View Full Version : Questions regarding instructional materials

01-21-2004, 08:33 PM
Hello all...I'm brand new to this forum, but not to guitar playing, and I have a question that I want to throw out to everyone concerning study materials that might help me take my playing to the next level. A little background, I've been playing guitar for 24 years, have at times between the ages of 16 and today, supported myself as a performing musician for extended periods, and played a gamut of styles from classic rock and folk/rock to alt/pop. Over all those years, I was mainly a vocalist/songwriter and used the guitar as a supporting instrument, but I want to take my playing up a few notches. I'm completely self-taught and have only rudimentary understanding of theory. I've purchased dozens of books and video tapes, but nothing has ever done me a lick of good in understanding the guitar better or improved my musicianship. I've only gotten better through sporadic, random and mysterious bursts of improvement. Any ideas on what might work? I can't read music at all and have even struggled with making sense of tab. I guess the only thing I have going for me is my ear!

P.S. I'm almost completely focused on acoustic guitar these days, although my ES-335 still gets dusted off everyone once in awhile.

All thoughts in helping me attain my goals appreciated and welcome!

01-21-2004, 10:17 PM
Hi, stevenaa
Welcome ! This is a great place to learn......and find inspiration.
As for your question, it might help to know, more specifically how you want to improve.
Do you want to "shred", play some 4 part, or extended chords, simple melodies, all of the above ?
........I, just don't want to offer any meaningless, or confusing advice.

Cheers !

01-21-2004, 10:32 PM
Thanks Mike! I'm looking to improve in the following areas:

Core/base understanding of theory and the fretboard
Understanding notation and tab
Comprehension of scales and modes
Better right hand technique

I'm inspired by a broad range of players from Bill Frissell to Neil Finn, and I suppose none of them are close to being shredders, just more generally good, solid guitar players.

01-22-2004, 02:37 AM
Hi Steven,

Do you have a teacher?

I'm in a similar situation to you (although its my 335 that gets used and the acoustic gets dusted off occasionally).

The thing that helped me most was finding a teacher who could stretch me. Fortunately I found a guy who is so far above me as a player that I'll probably never catch up to him.

I also found a bunch of guys who were a bit better than me who I could play with - that helped heaps as well.

And I did a course at our Conservatorium of Music in Jazz Performance and Theory and this had a component of ear training in it as well - its amazing the "blind spots" you can find in your ear when you do one of these courses.

Some books that I found useful were Jerry Bergonzi's Inside Improvisation series and Mark Levine's Jazz Theory Book.

A couple of instructional videos that were useful were Emily Remler's Bebop and Swing Guitar (great for rhythmic stuff) and Robben Ford's videos. Also some of the Joe Pass ones are good.

Most of this is jazz, I don't know what you see as your next level - who would you most like to play like?

Doug McMullen
01-22-2004, 05:14 AM
Hey Steven:

The book I'd reccommend (and I've been thru a lot of books!) is Wyatt and Schroeder's harmony and theory. Just an excellent clear piece of work that will give you a foundation to build on for theory. Mark Levine's Jazz Theory is good for details and lots of more advanced things.... but I'd start with Wyatt and Schroeder.

If I have one piece of advice for you it is this: you ear rocks! don't undervalue it. Theory doens't have "things right", your ear does.
A lot of guys who are primarily ear players start studying theory and when the theory goes against what they hear the either say: "theory is stupid, it says such and such is no good but it sounds good to me... Skrew theory" ... or, and this is as bad or worse than the first reaction, they go, "oh my god, I thought that was a good melody/chord/ chord progression/ etc. but now that I've studied theory I realize it was WRONG... man, people must have been laughing at me this whole time -- I was playing bad incorrect music and nobody told me to stop.

Like I said both perspectives are totally sh*tty. When theory doens't agree with your ear, please just say, "oh, I guess I haven't got to the part in theory yet that explains the exceptions to this rule" or say, "hmmm, there must be more here" ...

If you've got an advanced ear, it's going to take a while, maybe forever, for your theory knowledge to catch up to where your ear is... that doens't mean it 's a waste of time to study theory... the theory should help stimulate you to explore things more deeply and perhaps more systematically... at any rate it'll give you another direction from which to approach music creatively. Just don't expect your ear and theory to get along perfectly from the get go... it isn't go to happen.

The first thing I would do is memorize the location of all the notes of the C major scale on the fretboard. Invent a way to do this... break down the fret board into manageable chunks... but learn all the note names... if you really work at it it won't take you but a month. C D E F G A B C, on all strings. Oh, and then do the same thing but instead of using notes, use numbers and see it all as a moveable pattern... 1 2 3 4 5 6 7.

Do that and you'll have a foundation for applying some more theory.

Good luck,

01-26-2004, 04:27 PM
Thanks so much for the posts, Doug, Greg and Mike! You've given me some great places to start looking and some great ways to approach how I view playing. I especially appreciated the comments about giving some trust to your ear. It's always been a concern at the back of my mind, and it's been validated by some of the interviews I've read with guitarists that I admire, that learning theory is great because it gives you logical pathways that you can follow and a base understanding of how the music is put together (especially important for improvision!), but then you best throw it out the window, or at least subjugate it, and trust your ears and your heart to get maximum return from the creative process.

I don't have a teacher or play with any other musicians right now. It's a bit tough given location and schedule (I run a software company by day to pay the bills, have five children and a wife at home who like to see me every once in awhile, and live on a small island outside of Seattle that I commute to via ferry every day where there isn't a large community of like-minded musicians available). Also, I've tried individual instruction off and on over the years and it never seems to work very well for me. I'm really looking for some self study type of guides that are effective.

I'll check out the materials and the methods you've suggested and let you know how it goes. I'm in the midst of recording some original stuff now...maybe I'll post a couple of links soon and you can give me some feedback.


01-26-2004, 08:40 PM
You may look at me weird and ythink I'm crazy but give the William Leavit Method a try, for reading stuff is really good, I was having some problems with my reading so I started working through it like if I was a beginner once again and even though several times I felt like "this is too easy I'm just wasting my time" but then I thought ok, if this is too easy work through it until you find something hard, and well, it was actually more difficult than it seemed, and my reading has improved dramatically in the last few weeks (no more problems with syncopation or notes falling on the upbeats :) ) so give it a try and see if it works for you.


11-21-2007, 02:58 PM
Hey,This's from an expert on HarmonyI play more than one type of instrument, but, can honestly state that to progress further than you are at present, then, one of the best things that you could do, would be to learn-with great determination-the names of the notes on every string and fret of the guitarThat way, you will be able to follow any printed-or written- music that has the chord symbols printed theron. You seem to have travelled about as far as you can musically with the knowledge and experience that you have had, therefore, the only way is UP to the next level.

11-22-2007, 04:20 PM
Check out Bruce Arnold's books, on Amazon -- and his website, at muse-eek.com.

Graduate of Berklee, where he taught for a time, now teaches (in addition to through his website) at Princeton and NYU.