Another "Where do I go from here?" Thread
As you can tell, I'm a relatively new member here. I just introduced myself in the "Beginner's videos" thread last night, and now I'm delving even deeper in to the Guitar Noise community by posting my first thread. The title already gave away the main purpose of the topic, but let me start by giving you some background on myself as a "guitarist" (I still feel I'm far from the point where I can use that term about myself without the apostrophes!)
I first touched a guitar in my early teens, and I learned a couple of the basic open chords, but I pretty much left it behind as other things stole my attention. I think it was around the time I turned 18 or so, shortly after becoming a fantical listener of music, that my interest in playing the guitar was rekindled. It was always the instrument that fascinated me the most, so it was only natural that the guitar stood out as the obvious solution to this restless feeling of bottled up music and even creativity inside of me. But alas, as many others I fell in the trap of thinking "well, it's never gonna happen," until one day my father (who happens to be a relatively seasoned guitarist) gave me one of his old guitars in hope that I would finally share his passion.
Time went by and I eventually picked it up and started playing with it. I found some basic tutorials around the web, and I started to (re-)learn the basics. I was very on and off until a while back when I finally decided to get serious about it. To "reward" myself for this new-found dedication I also treated myself to a real gem of a guitar, as I really wanted an electric in addition to the acoustic steel-string that I've been playing with. (A Gibson Les Paul Studio Heritage Cherry Sunburst for those wondering!)
So, a few months later, here I am, about to ask for all of your advice on how I can further advance myself as a practitioner of the guitar. But first I suppose I should explain where I am right now! This entire story has guided me all the way up to a level which, in the ultimate guide to learning how to play the guitar on Ultimate-Guitar.com, is the second chapter of the first bulk of sections "For Beginners." Basically, I have a firm grip of most of the common open chords, and I'm steadily working on becoming "proficient" with the barre chords. I now practice as good as every day, and after a good month or two I finally feel that every day I'm getting that much closer to the point where I can actually play songs that make use of these without interrupting the rhythm and flow of the song. What a great feeling!
And that brings me to the point of this topic. Where do I go next? I remember as I came to the point of switching between the open chords and learned to play a few songs, I plateaued and became unspired. It took way to long before I started to pick up the guitar on a regular basis again and decided to work on the barres. Hopefully I will, with help from all of you great guitarists out there, be able to avoid this that time around! I'm as motivated as ever to keep going and improving myself, but I just need a sense of direction to keep that up.
Now, I have a few ideas myself obviously. These days I'm working on playing with a pick (I still for the life of my can't seem to hold it in place without utilizing the grip of death on it!) I'm also still having a hard time playing a lot of songs, even though I can handle the chords, mostly because I struggle with strumming patterns. I've become accustomed to songs that center around a D-DU-UDU pattern, and I don't have a whole lot else in my arsenal. A problem closely related is that even if I can get my head around the song and even the basic strumming pattern, it's still very much a "campfire" version. Many songs, especially in the indie rock / folk genres that I listen to (English virtuoso Johnny Flynn is my latest musical infatuation) and would eventually like to learn use far more sophisticated strumming patterns than what I'm anywhere near mastering.
So, how do you all suggest I approach this problem? To summarize, learn new strumming patterns, hybrid patterns between strumming and fingerpicking, as well as traditional fingerpicking patterns. What would you say are the best / most practical guides and methods of training for this out there? Websites, free or paid, books, DVDs whatever! If you've tried it, and it helped you, please throw it out there.
I've also just barely dipped my toe in the lake of scales. Right now I'm practicing on the A minor pentatonic scale, but I think the major issue right here is that I have no clue what that even means. From what I can fathom it essentially means that all the notes in this scale sounds good with songs that are played in the key of A minor, right? Well, I have no clue how to deduct whether or not a song is played in A minor. Which leads me to the next on my list of planned things to do. I really think my lack of understanding of musical theory is a handicap for me when it comes to learning to play, and as my general interest in music is probably a bit beyond average, I am actually quite interested in learning more about musical theory. Unfortunately, I've no idea where to start.
