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A few of the big things holding me back

Dan Shipway

Slim Shady
  • Nov 11, 2019
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    Ive wanted to make this post for a few days since there are a few things (albeit a little different) that have been things that I feel I need advice on. The first is more of a personal thing and the other two is to do with playing but they do all link.

    The first thing, which a few of you will be aware of if you have seen my last posts is that I am very hard on myself. Its something that doesn't just happen in my guitar playing but in nearly all aspects of my life. I usually find that everything I play just sounds bad, it sounds bland, uninspired and sloppy. I have had people tell me in the past that I am a good player and I can admit that there are some aspects that I am fairly good at such as technique and inflection but overall I hate the sound of everything I play and it makes me want to practice and practice to the point where I am happy with it but I feel like I don't know when that will be since I have lost sight of where I want to be.

    The second thing holding me back is that I dont know how to set myself goals to achieve. I dont know what I want to achieve anymore because I feel like I dont know where I want to be in my playing. I feel quite lost in my journey since I havent had a big ounce of motivation for a while so I end up saying stuff like "I want to sound like Petrucci" or "I want to be able to have feel like Steve Vai" and other generalised statements which dont have any steps to achieving.

    The third which is a playing thing I noticed, I find that when playing lead lines I struggle to get from point A to B without playing all the notes inbetween. This I think mainly comes from having 0 knowledge of intervals but Im not sure. I could end up playing two notes that don't go together at all and don't sound musical when they are played back and forth. This is the reason why I find myself just slowly working my way up and down the scale playing every note, I will go up and down and add inflections but I never really miss notes or string skip because I don't know what notes Im playing and whether they work and I think it would hep to spice my playing up if I knew this.

    I dont really know how half these posts read because Its just me listing all the reasons I hate my playing essentially and just asking for ways to finally be happy with it but honestly I just need any advice. Maybe not even theory/technique based but just someone to talk to about the mental battles that go on when playing/learning.
     

    Alicia Willis

    Moderator
    Staff member
    Legend+
  • Nov 11, 2019
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    Oh man…this part in particular hit me hard…!

    “I dont know what I want to achieve anymore because I feel like I dont know where I want to be in my playing. I feel quite lost in my journey since I havent had a big ounce of motivation for a while”

    I’ve been feeling this for awhile. For me, I think it stemmed from wanting to do so many things at once and getting bogged down into finding what it truly was I wanted to do. We so are so inundated these days with media and we feel the need to match it. We are lambasted with shredding face melting solos, perfectly articulated and curated Melodie’s with many effects added into the mix that everything we see is so… “perfect”… but it’s not real. It’s an illusion.
    maybe it’s time we all take a step back and evaluate what it see we want to covey. Do we want to convey the perfectly edited video with no errors or flaws ? Or…do we simply want to play for the pure enjoyment of it and let our raw, real, truth and emotions shine through ?
     

    Dan Shipway

    Slim Shady
  • Nov 11, 2019
    720
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    I can totally relate to that, for me a lot of it stems from the fact that I se a lot of guitarists who as you said, have lots of technical ability or a great sense of melody and phrasing who have been playing for half as long as I have. I knew from the start that everyone progresses differently but I always thought that there was something I was missing in my playing that wasn't allowing me to progress as fast and I wanted that to change.

    I never focused on theory or improv/phrasing since I always just learned other peoples songs and despite a lot of people saying its useful for learning licks etc I never found that since I dont actually know how to incorporate what I learn in a musical way and it has been really slowing me down. Its a new path I am going down and a whole new skillset but I really dont know how to begin.

    A lot of people I see play lines that switch note values or jump around the fretboard playing interesting note intervals and I just cant wrap my head around how they come up with the ideas, I feel like this is why improv/ creating my own music is unobtainable since it always feels as though its not a skill you learn but more just your approach to music and your creative nature that allows for these ideas to come and for people to feel the music in ways that others just simply cant.
     

    JakAngelescu

    Stairway to Heaven Tab Studier
    Aug 12, 2022
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    You know Dan, I always see you be hard on yourself. Yet I can't truly pick apart your playing because you haven't posted anything in three years. But to TRULY digest what you're saying, I'll try to answer as best as I can....

    1. If you feel your playing sounds bad, bland, uninspired and sloppy, it is. But here's the thing: maybe to US and even the untrained ear it sounds great (like your friends in company say) but ultimately you need to be proud of how YOU sound. And if YOU feel this way, then it is and it needs to be changed. It's like me with my weight. Everyone tells me I'm gorgeous and I don't need to do anything about my weight. But I do. Because it's what I want.

