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Old 02-14-2013, 06:06 PM   #1
BackSeatSuicide
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Relaxing Arm When Picking

Lately I have seemed to slow down on my picking a lil bit cause I suddenly cant not stop my arm from tensing up. Even tho I am picking correctly, using my wrist not my arm, and I use Economy and Alternative picking depending on what the Riff calls for. But I find myself still tensing up my arm muscles which effects my speed. When you tighten up your arm and don't keep it relaxed, it slows down your wrist. But I just can't stop myself from doing it. I start out making sure i stay relaxed, but when I start playing fast, I find myself gripping the pick really tight, which in turn tightens up the muscles around my elbow, which also causes my elbow to start to hurt after a few minutes. I don't know why I am doing this. But I was hoping someone who has experienced this problem before and was able to get over it, can help me figure out ways to keep my arm and hand relaxed.

I also seem to hit a wall when it comes to speed, which as I mentioned, I know it is in part due to not keeping my arm/hand/wrist relaxed, but I don't know what other problems are causing me not to be able to play as fast as I should. I've been playing guitar for over 10years. I play professionally in bands (I actually have a big show tonight) so I am definitely not a beginner, but I seem to be having some beginner problems which I think some of it has to do with never being taught proper technique when it comes to picking, I am all self-taught and never learned proper picking and pick hand technique/etiquette. I am a good lead guitarist, but I just cant seem to shred as fast as I know I am capable of. So I also was hoping I could get some advice on increasing speed. I know the obvious things like playing with a Metronome, which do. But I was hoping for some other exercises and techniques for increasing speed and becoming a better soloist. I play Progressive/Technical/Metal, and I wanna be able to play solos faster and more accurately.
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Old 02-14-2013, 06:17 PM   #2
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Seems like if I move my arm at all even for string changing there is tension. You can play with tension and not get hurt if your carefull but its not as fun. I have to angle the pick up at the low E and down at the high E to keep the movement 100% in the wrist. And to make it come from the wrist I push into the string toward the guitar. I dont know why that makes the wrist move really good. Before I found that I never could pick fast with the wrist. Who are you playin with? Im in Issaquah - near Bellevue.
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Old 02-14-2013, 07:09 PM   #3
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Slow down get some serious practice in with a metronome get that feeling of relaxed arm back you will soon be back to where you was..
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Old 02-14-2013, 07:16 PM   #4
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You may try to sit in a classical position, this always relaxes your arm. I do it after some heavy alternate picking and i feel a bit sore, i switch to classical position and i can keep on going for a while.
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Old 02-18-2013, 07:47 PM   #5
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Sitting in classical position helps alot i found as well (^ good call). I found myself doing the samething you going through early where my whole arm would burn and tighten up like wire on a bow n arrow. I really make sure that the fore arm (fourth arm ) is resting and i mean resting one the body. Letting my ring finger and thumb rotate the pick freely and my wrist do the work. When speed picking with your arm realxed I found helped increase dexterity ten fold and puts very little stress on your arm. Worked for me.

Watch some videos on Michael Angelo Batio on speed and alternate picking. Then man has some of the best advice on the subject. And hey you might learn some sick licks to! *BONUS*
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Old 02-19-2013, 07:28 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by B&J
You may try to sit in a classical position, this always relaxes your arm. I do it after some heavy alternate picking and i feel a bit sore, i switch to classical position and i can keep on going for a while.


Good call! I found this helped a lot in the past
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Old 02-20-2013, 02:22 AM   #7
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How ya all doing fella players! Just signed up on here about an hour ago.Figured i'd put in my $0.02 since i'm a teacher as according to my degree :-D
I have been teaching guitar for quite sometime by now,had some advanced students who's hands i had to correct.It is actually a great thing that you've apparently realized that something must've been wrong.

