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Bringing some kind of "structure" to learning guitar


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  • Bringing some kind of "structure" to learning guitar


    n00b here. I've been playing guitar quite regularly since mid-'08 but have not made too much progress. I end up playing things I know over and over and while I get better with some techniques - say, my alternate picking gets better or I can "voice/strum"* chords in a better manner and what I play actually sounds like "Girl from Ipanema" - but I don't feel like I ever learn anything at all.

    I suppose learning music theory would be a good place to start but I don't really know which end to grab and start working my way from. I also have a very, very bad "musical ear" and cannot really pick out notes from songs. I've always learned from tabs. When somebody plays a chord, say an F, I really couldn't tell the difference between that and any other chord. (although I might have a few suspicions about it being a major chord, somewhere up the neck...)

    My musical taste ranges from early Ulver and Opeth to The Libertines, passing through some Bob Dylan, Feist and Mazzy Star. I also listen to the partial Django Reinhardt track and have started getting into jazz. What I am looking for is really, a bit of a syllabus (nothing too rigid, mind), that I could use to give me some guidance with how I'm learning. Eventually, I'd like to be able to just pick up my guitar and play a solo over a random song or jam with musicians on the street.

    Currently, I can play some simple "strumming songs" (Libertines, for example) and a few Metallica riffs. I know other bits and pieces of songs but I don't recall ever learning a song completely.

    Help/advice would be appreciated. :-)

  • #2
    there is no syllabus for this kind of thing. However, The Advancing Guitarist, by Mick Goodrick is a great resource that will tell you about every tool which you will need to obtain in your 'toolbox' as a guitar player. It does require some fundamental theory to get into it. It basically tells you what you should be doing and how to do it, but it won't guide you step by step. Mick will just give you his point of view on each topic.

    You should develop a practice routine aiming at different goals, rather than repeating the same thing every day.

    First things first, learn the notes on your guitar. I've talked about a system i use for my students to accomplish this on the forum before but i don't have the reference to refer at the moment. It can be searched for though

    You should learn how to read, and build chords and arpeggios for triads and seventh chords. Playing shapes is useless if you don't understand whats going on. There are multiple ways to do the same thing when you approach it from a musical perspective rather than a guitar perspective. The same thing goes for scales. You should be able to play and read the modes of the four Important Diatonic Scales in 12 keys: Major, Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, Harmonic Major as well as pentatonics and symmetrical scales

    You should also work on ear training to develop your ear. There are multiple approaches but the easiest to get into is a movable do solfege system (as in do, re, mi , fa) In your question about the F chord above, most people wouldn't be able to tell the exact name of the pitch without a reference, unless they had absolute pitch. A movable do system allows you organize what you're hearing and put a name to it. It takes practice through listening, dictation and transcription.


    • #3
      Etranger, PM me and give me your email address. I'll send you my book for free. It will definitely help you out. It's easy and it works.


      • #4
        For a ground up, organized approach to learning the theory end of things my Beginners to Advanced Series is a deadringer. You can find it here: http://lessons.mikedodge.com

        Read the links in order there:

        Chord Construction
        Diatonic Theory

        Read in that order each lesson builds off what you learned in the last lesson. It's a pretty easy read even though it's filled with a lot of info. Just read it from the beginning and you'll "get it" pretty easy.

        Spend a few hours with it this weekend, it'll make a big difference learning it in order.

        It's all completely free, not even any ads
        PM me about Online One-on-One Guitar Lessons, via Skype and Paypal

        Hint for online instructors...play the example in it's entirety, THEN talk about it for 5 minutes.

        The only good liberal is a...well, we're still trying to figure out the answer to that one.

        Uma is a motorik.


        • #5
          Here's The Advancing Guitarist as pdf:


          I've been annoyed at how little improvement I've made in the last four or five years. I guess I'm just lazy enough to not try new techniques etc. I might start lessons again when the situation suits them a little better. I'll give this guide a go in the mean time.


          • #6
            I'll put in a vote for Levitt's "Modern Method For Guitar".

            This is good book to use as a supplement to learning songs. Work through it in a patient manner.
            Serious about playing but not much else.


            • #7
              IMO, mike's advice is exactly right - whether you go for his lessons or not:

              Chord Construction
              Diatonic Theory

              in that order. (Not that I'm suggesting you should NOT go for his lessons! )

              Try to apply it all to songs that you know, as soon as you can. The point is to understand music, after all. That's what the theory is for, so you have to connect it.


              • #8
                Here's The Advancing Guitarist as pdf:

                I've been annoyed at how little improvement I've made in the last four or five years. I guess I'm just lazy enough to not try new techniques etc. I might start lessons again when the situation suits them a little better. I'll give this guide a go in the mean time.

                Not cool to upload a link to pirated material.
                Don't you think that this excellent book should be paid for?
                Or let me ask you this: how would you feel if you go to work and you won't get paid for it???
                my website - free licks - some of my music

                I offer online guitar lessons on Skype in different styles. Send me a PM if interested.

                check out my EP 'Sonic Sketches'


                • #9
                  Bad site as well. Flagged as *Dangerous*
                  Originally posted by Unconfigured Static HTML Widget...

