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Old 03-13-2015, 02:04 PM   #1
Eurotrasher
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Practicing hard for years, still suck, is there no hope?

Hey guys,

It's a bit strange writing this post, I guess I'm quite desperate. I don't really expect that anyone will know the root of my problems, or have any magical solution, but I guess it can't hurt to ask.

I've been playing guitar for 7-8 years now. I bought my first guitar after playing Guitar Hero way too much, I fell in love with guitar and figured I'd be better off putting all those hours of playing into proper practice. There weren't many teachers in my area, so I decided to try to teach myself using the internet. About.com, youtube, UG. I know the chords, I know the major scale all over the neck, some of the pentatonic positions, but let me just get to the point: I suck at most everything. To this day I can't pick up a guitar at any time and just decided to play some piece really well, I /always/ muck something up.

A couple of years ago I came across Jamie Andreas' Guitar Principles, and I realized I had been doing things wrong, kind of employing the muscles of my whole arm all the time, grasping the neck with my palms, and just having way too much tension throughout my body. Since then, I've tried making a habit of learning songs way slower, relaxing my hand between every chord/position change, things like that. I taught myself a couple of songs in this way, Blackbird, Here comes the sun, and sometimes I can play them quite decently, but after the amounts of practice I've put in, it's just really frustrating that 80% of the time I'll miss a couple of notes.

Anyways, I'm rambling here... I guess I just wanted to know if any of you have experienced something similar? Or maybe know someone who's had the same problems? Do some people just not have the coordination required? I really have put in the practice, for a couple of years I would even put in hours most every day. And yet here I am, with just the clumsiest, imprecise fingers.

Sorry for going on, any input would be appreciated.
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Old 03-13-2015, 03:53 PM   #2
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Do you enjoy playing guitar?

That's what it's all about. The enjoyment of practicing & playing.

If you enjoy it keep doing it. If not quit. Find something else you do enjoy doing.

You most likely will never be a great guitarist. That's probably a given at this point.

But if you enjoy the guitar then keep playing for enjoyment and don't judge yourself all the time. That takes all the fun out of it. It makes it into "work".

Last edited by Virgman : 03-13-2015 at 03:55 PM.
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Old 03-13-2015, 04:00 PM   #3
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i think what would really help is getting a guitar teacher
im not sure where you are butit shouldnt be very difficult to find a proper teacher

and theres a difference between putting in 3 hours of practice and putting in 1 hour of really good practice

maybe youre not practicing properly
if you find yourself still making mistakes maybe youre really tense
when you practice do you seperate the peice into smaller easier to handle parts do you play parts over and over again when your having trouble slowly until you have complete control over every movement

most importantly
do you enjoy what youre doing?
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Old 03-13-2015, 04:09 PM   #4
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Another thing.

"Practicing hard for years"

Why are you practicing "hard". That does not sound like fun. Practicing "hard".

Try practicing "easy". Seriously. Next time you practice, practice "easy".

Relax. Enjoy. No expectations. No pressure to "get there". There is no "there" to get to.

Otherwise you are better off to take your guitars out in the street and smash them because they are making you miserable.

Last edited by Virgman : 03-13-2015 at 04:11 PM.
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Old 03-13-2015, 04:36 PM   #5
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Sit back RELAX this isn't a test and enjoy it !!! Practice should be enjoyable and going somewhere don't spend hours wasting on doodling and on searching for a magic lesson , DVD
or guru who will turn you into a legend for 200 bucks , learn small stuff but learn it inside out
practise by learning songs you desperately want to play bit at a time you will get better but focus on what YOU want
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Old 03-13-2015, 07:04 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Eurotrasher
Hey guys,

It's a bit strange writing this post, I guess I'm quite desperate. I don't really expect that anyone will know the root of my problems, or have any magical solution, but I guess it can't hurt to ask.

