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Old 12-01-2012, 03:39 AM   #1
ChucklesMginty
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Running out of things to play syndrome

This is a huge problem for me, and I think for a lot of guitar players. I pretty much always practice with headphones so no one can hear me. So when I plug into an amp at a guitar shop, or have to play for someone I have no idea what to play.

So I generally just end up noodling with a clean or crunch sound, which gets boring because my improv isn't that great.

I probably know a pretty huge amount of riffs and chord progressions that I've learned over the years, but when someone else is listening I forget all that shit and my mind goes blank. And when I do think of something I think in my head 'no, it's cliche' or 'no it's make them laugh' or 'you can't play it well enough yet.'

It's infuriating because I think I'm a pretty good player but I can't really prove it - unless I'm onstage with a band playing rehearsed tunes.

So I've put it down to a few things -
  • Worrying what people with think of my playing (psychological)
  • Poor improvisation, especially when playing with chords. Which is good to do unnacompanied.
  • Working too much on shred/metal stuff when I'm at home, which I don't want to play for anybody! I'm more of a classic rock, blues and jazz cat now.

So those are the causes, what's the solution? I really idolize Guthrie Govan for this reason, he can pick up the guitar and it's just like talking. He can play anything he hears in his head and has a massive library of songs and TV themes that he can call up with no thought. That's the dream!
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:47 AM   #2
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I almost always do a blues improv in E as soon as I pick up a guitar.

One solution to your issue would be to identify 5 or so songs as "standards" (in fact, blues or jazz standards would fit the bill pretty well) to be able to pull out even when your mind is blank. Practice these 5 (or even less if you want) songs for hours upon hours, until you can play them in your sleep.

How much music do you learn by ear? In my opinion, that's the single most valuable thing you can do as a musician. That's how you get to the point where you can play anything you can hear in your head.
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Old 12-01-2012, 05:26 AM   #3
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just keep playing. to get over the psychological thing of worrying what people think, just dont use headphones unless you absolutely have to. i used to practice with headphones and had the same problem but now i have room mates and im always playing without headphones, they dont mind and im pretty much over that fear now.

food1010 pretty much covered the rest.
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Old 12-01-2012, 06:34 AM   #4
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i have this problem too really badly. i found that id immediately go straight for the complicated stuff in an effort to impress but screw up because of the nerves. its easier now to progress naturally through from basic chord progressions until you become more confident in letting yourself go with the technical stuff
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Old 12-01-2012, 07:21 AM   #5
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Just play to pepole. And practicing with an amp is much more fun than headphones!
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Old 12-01-2012, 07:40 AM   #6
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The same thing happens to me. I could happily noodle away for hours but as soon as someone asks me to play I'm like uhhh.
So I like lists:
1: Many friends I have are gamers. I play FF, Mario, Halo, Pokemon tunes.
2: TV programs that I've tabbed out from TV. Simpsons, Mortal Kombat, Scooby do etc.
3: Jazz. Tender Surrender, Are you familiar with David Hamburger's Trufire Licks? AWESOME licks.
4: Classical licks sound sexy. Greensleeves, Fur Elise, Bourree(sp), Moonlight Sonata(A recent easy lesson), Tocatta and fugue.
5: blues. Turnarounds are simple and sound ohhh so bluesy.

After THAT do I play my cliche stuff.
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Old 12-01-2012, 07:50 AM   #7
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When i Play in public i always have at least one or two songs that i play really well and that way i get into playing and stuff just comes to you.
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Old 12-01-2012, 08:35 AM   #8
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learn some frank zappa.



that ought to keep you busy for a while
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Old 12-01-2012, 08:40 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rickyj
learn some frank zappa.



