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Old 11-30-2012, 04:43 AM   #1
ConsPark
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Question In Way Over My Head

Let me start by saying that this forum is packed with excellent videos and tips.

This is as much a rant as it is anything else. I first started playing guitar in early 2007. Ever since then I've simply “fiddled” - learn a bit of this song a bit of that. I've never taken lessons and quite frankly, unless someone convinces me that they are completely necessary (and I have grave doubts about that, my lack of experience and preference for self-teaching aside), I probably never will. To this day I don't know a complete song, only the intros to various songs like Dream Theater's Constant Motion, Loverboy's Turn Me Loose, or Greensleeves. And that's part of my problem: I pick songs, particularly in the prog arena where things get crazy, that are way over my pay grade. (Skip this next paragraph if you'd like)

I know the basic chords, but other than E, I can't generally finger them right on the first try without looking. I can't switch between them fluidly, either. My alt picking is pretty inconsistent, especially at high speeds where my left and right hands fall out of sync. I can't strum all that well, especially not when it comes to just a couple of strings instead of all six. My hand strength is decent, but flexibility is lacking. The idea of practicing with a metronome greatly terrifies me (I've never done it - I know, I know). I know exactly zero about music theory.

The issue here isn't even that I don't know what to do to fix these things per se. The issues are that:

A. I feel like I lack focus and motivation, which to be frank is something I struggle with as a person in general, and

B. I don't know where to start.

I know that chords are more or less the first thing you should learn to play. But at what point do I say “Alright, now I should throw in some good strumming practice” or “Now I should learn those chords in another key.” At this point there are so many things I want to practice and learn but I don't know where to begin and how much emphasis I should put on X relative to Y at any given stage. Not to mention that after “fiddling” for nearly 6 years, I've probably got some very bad habits to break. Time is another concern. Mastering an instrument takes years and years and years, I know. But am I really going to be practicing the basic chord transitions for six months solid? I suppose I am, if that's how long it takes to get it down.

I could rant for days, but that's the gist: Where do I even start with all of this?

Last edited by ConsPark : 11-30-2012 at 04:46 AM.
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Old 11-30-2012, 11:11 AM   #2
SVBall
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There are many routes to go from here - some free, some not.

I'd recommend trying out the beginners course at www.justinguitar.com.
Not sure how much Justin Sandercoe is respected - or not - around here, but his course can provide a lot of the guidance you need in terms of what to practice, how much to practice, and how to organize your practice schedule. It was VERY helpful for me when starting out...and it's free. His lessons are super easy to understand, and he displays techniques very well.

Good luck!
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:34 PM   #3
guitarhero_764
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Pick a song you like, find the guitar pro tab on this site, slow it down and play it all the way through. Keep practicing until you can play the entire one.

Find a set of exercises that you'll do everyday. It doesn't really matter which, just pick some areas at random if you don't know.

If you do about an hour of practice a day you'll start to see noticeable improvement in a few weeks time, I guarantee. I had the exact same problem as you until last summer and I just got really serious about playing all of a sudden and I've improved more over the last few months than I did in my entire guitar playing career.
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:43 PM   #4
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+1 for justinguitar.

If you haven't played an instrument in your life, then seriously consider lessons for a solid basis. I have experience with other instruments and I still found the guitar frustrating at first even with online help. You can do it, but it's going to take focused/smart practice as opposed to just fiddling around.

Pay attention to the detail to get the correct technique. That is a good start to get your feet wet with the fundamentals. You really should get a teacher to help you so you don't develop bad habits if you haven't played an instrument before. An experience teacher should tell you what you are doing right vs wrong and this will give you the confidence to ingrain the right feeling into muscle memory thru repetition. I remember when I had trouble playing a C chord, but after thousands of repetitions, I don't even think about it. Just like I don't think about exerting tremendous energy writing sentences or talking aloud.

Start with the chords and follow along with marty schwartz on youtube or justin sandercoe. That will form a basis. Next get some music theory in your brain so you know how music works. Tabs are good to follow along too, but I don't like them for a beginner. Why? Because the beginning guitar player doesn't know how to properly finger the tabs. I am a huge fan of lick library because you have a teacher there who you can emulate and go thru notes one by one with the proper fingering. I also like jam play but not as much. I think jam play and lick library is worthwhile for the fundamentals if you want to go beyond justin guitar. It's not free and justinguitar is!

Last edited by sweetdude3000 : 11-30-2012 at 03:44 PM.
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:53 PM   #5
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Actually if you are serious about playing, then you can do it. You'd be surprised what you can do. I have been playing instruments for 15 years or so and lessons are the way to go. Sounds like you don't have any experience playing instruments from your post, so scrap the justin guitar idea for now unless you are broke.

