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(@rsadler)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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Hey all, I'm sure this type of question has been posted many times, but I really need a focused direction on things I'm doing. I started playing and joined the site about 5 years ago. I took lessons for maybe 3-4 months, and had to move due to my job. Whole new city, company and work schedule. Needless to say I just wasn't able to fit in time and got away from guitar altogether. The whole time it constantly ate on my conscious because it's something I really want to do. A couple of months ago I had enough and decided I'm gonna quit making excuses and just do it. So for the past two months I've been practicing religiously every day. I've learned all the open chords, and C7, B7, and G7, and one position so far of the major scale and the minor pentatonic scale. My question is should I focus on learning as much as possible about playing in general from here, or should I start learning towards the type of music that interests me? I like blues, (Stevie Ray Vaughn, John Mayer), Rock (ZZ Top, Classic Rock) and some Country, but more Melody than Rythm (Brad Paisley, Keith Urban) I was in band in high school, so I still remember a little of theory. I don't want to just read tab, so I'll probably look at reading music at some point too. I would like to play with others too. I just want to make sure I'm making the most of what I'm learning and not waste time in too many different directions.


   
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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 21 years ago
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Do both.

Working on only songs is the long way to become a guitarist - because skills build on each other, and a completely song-based approach tends to attack skills in a haphazard manner, guitarists who learn solely through songs often have some weak fundamentals (and develop 'cheats' to get around them, which leads to bad habits and limits their potential).

On the other hand, working on only technique and theory gives you tools without a workshop to play in. A good carpenter doesn't practice by sawing up pieces of wood all day - he builds stuff that develop the skills he needs.

So look at the genre you're interested in. Identify the techniques you'll need. Then try to sequence them - what seems easiest? What skills seem fundamental to other skills? Try to build a list of songs to tackle that address those skills in a logical order... and work on them while you develop the techniques they need.

Classical musicians do this throughout their careers. Pieces called 'etudes' (which is French for 'study') focus on developing a skill by performing a piece. There's no reason this practice can't be applied to any genre.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Joined: 21 years ago
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Tom interesting, when I started I thought I should work on the techniques so I'd have the skills for songs but I'm not sure that approach worked well as I wasn't actually playing much of anything.

When I started working on songs it felt like a major accomplishment to actually play complete songs that actually sounded like what they should be.

But your right no after learning a few hundred songs yes I am miles better than I was better than I was but I know I still have some deficiancies.

It's hard though to really know what skills might be needed so most I have learned as I learn a song. I always wanted to learn to tap but I don't really play that kind of music nor does really anyone I play with so I kind of dropped it.

What i need to concentrate on are my soloing skills and speed. I really would like to play fast solo's and that's what seems to hang me up I'll get 75% of a solo until it goes into a very fast run of notes and then I hit a stone wall.

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


   
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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 21 years ago
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An awful lot of really fast solos aren't so much about developing speed... they're about developing coordination and timing.

Yesterday one of my students brought in an Avenged Sevenfold book he wanted to work on. He couldn't handle one measure (actually, just one beat) of one solo - the tune was at 110bpm, and one measure had a beat of 32nd notes. With a quarter note as the beat, that little flurry of eight notes lasts just over half a second.

But when we broke it down and analyzed it against the recoding, it's a three-note hammer on, a single note on the same string, and a four-note hammer on on the next string. So there are only three picked notes, and two can be swept. Since the speed needed to do two downstrokes in half a second is within the ability of most intermediate players, the issue became one of timing the start of the swept notes to begin 3/8ths of the way into the beat.

The student is a pretty fair guitar player for a 13 year old. He's in his school jazz band and a garage band. But he came in believing the tune was WAY beyond his ability, and expecting to spend weeks or months learning to play it. It took just under 30 minutes for him to get it.

Often you can't tell by listening to a piece (or reading sheet music) if it's hard. Many tunes that seem incredibly difficult are actually very easy to play, and there are a few that look really simple that will give you fits.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Often you can't tell by listening to a piece (or reading sheet music) if it's hard. Many tunes that seem incredibly difficult are actually very easy to play, and there are a few that look really simple that will give you fits.

I definitely have found that to be true.

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


   
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(@chris-c)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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........ I'll probably look at reading music at some point too. I would like to play with others too. I just want to make sure I'm making the most of what I'm learning and not waste time in too many different directions.

Hi,

We're all different, so our paths won't be the same, but I would definitely recommend that you make a start on learning to read notation. I put it off for a long while but was surprised at how easy it was once I started. If you know a little about keys and the general ideas behind music, you can learn the basic principles of written music in not much more than a few minutes - i.e. that the position of the note symbol (which line or space it's on) gives you the name of the note and tells you which octave it's in, and that the graphic shape of it tells you how long it is i.e. quarter note, eighth note or whatever. What does take time - and lots of it too - is building up the speed of note recognition and the hand/eye/brain coordination required to decode it, and then play it, at any sort of speed. However, the good news is that most of us never need to read unfamiliar material at playing speed. We can take whatever time it requires to translate what it says. So building the skill slowly is fine.

