The Self Taught Guitarist's Survival Guide

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons' started by mudfinger, Jul 16, 2010.

  1. mudfinger

    mudfinger Thanks for the memories. V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    17,225
    Likes Received:
    50,358
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    So, you wanna play guitar?

    Okay, then. Go take lessons, already, and stop spending so much practice time loafing around on MLP. :naughty:

    If lessons aren't an option, and they aren't for some folks, then you're in for a very rough, but very rewarding challenge. When I took up the guitar, the prevailing wisdom amongst the professional rock, blues, and jazz guitarists that I knew was: You have to teach yourself if you want to be any good.

    As much as I'd like to defer (and did, see above) to the professionals and experts who make their living teaching folks how to play and how to play better, I'm a DIY kinda guy by nature, and I DO see merit in teaching one's own self to play; guitar, especially rock and blues guitar, comes with a very small set of rules that everyone follows, and the rest is wide open, waiting for someone without any preconceptions of what should be done, to find his or her own way through the wilderness. You must get lost to truly find yourself.

    The history of rock, jazz, and blues shows us that the greatest innovators were all self-taught. That's not a coincidence, in my view. But even the most die-hard autodidactic players didn't learn in a complete vacuum; there's always an uncle, or a friend, or a patient pro, willing to offer insights, sometimes even explanations, and in that sense, all of us were and are, students of the instrument.

    So, where do ya start? I was told to start on acoustic, so I did. Great move; the added resistance of the heavier strings, and the responsiveness of the instrument were both factors in my later fun with electrics. I don't think it's any kind of incredible advantage, but it certainly worked for me, and for my son. What to do first? Learn to tune it, of course. Use a tuning fork, a pitch pipe, a piano key, an electronic tuner, whatever you like, but first thing you should be doing at the top of every practice "session", is tuning. Not only will you sound better when tuned, but it's a ritual that you'll be living with for the rest of your guitar playing days, and it's the most important habit you'll ever develop. Everything you need to know about tuning a guitar can be found right here on the MLP, and all over the internet, in books, what have you.

    Okay, you've tuned the guitar, now what? Time to play some music. My first day on the guitar was spent trying to learn Eagles songs from a book that had little pictures of the chords above the music staves, kinda like this:

    [​IMG]

    This is the first challenge, learning to play these chords. Here's how you do; pick up a songbook (one that includes chord charts) by your favorite oldschool rock or blues artist. CCR, Beatles, Eagles, Stones, what have you. You want the simple stuff. Pick a song you know, and look at the chords in it. Let's say you chose "Outlaw Man" by the Eagles; that's what I did.

    First chord in that song is Em; it's one of the easiest chords to play. Look at the picture of the chord on the chart, and put your fingers where it says to, and then strum the chord. You're going to hear all kinda funny noises; some of the strings will ring out loud and clear, others will be muffled, and one or two will either squeal or sound totally out of tune with the others. Keeping your fretting hand in place, pluck each string in the chord and adjust your fingering as needed until it rings true, then play the whole chord again. Repeat this process until the entire chord rings out every time.

    Time for the next chord. Repeat the process outlined above until you've got the 2nd chord down. Now, for the real challenge; playing one after the other. GO SLOW. Makes it easier to keep a rhythm when the time comes. Play that 1st chord for a few strums, then switch to the 2nd. You can also use the single string method to confirm that after you move your hand, you're fretting the new chord correctly. Practice that transition until you can do it smoothly. The entire trick consists of moving your fretting hand to the new chord in between the strums, so the slower you go...the easier that will be.

    Most songs have at least 3 chords, so on to that, just repeat the processes noted above until you can transition from one chord to the next without screwing up the chords. Again, GO SLOW. Enjoy the sound coming off of the guitar when you get the chord right. When you've learned all the chords in a given song, and you can transition cleanly between them, then, and only then, is it time to work on your speed, and rhythm.

    If you can play along with your chosen tune on the stereo, so much the better, but most folks will find that it's hard to keep up at first. No problem in that, turn the stereo off and just play the song by yourself as if you own it, at a speed that lets you make the changes smoothly, and within a few days, you should be up to, or nearly up to, the recorded speed. THEN you can play along with it every day if you like, and have some fun. :applause:

    Thought for the day:

    If you can sing, even poorly, by all means do so; this connection between voice and guitar can make learning much easier in the long run. It's certainly not necessary, but every lil bit helps, no?

