Monday, March 18, 2013

Doctrine of Woodshed - Speed Limits: Right Hand Accuracy

Welcome back to Doctrine of Woodshed.  We're still talking about Speed Limits, and up this week is Right Hand Accuracy.

Last week we talked about ways to improve your right hand speed, but as I've been saying all along, playing fast is as much about accuracy as it is about raw speed.  So now let's look at some ways to improve the accuracy in our right hand.

Once again, everything comes down to a metronome.  Well...not everything...but I'll get to that in a moment.

Start by focusing on being able to play steady alternate picking.  Pick a slow-ish tempo that you can comfortably play straight eighth notes.  If you've been following these lessons and practicing, this might be around 100 BPM for you.

Get warmed up by following our typical procedure for increasing speed.  Play a long series of eighth notes, and when you have those perfect slowly increase the tempo.  Let's shoot for 120 BPM.

Now that you are playing eighth notes at 120 BPM, lets make it a little more challenging - how about if you jump to eighth notes triplets at 120 BPM?  Take a listen to these two examples for the difference if you are unfamiliar with triplets.

Up until now in our series on Speed Limits, we've dealt exclusively with douple - that is, the beat divided into an even number.  This is triple - the beat divided into three.  Here is a common "gotcha" for your right hand.  Dividing a beat into three even notes creates triplets - but there are other ways to divide a beat into three which are uneven.  We're going to learn to differentiate between three of them.

The triplet

The "gallop*

And the so-called 'pop-triplet'

If you can get your right hand accustomed to playing these three patterns clearly, not only will you be familiar with three new rhythms, but your right hand will have a more developed sense of accuracy and you may find it easier to play more intricate rhythms in the future.

So, you ask, how do I learn these rhythms?  Good question, glad you asked.  And you already know the answer - start SLOW.

Start by playing a continuous loop of one rhythm at a time at 60 BPM for a length of time - say, one minute, with strict alternate picking.  First triplets. Then, when you have that down, stop, and try the gallop for one minute.  Likewise with the pop triplet.

Go through like this, increasing the tempo and then playing them all.  The goal is to bring them all up to as fast as you can comfortably play while still clearly the different rhythms.

Simple as that.  Next week, we're going take these rhythms and put melodic motion to them, which will create a whole new set of picking speed limits (spoiler: moving between strings is hard!).
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