Today we have YouTube, multiple internet sources, books and DVD's out the you-know-what to learn the instrument.

My question is how did the old guard of great guitarists such as Clapton, EVH, Buddy Guy, Page and others learn? I can't imagine the method back then was what it is today with all these resources we have and the rise of shred guitar.

Were they more concerned with learning licks? Was learning a multitude of scales as focused on?

The reason I ask is because my practice routine has become a bit stale and I'm trying to shake things up a bit.
Most guitarist including the ones you've mentioned pretty much started off listening to records, and then learning as many songs as possible by ear (or even tv). Then once they've amassed a massive library of sounds, licks and techniques, they started writing their own songs I guess.

And the innovators like EVH, Hendrix and Page, they probably thought up the particular sound they want to make and figured out how to translate it from head to hands.

So yeah, pretty much just learn s***loads of songs by ear and don't limit yourself to a particular genre. Listen to everything and if you find something you like, learn it!
Step 1 - Put on a record
Step 2 - Play along to it.
Step 3 - Repeat step 2 until you can play the record.
Step 4 - Join or form a band.
Step 5 - Start playing shows.
Step 6 - Repeat steps 1-5 until you're famous.
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Yep,Also jamming with other musicians an awful lot.I heard on a documentary a while back that Hendrix would have his guitar in his hand constantly,When he was'nt recording,or writing,He was playing rythym guitar for other bands that needed a stand in
god forbid there were people with musical knowledge before the days of the computer. my dad got his masters in piano, he did it with books, teachers, and metronomes. probably much like these guys. VH said it himself, he played along with clapton songs till he got em right, buddy guy and other blues artists learned it from guys older than they were, as far as shredders alot of them had some pretty formal musical training
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I wouldn't necessarily call myself an "old guard" of a player, but I've been playing for about 20 years now. I taught myself to play by ear, completely. I didn't even learn to read music until a few years ago. I suspect it was much the same in the old days.
Can't comment on the people you mentioned, but I started in the mid-late 80s. Someone showed me the major & minor chords and position 1 of the pentatonic scale. That was the only lesson I've ever had.

I figured everything else out for myself, I learnt songs by listening to them and playing along with them. Even now, although I look at tabs when learning new stuff I usually have a look at them to get a starting point so I can learn the song by ear, then just revisit the tab if I'm struggling.
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I likely qualify... I'm 67. Didn't start playing till the mid-70s, however, and mostly in the "folkie" tradition. After I got out of the army I found all my friends were musicians....Mostly having come up in St. Louis' "Gaslight Square" era.
Anyway... In 1975 there was no internet, no DVDs, nothing of the sort. I learned by "copping licks" from my playing friends and from books. The library was a huge source of "how to play the guitar" books from all sorts of sources... Some good, some bad.
I never had a formal lesson outside of "hey, how do you play....?"

Best thing I did was to subscribe to Guitar Player magazine for 10 years. Tons of useful information there, and I read all the articles, even stuff I wasn't interested in. Towards the end, they started including those cute little "records" with that issue's lessons on them.
You tore out the little plastic sheet, and put 'em on your turntable. (for those who recall when turntables were used for playing music rather than making dreadful noises in a disco....)
I remember reading about Wayne Perkins who was a session musician who played for Bob Marley and The Rolling Stones. He was saying when he got his first job as a session musician the boss gave him a stack of vinyls and said "go home and learn every lick off all these records. When you come back don't embarrass me in front of my bosses by not being able to play like any of these guys" It's a tough call but it's always been the same method Listen - Learn - Create Something New. I highly recommend learning to sing a whole solo before touching the guitar (best method I've found over the years)
I suppose I am one of the old guard.

I picked up the guitar in 1967 at age 11 and played my first gig in 1969. We were pretty terrible! I used books like Mel Bay and took beginning lessons for the basics, then learned by ear mostly. In HS I took private jazz guitar lessons and really expanded my vocabulary and reading skills playing in the jazz band both HS and college. We gigged a lot all over town.

Early recording influences:
BB King Completely well
Butterfield Blues Band
Zep I
Steely Dan/Larry Carlton

One of the tricks we used was to put a 33LP on a 16 speed turntable and run the songs 1/2 speed an octave down. This was golden for breaking down fast guitar solos. I still got it wrong a lot.

It's a lot easier now with youtube.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

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Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at May 7, 2014,
Total Guitar magazine and Guitar Techniques magazines taught me in the 90's,They came with a CD.I remember Guthrie Govan doing a section every month in Guitar Techniques.
Go to a shop, buy yourself a vinyl player along with some vinyls of bands you like, try to learn the songs by ear! There were still guitar teachers available before the internet but learning guitar back then was no were near as accessible as it now, there were also books that had basic chord charts and scale notations etc... I think that the way we have access to the internet and unlimited resources and ways of learning guitar is a great blessing and it's great for people that don't have a natural 'talent' like some of the guitarists you listed to start learning! But long answer short, ear training was the way to learn back then and I still believe that it's the best method of learning guitar now!
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Total Guitar magazine and Guitar Techniques magazines taught me in the 90's,They came with a CD.I remember Guthrie Govan doing a section every month in Guitar Techniques.

Guitar Techniques was ( is?) an amazing teaching tool. I was a big fan of Guthrie's lessons and it's great to see his career take off in the last few years.
Here's the thing - the WAY they learned is the exact same way you should be learning. Learning where the notes are on the guitar, learning basic chords, listening to music intently, picking out the guitar parts, recognising chords and familiar licks, working out the best place to play them on the guitar, listening back to what you've played and making sure you're getting it to sound right and practicing more if it doesn't.

Those are essential, core skills for anyone who actually wants to play the guitar. All the extra resources we have available, those are just tools that make things easier.
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This is a very cool thread. It was neat reading about what the folks who started way back in the 60's and 70's wrote. I don't really consider myself quite "old guard", but I guess I started right at the tail end of the period before the internet became big - 1992. There were a lot of good books, magazines, etc. I'd go to local shows and watch what the guitarist was doing really carefully, and go home and try to do something like what they were doing. People would get together with friends and play a lot, and trade licks. Sometimes you'd ask your friend to tab out something for you on a piece of paper. It was pretty much accepted that if you wanted to figure out a song that wasn't really well known (you could buy books w/ music for that like you can today) then you had to either find someone that knew how to play it or figure it out my ear. I was never very good at figuring stuff out my ear, and still aren't, though I've gotten incrementally better over the years.
From records...we used to wear them out...lifting the needle to go over each part until we had it. In time the records were just scratches. A lot of us guitarists and the legends too were kind of loners in a way...I know I spent a lot of time in my room with my guitar. It was my best friend. I learned a lot just trying to play from memory. I started with Beatles and Ventures songs and then to Cream...Doors etc. None of the guitar players I knew took lessons as we just wanted to play the songs we wanted...no one read music that I knew. Also in the 60's everyone was playing guitar...you could walk downtown and there would be people playing on benches or whatever. Someone always pulled out a guitar at a party. So....use whatever device is available to learn...but just spend hours playing and trying to improve. Jamming with others is one of the best ways to learn I think.
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Step 1 - Put on a record
Step 2 - Play along to it.
Step 3 - Repeat step 2 until you can play the record.
Step 4 - Join or form a band.
Step 5 - Start playing shows.
Step 6 - Repeat steps 1-5 until you're famous.

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