These are the mistakes you need to correct

Beginner or been playing for sometime,
there are only basics and subskills that we need to get better at and fluent with.

Keeping on practising won’t make your playing better.
Correct notes is just a very small part of playing well.
Then what are the underlying mistakes or corrections you need to make?

A few categories of interest and the learner path or usual mistakes below. Use them the next time you consider practice.

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Beginning

  • Hitting the wrong string, basic familiarity problems
  • real solutions: being aware of the finger and wrist positions, correct positioning of the guitar, knowing that sustained notes is the aim
  • press and hit one note on one string, Try a second note with a different finger. Try sustaining the first note till the second is sound, with no gap in between.
  • practice the C major scale open position. Don’t try too many things, also don’t get stuck with single string exercises from grade books.
  • once you can do the basics notes of the C major scale, we need to correct for up and down strokes, connectedness, remembering the notes better, write finger usage, finger efficiency like keeping close to fretboard etc, keeping wrist etc as needed.

Without underlying corrections, just trying more exercises will not help you. It can make you frustrated and make the student quit altogether believing they are not talented.

What if we all quit writing because we couldn’t do it in a week and believed we are not talented at writing.

Indian style guitar: been playing for sometime, need fluency

  • even after playing for years, there are players who can’t connect the notes. They are also not aware that the problem is in the connection and sustain
  • do connection exercises to better you hit and press sync. that is the underlying reason, which is not obvious
  • it also means better use of fingers, keeping them closer to fretboard, prepration, wrist angle etc
  • special problems, like playing higher number frets – wrist angle has to be corrected – the knuckles are no more parallel to the fretboard.
  • phrasing and fingering logic has to be planned using tuning relationship knowledge, preemptive thinking to start with appropriate finger that will help the notes to come. Not just what is currently convenient.
  • memorization, preparation, reducing delays at a phrase level, word and sentence level.
  • project management – knowing what to finish first, gain momentum,
  • knowing what parts of the song are at what skill level. For example: the vocal part and the very end lead of Ilayanila is at an easier skill level than the interludes. I suggest my students to finish the vocal parts first, submit a video on that with mistakes, then correct them, make a final video as benchmark, before trying the interludes – else the mixture of skill need will unnecessarily prolong progress.
  • be able to simplify the versions as needed to remove bottle necks for a first draft performance version.
  • again, just repeating the notes will not take care of the gaps and underlying problems.

Rhythm and chord beginning

  • If you are just beginning, using the open chords, learn how to optimize your moves – which groups of fingers, which finger minimal move, keeping them close to fretboard and prepared, the function of the thumb etc.
  • If you already know 10 or 100 chords, know that there are only 3 chord patterns from which all of them can be derived. The pre internet chord teaching businesses took a look and repeat database kind of approach, blindly giving you the same chord patterns starting from different positions and calling them all new chords. Be smart – know the patterns.
  • from open chords, free up the index finger, start playing the open chords without the index finger. this prepares you to play barre chords
  • the only three chord patterns from the open chord position, transfer and start playing barre chords. the 6th and 1st have to be taken care of first. the remaining fingers have to learn to move in groups etc
  • optimization comes from rotation move of the wrist, preparation of fingers, group movement etc. If not aware, those things won’t get optimized

 

Carnatic interest

  • See the section on Indian guitar fluency above.
    Remember that it is not about just somehow playing the notes. You need to think through your phrases, optimizing your fingering and phrasing, in order to play fluently.
    IN addition, for carnatic interest:
  • be able to identify S R1 R2 etc
  • demonstrate it on the fretboard
  • demonstrate the variable nature of S r etc. Meaning, if G is Sa, then… what is R1 when A# is Sa, what is Pa etc
  • Knowing the slide rules, arohana and avarohana of the song you intend to learn
  • parse through swaras, identify aro or avaro, place slide rule for EACH swara
  • be able to connect swaras to phrases, phrases to sentences and to the whole song
  • explain the difference between the swaras and sahithya/lyrics version – what does it mean to absorb swaras into the vowels?
  • be able to arrange the difference of versions properly to execute the lyrics version

be able to simplify the versions as needed to remove bottle necks for a first draft performance version.

