Good habits to reinforce and advice geared towards different skill brackets.
Context and Formatting
My name is Pythric, and I have at this point become a somewhat experienced Quaver player (around 1 year of experience). Most of the learning and improvement I have seen in myself was personally crafted, albeit with a little help from videos by content creators like Etienne. I have near independently risen from the status of absolute beginner to #1,855 on the global 4k leaderboard (as of writing this guide), and am finally comfortable enough with my experience and knowledge to try and share some of it with others.
The majority of this guide is general advice. I am not opposed to giving more personalized advice to anyone that seeks it, but this guide should not be misconstrued as personalized; not all experiences match, and not all (or maybe any!) of my advice will be useful. Please keep this in mind, and I hope this guide will be of use for you!
Getting Started / Basics (0.01 – 10.00)
This section of the guide is intended for absolute beginners. If you are capable of passing a 10+ difficulty map with an accuracy of 95% or higher, you most likely do not need this section of the guide. It might still be helpful, though!
Before anything, it is important to check your offset settings. A good general indicator is +25ms or higher, but it will most likely take some tinkering. I do not recommend auto-calibration.
The most important thing to start on early is accuracy. Quaver provides a very nice modifier to help train this in Judgement Windows. Increasing the difficulty of the judgement window is a great way to accuracy train, and starting accuracy training early helps reinforce it throughout the evolution of your play.
Although it might be unnecessary to learn pattern names early on, it is important to familiarize yourself with many different patterns. Avoiding maps in your difficulty range because of unfamiliar patterns is a very harmful habit, and one that I have personally had to struggle against. The best advice to give here in my opinion is remain persistent and actively thinking. When you make a mistake, you should be able to recall what pattern(s) specifically caused trouble; this allows you to hone those specific patterns, which will make harder patterns and maps significantly easier in the long run. If your goal is to be competitive in your play, this is where you should start.
A very common issue to overcome for beginning rhythm game players is tensing. When we become overly tense to meet faster speeds and complex patterns, it can be hard to relax again (especially mid-play). The solution for this is experience and introspection: recognize when you are tensing, and work towards being able to relax and move smoothly even after tensing.
Tensing is not an inherently bad thing, either; it can be very useful when you meet new patterns or are pushing your speed boundary. The key is to manage and balance it.
Intermediate (10.00 – 20.00)
At this point of play, you should have a pretty consistently high accuracy in the maps you play and good familiarity with most simple patterns. Maps that burgeon into the 10+ difficulty range don’t tend to have significantly harder patterns, but rather gain difficulty from note density and speed.
This is around the time you should start really considering note-speed settings; although it will change and likely increase over time, it will generally be in a similar range. Making sure this is configured to your ideal sooner rather than later is good for building muscle memory and reading skill.
There isn’t really an “ideal” when it comes to note speed because of the many individualized facets of perception. Play with the settings until you get to a speed that is not slow but is still comfortable.
In my personal experience, this was the difficulty range where I started experiencing flow state. Understanding flow state is crucial for any modern rhythm gamer. Making proper use of it will give you more frequent “holy hell I actually just set that score” moments, and will help accelerate your growth. This is more of a personal journey than anything else, so take your time and do not fear stumbling or misunderstanding. Nobody can tell you the exact recipe for flow; just the ideal conditions.
Find maps that challenge you without overwhelming you, and it will come with time.
The final and most important piece of advice that I can stress for an intermediate player is VARIETY. Experience many different maps, speeds, and patterns. That experience will be very useful in the 20+ difficulty ranges, and may even be the difference between hitting a plateau and continuing to grow.
Advanced (20.00 – 30.00)
This is just under the range that I myself am currently at; consider this advice from a peer rather than a mentor.
One of the most frequent issues I’ve experienced at this difficulty range is stamina and physical pain. If you start experiencing numbness or “pins and needles” in your wrists or fingers, I recommend taking a short break and practicing some wrist stretches. You can find many good resources on different stretches online, but I personally do these two;
While keeping your arm straight, ball your hand into a fist with your fingers towards the ground. Then pull your hand inwards, maintaining the fist. You should feel a tense pulling sensation, and it is generally very uncomfortable when you first begin the stretch. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds, and do it on both wrists.
