Well, I think I'm considered to be a fairly knowledgable person in AT. There's only one thing that I've never really asked about or seen anyone ask about.

When I practice, I don't sit down and say "I'm going to practice for 2 hours now!" No, I just sit in my room for...maybe 1/2 hour and go away for about an hour or two and maybe go back to it for an hour and take another break. The main reason I do this is because my guitar is rather heavy and I don't want to practice much while sitting down. (Shawn Lane was against doing this, with good reasons) This goes off and on all night for me. This can't possibly be anywhere near efficient. I don't seem to be making any progress at all. I've been stuck at <100BPM doing triplets for...a month now. I DO slow it down (just like Freepower says - <25BPM) and watch my technique, carefully. Whether or not I'm spending enough time on it is above me aswell.

So, is this what's holding me back? That is, my practice section being broken up over a much longer period of time. Also, how long should I be practicing at extremely low speeds?
Last edited by The.new.guy at Dec 5, 2008,
Dude. Sit down. Classical players sit with their guitars the way they do for a reason. Practicing with as perfect form as you can will allow you to play in many different ways with extreme efficiency. Thats my philosophy on it at least. I dont really know how else to help you, maybe try a bunch of different things and see how they go.
The hip cat says; "Mhm, okay, I can groove wit' this"
it's exponential.

At higher speed, the time to get fast increase exponential.

in simplified terms, here's a form with x numbers:

100bpm - 1 week
120bpm - 2 week
140bpm - 4 week

this is random numbers, but I want to explain, that increasing speed will go slower. If you don't feel like ur speed improves fast enough, go and practice other things. Go learn sweeps or cool licks, or write riffs, work on dynamics etc.

Speed will come on it's own.

EDIT: Santa Hat ftw! lol

The "Re-incarnation of Plato" Award 2009
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Who's Andy Timmons??
Unless you are going to be exclusively practicing classical then Id say its best to practice both sitting down and standing up.I assume any live playing you do(or are planning to do) will be standing up so this has to be part of how you practice.
Like Andy says, practice sitting down and standing up. Some sitting down is good as it's easier to play with good technique when sitting down. Which means that when you stand up, you have a reference for what the technique should be like.

The breaks shouldn't be a prob. At least I hope they aren't because that is similar to what I do on weekends. Out of the example you gave, I think 30 mins might be a little short for one chunk, but the 1 hr chunk is fine. Thats because it takes a little while to get warmed up and mentally in the zone. Other than that, I think the breaks are good for your mind and fingers.

Regarding what you said about speed. Look at your technique. The process should allows be observation-question-study-plan-success. Repeat for rest of your life. Example:
1) Observation. My speed hasn't increased from triplets at 100 bpm and I am pissed off and frustrated.
2) Question. Why is this? This sounds obvious, but it's surprising how many people don't really say "why" and just practice harder and harder continuing to run into that brick wall over and over again like a bug trying to fly through a window.
3) Study. Closely study your technique to answer 2). In particular, it's very helpful to try playing at a speed that you are comfortable with, then at a speed a little above what you are comfortable with and study what is changing in your technique. Guaranteed - something is breaking down, and that is your answer to 2). Use a mirror, camcorder if you have one available.
4) Form a plan to address what you learned in 3) and work on it.
5) Success. You have nailed the problem. Pretty soon you will run into some other problem as a result of playing more advanced material than you were capable of before solving the first problem. Go to step 1).

So to add to what Darren said about speed increases - numbers are completly pulled out of my ass of course...

100-110 x weeks. Technique is sufficient and just practicing yields results.
110-120 2x weeks.
120-125 8x weeks. Technique no longer sufficient. By massive amounts of practice, small gains are possible.
Fix technique. y weeks.
110-120 x weeks. Gentle with the new technique at first.
120-130 x weeks.
130-140 2x weeks.
140-145. 8x weeks.
Fix technique. y weeks. You get the idea!

I've probably been through about 4 major plateaus like this. Every single time the problem was tension and not enough economy of movement. And every single time, I was able to make rapid progress again once the problem area was improved.
I have always been told like Andy said to practice like you would play live, but standing up for 5 hours a day during my routine would get very tiring. I play with my guitar strung live pretty damn high. Doing this, when I sit down, the guitar is still hovering above my leg. This allows me to keep the same position when I stand as the one I have been practicing in.
se012101 has it.

There's also the matter of focus and quantity. My alternate picking was stuck for a long time until I sat down and did an hour a day (breaks are fine, btw), 6 days a week.

That was enough practice to sort out some of the tension in my wrist and upper arm and also to re-learn the co-ordinations with a looser arm.
^ cheers right back at ya.

The thing about the focus and quantity is that once you have the new technique basically in place, you need to reinforce it. That is - at first the new technique will break down since it simply isn't established enough yet. And there are a few awkward periods which aren't much fun while the old technique gets replaced with the new. This usually comes when you're first bumping the speed back up. At first, you'll accidentally go back to the old technique when you play too fast. Then after that, an even funner stage. The new technique is established enough that you can't go back to the old technique even if you play fast, but the new technique is still not robust enough, and you can't play as fast as you used to for a little bit. That's when it's really critical to have confidence in what you are doing, as it's very easy at this stage to say "this isn't working" when it really is, but the process isn't complete yet.
I basically totally re-learnt guitar physically about 2 years in. That was a challenge of self-belief, sitting there and learning to sit with the instrument again...

Also, I remember a fantastic thing I read in a book about jazz picking technique. First, an unrelated question.

If you were installing street lighting for a neighbourhood, would you put up a lampost and light it, and then another and then light that, etc etc etc, or would you put them all up and turn them on in one big go?

The second, obviously. And this is what your brain does when setting up new co-ordinations. While you practice with focus it "sets up" the "lamposts" - and then when it feels they're ready, it turns em on, and you get that "eureka!" moment when everything starts to work across only an hour or so.

This is why consistent practice is important.
^ I think you see that in many kinds of learning. The moment when it clicks. You build up all this confusing information for an amount of time, then finally you get some fundamental piece of the puzzle, and it's like "Ahh! Now I get it!" and the whole thing makes sense. All the bits of the puzzle reach critical mass.
speaking of the eureka moment, it happened for me two nights ago. Moto Perpetuo, effortless.

so yea, it really is all about just establishing a new technique, reinforcing it, and sticking with it until it becomes completely second nature. My strategy for doing so is not only to practice but to be as disciplined as possible each time i pick up the guitar, even to jam. of course, my technique breaks down occassionally when i'm jamming, but it's the awareness and attempts to keep it disciplined and perfect that seem to really help me. and just like freepower and se012101 say, if something isn't working, figure out why it isn't working. study your technique and movements. any little tension or inaccurate movement will be blown up when playing at speed. correct, rinse, repeat.
Quote by Freepower
There's also the matter of focus and quantity.

Hmmm...Wouldn't practice relate to alcohol in a way? Quality over quantity? Lots of practice would be nothing without focus...

Well, no need to reply to this thread anymore. I just realized that I knew the answers to these questions. I actually came here to delete this thread, but it's got some info. in it I want to study.