Hey all! The Ultimate Guide to Guitar has come to an end, like all good things do at some point... From the first chapter onwards, we've been building up a solid knowledge of theory together, starting with a foundation of basic theory and working our way upwards. We also discussed a scala of guitar techniques, ranging from the easiest beginner techniques to way more advanced skills. From here, you should be capable of venturing out on your own and putting all this knowledge to use!
But wait. "How exactly do I put all my theoretical knowledge and technical skill to use?", some of you may be asking. And believe me, that's a good question... Does knowing all these chords, scales and progressions really help you make better music? And do all the techniques you learned really make you a better musician?
The answer to both these questions is "yes, but". Yes, having a profound understanding of music theory will allow you to write better music, since you'll be able to understand existing music better and follow the examples it sets. And yes, knowing guitar techniques will not only make you a better guitarist, but also a better musician in general, since being able to use your instrument to its full extent opens more doors for you compositionally. However, and here comes the "but" I was talking about, music theory or guitar techniques should never be used in music just for the sake of using them! I'll elaborate on this in the following two paragraphs.
I'll start off discussing the use of theory in your further life as a musician. Like I said, knowing music theory is sure to help you comprehend existing music and write your own music, as it allows you to see the theoretical foundations on which every piece of music is built. However, one should keep in mind that music theory should never be used to write music, just for the sake of applying music theory!
What does this mean? Well, after reading a few of my latest articles, some of you might go: "hey, I want to write a modal progression in D Lydian, and use a modulation to D Locrian, that will sound cool!". Indeed, it does look somewhat impressive to apply advanced concepts of music theory to your compositions... But does that mean it will sound good? A different, probably better approach could be this: "ok, I want a modal progression in D Lydian. Let's try some stuff out!". After some playing around: "Oh, hey, I added a nice sounding twist to the progression! Now it's not in Lydian anymore, but I don't know exactly what it is I did... but at least it sounds good!". And after some research: "I looked into music theory a bit, and I found out I'm modulating my progression to D Locrian! Interesting!".
Do you see the difference between these methods of writing music? The person in the first approach considers the use of advanced music theory concepts more important than whether or not the music he's writing actually sounds good. In other words, he's applying music theory for the sake of applying it. This is not the case in the second approach: this person composes by ear, his highest priority being that his music sounds good to him, regardless of which theoretical concepts he may or may not be applying.
Remember that the latter approach is the way to go. You now know a lot of music theory, but don't feel compelled to apply all of it in the music you write! Go by what sounds good to you above all else, and only after that you should take theory into consideration. In other words:
"Music theory mainly serves the purpose of helping you understand music, not create it."
Of course, a basic knowledge of music theory will help you on your way writing your own music, but the above statement still stands... otherwise, Jimi Hendrix (who never learned theory) wouldn't have been able to write a single song in his life, would he? I'll repeat what I've said numerous times before: if something sounds good, do it, and if something doesn't, don't do it; no theory can define what sounds good to a person's ears!
As for guitar techniques, similar arguments can be made. Perfectly mastering the wide variety of guitar techniques we discussed throughout the Ultimate Guide to Guitar is sure to help you progress as a musician. Being able to use your instruments better also means being able to play more music, since complex virtuoso music pieces are no longer a problem for you. Consequently, you'll be able to compose more music as well, as people will rarely compose music they're not able to play themselves!
However, like I advised against the use of music theory for the sake of using music theory, I am advising against using guitar techniques for the sake of using them. Sure, you can do sliding sweeps, pinch harmonics and right hand tapping licks now, but that doesn't mean you have to use all these techniques in all your compositions, does it? Cramming a music piece chock-full of impressive guitar techniques isn't going to make it sound any better... or, in other words:
"Technique mainly serves the purpose of allowing you to play your instrument, not create music."
Once more, I repeat that when writing music, you should do what sounds good to the ear, and ditch what doesn't sound good. The ear doesn't care if you use the most awesome techniques in the world or no techniques at all, as long as your music sounds good!
And this is it! This really is the end of the Ultimate Guide to Guitar. As of now, I've taught you all the theory and all the techniques I possibly could, and I've given you numerous exercises, pointers and tips to learn how to apply all this knowledge to practice... There's nothing left for me to teach you now!
So, to all those who have worked their way up from Chapter I-1, to all those who picked up reading when the Guide reached the level they were stuck at, as well as to all those who learned even the slightest thing from reading up on something they needed help with... Well done! You have succesfully become better guitarists and/or musicians! And thank you for taking interest in my Guide, I hope you enjoyed learning from it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Good luck with your further careers as guitarists and musicians! Oh, and I hope that someday, when you turn rich and famous, you'll still remember me and my Guide...
A Word Of Thanks
I simply can't finish my Ultimate Guide to Guitar without mentioning the people whom I owe my gratitude, for without their help there probably never would have been an Ultimate Guide to Guitar. In no particular order, I would like to express my thanks to the following people:
Maxim (PiCSeL), UG's columns editor, was the person who introduced me to the UG head office as a candidate professional columnist. Without him offering me this amazing opportunity, the UGG would never have existed. Lots of thanks to you, Max, as well as a well-deserved apology for making you edit mistakes out of my articles all the time!
Genie (JustLikeMe), also a columns editor, who was added to the team recently and has ever since done a wonderful job making sure my articles were uploaded on schedule and free of bugs. Thanks for your effort, it was very much appreciated!
Andrew (matter), UG's editor-in-chief, for granting me the opportunity to write for UG, and for always being supportive of my series, helping out whenever necessary. Thanks for letting me contribute, it has been an honour!
Eugeny (zappp), the owner of the website, not only for granting me a weekly place to post my tutorials, but also for the conception of the fine community that is UG! I'm glad I've been able to contribute...
Carmel, for being the best friend I could wish for. Always there for me when I needed someone, and always supportive of everything I did, not just of the UGG... When life was tough, there was still consolation in the fact that you were there, always. For this, I admire you as a friend, and I cherish our friendship as one that will never be lost.
Tom Colohue, colleague UG columnist and a wonderful friend, for always being by my side in both my professional and my personal life. Professionally, your criticism and feedback helped me lift my UGG up to the current standards, and taught me to be a better columnist in general. In my personal life, you've become one of my closest friends, with whom I can share all joy as well as all suffering. You will always have a friend and companion in me, whatever your ventures may be.
My family, friends, and my wonderful girlfriend in particular, for supporting me when I was stuck in a tough spot in life. Words can't express how much your support meant to me, and how much it still means to me. I love you all.
And of course, you, my reader, for taking interest in my lessons, and for providing me with the necessary feedback helping me improve my writing. Your appreciation was the main driving force of my motivation to keep going! Thank you!