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I used to do a lot of things the hard way.
As a young man studying jazz guitar in college, I went through a period of several years during which I was obsessed with alternate (down-up) picking and being able to “muscle through” the most difficult patterns and shapes with the goal of attaining technical virtuosity.
To that end, I would spend long, lonely hours, seven days a week, dedicated to practicing every conceivable scale and arpeggio I learned, drilling on every possible fingering shape and melodic interval pattern and repeating each exercise in all 12 keys. Then I would do it all over again, starting on an upstroke!
Much of this practice time spent in the prime years of my life turned out to be a big waste of effort. While the campaign was beneficial for learning the fretboard, the technical benefit was ultimately disappointing. I did all this picking-practice drudgery with the hope and expectation that one day I would wake up, pick up my guitar and be able to fluently rip through any melodic pattern like a chainsaw.
It never really happened. Instead, my picking hand became chronically fatigued and sore. I’m fortunate to have not developed tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome during this period! The fact that I had always been athletic and had good circulation probably helped my hands cope with the repetitive stress I was subjecting them to on a daily basis and saved them from ruin.
My touch and feel, which I was so proud of as an unschooled, hard-rocking teenager, became rather stilted and mechanical sounding. I’d go to play some real music but, because my chops were worn-out from doing battle with difficult exercises all morning, my playing would sound tired and lifeless, and, even worse, I would sometimes, when jamming with a drummer, inadvertantly “turn the time around”—slowing down or speeding up to the point where the downbeats and upbeats are reversed. It was unfair and maddening!