I found that a useful intermediate stage was typing sheet music into a notation program like Finale Notepad. It not only gave me very good practice at note recognition but also provided the opportunity to hear it played back for me, or even to make useful backing tracks. And now I can pick up any song-book or piece of sheet music and read what it's telling me. It was an enormous pleasure when I finally acquired the skill and it's incredibly useful.

Regarding whether to concentrate on songs or techniques, I would suggest that it's mostly a personal choice and and that the most important thing is to concentrate on being musical. Perhaps, in some ways, there's a third choice which you might loosely call improvisation? I didn't learn any complete songs for a long time but everything I did, from day one, was turned into a little musical experiment. I've never either just done straight drills for the sake of it, or memorised songs note for note off a page. I've always played around, experimented and improvised with whatever I'm supposed to be learning - just to see what happens if you change this around about a bit, and then do that, and that.... I've not just had a lot of fun with that approach, but also learned a great deal by listening to what worked. By the time I did want to learn (and/or write) complete songs I had built up quite a useful range of skills. But others would prefer more predictable structure. I don't think there's really a universal 'best' way - just what suits each individual.

You sound like you've got more than enough tools in your kit already to play a large amount of music and do arrangements of untold songs, so I'd certainly make sure that you spend a reasonable amount of time enjoying the fruits of what you've already learned. Just a small collection of basic shapes with the left hand can provide a huge amount of variety, depending on what your right hand gets up to. In my experience, the main game is to stay motivated and enthusiastic - too many people lose interest and either wander off and quit, or just don't put enough time in to move forwards. So why not choose whichever path or mix keeps you most engaged and enthusiastic - I don't think any of it is ever “wasted”. Good luck, and have fun. :)

Chris


   
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(@deeaa)
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Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 63
 

My suggestion is to start making songs! Or, what's the reason you_ want_ to play the guitar in the first place? Do you want to be able to play other people's songs, or be creative, or what?

I have played for, uh, I dunno, close to 25 years and I have only learned a handful of songs by other people. And I never set out to learn chords etc. but instead, when I liked something, I learned a chord it was done with...and usually never got much farther. Every time I learned a new chord, I'd make a dozen songs employing the new chord. At first they were of course based on the same basic ones, C. D, Am, then sevens, nines, etc. added...

That way, slowly, I guess I learned most chords. Don't know because I never bothered to learn any music theory. But usually I tend to make my own chords..I have no clue what are the chords are in my own songs unless I start thinking about it, or use some chord decoder to find out what it is actually. And then when I do - well like the last song I'm just recording, the chords are something like Em13/Fm7/Cno5/FmAug5, I dunno for sure, but anyway no standard chords anyway and usually using all 6 strings. I don't much think of it when I 'compose', often don't even look at what I'm playing, just let my fingers search suitable notes.

And even today, when I - very seldom - learn a new chord or riff or whatever, then I get so many ideas for new songs from it I just have to make new songs and don't get any further into learning something new by others even if I wanted to. Sometimes I'm forced to, though, like recently one of my bands has been into covers, and I learned and recorded Hallowed be Thy Name by Iron Maiden and then a solo for ACDC's Shot Down In Flames, despite in that band I usually just sing. It was fun to listen to the originals and try and copy how it's done for a change, but still, making my own songs is what I want way more.

I'm not saying it could be what makes you happy - what is the reason you play? For me it is easily mostly because I need to create music and I don't want to be playing other people's songs except very rarely. And I don't want to spend time practicing either...so I basically never do, I think it's a waste of time basically :-) I just play at band practices and when I record or compose new songs, because I find if I practice, I just get worse and worse at it...but that's another thing then.

--
Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock


   
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 cnev
(@cnev)
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deea interesting take I listened to your music and it's quite good so your method obviously works for you and I know many people that have gone the same route as you just being creative writing songs and not even really caring about what the chords are etc. My daughter for one is like that.

But as Chris said everyone has their own style of learning and for me both Chris' and your methods I don't think would work. I am older than you and took up guitar and at later stage in life. I always figured the chance of doing anything with my own music would be slim to none and I would have a much better chance of at least being able to play with people if I played covers so that is what I have done.

I do wish I could create more like you and other people and maybe it's a matter of just sitting down and actually doing it I don't know it may also be just the way some people are wired and it wouldn't work for me.

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


   
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(@rsadler)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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Topic starter  

Actually I would like to play my own stuff, but much further down the road. I really want to learn everything correctly first, and play some cover blues, rock etc along the way. I just wasn't sure if I should narrow my focus of what I'm learning specifically at that type of music. I was in band in high school, so still remember some theory and standard notation, but I'm thinking I should tackle that a little further down the road. I know in band we learned that first, then played songs, but on guitar, to me, it doesn't seem the same approach would be the normal order of things. Like the previous poster, I'm mid 40's and just starting to learn this, so It'll never be a career or anything, but I want to learn more than just rhythm chords


   
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