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(@poorpetebest)
Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 38
Topic starter  

Hello, I'm kind of a lurker around these parts, but I had a breakthrough the other day and would like some input.

I've been playing on and off for about 3 years now and I've gotten to the point where I can learn and play songs to a point where I'm satisfied with how they sound. I've never had any lessons and I have progressed solely on learning songs that I like. I think I may have missed out on something in this approach however.

Over the weekend I took a short trip, packed the guitar, entertained some people around the campfire, and had myself a good ol' time. I also met up with some people and we had a jam session of sorts. Normally, I don't have time to play with other people so this was a rather new experience for me. And it turned out that these guys were damned good.

We took turns playing songs and it was then that my faults began to ring through. It seems that every time it was my turn, they had no trouble picking out the song, irregardless of whether it was something they had learned or not. They asked me for the key (which to my embarassment I was rarely able to provide them) and followed right along. When it was their turn, if I didn't know the song I would spend about half the tune trying to pick up the chords and changes by ear, sometimes not at all.

Don't get me wrong, the entire experience was fantastic and I had a lot of fun, but I was a bit disappointed to find that my playing was nowhere near as good as I thought. It has never occured to me that I could be able to grab the basics of a song without practicing it first.

For this to happen, they would have to either have really good ears or some sort of system in place for finding the pieces of each song, correct? I would really like to extend my playing to be able to something similar. Does anybody have any direction for me? I'm not quite sure where to start, however I think I need to start focusing a bit on music theory.


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(@racetruck1)
Honorable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 519
 

You have taken the first step, grasshopper!

Keep looking here and ask questions, try the lessons even if they seem too easy, the theory will come, slowly if you don't study it, quicker if you do.

I think everyone here has been in the position that you found yourself in. That's also how we learn. Jamming with other people will teach you a LOT. At the very least, you find out where you are weak.

But, wait a minute, you had fun!

Isn't this a great hobby or what? :D

I've been playing a long time and it is only recently that I'm getting a handle on keys and scales and such, Mainly from being a part of this community. Lotsa good stuff here!

When I die, I want to go peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming......
like the passengers in his car.


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(@blueline)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1705
 

I'll echo what racetruck said...
Its great to be able to jam with others even if you are the weakest player in the group. Don't be disappointed with yourself. As you get more experienced, you will be able to pick up chord progressions quicker. Move at your own pace. Don't compare yourself to others. It's a difficult thing not to do! I know! The only real thing that matters is that you are having fun. Playing around the campfire has GOT to be one of the best times you can have as a guitarist.

It sounds to me like you got into a comfort zone and did not leave it for some time. I guess I am wondering...how sophisticated were these songs that you could not pick up? What were they playing?

Teamwork- A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 10340
 

I've never had any lessons and I have progressed solely on learning songs that I like.

That sounds very much like my learning curve.....well that and the theory I've managed to pick up from here. Then a couple of years ago, I started going to an acoustic jam night in the local pub. I was a little overawed at first, but what I found out was that I could pick up a song fairly easily - hell, I've been listening to music all my life, so I knew 99% of the songs they played - just matter of picking up the key and the chords. Now I don't know an awful lot about keys and scales, but I soon picked up the knack of playing by ear, and watching other people's hands for the chord changes. One of the great things about playing with these guys, if there was a song I really couldn't fathom, and badly wanted to, one off them would walk me through it.

Another thing I learned was how to focus - I found out I could concentrate on the music completely. It's a lot different playing with other people than strumming by yourself - not only do you have to get the chords right, and possibly sing, but you have to keep time as well! I found, after couple of weeks, I could do this - I was almost lost in the music, where had the last couple of hours gone?

It's hard to explain - but put it this way, I know how Luke Skywalker felt when he mastered the force! Not that I'm a guitar master.....but I really felt my playing had stepped up to a completely new level. What playing with others had given me was:

Confidence in myself. Once I'd got the hang of just joining in a song at random, I'd start suggesting a few songs - and guess what, there was only a couple of us could play them. Nothing spectacular - songs like Wild Horses, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away, Proud Mary......most of the other songs were fairly simple 3-4 chorders. I'd start mixing things up - playing different rhythms.

Concentration. I really had to focus at first on the songs we were playing - if I made a mistake I got flustered and found it had to get back into the songs, but once I'd got the knack of FEELING the music and focussing I rarely made mistakes.

Desire. Once I'd got out of my room and made a connection with other people, I wanted more, I wanted to do it every night, not just once a week. I wanted to get better, so I practised harder and I practised more.

A real buzz! There's nothing like being thrown in at the deep end and having to swim or sink - I just about kept my head above water at first, but rapidly improved....it was either that or admit defeat and go back to the spare bedroom.

A sense of my own self worth. I realised I had two major assets - a natural ability to keep time, and a feel for music. I'm still no great shakes playing lead, but give me a song and the chords and I'm not afraid to have a go at the rhythm.