I've been playing guitar for 7-8 years now. I bought my first guitar after playing Guitar Hero way too much, I fell in love with guitar and figured I'd be better off putting all those hours of playing into proper practice. There weren't many teachers in my area, so I decided to try to teach myself using the internet. About.com, youtube, UG. I know the chords, I know the major scale all over the neck, some of the pentatonic positions, but let me just get to the point: I suck at most everything. To this day I can't pick up a guitar at any time and just decided to play some piece really well, I /always/ muck something up.

A couple of years ago I came across Jamie Andreas' Guitar Principles, and I realized I had been doing things wrong, kind of employing the muscles of my whole arm all the time, grasping the neck with my palms, and just having way too much tension throughout my body. Since then, I've tried making a habit of learning songs way slower, relaxing my hand between every chord/position change, things like that. I taught myself a couple of songs in this way, Blackbird, Here comes the sun, and sometimes I can play them quite decently, but after the amounts of practice I've put in, it's just really frustrating that 80% of the time I'll miss a couple of notes.

Anyways, I'm rambling here... I guess I just wanted to know if any of you have experienced something similar? Or maybe know someone who's had the same problems? Do some people just not have the coordination required? I really have put in the practice, for a couple of years I would even put in hours most every day. And yet here I am, with just the clumsiest, imprecise fingers.

Sorry for going on, any input would be appreciated.





This is more common than you think, and you're definitely not the only one. A lot of people just don't understand how to practice, and come to think of it a lot of people can't just learn from the same methods that other people can learn from. We're all different you can't really compare yourself to another person because it's just like comparing an apple to an orange which is utterly pointless. Of course there's still hope for you the only thing that will make you skilled in any field that you endeavor is to be "disciplined". Look I can't guide you 100%, but I can definitely give you some advice that can help you get where you want. Learn to study the science behind the instrument.


I know how you're talking about how your fingers are very "imprecise". Well do you understand why your fingers are imprecise? Do you understand the science behind technical practice? Do you understand what muscle memory is, and how it's involved in developing guitar technique? Do you understand how neurons can make a connection, and produce more neurons from practicing?

I'm guessing that you don't, and that's why you're here. There's a whole bunch of things that you just don't understand. Have you ever tried developing your ears by slowing down the record, and figuring each note by listening? Have you ever tried to count the rhythms out in a song or actually take a song apart transcribing it rhythm for, rhythm, and note, for note?


Do you understand the importance of developing a good ear in order to be a good musician? Do you understand how important it is to pay attention to detail, and how a little difference can make a big change? Do you understand what are dynamics?


If not then you have a lot of studying to do. These things don't happen over night mate, and becoming skilled at an instrument isn't easy or everyone would be doing it. My advice to you would be to learn how to be self critical in a very constructive sufficient way. Study the mechanics behind everything! The only way to learn is to question everything you're doing especially if you're self taught.


Analyze your technique, and sound to the fullest learn from people who are technical, and learn from people that are musical understand their way of learning, and how they developed their sense of music or technical abilities. Study them, and convert their methods into your very own.

I wish I could provide you with all the answers to your question honestly, but this a journey for the individual most of these things you have to figure out the answers on your own. Just understand this if there's a will then there's definitely a way all you have to do is look for the answers, and they'll reveal themselves to you.

Last edited by Black_devils : 03-13-2015 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 03-13-2015, 07:37 PM   #7
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Thanks for the replies, everyone.

I do enjoy playing the guitar. Sometimes I get very frustrated, sure, but that's mostly because of the woes I've already described, just being really sad that all the time I've put in hasn't paid off more. But when I every now and then manage to play something well, I'm really happy about it. I feel like great about myself, hearing nice music come from the guitar, knowing that I'm playing it, it's a special feeling, and it's the reason I've kept playing all these years.

When I say I've practiced hard, it's not because it's been unpleasant, but rather I just had a bit of a rigorous routine. But I did it with pleasure, because I was certain it would pay off. I think that's part of what's so frustrating, that I for once had the motivation to really pour myself into something, but after a long time of it, I realized my playing was still just sloppy.

Maybe I should be more easy on myself, but so long as my playing doesn't get tighter, I just know I could never play with a band and actually keep up with proper musicians. But I will try to take your advice, Virgman and Chromemutt,of maybe chilling out a little when practicing, not putting too much pressure on myself.

Also, a teacher would probably be a good idea, I guess I just worry that after all this time, I've developed so many bad habits that I'd somehow be a more challenging student to work with than an actual beginner, you know? I suppose I could contact some local teachers, and ask them if they have experience with people like me.

And Black_devils, yes, I have actually taken the time to look into many of the things you mentioned. Learning by ear... I recently taught myself a relatively difficult solo on my own, because I couldn't find any tabs. I think I did a decent job, but the problem is still that most every time I try to play it I get a few notes wrong. I also know about muscle memory. I try to practice things slow, get it all right, but then when it comes to just playing it, my fingers will miss the the string by a few millimeters, you know? It just seems like the connection between my brain and my fingers isn't very good.

Maybe I've just been too impatient in my practicing, not perfecting things enough before moving on, and yet... Supersac asked if I separated the songs into little pieces till I feel like I have full control over the movements, and maybe I haven't really done that, but it kind of feels like I never have full control of the movements. Like every time I try to move a finger from one place to another, it's a struggle to make sure it hits the strings like it's supposed to.

Maybe that's just what it comes down to, slowing down even more, and spending like an hour on a 5 note passage every day... It just feels like it shouldn't be this hard, I have so many friends who play flawlessly, with so little practice. Sorry guys, I'm whining here, I guess I just needed to vent a little. Either way, thank you so much for the replies. I do enjoy playing guitar, but I feel like it could be a whole lot more enjoyable :P
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Old 03-13-2015, 07:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eurotrasher

, but the problem is still that most every time I try to play it I get a few notes wrong. I also know about muscle memory. I try to practice things slow, get it all right, but then when it comes to just playing it, my fingers will miss the the string by a few millimeters, you know? It just seems like the connection between my brain and my fingers isn't very good.

Maybe I've just been too impatient in my practicing, not perfecting things enough before moving on,



I don't think you understand muscle memory or you wouldn't be having that problem. By the way it sounds like you have flying fingers syndrome.. Which is a really bad habit to have i'm pretty sure this should correct it.





In many ways just from reading your post it seems like you have a lot of bad habits. It seems like you just rush things which in my opinion is just impractical, and counter productive when it comes to practicing. Becoming good at the guitar doesn't happen over night it takes a lot of patience, and focusing. That's why people seem to have these type of problems which are similar to yours. Like I've stated in my previous post your problems not rare it's all too "common".

Your friends probably don't barely practice they most likely understand quality over quantity. It's not who practices the most hours that gets the best results it's all about who uses their hours wisely.. Think about it what's the point of practicing for 5+ hours a day if you're not even focused on what you're doing? When a person who understands the principle behind how the quality of practice is all that matters.. They can practice for 2 hours, and actually get results pertaining toward their goal... Honestly you still have a long way to go, and I'd like to recommend you a course to follow it might just be a game changer for you because it seems like you're rushing.


http://justinguitar.com/en/BC-000-BeginnersCourse.php


Remember that guitar isn't a race it's a marathon. There's no point in sprinting just to gas yourself out when you need to conserve that energy to finish the whole length of the race.

This course should help you understand how to practice because like I said in many ways you seem like a beginner..

