The Woodshed

Neck navigation method?

1

When you dash off a riff, how much is “muscle memory”, how much is auditory (hearing the notes in advance in your head) and how much is navigating from fret to fret visually? A combination of all three in quick succession, wouldn’t you say? To what degree though? Or is it purely instinctive and you don’t need to analyse it at all? Particularly with a CAPO attached? Does that throw you off in regard to accurate, rapid finger placement as it tends to do with me? Sure, practice makes perfect but I just wondered if you’re like Mark Knopfler and you can virtually do it in your sleep.

2

For me, it's a mixture of divine inpiration and dumb luck. I hope to someday reach the lofty place in which I have enough of a clue to analyze what I'm doing.

But as much as I can answer your question, it's just my feeble attempt to make my fingers go where I think they need to go to make the noises in my head.

3

For me, it's a mixture of divine inpiration and dumb luck. I hope to someday reach the lofty place in which I have enough of a clue to analyze what I'm doing.

But as much as I can answer your question, it's just my feeble attempt to make my fingers go where I think they need to go to make the noises in my head.

– Baxter

Divine inspiration and dumb luck? Methinks thou art too humble. Seriously though, I'd be interested to hear others, too, on this because I'll never be a "natural" and I really do admire anyone who has the inspiration and the perspiration to half-way master a fluid riff, especially with a capo on. How do you do it exactly, guys and gals?

4

For me, it's a mixture of divine inpiration and dumb luck. I hope to someday reach the lofty place in which I have enough of a clue to analyze what I'm doing.

But as much as I can answer your question, it's just my feeble attempt to make my fingers go where I think they need to go to make the noises in my head.

– Baxter

Bax, we went to the same school then....i find a combination of thinking of where i am trying to go, muscle memory....some luck...devine intervention always helps.

5

It intrigues me that some can do it by touch alone, literally with their eyes closed or while looking the other way and checking out the chicks in the front row. (Or, if you're a rock chick yourself, then checking out the dudes.)

6

I operate under the notion that there are more right notes than wrong ones at any given time.

8 out of 12 are usually at least in the key you are playing. 2 of the other 4 are a tad dissident and you can make a "jazz" case for them. The other two are just wrong and hard to defend. I hit them all too often.

This observation gives me the confidence to take a shot. I really ought to take a lesson and discover what I'm doing.

BTW, I do everything wrong. My Mom will back me up on that point.

7

I follow the dots.

Actually I just noodle around with the blues scale, normally. Hard to go wrong, If you're in "E".

8

I operate under the notion that there are more right notes than wrong ones at any given time.

8 out of 12 are usually at least in the key you are playing. 2 of the other 4 are a tad dissident and you can make a "jazz" case for them. The other two are just wrong and hard to defend. I hit them all too often.

This observation gives me the confidence to take a shot. I really ought to take a lesson and discover what I'm doing.

BTW, I do everything wrong. My Mom will back me up on that point.

– Bob Howard

Brilliant!

9

When you dash off a riff, how much is “muscle memory”, how much is auditory (hearing the notes in advance in your head) and how much is navigating from fret to fret visually? A combination of all three in quick succession, wouldn’t you say? To what degree though? Or is it purely instinctive and you don’t need to analyse it at all? Particularly with a CAPO attached? Does that throw you off in regard to accurate, rapid finger placement as it tends to do with me? Sure, practice makes perfect but I just wondered if you’re like Mark Knopfler and you can virtually do it in your sleep.

– jeffed

For me, quick notes come from muscle memory; slower, more melodic passages are more auditory.

10

I just play the same stupid thing over and over.

11

"When you dash off a riff, how much is “muscle memory”, how much is auditory (hearing the notes in advance in your head) and how much is navigating from fret to fret visually?"

For what it's worth, here's approximately what I do...

Let's say my band is playing "They Call Me the Breeze" by Lynryrd Skynyrd. Song is in A. Comes time for the soloing in A. What I do is...

  • Look for the root note visually (e.g. first string, fifth fret)
  • Start playing a stock riff or lick in A from muscle memory. As long as I'm "in the box" I don't have to look too much at what I'm doing.
  • If I go up/down the neck to a different box, I'll visually look then let muscle memory take over again.
  • For the length of the solo I'll travel to different boxes and play some appropriate riffs. Usually going up the neck provides more excitement, especially when you're playing an octave or more above where you started. Hitting that high A note and wailing on it for a measure or two really helps put a punctuation mark on the solo.

BTW, I don't plan solos, but have an idea of where I want to go on the neck. It's like going for a walk in your neighborhood. You know the houses and streets very well but you decide at the spur of the moment what specific route to take.

12

Seriously, figure out your key and the chords. You know if it's minor its best to hit the minor third and if it's blusey you can screw around with the major minor thing that Clapton did.

Picture the inversions and play.

13

Interesting questions. Hard to answer, too. Because a lot of what I play is planned out well in advance of a performance. Maybe that's the finger picker in me.

The other thing that helps me out is realizing where the passing chords are between the box positions, for lack of a better term. Some people call that the CAGED system.

Muscle memory, memorization, and lots of advance planning.

14

I actually read a really cool Article about this recently - in brief, guitarists' brains are different

It's also a really inspiring story of Jazz musician Pat Martino's recovery from neurosurgery that took a substantial portion of his brain.

IMO, musical improvisation is a 'zone' thing- it's , as the articles point out , the same process I feel in a sports movement that has been so extensively trained, that the movements are put side conscious thought or control - like when performing a jerk, clean, or snatch, where I can slow the movement down using 60 fps camera and see that my body did stuff I had no awareness of whatsoever. In weightlifting, we talk about the 'athlete-barbell system' - a complex interplay between athlete and barbell happening much faster than conscious thought can direct body movements

The guitarist-guitar system is similar

"The interplay of memory is not the only light that Martino’s recovery shines on the brain. It illuminates the impact that music, particularly playing an instrument, has on the brain. “Musical activity involves nearly every region of the brain that we know about, and nearly every neural subsystem,” wrote neuroscientist and musician Daniel Levitin in his 2006 book, This Is Your Brain on Music. Neuroscientists have shown that musical skill like a sizzling Martino guitar solo requires a suite of neural processes firing in tandem: perceptual, cognitive, motor, and executive. Making a career as a musician is like being a professional body-builder of the mind. “After all, brain is muscle,” Galarza said.

Accomplished musicians can expect their auditory and motor cortices, as well as the corpus callosum—the communication bridge between the left and right hemispheres—to beef up in both gray and white matter, which comprise, respectively, all of the brain’s neurons and the axons that link them together. It’s been shown that a large tract of white matter called the arcuate fasciculus, connecting the regions responsible for the production and perception of sound—the frontal and temporal lobes—is bulkier in singers and instrumentalists than in non-musicians.

rofessional musicians and athletes often say they are not conscious of their fingers flying across a fretboard or connecting with a 100 mph fastball. That’s because those actions, due to years of practice and repetition, are so deeply embedded that performers are not aware of them. These “sensorimotor skills” are stored in procedural memory, associated with the largest anatomical component of the basal ganglia, which resides above the spine in the forebrain’s core, central in the control of movement."

“Musical activity involves nearly every region of the brain that we know about, and nearly every neural subsystem,” wrote neuroscientist and musician Daniel Levitin in his 2006 book, This Is Your Brain on Music. Neuroscientists have shown that musical skill like a sizzling Martino guitar solo requires a suite of neural processes firing in tandem: perceptual, cognitive, motor, and executive. Making a career as a musician is like being a professional body-builder of the mind. “After all, brain is muscle,” Galarza said.

http://m.nautil.us/issue/20...

This article is also illuminating

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...

15

I operate under the notion that there are more right notes than wrong ones at any given time.

8 out of 12 are usually at least in the key you are playing. 2 of the other 4 are a tad dissident and you can make a "jazz" case for them. The other two are just wrong and hard to defend. I hit them all too often.

This observation gives me the confidence to take a shot. I really ought to take a lesson and discover what I'm doing.

BTW, I do everything wrong. My Mom will back me up on that point.

– Bob Howard

Here's what to do with the bad notes, resolve them up or down one fret.

16

I've been playing piano for over sixty years. Muscle memory is a prime aspect of that for me. Visual input helps, of course, but how do you think Ray Charles did it? I rarely look at the keyboard. I often hit the right notes.

Consider typing. I learned to do 45 WPM on a manual typewriter while not looking at the keyboard. ASDF JKL; . Repetition is the basis of it all--- scales, over and over. Many different patterns, repeated many, many times. How do you think Knoplfler learned? 10,000 hours plus.

I'll never be able to do on guitar what I can do on a keyboard. Yet even on guitar, I sometimes surprise myself by finding the right notes.

17

I always practice new things in the dark if possible. I "hear" way better when I close my eyes. I don't worry about the mistakes when I jump around.

I get better at the music quickly that way. My scales and chords are home base for what amounts to doodling. When the lights are on... I try to never look unless I have to. Visually referencing the frets too much kind of makes me play worse. I know if I am nervous, I look at them...I think to avoid eye contact!☺

I try not to copy licks as much as learn why the notes worked. For instance, why did my E minor riff work nicely over that A minor chord...if I know why ( or just THAT) something works, I can use it again in many ways. I do a lot of practicing over weird chords to find nice sounds of my own. Staring at the board is not productive for me except for working out new, complicated fingering.

For me, slowly practicing passages leads to the ability to play them fast.

If I am, "dashing off a lick", I still try to move a note or two from where my auto-pilot wants to go and all the "stock cliches" beckon to me.☺

I was in a coma awhile back and could not play a thing when I woke up. I had to start all over. These things worked for me...along with sheer, pigheaded stubbornness.

Cheers, AG

18

I have what's to me, being a fingerstyle guitarist - thumbpick and fingernails - an odd situation with my right hand's abilities. Without any conscious thought on my behalf, my thumb seems to know [somehow] when it needs to alternate the base line (6-4-5-4) or just play 6-4, 6-4 due to what fingering the left hand is doing. It's like it say's to me "I've got this part, you worry about the melody and harmony notes." One less thing to think of basically. Sometimes when learning something new or writing something I'll go slow to get down exactly how I want the thumb to play and it learns this pretty quick.

Now my fingers also have a mind of their own regarding harmony notes. Especially with my index finger which seems to know when it should play a harmony note along with a melody note being played by either my middle or ring finger. To me, this is akin to 'playing by ear'. It's a large part of what constitutes 'my style'. I've stopped trying to comprehend why these things are happening and just go with it. Far be it for my conscious mind to try and override some inner talent that obviously knows what it's doing!

19

I always practice new things in the dark if possible. I "hear" way better when I close my eyes. I don't worry about the mistakes when I jump around.

I get better at the music quickly that way. My scales and chords are home base for what amounts to doodling. When the lights are on... I try to never look unless I have to. Visually referencing the frets too much kind of makes me play worse. I know if I am nervous, I look at them...I think to avoid eye contact!☺

I try not to copy licks as much as learn why the notes worked. For instance, why did my E minor riff work nicely over that A minor chord...if I know why ( or just THAT) something works, I can use it again in many ways. I do a lot of practicing over weird chords to find nice sounds of my own. Staring at the board is not productive for me except for working out new, complicated fingering.

For me, slowly practicing passages leads to the ability to play them fast.

If I am, "dashing off a lick", I still try to move a note or two from where my auto-pilot wants to go and all the "stock cliches" beckon to me.☺

I was in a coma awhile back and could not play a thing when I woke up. I had to start all over. These things worked for me...along with sheer, pigheaded stubbornness.