                  Write Something, or Drag and Drop Images Here...


                  • #10
                    All good advice, and good learning materials...

                    First thing to do, though, is to throw away the crutches. Ya gotta crawl before you walk and walk before you run, but you'll never do any of that if you're hobbling around on tab crutches all the time.

                    IMO, *any* approach you take to learning will be an improvement after you've stop cribbing songs from tab.
                    "There is no best in music."
                    -- Neil Young, 1987

                    My music pages


                    • #11
                      Hey everyone,

                      I very much appreciate the time you took in replying. It really means a lot, seeing as things had come to a point where I was about to just give up and move on to something else. I'm glad I didn't! I'm a little busy with school work and college application related stuff, so I'll be going a little slower than expected. I will, however, check out both Mike's lessons and the Ace Guitar Method and try learning from those. I like using different books to learn anyway. Don't think it's a particularly good idea to see things from only a single perspective.

                      I'll be back to this thread (eventually!) to let you know how things worked out for me.

                      Again, thank you!


                      • #12
                        Just work on 'seeing' your intervals up and down the fretboard. Take any C major scale and start on the root of that scale on the low E string, 8th fret. When you play the root, say 1. Play the next note and say 2 when you play it. Do this through the entire scale pattern vertically (from the fat E to the skinny E, not from the nut to the bridge) and say them out loud. Once you are able to 'know' which degree of the scale you are on, then it is time for you to analyze what you are playing.

                        The 'intervallic' formula for the major scale is:

                        W W h W W W h

                        This represents the distances between the degrees of the scale, W-whole step, h-half step. Between the root, or 1, and the 2 or the super tonic, you have one whole step. And so on and so forth through the scale. Maybe this will help:

                        1 W 2 W 3 h 4 W 5 W 6 W 7 h 1

                        4-F...so on, ad nauseum.

                        So between each degree, you have a gap, or interval. The intervals are relative to each other. You can't just play one note and say it's an interval away from some arbitrary point you decided to pick out of thin air. If you play the 3rd fret of A, and then play the 5th fret of the D string, that is an interval. It's actually a perfect 5th. Or a powerchord. Technically, this particular 'power chord' is a C5. If you were to move your ring finger up to the 7th fret, that would give you a C6, or a C major 6 without the 3rd. Eh, just ignore this for now.

                        Similarly, if you were to play this entire scale on one string, you can visually see where the intervals fall on the fretboard. Say you are playing C major. Start on the 8th fret of the high E string. That's C. Play that note. Move up a whole step, 2 frets. Play that note with your ring finger. That note is D, 10th fret of the E string. Move up another whole step (2 frets) to E on the 12th fret. Do this through the entire scale so you can see what each interval looks like on one string. Then, start from the 1st fret of the B string and do the same thing...since if you move up a half step from B, that gives you C. Find all the C's on the fretboard and do this exercise through each octave.

                        Now that you know what it looks like on each string, you have to figure out what your intervals look like between strings, not just up and down them. This is a bit harder since the 'gap' between strings is a perfect 4th. It is harder to 'see' the intervals between strings at first. But once you get it down, it's awesome.

                        For instance, back to our C major example in the 8th position. Place your index finger on the 8th fret. There's C. Now, take your ring finger and hit the 10th fret of the E string. That note is D, or the MAJOR SECOND of the scale. Take your pinkey and hit the 12th fret. That is your MAJOR THIRD of the scale, or E. C, D, E, 1, 2, 3, right? Ok, so now, the next interval is between the major 3rd and the perfect 4th. DO NOTE that there is a half step between these 2 notes. Play the 8th fret of the A string. That note is F. The 10th fret of the A string is G, a perfect 5th, found in a C5 chord. Now, take your pinkey and place it on the 12th fret of the A string. This is obviously A, the MAJOR SIXTH of the scale. Take your index and shift it from the 8th fret to the 9th fret of the D string. This note is B, or the MAJOR SEVENTH of the scale. Then, between B and C, we have a half step. Voila, you know your intervals for the major scale. Now, you can look between them and figure out where a major 7th or a major 3rd would fall on the scale pattern.

                        Cmaj in 8th position:
                        .....1.....2......3....4......5.....6.....7....1.. .2....3...4.....5......6......7......1...2...3.... ..4

                        Once you are able to do this with the major scale, figuring out modes in any key will be a piece of cake since you just apply the scale formula to the fretboard in a similar fashion. If you can see your intervals (WHICH WILL OPEN UP THE ENTIRE FRETBOARD!!!!), you can see where you are coming from and where you can go.

                        Sorry about the long post. It's late and I'm really bored.
                        "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."
                        - Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)

                        What the hell is an aluminum falcon?

                        I eat food and I poop. #causeandeffect