Long time lurker, first time poster here. I?m 19 and have been playing the guitar on and off for a couple of years now. My mum taught me piano from a young age, and in primary/high school I was accepted into the music program thing they had running (playing trombone of all things!), so I have some basic music theory in place although a lot of it is forgotten now. Earlier this year I decided to get back into guitar, went and had some lessons and then ditched them, but continued to practise (and have been every day since then).

Me and a few mates have aspirations for a band, we?ve got lyrics and melodies for songs all ready to go, just we?re instrumentally challenged. We?d like to be gigging by the end of the year, and when push comes to shove we?re pretty much just 4 girls who have 6 months to learn how to play our instruments well. We all have a passion for music, we?re out every weekend at local gigs (anything from bigger names to $5 never heard these guys before stuff), we?ve got a good attitude and have made connections here and there. We?re into rock/experimental rock/alternative and hope that?s the direction the band will take (original, not covers).

Anyway, I?ll stop my rambling. I?m after advice. If I were an absolute beginner (essentially you may as well call me this) what stuff should I be cramming into the next six months that?s essential for songwriting and gigging while not looking/sounding like a complete idiot? I know there are successful players who know little to no theory but I would like to learn some theory so that I can structure good solos, work out which chords go over which keys and so on. Where do I start? Learning the fret board? Scales? Working on chords in specific keys? Just playing tabs? Give me some direction.

My current rig is very basic, will be upgraded to something spiffy by the end of the year. Have an Ibanez AX70 (didn?t want to follow the crowd and get a squire as a first guitar), Peavy Rage 158 practise amp and Boss ds-1 for a bit of fun. Didn?t want to go over the top when I started a couple of years ago in case I changed my mind and it all ended up beneath the bed gathering dust. Apparently that?s not the case. Hoping to be the lead guitarist of the band, but will probably need to write the rhythm too.

I know we?ve probably got rocks in our head trying to get our stuff together by 6 months, but we?re dedicated, enthusiastic and for girls we?ve got a lot of balls (am I allowed to say that?!). Cheers for reading, sorry its so long, any advice is appreciated.
My advice:

Learn the Major, Minor and 7th Chords (you can find them in any chord book).

Learn the Major and Minor Pentatonic Scales, and when to use what scales (for these scales its very easy to get the hang of it).

Memorize some of the most used chord progressions and start from there.

If you're into songwriting, stay away from tabs as they will make you better at reproducing music and not creating it.

Let me know how you come out in the end.
Learning the fretboard is vital if you're gonna construct your songs based on theory. Play and memorize alot of chords and try to understand the theory behind chordbuilding. ALWAYS practice to a metronome. Take a look at the circle of fifths when you're going to write songs. I suppose you already know rhythm notes so get alot of those and practice strumming and picking in rhythm, in time, to a metronome. Try to learn bar chords if you can in six months. Some good keys to start in are C, D and G.

Good Luck to you and your mates

You could always play pop-punk. That could easily be learnt in 6 months due to the simplicity of it and the fact it relies on power chords and decent melody.
My Gear:
Epiphone SG
Vintage SG
Stagg Strat (With replaced hardware and a Duncan Invader )
Hohner Strat
No name Acoustic
Jim Dunlop Crybaby
Boss MT-2
Boss DS-1
Roland Cube 60
Wires and patch cords and stuff..
Hi there,

Glad to see you're all fired up to go.
So first of let me tell you not to get discourged by anything I say.
I'm gonna tell you straight up that the odds of achieving your goal are not good.

Playing guitar to a level where you can really play and perform live solo's takes 2 things
Time and dedication.
Obviously you are impaired for the first so you'll have to make it up with the second.
That means spending each and every free second you have playing guitar.

Now what to begin with...
First learn the open chords,

A, Am, B, C, D, Dm, E, Em, F, G
Learn the fingering of these chords and practise switching between them fast and fluently by playing along with songs.
Try also to make basic arpeggio's using these (good examples: knocking on heavens door - GNR, Everybody Hurts -REM)

Then learn the barre chords or powerchords, play lots of punk.

