Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

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chien buggle
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by chien buggle » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:59 pm

Sebastian wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:52 am
chien buggle wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:21 pm
Sebastian wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 3:20 pm


Absolutely nobody is 100% sure of anything. But, due to my experience and particular interest of technic/body mechanics, lots of drills practicing, investigation in bibliographies, technique softwares, forums, lots of watching tutorials on technique, watching lots of guitarist play, formulas, teaching different students, many professors (I had at least 7 different private teachers and 2 main professors in my conservatoire); I can know with a lot of security that if I didn't reach my maximum level at speed (as you asked in your question), then I'm very near of reaching it. And the best case scenario is that I can push my technical boundaries A LITTLE BIT MORE, but sure won't be able to play at Yamashita's speed-strenght-accuracy level, ever. I'm relatively young (26) but I know that I'm about to hit my maximum level at strenght-speed-accuracy anytime soon (or really soon), and that it will most likely decrease as the years go by, due to natural causes, everyone ages and our bodies tend to get weaker.
Again, I did and still do a lot of stuff_ changed my hands position according to diverse professors opinions and also books and tutorials, also used tape on my fingers for about two months (to reassure my posture) on all my fingers, then also taped the joint below the metacarpal phalanx for about (can't remember exactly) 5-6 months, diverse plantings (full sequential, 3 and 2 units, full and block planting, quick preps), trying to create main thrust from diverse joints, used even Carcassi hand posture, speed bursts with LOTS of combinations, used speed mountain concept (the one which describes 5 levels of speed),etc... God I can't even remember them all.......... sigh.. With that experience I'm very sure that I'm near to hit a treshold soon. Everyone knows more or less how does their body work.

I don't remember if I included this in my previous answer, but I believe a classical guitar player has two aspects involved: expression and athletics (or technique).
And the thing is, that in order to excel as an athlete, you don't only need training, you also need to be born "with it". Not everyone can run as fast as Usain Bolt.

As one of my last resources, I'm attempting to contact a kinesiologist/classical guitarist who (according to what some professors and mates told me) knows very well the mechanics of our bodies. Actually I was planning to contact her this week. Maybe she can provide useful information about this.
In any case I will be informing.

PS: If you know any other method to improve speed, DO tell me.
It sounds like you are an advanced player and have spent a lot of time on this problem and you are frustrated with it. But is it really necessary to play as fast as yamashita? What sort of speed are you stuck on?

I'm sure there is a physical limit to how fast humans can move their fingers but is it necessary to get close to that speed in order to play guitar well? Yamashita is a great player but to be honest I think it's safe to say most guitarists would say Bream is as good if not better, even though he doesn't play as fast (sorry if this sounds condescending:) What I mean is that I don't think that's its necessary to go to the physical limits of human performance. For the vast majority of people learning to play classical guitar their problems can be put down to lack of knowledge and or time to apply that knowledge.

Have you tried Alexander technique? You didn't mention it specifically. Your speed problems could be down to excess tension, it would explain why none of the practice techniques you described are helping you that much. Apologies if you have already tried it but if not I highly recommend it.

Rognvald
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by Rognvald » Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:39 pm

"I once asked one of my masters, which was the main goal of classical guitar studying: if art or technic. He stated that it should always be art. Only focusing on technique would be a "result more of engineering than an artist" as he said. And another thing he said "technique is good as long as it serves as a bridge between the music and what your soul desires to express".
As we were talking, I told him that I think that part of studying guitar, is actually learning to love ourselves. That is, to learn to love ourselves with our limitations and virtues." Sebastian


Wow! Beautifully written, Sebastian! We live in the same world. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

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Sebastian
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by Sebastian » Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:52 pm

Terpfan wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:54 am
What is holding you back?? Left hand or right hand?? Usually it is IM alternation. Try AMI or IMA or what not.
What exactly is holding me back?
My right hand. Specially IM alternation (one of my favourites), but yes I also do study AMI, IMA, MIA, MAI, etc... formulas. I seem to have reach my strenght-speed-accuracy limit with them.
Not exactly sure what you meant with your comment.
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Sebastian
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by Sebastian » Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:14 pm

chien buggle wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:59 pm
Sebastian wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:52 am
chien buggle wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:21 pm


It sounds like you are an advanced player and have spent a lot of time on this problem and you are frustrated with it. But is it really necessary to play as fast as yamashita? What sort of speed are you stuck on?

I'm sure there is a physical limit to how fast humans can move their fingers but is it necessary to get close to that speed in order to play guitar well? Yamashita is a great player but to be honest I think it's safe to say most guitarists would say Bream is as good if not better, even though he doesn't play as fast (sorry if this sounds condescending:) What I mean is that I don't think that's its necessary to go to the physical limits of human performance. For the vast majority of people learning to play classical guitar their problems can be put down to lack of knowledge and or time to apply that knowledge.

