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A few questions from another beginner

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Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 4
Topic starter  

Firstly, I'd like to thank all of you who participate in this board, as I've been sifting through the forum so often it didn't even dawn on me until I decided to post this that I wasn't registered yet.

Where I am:
I'm fairly satisfied with the progress I've made so far (despite how haphazard it's been until recently when I stumbled across GN and David Hodge's article on balance and started directing my energies a bit more intelligently), through a few really intimidating and a few overly laid back videos and probably a hundred articles, I've got to a point where I feel confident that I'll walk away from practice sessions with something under my belt (even if I don't realize it right away).

My questions:
1. How does one go about setting an overall "goal" (answering that question 'what do you want to get out of the guitar'). I don't have those "I want to play like <insert name here>" ideas, but I enjoy picking up a guitar and having a general idea what to do with it. That said, I still don't have an overall goal towards it all. Is this common to everyone (I understand that this is a sort of philosophical question which will have a different answer for everyone).

2. I've come to understand based on what I've read here so far, that generally learning a song is a good method for keeping someone new to guitar motivated, is this necessary early on if the individual maintains their motivation without it (essentially, if I'm motivated just working with learning chords -or like recently, I've been somewhat sidetracked by the pentatonic scale articles and have started practicing these to take a break from chords which has really helped keep me more enthusiastic lately about practicing).

3. Is it more difficult to play a song if you only really start attempting a month or two down the line.

..oh, and one last one. I practice on a miscellaneous electric I picked up on ebay a bit ago (I'm aware that somewhere down the line when I'm able, it would be to my benefit to upgrade but for the moment, I have this, a pretty crappy portable batery powered amp and cash flow issues preventing any upgrades or lessons at the moment) so I practice unplugged in a relatively quiet room most of the time. Should this greatly affect the sound of the chords I'm practicing and should I play with the amp (it's a 1.5 watt with a belt clip if that helps give you an idea of how limited it is). I don't notice a great difference in the sound with it, although I do notice it has a slight oversensitivity to everything - which is why I practice unplugged hoping to keep from developing sloppy form reliant on the amp.


Uh...that's not premature enlightenment... it's asbestos.

Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 1024

Hey Dog,

First off..........WELCOME!!! Glad you decided to register and Post! This place is great and the people here are just awesome. I can't believe how cool the folks on this forum are. Its a great community for sure.

To answer your first question:
When I started guitar I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about guitar, except that it had 6/12 strings, made of wood etc.
For me, I knew what I didn't want. No offense to anyone, but what I didn't and still don't want is to play someone else's songs "Perfectly" so's to be some star in a "Cover Band". Now stay with me and don't jump to any conclusions too soon.

My main goal at the time was to become 'competent' with the instrument to be able to make my own music. I still have this goal and work towards it little by little everyday.

Keeping my goal in mind I knew I had to learn the basics. First by identifying them, then gaining some mastery of them.
So that meant, learning the parts of the guitar, different types of guitars, and the different equipment. Things like, what does "Gain" and "Reverb" mean all mattered to me as basics. Of course, learning different finger excersises, (which I still practice today, almost 5 years later), all the open chords, major, minor, sevenths, etc. Switching between those given chords smoothly and quickly..... I still struggle sometimes when learning new songs.

At the same time I wanted to learn, at least the basics, of music/guitar theory.

Now, what I said before and what others have said before, the whole point is learning songs. You can learn a ton from learning others people's music, enough to beg, borrow and use for your own creative projects for sure.

That brings me to your second question:

Yes, it does. Learning songs, and getting better at them definetly helps motivate.

And remember this, you may very well play the songs you learn now for the rest of your life. And each time you play them, they get better and better, they might not be perfect every time, but they'll certainly help you understand as you move forward with your knowledge. One of my examples with this... I love, love love Led Zep!! Always have, always will.

I wanted to learn as many of Jimmy Pages Riffs as I could and I did. However I didn't really understand what I was doing. I learned the patterns of notes, got them down and was Stoked!! When I learned the riffs to Black Dog I kept playing them over and over and over.. then when I really learned about the Pent scale I was floored. A light went on for me. :)

Question Number 3:
It gets easier. Your capabilities with the instrument improve over time. You may not be able to play the lead parts, but you'll be able to jump from that D chord to the C chord much easier as time goes on.

In the end and this is for me and what kept me going during many weeks of frustration I kept telling myself that learning Guitar is a Process. Not an Event!! It takes time, a lot of time especially when life happens.

Play what you love and love what you play. Its better to play it slow and right, than fast and wrong. :)

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. - Wernher Von Braun (1912-1977)

Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 74

Great great advice! It's funny i had been wondering myself what my overall goal was for my guitar playing, but you summed up what i wanted to do perfectly, be competent and comfortable with the instrument and to make my own music the way i want to hear it

thanks for such an inspiring post!

"We all have always shared a common belief that music is meant to be played as loud as possible, really raw and raunchy, and I'll punch out anyone who doesn't like it the way I do." -Bon Scott

Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2241

Welcome to the forums, hope you continue to get as much out of it (and playing guitar) as possible. :D

As a quick response, (I might add more later), not learning songs is fine if you're happy doing that and don't want to jam with other musicians straight away. I was fortunate that my dad played guitar and taught me a fair bit of finger picking stuff when I started, but I spent a good deal of my early time just learning chords and messing around with formative 'songs' of my own devise. Years later, having got more serious, and having wanted to jam with other muso's I can honestly say it hasn't held meback, and has possibly given me a laissez-faire approach to doing covers (i.e. it doesn't have to be note-for-note the same as the original) which other muso's who learned songs from the start sometimes lack.

