Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

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Adrian Allan
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Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by Adrian Allan » Thu Oct 27, 2016 7:12 pm

I sent for Matt's book on his approach to fast scales.

Anybody who has seen him play will know that his ability to play fast scale runs is astonishing, so I am willing to learn.

The book is very detailed and gives lots of examples of his approaches to fast scales, and arrived quickly from the US.

In basic form, he plays 3 notes per string wherever possible and uses a m i

He will change common scale shapes so that the 3 notes per string and a m i will fit, and sometimes big stretches are needed

eg. C major

C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C (edit - I cannot space these out, but 3 notes per string)

string 5 _________ 4_____________ 3________ 2___________ 1___________

finger a m i a m i a m i a m i a m i

Of course, rules need to be broken at times, but this is his basic approach to all scales

In terms of accents - the player needs to work on this technique so that it is not heard as triplets (unless needed) but groups of 4, so the accents need to change to keep the group of 4 feel.

See what you think - the book can be ordered from his website

I have always thought that fast clear scales are a real test of technique - eg, who can play VL Etude no7 opening very fast but also very cleanly?
Some can, some people really cannot.
Maybe Matt has the answer
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Ramon Amira
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by Ramon Amira » Fri Oct 28, 2016 11:53 pm

There is nothing "astonishing" about his speed. All of the flamenco guitar virtuosos can play runs faster. Furthermore, at the same time that they play faster, their notes have way more body, substance, and fullness than his, which really are rather thin.

Incidentally, the reason their notes have more body is because they are using rest strokes - which you claim are unnecessary and that nobody uses any more - except it seems for the countless thousands of guitarists - classical and flamenco - who do.

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Adrian Allan
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by Adrian Allan » Sat Oct 29, 2016 2:26 am

I think you are maybe confusing two threads.
I may have different expectations from you, but when I saw matt palmer play VL etude 2, I was very impressed. The thin tone you may hear is because it is a distant microphone.

I have always thought that if you can play that piece very fast and clean, and in a live situation just as fast and clean, you are a high ranking virtuoso, and I personally have much to learn from somebody that skilled...hence why I bought the book.
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by Goose997 » Sat Oct 29, 2016 2:54 am

Hi Adrian

I also bought the book. Coming from piano, a huge part of technical development is to play scales and arpeggios in every possible form. However, I must say I have also fallen into the guitarist's trap of being too lazy to practice scales by convincing myself it has limited benefit :wink:

I must say I did benefit from the book, especially in terms of thinking differently in how to structure every scale in terms of fingering. One tip from the book that helped me tremendously is to try to have 3 notes per string and always the same a-m-i fingering. It gives a nice consistency to playing a scale.
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by markodarko » Sat Oct 29, 2016 8:50 am

There's nothing new about this technique. Not sure why you'd need a book to explain this as it's essentially just an adapted tremolo technique. I use it all the time. A tip I'd give you (following on from what Ramon said) is to use IMA for that bigger sound. Sounds better than AMI as you're not leading with M. With enough practice you can do rest strokes on the I, M and A too when you need that emphasis in that technique.

I tend to play IMA down the strings and AMI back up.

However, for absolute power, consistency and "passion" I have to agree with Ramon. The 2 finger IM style has a very distinct and powerful sound and is hard to beat.

Both good techniques to learn though and have their place, especially in different genres. I don't really understand the need to group the notes into 3 per string though. If you practice the technique properly then you can seamlessly switch between IM/MI and IMA/AMI even in scales (for example) that shift with 5 or more notes to a string so I'd recommend that you practice lots of different note-per-string combinations until you don't have to think about what your RH is doing in terms of IM or AMI etc.

At the end of the day, there are not many (any?) pieces in the repertoire that require 16th note runs at 160bpm or greater in the real world, so in a practical sense playing 3-note per string runs on their own seems to fall into the realm of showing off if you ask me.

So why do I play with IMA/AMI? Because it uses less effort when playing quickly as it's a natural extension of the tremolo technique, so your RH fingers seem to "flow" better. But like I said, there's a place for both. Sometimes I will play only IM in certain pieces to get a different sound - be that rest or free stroke - all depends on what I'm playing and what I'm trying to achieve.
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Adrian Allan
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by Adrian Allan » Sat Oct 29, 2016 10:53 am

Well, that technique of 3 notes per string was not obvious to me, and changing from the common scale patterns to achieve it.

I'm not so good at fast scales and I would like to be - and I have tried other techniques and fingerings like the ones you mention.

In the book, Matt says that he also was not good at fast scales and he developed this technique to achieve speed and accuracy. So if it works for him, I will give it a go myself.

Plus, I have never seen anybody play as fast and fluently as this guy, so I'm very willing to listen to what he has to say.
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by markodarko » Sat Oct 29, 2016 11:26 am

Adrian Allan wrote:Well, that technique of 3 notes per string was not obvious to me
Ah, it's a common approach (if not THE approach) in rock guitar playing. My misspent youth showing through. :)

In that case, definitely worth learning if you find your IM speed to be slow, although of course your LH speed will also need to keep up. :D
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Adrian Allan
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by Adrian Allan » Sat Oct 29, 2016 11:30 am

yes, he started out as a rock player and switched at age 20 I think, so that fits
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by markodarko » Sat Oct 29, 2016 11:38 am

Ahhhh, yes that makes sense. He must have found the switch a big change (as I did) because unless you're someone like Yngwie Malmsteen, the technique is to only strike the first note of each run and hammer-on / pull-off the rest, which of course is not fitting in the CG world, but on an electric with oodles of compression via your distortion pedal the result is a very fluid legato sound. I assume that's what he wanted to recreate when he moved to CG.

Incidentally, whilst talking about your LH speed, playing entirely in hammer-ons by only striking the first note of each run is a great way to build up your LH speed to match the tremolo speed of your RH. Synchronising them together on the other hand is a different matter. ;)
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Adrian Allan
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by Adrian Allan » Sat Oct 29, 2016 11:53 am

He mentions Malmsteen in the intro, so that is also relevant.

At the moment I am working on the run at the start of Villa Lobos Etude 7.
When Barrueco released his recording of this, the classical guitar world all took note of the speed and cleanness of the opening run. Of course, times have moved on and that level of fluency and speed is nothing unusual.

The issue of fast scales has in fact interested me for many years and I have asked quite a few leading players about their approaches.

David Starobin for example does not really play this sort of repertoire (has he ever played Aranjuez?) and he uses p i, free stroke (of course).

Other players use pmi for the scale runs in the Aranjuez - I know because I have seen their annotated scores. And it seems that the free stroke sound is not noticeably weak in that instance.

Some players I feel are less good than others - Eliot Fisk is fast, but not clean.

If I make any progress, I will post a video of me playing.
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by markodarko » Sat Oct 29, 2016 12:27 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:He mentions Malmsteen in the intro, so that is also relevant.
Ha! I'm not Matt Palmer, honest. ;)
Adrian Allan wrote:At the moment I am working on the run at the start of Villa Lobos Etude 7.
Ah ok. A lot of players use pull-offs there to get that legato sound. Not sure if that's how VL would have wanted it played though. Maybe someone with more insight into Mr. Lobos could chime in here.
Adrian Allan wrote:If I make any progress, I will post a video of me playing.
Excellent. I'm sure you will, Adrian!
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by Steve Langham » Sun Oct 30, 2016 4:21 am

Can I ask... I'm honestly interested to know. Why do you/others spend their precious practice time learning to play scales so fast? What's the point? I'm quite likely to be wrong but it doesn't seem to me that there's that much repertoire out there that requires such speeds?
I seem to think it's a bit like golf and wanting to hit your driver further than anyone else, bit of a manly ego thing?
There are wider benefits to be had I assume?

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Adrian Allan
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by Adrian Allan » Sun Oct 30, 2016 7:59 am

Steve Langham wrote:Can I ask... I'm honestly interested to know. Why do you/others spend their precious practice time learning to play scales so fast? What's the point? I'm quite likely to be wrong but it doesn't seem to me that there's that much repertoire out there that requires such speeds?
I seem to think it's a bit like golf and wanting to hit your driver further than anyone else, bit of a manly ego thing?
There are wider benefits to be had I assume?
In order to be able to play, to name one example, much of the music of Joaquin Rodrigo. That's quite an important part of the repertoire.
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by markodarko » Sun Oct 30, 2016 8:25 am

Adrian Allan wrote:In order to be able to play, to name one example, much of the music of Joaquin Rodrigo. That's quite an important part of the repertoire.
If your main aim is to play Aranjuez you'll ideally want to play those runs (and most of the melody) in a more "Spanish" way - I.e., not precise and clean, but, and I hate to say it... passionately and raw through the use of rest strokes.

The AMI free stroke pattern would give too much of a smooth, refined sound for Aranjuez, in my opinion, although as mentioned previously, would fit other, more "classical" scenarios due to its precision.
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Adrian Allan
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Re: Matt Palmer's Fast Scale Book and approach

Post by Adrian Allan » Sun Oct 30, 2016 8:29 am

markodarko wrote:
Adrian Allan wrote:In order to be able to play, to name one example, much of the music of Joaquin Rodrigo. That's quite an important part of the repertoire.
If your main aim is to play Aranjuez you'll ideally want to play those runs (and most of the melody) in a more "Spanish" way - I.e., not precise and clean, but, and I hate to say it... passionately and raw through the use of rest strokes.

The AMI free stroke pattern would give too much of a smooth, refined sound for Aranjuez, in my opinion, although as mentioned previously, would fit other, more "classical" scenarios due to its precision.
Well I know at least one famous guitar player who has recorded the Aranjuez using pmi and also in performances. I have seen his score and asked him about how he plays it - and nobody seems to notice.

An I meant Not just the Aranjuez, but lots of his solo pieces as well. And not only Rodrigo, but he is the most obvious composer whose works use fast scales.
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