Tips for working on new beginner play-along song

I’m currently working on Heart of Gold - Neil Young. Playing along with the track on Justin’s app. I’ve finished Grade 1 and I’m going to park for a bit and perfect my chord changes.

I’ve been working on it at 80% tempo, and the chord changes at that speed, are ok, I’d say around 75% (that bloody C chord :laughing:).

My question is that the strumming at that speed feels awkward. In other words, the strumming is palpably too slow and makes it distracting and weird. But at the next increment (90% tempo), I can’t hit the chords enough to make a fairly nice sounding song.

Recommendations on how to proceed with practice on this song? Stay at the speed and deal with the awkwardness of strumming or take it up a notch and feel like I’m botching the chords? :laughing:

That’s my advice. It’s taken me a long while to learn to resist the temptation to speed things up. I now push myself to play at the pace (slower) that’s accurate before speeding up.

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I’m with you on that one! I am mostly just fine with C when I do OMC, but throw it into a song and I tend to get flustered.

Everyone I have ever seen giving advice on this kind of question always, always, always says the answer is to keep it slow. I have a hard time with strumming in rhythm at slow tempos. I can hit the chords by slowing down, but I am constantly waaaaaaay off the beat. I think it is because I have too much time to think between strums, and you know what they say about that? If you’re thinkin’ you’re stinkin’!

To be fair, I am not particularly on the beat at any tempo, but it isn’t as noticeable at a faster tempo.

YES! Exactly this! :rage: I know it will come though, so I’m keeping at it :sweat_smile:

Reading what you said, I wonder if perhaps we have the same tendency on the tempo, and maybe that’s why I have trouble playing songs I’m familiar with at slower speeds. Maybe you don’t have trouble with tempo or rhythm at all, but you actually have and in-ate ‘sense’ of them. Maybe you, like me, have trouble subconsciously adjusting to a tempo that is too slow for a song that you know should be a certain tempo?

I played the clarinet in Concert Band from the age of 10, and Concert and Jazz Band in High School. If I pick it up today, I can play it…granted, I might squeak and squalk it a bit, but put a piece of music in front of me and in a while, I’ll squalk it for you :laughing:. Tempo and rhythm has stuck with me ever since, so I wonder if that’s why playing a familiar tune slower than I know it should be in my subconscious is the reason it’s so distracting for me? Things for me to ponder :thinking:

Nope! I have pretty much no sense of rhythm under any circumstances, but it feels worse at slow tempo. I’m like Navin Johnson in the beginning of “The Jerk.” (Funny movie, you young folks should look it up. Stay away from the cans! He hates these cans!!)

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Sounds like a challenge, finding a groove at a slower tempo.

Have you considered making the arc of your strumming bigger? So rather than just slowing down how you usually strum, make each down and up take longer, which means you’d would be slowing the action down less.

Hope that makes sense.

No idea if it will be helpful.

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Heather

Sometimes playing slow is actually harder and yes I know that sounds counter intuitive but it is something that is frequently said.

So I would imagine you have the chord sequence down now ? Or could at least jot them down, so you could crib them away from the song app ? If so, ditch the app for a bit and play against a metronome, starting at 75 to get the old familiar feel. Get the song feeling comfortable and then bump it just 2 bpm. Wash rinse repeat until you get to the song’s original tempo but take your time.

Cheers

Toby
:sunglasses:

PS to my old forum pals, is the a first use of “Wash Rinse Repeat” do I get a badge ?

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Can’t say for sure, Toby, mebbe. But have a badge anyway if it’ll make you happy :grin:

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As @TheMadman_tobyjenner says playing at a lower tempo can be more difficult to maintain. That’s a good suggestion to play with a metronome at a low bpm and gradually increase the bpm. That’s exactly what I do when learning a strumming pattern. Once you’re able to play the strumming pattern along with the metronome at any tempo, if you’ve got Justin’s Time Trainer, you could also then practice the strumming patterns using beat drops and bar drops.