Last edited by Black_devils : 03-13-2015 at 07:53 PM.
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Old 03-13-2015, 08:23 PM   #9
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Thanks, I used that exercise some years ago, been a fan of Justin's for a long time. Also tried to go through the beginner's course, learned a couple of things, but didn't have much an effect on the overall quality of my playing. Even today I'm practicing simple chord changes really slowly with a metronome, but when it gets to a certain speed, I just start messing up :/

Also, yeah, I may not have a natural instinct for practice. When I first did that flying fingers exercise, I remember I'd try my best to hold the fingers in position, keeping them as close to the string as possible. What Justin doesn't mention is that ideally you shouldn't be tensing your fingers to keep them down, he just tells you to keep them as close as possible. So I just tightened my fingers up for that exercise, don't think that did me much good. But eventually I found Jamie Andreas' guitar principles, and that helped quite a bit, my flying fingers are pretty much gone.
But I'm still very imprecise, unfortunately

I'm currently trying to learn the Wish you were here solo in the intro, I guess I'll try to take it slower than ever before.
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Old 03-13-2015, 10:04 PM   #10
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It's hard to say without watching you, but practicing hard isn't really enough. I mean, they say practice makes perfect, but really practice only makes better, and only as much as you practiced correctly.

Ultimately guitar should be fun, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't put hard work into it. Hard work can make you a lot better, and then it's a lot more fun.

The thing is, how you practice and what you're practicing is important. You could practice the wrong thing over and over and never improve. It's hard to know sometimes whether you need to keep doing what you're doing and you'll get better, or if you need to change your fundamental approach.

A teacher could help you out with this. I never had a teacher but this was definitely a difficulty for me, and there were a few times were I realized I had to abandon what I was doing and change my technique because what I was comfortable doing before could only get me so far.

There is also a good technique to really power through exercises tailored for what you are trying to do, to speed through it as quick as you can. It's a bit difficult to explain it/show you on a forum post though.

It's like a sport. If you want to be a runner, you could run everyday, and you'll improve. But if you really want to run fast, you'll want to hit the gym for some conditioning.
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Old 03-14-2015, 01:31 AM   #11
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I've been playing for 10 years, and I almost never play anything 100% clean all the through. Not many do, actually. In a big loud show setting, you get away with missing notes because of the energy, and because the crowd often doesn't even notice. In the studio, you can do a ton of takes, and even mix n match bits and pieces to make it perfect. Extremely common.

I'm not saying to not aspire to improve. You definitely should, and I certainly do. Just don't get down on yourself for not playing entire pieces of music flawlessly. As long as you're making progress in general with your grasp of the techniques you use, you're doin alright.
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Old 03-14-2015, 09:56 AM   #12
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Regarding missing notes or hitting 'bum' notes, for me at least it's much more important that a song locks into a groove and keeps this going, more so than hitting every note cleanly. Obviously if every fourth note is buzzing I need to practice more, but a couple of bum notes over a song doesn't count for much.

I'd much rather listen to someone who really get into a tune and gives off a great energy, misfiring a couple of notes, than someone who plays every note perfectly with no groove/energy.
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Old 03-14-2015, 02:04 PM   #13
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Regarding missing notes or hitting 'bum' notes, for me at least it's much more important that a song locks into a groove and keeps this going, more so than hitting every note cleanly. Obviously if every fourth note is buzzing I need to practice more, but a couple of bum notes over a song doesn't count for much.


Right, nobody is perfect, and you might hit a couple duds on a playthrough, but I think there is a difference with just a slight misfire, and a misfire because you need more practice. For instance if you consistently misfire doing the same move, or the same interval, or the same chord change, then you need to practice that to get it clean. If you just happen to make a little mistake and not get something you can do as clean as you wanted, then it's not such a big deal, unless you're recording, then you do have to redo that part.

Quote:
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I'd much rather listen to someone who really get into a tune and gives off a great energy, misfiring a couple of notes, than someone who plays every note perfectly with no groove/energy.


So would I, but still, at the end of the day, the goal is to do both. I find that's one of the big differences between the really pro guitarists and the more amateur ones. For one it is the songwriting, but also, you will find lots of covers of lots of pieces that great guitarists play but there is not a very large percentage of those which are played as cleanly as the original.

That's part of what makes guitar so difficult. There is a lot of muting and precision, and power that is required more playing a lot of intricate things cleanly.

But sure, Tommy emmanuel isn't always clean, nobody is. But he does do a LOT of very difficult things cleanly like 99.9% of the time.

