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Thread: I'm stuck!

  1. I'm stuck!

    I love practicing guitar. I am a reasonably good beginner. It seems to take forever to learn a song. I just keep playing it over and over again to the point where, at times, start to hate the song! After sticking with it, I start to feel more confident and then gradually I gain a new respect for the complexity of the tune and, low and behold, start to love it again. I'm interested in some feedback on practicing methods. I am currently stuck on a phrase that I cannot seem to master. I can play the rest of the song however get messed up with this one particular phrase that is right in the middle of the song. What do the rest of you do?

    Sent from my SM-T560NU using Tapatalk

  2. #2
    Play level-appropriate material, for one.

    As long as you are doing that, there are a number of ways to get through tough sections. A few are listed below:


    First of all, relax. Give yourself a few days and even weeks if needed.


    • break it down into pieces or sections. a few notes at a time, etc.
    • play slowly
    • get each little part down
    • put the pieces back together bit by bit until you can play the entire "tough section" smoothly.
    • make certain that you can transition into it from the preceding material
    • make certain that you can transition out of it into the follow-on material
    • bring the tempo back up to full speed gradually



    EDIT - a couple more, even though they were implied above:


    • work hard
    • get used to some repetition for awhile. don't worry about sounding like a broken record. just keep doing each little part over and over and over until it develops.
    Last edited by Jazzstdnt; 01-13-2018 at 04:10 PM.

  3. #3
    Drop that tune for a week or even more, then relearn - try to do it by ear and memory before looking at the sheet. Do it many times. Forget, recall. For many people, this works better than trying to learn it "once and for all". Also, that way the tune will not "burn out" that easily.

    The other problem you had was a technical one. Don't expect concrete suggestions without providing an example clip.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
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    Wichita, KS
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    1,342
    Is there possibly a way to simplify the difficult passage?

  5. Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt View Post
    Play level-appropriate material, for one.

    As long as you are doing that, there are a number of ways to get through tough sections. A few are listed below:


    First of all, relax. Give yourself a few days and even weeks if needed.


    • break it down into pieces or sections. a few notes at a time, etc.
    • play slowly
    • get each little part down
    • put the pieces back together bit by bit until you can play the entire "tough section" smoothly.
    • make certain that you can transition into it from the preceding material
    • make certain that you can transition out of it into the follow-on material
    • bring the tempo back up to full speed gradually
    Thanks. Good advice.

    Sent from my SM-T560NU using Tapatalk

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    London
    Posts
    11,020
    Having occasional contact with a teacher can help with all of this.

  7. #7
    Try transposing it to a different key, and using different fingerings.

    You may be just relying on on "finger memory" rather than understanding. When you do this, you can play something over and over, but your mind is not really engaged...kind of going on auto-pilot.

    It is sometimes helpful to view it using 'Nashville style" notation....labeling the tonic as 1, etc....you might find it helps you to remember it. For e.g. "Isn't It Romantic" starts on the leading tone (the natural 7) and "There Will Never BE Another You" starts on the 5.

    Try to see if you can analyze the structure of the tune..."I Took A Trip on a Train (I thought about You)" is mostly just 2 arpeggios with a couple of passing notes...."Here's That Rainy Day" is a g minor arp. switching to a g major arp....kind of just toggles back and forth.

    Also, if you can do chord melody, this helps to provide overall context...and helps to give harmonic understanding. Some writers like Cole Porter have very deceptive melodies....they don't move around much, but there is a lot of harmonic "juice" to them, e.g. "Love For Sale".

  8. #8
    I’m constantly having to remind myself: baby steps

  9. Quote Originally Posted by p1p View Post
    I’m constantly having to remind myself: baby steps
    Yes " baby steps " best and simplest advice of all.

    Sent from my SM-T560NU using Tapatalk

  10. #10
    All great advice from the guys here! I wish I'd had, and heeded advice like this when I was stuck. For me, patience, persistence and perspective have been useful elements. You know there's nothing that can withstand the power of the human will so know that things coming in their own time is a part of knowing it well.
    Sometimes more complex passages involve new ways of moving and perceiving the music, they take ear knowledge as well as hand knowledge. I remember wanting more than anything, to be able to play this bebop head. Like you were describing, I'd reach a passage and my fingers would always screw things up. I seemed to make the same mistakes again and again.
    For a long time, I just played it sloppy, getting it kinda right and letting that be good enough. Then at some time, I learned to hear what I was playing, hear where the notes were going, and what was going on. I shifted my hand down two frets and found the spot where a phrase could be played where the strong notes were under strong fingers and I was hearing as well as playing. Flash of lightning. Boom. There it was. But the time it took me to accept shifting out of position, playing with the ear, being aware of melodic flow and just letting it gel took a long time. Then at that point, it seemed that I'd never known otherwise.

    Could you share what piece you're working on? Where you get hung up? Maybe our collective playing experience might help. There's a lot that goes into learning any piece; a complex set of skills to unravelling and then re-assembling and playing it. If a student doesn't have playing within tonality down, I'll start with pieces that don't have tonal shifts... etc.

    You'll get it. You're teaching yourself with every obstacle. Just remember it takes time.

    David

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by p1p View Post
    I’m constantly having to remind myself: baby steps
    That would make a great Hans Groiner contrafact of Giant Steps!

    David

  12. Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    All great advice from the guys here! I wish I'd had, and heeded advice like this when I was stuck. For me, patience, persistence and perspective have been useful elements. You know there's nothing that can withstand the power of the human will so know that things coming in their own time is a part of knowing it well.
    Sometimes more complex passages involve new ways of moving and perceiving the music, they take ear knowledge as well as hand knowledge. I remember wanting more than anything, to be able to play this bebop head. Like you were describing, I'd reach a passage and my fingers would always screw things up. I seemed to make the same mistakes again and again.
    For a long time, I just played it sloppy, getting it kinda right and letting that be good enough. Then at some time, I learned to hear what I was playing, hear where the notes were going, and what was going on. I shifted my hand down two frets and found the spot where a phrase could be played where the strong notes were under strong fingers and I was hearing as well as playing. Flash of lightning. Boom. There it was. But the time it took me to accept shifting out of position, playing with the ear, being aware of melodic flow and just letting it gel took a long time. Then at that point, it seemed that I'd never known otherwise.

    Could you share what piece you're working on? Where you get hung up? Maybe our collective playing experience might help. There's a lot that goes into learning any piece; a complex set of skills to unravelling and then re-assembling and playing it. If a student doesn't have playing within tonality down, I'll start with pieces that don't have tonal shifts... etc.

    You'll get it. You're teaching yourself with every obstacle. Just remember it takes time.

    David
    Wow I love this. All this feedback is so helpful to a new guy like me. I cannot read music so I learn with tabs and listening to the song and playing it over and over again. I love this. It's good for my brain however it is challenging. I started out taking lessons in jazz with a teacher who was very very professional. My teacher has had to take a leave of absence due to a family medical situation which leaves me to learn and practice on my own. The Jazz became to tricky when he left so I decided to work on Blues. I purchased some songs from a site called Jam tracks and have started to learn this one blues song that is coming along fairly well but causing me to get stuck. I am going to try to post it somehow so that you can hear what I'm trying to learn. Apparently the file is too large so I'm going to have to try something else. For the time being I will post this and try to figure out some way to send the video to the forum.

    Sent from my SM-T560NU using Tapatalk

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by smittythehandyman60@gmail View Post
    Wow I love this. All this feedback is so helpful to a new guy like me. I cannot read music so I learn with tabs and listening to the song and playing it over and over again. I love this. It's good for my brain however it is challenging. I started out taking lessons in jazz with a teacher who was very very professional. My teacher has had to take a leave of absence due to a family medical situation which leaves me to learn and practice on my own. The Jazz became to tricky when he left so I decided to work on Blues. I purchased some songs from a site called Jam tracks and have started to learn this one blues song that is coming along fairly well but causing me to get stuck. I am going to try to post it somehow so that you can hear what I'm trying to learn. Apparently the file is too large so I'm going to have to try something else. For the time being I will post this and try to figure out some way to send the video to the forum.

    Sent from my SM-T560NU using Tapatalk
    I doubt you can post the actual video here.

    The easiest way is to create a youtube account, upload your video to youtube, then just paste the youtube URL/link for that video here.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by smittythehandyman60@gmail View Post
    I cannot read music so I learn with tabs and listening to the song and playing it over and over again. I love this. It's good for my brain however it is challenging.
    Good place to change your life if you're up for the task. Learning to read standard notation is really invaluable. Just for starters, I can throw up a lead sheet, exercise or etude and point out the flow and functions graphically. You can "hear" them from the page, see the notes I'm referring to and see the flow of the notes and not just where to put your fingers.
    Reading music is more than another way to learn to play a piece, it's a way to understand musical relationships, shapes and see the big picture AND the smaller ones, all at once, once you've got it to a comfortable place.
    For jazz and improvisors on the jazz level, you're thinking more like a composer than a jam band player.
    Music notation will bring your eye, memory and creative tools into play and inform your real time playing. I really would recommend that.
    That passage you're struggling with, you might see it as a melodic run with a twist, or see its shape laid out for you, and that can help you find a good place to play it on the guitar, and understand the logic behind the tune. TAB is not going to do that for you.
    10 minutes a day devoted to learning to read notation. It'll change your life.

    David

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    Good place to change your life if you're up for the task. Learning to read standard notation is really invaluable. Just for starters, I can throw up a lead sheet, exercise or etude and point out the flow and functions graphically. You can "hear" them from the page, see the notes I'm referring to and see the flow of the notes and not just where to put your fingers.
    Reading music is more than another way to learn to play a piece, it's a way to understand musical relationships, shapes and see the big picture AND the smaller ones, all at once, once you've got it to a comfortable place.
    For jazz and improvisors on the jazz level, you're thinking more like a composer than a jam band player.
    Music notation will bring your eye, memory and creative tools into play and inform your real time playing. I really would recommend that.
    That passage you're struggling with, you might see it as a melodic run with a twist, or see its shape laid out for you, and that can help you find a good place to play it on the guitar, and understand the logic behind the tune. TAB is not going to do that for you.
    10 minutes a day devoted to learning to read notation. It'll change your life.

    David
    There are some decent apps available that help you get started reading standard notation. One I have is called “Music Notes” or @Notes On A Staff”. I’ve been using it ten mins a day, just to get quicker reading.

  16. #16
    Good advice in the posts above. The link below is an article I found useful. When I start a new solo arrangement. I first learn the melody by learning I mean singing it as well as getting it under my fingers.

    On Memorizing by Jamey Andreas

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    St.Petersburg, Russian Federation
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    2,474
    I just keep playing it over and over again to the point where, at times, start to hate the song!
    More or less everybody has this problem... some are more subject to it, some less.

    We are human and we cannot keep creative and itellectual intensity at constant level and it does not always correspond with our practice or gig schedule...
    I had this both with learning jazz or classical. When I was a boy and learnt classical piece - my teacher forbid me to play it over and over again completely... he used to say: 'you will wear the song out'.
    When learning he recomended learning by sections - separately - if I could not learn teh whole tune at once (those were the days when I could sight-read 3-4 pages piece twice and it's learnt - kids have fantastic abilities --- now alas!))))
    After learning he taught me to focus on specifique moments moments of form, passages, turnarounds, technical issues and find at least minimal solution during a practicing time for that .. and which is important to enjoy it.

    Besides music is going from beginning to end.. and if have some problems with learning the bridge for example and you learn through playing it over and over again... you practice mostly the part you already know.

    From my point of view phsycologically this problem comes from inertness of our mind at the moment - we are exhausted, tired, whatever else - and we just try to do something with minumum creative and intellectual or spiritual efforts...
    we know something - we play it.. it does not work out - we play it again...

    In this situation it is important to find something to focus on... it could be just a short sequence of voicings, or analyzing melodic idea, or some technical problem you have...
    And probably you have to force yourself a bit to focus on it.

    Try to figuer out parts of a song (not only A and B section but smaller) - something that sounds quite integral to learn but short and learn these parts separetly and then combine...

    If you learn harmonies think in steps not in chord names - at least on that level...

  18. #18
    Change the phrase then. Why hold up the whole tune for one phrase? One day you might suddenly find you can play it, it happens :-)

  19. Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    Change the phrase then. Why hold up the whole tune for one phrase? One day you might suddenly find you can play it, it happens :-)
    Love it. Thanks

    Sent from my SM-T560NU using Tapatalk

  20. Quote Originally Posted by Jonah View Post
    More or less everybody has this problem... some are more subject to it, some less.

    We are human and we cannot keep creative and itellectual intensity at constant level and it does not always correspond with our practice or gig schedule...
    I had this both with learning jazz or classical. When I was a boy and learnt classical piece - my teacher forbid me to play it over and over again completely... he used to say: 'you will wear the song out'.
    When learning he recomended learning by sections - separately - if I could not learn teh whole tune at once (those were the days when I could sight-read 3-4 pages piece twice and it's learnt - kids have fantastic abilities --- now alas!))))
    After learning he taught me to focus on specifique moments moments of form, passages, turnarounds, technical issues and find at least minimal solution during a practicing time for that .. and which is important to enjoy it.

    Besides music is going from beginning to end.. and if have some problems with learning the bridge for example and you learn through playing it over and over again... you practice mostly the part you already know.

    From my point of view phsycologically this problem comes from inertness of our mind at the moment - we are exhausted, tired, whatever else - and we just try to do something with minumum creative and intellectual or spiritual efforts...
    we know something - we play it.. it does not work out - we play it again...

    In this situation it is important to find something to focus on... it could be just a short sequence of voicings, or analyzing melodic idea, or some technical problem you have...
    And probably you have to force yourself a bit to focus on it.

    Try to figuer out parts of a song (not only A and B section but smaller) - something that sounds quite integral to learn but short and learn these parts separetly and then combine...

    If you learn harmonies think in steps not in chord names - at least on that level...
    Damn good advice!

    Sent from my SM-T560NU using Tapatalk

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by smittythehandyman60@gmail View Post
    I just keep playing it over and over again to the point where, at times, start to hate the song! After sticking with it, I start to feel more confident and then gradually I gain a new respect for the complexity of the tune and, low and behold, start to love it again.
    This is the secret to life! You have found it already...

    Just keep hammering that stone, even though you see no evidence that all of that
    hammering has done anything, then one day, a single blow will break the stone!
    measure with micrometer... mark with chalk... cut with axe

  22. Yep, those "wow I can do it too" moments are priceless. Too rare though

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by smittythehandyman60@gmail View Post
    I love practicing guitar. I am a reasonably good beginner. It seems to take forever to learn a song. I just keep playing it over and over again to the point where, at times, start to hate the song! After sticking with it, I start to feel more confident and then gradually I gain a new respect for the complexity of the tune and, low and behold, start to love it again. I'm interested in some feedback on practicing methods. I am currently stuck on a phrase that I cannot seem to master. I can play the rest of the song however get messed up with this one particular phrase that is right in the middle of the song. What do the rest of you do?

    Sent from my SM-T560NU using Tapatalk
    If it's chordal, I try to simplify the movements necessary. I focus on two or three notes for each chord and try to find ways to make them work. This is not often difficult - if you know the chord tones and understand the tune's harmony.

    But, if you're talking about melodic lines, it's more complicated. You have to figure out where the bottleneck is. Most often, it's in the right hand. A picking problem.

    Some of this could be basic technique, suggesting that you work on basic picking for a couple of years and see if it helps.

    But, for me (a player who has given up on ever being able to pick anything fast) the solution is usually in finding a way to finger something with the left hand that makes the picking possible.

    It turns out that the left hand can switch positions surprisingly quickly, so, often, you can move notes onto the same string even if it requires a position shift. And, it's easiest to pick one string.

    Some other thoughts:

    1. It depends on whether you pick alternate or sweep. Sweep is often about technique. Alternate often requires some thinking about which string to use for which note to avoid difficulty in repositioning the pick.

    2. Hammers and pull-offs allow time to reposition the pick. So do rests in the music.

    3. Open strings can help. Suppose you have to play C G C. You can do it at the fifth fret G and D strings. But, you could play the G with the open G string instead of on the D string.

    4. You can hammer a string that you aren't otherwise playing, for example, to avoid moving the pick several strings over for a single note.

    5. Or, you could use a right hand finger to pluck a stray note.

    So, a lot of times, you just have to think about lots of ways to play the passage and find one that works.

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