that ought to keep you busy for a while


this, so so so much this

also, write your own music i just play riffs from my own slowly-building solo set just like my personal practices but minus the metronome and 4 hours of getting everything perfect.
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Old 12-01-2012, 11:04 PM   #10
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Going off what food1010 said. There are many songs I can play...but then there are a select few that I can play really well. For me, it's mostly Alice n' Chains stuff. The one's you know by heart you'll want to make your goto songs in any situation where you might be expected to perform for others in a group setting.
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Old 12-02-2012, 04:26 AM   #11
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All good advice so far, thanks. I think I'll work up some go to songs to play... Now I have the fun part of deciding.
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Old 12-02-2012, 08:18 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by ChucklesMginty
All good advice so far, thanks. I think I'll work up some go to songs to play... Now I have the fun part of deciding.


get The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life and have a listen. most of my favorites from zappa are on there and there's absolutely hours of transcribing gameplay if you try and figure out each instrument
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Old 12-02-2012, 09:03 AM   #13
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I'm a pretty big Zappa fan, I've just never tried to learn any of his stuff because there's so much instrumentation and it's impossible to get most of the guitar tones.
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Old 12-02-2012, 09:05 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by ChucklesMginty
I'm a pretty big Zappa fan, I've just never tried to learn any of his stuff because there's so much instrumentation and it's impossible to get most of the guitar tones.

who was the guy with that sig on how to get zappa's tone, it always made me lol

but really, zomby woof is delish
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Old 12-03-2012, 11:03 AM   #15
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Some Hendrix always impresses people too and isn't as technically demanding as a lot of stuff out there. But if you have to choose, I'm 3rd on board with Zappa. In fact I, myself want to work on some Zappa tunes in the near future cause I've never done it either.
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Old 12-03-2012, 08:06 PM   #16
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The problem is your attitude. You shouldn't care that anyone is listening, you should just be playing exactly as you would be if you were by yourself.

IMO, people arent really impressed by technique for very long (especially shredding). What they are impressed by (surprisingly), is good feeling and musicality. So just play
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Old 12-03-2012, 08:06 PM   #17
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Hmmm... well, when you pick up to play in front of people - forget they are there. Pretend you have your headphones on. If you get applause, treat it as pink noise and tap your imaginary headphones.

Playing for the sake of impressing someone is truly going to mess your ego up as well as make you try to outplay yourself and fail miserably. Just play... forget them. Perhaps start off with an Em chord and build around it. Something you should be comfortable with and perhaps comfortable enough to experiment on as well. Get lost in what you are playing/creating. When people tell me I'm playing a cool song I say "Thanks, just making it up as I go along so just don't ask me to repeat it".

Cover band guitarists usually play stuff from their repertoire. The reason for that being that they know the sound they get from the "ad nauseum repeatus" of constant gigs - hence trying new amps or guitars out. They play it confidently thanks to the many repetitions. Perhaps thats what you might need - confidence. Unfortunately it can't be bought. Learning something difficult will not help. If you want to impress people - play with heart. Not WITH Heart - doubt they exist anymore. But if you're playing to impress people - maybe some inner searching will be required as to the why.

Anyway - super early morning ramblings of some squirrel that doesn't count. Good luck with whatever you do.
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Old 12-03-2012, 10:09 PM   #18
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learn all the notes of a few scales across the entire fretboard to riff on and a few chords that go well with the given scale, for example E-phrygian, aeolian and octatonic WH are really cool scales to to play riffs on for metal stuff for jazz/blues the E minor pentatonic is your bread and butter so learn it and milk it if you haven't already done so. Then just noodle around with the scales daily, record any cool riffs you make-up with your phone or something and try to remember them. the same goes for licks for lead stuff I guess. worked for me, I can improvise some cool shit sometimes as a result but I'm about as technically gifted as a 1 legged monkey but that's probably due to laziness and lack of practise
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Old 12-04-2012, 02:14 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by evolucian
Not WITH Heart - doubt they exist anymore.


I'm assuming the Masterchef judges position here.... little black bill thingy in my hand... white card with a number inside...

Evolucian... I gave your joke..... an eight... out of ten..!

Cue uplifting Masterchef music.....
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