I have benefited tremendously from lessons on the piano when I was younger. It has helped me with guitar actually because you learn HOW to practice instruments and WHAT to listen for. Most people are way too tense when they play and it took me a few years to realize that speed comes from playing SLOW and ACCURATE, which helps bridge the gap from short term to long term. Then you develop the feel to play at blazing fast speed because you know your stuff in your long term memory. Plus a teacher sets goals for you and coaches you. So what do you want? To be left in confusion to fiddle your way and eventually give up or get the support from a pro to show you the correct path
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Old 11-30-2012, 04:15 PM   #6
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You're going to have to find the passion and inner drive first. While the advice of others here is definitely recommended, it appears your lacking the most fundamental/essential element to becoming a rock solid musician. Lack of motivation translates as "no passion" in my vocabulary. I guarantee you if the heart was there, you wouldn't be on this board seeking where to "start", but would already know what works for you at this stage of your journey. Find that first, and I promise you the rest will begin to take care of its self. Start re-evaluating why you picked up an instrument in the first place. If it is anything other than a sincere love for musical expression, then you're already in the wrong state of mind. As 'sweetdude' pretty much expressed--SLOW and ACCURATE is absolutely everything. To add to that, I would also say REPETITION. The people that seem to be getting this how playing an instrument thing down to a science aren't special. They've long blocked out the notion of trying to impress others, and are simply playing for the sheer enjoyment and thrill of it. As long as you intend to play an instrument, there will always be hurdles you have to overcome no matter what stage you are at. I just saw a video the other day of Metallica in the studio. Kirk Hammet was struggling with a riff that Hetfield was having to help him through...and this is an accomplished guitarist we are talking about. Accept and appreciate the hurdles you encounter because they are nothing more than milestones. They will test you, but if you are persistent and push through..you will always end up satisfied.
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Old 11-30-2012, 04:37 PM   #7
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I started just like you are and am still not very good all things considered...but my skill has improved a lot since I have been playing more.

I didn't practice very much because it didn't sound very good to me and it wasn't very fun, but once you get over that plateau it is a lot of fun.

I can recall songs that I wanted to play that I learned the positions and notes to that were just too fast or required alternate picking, etc. After forgetting about those songs for 3 months or so and playing other things then remembering that I once tried to learn said song, I would go back and would be able to play it no problem just from the gains I had learning other things.

It might be that you do not have a lot of "natural" musical ability, which doesn't mean that you can't learn, it just doesn't come as easy to you as it does with some folks. I tried teaching a friend to play piano and another friend guitar and it was a nightmare on both accounts (I think I am a pretty good teacher from what people have told me).
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Old 11-30-2012, 04:46 PM   #8
sweetdude3000
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simper-Yut
You're going to have to find the passion and inner drive first. While the advice of others here is definitely recommended, it appears your lacking the most fundamental/essential element to becoming a rock solid musician. Lack of motivation translates as "no passion" in my vocabulary. I guarantee you if the heart was there, you wouldn't be on this board seeking where to "start", but would already know what works for you at this stage of your journey. Find that first, and I promise you the rest will begin to take care of its self. Start re-evaluating why you picked up an instrument in the first place. If it is anything other than a sincere love for musical expression, then you're already in the wrong state of mind. As 'sweetdude' pretty much expressed--SLOW and ACCURATE is absolutely everything. To add to that, I would also say REPETITION. The people that seem to be getting this how playing an instrument thing down to a science aren't special. They've long blocked out the notion of trying to impress others, and are simply playing for the sheer enjoyment and thrill of it. As long as you intend to play an instrument, there will always be hurdles you have to overcome no matter what stage you are at. I just saw a video the other day of Metallica in the studio. Kirk Hammet was struggling with a riff that Hetfield was having to help him through...and this is an accomplished guitarist we are talking about. Accept and appreciate the hurdles you encounter because they are nothing more than milestones. They will test you, but if you are persistent and push through..you will always end up satisfied.


Solid advice. You need a passion for it otherwise you will just quit. I know several people who said man I wish I would have stuck with piano or guitar. Well, for most, they didn't because it wasn't their passion. So they quit and found something else. If there is a will, there is a way. And it takes work, a lot of work before you get the benefits, unfortunately. But you will see some gains which will spike motivation with a teacher. I promise.
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Old 12-01-2012, 11:03 PM   #9
ConsPark
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Thanks for the input guys.