Who said a wrist and not the arm??????? I will explain in just a little bit.May turn out quite lenghty but i hope that helps,just trying to give you a bit of a shortcut which would be fairly clear in a way of the method and it's algorithm.Once you address,understand and start to feel this algorithm,it will start doing the work for you naturally (don't get me wrong,it's not going to play your guitar or make music for you LOL).One thing i got to say,seems like you caught it just about at the right time,because from what i found out several years ago from watching this one video,it may,in a long run,cause a bit of a health problem with the wrist.The video is made by one of the prominent drummers though,just don't seem to remember who it was,but the point is,doing it the correct way from the prospective of natural physiology of a human body is applicable to all of the instruments.He was saying that because of him using his wrists for quite a while,he actually ended up in a hospital.I BS you not,that's what HE said.And he was already a working drummer by then.After that,as according to his statement,he had to eventually learn the correct way.And it's not all that difficult.

When i was at the college,my teacher really helped me understand the whole concept of what the proper way is about. And,that goes,like i said before,for just about any instrument.The proper way is to use the WEIGHT and not the muscles.And here's how it works.The weight has it's natural potential to produce power and energy.It's just a matter of giving it an impulse and setting it on it's way in a certain direction (like,for instance,casting a rock) and then keeping on steering it (like skateboarding).I do in deed understand,it may seem a bit too deep,some food for thought,but once you get the feel of it,it's going to become a part of your nature just like breathing.Just like we don't need to think of how we're holding the fork when we eat,or how we're taking steps when we walk because it's something we had learned at once upon a time and it became natural to us.And quite for sure,it doesn't even cross our mind how we inhale air when we breath.Because that has ALWAYS been a part of our nature.

The way our body works when we make all kinds of different moves ranging from really noticeable to the slightest ones,is directed by the electric impulses traveling through neurons which constitute our nervous system.They travel in a way of complex codes and yet so fast (a speed of an electric impulse equals a speed of light),so we're not even aware of it or don't realize it.But we can feel it if we pay a little closer attention.There's always an ongoing communication between our whole perception,our heart,our soul,our spirit,our mind and all of the parts of our entire body.Those impulses obviously use our muscles to coordinate our moves,in other words,to coordinate the amounts of the WEIGHT of our body applied in different directions in order to produce a move.Although some moves seem very slight and subtle,it takes participation of the entire body.Because,once again,it's part of our nature.

You're probably about to ask me,why am i typing all this gribbish?How about we get to the point?I'm doing so,because,once we understand this part of our nature,we can apply it to a whole variety of tasks,not only making music.And,it is especially important for us,musicians,because we're obviously different from the majority of other folks out there.

But,you may ask,what does that have to do with my playing guitar?Okay.I just thought of something.Whenever you get a chance,just pick any kind of a small thing around your house,say,a cell phone,a pen,a book,it doesn't matter.Then just pick it up by hand and then put it back.Did that feel natural?Then ask yourself:"Which parts of the body did i use to do that?"Then think of those same parts and do the same thing by using those parts ONLY.Why would you need to use any other parts of the body?Logically?

What did it feel like the second time?So,there goes your tension.And,there goes an answer to all of the "logical" and "critical thinkers".Logic by itself does not produce anything,it can only work in reverse,in order to reverse engineer something that already exists (by the way,the same goes for the whole idea of music theory,first there was music and only did Pythagorus invent the theory to it based on mathematics afterwards).What i'm saying here is that it doesn't start with whether it's a wrist or an arm that we use when we play.It starts with an overall natural feel.Using of it's own weight to make moves is natural for the body whereas using muscles without weight calls for extra effort which not only feels uncomfortable but makes the body work against itself.

Now,that we're through with the part that pertains to the nature,we can proceed to some homework if you don't mind.

