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#1
I bet that someone like Paul Gilbert could probably play any guitar song he heard. Maybe not instantly, but definitely within ~1 week of practice. Guys like him and Malmsteen probably already mastered their technique in their 20s if not earlier. I think a graph of ability vs time would probably look something like this:



How long do you think it takes an average guitar player to reach the level where skill "flattens out"?
#2
Pretty much never. There's literally an endless amount of styles out there to learn. Just because someones extremely great in one style or a couple doesn't mean they won't be complete beginners in another way of playing.
#3
I agree....About the closest you might come are some of the studio musicians who might be called on to play in many different styles over a year or so, but as the late Tommy Tedesco said in his columns, they do a lot of cheatin.....
Lenny Breau grew up around Nashville studios, and he could play in a remarkable number of styles...Country, Atkins/Travis stuff, jazz, Latin/Flamenco, avant-garde jazz.......But that still leaves dozens if not hundreds of specialized forms to explore.
Trying to get your fingers around some of the African techniques takes a bit of work.
#4
as much as i dislike steve vai's music, dude's a textbook example of a dude who can play anything. or he used to be, anyway. i miss him being with frank


anybody can master the guitar (missing arms and deafness notwithstanding...), but no one wants to put in the work. the "masters" spent several hours a day pounding on their fundamentals, in every instrument, just like in every field of art where talent is prevalent


tenacity is far more important than any inherent, natural talent
modes are a social construct
Last edited by Hail at Aug 11, 2015,
#5
No, I think it would be impossible to master any and all styles in a single lifetime, though someone who could read SN fluently could doubtless cover a lot of written musical ground.

I think personal plateaux are related to a combination of talent and hard work , especially at an early age. Now I've retired, I'm still improving a bit stylistically, but technical progress is very slow indeed.
#6
depends on how you want to define can play anything. i'm sure that guys like steve vai and any number of top sesson guys (like steve lucather) can figure out a song. now to be able to play it convincingly is a different story.

my wife thinks along those lines. she doesn't get why i can't just wing off any tune she can think of. she's always saying i thought you were good at guitar. (her words not mine i never claim to be good). she figures because i play a bunch of fast stuff that something like SRV should be easy. tried to explain that SRV may have had a problem playing my songs cuz we have very different styles. she doesn't buy that but it's true (not that stevie would want to play anything i wrote )
#7
If you started at a very young age (say 5 - maybe even younger) then you'd be more likely to become a sublime guitarist, possibly in almost all styles. But as you get older the brain becomes less versatile and harder to train.

There's been some studies to show that the majority of us, if not all, are born genius'. Children have a huge capacity to learn as their neural networks form. But most of us miss that opportunity and by the time we pick up the guitar we're past the peak of our brains learning capacity. That's why you often find extremely talented individuals (be it music, sport, art, etc...) started at an extremely young age. Generally, the earlier you start the better your odds.

Unfortunately a lot of our modern educational methods don't support a child's creativity. It's mostly a case of "this is this, and don't question it". Doing away with exploring ideas and using critical thinking. Instead the child is forced to become an unresponsive sponge.

Anyway, I'm going off on a huge tangent here.
#8
Paul Gilbert has admitted to having like no real ability to play Flamenco.

But to answer the question, no, there is never any point where you can play anything. Even the best studio musicians that everyone always talks about. Guitar is a very multidimensional instrument that is used in literally at least a hundred genres of music (and that isn't counting the multitude of subgenres in every genre).

All of these different types of music require a huge variety of techniques to play. Guitar might arguably have the largest amount of standard techniques across all playing styles of any instrument, especially when you consider whole worlds of extended techniques, such as using effects (mastering use of delay, such as in Echo Song or Big Sur Moon, or gaining skill with a wah or whammy pedal or loop pedal... things that take effort and time to learn effectively, especially in a live setting), the whole worlds of slide guitar, prepared guitar, alternate tunings, etc.

There really is a lot more to guitar due to its ubiquity in almost all styles of modern music and the inherent capabilities of the instrument (due to being polyphonic and its duality as both a physical and electric instrument) than anyone really could ever hope to wrap their head around.
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#9
Quote by Hail
...no one wants to put in the work. the "masters" spent several hours a day pounding on their fundamentals...


I think a big problem lies in the fact that most people have to work full-time jobs anymore (sometimes more than one) just to get by and can't spend all day playing guitar.

