#1
Hi, I'm new to this UltimateGuitar. This is my first thread and my first post. I am writing this as one of the many stories of beginner guitarists. Perhaps this will give some insight into the dreaded question, "How long does it take to get good on the guitar?" At any rate, for those who want to skip this lengthy post, go right ahead and skip through it all the way to the bottom where I've left some questions.

I am 20 years old, and this is my journey in playing the guitar.

I officially started my guitar playing journey on the 5th November 2016. As a reference point, I turned 20 at the very start of September. A few weeks after my birthday, I decided that I wanted to learn the guitar. I was (and still am) a big fan of Michael Jackson and was always searching for who was the greatest entertainer in the world. I came across many forums that had debates as to who the greatest entertainer in the world, Elvis Presley or Michael J. Jackson. In order not to be biased, I started listening to Elvis Presley's records. I began to appreciate his music. This was the point at which I had an interest in playing the guitar.

The first time I picked up an old electric guitar of mine, I held it the wrong way (i.e, upside down). This was brought to my attention by my elder brother who laughed at me. I started researching as to how to go about learning the guitar. I got tons of great information on the net. There were two schools of thought. One claimed that a beginner should always start with an acoustic guitar so that he could build more finger strength and transfer it on to the electric guitar. The other school of thought (and this was the new school of thought) claimed that you should start with the instrument you preferred so that you you'd be more motivated to learn the instrument and play it. Plus, apparently it was physically easier to play on the electric as opposed to the acoustic.

Coincidentally, around this time, I started to broaden my musical tastes. I started listening to music by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, B.B King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Prince, Bob Dylan, James Brown, The Chicago Band, Carlos Santana, Gary Moore, Rory Gallagher, Slash(Gun 'N' Roses), Frank Sinatra, Eddie Van Halen, Steelheart, The Eagles, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Rainbow. I realised that most of my musical tastes were what many would consider Rock Music (I was also amazed to find out that music could be made by people who didn't have what many would consider particularly great or trained voices. I began to see that the music behind the lyrics were just as important, if not more important than the vocals themselves). I began to study the life of these greats. I saw that most of them started off with an acoustic guitar. Seeing that the old school of thought had a proven track record and determined to follow in the footsteps of these greats, I decided to start my guitar journey with an acoustic guitar.

I tried to learn the guitar through the internet by my own, and spent about an hour a week practicing ( I know I know, what was I thinking ? 1 hour/week is way too little!). After a while, I decided that this was not working out. After 6 weeks of playing, I still did not know even the most basic of chords. Finally, I decided to hire a local private guitarist to teach me how 1-1.

Our first lesson started on the 5th Nov 2016 and during the first lesson, he showed me how to play the basic C, D minor, E minor, F(temporary without barre chord), G chord and A minor chord. I realised that my technique of holding the guitar that I had learnt on my own previously was wrong and fortunately managed to correct it within that week itself. He also spent a couple of minutes explaining to me that my old acoustic guitar was wrongly set up and had a mix of electric and acoustic strings on them!(During that week itself, I bought a new guitar. Sigma OOOC, I forgot the model.) He gave me a few exercises to strengthen my finger and develop muscle memory. He also showed me how to read the notes according to the standard tuning. I caught on relatively fast seeing as I had some prior background in the piano. (Very Basic, I merely know all the name of the notes on the piano [the 12 notes] and know what one octave is). This time having a plan, I decided to practice every day for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours. The first week was highly boring but I kept at it doing all the exercises that he told me to day in day out. I find it strange looking back, that I had a guitar with me and spent 1 week on it not making a single sound but doing exercises on it ! Ultimately this proved to be extremely useful for I had subconsciously memorised the positions of all the 6 chords.

The very next lesson, he troubleshooted my chords, playing each note once to see if there was any buzz or muting. He explained that a buzz was caused by my fingers not being close enough to the feet and a muted string was caused either by not pressing down too hard enough or another finger stopping the action of the string. Anyhow, most of my chords were good except for my D minor chord, which had my high e string muted. I managed to correct this by placing my 3rd finger slightly further away from the fret. I realised that this would give me slightly more control of the third finger and would prevent it from muting the high e string. Next, he showed me how to cycle between the chords while continuously strumming simple down-up-down-up. My up strum was not natural at first and I used to 'dig' at the strings while going up. Sometimes my pick would even get stuck! In time, however, this became easier and today I don't have to think about it much. He also gave me another exercise where I would mute all the strings and play a simple down-down-up, up-down-up rhythm. At first this was not easy. I could hear the rhythm easily no problems there. The only problem was that my hands simply refused to create this, especially on the up-down-up part, where my right strumming hand would still be placed above the strings rather than below the strings. I was not playing a 'ghost' strum. Again, during the whole week, I practiced for at least an hour per day. Within the week, I could transition between chords(still not even remotely close to it being smooth) and my rhythm playing was now going well.