And that's the second question then, obviously. What resources would you suggest for learning basic music theory, preferably that would also help me as a guitarist? I'm pretty much open for anything here as well, but I think books would be most interesting here, as I can see myself indulging myself in these things on the bed or the couch or whatever when I'm a bit bored!
Apart from that I don't have any other specific thoughts and ideas on how to improve my playing, but I'm definitely open to any suggestions from you guys if anything springs to your minds as obvious steps I should take from here!
So to anyone who can be bothered to read, even if you don't have any feedback to give, thanks a lot! And to all of you who just skipped down and are thinking tl;dr, just read the bolded parts if you still want to help me out
And if you could pull that rope just a little higher, we could dangle alone like a firefly.
Hi Lars-C, and welcome to GN!
In answer to your first question, all I can advise is learn some songs from different genres. Try some Dylan songs, some Stones songs, some songs that are personal faves of yours - then try some 60's pop music, some 70's rock music and so on....watch them on youtube, try and see what the guitarist is doing. I got better at strumming by playing along with CDs - put some headphones on, and try and feel your way into the strumming patterns. That's how I learned songs like Pinball Wizard and Lawyers, Guns and Money - feel your way into the music, listen to the music, and play along.
To the second question; look at the profile of a guy on this site called Noteboat, he's written a book called "Music Theory For Guitarists." I'm pretty sure there's a link to his book there somewhere - or try typing "Tom Serb" in Amazon. I can not remember how many times this guy's helped me out with something I've found difficult to understand....take a look at the Music Theory forum, see how many times he's answered questions on there. Now he runs an ever-expanding music school....
Doubtless, others will add to this advice....
:D :D :D
"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)
The NoteBoat's book is a very good recommendation. I didn't receive the new David Hodge's book on rock guitar yet but after reading his bass book (one of my favorites and not only for bass also for general theory) I am pretty sure it will be very good, too.
I always try to use instruction books rather than dvd. I understand much better the written English than the spoken English but the info in a book is also different to the info in a video. A good instruction book is a good thing, you can learn a lot and always you can ask here if you get in troubles. A good book usually shows the information very well structured, the author had to define a goals and a plan to achieve them.
Try to find a good instruction book that is interesting for you according your musical tastes. I usually read the comments in sites like Amazon but also I read the recommendations in the forums and also the main site.
By the way, the lessons and articles on theory in the main site are also very interesting. You could read them, there is many information there and they help a lot.
You said you are practicing minor pentatonic scales. That is the first step to work on solos. Although perhaps the blues isn't your favorite style it shares the basics with other musical styles. The book Blues You Can Use by John Ganapes is surely the best book on blues. I remember several members studied that book (me included). That book teaches pentatonic scales and how to use them but also many progressions (different chord voices on the classic 12 blues bars) and several studies for improving your technique.
You also said fingerpicking. Here there are many members that can recommend much better than myself. I used a couple of books by Mark Hanson (Beyond Basics and Christmas Songs).
IMHO the most important is you must define your goal. Where do you want to go? What do you want to play? Books work for me but others can recommend another approach, for example, a teachers. It is good, too, and probably you'd improve faster and studying alone.
I'll post my two-pennies since I feel I broke through the plateau you're at a while ago. Heres a bit of a breakdown of my learning:
1. Got the guitar and learned the basic chords so after a week I could play "Three Little Birds".
2. Struggled with strumming, very uneven and I often dug in way too deep and lost the pick!
3. Learned almost all of "Sweet Child O Mine", in a very plinky plonky way due to the space between the notes being longer than the notes themselves :) But you can't practice what you don't have under your fingers right?
4. Learned a bit of fingerpicking, focusing on "Anybody Out There" by Pink Floyd. This was immensely satisfying, simple, yet still difficult to pull off as I wanted. This became my warm up/practice/cant think of anything else to play song lol.
