How to Deal with Stumbling Blocks on Guitar!
Get moving on guitar today!
Fed up bashing away at guitar and getting nowhere fast? Let's change that right now! Taplature will give you a new way forward. Since creating Taplature in 2007 I've used it in lessons for over ten years now with unfailing success and this blog will show you the best ways I've found to get the most from it!
In this, the first article here on the Taplature blog, we'll start with a simple example, the sort of thing I've seen regularly causing students problems over the years. Before Taplature it used to be a real headache trying to help them, but never since! Click to play.
The challenge is to build on the foot tap, viewing that as the foundation of everything we ever play on guitar; after all, every piece of music has a beat. The broken lines connecting the down pick symbols are telling us to use "rest strokes" ie. after playing a note we bring the pick to rest on the next string. This makes it easier to keep track of where the pick is, as well as giving a noticably fuller sound to each note.
Where this pattern can prove particularly problematic is when we play notes on the offbeat (ie. up foot). When preceded by a note on the down beat this is normally not a problem, but when the down beat is empty it can prove confusing until this common pattern is learned. The easiest way to learn the pattern is of course by using Taplature. Breaking down the building blocks of problem pieces is one of the most powerful ways to strengthen our playing.
Bite sized pieces!
The problem building block occurs two times in our example, beats 2 and 3. If it's causing you problems here's my first tip. Pull out the problem (let's use beat 2 as our example) and run it in isolation with your foot. We can fill a full bar with it as an exercise. To let you focus on the timing we'll simplify things by forgetting about the rest strokes for now.
First off try it counting out loud while you tap your foot as shown. Once it gets easy, and it won't take long if you focus on doing it correctly, you should find you can start seeing the pattern as written below the tab, an alternating chant of "Foot Pick Foot Pick ...". Let me demonstrate.
Something you may by now have spotted is that the pick is always moving in the opposite direction to the foot. On every beat (foot taps down) we move the pick up to prepare it to pick down again. As the foot comes up we play the note with a down pick on the G string. I call this common sequence a piece of "directional vocabulary". When you've got it down you'll be able to apply it in any number of musical situations, and you're also likely to start recognising it in the other things you're learning on guitar.
Notice the mechanics (mental and physical) of beat 3 are no different if we pull it out in the same way, merely played with a different note on a different string.
Now you can plug your stronger building blocks back into the full challenge. In this different context the pick won't now come back up on the foot taps but will sit on the string below in preparation for the next note in the sequence. It's likely you'll need to go very slowly to get through correctly. If it takes you five minutes to execute the eight movements shown perfectly then that's what's required. Don't rush, it's understanding we're after here!
Looking a level deeper!
One more powerful tool you can use here is noting the pattern made on the final up foot of our tab. After beat 4 the pick is below all the strings (having just played the top E string with a down stroke. In order to be ready to begin the pattern again on beat 1, we need to lift the pick back up ready to pick down on the low E string. You can see in the first video how I tie together that reset of the pick with the up foot on the "and" of beat 4. As the foot comes up, so does the pick, as if they are tied together, like a puppet on a string!
That's a big clue as to the sort of insight you can get when working with Taplature which is not so clear with other methods. Stay tuned for plenty more upcoming challenges and similar insight by subscribing to this blog below. Subscribers also receive a copy of my free Crash Course in Taplature, suitable for all levels.
You too can start working with Taplature today! Draw out your own sheets or download some ready made ones right now here in the Taplature shop.