#1
I have been playing guitar for about a year now but I am still really bad at it and I know that it is my own fault. I end up playing things I already know and read about theory often, but there's no point of knowing all that theory if I can't implement it! I'm in a rut and that is why I am coming to you guys. How can I challenge myself? I want to learn songs but I'm not sure how difficult of a song I should be playing. Any suggestions on how I can get better?
#2
just learn songs lol listen to music and figure it out by ear

you'll know if it's too hard for you after a couple hours of beating your head against a brick wall
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#3
don't be too harsh on yourself. try to look back at the start and ask yourself "what have I learned - what can I do now what I could not do one year ago?" don't measure yourself by things you can't do, but by things you can do.

you could write this down and make a list. in 3, 4, 5, 6 months look at the list again and see what you can add. you might be surprised.

and have fun.
#4
Ditch the theory for now and just have fun playing the guitar. That's what it's really about, after all. Learn songs you think are fun or are within your scope of challenge, often learners pick songs that are too hard for them leading to this frustration. Focus more on playing simple songs absolutely perfectly, it's a lot more challenging than you think to play something consistently flawlessly.

A big thing to focus on is learning guitar solos too. Most good solos have a mix of note lengths and feel to them, mixing accents and other techniques into a pattern that feels loose but is actually quite compact. For example, have a look at the Led Zeppelin song 'Thank You':

https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/l/led_zeppelin/thank_you_ver4_tab.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1z4vkPWkLQ

It doesn't look like a complicated solo, but it has some challenging finger work. It's a great solo for learning the fretboard, learning how to organize your fingers, and how to produce a solo that moves across the frets in a melodic manner. It also makes use of short then long notes, mixing them up. It's also a short solo, so it's not a huge lot to memorize which is good because you want to master the solo.

Just remember to slow the solo waaaaaaaaay down. You want to be able to play the solo perfectly at a really slow speed first. Then slowly increase the tempo. The goal is to absolutely match what is being played flawlessly and cleanly, not fast.

Even as a veteran player I still find it useful even now to just look at a guitar solo, slow it down, work on it slowly, and build it up. I don't necessarily need to do that anymore from a technique stand point, but it does help so much in regards to 'understanding' the solo and all of the little nuances that come with it. Studying guitar solos are definitely one of the quickest ways to start building good technique - as well as building self confidence.
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#5
I have been playing guitar for about a year now but I am still really bad at it

Everybody who has only been playing the guitar for about a year is pretty bad at it. Obviously you could be better (you can always practice more) but don't expect too much from yourself. You are still a beginner.


^ I wouldn't say "ditch the theory". Theory makes learning new things about music a lot easier. Though, if you don't have much musical experience, learning theory can be pretty hard. I would say, don't learn more theory than you need. If you notice something cool in a song and want to figure out what's happening, that's when you should learn theory. Or if you want to understand what you just played, theory knowledge helps. But if you just read about random "rules" (that are not actually rules) and can't really find them in actual music, there's not much use from it. But yeah, I agree with your point - in the beginning you want to learn to play music so I think that should be the main focus.
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#6
Quote by MaggaraMarine
Everybody who has only been playing the guitar for about a year is pretty bad at it. Obviously you could be better (you can always practice more) but don't expect too much from yourself. You are still a beginner.


^ I wouldn't say "ditch the theory". Theory makes learning new things about music a lot easier. Though, if you don't have much musical experience, learning theory can be pretty hard. I would say, don't learn more theory than you need. If you notice something cool in a song and want to figure out what's happening, that's when you should learn theory. Or if you want to understand what you just played, theory knowledge helps. But if you just read about random "rules" (that are not actually rules) and can't really find them in actual music, there's not much use from it. But yeah, I agree with your point - in the beginning you want to learn to play music so I think that should be the main focus.


For me learning theory is pointless if you're not enjoying playing the guitar/getting what you want out of it, like, theory should be a secondary activity to playing the actual guitar - the physical guitar comes first and theory second (if you even want to learn theory at all).

A lot of guitar tutors always make the mistake of starting off new learners with all this theory bullshit. They want to be learning songs and sounding like the people they admire, why not let them do that right out of the gate?

Theory is optional, and it should be your decision to start learning it once you're appropriately invested or if you want to expand your musical knowledge. I think a lot of people get turned off by playing guitar because of the notion 'you need to learn theory to play', which is naturally just wrong.
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#7
Quote by Anthony1991
For me learning theory is pointless if you're not enjoying playing the guitar/getting what you want out of it, like, theory should be a secondary activity to playing the actual guitar - the physical guitar comes first and theory second (if you even want to learn theory at all).

A lot of guitar tutors always make the mistake of starting off new learners with all this theory bullshit. They want to be learning songs and sounding like the people they admire, why not let them do that right out of the gate?

Theory is optional, and it should be your decision to start learning it once you're appropriately invested or if you want to expand your musical knowledge. I think a lot of people get turned off by playing guitar because of the notion 'you need to learn theory to play', which is naturally just wrong.


He summed it up pretty well here. Unless you're going pro, enjoyment is what it's ALL about. I studied music/theory because the part of stimulating the mind, trough learning theory, was something I wanted and enjoyed.

It's merely a tool, but a damn well handy one I can give you that. Honestly, even MORE important than learning theory is developing your ears. It's the same with food:
The more your palette is developed the more you will be able to extract different nuances and appreciate it more.

Develop the senses and your appreciation will also develop.

My approach is focusing on your weaknesses. An example would be exercising the pinky using different hammer-ons to get it up to scratch with the other faster three amigos.

This is a good book:
troy stetina speed mechanics for lead guitar.

With anything in life, if you don't enjoy the process of improving, you're going to have a difficult time improving. Stimulate curiosity and you're well on your way!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-moW9jvvMr4&list=LLJla7DqbZHoKMg8LihQ5drw&index=12
#8
Quote by Anthony1991
For me learning theory is pointless if you're not enjoying playing the guitar/getting what you want out of it, like, theory should be a secondary activity to playing the actual guitar - the physical guitar comes first and theory second (if you even want to learn theory at all).

A lot of guitar tutors always make the mistake of starting off new learners with all this theory bullshit. They want to be learning songs and sounding like the people they admire, why not let them do that right out of the gate?

Theory is optional, and it should be your decision to start learning it once you're appropriately invested or if you want to expand your musical knowledge. I think a lot of people get turned off by playing guitar because of the notion 'you need to learn theory to play', which is naturally just wrong.


I think theory can be very simple and very interesting if you learn it bit by bit as you progress, so why should you skip that part of music?
At least, basics of harmony.
Of course, a good teacher may be helpful in this process...

Just my my opinion of course.
#9
Quote by Michele_R
I think theory can be very simple and very interesting if you learn it bit by bit as you progress, so why should you skip that part of music?
At least, basics of harmony.
Of course, a good teacher may be helpful in this process...

Just my my opinion of course.


If you have a good teacher who knows how to portion out theory in relevant bites then it can totally transform a player and their understanding, but that's so rarely the case. And if someone is self-learning theory, well that whole bite size thing goes out the window

I'm personally not a theory guy, I'm more in the 'feel and experience' ballpark. Even now when hearing a song or something I say to myself 'that sounds like an 8 on x string' rather than that sounds like an F or whatever. And that works great for me.

I get why people love theory and preach it to just about everyone but it's not the be all and end all. There are other ways to reach the same point, all be it not as quickly, but then that's the cost of doing it yourself. I also think that for a lot of people theory is just a crutch they use to prop themselves up - often trapping themselves inside the theory itself.
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#10
Quote by Anthony1991
For me learning theory is pointless if you're not enjoying playing the guitar/getting what you want out of it, like, theory should be a secondary activity to playing the actual guitar - the physical guitar comes first and theory second (if you even want to learn theory at all).

A lot of guitar tutors always make the mistake of starting off new learners with all this theory bullshit. They want to be learning songs and sounding like the people they admire, why not let them do that right out of the gate?

Theory is optional, and it should be your decision to start learning it once you're appropriately invested or if you want to expand your musical knowledge. I think a lot of people get turned off by playing guitar because of the notion 'you need to learn theory to play', which is naturally just wrong.

Well, it depends on what you want to do. But nothing you said really contradicts with what I said.

If you want to learn about music, not just learn to play guitar, then theory is great. And why not if you only want to learn theory? But yes, in the beginning it makes no sense to learn all the theory out there because most likely you won't understand it all and it will just confuse you more. That's why I said learn the theory you need.

And no, you don't need theory to play. Theory knowledge doesn't make you a better guitarist. But it makes you a better (or at least a more versatile) musician.

I don't think one should force themselves to learn theory. It's much easier to understand once you have more experience as a musician and you most likely also have more interest in learning theory.


When it comes to this particular case, I don't think TS should focus too much on theory right now. As I said, in the beginning it's important to learn to play some music first. All the theory will make much more sense later. But understanding things like what a key is and how to figure it out and what chord functions are and understanding the different rhythmic values does help you make sense of the music that you are playing, and it does also make you see connections between different things that you play. So that what you are playing is not just putting this finger on this fret and blindly following what the tab says.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
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Hartke HyDrive 210c
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#11
My advise is that don't think that some songs might be too complicated for you to play. Start learning songs you wish you'd be able to play. If there is some hard part(s), make them your daily practise. Start with a slow tempo, of course. It's important to be able to play things well slow before moving into warp speed.

If you want to be for instance the next James Hetfield, play Metallica and challenge yourself everyday by practising something that you do not already master.

If you are interested in theory, I encourage you to dig deeper in that too. Try to figure out questions if you cannot connect your theory to anything practical and ask about it from someone with more experience (...friends, UG-forum etc.).