While keeping your arm straight, open your hand into a “flat” position and face your palm away from you, fingers pointed upwards. Use your other hand to pull the open hand towards you. Make sure to pull mostly on the palm rather than the fingers. Hold this for 20-30 seconds, on both wrists.
I generally do both of these stretches twice per wrist and then give them a 1-2 minute rest period before playing. This will help avoid injury and reduce strain, and personally seems to increase my stamina by merit of efficiency.
This is around the difficulty that I started focusing on lighter tapping; the lighter your tap, the faster you can tap. I have no proper advice for this outside of practice.
The Plateau (Early to Mid 30 Range)
I won’t say this will happen to everyone, but it happened to me. This advice will be mostly applicable for anyone that is suffering from a skill plateau, regardless of difficulty range. However, there will be advice geared towards people in this difficulty range.
The major reason for my skill plateau was physicality. I struggled (and still do to an extent) with maintaining the speed necessary for maps around this difficulty range, and trying to force myself in practice ended up inhibiting my growth. Reading fast and complex patterns itself is not where I struggle, and I can read maps that are significantly faster than I am actually capable of playing. This may differ, but I will try to provide advice for several different experiences and issues.
Stamina/physical strain: Ensure you are practicing at least the stretches I mentioned at the end of the last section. More is not necessarily always better, but exploring and diversifying your understanding is always beneficial. Practice maps geared towards stamina, and do not be afraid to go back to lower difficulties. Playing maps that are harder than you can realistically handle until you are able to handle them can lead to bad habits and harm to growth.
Reading/visual strain: While the majority of reading comes from practice, there are things that can negatively influence the ability to read and heighten sensitivity to visual strain. Make sure to remain hydrated and well rested when playing, and do not be afraid to simply watch plays or view the automatic play for maps (especially ones that are faster or more complex). Eye placement is very important. Some players prefer closer to the bottom, others prefer the center of the track, some are crazy enough that they can look at the top. What matters most is that you find what is comfortable for you and make it consistent.
Pacing/mental strain: This might sound like a weird issue to have, but I’ve heard that people suffer from it and would like to address it. If you are getting overstimulated or overwhelmed, there are plenty of settings to tinker with, such as note speed/background dim/leaderboard in-game (toggle with tab) etc. The best solution in my mind has always been to take a break and come back when you are feeling motivated and rested. Rhythm games are intensive, and trying to perform well when you are stressed is counterproductive.
This is where I am basically just shouting conjecture, because I am still not at this level of difficulty. I think an outsider can always provide valuable advice for experts though, so I’d like to do my best to try and push the crackheads of the community even further into their godhood.
The higher difficulties are where I’ve found the most use out of slowing maps down. If a map is just outside of your difficulty range (or maybe even one that is pretty far out) mostly because of speed, it can be beneficial to give it a run or two slowed to a pace that you can comfortably meet. This also gives the opportunity for experiencing more complex patterns when pushing into new digits.
It is important not to do this too frequently IMO, as there is definitely the risk of forming bad habits with things like speed mods. It is mostly negated as long as it is approached with care.
I’ve found that after reaching higher difficulties I begin to get complacent and seek to complete maps of higher difficulty, even at the cost of accuracy and consistency. I’m sure many people do not need this advice, but for anyone who is like me; keep an eye on your accuracy and ratio. Beating a harder map is not worth making a bad habit for! Look to improve steadily rather than quickly, and relish even the smallest victories!
Here’s the TL;DR for anyone who thinks I’m long-winded and annoying:
Hydrate, rest, do stretches (basics). Stick to positive self-encouragement rather than constant berating (although inner competition is good too!). Explore different styles, play with your settings, and make sure you do not play for too long at once. For every hour of play, you should have at least a 15 minute break.
Thank you for reading this guide. It’s my first real attempt at making a guide, so I hope it is of value to anyone looking to step up their competitive game! The advice I’ve given here is not entirely restricted to rhythm games either. Feel free to take a little bit of my experience’s wisdom and adapt it to suit yourself.
All in all, I hope to see everyone improve, and I hope that everyone will help me improve as well.