    2. You don't know how to set goals to achieve or anything and you feel lost. Firstly, you mentioned twice "I want to sound like X guitarist". It's always great to strive to be able to play like someone (kind of like what Alicia stated) above. But to SOUND like them and PLAY like them are totally different. You will never sound like Petrucci or Vai. Ever. Because SOUNDING like something comes from years and YEARS of developing your own personal inflection, tone, etc. And truly, the ultimate reward with being a musician is DOING something with it. Practicing for hours doesn't do shit for your soul if you don't have something tangible to measure your progress on (ex: "Wow, this single I just released is MUCH better than my last one!" or "I can't believe I actually gained 5 followers off of my new A7X cover!" or "I'm so happy I landed that gig in that cover band!") The reason why it's damaging to practice in your bedroom for hours without doing anything about it, is that you are stuck in the same point on the graph of success-for eternity. You can get better at the guitar, yes. But you will ALWAYS have to get better at the guitar. You will ALWAYS have to practice. So is that really a success? Congratulations you just played Vai's "For the Love Of God" flawlessly. But now what? Where do you go from there? See? You're still stuck in that same spot on the graph of success. Because there's hundreds of other Vai songs you can't play. You're gauging your success on only one thing, and that's improvement on the guitar with technique. But there's HUNDREDS of other ways we can gauge success. Like my weight loss analogy again. Just because the scale hasn't tipped in 2 weeks doesn't mean I'm not making improvements. My clothes are fitting better, I'm moving better, and I'm sleeping better. I would really recommend thinking to yourself where you want to go with your music besides the technique/jamming aspect.

    3. How much time do you spend exploring the guitar? No jamming track, no metronome, no nothing? Just you and the guitar? The less I play with a backing track or a metronome, the more I've been exploring the guitar and finding creative ways to do this.

    Let's keep this conversation going buddy :) Always proud of how hard you work. But I really think you need to upload a new video of yourself.
     

    Chris Johnston

    Music Theory Bragger
  • Nov 11, 2019
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    Hey man, thanks for sharing this.

    I can totally relate to having those horrible spells of self doubt & lack of motivation - especially regarding technique & improvising.

    As Guitarists that hold the metal genre on a pedestal, we're always up against that toxic mindset of measuring our self worth based on technical ability and in comparison to others - whether it's speed, or string skipping or knowing where to play etc. This can breed a constant sense of judgement of our playing, as we're always on the comparison 'why don't I sound like this player, that player' etc. Something I still struggle with from time to time.

    It's so much easier said than done, but I feel like the way to get out of the mindset is to try and appreciate the things you can already do in your playing. Take what you frame as a negative & find the positives, no matter how much you feel like it's a stretch. Now I know that this sounds like fluffy 'be kind to yourself' hippy speak, but it can really allow you to keep your mind away from critic mode and to look at your playing through a more constructive lense. Practicing this mental exercise will translate to your playing in no time, as you'll be exploring your instrument, rather than competing with the idea of 'what you should be able to do on it' 👌

    For example: At the moment you seem to think of hitting every note of a scale as a negative - when it's actually reaffirming the scale in your hands/ears. The more it's in your hands/ears, the more likely you'll be able to eventually skip a note out and be able to hear the following note before you play it. Emphasis on 'eventually' here - you can't force this kind of authenticity in your playing. It's all just gradual development and that's completely normal for everyone 😊

    In terms of goals to set, I could list off a bunch of playing goals like 'learn triads, try jamming etc' but I feel like the best advice I can give is to first set a goal of finding positivity/patience in your playing and the abilities you have right now - because you've worked hard for them 🤟 You'll start to feel much better if you put less pressure on yourself.

    Ps. I'm dropping a short video series on here soon that might help you with some of what's bugging you in your playing, so I'll be sure to DM you when it's uploaded 😊

    I hope you feel better soon!
     
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    William B.

    Hot Topic Tourer
    Legend
  • Nov 11, 2019
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    I can't answer too much but I got some of the same issues. Also am tough on myself ( not with everything ). Days that are sounding/feeling terrible I think these just happen and eventually even on the worst days the lowest bar would be higher cause of practice/experience/being ready. I think it's audible in playing if your feeling great and/or knowing what your playing cause confidence. I also got trouble setting goals, like I set 1 or 2 long term ones and that was it. Probably setting low achievable bars is the best way. Maybe even writing some down and checking them off on a checklist so you see you did it. Often I achieve a guitar goal and forget what the goal was like it was insignificant, but it's not, it's a low bar achievement, so like I can raise it a bit more. For me it's been gradual and somewhat difficult cause I don't think I had good listening nor rhythm. Been persevering and yeah still here. Some days are yucky but if had a bad day you'll know a good one when it's there.
    I got some of the same struggles, it may be a common thing among some music people