On my 3rd lesson, that I had to put the two together and strum while changing chords. Strangely even though I thought it would be difficult, I managed to do it relatively well. My first job was to maintain a consistent rhythm which sometimes went a little too fast (nervousness on my part). We did 2-bar changes and 1-bar changes. He told me to keep doing this throughout the week as well as to learn two more chords: D chord and B minor chord (temporary). I did this throughout the week for at least 1 hour per day.

Last Saturday was my 4th lesson. My instructor gave me 2 songs to play. The first was 'Superman' by Five for Fighting and the second song was 'Stand by Me' by Ben E King. The second song in particular is a favourite of mine. Anyways, I've been practicing consistently this 3-4 days. My practising routine consists now of practicing 3-4 hours on the weekend and 1-2 hours on weekdays. Recently, I've noted some observations.

1. Rhythm guitar timing does NOT coincide with the melodic timing. This proves to be a big headache for me because I can't concentrate on two timings at once. For now, my instructor has said to concentrate fully on playing the rhythm to the song. He has recorded the song on my phone with his vocals and his rhythm. My job is to play exactly to his rhythm while he sings.
2. My chord transitions have been smoother now. Previously, I struggled to change to a G chord but now my fingers suddenly fly to the right spots and find them all by themselves. It's quite shocking.
3. This, for me, is the most important and the part where I really don't know what's wrong. When transitioning to the G chord (this is a full G chord with all 4 fingers involved), there seems to be buzz in the chord. I've tried to troubleshoot this. I do think it's because of the low E string because when transitioning to the G chord, my 2nd finger/middle finger hits the middle of the fretboard on the low E string but pushing it forward as close as possible to the fret does not work. I've tried to troubleshoot it as my guitar teacher taught me but nothing seems to work. I will ask him about it this coming lesson but I'd like to know your opinions.
4. By the way, I've been really getting into the acoustic guitar and I find that I like it quite well. Recently heard an acoustic cover of I'm Yours by Jason Mraz and loved it. Plus, I've been hearing songs by Tommy Emmanuel and I could listen to him all day. Any more recommendations ?
5. In the song, "Stand by Me", there's a section where you have to play four bars of G chords. I sometimes can't keep track unless I'm concentrating very hard. Is there anything trick I can use ?
6. There's a part in the song where the rhythm changes but I've been told to continue playing according to the same rhythm that I've learnt.

Two more questions about the future:

1. I've heard about barre chords and how tough they are (Especially the dreaded F barre chord). Is it really that difficult ?
2. I want to be able to play melodic lines as well as rhythmic ones. Will this be possible in the near future ?

Thank you for reading.

Cheers.
#2
For one, well done on getting a teacher. The value of such is often underestimated greatly. Just remember that you're trying to find your music, and attempting to find a way to express it. No teacher ever has unbendable truth, just suggestions and things to try from which you can learn what is right, or not right, for you. A consistent fretbuzz can be caused by a guitar that isn't set up properly, or worn down frets. Don't worry too much about progress, progress always comes even if you won't notice it. Many of my own students I will purposely tell to practice something else for a month, rather than the piece they can't do. After a month your body will still subconsciously learn it. Just play, don't practice. The rest will come.

As for question number 1 - Barre Chords get easier the further up the neck you play them, since the strings have more tension the nearer you get to the bridge and the nut. Another note to really look at for with Barre Chords are the joints in the finger you are using to bar. Those parts have less flesh on the finger, which will keep you from properly pressing down. As a last piece of advise, bend that finger backwards, while pressing down. This is to divide the pressure evenly over the finger. If you don't, the tip tends to receive too much strength which will keep the finger from touching the others properly.

As for question number 2 - Wrong. As odd as this sounds, it is. Every line is rhythmic and has a rhythmic origin. The wrong notes at the right time can still be great, but the right notes at the wrong time will simply feel disjointed and annoying, or even disruptive. Try to come up with rhythmic patterns and variations for licks that you know, start such licks before or after the beat you'd normally play them. Play them in triplets, fifths, take away notes or raise or lower some, lengthen them or cut them off, according to the context to train your ears. But always play for timing, the rest will come... with time.

Good luck
Wise Man Says: The guitar is obviously female, she's got hips, breasts... and a hole.
UG's Flamenco Club
Last edited by FretboardToAsh at Nov 30, 2016,
#3
Hello FretboardtoAsh, thanks for your great post. I appreciate your advice. I do think I understand what you mean when you say that every line is rhythmic and can relate to what you mean when you say that the wrong notes at the right time is better than the right notes at the wrong time.
One more question, I truly feel like signing up for some music theory lessons. Do you advise against it ? Some people I know claim that too much theory kills your creativity...

