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

A "classroom" environment for exchanging Technical Questions & Answers, How-To's, music theory concepts, etc.
Luis_Br
Posts: 2317
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2006 2:50 pm
Location: Brazil

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

Post by Luis_Br » Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:25 am

Inertia for breaking incorporated habits
Unconscious repetition
Inability to identify what to change
Fear of change
Practicing too fast

Best solution, IMO:
A good teacher or change the teacher

I don't think becoming a copyist is a problem, unless your copying yourself. Try copying a complete different player would be a good exercise.

Those are just some general thoughts for average students. Certainly not necessarily the problem when someone like Richter is not satisfied with his playing and thinking had reached a plateau...

Rasqeo
Posts: 503
Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2016 11:51 am

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

Post by Rasqeo » Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:09 am

Steve Kutzer wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 7:37 pm
George Leonard wrote a lovely little book called Mastery. The key takeaway from this book is to "learn to love the plateau". The path to Mastery is stepped improvement followed by long plateaus. The start of the book has graphs of different kinds of learner such as "the dabbler" and "the perpetual beginner". I think if you follow a deliberate practice regimen and stick to it, you will see improvement; it's just that this improvement won't be continuous. You'll stagnate, even go down in skill from time to time, but sooner or later you'll take another step up.
That’s definitely been my experience. I once got so fed up with a plateau I didn’t touch my classical guitar for about two months and only played electric guitar during that time. When I went back to the classical guess what had happened? I’d improved! It works in strange ways.

I’ve since learned to accept the plateau as part of the learning experience. In fact, I now quite enjoy the challenge of breaking through the next one. I recently made a lot of rapid progress doing micro exercises on open strings or scale fragments. I can feel that progress stalling now so time to come up with some ideas for the next breakthrough.

User avatar
dta721
Posts: 320
Joined: Wed Aug 23, 2017 6:59 pm
Location: Ottawa, Canada

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

Post by dta721 » Sat Jan 12, 2019 4:16 pm

Luis_Br wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:25 am
...(snip)

Best solution, IMO:
A good teacher or change the teacher
...
Interesting suggestion, as it triggers my other thoughts, which may not be relevant to Lare's original topic of "technical plateaus", rather "why has my progress stalled", e.g. mismatched expectations or objectives between a teacher and his/her student?

The teacher will train a student to various levels of objectives, from recreational -for old(er) guys like me, to professional classical guitarists. As such, different methodologies may apply to guide and motivate a student. Otherwise, the general complaint is something like "the student is not ready for next fun/challenging exercises" from a teacher and/or "taking lessons is like pulling teeth" from a student?!

So it may not be directly a technical plateau as a result of lack of interest or motivation, but the effect is the same, stalled progress.

Thus changing a teacher, now with a more defined objective(s) and perhaps a custom curricular learning plan would help.

My 2 cents :)
Dave

Rognvald
Posts: 921
Joined: Sat Jul 08, 2017 1:21 am

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

Post by Rognvald » Sun Jan 27, 2019 4:54 pm

Hi, Larry,
I'm certain you're enjoying the weather today in Wisconsin! And, as a former Midwesterner, I share your pain! I started a discussion in the past called "Wandering on the Plateau" which addressed many of the issues you have raised but sadly, didn't get much discussion. And, the topic is one that needs to be addressed frequently for the serious performer and student alike. Plateaus in Music are parallels to "writer's block" among novelists and poets. I believe they are a necessary step to future advancement and, in my opinion, the cause is rarely technical but rather a combination of overload and emotion. As a writer and musician, I am quite familiar with its effect and usually am able to overcome this necessary but serious obstacle to growth. Since our discussion is about Music, here's my take: There are several ways I escape the plateau. First, I put my instrument down for two weeks and don't play. During this time, I do other things I enjoy: sailing, hunting, fishing, reading, and listening to music. I try to stay as active as possible to help "clean" the senses. After two weeks, I'll pick up my instrument again and play scales, technical strengthening exercises and work on chord changes, improvisation and general "doodling" on the guitar(usually non-classical) in a free flow manner. I also revisit arrangements I've written and work through them for some fresh ideas. Then, when I think I'm ready, I'll learn a completely new piece and NEVER revisit the old repertoire. Once the new piece is complete, I'll return to my problem pieces and usually, not always, I can move ahead. However, there have been times when I've stayed on the plateau for 6 months or more before escaping its chains. This works for me. I hope it can work for others. 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

User avatar
Larry McDonald
Teacher
Posts: 1370
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 2:33 pm
Location: Milwaukee, Wi USA

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

Post by Larry McDonald » Sun Jan 27, 2019 6:49 pm

Thanks Rognvald,
Excellent suggestions. I think for professional players such as yourself, a plateau is rarely mechanical/technical. For the student, especially those with inherited street technique, mechanical plateaus are a hazard. But we can agree to disagree on that one.