    Next up: Basic picking technique, and the only 2 scales that every rock/jazz/blues guitarist MUST know. Good times, hope this helps the guys out there who can't/won't take lessons, and apologies to the professional teachers. :thumb:
     
    Donnie, Graham H, Yui and 53 others like this.
  2. Leumas

    Leumas Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,913
    Likes Received:
    12,702
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    Good stuff man, this mirrors my learning experience precisely.
     
    mudfinger and TheZeppelinKid1991 like this.
  3. kaatwang

    kaatwang Senior Member

    Messages:
    320
    Likes Received:
    369
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2010
    In 1978 I decided to play guitar. After a Few months of "trying" to teach Myself, My Mom was irritated by the lack of music coming out of the thing. So, I took lessons for about 6months. Got frustrated with that since i couldn't play the solo in "Sultans of Swing".
    Then I started working harder and pushing myself on my own.
    Is there a point to this? Yes, I'm one of those folks that needs a little direction from time to time. I just needed a small push to get the spark going.
    Fast forward over 30 years. I still play all the time and am happy with what I do.
    BTW, I still can't play the solo in "Sultans of Swing".
     
  4. SmokestackElRopo

    SmokestackElRopo Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,341
    Likes Received:
    402
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2007
    Dammit I hate it when that happens :thumb:
     
    mudfinger likes this.
  5. Drew224

    Drew224 "Obvious BS Artist" V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    16,575
    Likes Received:
    7,766
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2009
    i've been self taught for four years, i played piano previously. i've already done a year of high school band, i'm the only guy that doesn't get flak for not taking lessons, but this is going to help a lot of people, and eventually me. :D

    thanks mud!
     
    mudfinger likes this.
  6. Mookakian

    Mookakian Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,104
    Likes Received:
    2,204
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2010
    In a small town like im in, good lessons are hard to find. I started at 6 with intentions of teaching myself to create my own style(big dreams 4 a six yr old:laugh2:). Stopped for 5 years, broken wrist, then picked up an electric a year or two ago, hard to believe, i didnt realise how fast ive picked up the electric, but i think MLP members such as yourself are responsable;).

    I kind of binge read here, 4-5 hours practice a day, then i spend a few days takin it easy and grabbin help online(and giving what i can) Its great:thumb:
     
    mudfinger and SgtStryker0331 like this.
  7. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    3,493
    Likes Received:
    4,706
    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2007
    :applause:

    Mud, that's exactly what I did. Exactly, except for me it was The Beatles Complete, not the Eagles, but the process was the same. And it's still what I always recommend when one of my friends asks about guitar - choose some songs you know & like, get the chord book (an accurate one) and trust your ears & your own knowledge of what the song should sound like.

    I still think that for a beginer there's a lot of value to chord charts (this sort of thing: G / C / G / / / F / / / G / / / ) that beats the heck out of tabs. Like I said, if you know the song, you don't need the exact tab, just the chord changes, and your ear will be your guide.

    Plus it's good ear training too, without you even realising that you're doing it! Two birds with one stone - yay! :laugh2:

    Now, I'm just going to go slightly off-topic for a real brief moment here, and Mudfinger please take this as I intend it - a friendly, gentle tease between forumites, ok? Imagine I just bought you a drink & I'm grinning while I say it... :)

    What you're describing here in this thread works really well. One of the reasons that it works well (& IMHO the biggest reason) is because by picking songs that we already know, we have already learned the sound we are looking for before we try to play it.

    This means, as I said before, that the ear is guiding the fingers, which is sooooo much easier that if we were trying to learn a song we didn't know, just from the chord chart.

    So: learn the "sound" (ie by being familiar with the song), then try to make that sound with the guitar.

    It's a great method, and the way you have described it makes it sound really down-to-earth & workman-like...

    ...but...

