#1
I've been playing for nearly three years now, and I've come to a point where I don't really know what to do to get better. I think my problem is stemming from the fact that I want to start writing songs, and I don't really know how. See, if you give me a chord progression, I can easily lay down a solo over it, but I can't write my own music, besides the obvious fiddling around with common chord progressions like I-IV-V or I-VI-V-IV. I play my solos mostly in the minor pentatonic, because even though I have some knowledge of modal shapes like the Dorian, Ionian, and Aeolian, I can usually get a more appealing sound from a pentatonic scale.

I can play fairly fast, but I find it difficult to use speed to any effect. I'm often amazed by solos where someone is able to shred and keep it melodic at the same time. Furthermore, my playing at fast speeds is sloppy and dirty, and I lack the theoretical knowledge needed to use scales effectively.

I know the old, tired advice - slow it down, use a metronome, but the problem with repeating drills and exercises ad nauseum is that I have no motivation to do so. I know that I could shred my way through a scale at 250 bpm if I started playing it today at 60 and worked on it for 6 months, but I don't have any reason to do that. Sure, it'd be impressive to belt out 3 notes a second, but will it contribute to a song? Not likely, at least currently.

I'm not trying to complain or anything. I don't really know what I'm doing, posting this here. I guess the tl;dr version is: I'm in a rut and I'm bored with my instrument. What can I do to improve my playing and bring some enjoyment back to guitar?
I'm looking for a tab of The Marshall Plan, by Blue Oyster Cult, and of Mario Minor, by Powerglove. If you have one please PM me.
#2
don't think about it. listen to new music. even completely new. like, new genre. personally i was bored with blues for some time ago. I started to listen everything from jazz to... hip-hop. Almost no blues. Look for ungerground artists. It did help
Also, I'd try another instrument. Piano to be exact. No blues here, classical or jazz piano is so awesome. piano helped me A LOAD to understand theory and music.
Then, you'll discover how little you know about guitar
Originally Posted by Twist of fate
I thought the "clean" button was to clean out the inside of the amp automatically, so I never pressed it.


Originally Posted by DjBrandenburg
pedals are stupid
#3
You've got a whole host of questions with a bunch of answers. This may take me an hour to write, but hopefully I'll be able to help you out.

You seem to be desiring improvement in 3 different areas: Songwriting, Soloing, and Accuracy. And there is a lot that can be said about each. I don't mind going into detail about them all, but all at once will be painful to look at. So I'll try to overview them here. If you want more detailed help, you can start new threads individually, PM me and I can help you specifically, or wait around here on this thread and get your questions answered one at a time. Up to you.

Songwriting

It's commonly, and incorrectly, believed that you either have a talent for this or not. The fact is, you must learn, study, and practice songwriting just like with learning to play the guitar. Studying theory and analyzing the music you enjoy will be the 2 things that help you the most.

But there are many different processes to writing a song. If you wish, I'll give you some articles and resources to give you some different ideas. My own personal method usually begins with brainstorming topics, often from my personal life. After I jot a few down, I'll choose one and expand upon it, basically making the outline to a story. Oh, this isn't for lyrical purposes, BTW. Anyway, then I'll break them into sections i.e. verses, chorus, bridge, whatever, and give it some musical form. Now I have an outline I just need to fill with music. If I don't do this, I tend to write myself into dead ends, not knowing where to go. Then I'll start thinking about what progressions, melodies, rhythms and whatnot best express the emotions of the story. This is where the theory knowledge and analyzation (as well as a good ear) will really help. But don't worry! If you're not there yet, don't let that stop you! The beauty of this outline is that you can still use trial and error, but much more effectively. Instead of noodling or improvising until you find something that 'sounds cool' but may not work, you're now looking for something that 'sounds right' and will work in the context of the song. This makes it much easier.

That's all I'm going to say about songwriting for now, If you want more info, let me know.

