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  #1  
Old 02-08-2001, 12:36 AM
mapletrees mapletrees is offline
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Smile Guitar Lessons - Do's and Don'ts


I'll try to follow up on this with details - nag me if I don't.

By the way, I'm not trying to pass myself off as God's Gift to Guitardom. I'm certainly not. I just hate to see people struggle senselessly with something that should be fun. I've seen first hand what does seem to work and what does not - both for myself and students who have come to me frustrated from other teachers.

Over in the Anything Goes section several people mentioned how they got their greatest learning by the "sink or swim" method while playing with others. Undoubtedly, playing with others, or recording yourself and trying to play a second part, or trying to play along in time with a teacher, or practicing ever so objectively with your metronome - anything like that where you are forced to be aware of the beat and not lose it - is where you'll develop most of your ability.

Back to the topic of lessons...

Now, certain advanced players might seek out specialized instruction, of course. Golf pros seek out lessons to improve particular areas of their game. However, they are very very good golfers before they seek specialized help. They've already completely mastered the fundamental basics of being a good player.

Most folks who are in that "Well, I know some chords and licks, I'm pretty good, I think, I'm not sure, my mom thinks I play Dust in the Wind and Stairway to Heaven well, but...I just don't know what I'm doin' man" phase of playing need a thorough drilling in fundamentals.

A short list of things to with a general instructor. Anything else you might be better off doing with friends, from books and videos, or possibly with a well known and very advanced player who excels in some particular area of playing.

Like I said, I'll follow up on these.

1. Basic Ear Training - So important. I didn't realize it existed. Jabudi !!

2. Learn to read musical notation and rhythm notation. This is a no-brainer. I'm talking about a minimal amount of reading - not anything on the order of what a classical guitarist could do. I get 16 year old metal heads to do this and they enjoy it. There are good, basic, but modern music reading/CD packs available. If you thought I was correct about Mark Hanson's fingerpicking books, you'll probably think I'm correct about these. Much more to say about this.

3. Learn basic music theory (major scale, intervals, triads, chord formulas, and keys) in conjunction with learning to read music. It essentially happens for free that way (for both your brain and wallet). My students do this with a minimum of their jotting a note or two here and there. I speak musically to them in complete sentences and they learn how to respond in complete sentences and complete thoughts. Easy. Not tough.


Do not, Do Not, DO NOT, oh my goodness DO NOT try to learn the basics of chord theory and construction the following two ways.
A) Go to an instructor with music (say, a magazine like Guitar World Acoustic) whip out your favorite tune and say "How does he know to use these chords together?" Most instructors will in return whip out a sheet of paper and start scrawling in disorganized chicken scratch the entire content of two semesters of a college music theory class. You probably aren't going to get much in the way of learning that way. If by any chance you do, it's going to take 19 lessons to learn what you could have learned in 19 minutes if you had gone about things in a proper way in the first place.

B) Don't try to learn the basics of chord construction while learning to solo over the basic blues progression either. I see so many sad and confused people. The whole idea behind the blues is that dominant chords pop up where they're not "supposed to". Talk about confusion. Good grief.

Both of these ways are a little like the following: You've never played football. You walk out onto an NFL field. As the defensive linemen and linebackers are growling and digging in, the center gets ready to snap you the ball. You then turn to your coach (instructor) and say "Oh, hey, quick, how do you play this game?" You, my friend, are in for a serious whoopin'. It's not sensible.


4. Once you do understand the basics of chord theory you most definitely should look at popular tunes with an instructor to begin understanding harmony. For example - suppose you like such and such a tune. It's going to be filled with chord sequences and progression. Pick one sequence, say F to F/G (F triad with G in the bass) to C. Pick that sucker apart. Milk it for everything it's worth. What chord does F/G really represent? How else can you play it besides the way the tablature shows? If you understand chord construction you should find dozens of ways to play this out with partial chords - and understand them! Can we simply play some intervals? Detune your A string to G and we've got new things. Once you've got a whole new arsenal of ideas, how could 2 guitar parts combine to make it fuller? Intervals, intervals. Slide those intervals about. Last time I checked, there were twelve keys. Start playing this progression every way you can in other keys. But for crying out loud, know, and know well 'nuff to use, your basic theory first. Beware the chicken scratch monsters.

5. Soloing and improvising

Someone who scrawls out a scale and says play "what you feel" is not helping you. Those "learnt the blues from the Devil in a swamp one dark night" instructors might make for good friends, neighbors, jam session buddies - I've got a few of them. But the only way to learn something from them is give them a 12 pack and hang out with them for a few hours. Not once a week for a few minutes.

For soloing practice with an instructor you should work on

Tension and Release

Targeting Notes (chord tones)

Limiting Rhythm to help find chord tones

Limiting Rhythm to "free up" your rhythm

I would also suggest you pick apart Robben Ford's blues instructional stuff with an instructor. He is THE man for sophisticated blues played with feeling and exceptional phrasing.


6. Fingerstyle

For the mechanics of fingerpicking no doubt get Mark Hanson's books as mentioned in that Excellent fingerstyle instructional book/CD's whatever the heck it was post in the general discussion section.

You should definitely seek out someone who actively arranges tunes for solo guitar if you're interested. Books can give you suggestions - but to see a true artist in the creative process is quite a different thing.

[This message has been edited by mapletrees (edited 02-08-2001).]

[This message has been edited by mapletrees (edited 02-08-2001).]