    ps I don't always do what i say
    this instance is the goals thing
     
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    owen817

    Garage band Groupie
  • Jan 24, 2022
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    Fort Worth, TX
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    So I used to be hard on myself and how I play. I have a really hard time remembering things so I always play with tabs. I can learn a song and play it multiple times but the next day I have no idea. I ultimately took a break for anything guitar related for a few months. When I came back to it I came back with a different mindset. I'm learning and playing for myself, not anybody else. Since then I have seen my progression improving vastly and I only play on the weekends. I guess I would say that all in all you have to find your own sound and stop trying to be exactly like this person or this person. Enjoy playing the songs that you enjoy listening to.
     

    Dan Shipway

    Slim Shady
  • Nov 11, 2019
    720
    142
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    Thank you for all your support and incredible feedback through what has been a fairly eventful guitar journey thus far haha.

    I came to a revelation last night and I think it explains a lot of the reason I have been frustrated with my playing. I dont usually get frustrated with how I sound when I practice other peoples songs but always when improvising. I really struggle to find my identity and work on it but what I realised is that I dont have much of an identity because I haven't spent nearly enough time crafting one and really sculpting my sound/style.

    I have spent so much time mindlessly learning other peoples songs or practicing techniques that I haven't practiced putting techniques into my own playing, spent so much time on playing fast to a metronome that I have no clue how to vary tempos in my soloing, spent so much time running scale positions up and down and in specific sequences that I dont understand the notes I am playing and how to create interesting patterns.

    As Jak said, it has gotten to the point where I no longer feel a sense of achievement from just relentless practicing and playing other peoples songs because personally I now just feel like someone who as Syn humorously said about Papa G, plays things in the studio that were previously written for him or someone who can do a bunch of cool party tricks but doesn't play anything that sounds musical. It has caused an unbreakable cycle of trying to improvise, hating how it sounds and then going back to learning songs and I definitely want this to change, I want to become a MUSICIAN and not just a PLAYER. I find myself hitting a note, not sure what to do with it, where to go or even if its in the scale so I end up just holding on to it for ages while my brain tries to figure out why it is I played the note in the first place.

    In short, I feel like the reason I am struggling so much with finding positives about the way I sound when I improvise is due to thinking that because I have playing for so long, I think I have found my voice and style on guitar when in actual fact I haven't put nearly enough time into that aspect of playing to be able to say that.

    With that in mind I ask, what advice would you have for someone with no idea where to start with improvising or using the lessons on the school and practicing them in a musical way.

    I am a no BS type of guy and wont make some excuse as to why I don't post my playing on here. Truth is, is that I am, as I am sure you have probably all picked up on, very critical about my playing. I don't really like showing people things I do unless I myself am proud of them but I will try and post a video as soon as my DAW stops crashing every time I use amp sims so I can get feedback because I realise that its not helping me progress but instead hindering my progress.
     

    owen817

    Garage band Groupie
  • Jan 24, 2022
    51
    138
    Fort Worth, TX
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    So I know nothing about theory or scales. Hell I can barely do chords. But I found out that the odd number frets down around the 9-15 area usually go together pretty well. Like I'm not trying to impress anybody, I'm just playing songs that I enjoy listening to. I use my guitar to decompress from anything that is stressing me out. Grab a couple of beers and a few friends and just have fun with it. The day it becomes stressful to play is the day I will quit playing.
     

    OskarF

    New Student
    Nov 11, 2019
    30
    22
    First of all I don't think being hard on yourself and having high standards is necessarily a bad thing actually as it can create a strong drive to constantly improve, but it can get to a point where you stop enjoying playing guitar and that is not good obviously.

    With that in mind I ask, what advice would you have for someone with no idea where to start with improvising or using the lessons on the school and practicing them in a musical way.

    And in regards to improvisation: for me, the first 10 years of playing i always felt really insecure about my ability even though i had accomplished a lot of my goals technique wise. I never really learned how to improvise because i had gotten it in my head that theory was bad and a killer of creativity (seems to be a very common idea in rock/metal and its ingrained in the culture for some reason) which is just not true. Learning to find your way around the neck is essential and it's no wonder i felt like a shitty musician because playing without knowing scales and building a map of notes on the neck was really making things needlessly difficult.

    One day i just realized that i needed to get rid of this idea i had formed and just start learning theory. So started really learning the 3 note per string scale patterns (i started by only practicing in the key of D) across the whole neck, i learned the CAGED system (which was what really made things start to click for me) and learned how the pentatonic crossed over with the heptatonic (7 note scale) and when i knew all the patterns across all strings i started to be able to see how the scales formed chords and how the chords can be broken into arpeggios in different ways. I'm still working on it and im by no means a master of improvisation and i'm really bad at playing different keys - but for me, it was crucial to first build this map of interval patterns on the neck because that way you really understand how chords and scales link together, and then you can use that knowledge to really understand how the music you learn fits into a scale and then be able to apply it in different contexts.

