Frustrations Of The Frustrated Guitarist

Frustrated guitarists. How many there are. How many I've met, and played with. How many I've taught.

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Frustrated guitarists. How many there are. How many I've met, and played with. How many I've taught.

It's a shame, especially when it involves that most wonderful instrument of all, the guitar. The most common instrument in our culture. The one you can sling over your shoulder without a case. The one that can be strummed with your thumb, picked with a bread tab or a dime, finger picked (with finger picks - or not). The one that can be played as quiet as a mouse or as loud as a jumbo jet. The one that can sing, whine, roar, or tinkle. The one that can be chorded and melodied at the same time. The one so many get frustrated with and leave in the case.

It's a shame. It happens too much. It nearly happened to me. But I found a way to play guitar. I got good enough to go onstage with it. I even got good enough to front a band with it. I got good enough on guitar to show others how to play. But what a journey it was and continues to be.

My first exposure to guitar was when I was about eight years old. My older brother pestered our parents into submission. He talked them into getting him an acoustic guitar, with no case, and he used a bread tab to play it.

He stunk.

In fact, he got nowhere with it. So I gave it a try.

I stunk too, worse than my brother.

But I persisted and made maddeningly slow progress, to the point where I learned about five chords. I figured out about three pages of our EZ Book of Guitar. I was in my teens by now. The learning curve was a bit slow.

Later in my teens, I had developed a somewhat accomplished musical background, having played horns (trumpet, trombone and baritone) through elementary and high school. A chance to play in a paying situation steered me towards bass guitar. I picked that up reasonably easily. I got the paying gig.

Still, success on guitar, my first love and ambition, evaded me. By my twenties, I had barely progressed beyond those five chords and three pages. But, I thought to myself, how can this be? Here I am, a horn player, bassist, even a passable vocalist, and I can't get anywhere with the world's most popular instrument (and the one that gets the chicks!). I was determined to make this happen. So I started reading and researching, mostly guitar magazines. I discovered in every one, in every issue, they brought up the topic of alternate tuning, in some form or other. I was intrigued. I had a vague knowledge this existed, but never paid it any mind, thinking, if anything, it would make learning guitar even harder. After all, the EZ Guitar Method never mentioned it. But here it was, and what an impressive list of names was being bandied about - Jimmy Page, Ry Cooder, Joni Mitchell, Elmore James, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson. This alternate tuning thing seemed to reach back a ways. I became even more intrigued.

Several tunings caught my interest. I began to experiment with them. Right off the bat, it became clear that some tunings definitely made the guitar sound more. musical, at first strum, anyway. That is, those open tunings seemed to ring nicely. Reading and re-tuning, reading and re-tuning, I got to know a few of these alternate tunings (though I still could play hardly anything). The one that was easiest, I concluded, was open-D. Finally, I felt, I found I way I could actually learn to play guitar. The transition from standard tuning E A D G B E, was easy enough, to D A D F# A D. Playing chords suddenly became easier. Gone were the multiple finger positions I'd been struggling with, on just the simplest bottom position chords. Here was a major chord I could play, up and down the neck of my guitar, with just one finger. I went to work on open-D tuning with renewed vigor.

I didn't get "good" overnight. I don't think I'm that "good" a guitar player to this day. But - I got good enough to play guitar. Isn't that what a lot of people want? Not to be a wizard, or a star, or a god. Just to be able to play some guitar.

That's what I got out of open-D tuning. The fact that I could play anything at all was the confidence boost that kept me going, to a greater degree of competence. The "getting going" part is what I'm convinced frustrates so many aspiring guitarists. Age, by the way, is irrelevant. I've had students of all ages who would just love to "get going" on guitar. I found a way to do it, even after being frustrated.