And last but not least, when picking out songs to practise, try and pick some which are not your normal genre, like reggea or country, these help you develop a good timing and strumming technique.

That's about the 101 for rythm.

Now for lead playing and solo's I will give you 2 rules to live and die by:

2 Precision, practise and repetition develop speed, not anything else.

Start by playing chromatic scales e.g. 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
slowly but cleanly up and down the neck, using all 4 of your fingers, and alternate picking every note e.g. downstroke upstroke downstroke upstroke.

Learn to play the Blues, pentatonic and pentatonic minor scales.
Practise them in the same way as the chromatic scale.
Start slowly and practise alot, it may be mind numbing but it's the only way to develop speed and accuracy.

And last but not least, try to get a kick out of the progress you make. That makes the addiction of playing which makes more progress.

But anyways I hope you have a great time playing and learning.
And good luck to you.
You say you know basic music theory? Well thats all you need really, that and dedication. I think the key to your success on your endeavour is simply challenging yourself to start with. For example, get up one morning and say to yourself: 'today i'm going to write a song regardless of how simplisic it is' and keep setting yourself challenges like that.

After writing a few songs using only a few chords in this manner, you'll start to get the hang of it and thats when you start getting your band together to play those songs, again, regardless of how simplistic it may sound. If there's anything I've learnt from the band I'm in, its don't make things too complicated to start with (our guitarists first song was 8 minutes long!) and who needs solos? How big are the Artic Monkeys and are there any solos in that?

With more songs will come more confidence so I woul advise 1 or 2 covers just to bring the band together some more and you'll start writing more songs as a band which will obviously be better than you on your own but everyone starts someone.

You got 6 months? I reckon you (personally) could get a good band going in 3 with the dedication but good luck anywho.

See ya round,
Cheers for the advice guys, it's been great and has really got me thinking.

I'm realising I need to fill in a lot of gaps. I can play a lot of the major and minor open chords with flow, I know some barre chords, I know a few scales, power chords, basics to chord construction, I know how to alternate pick... there's just accuracy missing and holes everywhere! Thats probably come from just playing off tabs to random songs that I liked over the last few years. I think I really need to go through, fill in the gaps and bring it all together. I'll definately take on board everything you've said and just try and find a logical place to start and then work my way through.

It's interesting that you've stressed the importance of a metronome. Someone once told me that you could become so reliant on it that it could mess with your playing later on down the track. Was this person wrong? I thought it sounded a bit suss at the time.

James, I feel really odd about simplicity. A few weeks ago I started trying to write the rhythm guitar to a song that we already had the melody and lyrics for. I sung the melody, then wrote it out on piano and worked it out to be in the key of C (Am). Threw in C, D, G, F and A chords for the verses, Em, Am, Dm for bridge (I worked out the chords by what sounded "right"), played it through, and realised it sounded really simple. At which point I thought about throwing it all away and starting again. Simple would definately be good for us, I just thought we'd get laughed off the stage or something.

Once again guys, thanks heaps for the help. Muchly appreciated!
my advice on writing is:

if you right something simple that sounds good....just too simple...keep the chords you have...

and from them create riffs.

To do this what i do is usually create passing tones between the chords, notes that lead from on chord to the next, by just messing about with the chords...i good example of this is Under the Bridge by RHCP, simple chords, but with interesting embellishments, which really bring it to life...

the more songs you write, the better quality the songs will become.

practice as often as you can with your weakest techniques and then practice putting these techniques to use by writing songs...
Quote by odway
Simple would definately be good for us, I just thought we'd get laughed off the stage or something.

Alot of people on UG are muso's/shredders, that diss simplicity. These people are tossholes. The people that are watching you guys play on stage don't care about things as 'trivial' as how you play, they only care about if the songs sound awesome, and how well they are delivered.

