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Thread: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

  1. #1
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    Default A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Iím pretty excited, so I wanted to share this. Everybody has different ways they like to do things. I just wanted to share what is really working for me.

    Iíve only been playing about 6 mos. I have a list of tunes, about 20 or so, that I know, and that I play regularly. Sometimes it gets a little monotonous playing all of the same songs, constantly at the same speeds.... I needed to figure out a way to start advancing.

    Well about a week ago, I got Strum Machine. This is an awesome app if you are not familiar with it. Well it had just about all of the tunes that I knew preloaded. So, immediately it was pretty neat playing my tunes with a backup band.

    But then I started messing around with the auto speed increased, I forget exactly what they call it. But you can customize it any way you like. What I am doing is having a tune loop or replay about 6-8 times, depending on the tune. I start it at a slightly slower than comfortable speed. It is crucial to be honest with yourself, and set this accordingly. You do not wanna learn or practice sloppy playing.

    So, the first time through, I do the melody, and it is a mellow speed, usually 60 bpm. During this, I am focusing hard on playing very clean, precise notes. I have the Strum Machine set to advance 2-3 bpm per loop, again depending on the tune.

    The second time through, I will play backup. Donít want to neglect that...

    Then, I am back on melody. By now, it getting around 65-68. Then it will advance again, and again....,,

    The first time I cannot keep up, and play clean, I stop. Then adjust numbers accordingly. Right there in the app there is a notepad that you can use for each song and in that I usually put a date and the speeds that I was hitting.

    I find by starting a little slower on the melody focusing on clarity and then easing up the speed without having to stop altogether just kind of gradually ease you into playing faster and Iím really seeing big results.

    I have added about 10 bpm do you everything and play just in the last 7 to 10 days or so.

    Let me know if you have any other thoughts or ideas or if you have any questions about any of this or if you have a different system altogether that you prefer.

    Just trying to help....

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Slowly speeding things up like that is a great way to improve speed and accuracy. I like recording my own backing tracks (although I understand thatís not possible for a lot of people) and itís definitely more fun practicing with a backing track, the metronome gets a little dry for me after a while.

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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Watch out. What you are doing sounds good and can help with speed. Just watch out, donít get in a habit of speeding up each time through

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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Thank you makes sense. I will change things up more to prevent bad habits. Iíll have to play around with some different ideas...

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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Strum machine is a really nice resource but since I already own iRealPro I generally use that or backup tracks on the www. In addition to tempo change iRealPro also has a mode that will change keys on each repeat...fun but it just changes by 1/2 step, would be nice to designate which keys to change to but for the unfamiliar keys of say G# I just play along rhythm. Another great tool to push me out of my comfort zone.
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    That sounds nice, I donít really know anything about ireal pro. What all does it do? I know I could go look at it, but I like to hear from current users...

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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Quote Originally Posted by Medley12 View Post
    That sounds nice, I don’t really know anything about ireal pro. What all does it do? I know I could go look at it, but I like to hear from current users...
    Look for the thread I started a few days ago - as a start.

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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Sorry! It was started by Scotter in January. I believe I resurrected it.

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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Quote Originally Posted by Medley12 View Post
    That sounds nice, I donít really know anything about ireal pro. What all does it do? I know I could go look at it, but I like to hear from current users...
    Scotterís thread is about him posting chord charts to share with the iRealPro community. There are other threads here on the Cafe that talk about iRealPro but to just give a bit of an answer to your queÖ

    Itís an app that provides backing tracks in many, many differnt styles. A great many of them come with the initial app purchase but some are available as add ons.

    One can create a chord chart of a tune/song. They can be as basic - like an AABB fiddle tune, or as complicated - some tune/song that has codas and intros, outros, etc - as youíd like.

    You can easily share charts that will import directly with others that have the app or you can share as pdf.

    It has a tutorial mode that allows for tempo/key changes.

    There is a forum that has 1,000s of charts posted by other users - such as what Scotter does - that are downloadable for your use.

    Like strum machine the chord charts can be personalized for how you play a tune.

    The instruments can be modified for playback - maybe you prefer an organ accompaniment rather than bass and guitarÖetc

    So many other features, the backing instruments sound a bit canned as compared to strum machine or other resources but I don't find that to be a big deal.