I'll check out your thread.

I was in LA doing music stuff until yesterday, and came home to Wisconsin last night. We expect 7-10 inches of snow coming today with a low of negative double digits. Whew, brutal.
-LMc
Dr. Lawrence A. McDonald, D.M.A., Art Kaplan Fellow
Author of The Conservatory Tutor for Guitar
2018 Michael Thames "Ancient Dragon" Cd/Ir
2008 Michael Thames Cd/Br
Royal Conservatory Advanced Guitar and Theory Instructor

User avatar
Rick Beauregard
Student tutor
Posts: 1529
Joined: Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:23 am
Location: Blaine, WA

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

Post by Rick Beauregard » Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:18 pm

Larry McDonald wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 6:49 pm
Thanks Rognvald,
Excellent suggestions. I think for professional players such as yourself, a plateau is rarely mechanical/technical. For the student, especially those with inherited street technique, mechanical plateaus are a hazard. But we can agree to disagree on that one.

I'll check out your thread.

I was in LA doing music stuff until yesterday, and came home to Wisconsin last night. We expect 7-10 inches of snow coming today with a low of negative double digits. Whew, brutal.
-LMc
I agree Lare. I think we’re mixing two very important questions. How do we overcome technical plateaus, as you wrote very informatively, and how we overcome valleys in inspiration, which is I think where Rog is going. Both are things I struggle with at times.

Lots of vg advice on both counts herein. Something they are connected. “I’m struggling with fast arpeggios, maybe I should just quit!” self talk.

My method for getting over hurdles or plateaus is to return to first principles or principals, I don’t remember which. That is, go back to a process that you trust to yield results, either because a teacher you trust said so, or because you had good results before. Then focus on that process and try to forget about the desired outcome for a while. For example, if I’m stick on a piece I use a few methods: depending on the specific issue they might be very slow practice, interleaved practice, play 5 reps of the phrase without error before moving on, play the piece starting at the last measure and moving backwards. All things I’ve learned here tha have worked for me or have been suggested by people I trust. If I stick with it one of these things will work. The key bit is to not be evaluative or critical but divorce yourself from the outcome and just go through the process.

Overcoming motivational valleys is something else, though sometimes meeting that technical challenge can be motivational in itself. But this can be more challenging. One way I overcome occaisional valleys is to go back and watch my old videos from 4 years ago and see how I progressed, look at my body of work and where it’s led me. This often brings me joy and amazement and spurs me to continue. A professional may have different challenges as you point out. If I were still playing piano, listening to Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum or Gould’s Goldberg Variations would lift me out of any slump. Or watching Dyens, Williams, or Yamandu Costa videos, to name a few.

What are your favorites?
All this time I thought I was making music; it was making me.
2015 Steve Ganz "Solidarity"
1980 Dauphin D30
1962 Fender pre-CBS P-Bass
National Triolian Uke ca.1930
Almost as many fly rods as guitars
_/) _/)
_/)

ronjazz
Posts: 998
Joined: Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:10 pm

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

Post by ronjazz » Thu Jan 31, 2019 12:28 am

Rick, I think watching favorite masters is always invigorating and inspiring, I always practice better after an inspiring performance or even a demonstration on Tonebase that knocks me out. I am a fan of all the greats, studies with Williams, but I really like finding the new young masters, from Vieaux to Viloteaux, and amazing female players as well, Dale Kavanaugh is terrific, and I think Sharon Isbin may be the very best ensemble guitarist ever!
Lester Devoe Flamenco Negra
Lester Devoe Flamenco Blanca
Aparicio Flamenco Blanca with RMC pickup
Bartolex 7-string with RMC pickup
Giannini 7-string with Shadow pickup
Sal Pace 7-string archtop

User avatar
Sebastian
Posts: 105
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:41 pm
Location: Argentina

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

Post by Sebastian » Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:42 pm

Let's not forget one of the most common causes of technical plateaus: everyone has their limits or maximum capacity levels (at least concerning strength-accuaracy-speed). Not everyone can reach John Williams level.
You're reading this.

chien buggle
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Jul 24, 2012 3:43 pm
Location: Dublin Ireland

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

Post by chien buggle » Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:23 am

Sebastian wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:42 pm
Let's not forget one of the most common causes of technical plateaus: everyone has their limits or maximum capacity levels (at least concerning strength-accuaracy-speed). Not everyone can reach John Williams level.
How do you know when you have reached your limit?