The comments about lacking a real passion for it are fair and I've wondered about that quite a bit. If I really loved it, wouldn't I want to be doing it almost constantly? Maybe, but my love of music and how great it feels to be playing what little part of a song I know really well and just letting it flow is just too good. There's always some riff in my head or some song I want to make but I never know how to get it out. That, if nothing else, is what makes me want to learn an instrument.

I've picked a few exercises to do daily and I'm also poking around for some good chords exercises to do so I can get my basics down. I've heard numerous times already that to learn a song you need to play it through slowly (very slowly) to start committing it to muscle memory, but I'm wondering just how slow is slow enough. Is it simply however slowly it needs to be in order to get it right? If I keep screwing up even when I go slow should I be looking at my technique, my posture, and the like? Or are there simply some songs that, even if you take them slowly, are just too advanced for a beginner to undertake?
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Old 12-01-2012, 11:20 PM   #10
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As slow as it takes to get it right is pretty much correct, but at the same time...don't be afraid to jump around from song to song if the occasion calls for it. You'll always be able to come back. I was working on 'Creep' by Stone Temple Pilots for months on end and had just about gotten to the Chorus before I dropped it temporarily for other material. There was alot going on in that song that I needed to commit to memory and I finally became bored with it. If you begin to get weary of a particular song from practicing it so much, go ahead and move on to another to spice things up again...and then revisit that song at another date. I have a pretty solid list of songs that I can play full speed, accurate, clean...no problem. However, every time I try a new song I always begin by setting the tempo at around 50-60%. Then, when I feel like I am becoming pretty decent with the song....I might bump the percentage up another 3-5%. Once I'm almost playing it in my sleep, I might go up to between 70-80%. After hanging around there for a while, I eventually reach a point to where I can more or less play along with the song its self with little or no trouble. You have to be prepared to spend months on end perfecting a song if that is what it requires you to do. Becoming a good musician is a marathon, not a dash. Slow and steady is usually what is going to get you to where you want to be. I can give you all of the advice in the world, but eventually you're going to have to tap into the right mindset. That's also what separates sincere musicians from pretenders. The mentality for it has got to be there.
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Old 12-02-2012, 07:26 AM   #11
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Both issues A and B actually have an easy fix which is... A good teacher.
A teacher gives you certain areas of your technique and playing that you should focus on right now so that you don't have too much to divide your attention. And he/she also gives you goals for pretty much every week, and you'll feel satisfied with your progress as long as you've practiced, because he (should at least) encourages you with the progress you've made and so on.... As long as you notice your progress you're going to want to keep practicing and it will be fun.

But if you still don't feel like getting a teacher, I suggest you figure something out to match those things. Like set weekly goals, 3 week goals, 9 week goals an so on. Record your practice with writing, recording, videos, sheet music or whatever.

Don't take too many goals or areas for one timespan, depending on what kind of things they are though. Choose like... alternate picking for one week, and work on a few areas on that everyday, f. ex. emphasize string skipping on day 1, day 3 and day 5. On other days single string picking or whaaatever. And if alternate picking goal is 1 week, then that could be one part of a 3 week "program" of picking and tapping or a 9 week program of technique. You could also have music theory 3 weeks that has 1 week of that and 1 week of that... And that could be a part of 9 week program.

The point is, start from big goals, think about what areas you need to practice to get there, set goals for those and think about the areas needed until theres something that you can practice and improve in ONE practice session. You improve with repetition, so the smaller the goal (a scale, an arpeggio, trill, a string skip) the faster you achieve it.

Whew that felt long... I sure hope it's not full of sh*t
Anyway, my two cents.
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Old 12-03-2012, 06:22 AM   #12
ConsPark
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simper-Yut
After hanging around there for a while, I eventually reach a point to where I can more or less play along with the song its self with little or no trouble. [...] Slow and steady is usually what is going to get you to where you want to be.


And on top of this, learning songs in this way helps you develop your technique in general, which leads to improvement not just in playing that song but every song you undertake, amirite? Also, would it be fair to say that most professional musicians take this same approach to learning songs or is there a point at which your techniques and experience become such that just hearing a song is enough to give you a good idea of how a song is played? Playing by ear is a skill I'd like to develop, because there are songs and riffs I hear that there is no tab for.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Unrelaxed
Both issues A and B actually have an easy fix which is... A good teacher.


Although I am a fan of self-teaching, the biggest reason I haven't taken lessons is a question of money. But hopefully in the near future I'll be in a better financial situation that I can start taking lessons. I am in university and my uni does offer guitar classes, but I'm not sure if that academic atmosphere would be appropriate. Any thoughts there?

Also a technique-related question. I typically rest my pinky of my picking hand against the guitar when I do anything but strum. I see most people do it when they alt pick, but is there a problem with doing this "most" of the time?
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