#1
So, I've reached point, like a plateau but not really, because I'm not that good.

I've been playing seriously sense I was 19. I'm currently 24, and I've had professional vocal lessons, and took choir in high school. I've played on and off before that but when I was 19 I promised myself I would never "quit" the guitar again.

I've learned a bunch of songs, and written basic skeletons for at least 5 original pieces. I took a music theory class but failed and only grasped some basics. (Circle of Fifths, Triads, and Scales.)
I'm to the point where I can almost play Blackbird, Wish You Were Here, Everlong, People Are Strange, and countless other licks just not completely. All the ones I mentioned are really close but everything else is just tailing behind.

I've grown extremely frustrated because I can listen and solo over records, and play with people just by using my ear and playing a form of minesweeper with the basics of the Minor Penatonic box positions I know, but I'm stumbling in the dark. Yet to think about Theory throws me off and makes me worse.


It's driving me nuts, I want to record my songs, and play with a band. I've had offers to do gigs but can't play the pieces I know for friends and family without making mistakes or botching the rhythm, so I'm scared to take a show at a coffee shop or art gallary, til I can at least preform a set.


What can I do to fix this? How do I get better?
I'm tired of jumping from song to song without ever finishing one, and I feel like I'm plenty close to "cracking the code" but I've been trying and playing some of the same pieces for so long, I'm just going nuts.


Thanks for any help. It's very appreciated.

Sincerely,
Random Axe Man
Last edited by Hollowitz at Oct 5, 2015,
#2
What's your practice routine? If the answer is "What routine?", then start there.

You'll get plenty of responses like "learn theory", "practice technique", "learn more songs", "use your ears", "Play what you like"... Those are all good general advice, but a lot of getting good comes down to turning your feelings of dedication into real dedicated time and effort.
Last edited by cdgraves at Oct 5, 2015,
#3
More often than not, I end up replaying everything I know.

I'll try to go back and learn the parts that are lacking but now with the few songs that are nearly on point, there is still the rhythm complication.

Other than that, lots of noodling, and playing along to records.
I also try to practice the Minor Penatonic in A, which is what I know it best in, and try to see where I can build melodies and what not, or if I can name the notes I'm play.

but as mentioned before, the more I practice theory, it just feels like a waste of time, because if I could lock down even 3 songs solid and perfect, I could play a show and perform.

Instead I just have countless pieces of the puzzle but it's still not 'clicking' yet. Except when it does. There's no real consistency.
#4
Well rhythm is pretty fundamental, so I'd say tackle that one head on. First and foremost, use a metronome. Practice those tunes with a metronome and without the backing track. Count the beats! There are plenty of simple guides to counting rhythm, so check some out and work on being able to count out the rhythm to what you're playing.

If you find yourself struggling still, you might get into basic reading from the staff. While it may not be a skill you use very often, reading music will definitely get your rhythm into shape. Written music lays everything out plainly and forces you to rely on yourself for accuracy.

And do make sure you organize your time, since it sounds like your practice sessions don't have a lot of focus. Set aside some time to do warmups and technique workouts, spend some time on stuff you know, and then some time on unfamiliar or challenging material (using the metronome for all of this). It's good to set aside some time for jamming, but you also need to hear yourself by yourself. Practice any scales, chords, and whatnot in multiple keys (remember your Circle of 5ths!).

I wouldn't worry too much about theory right yet. The concepts will start to make sense once you have some repertoire and actually know what all chords and notes you're using. It's important to study if you want to be good, but it sounds like you're at a level where repertoire and technique the priority. Even top flight classical musicians spend 10+ years learning repertoire, reading, and technique before studying Theory.
Last edited by cdgraves at Oct 6, 2015,
#5
Well there's your problem.

Playing is not practicing.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#6
Practice dude, that's it.
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#7
You're avoiding the WORK part of guitar. Seriously, that's it.
^^The above is a Cryptic Metaphor^^


"To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity." Everything is made up and the facts don't matter.


MUSIC THEORY LINK
#8
Quote by Hollowitz
More often than not, I end up replaying everything I know.

I'll try to go back and learn the parts that are lacking but now with the few songs that are nearly on point, there is still the rhythm complication.

Other than that, lots of noodling, and playing along to records.
I also try to practice the Minor Penatonic in A, which is what I know it best in, and try to see where I can build melodies and what not, or if I can name the notes I'm play.

but as mentioned before, the more I practice theory, it just feels like a waste of time, because if I could lock down even 3 songs solid and perfect, I could play a show and perform.

Instead I just have countless pieces of the puzzle but it's still not 'clicking' yet. Except when it does. There's no real consistency.