    It is an app thatís on my ipad so if I want backup somewhere I don't have to have an internet connection to access it.

    They are both great resources and fun to play along with and challenge yourself with tempos, keys, rhythm, etc.
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Thank you very much bigskygirl. I appreciate you time and insight...

    I am new to all of this, been messing with Strum Machine about a week now, just on my iPhone. Iím going to mess with it a little more and see how it goes...

    Iíll keep ireal pro in mind, maybe check it out down the road

  14. #11

    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    You are so welcome! Strum Machine is a great resource, I tried it for a few months when it first came out. I say whatever motivates you to play our beloved mandolin is good, have fun!
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Three things that helped my clarity and speed, the first was learning metronomed tremolo.
    The second is left and right hand coordination.
    And the third, which Iím just beginning to understand, is that thereís a very different way of using my picking hand as I bump up in speed -and there really is a sudden bump up of speed.

    The way I would describe it is that at lower tempos I have a wide swinging pick hand, which syncs well with the rhythm because thereís a sort of flow to the motion of the hand, arm and sometimes even the rest of the body. ĎCorrectí pick direction is always, almost fanatically, maintained even when itís more difficult to do.

    At higher tempos the movement is suddenly quite different. My pick tends to hover (milliseconds) in front of the string and then with a very small movement the pick deliberately and firmly Ďpushesí past the string. On the upstroke it pulls up on the string but on just past the string it will suddenly stop. No wide swinging here.
    At the same time, my head is suddenly thinking in blocks of 8 or 16 8th notes at a time, one or two measures ahead, so each measure for the picking hand is one precise miniature flowing movement per measure. (You can practice this without the fret hand)

    Of course all of this may change as I get used to playing faster.

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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    And the third, which I’m just beginning to understand, is that there’s a very different way of using my picking hand as I bump up in speed -and there really is a sudden bump up of speed. ...

    Of course all of this may change as I get used to playing faster.
    I think you are spot on. There is a way that if you think in phrases rather than notes, your hand plays in phrases instead of notes and the whole thing is a little (sometimes a lot) faster. To my experience it is as if, when playing in the notes mode, I am being careful not to over commit, to stay able to change the next note if I need to. Whereas playing in phrases, I commit to the whole phrase, and would not be able to stop in the middle of the phrase if I tried.
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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Yes, great observation Simon - the fiddler Kevin Burke talks about this in one of his tutorial videos in reference to using the bow, but it's very applicable to using a pick when playing fast on a fretted instrument - the fine muscle movements used when playing fast differ from the ones we use when playing slow. A big stumbling block for intermediate players trying to gain speed is the failure to recognise this - as you mention, small things like the pick continuing to travel after the note has been struck can eat into our ability to hit the next note quickly vs. stopping that travel as soon as the note is struck, which sets the player up to be able to hit the next note quickly. Similarly, in relation to the left hand, keeping the fingers closer to the fretboard better facilitates left and right and coordination when playing at faster speeds.
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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Along with all the good tips being given here, I find that it is a great help to me to have the tune really lodged in my memory so that it almost seems to play itself - the muscle memory is really strong in those tunes. As an example, in tune like James Scott Skinner's reel The Spey in Spate I have a strong visual sense of the pattern my left-hand fingers are creating with the phrases as well as being aware of the actual notes; there's the descending run which starts on the E strings and ends on the 2nd fret of the G strings. I can picture this at is descends across the strings from Fret 3 on the E, open E, Fret 4 on the A, open A, fret 5 on the D, fret 2 on the D, fret 6 on the G and fret 2 on the G. I have a very strong picture of this pattern where the finger goes up a fret (3,4,5,6) as it crosses from high E to low G.
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    Default Re: A tip thatís helping my clarity and speed

    Thanks Jill, and John.
    -Kevin Burke’s vids are great!
    He talks about notes being like letters in a word and that each group of notes (=words) has its own sound, and that you can think (centred in your head) of it like that.

    I’d add that each ‘word’ sound comes from a muscle memory movement, a flow, and that it’s important to realise that your hand is another centre of thinking. As JeffD infers, your head jumps in every sixth or seventh note to say to your hand what the next word is going to be, and then the hand begins it’s task and stops listening until the task is complete.



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