(or “What to should I be practicing on the guitar???”)
So you’ve finally decided to take learning the guitar seriously? Good for you! You love the music, you’re enthusiastic and you’re raring to go… Or maybe you find yourself longing to play well but daunted amount of information about how to play….we are living after all in the information age!
Fortunately for the daunted, we can easily reduce this mass of information down in to manageable chunks and make sure we concentrate on each of them in turn.
Obviously the specific requirements of an acoustic steel string folky and hardcore metaller are going to be somewhat different…but beneath their superficial differences all guitarists have more in common than they think…
So here’s what I recommend to become a well rounded guitarist:
1. Develop Fretboard Knowledge
Finding your way around the guitar is like trying to navigate a maze…blindfolded! Unlike our blithely plinking brethren on the piano or the hard blowing sax players, our instrument is not a linear arrangement notes…it is a complex six string matrix (and that is as confusing as it sounds). Here’s what you can do about it:
- learn the notes of on the fretboard
- practice scales and arpeggios and patterns (it’s very very good for you!)
- learning the CAGED system of fretboard navigation (a god-send). Here’s a link to an explanation http://www.cagedguitarsystem.net/
2. Practice Sight-reading
Unless you can play purely by ear you’re going to want to learn some music from one of the following formats:
- Chord charts
- Tablature (tabs)
- And even…(sinister organ noises)…standard notation!!
Don’t worry though – with a bit of time it’s a skill that you can definitely acquire. Half the battle is obtaining the most accurate and clearest written music you can.
3. Playing by Ear
Ok..ok…I know I just told you should be working on reading music instead of “just” playing by ear…in reality though, a good ear makes a musician, so….
- figure simple tunes (silly melodies like nursery rhymes can be really helpful)
- figure out licks, riffs and chord sequences by ear – cherry pick your favourites
- practice playing along with recordings and backing tracks. Grab some free backing tracks here: http://www.guitarbackingtrack.com/
4. Learning Songs
This is the classic achillies heel of the guitarist! As a breed we tend to be excellent at playing small parts of songs but never knowing the whole thing! Never mind though…with so many excellent tabs and play-alongs we’ve got no excuse not to sit down and tackle our favourite pieces from start to finish.
So I recommend you grab yourself a copy of the free guitar pro tab reader tux guitar http://tuxguitar.herac.com.ar/
With this you will be able to play guitar pro tabs that you can easily obtain from sites such as this http://www.gprotab.net/index.php One word of warning thought, user made tabs are of variable quality, so use your ears!
Also you could do a lot worse than to check out the video tutorials of the legendary Justin Sandercoe here: http://www.youtube.com/user/JustinSandercoeSongs
P.S. Do your best to memorise the tunes! A strong memory is essential for any kind of performing where you don’t have the luxury of reading from a sheet…
5. Inventing new ideas
Here’s a fun one for you. After all that time an effort learning and analysing other peoples’ material, it time for you to start screwing around with it and trying to reshape it in your own image….so give yourself permission to just mess around with ideas you find interesting and see what you come up with
It’s up to you how frequently you practice each area; you could try and do a little of everything all on one day, or maybe a couple of areas each session. Experiment and see what suits you best.
And just for fun, a few things you can do between practicing…
- Perform music in front of people
- Listen to a wide variety of music
- Study music theory
- Learn about music history