As someone who is opposed to both "work" and "practice", I take issue with some of the above replies.

There's no point unless you're enjoying what you do. Call it "work" or "practice" if you must - and you should definitely take it seriously - but it shouldn't become a chore. You have to look forward to the challenge every day.
(I call it "playing", but I take it as seriously as any child takes its play.)

A lot of what you're doing is the right thing (playing along to records, testing yourself, etc).

Your problem seems to be a lack of focus when you "practise" (sorry, "play"). The "replaying everything I know" syndrome. Lack of discipline. Easy to feel better by just playing what you know you can, and not concentrating on the tricky stuff - maybe because it seems trivial or boring.

That "rhythm complication": you know it's an issue (that's good); so deal with it! Work with a metronome. Yes, it's irritating, but it's good medicine.

Another thing would to commit some time to learning the fretboard. Don't treat it as that ghastly "theory" stuff, it's just about getting totally familiar with your instrument.
Learn chords: every possible shape, everywhere on the neck, for every chord you already know; learn chord structure (which notes are root-3rd-5th-7th); how to add a 9, 11, 6 or 13 to any chord; etc..
Your ear will help you here - finding the same notes in different places.
Yes, it's "theory", but it's all there in the patterns on the fretboard - not some abstract mental stuff.
You know the sounds - you're good with sounds, right? Theory is only the names for those sounds. (It will "click" when you make those connections; but it doesn't matter if it doesn't click, as long as you can handle the sounds when playing.)

Pick one of those songs you want to "lock down", and really work on it, to the exclusion of all else - for days or however long it takes. (If you get bored before you're done, you've just picked the wrong song. You have to love the song, to get right inside it.) Obviously make sure it's a song that is accessible on one guitar, not where you're struggling to play all the parts in a band!
Find a backing track for the song if you can, to make it easier, but try to wean yourself off that. Wean yourself off reading a chart too.
The more you practise a song, the more you should get a sense of the bigger picture, how the structure all hangs together. It will gradually enter your subconscious, but it only does that through repetition.

A few lessons with a teacher (if you can afford it, if it's possible) would be a good idea - to expose failings you may not be aware of, and maybe to suggest a schedule for practising. Discipline imposed from outside, if you can't do it for yourself.
Last edited by jongtr at Oct 7, 2015,
#9
Quote by Hollowitz

I'm tired of jumping from song to song without ever finishing one, and I feel like I'm plenty close to "cracking the code" but I've been trying and playing some of the same pieces for so long, I'm just going nuts.

I'm going to break it to you pretty harshly, but what if I told you that "there is no code"?
#10
Quote by GoldenGuitar
I'm going to break it to you pretty harshly, but what if I told you that "there is no code"?
Dammit, now there's a whole load of internet "teachers" who are out of a job....
#11
I didn't expect to get nearly so many replies. Thank you all for your help.
jongtr reply was I found especially helpful.

I'm working on a more solid routine, there's definitely some discipline lacking but I do play all the time. It's coming together, it's just been frustrating lately. Opportunity has been knocking and I'm still fighting to bring myself up to answer it.

Anyway, I really appreciate it.
And yeah, I beg to differ about the code thing. I mean, there is no one cure all but the code is like seeing the matrix. I'd like to be a teacher some day, and I've definitely started to notice some interesting things.

Like for example. Chord building, 1, 3, 5, 7, and so on, are all "Magic" numbers with significant symbolic relevance, not only that, but certain ones, like the basic triad numbers (1,3,5) carry on into the Penatonic. Five, the supposed number of man, pentacles, so on so forth. Not to mention the closest you can ever get in terms of tone to the tonic note, or rather the anchor that all logical patterns relate too.

Sounds pretty hoodoo voodoo but really they're just memory techniques and ideas I've come to develop over the years. I've gotten decent at soloing and making up stuff. I've just lacked the discipline to develop my ability to notate or read at a level that is fast enough to work practically. Also not really sure how to notate rhythm, like at all... Unless it's 4/4 or 3/4 and really simple, and sometimes I get those confused. Or rhythms that don't end at the end beat but on the next, in terms of phrasing. It all confuses the hell out of me.

I'm definitely going to try to make friends with the metronome, and I'll take all the advice to heart. Thank you guys again so much. You've been a big help.

Eventually I'll get it down where I can just hear a piece and write it down or play it back. That's what I want ultimately. And just good songwriting happens to complete the pieces. I'm feeling a bit better about it now. I'll stay in touch with the forums more if I run into any big hurdles, but for now I think I have enough to go off of.