Remember that learning different raga phrases have no practical value. You could as well be learning different song lines.
IN fact songs are good raga sources these days.

Finding notes on your own

  • is trial and error which can be made faster by deliberate exercises and collecting a library of errors and corrections.
  • do you already play a song? try starting it from a different place on the same string and next exercise, start from a different string. The errors be corrected by ear. This gives you something that you are familiar with to work on without having the overwhelm of having to start from a blank slate and find notes
  • scale information, guessing notes before playing etc are all useful exercises
  • but the best is – attempting new songs, getting feedback on them, knowing what the difference was.

Finding chords on your own

  • the macro method is by family of chords – you need to know that
  • but the way you have seen me do on my videos is, by phrase by phrase chord finding. Take notes of the phrase, find possible chords
  • this doesn’t depend on progression or scale or any presets
  • it does need us to slowly get better at pattern recognition – which our brains are good at
  • For example when I see a phrase with C D and E notes in it, the following chord options occur to me Am, C, FM7, Cadd9
  • Notes CBGE? C major 7th occurs to me. How? Phrases, recoginizing the possible chords from the given phrase notes. Getting better at it.
  • Next time you want to find chords, start with identifying the notes of the song or the phrase and go phrase by phrase

 

Rhythm chord mastery

 

possibilities are endless. my students play variations that I am not comfortable with. Master guitarists find some of my methods uncomfortable to execute. beyond a level, our bodies and minds have personal choices.

  • fluency in rhythm hand up down movement. automation
  • chord hand mutings for accent
  • better fluency in chords. optimized body moves

at this stage, the student benefits from overall ways of thinking, optimizing. New songs, new rhythms, as needed.

 

Sing and rhythm

This is of particular interest to me. These are the problem areas:

  • songs don’t always start on the downbeat. Can you identify the offset, start the downbeat and sing where the song is meant to start?
  • lines end before rhythm ends. You need to extend the rhythm playing till the next line comes. You can’t start where the words end.
  • Words to the next line start before the downstroke of the next rhythm section. You need to adjust the beginning syllables and match the downstroke to the right syllable.
  • vowels absorb rhythms without syllables. master the ability to keep playing rhythm undisturbed, though the syllable has ended, vowels continue.

A much requested for skill. When practiced properly with sub skills, doable. Else, always a sore point of confusion. Easily noticed by the player and audience.

 

Fingerstyle and chord melody

usual mistake – trying too many patterns or songs, without realizing that the real skill is teaching the plucking fingers to find and play the right strings without thinking.
Use one pattern instead. I have share before the video on TIMI RIMI
Chord melody involves series of Chord + note + note +…
Practice that structure maintaining best practices on plucking and chord hand.
To find chord melodies, we need to reduce melodies to open strings. this will take some trial and error and help.
Then identify by pattern chords for those notes.
Arrange them as physically playable positions.
Execute. Listen, correct. Repeat.

How to practice

How long doesn’t matter. Whatever stage you are at, recognize what is missing from the ideal execution. Move 1% towards it.
Doesn’t matter how much time. Error oriented, deliberate practice.
Measure for consistency. Can you do 5/10 times right? Go to 8/10 and that is enough for practice.

How long will it take you to master?
We won’t know even if we can assess your current skill.

BUT… we will know that whatever time and effort is put in, you are making the best use of it

because you are directly looking at the errors, know what exactly to change and moving towards becoming better at it than you were before.

Instead if we divide practice time by just random time divisions, we are not concentrating on the real corrections, there is no measure, there is no improvement.

Song or whatever you are playing, chunk it down and use it as a tool to improve your skill, vertically. Then you can expand your repertoire horizontally as much as you wish.

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