Have you tried Alexander technique? You didn't mention it specifically. Your speed problems could be down to excess tension, it would explain why none of the practice techniques you described are helping you that much. Apologies if you have already tried it but if not I highly recommend it.
I was not aware or Alexander technique and if it could be implemented in guitar playing, how to do it.

"Your speed problems could be down to excess tension". Well, my three main concepts while studying anything are:
1) A very focused mind concentrated on the issue you're trying to deal with. The mind should be in control of the body as much as possible.
2) Use the less tension POSSIBLE (I capped the word "possible" because some people state one must be able to play "with no tension at all", which is not possible; any movement in our bodies and even being sitting in a chair causes some kind of tension, I believe the only way to rest with no tension at all would be laying our backs just as when we are sleeping or maybe in one of those physical idle meditation positions).
3) To learn something, you must do it. Seems stupid but: if you want to play more accurately, then be more accurate; want to play louder, then practice louder. I remark this one a lot to students, most of them beginners or intermediates tend to play by default with a low volume.

Every excercise, piece and drill I do is done with a very high level of mental concentration (I always ask myself when performing those: where is my main thrust coming from? Is the contact zone always the same? I need to previsualize the movements in order to "pre-feel" the physical movements; where are my knuckles positioned in relation with the string? where are my joints located in relation to the strings? is my palm at some distance to the mid joints? etc... etc...), I believe in that matter, practicing is very similar to meditating. I will state again, the first point of my three main concepts: "A very focused mind".
And of course, I will try using as less tension as possible. What happens is that at certain speed (while performing a particular drill/formula/arpeggio) we always find a limit. And even with using the lesser tension possible I still hit the same treshold. I also tried, as an alternative resource, checking what would happen if I added more tension, I can play A LITTLE BIT faster but with less resistance (due to the intermitent or regular tension added).

Again my practice routine is a bit extense and attempting to explain it completely would require a LOT of time to do it.
However, about two week ago I've been typing down into a Notepad file what's going to be a new thread here in DelCamp forum about a problematic I face: a very possible hypermobility or too much natural flexibility in my joints. In that thread I wrote down a large part of my routine and more importarnt, the concepts I use. It will be poster anytime soon. I'll state again that I'm still writing because I want to give the most detail available possible to it (so far it seems that it will be approximately 10 pages long or so).

This is kind of important, but I can't play free strokes without letting my fingertip joints collapse. I tried everything, changing hand posture, LOTS of drills, speed bursts, plantings, different angles, making the main thrust come (as an experiment) come from the middle joint and even stiffing the tipjoint.... still no luck. At higher speeds they still break, as the right hand fingers must penetrate all the tension of the string, in contrast to what the left hand does, only pressing down strings a few militers from the fretboard. No professor knows what to do with this. And I haven't met anyone with this "disorder". I've been diagnosed with a flexible hand, accentuated on my index finger (from the right hand) even more. It is not a muscle, it is a joint. Muscles can be trained in order to get stronger: joints on the other hand... I'm not sure. Seems like a natural trait.
I know some people do this, but for those people the reason to do it was because they were not aware of that. I'm aware of it and can't do it. Again the cause is not lack of training (like the few people I observed who had that issue), it seems that the cause is a natural trait for me.

I know collpasing tip joints CAN be used in REST STROKE, but the problem here is about FREE STROKE. I also know that tipjoints can collpase in Free Stroke, but it is only convenient in slow passages; NOTfor playing Etude 1 of Villa-Lobos or Las Abejas of Agustín Barrios, or any tremolo piece....


____
PS: I'm not bothered by the fact that I cannot reach Yamashita's alternation speed level. I'm frustrated that there are some "normal" pieces I can't play at mid-high speeds: Etude 1 of VillaLobos (at, say, 110-130 BPM), las Abejas (130-160BPM), Waltz N°4 of Agustín Barrios (165-180 BPM). Although I studied them a lot and keep studying many of their drills, I just can't surpass my previous speed-strenght-accuracy marks. I swear for god I want to smash my head against a brickwall.
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Sebastian
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by Sebastian » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:43 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:39 pm
"I once asked one of my masters, which was the main goal of classical guitar studying: if art or technic. He stated that it should always be art. Only focusing on technique would be a "result more of engineering than an artist" as he said. And another thing he said "technique is good as long as it serves as a bridge between the music and what your soul desires to express".
As we were talking, I told him that I think that part of studying guitar, is actually learning to love ourselves. That is, to learn to love ourselves with our limitations and virtues." Sebastian


