This week I was contemplating to delay this post as I barely passed exercise 24 and it turned out that the increased speed on that exercise gave me some grief, so I had to go back and do the end of the exercise on a way lower speed to get my feeling and the hand movements squared out and only then slowly build up speed.
This week has another curve ball thrown at us in the form of a reverse racking in exercise 26. It is really difficult for me to mute strings with one finger while pressing down with the others to let these strings ring.
When I am done with this review I will go back to level 1 and redo the exercises and only cross an exercise off after I can do them effortlessly and cleanly. Anything less will become a problem further on down the road and with each progressing level that problem is getting bigger.
The success of this workshop depends a lot on our work ethics. I know it is difficult to stay with an exercise until it becomes second nature but the guitar is not an easy instrument and blues is not an easy genre. I have 3 kids playing concert level classical music on the piano and violin with ease and I am here paying my dues by repeating the same lick over and over again.
When I wrote this yesterday I heard this tiny little voice in the back of my head telling me that I shouldn’t talk about work ethics if I cannot follow through myself. So I went back to level 1 and started all over again. To my surprise I was able to push through to level 4. With that I could finally put all my self doubts to rest that I just skimmed through. It is also a testament on the teaching of the course.
Cheers – Andy
Wow, I thought Week 3 was though with the faster speed and quicker timing but boy Week 4 is even bigger step.
The exercises are not only faster but the final sequence we learn is way longer and moves over the fretboard. The timing of the notes are not even anymore forcing beginners like me out of our comfort zone of equally spaced notes.
This week after some noodling around with the spider drill I realized that if I can relax my finger enough that I can do them at a nearly 50% higher speed. Sometimes I have to do them blind (closing my eyes) to be relaxed enough to get through them.
I have to confess that I am not following Anthony’s instructions very closely and changed my practice routine:
- Do all 16 combinations of the spider drill every day
- Repeat all exercises of the week no matter if I crossed them off or not. If I am confident then I start at the highest speed and slow down if I run into problems
- Watch all the instructions. It is interesting for me to see how many different ways a lick can be played
Now that the speed, the amount of notes and the timing changes have increased there are times where my brain cannot handle all the instructions. More and more I find myself in situations where I lost my train of thoughts, my brain wants to throw in the towel but my fingers just finish the job like on auto-pilot. Finally muscle memory starts to kick in giving me a breather so that I can enjoy making music.
By the way Anthony released all 6 parts of the Speed Workshop for the locals (online members) but I will still try to keep the weekly reviews of each level until the end of Week 6 if I can handle that schedule.
Cheers – Andy Schaefer Sr.
Update: just a day later I was able to play all but the full sequence and exercise 1 at full speed. Seems like that practicing the guitar for 3 1/2 years was not in vain.
Initially I wanted to write this post as an update to my previous post but too much
happened since then to cramp it in there.
Now that week 3 is out for TXBA locals the course has become demanding. Although I hit a
personal snag in week 2. As an older player I need to pay attention when my hands
say that I practiced enough. As I learned the hard way it is not as easy to spot
as it is in sports. While practicing hammer on and pull off (HO/PO) I slowly started to feel an ache in my ring finger which did not go away overnight. It took me nearly
a week for my hand to heal with a few days where I could only practice things that
did not involve HO/POs.
But like magic today I could perform HO/POs naturally and they sound quite good.
I still need to work on making them even in terms of loudness and consistency
but it feels good to have conquered a technique I avoided for so long.
A few tips that helped me:
- If a finger gets sore stop and let it rest
- Play HO / PO alone with just your guitar and metronome
- For me HO are not about speed or force but rather about hitting the string
square in the middle or close to the end (towards the bridge) of your fret
- Doing a PO I just pull my finger towards my hand. Pull faster helps more that
trying to scrap the string
- If you have difficulties then practice them slow and deliberately and independent
from each other. For the PO just pick the string first
- Sometimes it helps to lift your index finger to get more reach but you
must be able to place the index finger back onto the fretboard when you do the PO
- Do not practice along the exercise tracks or the benchmark videos as it can
mask problems as well as achievements.
This week Anthony has a new and quite demand exercise in store that involves fast
HO/POs (16th notes) and an exercise where he puts two licks right after one another
without any rest. He has some tips regarding HO/PO but at the end everyone has
to figure that out on their own. This felt like learning to ride a bike. You try
and try and try and suddenly it works and you cannot understand why it took you so long.
If you are confused with the speed notation in the course then you are not alone
but the explanation is quite simple. In the first 2 weeks he used a single beat
for each note (8th) in his licks and so you end up at 150bpm. In week three he
switches to one beat per triplet and each note (8th) becomes a note in a 8th triplet.
This means that the BPM is 1/3 of what you had before because there are 3 notes
(triplet) in one beat. It also means that now one has to pay attention on the
timing within a triplet to keep them even (if required).
Week 2 and 3 were / are challenging but the things I accomplished in just 3 weeks
compared to the past months are off the charts. Some of it is just consolidating what I learned
in the past but some of it is just due to a practice regiment that is
consistent and based on exercises that are slowly increasing in difficulty and speed.
If you want to tackle any of the TXBA SRV solo matrix courses and you just
feel overwhelmed this is a great way to lay the foundation. Focusing on the
riff at hand is so much more fun when you are not bogged down by technique,
skills or speed issues.
A few days ago I was surprised to see that I had only started to play the guitar 3 1/2 years ago. Considering that I started nearly on ground zero I came a long way for a person my age. Still listening to guitar players like Steve Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, Joe Bonamassa I feel inadequate to say the least. Trying to play along is like running with concrete boots and my playing has either little variation in speed or I cannot apply licks I’ve learned.
Anthony Stauffer from Texas Blues Alley is currently rolling our a Speed Workshop for the Locals (his online subscribers). The day he released it I obtain the material and started to work on it. The lick as well as the spider drills I was already familiar with but what was new was the step by step approach which starts you on a beginner level and improves your speed, dexterity and endurance. After a week in I can say I started to improve quite a lot. Some of that is due to consolidating / refining my technique but some is because I took the time every day to practice the drills and the exercises.
This course by itself is worth the membership and can help an aspiring beginner or intermediate blues guitar player to increase his/her speed but it requires hard work with a ton of repetition. The course comes with all the check lists for tracking, the instructions for both the drill and the exercises, animated tabs and the benchmark videos which are videos of every exercise at each milestone speed to check if and when you reach a given exercise milestone.
The only thing I am really struggling with are the hammer on and pull offs which are used quite a lot. I think the course should got a little bit deeper into the technique and the proper execution as this is pretty crucial. It is especially challenging for players with smaller hands like me.
This course has my two thumbs up and I wished it would have been there two years ago. The first week of the course is now the start of my daily practice routine and it will stay there for weeks to come. It already improved my playing and I am now comfortable to deal with TXBA’s Texas Flood Intermediate level course.
Cheers – Andy Schaefer