I wasn't around back in the day, but all those guitar players you read about seem to give the impression that they just had all the free time in the world to play guitar and somehow weren't homeless. I don't remember who, but someone claimed they practiced 16 hours a day. That just wouldn't be possible today.
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#10
Quote by Sleaze Disease
I think a big problem lies in the fact that most people have to work full-time jobs anymore (sometimes more than one) just to get by and can't spend all day playing guitar.

I wasn't around back in the day, but all those guitar players you read about seem to give the impression that they just had all the free time in the world to play guitar and somehow weren't homeless. I don't remember who, but someone claimed they practiced 16 hours a day. That just wouldn't be possible today.


just cause you're good at guitar doesn't mean it was worth it

but take guys like john petrucci, who worked a terrible job and spent all his time at berklee practicing with what would become dream theater rather than his actual homework

most musicians, before they get big, live with their parents longer than reasonable. it's the slimy underside people don't talk about. doesn't mean it's not logistically feasible

in any case, you can absolutely make time to practice enough to push yourself, even if it's not crazy hours. i was working 70-100 hours a week and traveling 10 days at a time, but after half a day of sleep, half my four days off went straight to playing catchup
modes are a social construct
Last edited by Hail at Aug 11, 2015,
#11
Don't forget, you also have to somehow squeeze time in for playing shows/recording/sleeping/etc.
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This thread is officially about sucking Sleaze off for a sig.


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Hey Sleaze I'll give you a blowjob if you sig me. Maybe even some nudey photos?


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Sleaze, that made me lulz in my pants.


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hahaha Sleaze i'd give you my mom for that one.
#12
if you're playing shows and recording you can give up being a master cause people actually give a shit about your music which is way more important
modes are a social construct
#13
So you're saying nobody gave a shit about your example of Steve Vai, even when he was gigging and recording back in the day?
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This thread is officially about sucking Sleaze off for a sig.


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Hey Sleaze I'll give you a blowjob if you sig me. Maybe even some nudey photos?


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Sleaze, that made me lulz in my pants.


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hahaha Sleaze i'd give you my mom for that one.
#14
steve vai spent his time at berklee not gigging and recording cause he spent all his free time studying and transcribing zappa, which is how he got the gig.
modes are a social construct
#15
We are all wired differently so really accomplished guitarists will master different aspects of playing. I think that is a good thing.
"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

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#16
Quote by Hail


but take guys like john petrucci, who worked a terrible job and spent all his time at berklee practicing with what would become dream theater rather than his actual homework



I was also going to mention John Petrucci as an example. In one of the interview bits on the Chaos in Motion Tour DVD, Petrucci mentions that when he's really "in the zone" and in his most intense practice schedule, like starting a major tour, he feels that he can make the guitar do whatever he wants it to. Though he did stress that he means anything that HE wants it to do, and there are surely people out there doing crazy things that he hasn't thought of, and has no experience with.
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#18
yall just dont have a can-do attitude
modes are a social construct
#19
Quote by Hail
he spent all his free time studying and transcribing zappa


what an awful thought though
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#20
Quote by theogonia777
what an awful thought though


i like zappa
modes are a social construct
#21
Yes! I hit it a year or two ago. One thing that really helped me was buying a boss loop station. Layering your guitar over that really helps you expand on your capabilities and understand your guitar. Plus it has drum tracks which teach you better tempo. Now I can listen to almost anything and figure it out..
#22
Quote by moonies
Yes! I hit it a year or two ago. One thing that really helped me was buying a boss loop station. Layering your guitar over that really helps you expand on your capabilities and understand your guitar. Plus it has drum tracks which teach you better tempo. Now I can listen to almost anything and figure it out..


So you're telling me that you can listen to almost anything and play it?
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#24
If you take your question literally, as in can you get to a point at which you can be given a tab or piece of sheet music and learn it within a week no matter how hard it is, then yes (providing the music is physically possible to play for a human being) you eventually can.

There are guitarists on youtube who post videos of them covering any hard song you can think of, being able to physically play a piece of music is just a lot of practice like Hail said.

I mean, while Paul Gilbert might not be able to play flamenco at the moment if he practiced the right hand technique required I have no doubt within a few years he'd be able to reproduce any flamenco piece note for note.

Most people in this thread are taking the question to mean can you improv/play over any style of music, I don't know the answer to this question as I've not studied this area enough.
#25
Quote by GoldenGuitar
^ I think he means within his technical abilities.


Being able to play anything within your technical abilities and being able to play anything are two very different things. Even within the range of one's technical abilities, I think people tend to highly underestimate the diversity of different forms of guitar related genres in terms of rhythm, tonality, harmony, ornamentation, etc the majority of which they likely haven't even heard of.

Quote by Anon17
I mean, while Paul Gilbert might not be able to play flamenco at the moment if he practiced the right hand technique required I have no doubt within a few years he'd be able to reproduce any flamenco piece note for note.

Most people in this thread are taking the question to mean can you improv/play over any style of music, I don't know the answer to this question as I've not studied this area enough.


If it would take him a year to be good enough to play the style, he obviously isn't to the point where he can play anything.

If we're talking about improvising in every style, there are literally hundreds of styles of music that use guitar, and I doubt the average person is familiar with more than a small percentage. For example, I am only familiar with only maybe a dozen unique styles of African genres that use guitar, but I know that there are many more.

And I personally wouldn't consider somebody being able to play a genre well until the can both improvise fluently and play difficult pieces from the genre. That being said, some genres have almost no improvisation and some have almost no difficult standards to learn.
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Last edited by theogonia777 at Aug 13, 2015,
#26
Quote by theogonia777

If it would take him a year to be good enough to play the style, he obviously isn't to the point where he can play anything.


I was referring to the fact you'd need to use fingerstyle to play flamenco "properly", was a bad example on my part since I don't really know Paul Gilbert's proficiency in fingerstyle.

My point was that if Paul Gilbert did learn the fingerstyle right hand technique for playing classical/flamenco/etc then he'd probably be able to play any song given the tab/sheet music/whatever.

Someone like Chris Broderick probably literally can play any song that another guitarist has wrote for the guitar for example, since he was classical trained and can clearly play with a pick and touchstyle to high standards.

Realistically, if your goal is to be able to play any piece of music that someone else has wrote then I believe eventually this is possible given the piece is possible to play on a guitar.

If we're talking about improvising in every style, there are literally hundreds of styles of music that use guitar, and I doubt the average person is familiar with more than a small percentage. For example, I am only familiar with only maybe a dozen unique styles of African genres that use guitar, but I know that there are many more.

And I personally wouldn't consider somebody being able to play a genre well until the can both improvise fluently and play difficult pieces from the genre. That being said, some genres have almost no improvisation and some have almost no difficult standards to learn.


As I said in my post I was only approaching the question from a technical viewpoint and I have no comment on the question of whether it'd be possible to play in any style from a musical viewpoint.
#27
Classical and Flamenco technique is quite different though. Also I think you're ignoring that there is more to technique that just playing weedle-deedle-deedle-dee on a standard 6th string. There are world's of extended techniques that Paul Gilbert and Chris Broderick haven't even touched.

And even within their respective styles, or just shred guitar in general, there are other guitarists that are more proficient from a technical point, faster and cleaner and such, that can probably play things that neither of them could.

Like I can guarantee you that there are plenty of things that Chris Broderick couldn't play, and I'm sure that he would have no problem admitting it.
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Last edited by theogonia777 at Aug 14, 2015,
#28
Quote by theogonia777
Classical and Flamenco technique is quite different though. Also I think you're ignoring that there is more to technique that just playing weedle-deedle-deedle-dee on a standard 6th string. There are world's of extended techniques that Paul Gilbert and Chris Broderick haven't even touched.

And even within their respective styles, or just shred guitar in general, there are other guitarists that are more proficient from a technical point, faster and cleaner and such, that can probably play things that neither of them could.

Like I can guarantee you that there are plenty of things that Chris Broderick couldn't play, and I'm sure that he would have no problem admitting it.


Examples for all three points please, like you could maybe argue some Shawn Lane or Allan Holdsworth pieces might be a little faster than PG or CB could play off the top of their heads but I have no difficulty imagining they could play any of those songs given a few weeks to learn the pieces properly. In that case I'd ask what pieces couldn't Shawn Lane play?

What people call "extended technique" is almost always someone just applying existing basic techniques to something different in my experience, what "world of extended techniques" are you referring to?
#29
Check out some of the guitar speed world record videos.

Slide playing for example. Prepared guitar. Fretless guitar. There's all kinds of things that you can do with a guitar. And that's not including all of the wondrous things that can be done electronically with a guitar.
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#30
Speed isn't what is being discussed.

With enough practice you can become fast enough to play anything, that isn't the issue.

If you spend your entire life practicing speed picking then whilst you may be competent at playing material that requires you to play very very fast, if you were given an intricate finger picked piece or an 8-finger tapping section then you will not necessarily be able to play them because you aren't familiar with the technique.