Part 1.With all this being said,what do you think is the most natural move in the way of playing guitar?Most of us,when we first started learning how to play,probably started with just regular strumming if i am correct.That's when our body works in it's natural way as far as playing.Otherwise,just for giggles,try using only muscles without weight and see what it would feel like.The idea here is minimizing the use of the muscles.Pick a bar chord and give it some strums.Stop for a moment and try to capture that sensation.What did it feel like?Try repeating it several times until you'd realize that it feels comfortable and natural.You're probably strumming naturally somewhere fairly close to the fretboard or the neck pickup (that's going to give you the fuller and richer tone in the long run but we'll get to it at some other time if you would like to).Now pick any note somewhere in the middle of the fretboard,mute the rest of the strings and apply this same feel to that note and strum on it for a little bit.Do the same thing as you did with the chord.Few strums and stop.Again.And until it starts to feel natural.Now try any sequence of notes,maybe a part of a scale at a slow pace going downstrum to upstrum from one note to another.Keep your attention on what that feels like.Then you can try a whole scale,probably to the metronome.By the way,a slow and deep breathing would be very helpful if you get a chance,but it's not something to essentially sweat over at this point.Try to shut off the part of the mind that's trying to overanalyze things logically.The whole idea here is not about strumming per sei,but is about capturing,understanding and storing that natural feel and it's flow.Once it's there,all it takes is to recall it and apply it to the music.

Part 2.I'll give you a couple of great examples of the players who,i'm sure,you know.Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.When you get a chance,watch either one of them play,let's say,on youtube and try to capture how they produce their sound on guitar.

Part 3.I don't know if you got any backing tracks such as midi files which there are dime and a dozen of them for free online.May sound somewhat cheezy,i know,but you can mute out everything else besides of just drums and bass.Would be awesome if you could find some kind of easy jam tracks for blues or funk and mess around with a regular penthatonic scale or a blues scale in the same way as you started with that chord at part 1,because those are likely to have similar fingering patterns (pretty much within a regular bar chord) on the fretboard.Try not to worry about hitting other strings,or you can just mute them out with your left hand.Because,the more you're concerned,the greater that tension.Music is about fun,isn't it?So just keep jamming.Believe me,it will start to get more and more precise once you start getting used to that natural pace.

Part 4.Try to do the same thing with all of your licks,scales,arpeggios etc. as you did with that chord,note and a sequence of notes at part 1.

Some general notes:
I understand that you're a shredder,but taking time when you practice is extremely important,and eventually it will pay off.
The overall concept of practicing is rather one of a creative research then just drilling scales and licks or even parts of the tunes.


Thanks so much for reading,hope that my humble post will be helpful.Let me know how it's going,keep me posted.Any other questions are more than welcome at any time.Good luck

Last edited by Ray Man X : 02-20-2013 at 06:58 PM.
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Old 02-20-2013, 08:09 AM   #8
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Ray Man X, do you know the "Enter" and the "Space" touch on your keyboard ?

Sorry but, maybe it's worth it to read your text, but ... my eyes tell me "No, don't read that please". :P
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:28 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Syndromed
Ray Man X, do you know the "Enter" and the "Space" touch on your keyboard ?

Sorry but, maybe it's worth it to read your text, but ... my eyes tell me "No, don't read that please". :P

What do you mean enter+space?I don't get it
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Old 02-20-2013, 02:00 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ray Man X
What do you mean enter+space?I don't get it



I dont know what he means either, but your post is big wall of text that confuses my eyes. Put some paragraphs there man, divide it a bit.




Like this.
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Old 02-20-2013, 04:04 PM   #11
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I don't know how do you say it in english, but I mean the key "enter" and the key "space" on your keyboard, sorry I'm french.

Anyways, you get the main point of my critic :p
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Old 02-20-2013, 04:13 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Syndromed
I don't know how do you say it in english, but I mean the key "enter" and the key "space" on your keyboard, sorry I'm french.

Anyways, you get the main point of my critic :p


Yeah, but it makes no sense since space creates a space between letters and enter moves to new row. If you want paragraphs, you have to press enter (atleast) twice.
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Old 02-20-2013, 06:47 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by MaaZeus
I dont know what he means either, but your post is big wall of text that confuses my eyes. Put some paragraphs there man, divide it a bit.




Like this.



