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Author Topic:  For Better or Worse?
Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 24 Sep 2022 7:46 pm    
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I have been playing steel guitar for many years. Sometimes I feel like I'm not improving at all, and perhaps not even playing as well as I have in the past! I often record my performances on video, hoping to get a good live take.

Lately while viewing my recent performances, I have noticed many things that bother me about my playing. (Recordings are unforgiving and they reveal every mistake, so it is helpful to listen, take note and fix whatever
is wrong with your playing)

PROBLEMS:

1. One of my biggest flaws is hitting the wrong string. It is usually the one right next to it. The A6th tuning is musically pleasing so that the note is close enough to the melody and doesn't sound bad, but I know it's not right.

2. The next flaw I noticed, is far more serious. My timing is way off! I am rushing the melody, and jumping ahead of the beat. I am rarely late or laid back, my problem is speeding up not slowing down.

3. I get a lot of "Luau" gigs during the summer, I am one of the only Hawaiian Steel Guitarists in the area. But when I listen back to the songs, I realize I am playing more "Western Swing" steel than Hawaiian style. I know the difference even though most of the folks in the audience never notice.(Heck most of them think I am playing a keyboard)

SOLUTIONS:

1. Woodshed the section of each song that gives me trouble, taking care to hit the correct string, until
I can get it right every time.

2. I need to listen closer to rhythm backing track, especially the snare drum, and lay back into the groove,
I used to know how to do this!

3. The Hawaiian style of Steel Guitar is more like the human voice, flowing and gliding into each note/chord.
My Western Swing licks are more staccato, chicken pickin, bluesy and 1/2 step slides. So I just need to pay more attention to what each song calls for.
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Travis Brown


From:
Florida, USA
Post  Posted 24 Sep 2022 9:23 pm    
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I am a barely competent lap steel player, but a pretty good electric player.

For number 2, the key is to internalize the beat. As you said you also have to really focus on the band and where the beat is, but simple toe tapping helps a huge amount. When I don't tap my foot, my time definitely suffers. Feel the beat in your foot and then transfer it to your hands.
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David DeLoach


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 25 Sep 2022 4:04 am    
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With any stringed instrument, the following will absolutely improve technique and timing.

1. Spend time practicing in SLOW MOTION with your hands TOTALLY RELAXED (almost limp). If you can't play it slow, you sure won't be able to play it up to tempo. Playing it CORRECTLY in slow motion with your hands totally relaxed trains your muscle memory to play it right. Playing it fast - and with mistakes - trains your muscle memory to play the mistakes. Any tension in your hands is actually fighting AGAINST a good performance.

Once you can play the tune or lick from muscle memory with your hands relaxed at a slow tempo - and picking the correct strings and desired sound (staccato vs. glissando), then be a test pilot and see how fast you can play before you crash.

I've written more about this in my blog: http://www.guitarplanetblog.com/2011/11/slower-i-practice-faster-i-get.html

2. Use a metronome for timing. Set it to a SLOW tempo at first while practicing like I talked about in #1 above. Also, it is important to FEEL the beat down in your gut. This is an exaggerated approach, but try clenching your stomach muscles every time the metronome clicks. Get used to FEELING that beat inside of you. Obviously, you won't be clenching muscles with every beat when you play, but it is important to get that tempo inside of you. Also, as was mentioned by Travis, tapping your foot is key to playing in on the beat.

Here's a blog post I wrote about playing with FEELING vs. just playing academically from the mind: http://www.guitarplanetblog.com/2012/03/practice-with-your-mind-perform-with.html

And if it ever feels like, "it is going to take forever to get where I want to be on my instrument", read this: http://www.guitarplanetblog.com/2011/11/journey-of-thousand-miles-begins-with.html
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Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 25 Sep 2022 10:08 am    
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Here's a video of me 6 years ago... I seem to be relaxed and having fun, playing mostly "in the pocket" when I compare this to my latest gigs a few days ago, I seem to have regressed! Sad Sad



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5WcOzubK0k
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Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 25 Sep 2022 10:15 am    
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and this one... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3C19K2zmSe8
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Stefan Robertson


From:
Hertfordshire, UK
Post  Posted 26 Sep 2022 12:21 am    
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David mentioned key points that certainly will help.

In looking at your 1st video vs your 2nd video.

The thing that sticks out the most is that you are palm block with your pinky as your anchor point.

Your 2nd video your hand is up in the sky - so unless you are pick blocking as Joe wright says you are far from being efficient which also means its more likely with no anchor your hand will come down on the wrong string.

Hope this helps. Whether you pick block or palm block you need to be as close to the strings as possible rather than up in the sky.

Joe wright's video which are free will certainly help or just look at Buddy Emmons for palm blocking/ Doug Jernigan pick blocking any of the options they all use close proximity to the strings at all times. Find what technique you need or what works best but I guess avoid sky diving.

Laughing
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post  Posted 26 Sep 2022 3:44 am    
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I know the feeling, all too well, of self-perceived regression. Part of the issue is the passion of a new interest fades into less of an all consuming thing. I don't practice as much as I used to, that's for sure.

Hawaiian style is pretty varied (world of difference between say Sol Hoopii and Jerry Byrd for example) but I think one of the key things about it relates to your second point, timing...notes have to flow into each other and you can never get so hung up on being "on time" that you start sounding choppy. Half step slides are still important in Hawaiian but you definitely don't want to rush them. Sometimes I've found it's better for me to stop worrying about three part harmonies and go back to single string melodies on certain songs, because I'm more free to make things connected and "singing style". It's a hard thing for me because my default is "more cool harmonies/chords, more good" but sometimes keeping it simple ends up with me sounding better and more natural.

Good luck!
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Steven Pearce


From:
Port Orchard Washington, USA
Post  Posted 27 Sep 2022 9:34 am    
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Lately I feel like the longer I been playing, the skills are going backwards.
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Last edited by Steven Pearce on 27 Sep 2022 9:36 am; edited 1 time in total
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Steven Pearce


From:
Port Orchard Washington, USA
Post  Posted 27 Sep 2022 9:35 am    
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Thanks Dom,
I’m dealing with the same things.
And thanks to all who wrote in, this great advice gives me a place to start to turn this around!
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 27 Sep 2022 10:39 am    
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Perfection in picking is one of those really tricky things, especially if you are a) improvising and b) nervous. Sometimes my right hand is next to useless when I'm playing, at least for the ideas I am trying to play, but I still have to find a way to make it work.

Time is the most important thing to me. If you have great time, that usually means your phrasing is also really good. To me this is everything and I pay the most attention to that. If something I am working on impedes my ability to articulate with the time that I want, then I find another way to play it. This is the part that used to confuse me when I heard steel players playing live on TNN. I would hear them playing things they played on recordings, and I am talking about instrumental pieces with "improvisation". It was only later that I learned how really difficult it is to improvise by truly playing spontaneous ideas--the technique can be a real stumbling block to that.
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