One example is that I highly doubt that Steve Vai could play certain Animals As Leaders tracks, because some of the techniques used by Tosin Abasi are not ones that you would find in any of Steve Vai's music. Similarly there is no way that Tosin Abasi could play some of Steve Vai's tracks, because again some of the techniques applied are not commonly used by Tosin Abasi.

Of course, if these two were to practice playing the other's music I have no doubt that they would be able to do it.

Speed is not the only issue. Mastery of a variety of techniques is.
#31
This thread is getting very very silly for one very good reason:

There's no point talking about what people can and cannot do, because guitarists like Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Shawn Lane, and so on, always show the public things they are good at. I know it sounds stupid to say it but you have to realize what this means: we never get to see these players' shortcomings: Vai himself basically said as much; he practices his strengths, not his weaknesses. We can try and surmise about the exact range of their skills, but part of being a good guitarist in the public eye (especially to other guitarists) is not letting people see you be bad, so we never get to see them fail at something. Frankly I could probably find things that any player you care to mention couldn't do, but it's completely dependent on the player and doing so is dumb anyway.

There is no point at which being able to play X and Y things instantly means you'll be able to play Z thing. Everything you don't already know how to play must be learned. Again, I know it sounds obvious, but realizing that and what it means is pretty big if you ask me. Talking about what other people can or can't do is pretty pointless. What matters is what you can do, and what you know you can do; the most important thing is regularly taking stock of these things and being self-aware enough to know not to overreach yourself when you're playing for other people.

Also, for the record: I really don't think it's possible to ever get to a point at which you can play anything, even physically speaking, there's just too much. As I've said though, I do think talking about it is pretty pointless as well, when you could be playing and trying to get there.
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#32
Says the guy that just wrote an essay.
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#33
Quote by theogonia777
Says the guy that just wrote an essay.

Meta-commentary
R.I.P. My Signature. Lost to us in the great Signature Massacre of 2014.

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“A man who mistakes secrets for knowledge is like a man who, seeking light, hugs a candle so closely that he smothers it and burns his hand.”


Album.
Legion.
#34
Quote by Zaphod_Beeblebr
Meta-commentary


and a pretty good one. yeah few guitar players (or musicians in general) will show that they suck at something publically. i know i don't. the original stuff i've posted doesn't include any of my more dismal failures i assure you. when i record i do try to stretch things and challenge myself in different ways (including improving my recording abilities). had more than 1 failure that i'd be embarrassed to let out.

the idea that you should be able to play "anything" usually comes from those who don't play and don't get it. sure they see what you are good at but then assume you must be good at the whole thing and not just the parts you show.
#35
Guitar is a very wide range of things. In every facet of guitar, there are some guys that took it as far as they could. Guys with a lot of talent, that put in a lot of practice.

There is nobody that can play absolutely anything, and I don't think there ever will be, that it will just become more and more impossible.

But some guys certainly do come close, and can play virtually anything if you limit "guitar" a bit.

I think on electric guitar you'd be real hard up to find something Guthrie Govan couldn't do with just a bit of practice at the very least. Maybe a couple of things, but his expertise across a large variety of techniques is pretty extensive.

Same with Tommy emmanuel on acoustic guitar. It would be tough to find acoustic techniques that he couldn't do.

But every player has their own style also, I'm sure, and they might not find something someone else likes to do, quite so easy.

That graph I don't think is quite right though, but close.

I would say it starts off a little slow, then shoots up very high, and then begins levelling out but still around 45 degrees for a while, and then then becomes more of a slope that approaches but never reaches "perfection"

I find the curve you drew is too symmetrical.

Where a guitarist levels out depends on the guitarist and the effort they put into it. It depends how much you continue to push.

I would say a lot of guitarists might level off as soon as they can play the more common chords.
#36
Quote by monwobobbo
and a pretty good one. yeah few guitar players (or musicians in general) will show that they suck at something publically. i know i don't. the original stuff i've posted doesn't include any of my more dismal failures i assure you. when i record i do try to stretch things and challenge myself in different ways (including improving my recording abilities). had more than 1 failure that i'd be embarrassed to let out.

the idea that you should be able to play "anything" usually comes from those who don't play and don't get it. sure they see what you are good at but then assume you must be good at the whole thing and not just the parts you show.



Ya, I think that illusion gets all of us. We know all of our faults and weaknesses, and we compare ourselves to other people showing us what they are best at. But it's even worse than that, because then we look at the next guy, who is really good at something else, and we compare ourselves to that. So, we compare ourselves to the best at everything.