    ...learning the "sound" first, then finding how to make the sound on the guitar is basically what Quill was advocating in that thread about scales, and you gave him a (friendly) hard time for talking "hippy". :cool:

    My point/tease is just to mention that you & he have both described the same process (IMHO), albeit it different contexts & in different language.

    So does that make you one of us hippies, or is Quill actually more down-to-earth than it seemed it the other thread?

    :hmm::)

    Like I said - all in the spirit of friendship & humour, mud & I'm pretty sure you'll see it like that... :fingersx:

    Anyway, please take us back on topic...
     
    mudfinger and Thumpalumpacus like this.
  8. mudfinger

    mudfinger Thanks for the memories. V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    17,225
    Likes Received:
    50,358
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    Doin it right is doin it right, no matter when, or where. :D

    So, you're a fingerstyle player? Still wanna learn it? If so, stay tuned. :)

    Privilege is mine, Drew, and won't be too long before we get into stuff that you'll find useful to your own cause. :fingersx:

    No, Mook, it's all you and your dedication, which clearly runs deep; perfect candidate for the self-taught method, as you're not likely to get discouraged. That's the biggest enemy, in my view.

    :yesway::yesway:

    Ear training, or as I like to call it, "listening"...:naughty:...is the inevitable byproduct of mindful playing. The more you play, the better you hear, and it's not worth a moment of your time, in my view, to go out of your way in pursuit of it. It's going to be happening all by itself.

    What you're describing here is called "memory", just sayin.

    No, we're not describing the same process, and we're definitely not advocating a similar set of priorities. Actually playing the guitar is far above and beyond anything else. I've heard it said time and time again that theory is the foundation of good playing, but that's just total BS. Good playing is the foundation of good playing. Theory, "ear training", that's all good stuff to know ABOUT playing guitar, but it ain't playing guitar. :cheers: Freakin' hippies, man, I tell ya...:laugh2:

    I'm right in the middle of slagging through some major gear stuff atm, so not sure when I'll post the next installment, might be a few more days, might be tomorrow, but if you want something to think about in the meantime, look up Pythagoras and his music theory. You might find it a more compelling way to think of music than that offered up by the Europeans. The guitar is an exceedingly ancient instrument, and can trace its lineage back to the first time a caveman plucked a string. But, whatever you do, keep those hands on the guitar, because that's the thing. Music theories are like maps; won't help you much if you don't keep your eyes on the road.
     
  9. goatbreath

    goatbreath Banned

    Messages:
    3,612
    Likes Received:
    157
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2010
    It was The Beatles complete for me too,I still have it Sellotaped together,Light beige cover and a gold coin on the front..Along with Harvey Vinson,lead guitar.a slow going book,In 1986 not that much was available in small town Dumfries.
    I was hungry for knowledge,learned mostly by ear,Knew a major scale so mapped out the neck in school jotters.The lines across were the frets.seven lines downwards =6 rows of boxes.E then chromatic scale.A same etc..So I knew a pentatonic minor in one position and a major scale.Fill in the notes in the position you know it,then repeat all over the correct boxes,Find ways to finger it,Practice,voila!!!
    Later came me buying the odd magazine and learning about modes etc...I had been playing for 4 years before I went to my first lesson.I didn't have that many.I learned mainly by me making up the music and the singer writing the words.because of this I became interested in harmony and theory,I'm also the type of person who always has to be learning about something.Plus my passion for music in general made me high and want to figure out how to do it.I wish I still had this energy.

    A great help was a Free music paper called making music.A guy called Rikky Rooksby used to write a column in that and he wasn't your normal type
    writer,he was really inspiring.
    Whenever I could get a book my choice was very considered,as I had practically zero money.But it meant you learned every nook and cranny you could.
    Of course alot was by ear.Especially guitar solos and licks etc.Any questions I couldn't answer I would often get out pen and paper and figure out the math.

    Regards Goatbreath
     
    mudfinger likes this.
  10. Quill

    Quill Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,548
    Likes Received:
    3,035
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    {edit} Above all, have fun!
     
  11. soberdave09

    soberdave09 Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,150
    Likes Received:
    314
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2010
    i'm self taught,mainly by ear.i just use to watch people & pick it up.that being said.after 25 years of on & off playing.i think i might take some jazz & blues lessons.just to learn what i've been missing.
     
  12. BigB

    BigB Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,372
    Likes Received:
    25
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2008
    This is worthy of a sticky. Thank you Mudfinger. Hopefully it will continue.
     
  13. mudfinger

    mudfinger Thanks for the memories. V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    17,225
    Likes Received:
    50,358
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    I'm a presumptuous ass, let's take that as a given. :naughty: My point stands; theory is a map, it ain't the mountain. Is Western European theory the better map? Or is Greek theory the better map? Suppose it depends on what you're looking for doesn't it? I chose to find my way up the mountain by watching my step, and that's what this thread is about. If that requires loosening the stranglehold that Western European theory has on the minds of far too many otherwise talented and capable musicians, so be it.

    If that helps a guitar teacher or two along the way to reconsider some of the wasteful things they do with students' time, so much the better. :thumb:
     
  14. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    29,592
    Likes Received:
    53,722
    Joined:
    May 20, 2010
    A lot of us still can't play that damn thing :laugh2:
     
    mudfinger likes this.
  15. Quill

    Quill Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,548
    Likes Received:
    3,035
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    {edit} Above all, have fun!
     
  16. OldGuy

    OldGuy Senior Member

    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    67
    Joined:
    May 14, 2010
    Just buy a 45 of your favorite song, put it on the turntable and put the speed on 33; then be prepared to pick the needle up off the wax a lot while you're learning the notes.

    ...

    Wait...
     
    mudfinger and Biebers_Monkey like this.
  17. Quill

    Quill Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,548
    Likes Received:
    3,035
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    {edit} Above all, have fun!
     
  18. mudfinger

    mudfinger Thanks for the memories. V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    17,225
    Likes Received:
    50,358
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    You were pretty vocal about being a professional teacher in the other thread, and how that entitled you to speak with authority on the subject at hand. Now you're an authority on how musicians can teach themselves to play well? Okay, fine.

    I started this thread to help out the guys who've alot less interest in your "highly focused, both intellectually and physically active form of listening, and a kind of performing-in-and-of-itself", and who just want to play the guitar. It's just listening. Get over yourself, this kind of pretentious BS is exactly why guys like Jackson Browne and Tom Phillips said I'd be better off teaching myself, and I'm glad I followed their advice.

    Of course you're encouraging people to take lessons. You're a guitar teacher. Gotta keep that business going, dontcha? :rolleyes: This thread is for the guys who don't want or need your services. My instructions in the OP should have been enough to mollify you, but I guess us muggles mucking about on our own is a bigger threat to your ego than I realized. :hmm:
     
    colchar likes this.
  19. Quill

    Quill Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,548
    Likes Received:
    3,035
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    {edit} Above all, have fun!
     
  20. mudfinger

    mudfinger Thanks for the memories. V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    17,225
    Likes Received:
    50,358
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2010
    From this thread: http://www.mylespaul.com/forums/guitar-lessons/53967-i-have-trouble-remembering-scales.html

    "Actually I always did my best to dispatch the modes all within one lesson - if they were having trouble, maybe two, but the topic is dull and I'd rather work on other things and it can be done quickly so why not do it quickly. Everything: diatonic modes, harmonic and ascending melodic minor modes and the associated chords - more importantly, how to build the associated chords out of any scale. This all assumes, though, that there's been a lesson or two on the major scale and the associated chords, and a bunch of tunes learned, and above all, that the student can hear and sing a major second, a minor second, thirds, fourths and so on.

    I've had students contact me after years and years had gone by and tell me they'd learned more music with me in four or five lessons than they'd got from a year with other teachers - and a lot of these people I taught for free. It was my living for a year, and I did it part-time for a while after that year, but ... something's off about the whole thing for me, so I haven't done it for years and hesitate to do it again.

    I have to say, the "head up the ass" comment was fine and kind of fun, but even a trace of a suggestion of having a profit motive or a business plan associated with teaching music, with all the time I've put into my contributions to the lessons section, is an unkind cut. Good time for me to move on, I think
    ."

    Your head is way up your own ass, Quill. Don't move on, tho, stick around and learn how it's done. ;)
     

Share This Page