I think striving for clean is what will get you to develop the muscles and techniques you need, in the most efficient way possible. It can be hard work sometimes, and can sometimes take years even, but it is that work that is causing the great improvements.

If you are easily satisfied, then you might not make as much progress.

It depends what you want also. It depends on what you want to get out of guitar and how much work you want to put into it. How good you want to try and become.
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Old 03-14-2015, 11:26 PM   #14
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But I'm still very imprecise, unfortunately

I'm currently trying to learn the Wish you were here solo in the intro, I guess I'll try to take it slower than ever before.




You've got to listen or in this case read. I've listed all the answers, but you're just not understanding them you don't have to guess. By the way maybe you should take a deep more meaningful look, and analyze your playing or better yet yourself.
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Old 03-17-2015, 05:35 AM   #15
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I haven't read the entirety of this thread, but I think your original post gives some good insight into what the problem may be.

You said that as you learned a few songs using a better technique, which was to play with a lighter touch, you found that you are better at playing these songs than you are the others. So already here is a good indication that playing with that lighter touch is an improvement. You definitely shouldn't be playing with any tension in your arm or body.

Now, I don't know how long you've spent practicing those new songs but if your technique was wrong for years then it's inevitable that it may take a few months to break the habit and learn to play properly - so keep at it, it will probably get better. I spent 3 months or more on one song and I thought I'd never be able to play it cleanly. Now it's no problem and sounds awesome!

Lastly, and I know you said you do, but for the parts you can't get down properly, play it slower than you even think you should. A quarter of the speed or less! And repeat it over and over until you can literally feel your muscles play it for you. You shouldn't have to really think about playing it at all - it's hard to explain but you'll know when it happens/clicks. Then begin to bring the speed up. When playing like this you should feel the tension melt away and you'll only need the lightest of touch. After that you'll need to work it into the song which may require slowing down the part before and after too. This methodology has helped me play pieces I never thought I could surmount. It really has been a game changer for me.

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Old 03-17-2015, 08:31 AM   #16
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Maybe you should make some recordings of yourself and post them online, and ask for feedback. That's the only way anyone can give you any specific advice. Oh sure it's hard to put your stuff out there and have it criticized, but it's also one of the best ways to really learn. Saying you "miss a couple of notes" and wouldn't be able to keep up with real musicians in a band doesn't tell people what they need to know in order to give you anything but the most general and generic advice.

And in that general and generic category, if you can't play a song well at full tempo, slow it down to the point where you can play it well. Then gradually, over the course of weeks or even months, increase the speed. All that repetition of playing it correctly at slow tempo really pays off. On the other hand hand playing it sloppily at full tempo just ingrains those mistakes. Sure you might fix some of them as time goes by, but playing it slowly and correctly and then gradually working up the speed is much more efficient. And it's a lot more fun to play it well at a slower tempo than than to constantly be frustrated at full tempo.

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Old 03-17-2015, 11:15 AM   #17
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I had similar problem. I reached some level and couldn't progress much lately, didn't know what was wrong, until I was told that my picking hand movement is not efficient. With bad technique there's the point of skill level where you stop to progress, or progress very slowly. Your left hand should do minimal movement (not lifting fingers too much away from fretboard), while your right hand should do wrist movement up and down without rotating and stuff. It's all form the wrist, you're only moving your elbow a little bit, as you change the strings, to adjust hand position. And as you pick the notes it should all be picked the same way, without changing index finger, and thumb positing. It's all in the efficient movement, where you can do much with minimum effort. And the way you're going to correct your techinque is by observing your motions, and play really slow, without mistakes. If you make mistakes, slow down. That way, your brain is creating motor program for movement. If you speed up and your technique movement change, the brain will recognize it as different movement, and will start to create another motor program, and that way you won't progress. Movement should be all very similar to each other, if not the same. When you start to feel comfortable at certain speed, speed up a little bit, and so on. When you practice with a lot of mistakes, your brain learn the mistakes, and you're just wasting your time.There's just no point in pushing it. I'm corecting years of bad technique myself, and high mental focus is required. Good luck, don't give up if you love to play.
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Old 03-17-2015, 05:15 PM   #18
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first thing i'll mention is "Guitar Hero". when is was teaching regularily i had to give the GH speach to new players that started because they were good at the game. bottom line not the same and not about instant gratification. guitar playing is work and it can be hard a frustrating. ok speach over