Soloing

The reason you get a better sounding solo out of pentatonic scales is because there are fewer notes, so you more frequently land on a note that's consonant with the chord. I did a big post about this on another forum, so I'm just going to copy and paste it here.
We're gonna keep it simple. Let's say we're in G major. We want a simple I-IV-V chord progression which, in G, is G, C, and D (all major, of course). To solo, we will use the G major scale.

Now this next part will be internalized over time, and you won't even have to think about it. But at first, it will help to break things down. The key of G major contains the notes GABCDE and F#, and the G major scale is GABCDEF#G. These are the notes we want to stick to for the most part. But just playing them mostly at random over the progression isn't likely to turn out something outstanding.

We next need to look at the notes in each chord of the progression. They are: GBD for G, CEG for C, and DF#A for D. Here's where consonance and dissonance come in. The notes in each chord are consonant for that chord, and all other notes are dissonant. Consonant means that it sounds very nice and relaxed over the chord, while dissonant means that there is some level of tension. Every note not in the chord, whether they are in the key or not, has some level of dissonance.

I'm certainly not saying that the only note you can play over a G major chord are G, B, and D. What makes great solos is how they manipulate this dissonance to create and resolve tension. And this is the sort of thing you want to pay attention to when analyzing music.

So to make your solo really lock into and fit the progression, try starting your phrases on consonant notes. When the progression changes to the next chord, play a note that's consonant with that new chord and continue your phrase. This sort of thing will really make your solo part of the overall song.

Hopefully, that gives you the basic idea of how consonance and dissonance work to make great solos.

Accuracy

Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to tell you anything you want to hear for this. The fact is, to get really fast and really clean, you have to develop efficient motions and embed them into your muscle memory by playing slowly. It may not be as bad as you think, though. I'm sure we can all agree that grinding away at a scale at 60 bpm for an hour is horribly mind-numbing. I don't think anybody could do that, at least not do it and be focused enough to get real benefit from it.

So what to do? I don't know what you're practice routine is like, but lets say you practice for 2 hours a day, on a wide variety of specific things. In between each of the more fun things, if you practice the grueling slow stuff for a minute or 2, you'll have practiced it for 10-20 minutes by the end of your session!

It also helps to keep in mind what it is your working for. A good way to do this (although it sounds a little silly) is to find a picture of a rockstar tearing up his axe in front of 100,000 fans and put your face on it, and keep it where you practice so you see it all the time. Of course, make it suitable to your specific goals. If you don't want to do something that silly, it should work just as well to write it down.

Hope that helps, and feel free to ask for more.

KEEP THAT FIRE BURNING, MAN!!!!!
#4
Chris, I think you really hit the nail on the head about the areas I want to improve in, so for the purposes of this discussion, lets assume that we're talking about those three categories - songwriting, soloing, and accuracy.

OK - songwriting. I love your outline idea and I'm definitely going to give that a shot. If you'd like to post links or even just PM me links to those articles you had mentioned, I'd appreciate it greatly. Also, how would you recommend I begin to learn theory?

Soloing. I guess I see what you're saying with the consonance and dissonance. I'm not sure what else to say here except basically repeating what I asked earlier about learning theory - it's such a daunting subject and it's tough to know where to start.

Accuracy - here's the big one. Even though I've been playing for three years, I really don't have anything I would call a practice routine. Any help on building one would be really cool.

I eagerly await any replies.
I'm looking for a tab of The Marshall Plan, by Blue Oyster Cult, and of Mario Minor, by Powerglove. If you have one please PM me.
#5
Chris' post is one of the best posts I've ever read! Songwriting and accuracy are my present concerns also, so thanks for the long post!
#6
About your solos; don't rush it. The fast melodic solos just
come to you. You have to make the melody, and then add
the fast notes in from there. make sure you don't overdo
the shredding. Give the solo a good balance between melody
and speed. Those solos are my favorite because they are
well composed, and don't sounds like that was made up at
the last minute.