Recently I haven't been happy with the level of my playing but I'm finding it hard to discipline myself and create a structured practice plan to solve this problem.
I think I know enough to realize what I'm actually bad at and what needs work but actually dealing with those weakness's seems to elude me, I feel completely blinkered and rudderless so if I give you guys a quick outlay of my ability can you offer some advice please?

I've been playing around 10 years, I started playing mainly indie/rock for the majority of those 10 and I've flirted with metal more recently. My focus was always on learning the theoretical side, improvising and developing my "feel" as opposed to actually learning genre specific standards which seems to leave me with a poor ability to apply musical ideas effectively despite having the technique to execute them. I can sweep pick fairly accurately and cleanly but I only have a limited repertoire of standard triad arpeggios, actually creating musical ideas that implement sweeping seems to be something I'm pretty bad at. Could anyone recommend any good songs or exercises that would remedy this problem? My alternate picking needs serious work, I believe I understand the mechanics involved: pick slanting, angle, hand position, and string switching etc but I seem to have only two settings; really slow and accurate or super fast (almost tremolo picked) but messy. I've tried Gilbert's 4's exercises but I've seen no improvement in my clarity at high speeds, again any advice/exercises or good songs examples would be greatly appreciated. I can manage tapping on one string fine but I find when switching strings it sounds messy and I just can't understand why this is so, again this is an SOS to the guitar Gods please help.
I feel like I'm at the stage where putting more hours in doesn't mean getting more out anymore, that my playtime has to be focused towards a specific goal yet I have no idea how to do it given my fairly free form laid back approach up until now. Guy thanks in advance for taking the time to read this and offering your support.
On the mechanical technique side of things, fi you can sit down with a good teacher, those can be fixed.

Tapping noise is occurring because you're leaving the string too early and/or not muting the string you've left. To demonstrate ... try this A minor pentatonic based lick (The 12's are tapped)

g: ------------------------------ 5 - 7 - 12 - 7 - 5
a: 5 - 7- 12 - 7 - 5 - 7 - 12 -------------------- 12 - 7 - 5

The name of the game is to keep the tap down on the 12 (5th string, A string) still, and release it at the same time as you hammer the 5 on the g string (and at the same time, move your tapping hand palm to mute the 5th string.

Sounds like you need to really work on your chord knowledge.

Do you know maj7, -7, 7, and 7b5 chords (ideally rooted off any of the strings)?

Try taking a song with chord changes that occur fairly frequenlty, and over each chord, play the chord tones melodically (just use half notes), trying to connect to the nearest incoming chord tone. For example, try Hotel California chords.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Aug 13, 2016,
Thank you for the reply, I tried the tapping lick you listed and I believe you may be right it did seem to be due to poor timing when switching strings, playing it slowly and making sure to release at the same as hammering the next notes in a sequence seemed to lessen the problem. But I've been trying to learn the beat it solo in small chunks recently and I'm finding hard to keep the E string muted even at slow speeds, and even when trying to follow those rules. For example the following lick: (15's are tapped)

E:15-10h14-15-14p12p10h14-15-14p12p10 ---------------------------------------------------------------

The hammer on onto the 14th fret, even at slow speeds and regardless if I use my pinky or my stronger 3rd finger sounds tinny and unclear.
Maybe I'm just trying to run before I can walk and should slow things down even further or opt for someone a little easier than Van halen. Could you recommend any artists or exercises that are somewhere in between in terms of difficulty? Are there any exercises you practice related to tapping?
As for the chord knowledge I'd say I'm definitely above average but there are obvious gaps, for example I could play a maj7 in multiple different voicings but only one or two for m7b5. Also I'm not familiar with the - prefix, I'm assuming it means minor or flat correct? So a -7 would be a m7? and 7 means Dom7 right? Again for Dom7 chords I'm only familiar with two voicings, the ones built from the E and A strings. In regards to arpeggios a common thing I tend to do is add the 9th or m7th to the basic minor triad, which seems to work quite well but beyond that I seem clueless about creating interesting licks around them. For example if I was presented with a minor or minor7 chord in the rhythm my standard approach would be to play something similar to:



D:12--------------------------------------12-10b10.5- 12


But beyond those licks, which I tend to repeat alot, I feel devoid of ideas. Maybe I should focus on single string lines or long form arpeggios for extra variety, what do you think? A friend of mine who isn't as technically gifted as me tends to play a lot of single string licks when we jam and what he lacks in technique he makes up for by having more singable catchy lines, this seems to be another weakness of mine.

"Try taking a song with chord changes that occur fairly frequently, and over each chord, play the chord tones melodically (just use half notes), trying to connect to the nearest incoming chord tone. For example, try Hotel California chords."

That's a good idea, in fact I think I remember seeing an exercise called the rhythm pyramid or something similar where you start by playing just whole notes, then half notes, then quarter notes etc etc. I never actually bothered with it before but it's a good shout and I'll definitely give it a go.

As for the Alternate picking finding a guitar teacher in my area is rather difficult, or at least one that that is good enough to actually show me where I'm going wrong. Most of the teachers I know are either traditional singer songwriters or have poorer technique than myself, that's why I reached out to this community as I know there are some unreal players on here. I was hoping for maybe as set of exercises that could help develop speed, or a link to a practice routine or maybe just someone offering insight into how they developed their alternate picking.
Anyways thanks for taking the time to respond and I hope to learn as much as possible from people like yourself.
Last edited by Bensalt2014 at Aug 13, 2016,
The same principle applies for Beat it. Leave1st finger down on 10th fret (top e string) as long as possible, releasing its pressure as you hit the 14th fret on b string. All the time you play the line on the e string the 1st finger edge is butting up against the b string. When you move across to the b string, then the finger pad part of the 1st finger (near the joint) is still muting the 1st string. Try it slowly ... it's actually quite easy after a littel practice getting the various movements coordinated.

You absolutely have to nail this at very slow speeds, so all the coordination is there (and mis-coordination is obvious). Every guitarist with reasonable technqiue upwards will tell you the same thing. Practising technique is for accuracy above all, and the brain does magic with the fingers in this case (mega - slow).

Yes, -7 is minor 7, and 7 is dom7,

The licks are fine.

Even though you're aiming at metal, still suggest you try just using chord tones (r, (b)3, (b)5, (b)7) against tunes with good melodies (vocals, or instrumental) and just listen to the effect of connecting these. I promise you this will make you a more rounded musician, and helps develop ear as well.

For example, suppose we have minor progression (1 chord per bar) D-7 | C7 | Bbmaj7 | Am7#5 | G-7 | A7#5 | D-9 | C#dim7 | repeat

e: 5 ---3--------------------------------------5------3-------
b: 6- - 5----6----6p5------3------6--------5------5-------
g: 5 ---3----7----5---------3------6--------5------3--------
d: ------------7----5---------3------5-----------------------
a: 5 ---3--------------------------------------5------4-------
e: ------------6----5---------3------5-----------------------

Here is a simple melody, targetting the 3rd or 5th (b5th for the dim7, #5 for 7#5) of each chord on beat 1 of each bar, just using chord tones appropriate to that chord...

b:--6------5-----------3------------5------------------6------8---8-----------6---5 ---------------------
g:-----------------------------------------5------3--------------------- 7-------------------------------7----

Play chords really slowly, and use half note per melody note. I've written this out to follow the chord shapes ... in reality I'd more likely stay around the 4t - 8th frets across the progression. Point is, even with no real rhythmic phrasing, this still sounds it's going somewhere. Imagine then dressing this up, slides, bends, passing notes ... It gives you a basis to work with.

Now, about 99.9999% of guitarists (rock ...) miss out on this wonderful source of ideas as they get into playing (me too, a long time ago)

Take some tunes you like and try this discipline, as much as possible ... don't use anything other than chord tones (as defined above) when you practice. (Obviously relax this when you're just noodling, but evfen then try and work some of it in). If you can, try at least 30 mins every day or so, of this ... there are zillions of technicians, far less musicians (in the sense of musicality)
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Aug 13, 2016,
I actually tried the tapping riff from beat it slower but this time barring loosely the E and B string at the 10th fret, when the string change occurred I sort of pivoted/rolled my finger slightly and it seemed to control the string mute better so thank you for the help!

"You absolutely have to nail this at very slow speeds, so all the coordination is there "

I actually read one of the pinned threads on the forum that basically said the same thing, the 21 day challenge thread I believe it was and I have to say since slowing things down and focusing on accuracy my ability to learn complicated parts seems to have improved, maybe I'm just being impatient and expecting too much too soon. My approach to writing was always just off the cuff improvising relying on the strength of my ears, which works fine most of the time but obviously falls apart when confronted with non diatonic chord changes or complex chord sequences.

"Even though you're aiming at metal, still suggest you try just using chord tones (r, (b)3, (b)5, (b)7) against tunes with good melodies (vocals, or instrumental) and just listen to the effect of connecting these. I promise you this will make you a more rounded musician, and helps develop ear as well."

Surprisingly despite the fact a lot of the techniques I've mentioned have more of a practical application in metal, I'm actually trying to aim for a more melodic style of rock guitar closer to the style a lot of the indie/alt rock guys have. For example John squire is my all time favorite guitarist even though his playing isn't much more than fast pentatonic major sequences usually in triplet feel with Wah Wah. So even though sweep picking and fast tapping runs don't have much of a place in that genre I don't like the fact that there are techniques I struggle with or pieces of music that are "off limits" as a result of my lack of technique. But I did take your advice to heart and started with a few simple rhythms, playing only half notes and using only the 3rds and 5ths and it is surprising how effective it was, using them as anchors of sorts it was much easier to fill in the gaps with more complex phrasing afterward and create interesting melodic lines, this definitely seems like something I'll be pursuing more often.

By the way I must thank you for showing me some of the voicings in that minor progression, some I was familiar with (like the Bbmaj7 and Gm7) but others I wasn't familiar with at all (like the Dm7 which I've never ever thought of doing) Also I've never implemented #5 chords into my rhythms before and i especially like the use of the dom7#5 it has a very unique sound. Maybe i should dedicate more time to leaning more voicings as you stated in your first post. I will definitely put into place a routine using this approach.
Last edited by Bensalt2014 at Aug 13, 2016,