I have modified my playing routine based on the suggestions given on this topic. I have a set of string crossing exercises that I think Julian posted on the old site. They seem pretty well suited to the task. There are a total of 10 patterns. I slowed them down to where I can do the “toughest” one cleanly and easily. I ended up landing on 100 bpm. It’s pretty slow for some of them, but I am trying to focus on quality of strokes. So now that’s the first thing I do when picking up the guitar each day (and so far multiple times a day). I was working on FMtnBreakdown, so I worked the more difficult areas into the tail end of the drills. I slowed it down maybe 30 bpm to where I can sometimes play it just the way I want, well articulated and clean. I plan on hanging at that speed for as long as I can stand or until playing it real well becomes better than 90% of the time. I think I will slow it down even further (it’s tough to slow down and stay focused). In the past I would already have been pushing the speed, but in the end I would end up where I can play something cleanly only once in a blue moon, then I stagnate. Could I play something at a speed I enjoyed? Yes, but it wasn’t nearly as clean as I wanted as often as I wanted. I am trying to be the turtle. I keep thinking that this is going to be a slog, but I am trying to change my thoughts. Speed is instant gratification, but instead I am trying to value (and enjoy) playing clean and articulating. I am not there yet, but I am trying to change my mindset. I liked Doc’s suggestion of a few bpm per week, it changed my perspective on goals. I would typically jump much faster than that. I still will likely progress a bit faster than that initially (I play most every day, and I am too old to be real patient), but I want to ensure that I am only increasing the speed when I am playing something well and can comfortably do the toughest thing at that current speed. As I near my limits, pushing the bpms up will become more difficult, so at some point maybe 1 bpm per week will be too much (and that’s ok).
For my original problem, I examined what I was doing and it was very similar to what Larry described in a tilting of the wrist. So I think technique wise, I am probably in the right ballpark. I think as I speed up, the strokes become smaller and closer. So as I am working on it, I exaggerate that clearing of the strings a bit, just as a mental reminder. Hopefully, as I slowly creep the speed up, I will continue to maintain the clearance I need.
I am floating my hand more (although it does drag a bit). I have tried a closed hand grip and a couple other things I have seen suggested, but it just doesn’t feel or sound right. I think I’ll leave that alone for a bit.
So how are the results? Frankly, they are humbling at this point. I realize that might be a good thing. Where I was playing something 30 or 40% faster with 80-90 percent of the notes the way I wanted (and that’s just a guess), I was just happy to be trucking along at the speeds that sounded “right.” Now, even slowed way down, I muff notes and make note of it and try to correct it. Whereas before I had a positive goal (go faster), I think the big challenge is re-wiring my brain to make my focus on playing clean a positive goal based thing. Instead of “I want to get through this without messing up”, I need to be thinking something like “I want to nail the timing, tone and articulation.” My brain still thinks the way it does, but I am trying to change it. Over the weekend I have also played things I already had wired, and the results were scary (bad scary not good scary). Ben’s Red Haired Boy basic used to top out for me around 250 (barely hanging on speed). I would probably start it without a metronome somewhere between 220 and 230. Last night it wasn’t very clean even at 200, not what I would have expected, but maybe it’s just a “feature” of my change in approach. I knew things would get worse before they got better, but I was still surprised. I hope to know if that am headed in the right direction in a few months.
Sorry for rambling. Keep the suggestions coming, and thanks for the help thus far.