#1
I've been playing the guitar for several years, but I have never bothered to fix the issue I have with the build up of tension in my picking hand. I am well aware that one has to have a relaxed and loose picking hand that is tight and close to the fret board. Of course I always do those things when playing, but I still have tension build up after about a minute and a half of playing thrash riffs at 210 bpm. After a minute and a half it becomes literally impossible for me to play any longer because the stiffness in my picking hand becomes to great and the pain I feel in my picking arm becomes unbearable as well. My main priority before wanting to fix this problem was writing and recording songs and since I recorded my songs riff by riff I never needed to think too much about the problem. Now I really want to play with other people, but I can't even play my own stuff from beginning to end at the tempo I would like to play at!

Should I decrease the tempo of my songs to the point were I will be able to play the whole song from beginning to end with no tension? And then gradually increase the tempo until I can play at the high tempo that I prefer? How long do you guys think it will take for me to fix this issue if I really practiced like crazy everyday trying to fix it? Or would you guys say it varies from person to person?

As a referential example of the type of stuff I'm trying to play, I have attached the tabs of two songs that I have written. Both are for the most part 210 bpm.
Attachments:
NewSong1.gp5
NewSong6.gp5
Last edited by Commisaur at Dec 26, 2014,
#2
Do you warm up and do exercises before playing? If you already do any of that than there's probably some other issue with technique, in which case I can't help you there :/ I'm useless with specifics like that. It could also be as simple as overthinking it, and maybe casually jamming a bit will help relieve some tension.
#3
I had the same issue dude. ALL you gotta do is when you're practising, practise with your mind focused on your wrist and posture. Take note of every feeling and adjust. Don't be afraid to stop and reset yourself. Focus more on yourself and not just playing through the song. Doing this, I got rid of most of this bad habit within a few practise sessions- I don't even practise every day. I still have work to do on it but it helped a ton!
#4
Quote by Norgz94
I had the same issue dude. ALL you gotta do is when you're practising, practise with your mind focused on your wrist and posture. Take note of every feeling and adjust. Don't be afraid to stop and reset yourself. Focus more on yourself and not just playing through the song. Doing this, I got rid of most of this bad habit within a few practise sessions- I don't even practise every day. I still have work to do on it but it helped a ton!


Just to clarify, all of the stiffness, tension, and pain is felt in the joint/elbow area of my picking arm. I feel no tension in my hand or wrist. Just thought I'd make that clear in case these further details change your guy's assessment on what I could do to make the tension go away.
#5
Pick an album you like... Reign In Blood?
something with a lot of constant picking hand action... Reign In Blood??

NOW... instead of trying to play what's being played on the recording (even forget about alternate picking).

just pick ONLY using all down strokes, using ONLY the top (thickest) string,

where there is alternate picking, EG:
1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a...

forget about the e's and a's
just pick using ONLY down strokes on all the numbers and the &'s.

1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a

because obviously the e's and a's will be for the up strokes (which you going to FOOORRRRCE yourself not to play), as your picking hand starts to lose it, you will find that those pesky up strokes will start to creep-in involuntarily.

eventually you won't be able to stop them from creeping in more and more and (if you're anything like I was back in the day) your right hand will eventually lose it's $#*t! and become all spastic... playing some Up strokes, some Down strokes... in no particular order!!!

at that point your right arm's good for nothing.. so STOP, stretch it out, and give it a well deserved break!!

now everyone is slighty different, so just how long to rest depends upon "your arm" on "the day"... does that make sense? (some days you're better than others).

if after 5 minutes or so (or even a hour) you decide to have another go and get absolutely nowhere... that's completely normal! (as we learn't from going to the gym - it's during the rest periods when the muscles actually repair... well now you know!)

I remember days when I couldn't play what I played yesterday, gave up, only to come back in a few days and kill it! (a weeks rest can some times do wonders!)

try it using the other top strings as well, as you most probably know, they have their own feel about them, then switching between strings and string skipping etc...

just remember although it is_ primarily a technique thing, (so do keep in mind, clean execution) etc... but as you persevere, you'll naturally build up resistance and stamina, and find your overall technique will improve with it.

sometimes when we prcatice, we tend to sit down a lot, this can sometimes be a factor, especially with over playing resulting in pain through bad technique, some things are meant to be played standing up (until we get fluent enough to play them sitting down looking like it ain't no thing!)

just watch for bad habits... shoulders/neck relaxed is usually a big one for most! whereas Ugly Grimmaces will always look CooL \m/
#6
I'm not sure where I heard it first, but it's very true. "Speed is a by-product of accuracy." You need to practice things so slowly that you can play them PERFECTLY with no tension, completely relaxed. If you're practicing something at a speed you can barely manage, tensed up and in pain, the more you practice it that way the more you're teaching yourself to play it that way. If you want to try to up the speed, start VERY slowly and then slowly increase the tempo (5 or 10 bpm at a time) until you start to mess up or get tense, then back it down to where you were comfortable and practice there for a while.

I found these two articles to be very helpful:

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/correct_practice/discover_your_discomfort.html
http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/correct_practice/finding_the_incredible_lightness.html

The author's examples are more focused on the left hand, but the same ideas can be applied to right hand technique.

Remember, if you're playing in a way that is tense, uncomfortable, or painful, then that can eventually lead to a repetitive strain injury.


