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Old 02-28-2001, 11:46 AM
jdpresto jdpresto is offline
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Question What do you do when you plateau?

I was looking for some insight from some of the more senior players here at the forum (the term senior merely referring to years of experience rather than eligibility for AARP).

It is inevitable, when you hit a point where it seems like you are not learning anything more, just continuing to practice what you know. When you plateau, or hit a wall so to speak, how do you get over it?

Yes Mapletrees, I am learning to read music I just mean when your technique, your chord knowledge is just stagnant. Any helpful hints? I realize this is quite an open-ended question, but I wanted a variety of earnest responses.

Thanks all,

Jeff

[ 02-28-2001: Message edited by: jdpresto ]
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Old 02-28-2001, 01:57 PM
Erm Erm is offline
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Hi Jeff,

Well, I'm 27 and been playing music since I was 4. Some would say I'm a seasoned player but I never stop learning. When I learn more I realize how much I don't know.

Just wondering if you ever play in tunings? When I felt like you describe I started playing with tunings and it opened so many doors. I think a good one is DADGAD. It forces you to think more and for me it started a flow of new creative ideas and writing music became fun again.

Just an idea.......
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Old 02-28-2001, 02:04 PM
Camalex Camalex is offline
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Jeff -- I think their are some great techniques out there at www.guitarprinciples.com to over come "plateaus." In spite of Andreas' kooky style and long winded discussions, he seems to be on to developing a set of practice principles that woud help any player at any level crack through performance plateaus. Between No Tempo Practicing, Posing and proper tension awareness, his techniques seem to really work. They have for me and I've been playing for 30 years -- at 41, I've never played better nor practiced more effectively. As strictly a tool for improving technique, I think its worth a look. He's not much on music theory -- his focus in on developing routines and exercises and that promote proper practice positions and optimal hand/finger movements. He really stresses the elimination of sympathetic tension in your hand, arms and shoulders and in turn, promote free and controlled playing. He sells a book that I now have - its worth the $30 or so -- its not very glossy but packed with discussion and exmaples of exercises. he has a weekly newletter. Give it a try.
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Old 02-28-2001, 04:27 PM
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Bill Nichols (CaptBill) Bill Nichols (CaptBill) is offline
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Hey Jeff,
Excellent question!!
It seems I keep running into walls all the time! So I force myself to learn something new. My progression in ability sometimes seems frustratingly slow but I believe its just due to a lack of talent, which means I have to work that much harder.
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Old 03-01-2001, 07:08 PM
mapletrees mapletrees is offline
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What are you using for reading?

The vast majority of people who start on the guitar don't learn how to read. The vast majority of seriously good guitarists know how to read.


One suggestion, subscribe to Fingerstyle magazine....you won't lack for things to practice! They usually have the chord names above each line of music so you can see and understand the harmony involved - that's highly instructional. You can see how someone (a world class player always) turns a three chord song like Silent Night into a twenty chord song....and probably chord voicings you've never seen before.....

Another suggestion, do you have any info from interviews or what not as to what Dave Mathews' background/education as far as music and/or guitar is? Who his influences were? are? What does he play when he's not playing his own music? If you like an artist, it might be worthwhile to trace his/her steps....For instance, if he studied fingerstyle jazz from Howard Morgen for three years and you haven't done something comparable, mmmmmmmm....he's got you licked. Does he play other instruments? He certainly plays the guitar with a superior sense of rhythm compared to most.....has he played the bongos(sp?) since age 3?

Do you know your triads and their inversions on all four string sets yet....know them cold? Jeepers creepers, I still don't know them all well enough to recall them instantly....still takes a few seconds for some....that's not good enough (not even close) if I'm trying to use them for improv like Larry Carlton....I'm going to be a couple more years!

Getting back to Dave M
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Old 03-01-2001, 07:11 PM
mapletrees mapletrees is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by mapletrees:
What are you using for reading?

The vast majority of people who start on the guitar don't learn how to read. The vast majority of seriously good guitarists know how to read. Somebody out there do the math.


One suggestion, subscribe to Fingerstyle magazine....you won't lack for things to practice! They usually have the chord names above each line of music so you can see and understand the harmony involved - that's highly instructional. You can see how someone (a world class player always) turns a three chord song like Silent Night into a twenty chord song....and probably (definitely) chord voicings you've never seen before.....

Another suggestion, do you have any info from interviews or what not as to what Dave Mathews' background/education as far as music and/or guitar is? Who his influences were? are? What does he play when he's not playing his own music? If you like an artist, it might be worthwhile to trace his/her steps....For instance, if he studied fingerstyle jazz from Howard Morgen for three years and you haven't done something comparable, mmmmmmmm....he's got you licked. Does he play other instruments? He certainly plays the guitar with a superior sense of rhythm compared to most.....has he played the bongos(sp?) since age 3?

Do you know your triads and their inversions on all four string sets yet....know them cold? Jeepers creepers, I still don't know them all well enough to recall them instantly....still takes a few seconds for some....that's not good enough (not even close) if I'm trying to use them for improv like Larry Carlton....I'm going to be a couple more years!

Getting back to Dave M
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Old 03-01-2001, 07:14 PM
mapletrees mapletrees is offline
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Whoops, didn't mean to do that...
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Old 03-01-2001, 08:03 PM
mapletrees mapletrees is offline
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Now getting back to Dave M.....I only caught a few glimpses of that MTV thing the other night....I got to flip to it when commercials came on the program that someone else was watching...

oh, by the way, he reminds me of a strange squeaky squeezy toy (in appearance and vocal sound!) that my son had as an infant...I just cannot get into this guy...don't know if it's that image of that annoying toy or what....you'd squeeze it and freaky eyes would come bulging out...Dave M makes the same exact face when he hits high notes....spooky...

I understand he's a talented guitarist (I've only learned the popular tunes that have come out in magazines - I thought some parts of those were tricky to say the least - get out the metronome - he's like a rabid monkey with the nutso strumming)

I'm surprised he's so popular....I'd expect him to be popular with young guitar players, but I'm stunned by the widespread appeal he has...his music seems so angular to me...makes me long for the sound of crickets and a four-chord Townes Van Zandt poem.

ANYWAYS, what I was going to say is that from what I saw on that MTV concert, his playing (to me) is buried in the overall sound or his band.....he would in all liklihood play differently in a setting where he was more on his own - especially if there was not a bass player.

Is there anything like a Dave Mathews "unplugged" album (why did that show go away?)? Something where it's just him? Or better yet, something with him and another guitar player? I would swear I have a tab magazine buried somewhere with DM playing a duet (I believe it's live, too... I think I recall spoken words in the TAB).

The point being that with no bass player someone has to play chords that do in fact provide some form of bass line (however limited) and harmony (I don't know if you've ever noticed - and this is tough for many guitar players to swallow - bands need bass players - they can do just fine without guitar players). You might (might!) see more in the way of "normal" chords in such a setting. If there was a second guitar, it would probably be doing the more sophisticated types of parts that DM typically sprinkles about his songs. It would probably give you a better chance to see "what the heck is going on here???" for lack of a better phrase. With a little knowledge of theory, you or your teacher ought to be able to get you adding your own second (or third) parts.

Did any of that make sense?

Even if there is no such "unplugged" album (or TAB book)...you could just look at the music of his other albums and try to add second guitar parts to those.....

I think I'm fading here........tired tonight...

A big problem I had in learning was getting the goofy notion of "what is the correct thing to play" out of my head......'correct' is anything that sounds good...anything. If you look at the TAB for Dave M's music you see all sorts of little weird chord fills and rhythm figures that on their own - out of context - wouldn't add up to a hill of beans. In the context of the song...you get music.

Take the nutso (nutso being the word of the day) intro to Dave M's What Would You Say (correct title? - it's torn apart a bit - rabid monkeys to blame). It centers on an A dominant chord (A9) moving to A/G - an A chord with G in the bass(which really still just represents A7(still A dominant)).

Attack on the nested parentheses.

The full A9 chord is the notes A, C#, E, G, and B.

The full A/G chord is the notes G, A, C#, E

(I should have picked a better example, this tune was sitting within arms reach of me and I picked the first chord change of the song - these chords are so similiar as to obscure what I'm getting at)

Virtually anything you do on that first cluster of notes (which are all over the neck) that leads to the second cluster of notes (which are also all over the neck) will sound correct. Some things will be more interesting than others, of course - but start doing SOMETHING - see what you get.

Later on in the pre-chorus section he plays F to G to Am (he moves up from F to G to Am)

F major = F A C
G major = G B D
Am = A C E

find a different way to play these moving up, find a way to play them down, find a way staying put, play pairs of notes going up, going down,,,,find those triads and their inversions.......there's tons of things you could do.....record the chords he plays and try to add in your own part,,,,maybe just record the bass notes and add parts.....If it sounds good, it is. Remember, that's just using the notes in the chords that he used. Any notes from the scale that generated those chords is fair game, too.....

[ 03-01-2001: Message edited by: mapletrees ]
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Old 03-01-2001, 09:01 PM
jdpresto jdpresto is offline
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Hi Guys. Thanks for all the input, keep 'em coming!

I haven't really experimented with alternate tunings (only drop d and tuning down 1/2 step) but will give them a look.

I also found the www.guitarprinciples.com to be very informative and useful, there are a number of things I will utilize in my quest to get over the hump so to speak.

