Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ditones chronicle: guitar practice and my mistakes

It's always good to review your practice and see whether it's matching your goals.
Let's see what I did in August and plans for September.

In the previous month I was getting acquainted with the Ditones book. Basically I went through the first 3 lessons which constitute the foundamentals of the book: 2 digits ditones, 3 digits ditones, 4 digits ditones respectively. I was confident with the material but it was not perfect, so I tried to consolidate it.

I focused on the last 3 exercises of lesson 2 (kapott, keelbert and the super sayan level) and on the last four of lesson 3 (skip, add, pelota and the super sayan level). I start every session with some nice and slow arpeggio I alternate picked, as a warm up, then I moved to a slow 40 bpm kapott to get the picking right and then start with keelbert and the string skipping super sayan of level (ex. 2.6). I played both exercises at a speed that for me was slow (40 bpm), mid (60) and fast (75 or slightly more).

After an hour of these stuff, I moved to lesson 3. In particular I spent most of the time on 3.4 which features 4 digits legato.

ditones book cover

I then add something more musical to it before closing the session. I played some riff from she's my sin (Nightwish), far beyond the sun (Malmsteen), crazy train (Ozzy Osbourne), losfer words (Iron Maiden). Nothing more than 3/4 minutes per riff.

That went on for at least 10 days. I improved some metronomes a bit, adjusting and figuring out where I needed to practice more and where I might try to get a +5 on the bpm.

Then I realized I was doing some mistakes:
1) I needed far better keelbert and legato to even attempt the sayan levels: they were fun to be attempted at first, but I did not gain that much out of them and especially the skips of 2.6 are terribly hard for now to be done properly;
2) in practicing 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 I chose a finger per day: all ditones starting with II, then all the chart for III. For me that was a problem. I overfocused on a small amount of combinations, did far too many repetitions and got stuck into speed barriers;
3) I practiced too much with the metronome forgetting about the backing tracks. You might think that's not so bad, but with an exercise as pelota that raises its bpm as it goes on I got sloppy when playing the exercise for real.

I then shift the focus on fewer exercises (keelbert and 3.4) playing them on a smaller amount of the fretboard but practicing the whole ditones set each day. I also reduced the repetitions at different bpms focusing on rhythm and trying to play the exercise at a single slow tempo (40-50 for 16-th notes; 60-75 for triples). To get the faster tempo I used the burst technique used in some Ditones exercises: I "just" played 32-th notes rather than 16-notes and 16-th notes triplets instead of 8th-notes triplets.

It was a mess at first! Rhythm and groove came to be a problem as well. I learnt that a fingering or lick or exercise is not yours until you can play it confortably at different metric divisions. This double time study also allowed me to appreciate small increasements: I dared to play 3.4 at 65, getting it at speed at what would be 130 bpm (16-notes). That was something I even feared to try!
Of course, when that ways of studying prevents you from trying an exercise at a certain speed, you spend some extra time practicing it at the speed you want.

My Ditones improved a lot.

Mh, what about songs and more musical things?
I made progresses on losfer words and I now I want to go through it all, solo included. That's gonna be quite a challenge!
I kept only far beyond the sun riff and add blinded by fear (At the Gates) three riffs - starting really slow - and also some power metal 16-notes (Knights of the cross - Grave Digger). My idea is to use them to build aggressive groove, be accurate and improve my right hand.

These were another 10 days of intense practice.
Then I had to stop for a while but I'm still thinking about ditones and guitar, despite the fact that at present I can't practice. I rethought my schedule and goals and had some more ditones-related ideas. More on that soon!

Related Posts
How to Practice guitar: overview
Guitar practice tips: Overcoming speed limits and breaking speed barriers
Ditones how to: what are ditones and how to use them part I