Thanks again! Frank

141 comments sorted by best / new / date

    slow.hands
    It's ok i guess as something to read and be entertained with, but as a lesson.. i dont think it works that well.. but anyway i like reading it.
    Vapress
    Yeah we all learnt a lesson from this. FRUSTRATION!!! Aren't you all frustrated after reading this article? That is the feeling all get when we started learning guitar and handling hard chords or scales. I think this may be what the author is trying to tell us.
    ace_lester
    Ano toh?? MAALAALA MO KAYA??? hehe..nyc story.. But i thought i could learn something out of this..Too bad you need to evolve in a hard way.. Anyways keep up the good work.. Playing a guitar is not that hard..Its fun and easy..Dont get discouraged so easily.. \m/
    robin89
    im just beginning to learn guitar, but i wont continue if it turns me into an over critical up-my-own-ass self important snob. the point of this article wasnt to teach you how to do specific things, it was just to offer beginners or 'frustrated' guitarists hope that you can get into guitar eventually, and he backed this up with his own experience. whats the point in a tab website if you are all so ****ing amazing anyway? so you can all brag about how great you are 'i was soloing after 6 months'. go you. have a gold star yourself.
    rayIII
    Rosencrantz wrote: Slightly pointless but still interesting \M/
    yup.... and i was able to play solos after 6 months... wtf dude?
    OverInfluenced
    Truly lifechanging, I think that anyone playing for more than a year has already experimented with different tunings...
    Ampeg J
    I will gladly correct you on the "Bass Bit". It is easier to start out on, no doubt, but it all depends upon your goals with the instrument. I see no need to point out the many Bassists that could prove my point. I am a natural Bassist, it was my first instrument and in my mind the only one that matters. I did however, learn gutiar well enough to help with my songwriting, and 4-tracking. As was pointed out before on this thread, alternate tuning is used by Keith Richards, and hell, he only used 5 strings. That's a fairly competent player too. Don't be so quick to judge. I don't care HOW a guy gets from point A to point B if he does it ON TIME and ON KEY.
    SP_NIRVANA
    As a bassist and a little bit of a electric guitarist myself, I find this article inspiring.
    matttt
    wow this shows the hard work of a man to learn guitar and going against the frustration. after about ten years of starting he finally managed to play guitar and why dont you just practice like everyone else does and cope with your frustration. you sound like one of these people who tries a bit of guitar, stops and picks up bass instead because guitar was too hard for them and bass guitar doesnt use chords that much, if at all.(correct me if im wrong about the bass bit, im a person who plays more guitar than bass)sorry man but all the great guitarists probably didnt learn to play guitar after about ten years
    xX Maverick Xx
    Yeah but if thats the only way u play guitar, ull get bored with it. The auto-biography was unnecesarry though. If you dont believe hes a guitarist for a band, well theres people like the guitarist for Linkin Park that suck worse than this guy, and they make millions, which bugs the shit outta me
    Metalology
    Craigo wrote: That was brillant! I've always, always wanted a auto-biography on a unregistered user who I don't know. Fucking fantastic. Two Stars.
    lol
    GiantRaven
    The real irony is that it require more skill and effort to actually tune to an open D
    SteveHouse
    Fcrunner1337 wrote: ,.|.. >.< ..|.,
    GOD DANG IT! I WAS ABOUT TO DO THAT, YOU NOB! whateva, i second this guy.
    hellblazer_666
    Wow!! you couldn't learn more than five chords and three pages of an EZ guitar book... that is the suckiest thing I've ever heard. And you teach people? What the hell do you teach them?
    IlIk2plygUItAr
    You write really choppy. Like this. It gets annoying. Try longer sentances. More than three words. Good article. I liked it.
    (sic)kid
    I didn't learn anything, and nothing interesting was remarked... Kind of a waste of space, really. Doesn't do much to help the frustrated guitarists out there.
    Craigo
    theonlybman : Wow all of you shut the hell up. This was a great article about a guy that struggled so much with the guitar, but still defeated his frustration and worked through his struggle. But most of you are so ignoratnt that unless a guest column is telling you how to finger pick it's not worth reading. This is a much more valuable lesson than learning how to finger pick, it's about learning how to deal with frustration and keep progressing when it seems pretty hopeless. POSTED: 03/04/2006 - 12:26 pm / quote |
    I disagree. I think it was a article which had some thought - but held no conclusion or advice - two vital things needed in every article like these. 1 Star for doing it. 2 Star for the slight effort but ignoring everything else needed.
    theonlybman
    Wow all of you shut the hell up. This was a great article about a guy that struggled so much with the guitar, but still defeated his frustration and worked through his struggle. But most of you are so ignoratnt that unless a guest column is telling you how to finger pick it's not worth reading. This is a much more valuable lesson than learning how to finger pick, it's about learning how to deal with frustration and keep progressing when it seems pretty hopeless.
    Alex S.
    I don't get it....whats the point of this again? To tell us your story of how you came upon the guitar. I don't think anybody really cares
    Eric 666
    guys just leave him the **** alone alright, jesus all you guys ever do is criticize people, this article is an inspiration to people.
    RustyGold
    The best way to play guitar is behind your back. *_* That's how relevant this thread was.
    FBpro80
    all i gotta say is that this guy is getting a lot of air time for a lesson that almost everyone hates. why is he even on the main page? this isn't a guitar lesson the only thing it can be considered is a lesson on how NOT to teach
    fox69
    mmmm i thought he had a really long intro, but that was the whole thing????? we wanted an article, not a god damed autobiography
    zoltan256
    there isnt much about frustrated guitarists here.... its more like, "Frustrations Of Me" or "My Frustrations"instead.
    November Now
    I dont think many ppl would have used ur way of fixing the problem. It'd be almost impossible to lern a scale in that tuning anyway so there go's ur soloing.
    pyro8857
    dude, we dont not need you to share your gayness with us. Now, don't you have something better to do with your time? Such as, eat your own helmet cheese?
    -=JB=-
    I reckon its good, tells me to keep goin even though im worse than crap on a stick
    [+]
    OK, its true that others tunnings sound diferent,are easier to play for SOME stuffs, and bla, bla bla, but anyhow, I think that as a guitar player (or as "guitar player poryect") you should try to take things seriously and sit you ass down to practice and learn no matter the tunning you are using. Yeah, playing a mayor chord on open D with one finger in easy. What about others chords? Lets add 7th, 9 and 11. Is it so easy now?. If you say "oh... major chords are too damm hard on standar tunning", I honestly think you are not gonna go nowhere with your playing. If you play a couple of popular songs for your friends thats probblaly ok, but if you pretend teaching someone or leading a band, stop cryin, sit your ass down, practice, play and understand that not everything (not just on guitar playing) is that easy...
    acoustic-fish
    give the poor guy a break. hes trying to help, north american or not, and if you can learn anything fron it, then its not a waste of time. show some empathy, people!
    BassSurfer
    you guys have to stop.. man he dedicated his time to writing this. it helped some... so all stfu
    BassSurfer
    you guys have to stop.. man he dedicated his time to writing this. it helped some... so all stfu
    TMA-2
    i'm glad mr. frank wrote this. all the angry comments it produced were more entertaining than the article itself. btw, that's a very lazy method frank. you're not gonna impress anyone who knows anything with one-finger chords. oh and as Cleared said, which finger DO you use? lololol