Thanks again, I appreciate your help.
#4
That's a question that may not be the right one to ask of me, because it's one of those where I'll start giving roundabout answers, which can't really help you but can give some insight and perhaps help you make up your own mind here.

There are two short answers, and one long one to this. The first short answer is Yes. The other answer, which is exactly one letter shorter, is No.

It all comes down to how you interpret information and how you act on it, this is an entirely personal matter and not I, nor anyone else can truly know or say where you fall on the scale and whether one choice is more right or wrong than another. It all depends on what goals you want to achieve, and how you wish to get to them. I'll tell you how I do this with my own students, and what I want for them.

I want my students to be happy, first of all, to have the same joy that I get from music. That is a given. The further I get into music, the more I understand and hear the more I enjoy it. Music theory was integral to this aspect, because it allowed me to put a name, layout and logic to all that I heard beyond just seeing the patterns on my guitar. I enjoyed this a lot because it's who I am, and it's a very human thing to want to have patterns, so not that uncommon.

I also however, have earned a certain intuition when it comes to music. And with enough playing and listening, you can hear where it's going, hear what it wants and needs to match your image of it, and so on. The problem with 'Music Theory', is that it is too often approached from the wrong angle. I want my students to KNOW music on intuition. I don't care whether they can understand it on a mathematical level, I want them to KNOW what they've heard, the moment they've heard it. No calculating based on pre-fed knowledge, no guessing based on instinct. I want to train their intuition and immediately see in their head, on their instrument what they're hearing. Music theory very often derives them of it. And that's not music theory's fault. It's the fault of either the student, or the teacher because they're not giving the information in the right form, or not at the right time.

Music theory gives you a formulaic definition of what you're hearing. No more. It doesn't tell you what you can play, or what you shouldn't. It just tells you in words/numbers, what you've already heard in your head. And I cannot stress this enough, when you've heard something and it has ANY EMOTIONAL IMPACT ON YOU AT ALL, YOU CAN ALREADY UNDERSTAND IT. You might perhaps not be able of playing it, but you can already understand it.Because that is what music is, a means to express what we don't have any other method of expression for. You're just lacking a way to reproduce it. Music theory gives you a way to reproduce it in a non-musical manner. It lets you use a certain code that you can use to express 'what you've heard', so you're essentially just learning another instrument that doesn't precisely make music, but can communicate the same material. It's just a physical one, rather than the fleeting sounds, that music actually is.

And this is where the real problem with music theory comes in. Many cultures today are very much visually focused. And because it gives such a clear view of what you've heard, in a physical, visible form, people tend to accept it as truth more easily. It can help in learning, the problem is that many people promptly turn off their ears and stop actually listening to what they're reading/playing. This is where people doing 'the stepladder' comes in, they walk up their scale, then down... and are promptly out of ideas, which were never anything musical to begin with, they were technical.

I've in over 13 years of teaching, maybe known 2 teachers that knew how to teach theory in a way that I was satisfied with. The rest taught people a translating trick, which is the equivalent of giving a monkey a banana for pressing the right button at the right time. That sort of teaching is mindless training, not how to make music.

So, if you think you are capable of learning music theory alongside music, then by all means. And I should say it is foolish to limit yourself when it comes to something you love. If you enjoy music, LEARN MUSIC THEORY. There is no reason not to. There is only the fact that you need to realize and constantly maintain the principle idea that we make music with our ears, not our eyes. If you find that you've stopped listening, put the damn page/scale/chordbook away. Music came first, and has existed for as long as we've walked this earth. Music theory has been merely few centuries old, and it tells us in code and formula what we've heard or played. Not what we're allowed to.

Music theory does not kill creativity, it just gives a painful revealing that someone doesn't have any creativity (yet). Because they 'know' more than they can hear. It is the same difference between giving a child a blank page and a pencil, and giving a child a colouring picture and more colours than they know. One will draw something that expresses their personality, and create. The other will, excepting very rare few occasions, give you an epileptic ceasure because they don't know what to do with the given material and they react as if the visible, physical boundaries actually matter. They don't, but it's painfully obvious what is wrong with so many teachers, and methods of teaching even at that age.

Anyone, trained or not, can hear whether a musician understands the note they're playing, or if they're just masturbating. Very often, it's the latter, and I've never been much of a voyeur, so I tend to steer clear from that sort of... performance.

As I a said, a weird roundabout answer. It's one of those things that very much depend on you as a person and how you work with information given. And very often, you won't know whether you took the right or wrong path until after you've gone down one or the other for a good few years. And there's nothing wrong with that, some would have a birthmark removed, some say it's a beauty mark.

Good luck
Wise Man Says: The guitar is obviously female, she's got hips, breasts... and a hole.
UG's Flamenco Club
Last edited by FretboardToAsh at Dec 1, 2016,