I haven't been for a while - it was getting a bit stale playing the same songs every week, then I had a nasty hand injury - but it's about time I got back out into the world again. I've jammed a couple of times with one of the guys lately, and everything seems to have come back - we got through about a dozen songs a few nights ago with barely a mistake. Mind you, the other guy's a far superior guitarist to me - but I'm comfortable playing rhythm, he's comfortable playing fills and lead, and we have similar tastes in music, so things are looking up.

Phew - I got a bit carried away there - but just to reiterate, there's nothing like playing with other people to improve your own playing. It's tough at first - but guitarists the world over are a friendly bunch in my experience, always willing to give a few tips or pointers, always willing to help a fellow struggling guitarist. And THAT'S what this community is all about!

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3460
 

Great post Vic. One for us to file away and read again when we need reminding what it's all about. Thanks. 8)


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(@runswithscissors)
Eminent Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 22
 

I have found that playing with others provides me with the opportunity to LISTEN to someone else's style and actually try to make a musical conversation of sorts. Basically, I look at it as a relationship between players within the context of a song. I've really never been one to play a song note for note, but the opportunity to compliment and exchange with another player is one thing that really like about playing.

Free form jams can be a bit clunky and sometimes hard to start; however, the freedom to screw up and explore can really get the juices flowing. Nobody starts off knowing everything ;-)

How can you tell the stage is level?

The drummer drools from both sides of his mouth!


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(@bungee41)
Active Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 6
 

One thing that I realized I was doing was recognizing patterns. Whether they be in chord progressions or strums, there are many patterns in music today. If you can learn to recognize common relationships between the chords of a verse and the chords of a chorus, it'll be easier to pick up the song.

Also, like the others have said, you need to be confident in yourself. I've found that just playing along with the radio or something is great because you never know which song will come next. If you just practice playing whatever comes on, it'll be easy to develop the first skill I mentioned.

Good luck!

- bungee41
Chord Studio


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(@oenyaw)
Reputable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 396
 

I have always told people that the first step is to learn your instrument. The second step is to learn to play with others. Sounds to me like you're on your way! It's a continual learning experience. That's what makes it so much fun.

Brain-cleansing music for brain-numbing times in a brain dead world
http://www.oenyaw.com


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(@kevinbatchelor77)
Trusted Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 75
 

Is it alright to play with people who are far more experienced than you are? I have been asked to jam with a guy who has been playing for 30 years, but I have only been playing for a year. I know that my playing is not great after a year and don't know if I should accept his offer. I am sure it will be a good learning experience for me but I may slow him down some.


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(@voidious)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 153
 

Seems like the advice on this board is always that jamming with people is great, even if you're the weakest link. As long as you have realistic expectations and aren't going to be, say, playing at a live concert ;), I think it would definitely be beneficial!

-- Voidious


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(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3460
 

I know that my playing is not great after a year and don't know if I should accept his offer. I am sure it will be a good learning experience for me but I may slow him down some.

Accept and enjoy. Music isn't a race it's a shared journey, so don't worry about slowing him down. I'm sure he'll be only too happy to show you the way when you're unsure.

Have fun. :D


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(@kevinbatchelor77)
Trusted Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 75
 

Thanks for the advice. I will take him up on his offer. We are both new to the city we live in and he said that he has had a difficult time finding someone to jam with so it will work for both of us.


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 10340
 

Glad to hear that, KB77 - no matter how great the difference in your abilities, you'll find something in common. You already have - you both want to play guitar! You can learn fron him, and, no matter how good he is, there'll always be a lick or riff yoiu come across that he won't have heard before. It's a mutually beneficial experience - you'll learn from each other. The guy I jam with is a far better guitarist than me - he'll throw unison bends, double stops, finger vibrato etc etc into a song while I just keep a steady rhythm. And he knows, on the other hand, if we try a song and it's a bit sloppy, I'll do my best to have it down to the best of my ability, such as it is, by the next time we jam....and he knows, whatever we play, if I've practised it in between jams, he'd better be damn good next time - cause I'll have the rhythm spot on! He inspires me to improve myself.....I hope I inspire him too. I feel I can't let him down.....he's taught me so much, that when ever we're together jamming, I seem to raise my performance a notch or two - I concentrate harder, I think more about what I'm playing, and I TOTALLY lose track of time.....

Hope it works for you!!!!

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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(@kevinbatchelor77)
Trusted Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 75
 

Vic,

My problem will probably be that only know a couple songs all the way through. I have been playing a year and I took lessons for almost a year from a guy who only taught me technique and accasionally worked on a song but he would only let me stay on one song for 2 weeks due to fear of burn out which would not have been an issue. Needless to say we didn't finish any of the songs that I worked on with him except for Purple Haze because it is just a couple minutes :) I was able to pick up a couple others on my own though :)

I am going to give it my best shot though we are going to start jammin together next week. I think it will help me tremendously. I hope it helps my timing issues.


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 10340
 

A couple of songs is enough.....we played four songs in two hours last week, with a couple of false starts and a couple of "Let's do that again!"s....the couple of hours seemed like a few minutes. Hey Joe, Cindy Incidentally, Stay With Me and a blues jam where I just played the classic shuffle and Stu improvised - that was it, 2 hours gone! You'll be surprised how quickly the time passes......and then you'll be wondering, "What should I do next week...."

Jam, and enjoy!

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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