Lost

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by ChmpgnSupernover, Jul 23, 2008.

  1. ChmpgnSupernover

    ChmpgnSupernover Member

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    I need some help here. I've been playing guitar for a couple years now and I'm really really disappointed in my abilities.

    I play daily but my routine basically consists of doing half-assed improv or playing a medley of songs I've only half learned. I'll get interested in a song and start learning it from tabs/ear but half way though I'll either lose focus, get stuck on a solo, and eventually I'll move onto another song. Right now I know probably two or three dozen songs but can only finish maybe one of them.

    When I try to improv and jam with myself I get frustrated because I never know what chords to play or in what sequence/rythem/ect. I'm obviously not naturally gifted with music and I'm OK with that but I do want to improve, I just don't know where to start.

    Should I start working on scales? All I know right now is the basic blues pattern.
    Or should I open up a book on music theory? I used to have a theory book but when it started to get just a little bit hard I put it down and walked away.
    Or should I learn how to play in certain keys so that I can at least Jam and imrov/ect? I figure if I learn how to "play in the key of A(as an example)" I wont have such a hard time guessing at chords, ect.


    I guess I am just looking for some direction and a little motivation. I know I can do this, I am a good learner, I just don't know where to start at this point. Can anyone help?
     
  2. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    Sounds like you need a teacher.

    IMO, anything you start up (like theory) you'll just get into a little and then move on, like you do with tunes. And everybody does this a little, the reason I got passed it was because there was stuff I needed to know- I couldn't live without knowing how to play a certain part or what chord that was or why that chord was there in the first place. One reason was because I was already in bands, and playing with others and being put on the spot will really make you focus. But I realize that not everyone is as driven as I that, and for those people the best thing to do is to get a teacher to guide you on your way. Just keep in mind you're still going to have to put in the time to do the hard work, it's just that a good teacher will point you in the right direction.
     
  3. cugel

    cugel Member

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    take lessons by all means
    i use to think i was too cool for lessons when i was younger
    what a huge mistake
    remember even tiger woods goes NOWHERE without his swing coach and he's the best ever. so you are never too old/young/whatever for lessons
    just find someone you like maybe interview a few teachers and go for it
    its a journey
     
  4. ChmpgnSupernover

    ChmpgnSupernover Member

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    The problem is that between a full time school schedule and doing research on the side I just don't have the time or the money for a teacher, but yea I know that is probably the best coarse of action. In the meantime, I think I will try looking for my theory book and give that another shot.
     
  5. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    With all due respect,

    I question how good of a learner you are with music.

    I mean setting down to learn something
    and leaving without the prize is a no no in the
    game of being a student.

    Frustration indicates something is misunderstood.
    That misunderstood could be conceptual
    or it could be technique related
    or both.
    You must go back and fix the misunderstood thing.

    YOU,,, must become your own best teacher.

    Always walk away with the prize.

    Perhaps smaller bites???


    Learn Diatonic harmony and theory inside and out

    then try to figure out why all those great rock tunes
    break all the "rules"
     
  6. 5E3

    5E3 Member

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    Definitely take some lessons with an experienced instructor that you connect with. Somebody who will let you take a couple of lessons, then not come back for more until you are ready. I would avoid getting locked into weekly sessions unless that is something you need to keep you focused.

    If you are having trouble playing chords along with jam tracks, check out these Jam Track CDs. I have a few of them and they come with a pamphlet showing the chords and progression. If you buy via download, they come with a PDF of the same.

    Don't give up! You just need to get on track and make some progress. We've all hit plateaus. You just need to keep at it and you will advance. :AOK
     
  7. rotren

    rotren Member

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    Get a good instructor. Anyone can learn and improve if the teacher is good and student is motivated. Never give up! I hope you can find a teacher that connects well with you and who can truly help you get over the "humps" - we all hit roadblocks at times, but we just keep working on it.
     
  8. ChmpgnSupernover

    ChmpgnSupernover Member

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    Thank you guys for the advice. I'm not going to stop, I play every day and I love (almost) every minute of it, and I do feel like I get better week after week, I just want to improve faster than I am. Clifford-D, thank you for your post, it got me motivated to finish off a song that was previously left incomplete (and I wish I had time to work on another). And 5E3, thank you for the recommendation on the jam tracks, I'm gonna look these over and place an order for one. I live and attend Temple University which is a pretty large school with a decent music program so maybe I can find someone willing to give me a few lessons around here. Thanks all!
     
