> 1 2 3 4

    E|------|-----|---0-|---0-|---0-|---0-|-----|-----|-----|
    B|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    G|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    D|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    A|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    E|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

Pattern A:

Finger =====> 1 2 3 4

    E|------|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    B|------|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    G|------|-----|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    D|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|
    A|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    E|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

Pattern B:

Finger =====> 1 2 3 4

    E|------|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    B|------|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    G|------|-----|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    D|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|
    A|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    E|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

Pattern C:

Finger =====> 1 2 3 4

    E|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|
    B|------|-----|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    G|------|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    D|------|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    A|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    E|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

Pattern D:

    Finger =====>     1     2     3     4

    E|------|-----|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    B|------|-----|---0-|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|
    G|------|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    D|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    A|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    E|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

Choose a picking pattern for this chart. There are four to apply.

Down, up, down, up;
Up, down, up, down;
Down, down, down, down; and
Up, up, up, up.

Let us begin by drilling down, up, down, up. Indicate that on the chart:

                     down, up, down, up

          S               A               B               C           D
      
1234
1243
1324
1342
1423
1432

2134
2143
2314
2341
2413
2431

3124
3142
3214
3241
3412
3421

4123
4132
4213
4231
4312
4321

FILLING THE CHART

Fill the chart with metronome markings. Find the speed where you can play each pattern perfectly five times. Then drop that speed 25%. That is the number that you put on the chart, and that is the speed at which you will practice that particular pattern.

For example:

Let us begin with 1234 on a single string, and let us say that we will practice it on the 5th fret. Start playing it.

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 <== Fingering

E|-5-6-7-8-5-6-7-8-5-6-7-8-5-6-7-8-|    etc...
B|---------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------|

Now while you are playing it, go through the technique check list and incorporate each aspect on the check list:

For example, ask yourself "Is the guitar set up properly? Are my fingers staying low?" Keep slowing your speed until you can maintain all of the aspects of good technique.

Then make sure that you are using the correct picking pattern for this chart...
   d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u  <== Picking

   1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4  <== Fingering
E|-5-6-7-8-5-6-7-8-5-6-7-8-5-6-7-8-|    etc...
B|---------------------------------|
G|---------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------|

and make sure that it is played in an even tempo...

       d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u  <== Picking

       1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4  <== Fingering
    E|-5-6-7-8-5-6-7-8-5-6-7-8-5-6-7-8-|    etc...
    B|---------------------------------|
    G|---------------------------------|
    D|---------------------------------|
    A|---------------------------------|
    E|---------------------------------|

not

d u d u      d u d u      d u d u      1 2 3 4      1 2 3 4      1 2 3 4 <== Fingering

    E|-5-6-7-8 (pause) -5-6-7-8 (pause) -5-6-7-8 (pause)
    B|---------        ---------        ---------------|
    G|---------        ---------        ---------------|
    D|---------        ---------        ---------------|
    A|---------        ---------        ---------------|
    E|---------        ---------        ---------------|

Let us say that you came up with a speed of 92 on a standard metronome. Drop that back by 25% (5 clicks on a standard metronome) and put that figure (69) at the intersection of 1234 (the fingering order) and "S," the fingering pattern.

                     down, up, down, up

          S               A               B               C           D

1234       69
1243
1324
1342
1423
1432

2134
2143
2314
2341
2413
2431

3124
3142
3214
3241
3412
3421

4123
4132
4213
4231
4312
4321

Let us try one a little more awkward. How about pattern "A" 1324. Recall that pattern A is:

Finger =====> 1 2 3 4

    E|------|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    B|------|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    G|------|-----|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    D|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|---0-|-----|-----|-----|
    A|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|
    E|------|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|-----|

thus the way you would execute that pattern (in fifth position) is:

       d u d u d u d u    <== Picking

       1 3 2 4 1 3 2 4    <== Fingering
    E|-------6-------6----|
    B|---5-------5--------|
    G|-----7-------7------|     etc...
    D|---------8-------8--|
    A|--------------------|
    E|--------------------|

Again, slow down until perfect technique can be maintained and until there are no pauses between iterations. Be especially conscious of the picking pattern. I know this is not the way you want to do it, and this way is terribly awkward. That is the whole point of this exercise -- to drill every possible motion, awkward or not.