I think i just realized what he means.My bad.You guys are absolutely right about paragraphs.Was late at night,just trying to help out a fellow player,because that kind of an issue is VERY important to catch at the right time in order to be able to address it and have resolved.That's why it took me quite a bit of explanation,hence the volume of the post.Matter fact,i just made it into an article under "columns/the guide to" which is now pending approval.I've found a number of threads from the guys working on improving their technique,so i figured,maybe my humble understanding of the subject matter would be useful for somebody else
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Old 02-20-2013, 07:02 PM   #14
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Believe it or not,just tried paragraphs,but them paragraphs would refuse to cooperate
Just divided it,like you said.Any better now?
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Old 02-20-2013, 07:56 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Ray Man X
Believe it or not,just tried paragraphs,but them paragraphs would refuse to cooperate
Just divided it,like you said.Any better now?



Thats exactly what we wanted. Much easier on the eyes, less confusing to read. Thanks.
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Old 02-21-2013, 01:18 PM   #16
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One solution is to move your right shoulder around as you pick. This sounds a bit odd but it works. It also is quite difficult as it will really throw your picking off if you haven't done it before.

Look at any work class player and you will see how relaxed their muscles are that are not directly needed for playing. It takes patience but I guarantee improvements if you stick at it.

Let me know how you get on.
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Old 02-21-2013, 02:29 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by StuartBahn
One solution is to move your right shoulder around as you pick. This sounds a bit odd but it works. It also is quite difficult as it will really throw your picking off if you haven't done it before.

Look at any work class player and you will see how relaxed their muscles are that are not directly needed for playing. It takes patience but I guarantee improvements if you stick at it.

Let me know how you get on.

Ya know i was jamming this morning and i noticed i did the samething and thought about this thread and said hey that might help this dude. And you beat me to it. DAMN YOU! Nah just kidding much love.

But seriously this helps. Just that little bit of shift in arm and shoulder position helps A TON!
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Old 02-21-2013, 05:59 PM   #18
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I teach and play guitar for a living. I am always telling my students that when they have an issue with something in their playing they have to slow it way down and consciously allow their brain to wrap around the specific subject that they're having a problem with. In your case of tensing up your wrist, you must think slow in order to play fast. Forget about playing fast and concentrate on playing accurately. Accuracy ultimately equals speed. However, if you try to be fast you will tense up and your accuracy will be off. No good in having speed if accuracy is not there. So, slow it down and practice with a relaxed wrist.
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Old 02-21-2013, 11:44 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by StuartBahn
One solution is to move your right shoulder around as you pick. This sounds a bit odd but it works. It also is quite difficult as it will really throw your picking off if you haven't done it before.

Look at any work class player and you will see how relaxed their muscles are that are not directly needed for playing. It takes patience but I guarantee improvements if you stick at it.

Let me know how you get on.



Totally agree.Here's something else i thought of.If you try to use the similar move as if you were shaking water off your hand
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Old 02-25-2013, 11:47 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by yourguitarsage
I teach and play guitar for a living. I am always telling my students that when they have an issue with something in their playing they have to slow it way down and consciously allow their brain to wrap around the specific subject that they're having a problem with. In your case of tensing up your wrist, you must think slow in order to play fast. Forget about playing fast and concentrate on playing accurately. Accuracy ultimately equals speed. However, if you try to be fast you will tense up and your accuracy will be off. No good in having speed if accuracy is not there. So, slow it down and practice with a relaxed wrist.


I entirely agree. Making changes to technique must be done at a slow tempo. There are certain situations, as I'm sure you already are aware of, where pushing along at high speed is desirable though. The late Charlie Banacos made a good point to me once in that playing 'fast' is fundamentally different to playing slow. Playing fast engages muscles that are not used at all when playing slowly. This of course assumes that there are no fundamental problems in the player's technique.

To anyone interested, you can observe this by tapping your hand on your thigh slowly and then doing it very quickly. You feel muscles all up your arm getting involved that were not used with the slow tapping.

I'm also a big advocate, in some situations, of students striving to achieve tempos considerably beyond what they can currently, do rather than waiting until an exercise is perfect before moving the metronome up a single click, which can often result in far slower progress. After striving for (and probably failing) to perform an exercise at high speed, students often find that in doing so they can now perform it fast than they could before trying the high speed, albeit not at the speed they were striving for.

I'd be interested to hear the group's experiences in this area.
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