Mapletrees, boy that is a lot of reply you have there!

Learning music has come from a slew of different sources, I have been working on a balance between sightreading, fretboard memorization and chord formations, and just practicing and playing songs I like via the wonderful world of tab.

Dave is great, I would be the first to say so, but I basically got into his music for a couple of reasons (which relate directly to your questions):

1. There are an infinite number of Dave Matthews solo and duets with Tim Reynolds - CD's MP3's, bootleg concerts, etc. that I have my hands on. Essentially 20 different concerts all without the rest of the band. Absolutely, the band (comprised of some amazing musicians, I too was a sax player and a drummer at one time so I can appreciate), but DM's playing is generally muffled out by the other instruments - except for his signature intro riffs. This allows me to dissect strumming patterns, riffs, and improvization on his part from concert to concert. This abundance of resources allowed me to work from a number of different recordings of the same song (2) Without knowing better, I appreciated some of the apparent complexity or difficulty of some of those songs (more often his older songs than newer). Chances are that what you saw on MTV was a new track off the new album which has become quite less complicated and intricate than some of his older songs.
(3) Book upon book were available on his various albums (including the widely released duet CD with Tim Reynolds which I believe you are referring to).

___________________________________

These things aside, I have enjoyed learning some of the more complex aspects of his playing, but have begun expanding my playing into some Clapton, some Jimmy Buffett (just for simplistic fun), and some Eagles. I do not wish to keep such narrow a focus, but it was a good place to start.

Now 1 year (to the day) I have been playing guitar, and I have FAR surpassed my goals. I can now play darn near every Dave song with pretty good accuracy. (that was NOT my goal, not even close... I just wanted to be able to play 3 chords by this point). Woohoo, yea me!

Anyway, back to Dave for a sec, I am unaware of his musical background. Not formally trained anywhere, was a bartender in VA and met the other band members while at the time having only written 4 original songs. Grew up in South Africa and attributes a lot of his style from music in that region (as you can imagine heavily based in rhythm and drumming).

I have been playing with finding at least three different ways of playing each chord progression in songs. Using the "What would you say" example, in the prechorus F G Am, etc. I find different ways to improv that for a different sound - more subtle and refined versus all out slamming.

I just hit points of being stagnant, where it feels like (even though my songlist) grows weekly, that I am getting into a slump. Most of that is probably because in order to sit down and decipher and learn a new song, I make sure that I have a significant block of time to do so in. If I only have 15-20 min, I just belt out a couple of ones already in my arsenal.

Okay, typers cramp setting in. More later

Thanks all! What do YOU do when you get in a slump? Anyone? Bueler? Bueler? Fry?
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Old 03-19-2001, 10:50 AM
vince vince is offline
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Been there done that,
I get out the a CD I like and spend hrs and sometimes days on one song, and then go back and play some of the songs I know well and realize I know more than I thought. Helps to motivate me.
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Old 03-19-2001, 10:12 PM
Bob Womack
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I do two or three things:

1. Write. No kidding. Making what's inside your head come out your fingers can sometimes break a rut.

2. Play out or play with a partner. That can force you into technical or creative areas which may bring you back around.

3. Seek out an inspiring acoustic space and play in it. I used to head to this great open-plan stairwell when I was in a dorm, lo these twenty years ago. I wish I had it around to go to now... I've also played empty stages on occasion, just to enjoy the acoustic space. You may find that you have to change you style in order to make room for the ambience. My playing (at least the pieces which I write) gets really busy when all I have is a bedroom.

4. Try out a new style or one you haven't been playing much lately. I returned to classical a while back, after a hiatus. This was after my electric playing started boring even me. My fingerstyle playing shot up and now my electric playing is headed into a more eclectic realm. Fingerstyle lead guitar ala Mark Knoffler...

Well, you get the point.

Bob
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Old 03-19-2001, 10:19 PM
mgracing mgracing is offline
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Great thread. As a 2 year player in my mid 30's, I feel like I'm learning at a molasas pace sometimes. This stuff is great.

Mapletrees, the CD you are looking for is "Dave Mathews and Tim Reynolds Live at Luther College". It is a double CD set with a blue cover. Outstanding work. Tim Reynolds is an insanely good musician.
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Old 04-05-2001, 08:44 AM
Greg McGraw Greg McGraw is offline
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Well, I'm definitely not a seasoned player, but I have heard from several virtuosos, (like resophonic master Jerry Douglas), that when you hit a real sticking point you might just need to take a break. I know, I know, it's hard to lay a Taylor down, but a few days off can give you a new perspective. It's also been recommended that "changing gears" and immersing yourself in some music that normally you would never listen to can help to shake things up. Just like with any other mentally or physically demanding task, I think we can experience a degree of "burnout" in playing an instrument too. I've skipped a couple of days of playing several times over the years, and I've always found I've done better afterwards. Just a thought. Good luck!

