31 March 2010

Learn Guitar - Do You Want To Quit?

Have you ever given up playing guitar? Or have you at least thought about it sometimes? Here's a story that will show you two things. First, that you're not alone - this happens to a lot of us guitar players as we battle with the many frustrations along the path to learn guitar. Second, there is a sure fire method to beat the urge to quit and keep your motivation to learn and play come what may.

Let's start with the story of Josh, a guitar player who tells the story of how he gave up playing for over 7 years in the post Why I Quit Playing Guitar:

"In 1992 I quit playing guitar. I was so frustrated with my playing and not being able to pull off what I wanted to play that I thought it better to just hang it up for good and find another hobby. Anything had to be better than picking up the guitar for five minutes, being thoroughly disgusted, and putting it back in the closet."

See, I told you you're not alone.

But why did Josh quit? According to his story, it was John Pettrucci's fault:
"For a long time I blamed Dream Theater’s guitarist John Petrucci for making me quit. Yes, that’s right, I said MADE."

And in a way, it was. But you'll have to read Josh's post to find out why, and learn why he started to play again 8 years later.

The end of Josh's story will show you the sure fire method that will maintain your motivation and ensure you don't quit when things don't quite seem to be going how you want. I think the moral of the story is that in "play guitar" the important bit is "play". Keep this in mind and you can avoid wasting eight years not playing guitar... ;-)

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29 March 2010

Learn Guitar - How to Recover From Mistakes

Do you get frustrated when you make mistakes playing guitar? Mistakes are inevitable as you learn and play, they happen to all of us, no matter how well we play. So, if making mistakes is something we have no chance of escaping from can we turn them into something positive to help us play better guitar instead of just getting frustrated by them?

I recently came across two good tips from Cameron Mizell - a Brooklyn based guitarist - on living and dealing with mistakes (part of 10 tips for beginning guitarists). Applying these should go a long way to removing frustrations about your mistakes and turn them into positive learning experiences.

First, up Cameron advises us not to afraid of our mistakes,

Don’t be Afraid of Mistakes

"When you learn something new, you will make a lot of mistakes. I always tell myself those mistakes are bound to happen, so I might as well get them out of the way now. What’s more important is that you identify the trouble spots, and then break the passage down to fix the trouble spots. This is where a good teacher can really come in handy."

Now, wouldn't you make much better use of your time if you calmly break down those troublesome passages and fix them instead of getting all steamed up about the mistake?

Another common guitar beginner problem that arises from mistakes is the syndrome of the never finished song. You might have experienced this yourself - I know I have. You can never finish a song or a piece of music because you interrupt yourself at every mistake to go back and get it right or start again.

Now, as we've just seen there are times when it's appropriate to spend time fixing mistakes, but you also need to get into the habit of just keeping on. As Cameron puts it,

Practice Recovering from Mistakes
"Since mistakes are bound to happen from time to time, learn how to get through it and keep playing. A metronome is a great tool for this exercise. The beat keeps moving and so should the music, whether you hit the chord or not. Don’t stop every time you mess up, just catch up at the next downbeat. Imagine the music happening on it’s own, your job is to simply play along not sabotage it."

No matter how good you get at playing guitar you will still make mistakes. They happen to the best players and even when you're playing a piece you know inside out. How you deal with them can make the difference between becoming a good player and one that just can't get beyond their mistakes is the way you deal with them. Heed this good advice and mistakes can become friends that help to guide you to better guitar playing.

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24 March 2010

Learn Guitar - The Progress Trap

Have you ever noticed how much guitar learners always worry about progress? It seems we are just never satisfied with our current level of playing. There's always some problem, some new thing to reach for, something wrong, some better piece of equipment, moan, moan, moan...

But here's a nugget of wisdom recently shared by Arlen Roth that could help us all stop wishing so much and just enjoy what we have right here and now,

"There is so much involved with your progress as a player over the course of your life, but one thing is for sure: it never ends. There is no question that we have peaks and valleys along the way, as I have too, but overall, we never really get worse, only better. I also feel that in your early days of development and learning, it’s so important to do the best with what you’ve got. This means you must not be frustrated, rather, you must try to make as much music with what you know at the time, no matter how limited you may think it is!"
I think I'll pin this one up so I remember to keep enjoying what I can do now and let time help me learn better guitar. Don't obsess about progress and get down about what you can't do (yet). Instead do what you can today, keep learning and enjoy yourself.

Read Arlen's full post Progressing as a Player.

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22 March 2010

Build Your Guitar Skills With Two-Chord Songs

Two-chord songs offer an easy way to pare down your practice to the essentials you need to hone your guitar skills. Many players dismiss such songs as too simple to spend time on, but there are in fact many benefits to be had from two-chord songs. They can help you to learn guitar by taking away all the fluff and leaving you with only the simplest structure to work with. Here are a few of the ways that simple structure can benefit your guitar practice.

Practice Chord Changes

Looking for an easy way to practice a chord change you have trouble with? Try a two chord song.

Whenever a chord change in a song is giving you trouble take out the chord before the change and the one that follows it and practice them in isolation.

Develop A Musical Ear

Two chord songs are a great tool for developing your musical ear. Pick a chord interval you want to memorize the sound of, choose or make up a two-chord song and practice it in every key. Better still, record your song and listen to the changes every day too, your musical ear will thank you.

Learn to Improvise In A Simple Harmonic Context

One of the secrets to creating guitar solos that sound great is to make the sound of the chord changes stand out. This is a hard skill to learn but with two-chord songs you can give yourself the simplest possible context to practice in.

Practice until you can hear the chords with only the notes of your solo. Build up your skills gradually with different pairs of chords and then join things together until you can work with three, four or more chords.

All Songs Are Two-Chord Songs

Songs are always on one chord and heading for the next. If you use this idea you can break down any song you learn into a series of little two-chord songs. This will give you easy stepping stones to learn and practice until you can play the whole song.

If you want to benefit from two chord song practice, choose yourself a two-chord song (or make one up, if you don't find one with the chords you want) and get to practice. Here's a reminder of some of the things you can do.

  1. Practice chord changes, build your skills one pair of chords at a time
  2. Develop your ear, memorize the sound of each chord change
  3. Learn to improvise, sound the chords as you solo
  4. Learn any song, using the simplest building block
Two-chord songs give you a simple tool to build guitar practice sessions from. Use them to strip away distractions and simplify your exercises to work on one thing at a time.

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11 March 2010

Guitar Strumming: Solve Timing and Rhythm Problems

Do you have difficulty learning to play guitar strumming rhythms? If you do then this lesson on solving timing and rhythm problems from Guitar Noise will show you that the problem might not be your strumming hand:

"Students of the guitar in their first year of learning often complain that they can’t “seem to get a good strumming rhythm going.” They will inevitably attribute this to there being something wrong with their right hand action. They ask for advice about strumming patterns, pick grips, finger style patterns and so on, but all the time, what is really wrong with their right hand … is their left hand!"
Read the lesson to learn some interesting techniques to practice chord changes until they are smooth and don't get in the way of your strumming rhythms.

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2 March 2010

Rhythm Guitar - Play Thirds Intervals

Here's a guitar lesson for beginner or intermediate guitarists looking to improve their rhythm guitar skills. One way to make your rhythm guitar playing sound better is to play less full chords and add some interesting fills using single notes or harmonic intervals. Thirds intervals work well for this in many styles and are not too hard to learn to play. This lesson describes the major and minor thirds used, how to play them on the guitar, and shows how to create a thirds accompaniment over a simple I-IV chord progression in G major.

Thirds Intervals

The third interval is the basis of major and minor chords. There are two different kinds of thirds, major and minor, that give the characteristic major or minor sound of chords.

The major third can be found four frets up from any note on your fretboard and the minor third one fret below it. Although this is an easy way to find thirds intervals and get used to their sound, it is not very convenient for use in rhythm guitar parts. To play the intervals harmonically as part of a song you'll need to play them across strings.

Thirds on Second and Third Strings

For the example in this lesson we'll use thirds intervals on the second and third strings of the guitar. Because of the guitar's tuning this pair of strings is one of the easiest places to play thirds. It also happens to be a good place to get a nice bright sound that stands out in an accompaniment.

  • To play a major third play the second and third strings at the same fret
  • To play a minor third play the second string one fret lower than the third
Now you can use the note on the third string as a guide along the major scale of they key your song is in. Use the major scale formula to choose between a major or minor interval: major on the 1st, 4th and 5th degrees, minor on the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th scale degrees.

Thirds Example

Here's an example showing this technique over a I - IV progression in the key of G. I've deliberately put a lot of thirds intervals in the example, you can adjust to your taste once you're comfortable playing them.

-3--3--------------------0-----------
-0--0--0--1--3--1--3--1--1--1--3--5--
-0--0--0--2--4--2--4--2--0--2--4--5--
-0--0--------------------2-----------
-2--2--------------------3-----------
-3--3--------------------------------

Conclusion

Thirds intervals on the second and third strings of the guitar are an easy way to add life and movement to your rhythm guitar playing. Learn the major and minor thirds shapes on the second and third strings shown in this lesson. Use the note on the third string as a guide to choose a major or minor third interval according to the major scale formula as you move up and down the scale.

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