User avatar
Sebastian
Posts: 105
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:41 pm
Location: Argentina

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

Post by Sebastian » Tue Feb 05, 2019 3:20 pm

chien buggle wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:23 am
Sebastian wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:42 pm
Let's not forget one of the most common causes of technical plateaus: everyone has their limits or maximum capacity levels (at least concerning strength-accuaracy-speed). Not everyone can reach John Williams level.
How do you know when you have reached your limit?
The way you know you reach a limit in some parameter is simply to get there. Again sorry for my English grammar as you'll notice it's not my native.
My daily practice routine comprises a lot of technical stuff for the right hand (lots of speed bursts, all kinds of planting anticipacion quick prep full sequential by 3 and 2 units, string crossing, lots of formulas, drills,slow motion study of each finger, flexor/extensor excercises, scale work with 1, 2 and 3 finger alternation etc...) which is based on pushing my own limits of terms accuracy-strength-speed.
Let's say for the sake of an example, that one of the drills I perform consists in the alternation of the second string with my ring and middle fingers, with free stroke, and forte-fortissimo dynamic and the thumb anchored at the sixth string. So you create a speed burst excercise based on that, involve quick-prep or sequential planting if you want then do it legatto. Use, of course, a metronome.
So then you start doing that excercise (and other excercises too) daily, and you start noticing that your strength-accuaracy-speed improves. Again, this is just example, so let's say that your first "speed mark" of that excercise was of sixteenth notes at 100BPM, and you notice you can reach 110BPM... and then you can hit 115BPM.
But then at some point, you start realizing that although you still practice pushing your boundaries in terms of technical stuff, you can't surpass your previous mark. And it's been days, months, years and soon a decade it will be, and your limit is still 115BPM (again, it's just for the sake of an example). 115BPM it is, even by doing all kind of excercises, dynamic relaxation, speed bursts, plantings, changing your hand position, your sitting position, changing nail shape... your limit is still 115BPM and it's been for the past days, weeks, months, years. You'll notice , your progress, in strength-accuaracy-speed parameters is stuck. And it's fine, that's how growth works.
This example should work for any mechanical movement you're working on.
My master, Victor Villadangos who's 61 (or 62?) by now, always tells that because of his age his technical growth (again: strength-accuaracy-speed) is "stuck", or even is on a downhill. BUT, as a contrast, his skill of expressive or artistic interpretation always gets better.
It seems that the classical guitar skill is made of two aspects: the mechanical aspect, which is very similar to athletism; and the expressive aspect, how well can one express through a piece. Both form a whole.

Not everyone is able to play scales at the speed (but not accuracy) of Paco de Lucia, such as not everyone is able to play a tremolo with two fingers like Ana Vidovic (or three counting the thumb: thumb, middle, index), and not everyone can play Pictures At An Exhibition arrangement of Kazuhito Yamashita.
You're reading this.

chien buggle
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Jul 24, 2012 3:43 pm
Location: Dublin Ireland

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

Post by chien buggle » Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:21 pm

Sebastian wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 3:20 pm
chien buggle wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:23 am
Sebastian wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:42 pm
Let's not forget one of the most common causes of technical plateaus: everyone has their limits or maximum capacity levels (at least concerning strength-accuaracy-speed). Not everyone can reach John Williams level.
How do you know when you have reached your limit?