Best,

Greg
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Old 04-05-2001, 06:50 PM
mapletrees mapletrees is offline
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Bob Womack's suggestion for making what's in your head come out your fingers and also the tip for trying a new style are excellent (that doesn't mean other things listed above are not excellent )

Bob...did you see that post of mine over in the General Discussion area...Chris Proctor - Practicing...? I was feeling a bit in a rut one day a couple years ago over some aspect of playing - can't remember what - and I remember thinking..."ok, time to work on something else"....some Dire Straits (Mark Knopfler) tune came on the radio and I said to myself... "ok, I cannot play like that - time to learn" (that half fingerstyle half electric lead way that he does)

so I got busy with the 'hybrid' picking (he doesn't actually use a pick at all, or does he?) and started learning to play over blues progressions that way - trying to make lead guitar and rhythm guitar blur into one event ...if you look in that Chis Proctor post I tried to break down how I went about learning the mixolydian modes physically around chord shapes on just one string set of three strings at a time....I just looked back at the post....I thought I had written something but the sentence doesn't seem to be there....I meant to write something like..."you're trying to sound like Mark Knopfler here, not Steve Vai"...that way of playing and practicing - playing out of chord shapes, (limiting yourself to staying on certain strings and frets right in the immediate area of little three-string partial chord shapes) will really jump start your playing - it necessitates learning the fingerboard thoroughly - capital T thoroughly)

And then, of course, when you go back to practicing traditional scalar-oriented licks and leads, they're all fired up for two reasons

1) you can target notes a heck of a lot better since you know the fingerboard WAY better than before

2) you've got a better sense of rhythm and a better sense of 'when to play and when not to play' since practicing that 'Knopfler' way demands that you keep a rhythm groove going and not lose the beat....Jimi Hendrix' music never sounds stale or dated - not because of the notes he played but rather because of the rhythm he played them with - rhythm is ridiculously important...no rhythm no music...

I guess I need to write rough drafts before I post...any of that getting through?...


The other thing....getting what's in your head to come out your fingers...it's the way I started students with soloing....

I play a one chord groove (or we use a recording) and they - with a little guidance and suggestion - start playing out leads on just one string....

we then would quickly move into 'hum a lick and then find it'

most people sing horribly, but hum really well....get a groove going...listen to some good (and simple) examples of 'hum and find it', and people really pick up quickly on this....it's very natural

this might sound goofy (it's actually common)...but try this...

Play a recording of a groove you want to solo over and use something else to tape yourself (record yourself) actually soloing with of all things...a kazoo...again, people hum well in general....then go back, listen to the new tape which now has the groove and the awesome kazoo licks (actually, be sure to start simple...pretend you're a horn player....little stabs of notes...then...after a bit...don't be shy with that kazoo - SRVkazoo) and find those licks on your guitar....

what often gets people in ruts while soloing on the guitar is the ding-a-ling notion of patterns...you know....dots and TAB patterns representing scales....there's nothing musical about dots and numbers....nothing....

Most people when soloing will run staight through scales...obviously some of that is just fine....it can be great...but often cool sounding licks skip about scales...they hop over notes....you'll do that on your kazoo when you're humming and imitating the good players..but a guitarist will unfortunately avoid skipping notes in scales because it really does mess up the ever so neat and organized fingerings that people spend so much time trying to memorize...

no sense memorizing (I should say mindlessly memorizing) a bunch of scale patterns only to find out later (years later?) that most people then spend an equal amount of time trying to 'break out' of those patterns....

of course you want to know the common and easy fingerings for scales....don't get me wrong... after humming and finding a lick try to relate it back to a scale pattern to see how it fits in perhaps....I'm getting tired and rambling I think....

hum and find... Try it.

By the way...often if people do not record themselves what will happen as soon as they start trying to find a lick on the guitar is that the lick will disappear from their memory...a few wrong notes and you can't remember what you're trying to find....that's frustrating.....not only is that frustrating....it is very telling of something that needs serious fixing (I just recently started fixing this problem, and honestly haven't had a chance to work on it since about Christmas...ugga bugga)...can you put the problem into words?

I'm a bit tired and might be making limited sense tonight...but seriously, what does that above situation very clearly point out?

To make the situation clear...

you kazoo out a cool lick...it's honestly cool and interesting...

you plink around on the guitar and can't find the right notes right away...

you then quickly forget the lick...

What's up? What might you need to work on?

"Honey, can you pick up a kazoo along with those index cards? I need a little tape recorder for when I'm driving, too. No, just a cheap one from Radio Shack.

[ 04-05-2001: Message edited by: mapletrees ]

[ 04-05-2001: Message edited by: mapletrees ]
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