Say that you can do this perfectly in quarter notes at 50. Drop the metronome back five clicks to 40, and mark that on your chart.

                     down, up, down, up

          S               A               B               C           D

1234       69
1243
1324                       40
1342
1423
1432


2134
2143
2314
2341
2413
2431

3124
3142
3214
3241
3412
3421

4123
4132
4213
4231
4312
4321

Obviously, you should put your own speeds in place of the examples that I provide. I leave it up to you to fill out your chart.

There are two reasons to keep the practice speed 25% slower than your maximum. For one thing, we are guitarists. As such, we are egomaniacs. We are constitutionally incapable of being honest with ourselves about how fast we can really play.:-) More seriously, some days our chops work better than others. If we try to practice at our top speed every day, some days we are just not going to be able to do it. Those days, sloppiness will erode our progress. That 25% reduction allows for a comfortable cushion to account for when your chops just aren't working. Fear not, your top speed will still rise with the practice speed.

PRACTICING

Aspire to practice through this chart six days a week. After a week, make a new chart and increase each speed by one metronome increment. If you are using one of those digital metronomes that increments by ones, refer to the chart of standard metronome increments at the end of this lesson.

Right now, I would expect that it takes a ridiculous amount of time to play through this chart. For that reason, I would say not to make charts for up, down, up, down; down, down, down, down; or up, up, up, up. When you are faster, then start adding charts one by one.

Soon you are going to be REALLY fast. For that reason, I suggest that you acquire the habit of warming up before you do this. Unfortunately, I have never run across any definitive warm-up routines. I have heard that merely playing slowly is insufficient. Unfortunately, no one has offered anything better yet. If you know of anything, mail me. Meanwhile, I would suggest something that lightly works the fingers of your left hand -- for example, the pseudo chromatic exercise from the six technique lessons, any scales, and sight-reading. Play slowly and very gradually work up to around the speeds at which you play the exercise from Hell. Rest frequently.

Also, move around where you practice the patterns. For example, do not always play them on the top four strings in fifth position. Play them in arbitrary positions on arbitrary groups of adjoining four strings around the whole range of the neck.

THE METRONOME

Don't have a metronome? The kind that is best for this exercise is the battery powered kind with a dial on the front. The time kept is infallible, the dial has standard increments, and you can get from one speed to another instantly -- all come in very handy in the exercise from Hell. Other kinds of metronomes that exist are the little digital ones, the plug in mechanical kind, and the upside-down pendulum kind. The little digital ones are great for general purpose practicing. They are cheap and keep infallible time. They are inconvenient for this, though, because they increment by one and because you can't get from one speed to another instantly; you have to wait for it to scroll up to the speed you want. The other kinds just plain suck. The plug-in mechanical kind varies with household current, and when they wear out they get noisy. The upside-down pendulum kind keep time badly.

STANDARD METRONOME INCREMENTS

    40 - 60 increment by two

40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60

    60 - 72 increment by three
60, 63, 66, 69, 72

    72 - 120 increment by four

72, 76, 80, 84, 88, 92, 96, 100, 104, 108, 112, 116, 120

120 - 144 increment by six

120, 126, 132, 138, 144

144 - 208 increment by eight

144, 152, 160, 168, 176, 184, 192, 200, 208
Tim Fullerton
   fullerto@cis.ohio-state.edu
   1987 Upper Chelsea Rd
   Columbus, Ohio 43221
   (614) - 488 - 9322

copyright 1993 by Tim Fullerton. Used by permission.

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