View Full Version : Directions

07-15-2003, 01:55 PM
Hey there everyone,

I've been playing the guitar for almost three years now and i find myself just learning songs and then playing it
which in the past gave me really great satisfactions. However now , i feel like i'm just not progressing as a guitar player .
What i really like to do is to be able to improvise the songs that i've learnt and playing it with my own intepretations rather than impersonating someone else or hopefully write my own songs .
I've been practising scales ,doing work on music theory checking out ur website and some other websites with lessons but it seems like i'm just aimlessly accumulating informations.
I hope you guys could provide some suggestions to help me find my direction.


07-15-2003, 03:13 PM
Well i believe most of us, if not all of us started playing by copying stuff off other recordings, its a fantastic way to start and well you got gazillions of songs to choose from in different styles and different skill levels.

he next step could be to reinterpret them in your very personal way, but what i realy recommend you do is sit down with your guitar and just play. Dont start playing any of the songs you know, look for other directions, other styles , other tempos and from there start working on your own ideas.

07-16-2003, 02:34 AM
hi Snap,

I am from the same place as you. I also face the same problem as you do, if not more.

I don't play from song to song, not because I don't want to but because I am stuck in one song. Every time when I start playing, it sounds so bad to me that I have to play again, and again and again. That's why I am stuck.

Then I realise my fundamentals sucks. My bending and vibrato are weak and unstable. So I spend hours doing my basics, especially the vibrato and bending. Hoping to get a vibrato sound that I "visualize".

This is really tiring. But my direction is to get the sound that I want to sound, so that I can play and feeling in control of the sounds I play and expressing myself properly.

I guess good guitarists express their music the way they want to. You can be a technical dinosaur, sweeping, tapping, shred at light speed to express, but doesn't mean if you don't, you are not a good guitarist. The live jam solo by EC on "Crossroads" has no speed of light tapping or sweeping, but is one solo that I think is musically incredible!


07-16-2003, 02:52 PM
I think finding some other people to play with is the best way to get unstuck.
I'm just barely up to the "intermediate student" level and have joined an acoustic music alliance that has monthly jam sessions, there are a couple of different people from my church that I can play with and have a few freinds in AA that also like to get together and pick out a some tunes.
Even just pulling out you guitar at a campfire with a few people singing will help get you out of a rut. It forces you to play through your mistakes, get to the end of the song and move on to another one.
No one seems to care at all about the mistakes that you make. Everyone that I've played with and for are just glad that your doing it with them.
These are also safe ways to start working through stage fright.

Doug McMullen
07-16-2003, 03:04 PM
Hi guys:

It can definitely be hard to keep a steady direction learning improvisation. Studying improvisation is like learning to swim. You only get better at it by doing it. No one ever learned to swim by reading a book about it. I'm not saying improvisation is all physical, not at all... I'm saying your mind has to learn to "swim" in the music.

Here's what I recommend:

1) Use backing tracks and use backing software (like band in a box). Band in a box is a _fantastic tool_ for creating backing tracks and studying the nuts and bolts of music.

2) Be as curious and exploratory as you know how to be. To a large degree you have to be self-teaching. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Suppose I prescribe 5 excercises. Student A diligently practises the excercises -- just does them by rote until he thinks they are "mastered" --- student B looks at the excercises and goes "what the hell is this -- how can this crap help me improvise???" and then student B sits around with his guitar trying to figure out why those excercises were reccommend and what lies underneath them... what principles are the excercises based on? Maybe with one excercise he sets out to _prove_ to himself that it is a complete waste of time.

student B, IMHO, has the attitude of intense "I will prove it to myself" curiousity that leads to good places in the arts, particularly music.

3) Here are some classic excercises for the beginning improvisor.

+++ Think of song you know very well, like a childrens song or a christmas carol -- sing it out loud. Now play that melody on the guitar by ear...
Once you can play it on the guitar, play it in three or four different positions/fingerings on the neck. Once you can do that, begin the song on a new note (IOWs begin in a new key) and play it by ear. Play the song in at least two different keys. Do not neglect playing the melody with some feeling, some swing. Start with very simple melodies like row row row your boat.
Do this every single day with a new song or a snatch of melody.

+++ Improvise on a single chord. Have a backing track play a chord in time and then improvise melodies over that chord. Experiment with different approaches. Try playing only chord tones. Try out different scales... try out different rhythmes... and especially, try out different "goals" --by goals I mean styles and intentions -- can you play sad? angry? drunkenly? abstractly? angularly? smoothly? sardonically? can you tell a story? can you create a dialogue? analyze what you are doing? What seems to work? What doesn't?

It is easy to focus so hard on technical things ( am I playing the right notes of the right scale?... etc) that you think, "I'll put off trying to do things like playing with clear emotional intent until I can play "cleanly"" .... well, a lot of the time it is _easier_ to play with feeling and purpose than without it. Playing music as an excercise makes it sound like an excercise -- who wants to listen to excercises? It'll never sound good... it wasn't meant to sound good. Play with intention -- how a can a note be right or wrong until you have something you want to say with it?

+++ After soloing over a single chord (experiment over all kinds of different quality chords... major minor maj7 dom7 min7 min7b5 diminished7-- Move to working on chord to chord movement...

Work on individual chord changes for example, in blues you have a I to IV change. In your backing track device put in: |C7 |C7| C7 |C7 |F7 |F7 |F7 |F7|.

Develop licks for the movement from C7 to F7.

The C7 chord-scale is: C E G Bb D F A.
The F7 chord-scale is: F A C Eb G Bb D.

One note is different... the E in C7 becomes Eb in the F7 chord. What happens if you emphasize E or Eb in your improvised line?

--- At first, try thinking of improvisation _only_ in terms of chords. Think of improvising from chord to chord.... think of any scales you use as related only to the chord. Forget keys, and single scale approaches to soloing. You will ultimately want to learn how to use the 'key' to help you. In many songs one scale can be used over several chords in a row or even an entire song. But don't use that technique, not yet -- you will learn more, and learn more 'musicially' if you concentrate on chord to chord soloing. This means your first task, when improvising with any chord changes, is to know what chord you are on!

Remember any note that is in the chord you are playing on is a good note for you to use in your improvised playing, especially ending a phrase.

Experiment. Can you play a solo using _all_ chord tones?

I hope this post gives you some ideas for ways to continue your musical growth.

07-16-2003, 05:14 PM
Hey thanks everyone!
Really glad that I came to this forum!

03-20-2004, 04:03 PM
I'm a self taught guitar player and I have struggled with learning in the past too, especially with only myself for a teacher! But when I get stuck in a rut one thing that has helped me in the past is to find a new chord (one that I haven't played before or one I haven't used much, usually something colorful, a bit different) and then try to write a song or just a melody line around it. This often leads to hearing another chord in my head that I don't know how to play, or two or three... this motivates me to figure out what I'm missing, play around until I find the sound I hear in my head, and before I know it I have not only expanded on what I can already do, but I've got a new song coming from it as well! Not to mention the practice that comes from playing it over and over again! Just try and get creative, even if it leads to nothing. It's all good in the long run if you can learn something from the experience!

Good luck and keep playing!:)

03-20-2004, 04:40 PM
Doug, I wish you were out here in Seattle so I could lessons from you! :)

03-21-2004, 03:46 PM
Nice post Doug. I too have that 'stuck in a rut' feeling. This puts alot of stuff into perspective. Thanks.

03-22-2004, 05:36 PM
Thanks Doug ! I wish I'd seen this one sooner.