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Thread: The categories of becoming a guitarist.

  1. #1
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    The categories of becoming a guitarist.

    The first category is the person who picks up the guitar and quits soon after. Sure, he can probably strum a few chords and play a few songs. But this person is never "really" comfortable at playing. He doesn't know how music theory works (his finger tips probably still hurt him). This is the person who thought playing guitar was going to be a easy and a lot of fun, but it turned out to be nothing like he was expecting.


    The second category is the person who is comfortable at playing. They can play scales fast. They can look at any tab (as long as it's not a really fast solo) and play it easily. They have a solid grasp on the theoretical basics, but they don't know all of it. But there is one thing that haunts this player. He still can't make "music."

    The third category is the person who "gets it." They can pick up there guitar and just make music, music that doesn't sound like they picked scale x or chord progression x. They may know everything there is to know about theory, or they may know little theory but have somehow managed to make the jump from category two.

    I am stuck in category two and it is painful. I want nothing more than to make the leap and "get it." I feel like there are a lot of guitarists that stay in category two and never make the leap to "getting it", probably because, and I definitely believe this to be so, that the leap from category two to three is way, way more difficult than entering category one. I don't want to be another one of those people!

    I feel like I've developed a bi-polar relationship with my guitar. For example, if I listen to one of my favorite artists, sometimes I get really inspired and I'll play my guitar. I'll feel good about my playing abilities for a short while (and feel glad about the long way I've come), but soon later I'll feel disgusted and frustrated, like I want to be done with playing. Sometimes the frustration runs so strong I don't think I'll ever make the leap from being a category two to a category three. And I'm afraid I'm wasting precious hours of my life at the guitar when I'm never going to "get it."


    Okay, that rant is over. Thank you for reading. I needed to let some of that out.

  2. #2
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    Hey, im my opinion all guitar players are better at some things then other! Example: some have a better ear then others, some find it easier to understand theory then others and some just practice 12 hours a day hahahaha. I can relate to how you feel cause it happened to me not so long ago, but i would think that the best way to tackle that situation would be to just do what you have to, to get a good as you want. Cause at the end of the day the power is in your hands! I had to shedule a 6 hour practice routine and my progression is amazing. Whatever you do dont give up!

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    And I'm afraid I'm wasting precious hours of my life at the guitar when I'm never going to "get it."
    Who is saying there is a time limit on this. My guitar and I look forward to many years with each other.

    Give the relationship time to grow. Enjoy the journey.
    Instead of trying to be like the original artist, start playing with others - band or jam group - great fun and you'll learn from each other -- and I bet find out that you are not all that bad when compared to your peer group.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 09-07-2009 at 02:33 PM.

  4. #4
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Your frustration is borne from projecting your expectations onto the instrument. If you listen to the instrument and learn to speak it's language then you will find the connections your seek. Our instruments don't care about our problems, our aspirations or our self-imposed expectations. They stand by ready to make beautiful music or a terrible racket and will do either dependent on how we choose to utilize them.

    If you are angry then your music will sound angry. If you are impatient then you music will reflect your impatience. If you dedicate yourself to learning to let the instrument and the music speak through you, then your music will reflect a thoughtful and caring presence.

    Put your ego aside, learn to listen to what your instrument has to say - then you can learn to converse with and through your instrument.

    cheers,

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    The first category is the person who picks up the guitar and quits soon after. ....

    The second category is the person who is comfortable at playing ... But there is one thing that haunts this player. He still can't make "music."

    The third category is the person who "gets it." They can ... just make music, music ... may know little theory but have somehow managed to make the jump from category two.

    I am stuck in category two and it is painful.

    Okay, that rant is over. Thank you for reading. I needed to let some of that out.
    Ha (smiles ), well I think I recognise those three categories well enough.

    My way of going from category-2 to category-3, is exactly the same as the way of going from category-1 to category-2.

    IOW - just the plain hard work of constant dedicated practice.

    It is tough. And it can take many years (even if you are practicing long hours every day). It certainly won't come as easily as most people imagine.

    But the more you practice, and the more you think about what you are practicing, and what you are aiming for in terms of musical understanding (as opposed to aiming to become rich or famous or something daft like that), then the more you find all the little bits of information begin to join-up and make sense.