some people are "natural" players and some are not. i definitely fall into the 2nd catagory. progress was slow and for certain things still not even close to there even after 35 years of playing. i started in the late 70s and did the band thing in the mid to late 80s. at that time you had to be a shredder or you weren't shit. as hard as i tried steve vai, yngwie etc just wasn't flowing from my fingers. this of course led to frustration and being stuck as the 2nd guitar player in bands (rhythm and some leads and fills). well of course who doesn't want to be the star. ( eventually in hindsight i realized i was actually pretty good in that role and should have been happier)

eventually i started to look at what did naturally come out playing wise which helped a great deal. i found that more blues based licks came far easier to me and that i played much more like the guys i grew up with in the 70s than the 80s shred crowd. once i went more in that direction i was a happer player. now of course you should work on things you aren't good at. i've come to terms with the notion that i will never be a guitar hero but i still plug away. if you step back and really look at your playing you'll find you made progress just not what you think it should have been.
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Old 03-17-2015, 11:05 PM   #19
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Guitar Hero has been around for 8 years +? Man I feel old.
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Old 03-18-2015, 10:54 AM   #20
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Hey guys,

Thanks for all the helpful replies. I think this thread has helped a bit, not just from your tips, but in a way also just venting a little myself. Like gweddle said, there was some indication in my first post. The latest songs I've learned when using a new technique do sound far better than songs I've learned before I had this realization of how crappy my playing really was.

I think I'm gonna have to keep trying to learn new stuff with the new super slow approach. Like kimi_page said, correcting years of bad technique requires a lot of focus, but I'm trying to get there. The thing is, whenever I try to play stuff I learned a long time ago, a lot of the old mistakes reappear, but I guess that should be a surprise, it's just the same old muscle memory. So I think I'm gonna just try to avoid playing too much of that stuff, and whenever I do, just try as hard as I can to play it so slow that I won't make any mistakes. No more reinforcing poor playing.

It's not very pleasant to admit to your own ignorance, but I feel a little ridiculous looking back at how I used to practice. I would just practice bits at whatever speed felt somewhat comfortable, and if I made a mistake, I just tried again, without actually thinking of what had went wrong. I thought practice makes perfect meant that you just had to try something as often as possible, and eventually you'd just nail it. Obviously, that isn't the case. I think it was in one of Justin Sandercoe's videos that he said that that saying should actually be practice makes permanent. Poor practice = poor playing. So obvious now, but I was young and stupid.

Kind of continuing my general rambling here, I definitely think some people definitely have more of a natural affinity for guitar/instruments. I think part of it is just being in touch with your body, having control of it, like with sports. I realized that I was not one of these people after reading the Guitar Principles book, and holding a wine glass or something. I realized I was holding it like a girl (Sorry if that's sexist, you guys know what I mean). I was holding the glass with two-three fingers, but the other two fingers were tensed up pointing in different directions, for no good reason. I think that's what's called sympathetic tension, like when you're pressing down a fret with one of your fingers, but it tenses up the surrounding ones as well. It's clearly always been an issue for me, and whenever I look at people who are really good at playing, their hands look totally relaxed and in control. Clearly I need to aim for something like that.

Anyways, yeah. it sure has been a while Guitar Hero first came out, geez. When I got a proper guitar, I knew that it wouldn't be /as/ easy, but surely it couldn't be that hard. And here I am, 8 years down the line, feeling like I've yet to master the easy difficulty level :P

Anyways, once again, thanks for all the advice and encouraging words, I'm actually feeling pretty hopeful about my playing!
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