  9. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

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    Sounds like you have gotten some good suggestions. Don't underestimate the power of finding a buddy or two who are better players than you. A generation ago, guys learned less formally more often than today. Find some guys you can play with who will push you. Good luck
     
  10. The Captain

    The Captain Supporting Member

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    Sounds to me like you are a victim of teh improv over learning structured pieces approach.
    Maybe chooses pieces, which can be songs, scales or exercises, which are achieveable for you, and work at sompleting those. BY all means, alsopractise stuff out of your reach, but accapt that it might be some time before those pieces can be completed.
     
  11. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

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    Get a teacher who will give you the structure that you need.
     
  12. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Brad - What types of music are you learning? I never learned a "complete" song when I was learning. I remember my parents coming in and saying "but can't you play the whole song?"

    To this day, I still can't really tell you what the chords are behind the solo in Ozzy's Crazy Train because I never learned it - I learned the solo.

    And sometimes, a part would be too technically demanding to play, or logistically impossible to play. Rarely would I learn both parts to a harmony guitar solo. And technically, I just can't play like Django yet.

    But I'd learn what I could from a song, and then try to find something else.

    I do agree with the others that you should take lessons if you can (even if it's informally jamming with some other guys - you can always pick up things). But without lessons you can always try and challenge yourself. I've met guys who were interested in Green Day and they can play every single song from the Green Day catalog but they lack the technique to improv over a 12 bar blues. They're two different skill sets. If you're only aspiring to strum through "Love Me Do", and then you decide you've mastered that and are going to go on to "Louie Louie" or something - well, once you get basic chords and strumming down, there's pretty much no point in trying to learn any more songs that use those same chords and strumming patterns.

    Then it's time to pick up something with a more challenging strumming rhythm (like "Crash" by DMB comes to mind as being unusual) or something that picks arpeggios instead of strumming. You might be beyond that point but my point is you need to seek out things you can't play - even if it's just a measure - and challenge yourself to play it. Even if you can never play it up to tempo, it will help you. I've found that years later, I can easily play things I couldn't play in years past, and I never really "learned" the lick - I learned 5 other licks that were similar, and was then able to play this lick that was too hard at the time, and now I didn't realize that I already knew it - but turns out I did.

    So don't get discouraged - every little thing helps. You may not be able to see how it helps now, but later on it will all come together - well, not all of it because if it did, we'd probably give up playing. There's always something new to learn!

    Cheers,
    Steve
     
  13. dverna

    dverna Member

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  14. GregoryL

    GregoryL Supporting Member

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    I agree that a teacher would provide you with direction. However, as an alternative you could check out an instructional DVD in a style you like.

    I do think that your approach holds many players back - moving on when you get to a hard part in a song is exactly the wrong thing to do. If it's hard for you, that's exactly the part you should focus on. But, don't make a marathon session out of the hard part ... spend maybe 15 - 30 minutes on it and then move on and come back to it.

    When I taught previously, one of my sayings was ...

    "Guitar players learn guitar parts, but musicians learn songs."

    Put in the time to learn the whole song - do what you want for the solo section if you prefer, but learn all rythm parts.
     
  15. cugel

    cugel Member

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    i hear ya... lessons can be pricey
    mine are 45 bucks an hour
    so i cut back to 2/month
    my teacher is also sort of like a therapist too becuase he knows me (a bit) by now and how i think etc. and he pushes me where i woulnd naturally want to go
    i am amazed how my playing is a microcosm for my personality as a whole.
    i am a shy guy for the most part and therefore i seem to play "shy" as well and am afraid to really open up and let 'er rip
    if that makes sense
     
  16. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    A teacher is always a good idea, if the teacher and you are a good fit.

    But like any relationship, it's not always a fit.

    Is the teacher a teacher that reacts to your interests?

    Or are they that kind of teacher that never listens
    and always directs the lesson to their interests?
    What they know and are comfortable with.
    Beware, this is a crummy teacher imo.
    You go there wanting to understand how music works
    and you always end up play some reggae tune.
    (yes, I know a teacher like that)

    I've been teaching for twenty years and have not once
    done that. My first question is always
    "what would you like to talk about today?"
     
  17. IanS

    IanS Member

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    You might also want to have a look at SpyTunes.

    http://spytunes.co.uk/S-E-P-R/Level1.html (Level 1)

    It's a fairly new site, that directs you with comprehensive, lists of steps you need to take in distinct areas:

    • Dexterity/hand coordination with single notes (aka Spyders)
    • Chords
    • Ear Training (recognizing intervals, chords etc...)
    • Transcribing
    • Rhythm
    • Learning songs
    It treats each of these areas independently, and has a list of things you need to master for each, before moving to the next level in that area. The idea is that once you have mastered them, you don't really need to revisit them, as they have become internalized. That is what they mean my their Self Eliminating Practice Routine.

    Really, it's not unlike the approach Tomo takes, or top schools take. The aim is to be proficient technically, rhythmically, harmonically, hearing and of course, playing songs. And to do so, you need to dedicate practice to each area.
     
  18. Swain

    Swain Member

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    What a great question!
    Yeah, it can be a little daunting, when faced with 5 to 10 pages of Notation or Tab. But, there is usually a more practical way of learning tunes. And that's what you need to get good at. Not learning a tune. But, learning how to learn any tune.
    There are (of course) exceptions to how different tunes need to be learned. Different situations will require different tweaks. But, here's a way to start:
    1. Put the guitar down.
    2. Learn to dissect a tune. Start with broad strokes.
    Are there 2, 3, 4, or more parts?
    EX: Choruses, Verses? Is there a Bridge section? A "Coda" section? A Pre-Chorus? etc.
    Do you feel comfortable deciding which is which? If not, then learning which part is which would be the first step.
    3. Learn each part seperately. Learn to play just the Chorus, or just the Verse, etc.
    There will probably be slight variations between each Verse, for example. The 2nd. Verse may have an extra Chord, as compared to the 1st. Verse. Don't worry about learning every slight variation. Learn the "Basic Outline" of all the Verses. Broad strokes. You can fill in all of the little details, later.
    4. Write out a Chord Chart for each "Basic" Part.
    No fancy picking, etc. yet. Just Basic Strumming.
    5. Write out the Song Form.
    EX: Verse, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Chorus.
    6. Learn to Strum through the Entire Song from this "Song Outline".
    7. Now you can learn the cool Intro to add to your song. Or, add the cool Riff, or tricky Strumming part.

    Basically, you need to be able to play a tune (with simple Strumming) all the way from start to finish. First. So, if you have Tab or Notation for the song, just use it to get the Chord Names and Progressions from. DON'T use the Tab to learn the song from start to finish. You'll probably never make it to the end! In fact, DON"T EVEN READ THE TAB! Resist that temptation. For now, anyway.
    Learn to Strum throught each section.
    Learn how to put all the Sections into the proper order, to complete the Song Form.
    Now, you can start adding all the little Details that make the song "Special" and "Unique". Maybe learn the "Main Riff" and add that. Maybe later, learn the Cool Intro, and then add that. But, don't do any of that, until you can STRUM THROUGH THE WHOLE TUNE.
    Once you have the Cake, then you add the Decorations, etc. This is where the Tab can help you. Sounds like you've been wrapped up in making the Frosting. With no Cake to put it on, you'll probably just make yourself sick! LOL
    Here's a basic Tune, broken down into it's Parts:
    "Knockin' On That Final Door"
    (The names have been changed, to protect the innocent!)
    Verses
    G D Am Am
    G D C C
    G D Am Am
    G D C C
    Choruses
    G D C C
    G D C C
    G D C C
    G D C C

    Strum
    Strum each Chord Twice.
    Count: 1 & 2 &
    Strum on 1, Strum on 2

    *Next, write out how many Verses there are, Choruses, etc. Write them in the order in which they appear in the song. You could be playing this entire tune, before tomorrow!
    Happy Hunting!

     
  19. ChmpgnSupernover

    ChmpgnSupernover Member

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  20. stevel

    stevel Member

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    I don't know if you were responding to my post Gregory, but to add:

    Some songs have stupidly easy parts, only to come to one virtually unplayable section. Even in classical music this happens - for example, most people can easily play the A sections of Fur Elise by Beethoven, but when they get to the B section, they can't handle it. The A section is "easy" enough that kids with a only a little bit of lessons can tackle it, but the B section takes a couple of years (and of course, much experience is needed to really play any of it well).

    So I'd agree with Gregory in that if you come to a part where it's challenging, but not impossible at this stage, you should tackle it with the understanding that you may not have it up to par with the rest of the piece until later.

    But, I also wouldn't spend all my time trying to "perfect" one song just because it's got this one virtually unplayable measure - to the exclusion of all else. Music's about learning music, not 1 measure, or 1 solo, or 1 section of a song. Challenge yourself, but I would be less concerned with learning every song note-for-note than trying to get the "gist" of a song (the main parts, etc.).

    However, as a musician, you should also be able to do some things like play through a 12 bar blues, or as Gregory suggests, play the rhythm parts during a solo.

    Steve
     

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