5. Struggled with Barre chords because a lot of cool songs would have the Bm or F in them. I strummed along to many a tune while trying to bring those barres up to a decent speed.
I found Jack Johnsons music to be perfect for practicing these, especially Banana Pancakes (cool song solo). Practicing real songs highlighted the fact that the F barre at the 1st fret is really the only obstacle. Anywhere else is very easy.
Even now if I have to rely on an F chord in a fingerpicked song, I'll often use a capo and play the song in a higher pitch thats easier on the fingers, but still using Barres. This mightn't be possible in a band situation, but for solo its fine.
6. After a year or so of Barres with between 5 and 18 hours a week practice, I'm pretty confident with them. I play more fluently when theres no tension, and that means knowing every part and movement I need to make without having to think about it. Going with the flow if you like. This mostly shows up when I first pick up the guitar, and I have to warm up before I get to that loose place in my head.
7. I took some lessons at the beginning of the learning process, and chucked them in after a while because I was making progress too fast and the guy was a good player but not a good teacher. I then took lessons for about 12 weeks or so and found that I was flustered and non-enthusiastic about the material I was getting, and since I felt it was getting in the way rather than helping, I stopped them again. Different people will have a different experience, and I guess when the plateaus are very long then I will take a few more lessons.
8. I picked up Justins Blues DVDs and have learned a couple of songs from there that helped me loosen up and gain independance for my thumb. I was interested in this style because of its apparent simplicity, but also due to its call-response style which fits with a solo player.
9. Now I'm focused on fingerpicking as I was in a rut for 3+ months where all I did was play what I already knew. I was actively looking for songs to learn, knowing how much time was needed to get it sounding cool I didn't want to learn something I'd get bored of quicly. The fingerpicking has brought my out of my plateau, and given me some new enthusiasm.
Books Vs. DVDs
I bought a shedload of DVDs, mainly Guns N Roses/Pink Floyd/Bon Jovi Lick Libraries. I used these to get a few songs under my fingers, and to triple check I wasn't doing something terribly wrong. This early self-learning was invaluable to gain confidence and some material to play with, but ultimately I find DVDs to be a bit too formal. What I mean by that is I have to take over my living room or use a laptop and then sit and pause, rewind etc. and it just breaks the flow of what I'm doing.
Since I found Jack Johnsons - In Between Dreams songbook, I've never looked back. I've learned 7 or so of the songs, not quite to performance level, but good enough for me to pick and choose my playlist. I also find the books very easy to use, as long as it has both tab and standard notation (for the rhythmn and timing). Now I can take my practicing on the road.
I'm now a couple of songs into a Disney Fingerstyle which I've been enjoying immensely, and although its not that 'cool', fingerpicking still raises a few eyebrows and everyone will know the tunes. :)
Finally I'm onto 'Pirates of the Caribean' and am having to rewrite the tab I got from the arranger as its just plain wrong in places, and cross reference that with what the arranger/Sungha Jung plays on You Tube. I'm very please with the last months progress, and when I'm next in a rut, I'll switch to another area of guitar completely (lead playing, rhythmn, slide, blues).
Summary: Find some barre chord songs and play the heck out of them. If you struggle with the F chord, stick a capo on and play it higher up where theres less tension. Take what you can from DVD's and Youtube lessons, but try and get some books you can work from as the content is much better thought out before printing.
First, thanks for the responses to all three of you! I mistakenly thought I had marked off the notify me-button when I posted this thread, so I thought there'd been no responses at all yet, until I just ventured back here to read some of the magnificent threads and saw that I was obviously wrong.
Things have been quite busy lately, as I'm moving around a bit and just about to settle down in a new apartment next week, so unfortunately I've unable to practice much the past week. Excuses, eh? Anyways, still motivated, and I'll hopefully be making a Phoenix-like comeback in the coming weeks as the whole moving ordeal is out of the way!