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One question @Heatherxx, have you tried doing OMC with the same chord changes as you are struggling with in the song (you’ll need to do the reverse change eventually, so it won’t hurt you to embed it now)?

If not then that, may well be worth a go.

Very much this (as well)! Practice in context is extremely valuable and is an excellent way to ‘bed-in’ technique.

(Edit: to make clear what follows is an alternative to @TheMadman_tobyjenner’s suggestion)

If you are already doing the changes in your OMC practice, then you might also want to consider using a metronome while doing OMC to check and even tune the speed of your changes [this will also take OMC up a level of difficulty (maybe even two levels!)].

When using a metronome during OMC, it will become obvious really quickly whether your changes are really happening between the beats or if you are adjusting your strumming tempo to get the change to ‘fit’ (if you want to try this, then the song is 86 BPM, so start slower than this, and work up to it just a couple of BPM at a time).

As this is more challenging, then to start, you might want to try just changing each four strums, rather than on every strum (as in ‘normal’ OMC). When you want to increase the tempo, add 2 or 3 BPM (this sounds small, but will feel way different!).

[For an even greater level of challenge, then you can also look at reducing the number of strums between changes (e.g. change each two strums, and if you can do that, on each strum), this is a much more advanced variation though]

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Just to be clear, if you are playing the song at 75 bpm, I was suggesting playing the song against the metronome and gradually increasing to speed, ie keeping the song in context. Doing OMCs with a metronome is a great exercise but it does not always translate to a whole song, sometimes you just need build it up slow. :sunglasses:

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I have never slowed down and practiced any song by strumming rhythm. I’d rather make some mistakes or imperfections than play with an awkward feeling of tempo.

Pffftttt!!!
Attention seeking :joy::joy::joy:

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Sorry, yes, on a re-read it’s not clear that I was suggesting an alternative! Completely agree that ‘practice in context’ is often a good way to go. My (badly made) point is that sometimes it is also worth doing some additional drills, to check the underlying technique.

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Don’t forget to just practice the strumming pattern. Mute the strings with your fretting hand and strum to the metronome, slowly increasing.

You want to get the strumming pattern so ingrained that it is not what you think about while playing.

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Reading this again and I am not an app user, is that the norm ? A 10% jump in tempo ? Because in my experience practicing scales and expecting to be ok with that kind of leap, is next to impossible. Maybe 5% but 10% Noooo. Recommendations I got here years ago was baby steps 2-3% maybe 5% max. Guess it might be different when strumming but I would have thought 5% increments would be more manageable. But like I say not an app user. My 0.02 Euros :sunglasses:

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The app adjusts in 10% and only slows to 50%. So 50%, 60%, etc.

I agree it would be helpful to have a finer scale. The jumps are difficult.

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I’d practice it slower as Tony has suggested. As Tony has said try NOT using the App…you’ll probably find you play it a rhythm/tempo that feels comfortable but that is slightly faster than you are playing against app.

Remember people you don’t want to be playing songs against the App forever! at some point you want to break free and play them on your own. If you’ve memorised the chord sequence there is nothing stopping you doing that.

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Lots of solid advice here!

I didn’t realize this was a common struggle…good to know!

Makes good sense. The main chord progression is Em-C-D-G. I’ve been using a metronome for my OMC practice and gradually increasing speed since I saw it suggested in a thread here, and it’s really made a huge difference, but I hadn’t thought to practice the progression with a metronome and gradually increase the speed. I’ve just been practicing 2 chords back and forth.

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Thanks for pointing out the importance of practicing the strumming pattern separately from play with the fretting hand. It looks like I have taken that for granted!

VERY good point! And important for me to remember. Thank you!

In a nutshell, I gather from all comments together that a better course for me to learn a new song is to practice tricky chord progressions with a metronome and gradually increase the speed, and to separately practice strumming patterns, then marry them together when they each feel smooth and confident and up to the desired tempo.

Thanks for all the advice! I think this will really help a lot :blush: