View Full Version : It's the Where Do I Begin Question

Bongo Boy
05-12-2002, 05:45 AM
Within a few days I'll have my first-ever guitar. I have no idea where to begin--because of my work-related travel, committing to lessons isn't too practical for me. What do you think of books (in general), and books such as Modern Guitar Method in particular as a place to begin? I've started with the materials published at this site (brought fwd from guitar4u.com)--they cover topics I feel a real need to understand (more than I need to learn to "play guitar", actually). Suggestions, anyone?

I played trumpet for about 6 years in grade school, so I can read music a little bit and understand some of the basics of notation, etc. Other than that, I'm kind of an idiot, musically-speaking.

05-12-2002, 06:08 AM
What do you think of books (in general), and books such as Modern Guitar Method in particular as a place to begin?

Well IMO you get more out of books when you are using them with a teacher ( in the beginning anyways). The modern method for guitar is wonderful book for a beginner. I used it... it helped me a lot.

05-12-2002, 09:54 AM
Taika Jim is right. If you, however, donīt get a chance to really take a lot of lessons due to travelling, you have to adjust to that.
Books are a good source for information.
But you should always apply whatever you learn from them ( to compensate a lack of lessons )... that means, if you learn something from a book or sources like iBreathe, try to use it ASAP by including it into your playing... using a jamtrack to apply those ideas etc.
Also, if you donīt have much time, make a regular practising schedule, with exercises covering the most important aspects ( technique, theory... ). If you ainīt got much time on a given day, try to at least play through that schedule.
If you then wanna work on something else, or need ideas or answers, you can check out a book.
You should try to take at least a few lessons in the beginning and go through the very basics... how to hold the guitar, how to hold the left and right hand, how to fret chords etc.
Once you know those elemental things, you can build on that and go on by yourself, if you have to...
Hope this makes sense...
Warm regards

05-13-2002, 12:53 AM
I can agree with that!

I recently jammed with a guitarist, who had been playing for over 6years alone. He wanted me to teach him stuff like artificial harmonics, tapping etc, but he couldn't even hold his pick correct.
His fingersettings on the fretboard were a disaster too.

Sure he could play some songs,..but none clean-sounding. So instead of tapping and artificial harmonics, I had to go through the basics of guitar playing. Not really what that guy had in mind, and getting rid of a habbit you've done on a daily base for about 6 years, is quite a challenge!

You can read as many books as you like, but I'd advice you to learn the basics from a guitarteacher.

np. Oceans of Sadness.. For we are


Bongo Boy
05-13-2002, 03:10 AM
Okay, okay. You guys are all corroborating what I've heard on my conga forum (congaplace.com)--and what i guess I already knew but was hoping I could rationalize around. Thanks.

You know what I think is the REAL issue? It's not that I don't have the time or that I travel too much...it's that I don't want to put myself in a position of face-to-face with what I REALLY don't know. It's easy to tell a faceless forum that I know nothing--it's harder to truly admit it by way of allowing someone else to start me from scratch. I've never even hardly HELD a guitar--fact is, I'm scared ****less--even though I face that every day on my job with no problem, this seems different!

It also calls for a lot of faith--same reason I haven't started conga lessons--I feel that by selecting an instructor I take a leap of faith. Right now I find that scarier than learning my own bad habits. A little arrogance working against me here, perhaps.

Thanks again to each of you--I'll get over it, and get on with it.:(

05-13-2002, 09:21 AM
Hi Bongo Boy...

first of all, I can see where you are coming from. It makes sense, and I think it is cool that you told us about your thoughts regarding taking lessons.
Now, my thoughts on this:
If you do get a good teacher ( I really hope you will... and I mean a GOOD one, not necessarily the most expensive one, Iīve seen situations where the most expensive one was not the "best one"... tough to rank that anyway ), you gotta remember one thing:
He is a teacher, and he knows that people who ask him / her for lessons are in need to learn. He doesnīexpect you to be able to know all you gotta know by yourself. If you would, you wouldnīt need to take lessons at all.
( Same thing is true for applying for schools like the GIT... yes, you gotta have some theory knowledge and playing experience if you wanna go there, but you donīt need to be able to play like Steve Vai... after all, youīre going to that SCHOOL to learn and improve. )
Anyway, Iīll tell you something: I do have students of all levels, some beginners who just started out, and some who have been playing for a while.
And among all those students, I see two tendencies.
No.1: The guys who can figure out stuff by themselves, they are watching themselves while playing and try to figure out the solutions for their problems themselves. That is a good thing, but sometimes they come to the wrong solution and go the wrong way ( although often, itīs hard to determine a "wrong" and a "right" way ).
No. 2: Those are the guys who just wanna learn. They know they are just starting out, but they also know why they are taking lessons: to get answers to some questions, advice, suggestions etc.
And the difference between them and the guys of group No.1 is, they ask very good questions. They donīt mind asking those ( really, I remember how it is when you start out and you feel like you donīt know anything... so I never laugh or embarass them when they ask a question, cuz there are no stupid questions or anything like that... I guess that thatīs the reason why they donīt mind asking )
One example: Last week, one of my students told me that she was looking at the way she was holding the guitar and noticed that she was resting the guitar on her left leg ( being right-handed ) and asked whether that was ok or not.
That is a GOOD question, and thereīs nothing wrong about asking those kinda questions. I mean, how are you supposed to know, and also, you donīt wanna learn anything the wrong way. As Essatic said, if you get used to playing something a certain way, it is hard to get used to playing it another way after a while...

They know that I am there to help them and so they go into th every detail and ask good questions, and if I answer and they still donīt get it, they ask again.

So, when you go to your first lesson, remember that the dude in front of you is there to answer all your questions and does not expect you to play all perfect from the beginning.
If heīs good, he should be able to remember or at least imagine what it feels like to start out, so for you there is nothing to be worried or ashamed about.
Thereīs a lot of stuff to learn, so try to squeeze a lot out of that lesson-time and really ask everything you wanna know.

And donīt worry, always remember it: He / she ( the teacher ) is there to teach you things and he / she knows that. And most likely youīre not the only beginner he / she taught.
Hope this helps
Warm regards

05-13-2002, 01:06 PM
Juts my random thoughts ------> You dont have to take lessons. Many people have figured this stuff by themselfs. Dont get me wrong, its challenging and there is no space for mistakes. One of my friends is a hardcore anti-lesson person. He laughs at people who take lessons. He has a great tone and he plays good stuff, but he lacks theory so when he plays with a band, everything has to be build around him. He plays his stuff and the band tries to follow him. Thats very challenging for the band... esp. when hes not actually playing in a key signature. If you would ask him to solo over cm7 - f7 -Bbmaj7 vamp he would say " huh!!??".

My point is that many players that are self taught overlook theory.
There are few examples that have succeeded using the "self teaching method". Jimi and SRV are great examples. Both were extremely talented and they had good ears. Also the other players i.e around Jimi were very talented too. Jimi also had the skill to explain his music to other players without theory, he used i.e colors to explain stuff. Imagine Jimi saying to someone " Play a green chord"... when he means a Dm chord :D

05-13-2002, 06:50 PM
Hi Bongo,

First off all lemme say that IMO saying such stuff in a forum to me is brave (face to face or not). I think it takes guts and shows how serious you are about learning to play.

Next, I am a bit curious about why you are afraid of this entire thing. I mean what drives you to say you want to learn the guitar? What vision do you have of yourself playing and how can you put this in a sentence?

15 years ago I would have probably said: Well, if in 1 year I look as cool with a guitar as those guys from the 'Scorpions' and if I am just able to run around on stage while playing some really rock bottom riffs, then I am proud of myself (and hopefully the girls in the audience too).... erm .... this was very embarressing for me now :-)

But that's how it all started. So, what drives you? What are your goals? Then I think we are getting closer to the bottom of this discussion and could offer some more help and ideas.

NP: Chick Corea & Gary Burton "Native Sense"

05-13-2002, 07:14 PM
Originally posted by TaikaJim
[B]Just my random thoughts ------> You dont have to take lessons.

Hi again...
Well, of course everyone has hhis / her own opinion on that. I basically agree to your opinion, after all I was teaching myself for a while too before I started to take lessons.
And yes, there are a bunch of great players who never took a lesson or are playing by ear all the time. Of course there are at least as many examples of guys who never took a lesson or play by ear and got stuck with that... I met a lot of guys who were great ear players... as long as the key was Em. As soon as they were asked to play in a different key, like Bb Maj or something, they were lost. Also, it depends on your goals: if you just wanna play what you like, learn songs or write some, you can surely do that without taking lessons or checking out a book.
The problem appears once you wanna do some work as a musician ( teaching, studio work, hired gun-jobs ), becuase then you will most likely need some theory knowledge. Of course you can get that from a book.
But thatīs my point. According to Bongo Boys post, I assume that he ios busy with a job, travelling a lot, and wonīt have several hours every day to practise and jam, experiment etc.
And thatīs another point I think is helpful about taking lessons: In many cases ( of course, not all of them ), it will help to develop a bit faster. I mean, it always depends on how hard the student works, how fast he wants to go ahead etc., but I think it can help you to develop a bit faster in the beginning if there is someone who can give you a direction, a few guidelines, answer questions quick and can spare you experiences like re-learning a certain thing cuz you learned it wrong or non-correct the first time.

That is another thing to consider, at least I think so. Of course you are right about what you say, but it always has to be considered depending on ones goals, preferences and the circumstances ( schedule etc. )
So I guess we should merge our posts with the ones by Essatic and Guni, and what we get is a bunch of thoughts that should be considered...
Warm regards

NP: Signals- Wayne Krantz

05-13-2002, 07:17 PM
Originally posted by Guni
Hi Bongo,
15 years ago I would have probably said: Well, if in 1 year I look as cool with a guitar as those guys from the 'Scorpions' and if I am just able to run around on stage while playing some really rock bottom riffs, then I am proud of myself (and hopefully the girls in the audience too).... erm .... this was very embarressing for me now :-)

Hi Guni... `fess up-time, huh ?
Well, it might have been the Scorpions for you, it was Van Halen for me... I even tried to look like Ed and put duct tape all over my guitar and thereby ruined the finish....
But hey, no one was surprised, I was the dude who learned to tap before he learned how to play bar chords... :D
Warm regards

NP: Signals- Wayne Krantz

05-13-2002, 10:30 PM
I even tried to look like Ed and put duct tape all over my guitar and thereby ruined the finish....

.. but it always has to be considered depending on ones goals, preferences and the circumstances ( schedule etc. )
Yep, that's why I am asking those questions. I mean if we would know more about Bongo's goals we might give him a more in depth answer - or even come up with some kind of approach .....


Bongo Boy
05-14-2002, 04:18 AM
...and questions good they are, that you ask.

I'll have to think about it. For now, my 'vision' doesn't extend too far beyond myself drooling over the aesthetic delightfulness of a shiny instrument as I putz with it to see 'how it works'.

The only other guitar-related fantasy I've ever had involved plugging a Strat into a long row of '69 Dual Showmans and playing the first few bars of Purple Haze with all the knobs set at "11"--or something like that. In fact, for many years I was a strong enthusiast of a 'Ramones philosophy' of music--no damn guitar solos. But that's a different story, really.

No idea why the fear, except maybe the instrument has always struck me as an impossibly complicated thing; more so than say, a sax. Not from a perspective of playing the instrument WELL--simply from the perspective of how one gets a note one is after.

One big interest in the guitar: I've always written it off as impossible for me to do--same with golf. Then one day, oh my gosh, I tried and was able to hit the little white ball after all. This has nothing to do with 'conquering' the golf swing (that would just be silly) or the guitar. It's about doing something you know would be fun if only you let yourself do it by taking the first baby step.

05-14-2002, 07:59 AM
Originally posted by Bongo Boy

No idea why the fear, except maybe the instrument has always struck me as an impossibly complicated thing; more so than say, a sax. Not from a perspective of playing the instrument WELL--simply from the perspective of how one gets a note one is after.

Well, in my humble opinion, the guitar is one of the most accessible instruments out there. In practice, I doubt you'll find it hard to pickup, your internal ear would hopefully dictate what you want to play, and maybe after a little initial difficulty you'll start to play melodies.

I think its a pretty logical instrument. Witht the sax or trumpet, its all key combinations and embrochure...from my experience THAT was confusing. The guitar seems simpler to me. Its arranged so its quite easy to play. You can go up and down a string, horizontally at first, or you can play be patterns.

