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Old 01-21-2021, 07:32 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 5,502

Originally Posted by rllink View Post
I hope this fits, the lack of a teacher. For a long time I was teaching myself and it was going okay, but painfully slow. I would spend an inordinate amount of time wading through the internet trying to figure out how to do something and a month later when I finally figured it out I would be mentally exhausted. I started one on one lessons in September and it is so much easier to just ask him and he shows me. I spend a lot more time practicing and playing and a lot less time stumbling around in the dark. What used to take me months to learn takes a week now. I think the absence of guidance and having that resource held me back. I wish I had gotten a teacher a long time ago.
I'll echo this, to some extent at least.

I taught myself, but I wouldn't say my progress was "painfully slow". It was painful - on the fingertips, because my cheap first guitar had a terrible action, and it took me a while to work out how to fix it (hacksawing down the nut slots ). But I progressed as fast as my fingertips allowed.

Of course, this was long before the internet! I figured everything out from:
(a) a tutor book (not a great one);
(b) songbooks (I could read notation);
(c) records (with the help of a 2-speed tape deck);
and (d) friends who could play a little better than me (I joined their band).

Those four things taught me everything I needed to know about theory, songwriting, improvisation, fingerstyle technique, and so on. (I should probably add that I read some theory books too, but they didnt teach me anything useful that I hadn't already learned from the songs.)

I would also record myself and listen back, although I wasn't a very critical listener in those days. (Listening to those old tapes many years later, I'm appalled by how bad some of it is...)

Where a teacher came in - and this is where I agree with the above - was over 30 years after I'd begun playing. I'd been gigging bands for nearly that long, in various different styles - folk, blues, rock, jazz, etc) - only as an amateur, but earning a little on the side. But I'd decided to take a jazz performance diploma, and a couple of one-on-one lessons were required.
The teacher (a pro musician who was actually a friend of mine) spotted straight away an issue I had, that I was kind of aware of but hadn't really addressed before, or considered that important (I thought I was handling it OK).

It was that I didn't play with enough positive attack. I didn't play like I meant it. I had a kind of detached attitude, too laid back. I knew one was supposed to be relaxed, not tense in any way, but it is possible to be too relaxed! I knew from videos of my playing that I looked I didn't care too much about it. I could play OK, but I didn't really put myself into it.
So the first thing he got me to do was to sit properly. Sit - and hold the instrument - like you're about to deliver something really important.

The second thing was a technical exercise: play a scale with fret hand only. IOW, play with hammer-ons and pull-offs alone, no picking, and play in time. (Ideally to a metronome.)
The effect of this exercise was extraordinary. After I'd done the left-hand only exercise for a while, and brought the picking hand back in, suddenly my playing sounded positive and strong. The timing and tone were both crisp and clear. I sounded like I meant it.

So it took a teacher to (a) observe what my issue was, and (b) suggest a simple solution.
"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." - Leonard Cohen.
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