    It's only when it's all beginning to join-up and make sense, that you begin to move from cat-2 to cat-3. Only when you begin to see quite clearly the relationships between the notes of various scales, chords and arpeggios, to recognise clearly what scales arps and passing notes are being shown & played in printed notation etc.

    Notice I didn't mention anything about listening or appreciating different sounds etc.

    Why? Why didn't I stress the importance of listening to lots of different music ... recognising different interval sounds ("ear training"!) ... following the tradition of copying music by ear (eg from old records)?

    Am I dismissing the value of that "listening" experience? Hmm, well ... I'm just not going to get any further into that aspect for now lol .

    Instead, I want to return briefly to the prosaic stuff about practicing - you need a definite musical goal - you need to have clear ideas about how you want to sound (which style or styles ... eg to sound like player X) - you need to have a serious, clear & full program of daily practice material designed for the goal (what stuff are you going to practice each day? for how many hours?).

    That's it really. If you do that, then imho you can definitely get from cat-2 to cat-3. Oh ... and one other thing - you need to put that stuff into practice by playing with others as much as possible.

    Ian.

    Last edited by Crossroads; 09-07-2009 at 04:24 PM.

  6. #6
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    my advice would be to practice without your guitar. I get kind of polar with my guitar as well. i think that's probably normal. sometimes you get used to what you play and it gets bland to you but to others it's great.

    whenever i get down with guitar, or don't feel much like picking it up, that's when i would practice scales and boring stuff, the rest of the time i'd rather just make music.

    but like i was saying, practice without your guitar. forget theory, forget fingering, forget tone and all that. just imagine sound. imagine playing over every song you hear. imagine your own drums on top of it. come up with solos over music you hear. all in your imagination. or you could just try singing as well.


    this will help you practice in a way that you are free from trying to find where to finger to get the sounds you want. you are free from the patterns and stuff on the guitar that sometimes themselves are a factor in your creativity, and may limit you more to wha tyou've learned or practiced, or to your muscle memory.

    if you practice without your instrument, then you are free from all those things, and then when you get to guitar you can try going into that mode, and play guitar simply as a method of putting into sound the music you are imagining.

    borrow and listen from the songs you are practicing over and choose cool songs you like for doing this too.

    i must practice music about 10 hours a day, because automatically, without planning it, i'm tapping on things, making beats, imagining music, soloing over music i hear. i spend so much time doing this. i never did it on purpose as a method of practice, it's just something about the way i am that i've done this my whole life, but i think it's really helpful and i'd recommend trying that for anybody that wants to improve creativity.

  7. #7
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    This is normal but you can make things go quicker if you rethink the way you practice. Let me just tell you a story first, then I'll get to the advice. When I was studying years ago, I remember going to one of my teacher's open counseling. I was at the time, going through what you are. I recall, being able to play all my scales and arpeggios but could not be musical when it came down to using them in a solo.

    Around the same time, I played with Frank Gambale at one of his seminars. The song I played with him was this very difficult Chick Corea song. I played the right scales and then he blew me off the stage with his chops and musicality. And he continued on bombarding me after with a critique of my playing. He basically said that I did a good job learning the right scales to play over the chords but for the most part had absolutely nothing interesting or musical to say. So you see, I was going through this terrible time wondering if I would ever "get it" as you say and debated quitting.

    And on this day, in my teacher's open counseling I picked "Dolphin Dance" to play and we played it down together. I remember listening to him play his solo after mine and I became increasingly depressed. So after it was done I packed my stuff up and he could read the frustration on my face and he told me that everything just takes time and all I really needed to do was play and listen more and I would get it. And he was right.

    Let me just say that being musical takes the longest time. I can teach anyone to play any scale, but teaching them to me musical is almost impossible. That is why you as a musician has to rethink the way you practice. If being musical takes the most time, you have to spend the most time working on being musical. If you change the practice paradigm, you will change as a player. Guitarists always put the cart before the horse and that is why there aren't that many musical guitarists. You get what I'm saying? Most guitarists think that to be a great soloist, they need to practice scales and arpeggios and when they get them all down at a predetermined BPM, they will be ready to play interesting solos. So getting on to my advice for being musical:

    1. Always, I mean ALWAYS, practice your scales and arpeggios to a track. This means a chord progression with a groove and changes. A metronome is better than nothing but not enough. You have to wake your ears up.