Wow! Beautifully written, Sebastian! We live in the same world. Playing again . . . Rognvald
Yes, motivational indeed.
The part of accepting ourselves is part of our study, and it's not always an easy task, as it cannot be solved with musical/phyisical hability, but only with emotional maturity and experience.
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Terpfan
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by Terpfan » Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:41 pm

Sebastian wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:14 pm

Every excercise, piece and drill I do is done with a very high level of mental concentration (I always ask myself when performing those: where is my main thrust coming from? Is the contact zone always the same? I need to previsualize the movements in order to "pre-feel" the physical movements; where are my knuckles positioned in relation with the string? where are my joints located in relation to the strings? is my palm at some distance to the mid joints? etc... etc...), I believe in that matter, practicing is very similar to meditating. I will state again, the first point of my three main concepts: "A very focused mind".
Your practicing technique is good, but it can actually hamper your desire to reach maximum speed. Try with metronome IM alternation but generally people tense up before they do speed burst. So you should not think of the speed until you play the first note. So IM eight note than burst of sixteenth notes. (Play the first note then think about the burst)

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Sebastian
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by Sebastian » Thu Feb 07, 2019 11:12 pm

Terpfan wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:41 pm
Sebastian wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:14 pm

Every excercise, piece and drill I do is done with a very high level of mental concentration (I always ask myself when performing those: where is my main thrust coming from? Is the contact zone always the same? I need to previsualize the movements in order to "pre-feel" the physical movements; where are my knuckles positioned in relation with the string? where are my joints located in relation to the strings? is my palm at some distance to the mid joints? etc... etc...), I believe in that matter, practicing is very similar to meditating. I will state again, the first point of my three main concepts: "A very focused mind".
Your practicing technique is good, but it can actually hamper your desire to reach maximum speed. Try with metronome IM alternation but generally people tense up before they do speed burst. So you should not think of the speed until you play the first note. So IM eight note than burst of sixteenth notes. (Play the first note then think about the burst)
Yes, indeed I read that some months ago (I think in this forum and in another blog/website) about the "pre-tension" applied before the burst of speed itself. My hand is as relaxed as possible in the eight notes part, and I try not to add any additional tension to the 16th (burst) part.
Still pretty sure I hit my limit.
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Terpfan
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by Terpfan » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:51 am

Theoretically if you can do IM alternation at 100, you should be able to do AMI at 150. Although AMI does not have percussive sound of IM rest stoke, it gets the job done. I'm sure you have tried already, but practing right hand alone really helps.

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Sebastian
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by Sebastian » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:47 pm

Terpfan wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:51 am
Theoretically if you can do IM alternation at 100, you should be able to do AMI at 150. Although AMI does not have percussive sound of IM rest stoke, it gets the job done. I'm sure you have tried already, but practing right hand alone really helps.
"Theorically you should be able to do AMI at 150BPM", I'm sorry but I don't get how you draw that exact conclusion. Although I excercise MI a lot, I also do excercise MA and sometimes IA, but mosy frequently AMI combination (specially for scalistic passages where my MI is simply not enough).
Right now I'm studying "Sonatine" by Pujol, its allegro uses AMI combinations (or at least the way I digited the work) with thumb and ring finger acting together, and I DEFINETELY can't play that drill at 150 BPM, nowhere near. Most I can reach is 120, and as it is my limit speed, I can only do it with a little addition of tension (I know as less as tension should be applied, but at higher limits one has no option. Even with speed bursts trying to reach my limit I try to use as less tension as possible and then push my limits but still cannot surpass 120bpm).

"I'm sure you have tried already, but practing right hand alone really helps.", yes for right hand drills I mostly DON'T use left hand at all.


Also, there are some instanceS where the particular MI alternation IS the problem (or is restringed due to our natural limits) and also there are some instances where you just can't replace MI with AMI (because the AMI formula contains the MI formula). For instance, https://www.slideshare.net/romuloviana3 ... on-segovia <- there's the score, in the seventh and last system of the first page, those bars must be played with thumb + the alternation of two fingers, you just CAN'T involve three fingers (AMI) as the music only demands two notes. I can only reach to play Asturias at 90 BPM, max. Maybe with more training to 95 BPM (or not), but I think that's all.
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chien buggle
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by chien buggle » Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:33 am

Sebastian wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:14 pm
chien buggle wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:59 pm
Sebastian wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:52 am

This is kind of important, but I can't play free strokes without letting my fingertip joints collapse. I tried everything, changing hand posture, LOTS of drills, speed bursts, plantings, different angles, making the main thrust come (as an experiment) come from the middle joint and even stiffing the tipjoint.... still no luck. At higher speeds they still break, as the right hand fingers must penetrate all the tension of the string, in contrast to what the left hand does, only pressing down strings a few militers from the fretboard. No professor knows what to do with this. And I haven't met anyone with this "disorder". I've been diagnosed with a flexible hand, accentuated on my index finger (from the right hand) even more. It is not a muscle, it is a joint. Muscles can be trained in order to get stronger: joints on the other hand... I'm not sure. Seems like a natural trait.
I know some people do this, but for those people the reason to do it was because they were not aware of that. I'm aware of it and can't do it. Again the cause is not lack of training (like the few people I observed who had that issue), it seems that the cause is a natural trait for me.