[This message has been edited by mapletrees (edited 02-10-2001).]
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  #2  
Old 02-08-2001, 02:16 AM
Jeff M Jeff M is offline
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Great posts Mapletrees. Keep em comin!
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  #3  
Old 02-08-2001, 05:34 AM
Brett Valentine Brett Valentine is offline
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Great post!

. . .I realized I was "no help" as a guitar teacher for trying to teach what I do because what I do is mostly self taught. I had to stop, sit down, and logically, systematically, figure out WHAT I was doing before I could begin to try to explain it to anyone [who didn't know] without them getting that "glazed over" look<grin>.

But trying to translate "accumulated practice" into "applied theory" is almost like trying to contemplate your navel through a wool sweater. You understand the beginnings, you even understand the endpoint (where you comfortably are now). . . It's just the intermediate steps. . .that "middle stuff" that gets lost in the sauce.


Another "do" (and this probably applies to the "self taught" people more). Write out what you learn and put it into your own words not only to ensure you understand it well, but also as a guide to help teach it in the future. you create your own "musical diary" which then can become your own "teaching method." I wish I'd have done that earlier. . .

Brett
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Old 02-08-2001, 09:41 AM
mapletrees mapletrees is offline
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Brett,

I hear you. Glazed donuts are good. Glazed faces are not.

There are definitely more Do's and Don'ts.

What you said about putting things in your own words is huge. It literally makes your brain grow. Goes hand in hand with reading music...more to say later.

Hey, can you not figure out how to use those little faces in the middle of a post either? (I noticed the "grin") I'm stumped.
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  #5  
Old 02-08-2001, 05:17 PM
Brett Valentine Brett Valentine is offline
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Oh, that's just force of habit <grin>

I've found that the only way for me to REALLY "own" something is to be able to take it, chew on it for awhile, twist it around, and look at it from all sides.

The added benefir is that I might see something else I might not have thought about before. . .

Brett
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  #6  
Old 02-09-2001, 09:37 AM
mapletrees mapletrees is offline
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Smile

Some more do's and don'ts...

First, one important thing to remember...If you're taking lessons and enjoying them, please don't get overly swayed by my opinions and go off and dump your instructor because he can't read music or anything else along those lines. That's not my intention at all. I'm trying to offer advice for those who are just starting out and also for those who are kind of stuck and frustrated.
Being stuck at point A, wanting to get to point B, watching others happily and quickly get to point B, and not having a clue as to how to get yourself to point B can get a little maddening!

Anyways, back to more do's and don'ts


7. DO record the lessons on an audio tape and avoid having lesson time get gobbled up with a lot of writing. Do you like what you hear? From your instructor? From yourself?

8. Working on popular tunes - make sure you understand what I wrote in #4 above. Ask if you don't. Other sensible things to work on within tunes might be:

a) Separating the essential from the non-essential (helpful for simplifying if your in over your head)

b) clapping out rhythms found in the tune so you can slow parts down enough to practice them PRODUCTIVELY. Learning to read music will make your life so much easier. The other day I was watching a "kid" (probably 20 yrs.) in a shop "play" Dave Matthews' Crash Into Me (I'm not sure if that's the title, it's Crash something) It's simple enough, just some strumming on some odd but cool and related voicings. However, bass notes come in funny and unexpected places and that's what makes the song happen. After he went through the thing about 25 times badly I went over to a bin of used magazines where I knew there was a transcription. When I got back to the acoustic room he spotted me and said "Uh oh, I've seen you before. I know what's coming." I opened the magazine and asked him if he could read the rhythm (there's a repeating, sort of hypnotic pattern). He didn't bother answering, just took off his hat. I bonked him with the magazine. I clapped out the rhythm, he clapped along, we slowed it down, he played the tune with only the bass notes first while I clapped, then he did the whole thing properly. Took him all of 3 minutes to work it up to full speed. It's not just that he can play that part properly now. He's a better player - by a liitle bit. He's not the same person anymore. Little by little you change into a whole different guitarist if you practice properly. Guaranteed! Now if he wants to add some Pete Townshend type strums in the middle of the tune, he won't fall flat on his face. He'll do it, quite easily, without much thought, and like a cat he'll somehow end up upright and on his feet ready for the next measure. Learn to read music. A little effort in, a big reward out.

c) picking up and connecting parts(such as picking up the verse on the last measure and then connecting to the chorus) Your instructor can act as a drummer driving a band rehearsal. It's one thing to pick up some riffs and chords and THINK you can play a tune. It's quite another to be able to run everything together at full speed without losing the beat.

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  #7  
Old 02-09-2001, 12:45 PM
Brett Valentine Brett Valentine is offline
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Talking

Quote:
Originally posted by mapletrees:
When I got back to the acoustic room he spotted me and said "Uh oh, I've seen you before. I know what's coming." I opened the magazine and asked him if he could read the rhythm (there's a repeating, sort of hypnotic pattern). He didn't bother answering, just took off his hat. I bonked him with the magazine.
LOL!

Oh man! What's so funny about that is that he KNEW it was coming!

Brett
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  #8  
Old 02-14-2001, 02:53 AM
Ricky Skaggs Ricky Skaggs is offline
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Good stuff, Mapletrees. Keep it coming. I usually just read these forums but I had to sign up tonight to thank you for the informative posts. For a guitar-playin' rookie like me your advice is much appreciated.

Wow, my first post.
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