    2. Practicing to your track, always pay close attention to chord tones, rhythm, groove and presentation skills (vibrato, bending, etc.)

    3. Pick out a great musical solo and copy a parts of it or even the whole thing. I'm surprised how many aspiring guitarists do not do this, Nobody ever got to be a good soloist by practicing scales and arpeggios, they got good from copying from the best. You don't even have to figure it out yourself, get a transcription and play along, but play along, including the fine details, the vibrato and phrasing, the tone. Think about it: could you ever play a great blues solo by simply learning the minor and major pentatonic scale? It would be impossible. You would have to copy Albert King or Albert Collins or some of the other greats to learn the phrasing and vocabulary. Same with all genres.

    This might help:

    http://chrisjuergensen.com/developin...ce_routine.htm

    -CJ

  8. #8
    Since 1988 Carvinite's Avatar
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    Chris, Great post. just wanted to chime in and say I love the book also.

  9. #9
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    Take a holiday

    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair
    I'll feel good about my playing abilities for a short while (and feel glad about the long way I've come), but soon later I'll feel disgusted and frustrated, like I want to be done with playing.
    Sometimes - and I find this with songwriting more than anything else - it does you the world of good to take a short break. Don't touch your guitar for a couple of days and let the hunger build up. More often than not, you'll find that the pent-up frustration has disappeared and that you're raring to go again.

    Or, as fingerpikingood says, practise without your guitar. Perhaps work on some theoretical stuff or practise improvising solos over chord progressions with your voice.

    Works for me

  10. #10
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    I've said it before here but I'm not sure taking a break is a very good idea. I mean, if I had stopped playing every time I was dissatisfied with my playing I certainly wouldn't play the way I do now or have gotten to the point that I can hold my weight with other qualified musicians. Becoming dissatisfied with one's playing is a natural and unavoidable for the advancing musician and I would almost say that it is a necessary to become a decent musician. The trick is to embrace it and overcome it, this is what will make you good.

    The problem is that you cannot express yourself musically. I remember watching both Robben Ford and Scott Henderson play a concert in the same week and thinking that they had such great timing, chops and phrasing, and I didn't and found it discouraging. So I could have either decided to take a break from playing or learn how to play with great timing, chops and phrasing. When I find myself in this mental state, what I always do is cop one or two licks from one of the greats and work it into my playing, and all of a sudden I'm sounding much more musical. Simply because I'm learning from the best. You really have to get a way from the BPM mentality to become musical. I'm not saying that there isn't a time and place for that in your practice schedule, but that in itself will generally lead to pretty mediocre playing.

    The other important aspect to superior improv is being creative. And as Joe Diorio told me once, you have to have a creative lifestyle to be a creative musician. Read books and watch movies that stimulate the creative centers in your brain. There is nothing better for being a creative musician than falling in love with someone or climbing a mountain, going to a holy place...

  11. #11
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    You'll get there.

    You are thinking about these things.That's good.So eventually you will get a better "feel" for things if you just stay after it and keep thinking about it.When it finally does happen then you won't have to "think" about it as hard after that point. It'll be alot more automatic and you'll feel things better, and then things will end up sounding alot less contrived.

    Just keep pluckin' away!

    The second category is the person who is comfortable at playing. They can play scales fast. They can look at any tab (as long as it's not a really fast solo) and play it easily. They have a solid grasp on the theoretical basics, but they don't know all of it. But there is one thing that haunts this player. He still can't make "music."


    ...I am stuck in category two and it is painful.
    You can always work on, and improve your technique. Don't worry about that so much. That's kind of the robotic side of it rather than the more musical side of it. Just keep putting chords,scales and SONGS under your fingers and eventually you'll get there. It's what you can do musically with them that counts, not how well you can play them by rote. The problem comes from trying to master the chords,scales and arpeggios themselves instead of trying to get a better grip with them musically. The latter is much simpler than we think it is and so we tend to over do things, over play, get too fancy and flashy and complex, and just play scales and arpeggios by rote too much. Just calm down and try to think more in tiny bite size little 'musical' bits. Get the feel musically first,then eventually with more feel and with a better feel you'll start to go faster with it and get more intricate with it and so on. More songs together with more digestable, smaller musical bites is the way to go.

