The essence of control is the ability to maintain your timing and rhythm while improvising. Control is a broad term, which can encompass many different aspects of playing. It is also the underlying framework that holds all technique together. Right and left hand synergy is an essential component in developing good control. It must be an integral part of your alternate picking and sweep technique. If not,your solo may not come off as respectable as it should.
Unfortunately, guitar players can fall victim to uncontrolled playing by focusing too much on speed. Both concepts constantly battle one another as we continue to strive to become better musicians. When speed wins out, a sloppy, frantic and arrhythmic solo is generally produced.
Gaining control takes a lot of time, discipline and plenty of batteries for the metronome. It is achieved with slow and steady speed increases in exercises that challenge the right and left hand relationship. It's important that every note is heard loud and clear before bumping up your speed.
Having the pick glide over the strings during an arpeggio while maintaining consistency in speed is very important. It's very easy to push or pull blindly through an arpeggio, it takes a lot of practice to do it in time.
The first exercise is an alternate picked arpeggio pattern. I tabbed it out in Emin, Emaj, and Edim7. Start out slow. It may take a bit of time to get used to the alternate picking on adjacent strings. This exercise really focuses on accuracy and was very challenging for me.
The second exercise is another arpeggio pattern. This one can be tricky as well and is focused more on the right hand. Make sure to use a metronome at a safe speed to keep the consistency even throughout the motion.
I've found that these two exercises have definitely helped me in my accuracy and since they're a bit tricky (at least for me) it has made other arpeggio shapes much easier to play.
Alternate picking patterns should be played with consistency all the way through. It's easy to slur the tougher notes in your favorite pattern for the sake of speed. If you find that you can't seem to maintain your target speed, just roll the metronome back a bit and play it cleanly and evenly.
The third exercise is essentially just an alternate picking pattern that can be applied to any scale. This pattern is simply ascending 4's except in reverse, meaning that you start on the fourth note on the scale and back down to the first note. Then you go back to the fifth note and then back down to the second. This pattern has a great sound when you achieve a bit of speed and accuracy.
I hope you give these few exercises a try. I know that these exercises, and ones that are similar in nature, have helped a great deal in my playing. Until next time!
Greg Rapaport is a seven-string guitarist/bassist whose musical focus is a blend of instrumental progressive-metal and jazz-fusion. Greg has been on three tribute CDs (Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix - BHP Productions) and has released three critically acclaimed CDs. Greg is currently teaching in upper Westchester County NY.
His latest instrumental CD is entitled "Homunculus".
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