Not learning a song until a month or two down the line is, however, detrimental to your playing that song. I do that all the time. Like, gee I really wish I could play Jeff Beck's Brush With The Blues....then not trying to learn it for a month or two - after that time passes I still can't play it. :wink:

As for playing electric guitars without amps, I do this all the time with my beloved strat. As much as I enjoy cranking my amp up, and I shall deffo be doing more of this when my new amp comes, I strongly urge electric guitarists to spend at least some of their time playing their electrics unplugged - you develop much better tone and general control with your fingers, and I'm sure this is a major factor in my playing when people compliment its expressiveness. With amps, esp. loud amps, players can often forget/neglect this skill - playing unplugged lets you work on dynamics, vibrato, etc, etc. That said, ppl lke Jeff Beck also use their guitars/amps tone and volume controls (and whammy bars) to great expressive effect too, so 'ideally' (i.e. for a gigging muso or someone who wants to be 'the best' or whatever) a healthy/regular combination of plugged and unplugged practise is IMO essential (as is a combination of playing with a plectrum and without a plectrum), but starting your electric guitar playing unplugged should stand you in good stead.

hope this helps, I look forward to hearing how you progress. :)

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3709

Welcome to Guitar Noise Dog! Sounds to me like you are definitely headed in the right direction. All good advice above. My only advice is to keep it fun and you will be fine. 8)

"Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard,
grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
-- The Webb Wilder Credo --

Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 1024

Not learning a song until a month or two down the line is, however, detrimental to your playing that song. I do that all the time. Like, gee I really wish I could play Jeff Beck's Brush With The Blues....then not trying to learn it for a month or two - after that time passes I still can't play it. :wink:

The only problem with this is choosing a song that's too 'advanced' for a beginner and the beginner doesn't know any better so they ultimately fail to learn song and get discouraged and worse yet, but the guitar down forever.

Take Voodoo Chile or Pride and Joy as an example. Those songs are so hard!

As a beginner, these songs are like trying to run a 100m hurdle race after only a month of crawling and a month later learning how to walk. Using this metaphor, I'd suggest, learning how to walk and in all directions, forward, backward side to side, then faster, till they can run, side, then learn how to walk up and down stairs, then run up and down stairs. Then run up and down stairs skipping every other step...etc.

Make sense?

But, there are thousands of songs one could play with two/three chords. Hell most of the popular rock songs are three chord songs. Nothing too fancy.

Who said it? "Give me two chords and the truth". Was it Dylan?

Cheers :)

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. - Wernher Von Braun (1912-1977)

Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 493

well said Dagwood.....

ALL practice is good practice....the secret to playing is to remember to keep it fun...enjoy the process of learning...accept the 'failures' as part and parcel of that learning the first year there is truly no such thing as an easy song!!

every month or so you will experience a revelation...your goals will change WILL discover new musical styles you can use...all music will inspire you in some way

enjoy the learning process to the full and never lose heart...we have all been there i'm sure

play for you,play to your own needs,play to express yourself

win win win!!!!!!

what did the drummer get on his I.Q. test?....


Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 4
Topic starter  

I'd like to thank you all for your input.

I knew I wanted competence with the guitar, but I didn't (and still don't) really know what level I'm looking to achieve so I figured I'd reached an incomplete answer.

Also, I see the point behind learning songs now, after the advice, I decided to try one or two and found my strumming needs work (Ironically enough I found that new thread on that particular subject and I'm looking around the forum for more tips on it - and more ironically still, looking in on that laid back dvd again ..glad it's still useful). Good thing I found this out now rather than later, I feel like I'm relearning the chord formations I already had down now.

Still practicing unplugged mostly, but I'm making the effort to plug into the cheap-O amp now and then for balance) and I'm still practicing those pentatonic scales.

Thanks again for the help everybody.

Uh...that's not premature enlightenment... it's asbestos.

Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 168

I was like you, I spent probably the first month practicing chords, then chord changes, and some scales, all without even thinking of learning songs.

My overall goal was to learn well enough to compose my own songs, or rather to use the guitar in my own songs - I was already composing them with synthesizers and a computer. On top of that I didn't even like most guitar-based music, so learning how to play "Knocking on Heaven's Door" around the campfire was never my intention.

HOWEVER... I thought I knew chord changes, but the minute I tried to play some simple songs I realized I hadn't practiced changing chords exactly at the right time and with a good sound. When I started lessons my teacher wanted me to learn some songs and I put up with it despite not liking the songs much and not wanting to perform covers, because I figured each song was a way to practice particular chord changes and strumming. I really got much, much better when I started practicing songs.

And now, I've found that I actually enjoy sitting down and playing someone else's song... and I find myself enjoying songs I never thought I would. Even "Knocking on Heaven's Door."

I still look at each song as a new list of practice exercises. I started on "Snow (Hey oh)" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers last week - I didn't like the song much, but it looked like great practice for hammer-ons, pull-offs, and speed. And now it's a week later and I love the song. Go figure...

As for playing unplugged, I do it on my Stratocaster all the time, and I recommend it - it's a great way to make sure you focus on playing the notes cleanly rather than worrying about a particular "tone". The only potential problem is that you may not hear all of your mistakes - when I plugged it in for the first time in a while I realized I was making some scratching noises with the strings, accidentally hitting other strings, etc. So do use an amp every now and then just to make sure you can sound good on an amp.