    Try to understand the idea that "LESS IS MORE" isn't just some superfluous cliche. Wrap your head and your hands around the simple until you find your musical soul. Less can be more literally and physically on the fretboard, but also mentally and creatively. So explore that avenue just like you would any other, just as as you would invest alot of time and practice in playing loads and loads of notes and going for maximum speed. They are two sides of the same coin. It's just that most of us need to tackle the mechanical side of things first and end up reaching that 'robotic' point before we go "aha!" this is too robotic, I need to go in the other direction more!"
    Last edited by Chim_Chim; 09-23-2009 at 02:48 AM.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

  12. #12
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    Discipline.
    Focus.
    Listen.
    Play.
    Persist.

    I have that written on my wall xD

    Also. Try printing out some good photos(or get posters) of musicians you admire. Stick them up around your practice area.
    Every time you get stuck or frustrated or feel like putting the guitar down. Look up and ask yourself " What would Pat Metheny(insert your idol here) do? "...

    Be methodical.

    Pick a few areas that are holding you back and work at them. work at them. work at them. work at them. work at them. work at them..... got it?

    Also I agree with everything Chris said. All I will add is... yes, play with backings.. or a live band when ever you can. Get the harmony of the tune in your head. Practice without it though. Just set a metronome to the desired beat and work at jamming to the backing track in your head. This is the absolute best way to develop your ears and musicality... imo

    ps-

    There is no 'get it'.. no one gets it. They get better at it So don't expect too much of yourself. Unless you have found the perfect practice routine for YOU and then you spend 4-5-6-7 hours a day practicing with absolute dedication. You still have a rough ride ahead of you. Like most people.

    Music is probably one of the most painful occupations one can take on. It takes many hours of hard work to wind up playing even simple tunes well. For the years of sweat and torment you go through into the wee hours of the morning all most people can hope to receive is 10 second applause between your solo and the next guys... There is no glory in this thing. *glares at his guitar*

    Last edited by JazzMick; 09-24-2009 at 01:34 PM.

  13. #13
    Did I say that out loud ? joeyd929's Avatar
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    80-20

    Steve Morse once said in an interview that he practices technique, theory, all that stuff 80 percent of the time and 20 percent of the time he just goes for it and forgets all the "mental" stuff. Point being that there needs to be a balance of both worlds.

    Many times when I jam with friends I learn more because it sort of forces you to just try and play with whatever you get thrown at you. I have also discovered that when I jam with friends I very quickly see where my weak areas are.

    I always leave a jam session with new ideas to practice and trouble areas to work on. I have tendonitis to some degree and some days my hands just don't work that well. On those days I usually break out the slide.
    Last edited by joeyd929; 09-29-2009 at 01:01 PM. Reason: Forgot to add a comment

  14. #14
    Did I say that out loud ? joeyd929's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGreatPair

    I feel like I've developed a bi-polar relationship with my guitar. For example, if I listen to one of my favorite artists, sometimes I get really inspired and I'll play my guitar. I'll feel good about my playing abilities for a short while (and feel glad about the long way I've come), but soon later I'll feel disgusted and frustrated, like I want to be done with playing. Sometimes the frustration runs so strong I don't think I'll ever make the leap from being a category two to a category three. And I'm afraid I'm wasting precious hours of my life at the guitar when I'm never going to "get it."


    Okay, that rant is over. Thank you for reading. I needed to let some of that out.
    This is ME.. Definitely have a bi-polar relationship with my guitar. Some days I hear great stuff and it inspires me, either that or I just want to quit when I hear great stuff.

  15. #15
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    Get a full tool box and then take the time to learn how to use every one of the tools in it.

    Even if you're not the best with every tool, your overall performance will be improved if you just become more familiar with all of the tools in your tool box.

    You'll have a better shot at building something interesting.

    Plus, when it doubt you can whip them out.

    It's a Free For All.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

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