Vic: Great suggestions. I will be trying to expand my repertoire of songs in the next week, and in particular learn all sorts of different songs from various genres and styles. I just discovered the "Easy songs to play" topic in another section here, and that seems like a great place to start! In fact that finally let me find a song I've always wanted to play: "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" by Smokey Robinson. Even after just one night of practice I think I'm starting to get that intro down, yay!
And that book sounds perfect, I will definitely be ordering it and see if I can make something of it!
Nuno: Hi again, indeed :D I assume you're referring to the Complete Idiot's Guide to Playing Rock Guitar? It's now officially on my wish list, and shall be part of my first batch order of guitar books! And it's interesting that you should say the blues, because even though I didn't actually mention it, I would very much like to venture into the blues domain of guitar playing, so I've noted down the Blues You Can Use book as well.
As for the lessons on here, yes, they're great! I actually started out back when I first lifted the guitar (again) by following the lessons and learning a few songs from them (Stones - As Tears Go By and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd), so I was very sad to see that they had been butchered by the RIAA or whoever. They were certifiably great, in the were they were structured particularly.
Kroikey: Thanks for the breakdown of your "career." I think I'm basically following suit, except I've skipped a few of the steps along the way and gone straight to the barre part. Like I mentioned I think I'm pretty close to "nailing" them as I can more or less play songs that include them. Still struggling with switching to and from a couple of the opens to barres, but the barres themselves really aren't much of a problem anymore. And, thanks to Conor Oberst and a particular Bright Eyes song I wanted to learn, I pretty much started out with the hardest (F), and tried and tried and tried until I more or less got it. After that, doing it higher up came pretty quickly indeed. I'll keep at it though, all the way until I have it perfect!
And thanks a lot for the tip on the Jack Johnson songbook! I never knew it existed, but I've been practicing a bit on playing Sitting, Waiting, Wishing for a while. Still don't have the strumming down to a tee, but I'll definitely be including that book once I make an order!
So to summarize, thanks for all your great suggestions. My next step will be to order some books (that y'all suggested) once my student scholarship arrives. We're supposed to use it to buy books, so it's OK ;) Apart from that I think I'll be staying with online videos for now, because the feedback on DVDs seems to pretty much confirm what I suspected about them!
And if you could pull that rope just a little higher, we could dangle alone like a firefly.
I assume you're referring to the Complete Idiot's Guide to Playing Rock Guitar?
Yes, that book. David announced that his new book will be available on October. I think it is for absolute beginners but I will buy because I always learn something new when I read a text by him.
I forgot it. And stay here, you can learn a lot in those forums. I did it!
Well the moving took a lot longer than expected, so I've been floating around like a drifter these past couple of weeks. Been hard to play with my guitars without actually having them at hand most of the time, but I've been grabbing them when I had the chance. My latest endeavour has been to try and learn Simon & Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence, with the fingerpicking and all. So far I have the right hand more or less nailed down, but still not there in terms of switching between the chords and put them together in other to make it sound like the song. Oh well, it'll come!
Anyways, I just recently went ahead and ordered a couple of the books I've been looking at. Ended up going with two of the ones I mentioned for the first order, Blues You Can Use and Music Theory for Guitarists. Just waiting for them to arrive at this time, which pretty much takes forever with international orders on Amazon.com.
Other than that, I'm finally settled down in my new appartment, I've got my gear placed exactly the way I want it and all is good for me to keep practicing. I'll keep you updated, and maybe even post a video if I nail any more songs :D And of course, I'll be popping by to ask any questions I might have, and continuously lurking around just to try and learn whatever I can!
And if you could pull that rope just a little higher, we could dangle alone like a firefly.
Sounds good mate, I hope you continue to make good progress. I'm still enjoying fingerpicking and have added Alone by Heart to my playlist. It was really easy to learn and only took a few hours practice to get it all down.