Cheers, AG

– Asteri

In regards to the analogy to sports movements - we use blindfolds just as you practice in the dark as well

It definitely helps proprioreception, which is so incredibly important

Vision can actually be a hindrance . Also, by quieting the visual cortex, it's that much less 'noise' interfering with the process that will eventually lead to true mastery

I strongly recommend people incorporate blindfold (or darkness) into their routine, not a huge percentage of time, but a decent chunk

20

What a treasure trove of techniques and insights! Wow!

Different perspectives from academic to practical. Neurological. Various styles. Picture the inversions. More right notes than wrong ones and, with those, "resolve them up or down one fret.". Plan or improvise. Know your way around. Practice, practice, practice. Stubbornness. Be intuitive. Play in the dark. Any further contributions would be gratefully accepted.

P.S. The capo issue?

21

I've been enjoying this thread immensely, and if I'm not careful, I just might learn something.

(is it too soon or too late to make Cosby references?)

22

There's a fascinating book out- "This Is Your Brain On Music", by Daniel Levitin that is worth a read if you are at all interested in the science of your brain and the how/why it works for some and not others.

Levitin is a McGill University neuroscientist, but he writes like a real person.

Warning- you may need to read it through twice to really understand it, even so. But it's worth it.

Link: http://www.amazon.ca/This-Y...

As for me, I'm still hitting wrong notes on a daily basis, simply because my guitars react badly when I try and physically remove 'em!!

23

There's a fascinating book out- "This Is Your Brain On Music", by Daniel Levitin that is worth a read if you are at all interested in the science of your brain and the how/why it works for some and not others.

Levitin is a McGill University neuroscientist, but he writes like a real person.

Warning- you may need to read it through twice to really understand it, even so. But it's worth it.

Link: http://www.amazon.ca/This-Y...

As for me, I'm still hitting wrong notes on a daily basis, simply because my guitars react badly when I try and physically remove 'em!!

– Kevin Frye

That's good stuff. It's a big interest of mine and I've only just recently got into the guitar aspect of it, but I've been studying and apply the sports side of it for over a decade. My coach is a GENIUS, former Olympic Team coach and kind of figured a lot of this neuroplasticity stuff on his own, before the eggheads.

The Russians, eapecially Medveyev and Roman also depend on these principles to guide multiyear training of fledgling weight lifters from Novice all the way to Master of Sport International Class. After a decade, the amount of neurological remodelling that has happened is MASSIVE

these guys have brains/nervous systems that are incredibly fine tuned - just like the above mentioned Jazz great in my post

It's fascinating stuff. We've always known 'we are different' (improvisatory musicians) but it turns out we may start Out a little different, but years of playing causes massive changes in our brains.

24

And we play-by-numbers players are just getting dumber. . .

Or is that, more dumber?

25

I spent a lot of time locked in that E and A pentatonic box. Hearing about and learning the CAGED system really opened things up for me. I learned all the major pentatonic shapes in CAGED, and know 3 or 4 of the minor ones. I have certain phrases that I like to play that embellish those some. When I'm laying around, I try to come up with new picking patterns, embellishments, or what have you, but the essence of it all comes from those CAGED shape. For the last couple of years, I've been working on coming up with things on the fly, given a chord sequence. Let's say it's an I IV V in E. Well I try to figure out where those Es As and Bs are in those patterns. Lately I've been trying out landing on different notes other than the root, say like the 3rd or 5th, and seeing what I come up with. It's not natural to me at all, and I have to work at it to know it. But, if you practice it, and get runs and shapes under you, it becomes more natural.

The capo is one of those things you get used to over time. I'm in an acoustic group and we play some things from the 80s in our set, but we capo it up and sing it down, because we're 40, and can't sing that crap anymore, lol. That's been a great experience in learning how to transpose songs to different keys with and without a capo to make it work. There's no magic pill for it though; I just had to rough it until it clicked. Kinda like fingerpicking.

I'm nowhere near where I'd like to be as a player, but I'm better, and I'm happy doing it. When it starts feeling like work instead of fun, you're likely to put it down for awhile, so make sure it's fun!


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