I know I do that a lot. I compare songwriting to those I think are strong at that, guitar to those I think are strong at that, singing to those I think are strong at that, writing lyrics, etcetera.

But the reality, is that nobody is the best of the best at all those things. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses.

But still, you can watch a guy like Tommy emmanuel or Guthrie Govan, and watch them improvise and play difficult stuff, and whip out tough technique after tough technique, and then you get it that they are the real deal.
#37
^^^This made me think of John Williams, my favourite classical guitarist. He was doing a world music tour quite a few years back, and openly admitted to avoiding one particular African technique because he didn't think he could do it justice. Also, much as I admire his classical technique, I didn't think his time with Sky produced anything wonderful. Skill sets are limited, and as you say, many of us, including myself, are at risk of placing too much weight on what the best of the others can do. - The information superhighway could have something to do with that. The other side of the coin is that it gives us something to aspire to.
#38
Quote by Tony Done
^^^This made me think of John Williams, my favourite classical guitarist. He was doing a world music tour quite a few years back, and openly admitted to avoiding one particular African technique because he didn't think he could do it justice. Also, much as I admire his classical technique, I didn't think his time with Sky produced anything wonderful. Skill sets are limited, and as you say, many of us, including myself, are at risk of placing too much weight on what the best of the others can do. - The information superhighway could have something to do with that. The other side of the coin is that it gives us something to aspire to.


Ya, I'm not complaining. Having access to all of these people that spent all of this time developing all of these techniques and styles, and all of that talent we can access so easily, is amazing. So much to learn from, it's pretty awesome. It's just not the best for the ego. But that's cool I guess also, there is always an infinite supply of greatness to keep us humble, no matter what we manage to accomplish.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Aug 15, 2015,
#39
Quote by moonies
Yes! I hit it a year or two ago. One thing that really helped me was buying a boss loop station. Layering your guitar over that really helps you expand on your capabilities and understand your guitar. Plus it has drum tracks which teach you better tempo. Now I can listen to almost anything and figure it out..


Ok now we need to hear you play. A quick YouTube demo would work. Just cover several different pieces by the great guitarists in several different modalities. Start off with

Segovia- Variations on a theme, Mozart
Jon Gomm- Passionflower
Tommy Emmanuel- Classical Gas
Joe Pass- All the things you are
SRV- Texas Flood
Vince Gill- Mystery train
John 5- the hill of seven jackals

No need to cover the entire songs, just the meat of the guitar work. Maybe 30 seconds each. Just the notes is not enough though. To play them well requires all the tone, mojo, grease, and stank to make them true to the song.

This might make a nice demo for entrance to Berklee.
"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

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#40
To be able to play anything would simply mean to be able to play at infinite speed. Or at least as fast as any other guitarist could possibly play. These days people are playing at literally 50 notes per second. Which I really don't get how that's possibly, but hey bees flap their wings 300 times per second so ****. And the people who do play that fast aren't all playing just flight of the bumblebee. They're also playing that fast when they're just soloing over stuff.

But let's just forget about those guys for a second. Let's just say that if you were capable of playing 20 or 30 notes per second that that's enough to say that you could play as fast as them if you just drilled chromatic exercises as much as they have. And lots of people can play over 20 notes per second these days, so let's say those guys get a check for raw speed in terms of could hypothetically play that fast if they really wanted to.

Then there are all the other techniques. Playing a simple two note lick with the notes being on different strings can be hard as **** to play fast. Not to mention certain things are just impossible. No one can stretch their hand 18 frets do just forget about it.

But let's try to get back to bring realistic. Let's disregard infinite speed and physical impossibilities. Regarding all the different techniques, there are players out there who legitimately can play virtuosic flamenco, finger picking, slapping, etc.

So can those players play anything? Yeah, basically. But no one can play just like someone else. In terms of mimicking every minute detail of every single player ever, no. But are there people who can play like anyone, just not everyone? Definitely.

Then let's talk about the difference between can and could. I can't play any lady gaga song, but I could. I'm good enough that I could learn any of her songs if I wanted to.

So it really just depends on what you're really asking. Is there anyone out there who can play anything by anyone in any way exactly like them? Of course not. Are there people out there who can play anything they want to? Of course. It is definitely possible to learn sweeping, tapping, picking, flamenco, slapping, and everything in between.

But really the question should be, and I guess it was, the point at which you specifically could play anything you want. Well, if you've been working at a technique for five years already and still aren't a virtuoso, probably not. But hey Michael Jordan wasn't all that great at baseball
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