Edit: Toni, that sounds like a horrible way to practice. The goal is to learn to be in control of every movement, not to play something so fast that you spazz out and lose control. That's just reinforcing bad habits.
Last edited by The4thHorsemen at Dec 27, 2014,
#7
Quote by The4thHorsemen
Edit: Toni, that sounds like a horrible way to practice. The goal is to learn to be in control of every movement, not to play something so fast that you spazz out and lose control. That's just reinforcing bad habits.
I disagree, I remember (back in the "Reign In Blood" era) meeting so many people trying to play things via the old addage of start slowly and slowly build things up... they got nowhere man! ...but sure there is_ a fair amount of truth to persuing that route, I did apply it later on myself, but that just comes with the territory, but I have lost count of how many people I came across who just couldn't crack that barrier until they realised they were expecting to achieve schwarzenegger/bruce lee results without putting in any of the ground out effort required. (Particularly pertaining to Punk, Thrash and Death Metal, although I liken a lot of Death Metal more akin to marty friedman than Dan Lilker... doesn't quite have that same EDGE!!!)

(no offense marty your still a total legend!!!)

Give it a go Louie before having any preconcieved notions from the outset mate, you might just surprise yrself.

Student: How do you manage to kick so fast?
Bruce Lee: I don't quite understand the question?...
Student: I mean how do I get my kicks faster?
Bruce: Oh! that's simple... Kick Faster!!
#8
I guess practicing more slowly would help. So far I've only experienced tension in the wrist of the fretting hand. Don't really know what to do about finger or joint pain, sorry. Hope you figure it out though!
#9
You can only get rid of bad habits if you play slowly enough. When you play really fast, you can't focus on your technique. So play at a tempo where you can focus on your technique and also fix your faulty technique. For example if you feel tension in your wrist, play at a tempo where you can adjust your hand position and find the position that feels good. If you play too fast, you may not be able to figure out what's causing the problem. When you practice technique, you need to be able to focus on the technique. You want to be in control.

It's the same in everything. If you want to lift 200kg, you don't start with that. You need to start with what feels comfortable to you. Maybe it's 70kg. After doing enough repeats with 70kg, you are ready to move to 80kg, etc.

Same with speed. You start with what feels comfortable to you. You can't start with 200bpm, just like you can't start with 200kg. Maybe 150bpm feels comfortable to you. Start with that and after doing enough repeats with it, you are ready to move to 160bpm, etc.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Dec 27, 2014,
#10
Quote by tonibet72
I disagree, I remember (back in the "Reign In Blood" era) meeting so many people trying to play things via the old addage of start slowly and slowly build things up... they got nowhere man! ...but sure there is_ a fair amount of truth to persuing that route, I did apply it later on myself, but that just comes with the territory, but I have lost count of how many people I came across who just couldn't crack that barrier until they realised they were expecting to achieve schwarzenegger/bruce lee results without putting in any of the ground out effort required. (Particularly pertaining to Punk, Thrash and Death Metal, although I liken a lot of Death Metal more akin to marty friedman than Dan Lilker... doesn't quite have that same EDGE!!!)

(no offense marty your still a total legend!!!)

Give it a go Louie before having any preconcieved notions from the outset mate, you might just surprise yrself.

Student: How do you manage to kick so fast?
Bruce Lee: I don't quite understand the question?...
Student: I mean how do I get my kicks faster?
Bruce: Oh! that's simple... Kick Faster!!



Your advice doesn't really apply here in the first place since he CAN play fast, it's just painful and with a lot of tension.


Now, if you're not focusing on speed at all but solely on proper technique you may not get faster very quickly, but you will slowly get faster as you become more comfortable with the instrument. I haven't focused on getting faster at all in probably 4 years now. I kinda hit a point that was "fast enough" and felt no desire to really push it since I felt I could play at any speed I would ever want to. I have however been getting better at being in complete control of every note, no matter how fast it is and regardless of whether it's the wrong note or not, it won't sound like a mistake because I still play it confidently.

The other day on a whim I played along to Iced Earth - Wolf which I haven't done in years and found that the really fast gallop about a minute into the song was super easy for me now and seemed slower than I remembered. Back then I would spend a little time every few days trying to push my boundaries and that galloping riff was one of those riffs that was right on the edge of my ability and would cause me to tense up and would wear me out very quickly. Now I can play it completely pain free and really relaxed and could even play it faster than the original if I wanted. This is proof that your basic technique and all around ability directly effects your speed. Of course you have to put in the work to get faster, but I think the work is better spent developing a good technique (which will eventually lead to you being able to play faster) that won't give you an RSI after a few years and render you incapable of playing the guitar for more than a few minutes.

Of course, if you want to get faster quickly you can do what I said above - start slow and then build up to the fastest speed where you're still comfortable, relaxed and making no mistakes and practice there for a while, then try upping it again after a while.

The difference between kicking really fast and playing really fast seems pretty obvious to me. When playing guitar you need to make your movements as efficient as possible, never using more force or movement than needed whereas a kick is your entire body working together to hit something as hard and fast as you can and follow through with the motion.

Edit: I do think occasional short bursts of playing faster than what you're actually capable of doing may be beneficial, but the majority of practice should be at controlled speeds.
Last edited by The4thHorsemen at Dec 27, 2014,
#11
The advice here is good, but this is about the physical part of playing and belongs in Guitar Techniques.

Closin' it down.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp