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When I first started playing guitar, I wanted to play like Eddie Van Halen. I wanted to write the next “Eruption” or “Cathedral” or any of the other songs that he has writting. It really doesn’t matter, I love them all. Anyway… I was a 80’s heavy metal fan and learned all the songs and/or licks that I could, especially Eddie’s. Problem is, I couldn’t play some of that because it was way beyond my ability. I thought if I played the lick over and over again, I would eventually be able to play it. It worked sometime but not all the time and I eventually gave up on some songs.
So twenty four years later, after picking up my first guitar, I am now a big fanatic for fingerstyle guitar and want to learn everything I can about it. My problem is that I’m resorting to some bad habits that I had as a teenager. The big one was that I was practicing a song over and over again but not really making any progress. What I was lacking was some fundamentals, I was good but raw and not very clean in my playing.
I was never formally trained for the guitar, my degree is in music but it was for voice, mainly because I couldn’t read music very well, I wasn’t that confident in my playing and at the time, I wanted to be a choral teacher. Anyway, the point is that I just learned as I went but didn’t know warm-up techniques, scales or any
other exercises that could help me. Constantly hitting a wall, I gave in and started to take guitar lessons. Took the lessons for about a year until my teacher moved out of state. But in that time he taught me the scales, movable chords and songs in a way that stuck with me this time. I was able to approach the guitar from a different angle and things opened up for me. I have made more progress in the past year than I have in the last 10 and it was not because I learned more pieces of music but I learned new exercises to improve my technique.
One of the things that really helped my technique was a fingerboard stretching exercise that was on John Petrucci’s DVD “Rock Discipline.” It used chord shapes to get your left hand out of it’s comfort zone. It really helped my articulation and ability to do some of the more difficult arrangements that Tommy Emmanuel does. An example of the exercise can be found here. I’m also working on my flatpicking ability, which was always pretty weak, by trying Paul Gilbert’s three notes per string excerises and building from there.
That’s just a few of things I’m doing to build my fundamentals and technique and it’s helped a great deal. So, what are you trying? Leave a comment witih some ideas, excercises or whatever. Especially fingerstyle stuff particularly for arranging fingerstyle. That is where I feel I’m lacking right now.