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Learning Progression

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Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5480

All great advice, I'll add that if you are into instructional materials, I'd suggest "Blues You Can Use"...I think its a great resource and the lessons are presented very well. Good luck and enjoy the ride.

Yeah man, +1 ! I'm doing week 2 right now after a couple week break from barre chords.

"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin

Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 3454

Assuming you get those lessons under your belt without giving up in frustration, as a beginner your are asking the question "what next?".

Great question, and I'll add another +1 to Ignar's answer.

Apart from one great teacher who I had a few lessons from right at the start (he was used to teaching kids and had a ton of relaxed patience) I've found that lessons mostly didn't really get me enthusiastic. I've found that the only important thing for me was to dive in to whatever keeps me motivated, and that can be anything at all on any given day. It's largely a 'leap of faith' in whatever direction grabs me at the time. This might sound like a recipe for dabbling disaster, but it works for me. :) Treating music like a series of pre-organised steps that plodded slowly up a ladder of scores, exercises or songs that got harder and harder would drive me nuts.

But whatever, I do, the focus is always on making things 'musical', trying to develop the 'touch and timing' that breathes life into the noises. When I first started out, I'd grimly plod through the book trying to master an entire 'real' song, or do something exactly as it was written, one note after the other.... Now I just go for whatever gets me interested. These days it might well be learning a song, but I still get more interest and satisfaction from making a few notes really 'sing' or 'rock', or finding out how to colour up a chord progression, than from just being able to memorise a bunch of stuff in a long line off a score. Aim for the higher ground by all means, but I reckon that if you can't have fun breathing life into three or four notes, and turning the dots into emotions, then you're going too fast, or in the wrong direction. The first year is pretty tough, and I'm sure we all try and rush it - I know I did - but now I can get a huge amount of pleasure out of nailing just 3 or 4 notes, or a simple chord change in a way that has the 'music' in it...

...Gawd, that sounds like a load of old codswallop... I wish I knew how to say it properly... but there's a tendency as a beginner to be in a big rush to get "somewhere' and miss what's always there for the taking right now.... Maybe it only works in hindsight... :roll:

Have fun anyway,


Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 44
Topic starter  

( I think it was the Land Shark) And thats fine, as long as you dont break down the door and announce "Nooooo-one expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

I was thinking about this yesterday, and Ive come to the same conclusion as Minotaur: I want to play music, dammit! And not get bogged down in what I "need" to learn. I'll learn things as I find a need for them. Whats the saying? "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear"?

So yes, I think I got the answer I needed; maybe not the one I was looking for, but the one I needed to hear 8)

Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 3454

I was thinking about this yesterday, and Ive come to the same conclusion as Minotaur: I want to play music, dammit! And not get bogged down in what I "need" to learn. I'll learn things as I find a need for them.


We were having a similar discussion on a piano forum yesterday, about the pros and cons of following tradional teaching courses. Somebody said this, which I thought was worth repeating:
There's a lot to learn from tradition, but you don't have to follow it off a bridge, know what I mean?

Pretty much nails it for me. I like acquiring new knowledge - in fact I absolutely love it - but I don't much like 'lessons' if that means plodding along a set path or grinding through a curriculum, page by page.

So I go it alone much of the time. But this does have a problem - when you don't know much about a topic, you don't always even know what it is that you don't know either! In other words, if I know that I should learn a scale then I can go and learn it, but what if I don't don't know how or why they're useful? Or if I buy a book that lists 60 or more scales, but gives no idea of which ones I'm likely to actually use (I have just such a book).

I mostly get my 'teachers' from books, and among friends who play, and from my own ability to experiment, but every now and then I put the short pants and cap back on and go back to school for a wee while. Not usually long, but just enough to get another angle on something.. :D


Famed Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4459

Personally for me and everyone is different I want(ed) to be able to play songs with other people. I never envisioned myself sitting around strumming an acoustic guitar at a campfire that's not what I like but I do like playing rock n roll on an electric guitar, so my lessons with my teacher are really him tabbing out songs.

Some would say that what I am doing is expanding horizonally rather than vertically but it's all good. The reality for me is that if I want to play with a bunch of different musicians I better know a lot of songs or else be dam good at improving anything. While the former takes time I thik the later takes much more skill so I've stuck with "learn as many songs as I can" mode for now while I work on improving my improv skills.

That has led me to form a quasy band and forced me to learn alot more songs than I would have on my own and since we have a lead guitarist who's been playing about 25 years longer than me there's not alot of places to improv but that's OK with me.

So I guess I agree with Ignar, figure out what you don't know but want to know and go after it. Simple...Ha

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!

Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 7

I think people over-complicate things like this. It simply, IMHO, boils down to this: what can't you do that you wish you could? Answer that and you'll know what to do. All the things you mentioned must be learned one day or the other so just pick one. Play a scale over a metronome while saying the names of the notes out loud. Then get a backing track, or play on your own with that scale. Try bare-chords, fingerpicking, whatever. Just do it.

So you want to play Voodoo Chile? Get the tab and play it. Sure, it might take a week before the first five notes sound well but who cares. Once you're done with it you'll find yourself being much better able to quickly learn songs you never dared to try before. Every next step is going to be tough, and if it ain't tough it ain't the next step. Get an instruction book with cd on whatever topic you like and do every excercise in it. Keep on reaching for higher branches and soon you'll be way up in the tree.

Man that was the best answer ive heard regarding this question. Us beginners do over complicate things and Ive been looking for the answer that you just provided- thanks

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