And if there are people that are bothered that you're music is simple - would you really want these people as fans?
most of the songs i write are pretty simple, but they sound good because they are well put together. if you have a simple chord progression that you want to spice up, one of the best things to do is quinny's advice of using embelishments. another thing to do is give the chords an interesting rhythm. you can make something sound like you are changing chords if you strum the low strings sometimes and then the high strings other times. if you get a cool strum pattern going, then do that, it will sound like you are doing more than you are, and it sounds really cool if done well. also, dont forget that when you add in bass, drums, and vocals it adds to the depth of the song and probably wont sound so simplistic anymore.

as for what to learn, obviously work on knowing what chords go well together. you say you have your basic major and minor chords down, and some barre chords. now you might want to learn some very basic extensions for those. so learn some dom7 chords, min7, maj7, sus2, and sus4 chords. some of those are pretty easy to switch to from open chords, ie add your pinky on to the 3rd fret on the 1st string of an open D chord and you have Dsus4. so working with your chords will give you a very good base for your playing.

if you want to start playing solos, learn a few simple ones in a style you like. then sit and listen carefully to more solos. you want to get an idea of the phrasing that other artists use and some of their ideas. then start to play around in the minor pentatonic. you are just trying to get some basic ideas of what goes together and what doesnt for now, but you should still play to a metronome to stay in time. once you start to feel you can do that, add in a rhythm track. play with the rhythm track so that you know how to play with a backing. soloing just comes with time, so keep up the practise. also, doing chromatic exercises like jules said work well for accuracy and speed. at the same time, learn a few new scales so you can play in both major and minor keys.

remember, you dont have to be fantastic to be able to play live. you just have to be able to play your instruments without messing up horribly, stay together as a band, and be entertaining. and six months is plenty of time to work together as a band, as long as each person works hard on their own and you work together to be a band.
first of all, simplicity does not = bad, the ramones, sex pistols and tons of great bands write stuff that is really simple but really catchy and good (and unless yer playing uber metal death/speed/prog or otherwise the crowd isn't looking to hear extremely complex works) , secondly i would have to disagree with what some people have said of learning 'cover songs' as you need to know where you came from to see where you are going, groups that you admire and enjoy can spark creativity in different places you didn't know you had (if yer a punk rocker try some blues, rap/r&b, classical guitar or even *gasp* polka) although i would recommend against the idea of listening solely to one group you enjoy and broadening your horizons (i did this initially and all my stuff was good..... but it was also essentially metallica rip offs) yes definately practice w/ a metronome or some tempo device (drum machine, beat box, something that keeps good time) and practice everything in your arsenal, picking, strumming and whatever more advanced techniques you may think you need initially, if you can i would recommend getting a tape recorder because of this, you can record something and play it back and the tape recorder is merciless!!!, if there is a minor imperfection you will hear it, it can help you better judge what you need to work on and if you notice many things on the tape that don't sound as good as you thought they did when you initially recorded it, it's ok (i had this problem when i first started) it just gives you a better perspective of what you will sound like to the crowd (which is the important part in my eyes, properly conveying the song to the listening audience) hope this helps, peace out

Thanks once again guys.
Just quickly, was the comment about the metronome incorrect? (that is, someone once told me playing to a metronome could cause you to become reliant and screw with your playing later on down the track). Would like to know before I head out and get one tomorrow.

Also, what's the most common metronome people buy, the electrical ones or the mechanical ones? Does it matter?
i dont know why it would screw you up, especially if you plan on playing with a drummer. the metronome just make you get used to playing in time. when playing with a drummer, he/she is kinda like a human metronome and keeps the time. im not seeing how it would be bad, so i dont think it would hurt.
depends on what genre you're playing. you could be playing anything from power pop (fun catchy stuff to play if all else fails and sounds much better than pop punk) to metal (moderate to hardest stuff to play in the rock realm)

it's best to go with something fairly simple and be able to play it well. Your crowd probably won't be expecting a ton. Wow em with something fun and catchy.