Tip: Building Blocks

This tip has to do with a key aspect of learning, enjoying and understanding guitar that I think is mostly absent from both schools and private studios. Here’s a parable to illustrate that missing aspect.

A child brings a drawing he’s made to his mom.

“That’s lovely, honey,” she says.

“Mom, that’s what you said about the last eight drawings I brought to you, even though they all look the same! I’m bored with drawing because I don’tknow what else to draw.”

Well, it turns out that Mom knows a little something about drawing. She can memory sketch a Taj Mahal so real it makes you take off your shoes. But some of the walls of her house still have holes she punched, in her frustration over drawing a simple drinking glass.

“Son of mine, try this,” she says. “Here’s a cube, and here’s a simple man made with a cube. Here’s a house made with a cube. Sure beats stick figures, doesn’t it?”

“Cool!” says the boy.

“It’s cool, it’s fun and it’s easy. But, with a little time, you’ll learn to render any subject you want from cubes like this. What can you make with it?”

And off the boy goes, depicting the family’s Lhasa Apso, the philodendron, and the “˜68 VW Beetle in cubes. Mom actually recognizes some of what he’s cubing together, but that misses the point, which is this:

The kid digs drawing again and has a great approach to understand how drawing works. And, the more he understands, the more he digs drawing. If this isn’t a positive feedback loop, nothing is.

You might be wondering at this point if you’ve mistakenly opened up the “Drawing.com” newsletter, so let’s bring this point home. If you want to enjoy and understand how to play guitar, start with “cubes” – building blocks. Arrange those blocks in a way you think is cool, and keep doing that. A great way to apply this idea is to learn the notes of the major scale just on one string and create your own melodies with them. Read a bit about how melodies work and make some more of your own.

Who do you think will understand and enjoy playing more – the gal or guy who plays nothing but the major scale, or the one who creates a new melody per day?

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2010 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – July 1, 2008 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.