Monday, March 25, 2013

Woodshed Boot Camp Part 4: Right Hand Accuracy continued

Last week we discussed how to differentiate between three ways to divide a beat into thirds.  The triplet, the gallop, and the pop triplet.  If you need to review the difference between those, take another look at last week's lesson.

Right Hand Accuracy

This week we're going to put some melodic motion to those rhythms.  Introducing left hand movement creates two new snarls, one obvious and one not so obvious.  Having two things to focus on is more difficult than just chugging away on one note.  However, we're also going to encounter all kinds of less apparent problems dealing with moving from one string to the next.  None of it will be terribly difficult, but failing to identify the problem and overcome it could lead to bigger problems later in your development as a kick-ass guitarist.

In the first lesson of the Boot Camp series, I used a scale fragment in A minor.  Let's take another look at it (this time in A minor instead of the original E minor).

It is just a pattern of six notes, repeated over and over again.  If you've been practicing your triplets from last week, the first three notes should be a breeze.  Just add in the additional notes in your left hand.  Remember, if it doesn't come naturally to you, then take it annoyingly slow and work it with a metronome.

The trouble is going to come in when you go to play note 4 - the D on the A string.  Like I said the last time we looked at this fragment, make sure you are not using two consecutive downstrokes.  Stick to alternate picking.

Now that you have that under your fingers again, lets take our three rhythms and apply it to this exercise.  Here are the other two.

Take our usual practice to these three: start as slow as is necessary to play them perfect, and increase the tempo to a desired goal.  We'll set the goal at 120 BPM.

Once you have those three under your fingers, let's extend the exercise to a full minor scale.  There are several ways to play scales in one position - what guitarists often call "a box."  The way I play them is somewhat uncommon.  I started experimenting with a slight shift when moving to the B string a few years ago, and then fully applied it to my practice regime when I saw Rusty Cooley doing the same thing.  So here is my "box" for A minor in 5th position.

If we take this scale box and play our three rhythms over it, we have a much more interesting way to practice scales while simultaneously working on the accuracy of our right hand.  Here are all three versions written out.  In order to facilitate picking, you repeat both the highest and lowest pitches.

Much like with the scale fragment above, the problems are going to arrise when changing strings.  We've already seen what happens when the last note on one string is a downstroke - you are tempted to play the first note on the next string as a downstroke.  Make sure you maintain alternate picking to avoid problems later in the scale.

When we move from the A string to the D string, we encounter a new problem.  We discussed it in the briefly in the more advanced etude from the first Bootcamp lesson.  An upstroke followed by a downstroke on a higher string - sometimes called "inside the string picking," because it can feel like your pick is "trapped" between the strings.  In picking patterns like these, your range of motion is restricted and you must be more precise with your right hand.  So practice just that scale fragment until the picking feels more natural.  Same as always, start slow and build it up with a metronome.  Here is a good starting point - try playing along with this before using your own metronome. Make sure you are playing the indicated picking - it starts on an upstroke. That is vitally important.

These are two huge potential "gotchas" that you should be aware of any time you have a linear passage like a scale: avoiding consecutive downstrokes and inside the string picking.  They stem from the same problem, which is using an even numbered thing (up and downstrokes) to play an odd numbered thing (three-note-per-string scale boxes).  There are several alternative solutions to this: play pentatonic boxes that are two notes per string, use various picking patterns like economy picking, and many more.  However, I find all that to be counterproductive.  I want to play the most efficient fingerings with the most efficient picking, and that is three-note-per-string boxes with alternate picking.  In my opinion, and the opinion of a number of famous shredders, the problems with that combination are minimal compared to the advantages.

So break out the metronome, clean up your picking, and next week learn an exercise that can work on either your right or your left hand (say what? Stay tuned to find out).

BTW, have you seen Chico's Instrumental?  Check it out and let me know what you think and if you'd like to see more.

Chico's Instrumental is freely available on YouTube. Doctrine's self titled EP is available at all your favorite music stores.
Doctrine of Ethos - EP - Doctrine of Ethos  

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