My daily practice routine comprises a lot of technical stuff for the right hand (lots of speed bursts, all kinds of planting anticipacion quick prep full sequential by 3 and 2 units, string crossing, lots of formulas, drills,slow motion study of each finger, flexor/extensor excercises, scale work with 1, 2 and 3 finger alternation etc...) which is based on pushing my own limits of terms accuracy-strength-speed.
Let's say for the sake of an example, that one of the drills I perform consists in the alternation of the second string with my ring and middle fingers, with free stroke, and forte-fortissimo dynamic and the thumb anchored at the sixth string. So you create a speed burst excercise based on that, involve quick-prep or sequential planting if you want then do it legatto. Use, of course, a metronome.
So then you start doing that excercise (and other excercises too) daily, and you start noticing that your strength-accuaracy-speed improves. Again, this is just example, so let's say that your first "speed mark" of that excercise was of sixteenth notes at 100BPM, and you notice you can reach 110BPM... and then you can hit 115BPM.
But then at some point, you start realizing that although you still practice pushing your boundaries in terms of technical stuff, you can't surpass your previous mark. And it's been days, months, years and soon a decade it will be, and your limit is still 115BPM (again, it's just for the sake of an example). 115BPM it is, even by doing all kind of excercises, dynamic relaxation, speed bursts, plantings, changing your hand position, your sitting position, changing nail shape... your limit is still 115BPM and it's been for the past days, weeks, months, years. You'll notice , your progress, in strength-accuaracy-speed parameters is stuck. And it's fine, that's how growth works.
Certainly there is only one yamashita or de Lucia:) You describe many different methods for developing speed. I also have used these but I wasn't always aware of them. How do you know that there isn't some other way to help you play (for example) faster?

Terpfan
Posts: 192
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2017 12:33 am

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

Post by Terpfan » Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:25 pm

Sebastian wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:42 pm
Let's not forget one of the most common causes of technical plateaus: everyone has their limits or maximum capacity levels (at least concerning strength-accuaracy-speed). Not everyone can reach John Williams level.
Most people lacks knowledge, time and discipline to reach their potential. If you really reached your true potential, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

User avatar
Sebastian
Posts: 105
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:41 pm
Location: Argentina

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

Post by Sebastian » Thu Feb 07, 2019 1:59 am

Terpfan wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:25 pm
Sebastian wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:42 pm
Let's not forget one of the most common causes of technical plateaus: everyone has their limits or maximum capacity levels (at least concerning strength-accuaracy-speed). Not everyone can reach John Williams level.
Most people lacks knowledge, time and discipline to reach their potential. If you really reached your true potential, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

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. He replied he completely agreed, and added that "part of studying is to be selective with our repertoire", basically that if you don't have an ultra-fast alternation of index middle finger, then don't attempt to play "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" live using Ana Vidovic's tremolo pattern (she plays tremolo only with index medium, ffs), instead pick stuff that you know you can play.

Our final result is a combination of discipline and talent. Yes, one should be proud of reaching our limits, thing is, what happens if one is not happy with it and wants more even though it is off limits?
Last edited by Sebastian on Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
You're reading this.

User avatar
Sebastian
Posts: 105
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2019 6:41 pm
Location: Argentina

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

Post by Sebastian » 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
chien buggle wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 11:23 am


How do you know when you have reached your limit?

My daily practice routine comprises a lot of technical stuff for the right hand (lots of speed bursts, all kinds of planting anticipacion quick prep full sequential by 3 and 2 units, string crossing, lots of formulas, drills,slow motion study of each finger, flexor/extensor excercises, scale work with 1, 2 and 3 finger alternation etc...) which is based on pushing my own limits of terms accuracy-strength-speed.
Let's say for the sake of an example, that one of the drills I perform consists in the alternation of the second string with my ring and middle fingers, with free stroke, and forte-fortissimo dynamic and the thumb anchored at the sixth string. So you create a speed burst excercise based on that, involve quick-prep or sequential planting if you want then do it legatto. Use, of course, a metronome.
So then you start doing that excercise (and other excercises too) daily, and you start noticing that your strength-accuaracy-speed improves. Again, this is just example, so let's say that your first "speed mark" of that excercise was of sixteenth notes at 100BPM, and you notice you can reach 110BPM... and then you can hit 115BPM.
But then at some point, you start realizing that although you still practice pushing your boundaries in terms of technical stuff, you can't surpass your previous mark. And it's been days, months, years and soon a decade it will be, and your limit is still 115BPM (again, it's just for the sake of an example). 115BPM it is, even by doing all kind of excercises, dynamic relaxation, speed bursts, plantings, changing your hand position, your sitting position, changing nail shape... your limit is still 115BPM and it's been for the past days, weeks, months, years. You'll notice , your progress, in strength-accuaracy-speed parameters is stuck. And it's fine, that's how growth works.
Certainly there is only one yamashita or de Lucia:) You describe many different methods for developing speed. I also have used these but I wasn't always aware of them. How do you know that there isn't some other way to help you play (for example) faster?
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.
You're reading this.

Terpfan
Posts: 192
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2017 12:33 am

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

Post by Terpfan » 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.

Return to “Classical Guitar Classes”