Tom Poore wrote:I find that speed bursts rely on excessive right hand tension for speed.
With all due respect, Tom. This is wholly incorrect. I think you must be doing it incorrectly as there should be zero tension. Please see me previous post with regards to the method I use. It sounds like you've started at a tempo which is too quick.
There’s never “zero tension” in guitar playing, or any other physical activity. (But I understand what you meant to say.) And yes, I’m obviously doing it wrong. Indeed, anyone who can’t do right hand alternation reliably at speed is doing it wrong.
The problem isn’t merely that I’m doing it wrong. The problem is that the solutions usually offered to me and others who can’t do right hand speed are useless. For example:
From your video it sounds like you are playing sustained 16ths at around 80bpm, is that correct? The other way to do it would be to increase the tempo in the piece by 1-2bpm every week or two, depending on how often you practice.
I can’t tell you how often over the decades I’ve tried this venerable advice. For me, it hasn’t worked. You might reply that I’m doing it wrong. Okay, I agree. So now what? You offer more advice. I try that, and it also doesn’t work. And so it goes.
I’m not blaming you, nor anyone else. The vicious cycle I’m describing is all too familiar to those of us who can’t do speed. And we are legion. Over the years I’ve heard many class recitals of high level guitar programs. The story is always the same: a few students can do fast right hand alternation with accuracy and reliability, and the rest more or less can’t. And this extends even to well known concert artists.
Much of what’s taught regarding right hand speed fails to address the particular problems faced by those of us who can’t play fast. It may be that those who can do right hand speed have a knack the rest of us lack. So it doesn’t take much in the way of advice for them to succeed. As long as they’re not given bad advice, they do fine. I’m reminded of a conversation between Jason Vieaux and one of his students. They were discussing the quality of teaching they had gotten when they were young. Vieaux said he considered himself well taught. His student replied, “Jason, my grandmother could’ve taught you how to play the guitar.” Okay, that’s a bit hyperbolic. But it raises a valid point. Did Vieaux succeed because he was exceptionally well taught, or did he succeed because he’s exceptionally talented?
I believe there has to be far more discussion between those who can’t and those who can. Too often the conversation goes only in one direction: those who can tell us what to do, and when we fail, the conversation either ends or moves on to other advice—that also fails. It’s not just the fault of those who can. Those who can’t often lack the means to describe the particular reasons for our failure. Absent that, those who can have no understanding of what those who can’t are encountering. It boils down to a failure of communication.
Fortunately, I’ll soon have a chance to work with someone who can. A former student of mine recently nailed down two teaching jobs where I live. Unlike me, he’s very accomplished at right hand alternation. Further, he’s smart, curious, and articulate. So perhaps we can start an ongoing conversation between one who can and one who can’t, with each dedicated to improving how right hand speed is taught.
We’ll see how it goes. My hope is that he doesn’t eventually toss up his highly accomplished hands and cry “Tom, you’re hopeless!”
South Euclid, OH