You might also want to think whether you want to record your own music. It can be fun if your every practise session can potentially give you something that you might use in your own songs.
Last edited by Tim_Rock at Jun 6, 2016,
#12
Quote by lzbd
...and read about theory often, but there's no point of knowing all that theory if I can't implement it!
True. So stop reading it.

Or - better - take a piece of theory and try to play it. Don't know how? Then forget it; you don't need it.
Take a song you know and try to analyse it in theoretical terms. Eg, what key is it in? What are the chord functions (I, IV, V, etc)?
Don't know how to do that? Or can do that but don't see the point? Then forget it; you don't need it.

If you like theory, then read it by all means. But don't do it because you think you ought to, or because you think it will help you as a player. It won't. (It will help you become a more well-rounded musician, but only if you can connect it to the music you know, and can see the point.)
Quote by lzbd

I'm in a rut and that is why I am coming to you guys. How can I challenge myself? I want to learn songs but I'm not sure how difficult of a song I should be playing.
Pick one that's just a little too difficult for you right now - maybe it has one tricky bit in it. Obviously make sure you really like the song to begin with.
Challenge yourself with short-term goals, not long-term ones. Challenges you can conquer in this practice session - maybe even in the next 5 minutes.
But have a few of these short-term goals set up in a row, so once one is completed you can move on to the next one.
Think of it like climbing a mountain. Your challenge is not "climb that mountain!" - it's only to find the next foothold, or hand-hold. Once you've got that step, you look for the next one.
Quote by lzbd

Any suggestions on how I can get better?
Stop wanting to get better. Just keep playing what you enjoy, and enjoying what you can play.
If there's something you want to play but can't - there's your challenge. Work out how to play it - step by step.
Bored with that? Then stop and do something else, maybe come back to it.

Remember nobody needs you to be good at guitar - not unless you're in a band, with an important gig or recording coming up... I'm guessing this is personal recreation for you.
Of course, you may have ambitions to join a band or do gigs - but the answer is the same: keep playing what you enjoy, and enjoy what you can play. Because if you do, you will practise for longer. Which means (you guessed it) you get better quicker.
Last edited by jongtr at Jun 6, 2016,
#13
Quote by MaggaraMarine
Well, it depends on what you want to do. But nothing you said really contradicts with what I said.

If you want to learn about music, not just learn to play guitar, then theory is great. And why not if you only want to learn theory? But yes, in the beginning it makes no sense to learn all the theory out there because most likely you won't understand it all and it will just confuse you more. That's why I said learn the theory you need.

And no, you don't need theory to play. Theory knowledge doesn't make you a better guitarist. But it makes you a better (or at least a more versatile) musician.

I don't think one should force themselves to learn theory. It's much easier to understand once you have more experience as a musician and you most likely also have more interest in learning theory.


When it comes to this particular case, I don't think TS should focus too much on theory right now. As I said, in the beginning it's important to learn to play some music first. All the theory will make much more sense later. But understanding things like what a key is and how to figure it out and what chord functions are and understanding the different rhythmic values does help you make sense of the music that you are playing, and it does also make you see connections between different things that you play. So that what you are playing is not just putting this finger on this fret and blindly following what the tab says.


Wasn't really going for contradiction, just explaining my view point?
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#14
^ Well, so did I.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#15
The syntax in the title, made me think the thread was about physical limits. I was going to say, "playing the guitar too much can cause carpal tunnel syndrome"...

Although, some people are more susceptible to it than others, so you won't really know until you hit that wall....
#16
you don't have to "learn theory" in the sense that the GT users think it works. you learn functional theory by learning music with your ear. when you can make connections in your head and put it onto the fretboard, that's "theory" in action, and once you have a foundation of your ear, you can reinforce it with concepts like intervals that will be something you're already familiar with since you've heard them actively before.

music theory isn't hard. the hard part is getting your ear right - and that's not even that bad. until tabs were around, almost every single guitarist learned by ear and through theory (sheet music notwithstanding because that's an art in and of itself).

the reason people make it hard is because they take shortcuts and use tablature as a crutch, then wonder why they're not getting results. these are the same kinds of people who say "i want to lose weight so i bought a diet pill instead of methodically altering my lifestyle and exercising"

then instead of blaming themselves, they try and learn scales and mode shapes to make up for all the weaknesses they've acquired and make things far more complicated than they need to be

don't fall into the trap
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#17
Thank you all, I feel like this thread really helped me figure out my next step.

I actually do enjoy learning about theory and understanding the guitar and music, but I do think I got stuck spending %60 of my time learning theory instead of learning to actually play the guitar. I feel like the basic theory I have been learning has helped a lot with my own improvisation when I make up my own stuff (another %30 of my time goes into this bit). I think I will put theory aside for now and focus on playing songs I like.

I've noticed that I become hasty when I try to play something new and have a problem getting myself to take it slowly, but it's something I see that I have to overcome now.

Again, thank you all, you've been a tremendous help. I will come back to this forum when I feel like I'm slipping.