05-14-2002, 09:00 AM
I really gotta agree here.
I mean, it sure is easier to play huge chords on the piano, incorporating some big intervals etc.
But there are not many instruments that make it that easy to change the key of something... one can just move every chord or pattern or lick ( well, ok, not including open string-stuff and harmonics, unless you use a capodaster ) up or down a fret without changing much about it, while on a keyboard, it is quite a change to go from letīs say an Amaj7 to a Bbmaj7...

A really wise man once said "There is less to learn than to understand" regarding guitars. He meant that, if you understand basic theory and you know the chromatic notes, itīs not that hard anymore to find a certain note on the fretboard...

BongoBoy, I think you made a good comparison there ( regarding golf and the guitar )... itīs about taking a step and actually trying something. I mean, if you feel intimidated by the guitar and theory and all that, just give it a try, forget about feeling ashamed because youīre new to the instrument ( thereīs no need to feel that way ) and check it out...
No pressure necessary...

Warm regards

NP: Dave Martone- Higher ( track from the Jason Becker-tribute CD "Warmth In The Wilderness )

Bongo Boy
05-14-2002, 06:19 PM
Yes, very geometric as opposed to the apparent "let's try putting a hole over here" design of your woodwinds.

I think fear and trepidation are seldom based in reason--that's why they call it fear :D. Sometimes of course fear is warranted and a darn good idea--like if you choose a 1200cc machine as your first motorcycle, for example.

Well, I know once the little guitar gets here and I open the box, it's going to be another wonderful, endless journey--just like the congas. I can't wait to get started. Are there Guitar Gods to whom I must bow to ensure I get off to a good start?

05-14-2002, 06:47 PM
Well, I heard about some small cult-like groups who celebrate and worship guitar gods such as the mighty St.Vai and a certain swedish Viking king, but other than that, I think youīll be fine listening to your favorite music and the guitar players involved, to get some inspiration and motivation.... :D

Warm regards

NP: Michael Hedges- Aerial Boundaries

05-15-2002, 03:39 AM
You sure there are no real gods? I am in about the same situation as Bongo, and I DEFINITELY agree with him. Time for the infamous flying leap...

05-31-2002, 03:43 AM
Remove all distractions and play.
You can listen to other music or completely shut yourself off for a period of time and study theory maybe develop your own 12 tone theory.
Find a discipline that works for you, work hard at it every day then 10 minutes before quitting time PLAY with no preconception no thought.

Try not to think about it during this type of practice.
Every day finish your session off this way, it is good for your brain and it is a tremendous release, you will sleep better.
Tomarrow's practice will be more fun knowing you have this spontaenous frenzy to look forward to.

Afer a few weeks this will start to sound like somthing, what?

It will start to sound like YOU, not ____ (place your favorite guitar hero here) YOU. In a couple of months people that hear this frenzy will be able to recoginze YOU. You will be on the road to having your own Style.

Begin to record this when it starts to sound good, then be critical and recogize your weaknesses, this is where you should spend your time, reducing your liabilities. Also make note of when it sounds good, try to imitate yourself during these moments.
Takes some of these inspired ideas and string them together into a piece of music the WORK on it until you are satisfied. Then try to do it again with no thought no effort, when you can do this record it again.
Sounds good doesn't it?

By this time you are going to have a pretty good idea what your style and direction are going to be, I hope you like it since it is not going to change alot during your life.

Enjoy the Quest

Bongo Boy
05-31-2002, 05:37 AM
That's really an amazing insight packed into a short message. I can appreciate what you say...it's remarkably close to my experience so far with the congas. It's as though there's some rhythm or pattern that's been a basic theme since I was a kid. This 'theme' is one I always get to eventually--in one form or variation--during practice.

I've also started collecting some of the stuff I'll need for recording, since I know how useful it can be to dramatize progress over time. It's a great motivator. That I can even get my stiff, uncoordinated fingers to find and hold a C chord this week is a major accomplishment--last week when I tried for the first time I thought I'd never be able to do it, even with all the time in the world.

05-31-2002, 10:17 PM
I am an old guy who has been around for awhile to learn these things.