    Something i really dislike about theory in general is how it's for the most part presented in such a complex and confusing way when it really is very simple. In my opinion, all you need to learn is one single key and eventually you'll understand how all theory works.
     
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    Dan Shipway

    Slim Shady
  • Nov 11, 2019
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    142
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    For sure! I neglected to learn theory from the start and it defintly came to bite me in the ass. Now I am learning theory it is helping a lot with helping me to discover where I can go. The main thing I struggle with is remembering the scales and notes when improvising, I am able to play the scales and arpeggios fine when I'm just jogging my memory and reminding myself of them but when I start improvising and trying to not play them up and down I start to forget them. I am so used to playing the notes in a certain sequence and not thinking about the notes themselves.

    It brings up an issue I have a lot with guitar and its the fact of, I know what I want to improve on but I dont know how to practice effectively to get there. If anyone has tips on practicing awareness of the notes being played as apposed to just the shapes it would mean a lot as I feel it is one of the factors that causes me to fumble around finding the right notes in a key
     
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    OskarF

    New Student
    Nov 11, 2019
    30
    22
    For sure! I neglected to learn theory from the start and it defintly came to bite me in the ass. Now I am learning theory it is helping a lot with helping me to discover where I can go. The main thing I struggle with is remembering the scales and notes when improvising, I am able to play the scales and arpeggios fine when I'm just jogging my memory and reminding myself of them but when I start improvising and trying to not play them up and down I start to forget them. I am so used to playing the notes in a certain sequence and not thinking about the notes themselves.

    It brings up an issue I have a lot with guitar and its the fact of, I know what I want to improve on but I dont know how to practice effectively to get there. If anyone has tips on practicing awareness of the notes being played as apposed to just the shapes it would mean a lot as I feel it is one of the factors that causes me to fumble around finding the right notes in a key
    It's most importantly about spending time improvising over music. But don't play a lot of notes, try to make every single note have a purpose and consciously bring it down to become as simple as possible. Think about melody and rhythm. If you feel uninspired and like you're not progressing, learn to play some piece of music that is interesting and then try to apply it in your playing and improvise with it.

    A great piece of advice i recently heard from John Mayer was to study vocal melodies because it really develops your phrasing. It's interesting because vocal melodies really are for the most part very very simple. It doesn't have to be complex to sound beautiful and i think as guitar players it's very common for us to shoehorn a lot of unnecesary notes in there. I think things become more musical when we strip things down to the fundamentals and really learn how to sound good like that, then build on with the complex stuff later on.

    I'm personally obsessed by melody and the process of creating beautiful sounding melodies. What i've found is that has to come from intuition/instinct which is what people tend to call "feel". The way you develop that is simply by experience and trying to do it over and over until it's so natural to you that it just comes without trying to force it, you just kind of hear it in your head.
     

    Dan Shipway

    Slim Shady
  • Nov 11, 2019
    720
    142
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    Here is an attempt at improv I did over a G major backing. Honestly I was embarrassed with it, once I started trying to break out of playing notes in order I just completely lost sense of where the notes in the scale were. I have a long way to go with improv but I honestly dont know how to improve since its no longer logical like running scales but more creative and I've just never seemed to be good with that side of things.

     
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    OskarF

    New Student
    Nov 11, 2019
    30
    22
    Here is an attempt at improv I did over a G major backing. Honestly I was embarrassed with it, once I started trying to break out of playing notes in order I just completely lost sense of where the notes in the scale were. I have a long way to go with improv but I honestly dont know how to improve since its no longer logical like running scales but more creative and I've just never seemed to be good with that side of things.

    Thanks for sharing! And It sounds great dude - your bends are fkn tasty :D It sounds beautiful when you take your time with your notes and leave a lot of space in the music. I think i understand what you feel is your problem is though, as it sounds like you at some points get stuck in thinking about the notes as scales instead of music. What's probably happening is that when you take your time and play these nice bends for example, you're very into feeling the music and playing on intuition, but then as you speed things up you have to actively think about where to place your fingers, which takes you right out of that focus on the music.

    It's easy to get ahead of yourself when you can technically play much faster than you can musically, and it's a problem i've struggled with a lot as well. I really think the way to work on that is to just slow it down and gradually work on playing more notes, similar to how when you practice a technique you gradually increase the speed of your metronome.
     
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