I know collpasing tip joints CAN be used in REST STROKE, but the problem here is about FREE STROKE. I also know that tipjoints can collpase in Free Stroke, but it is only convenient in slow passages; NOTfor playing Etude 1 of Villa-Lobos or Las Abejas of Agustín Barrios, or any tremolo piece....


Sounds very frustrating. Do your fingers collapse only when you play fast? And do your fingers behave the same way when you are not playing guitar? What I mean is does the tip joint collapse when are scratching etc?

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Sebastian
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by Sebastian » Mon Feb 11, 2019 1:52 pm

chien buggle wrote:
Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:33 am
Sebastian wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:14 pm



This is kind of important, but I can't play free strokes without letting my fingertip joints collapse. I tried everything, changing hand posture, LOTS of drills, speed bursts, plantings, different angles, making the main thrust come (as an experiment) come from the middle joint and even stiffing the tipjoint.... still no luck. At higher speeds they still break, as the right hand fingers must penetrate all the tension of the string, in contrast to what the left hand does, only pressing down strings a few militers from the fretboard. No professor knows what to do with this. And I haven't met anyone with this "disorder". I've been diagnosed with a flexible hand, accentuated on my index finger (from the right hand) even more. It is not a muscle, it is a joint. Muscles can be trained in order to get stronger: joints on the other hand... I'm not sure. Seems like a natural trait.
I know some people do this, but for those people the reason to do it was because they were not aware of that. I'm aware of it and can't do it. Again the cause is not lack of training (like the few people I observed who had that issue), it seems that the cause is a natural trait for me.

I know collpasing tip joints CAN be used in REST STROKE, but the problem here is about FREE STROKE. I also know that tipjoints can collpase in Free Stroke, but it is only convenient in slow passages; NOTfor playing Etude 1 of Villa-Lobos or Las Abejas of Agustín Barrios, or any tremolo piece....
Sounds very frustrating. Do your fingers collapse only when you play fast? And do your fingers behave the same way when you are not playing guitar? What I mean is does the tip joint collapse when are scratching etc?
Yes, mainly when playing faster alternations.
My tip joints does not collapse when scratching or in other enviroments.
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chien buggle
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by chien buggle » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:55 pm

Sebastian wrote:
Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:14 pm

Yes, mainly when playing faster alternations.
My tip joints does not collapse when scratching or in other enviroments.
Really sounds like it's a tension issue now. You might think you are relaxed but still be very tense. How is your breathing when you play? Any tension in shoulders or jaw when you are trying to play fast? I'm not an expert in this stuff. I definitely recommend finding an alexander technique teacher who works with musicians.

The fact that it only happens when playing guitar and not in other situations seems very crucial. I would recommend easing off on the technical exercises that you do and totally stop pushing yourself to play fast.

Someone who does know about these issues is the guitarist David Leisner. Maybe send him an email and he might be able to advise you better than me.

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Sebastian
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Re: Technical Plateaus, or "Why has my progress stalled"?

Post by Sebastian » Mon Feb 11, 2019 10:33 pm

chien buggle wrote:
Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:33 am


Really sounds like it's a tension issue now. You might think you are relaxed but still be very tense. How is your breathing when you play? Any tension in shoulders or jaw when you are trying to play fast? I'm not an expert in this stuff. I definitely recommend finding an alexander technique teacher who works with musicians.

The fact that it only happens when playing guitar and not in other situations seems very crucial. I would recommend easing off on the technical exercises that you do and totally stop pushing yourself to play fast.

Someone who does know about these issues is the guitarist David Leisner. Maybe send him an email and he might be able to advise you better than me.
I doubt it's an issue mainly adjuticated at all, or in some portion, to tension.
I focus on being as relaxed as possible, arm, fingers, hand, no tension at shoulders or jaw. No tension.
Sometimes using A LITTLE tension helps not collapsing so much (again, so much, still collapses and the angle of attack is wide)

It happens when playing guitar and not in other situation due that the free stroke motion consists of penetrating a string which is very tensionated and hard, it most cross along it.

About the technical excercises, it's not ONLY about pushing speed/staming limits. It's about concentration, movements, relaxation, accuracy too. I perform those excercises not ONLY trying to break my barriers, the "pushing limits" phase is only that, a small phase. THere are other excercise instances as I explained before which not only focus on speed.

I will however try to contact David, thanks for the tip.
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