I've been playing guitar for about 7 months, I have an epiphone les paul with a 10w peavy amp and play rock/alternative songs. Had a couple questions for other people:

1. Does learning songs on guitar pretty much require that you sing along?

At first I just worked on chords and chord changes, but now I'm seeing more and more songs are just 3-4 chords over and over again, and unless I at least try to sing along it's hard to know when the changes are supposed to happen. The song also gets really boring without lyrics if its just chords.

My throat actually hurts because I practice playing a lot, and at this point almost everything I practice requires singing along, and until starting guitar last year I never sang anything ever!

2. How do you go from just open strumming of chords to doing more intricate picking?

I usually look for the chords when looking for tabs, and can play something that sounds like the song - but the real versions always sound quite a bit different as the guitarist is picking rather than just strumming the whole chord every time. For example on karma police I play all the chords and it sounds correct, but I know that the actual song has a lot more little picking and embellishments in it. How do you learn to do the picking stuff?

3. Do you ever (or often) play open chords with distortion on?

It usually sounds like trash to me so I'm guessing w distort. I just want to stick to power chords?

4. At what point should I start worrying about music theory? So far I've just wanted to learn the instrument and be able to make it sound alright, and learn some songs. I'm assuming at some point you really need to know the theory to be a guitar player and guessing I might be approaching that point.
1: You could always sing along in your head. Stops you actually using your vocal chords. Or hum the tune.

2: Practise. Try playing a chord and then using a free finger to add in another note (like a 7th or a 9th or something)

3: A lot of AC/DC songs use open chords with distortion although some notes do get muted. I'm sure there are plenty of other bands that do it too.

4: But yourself a theory book and just go through it at your own pace and make sure you understand it.
so many questions

1.singing along w/ guitar is always better.Its a +5 for a guitarist.
2.Pick the bass of the chord 1st then go all the way down Its a good start.
3.Some songs are played on open chords w/ light distortion...but w/ heavy dist..only E for me...
4.The sooner the better...
....so little time.
I'll do my best to answer your questions.

1) Playing chords to songs I often find easier when I sing along too, but I usually just follow it in my head (sing in my head). If your throat's getting sore from singing along then I suggest you just sing along in your head. Though it isn't necessary to sing along to learn a song it's easier for a lot of people, I'm one of those, and it's never slowed me down or limited my playing. You'll probably come across songs that you can't learn through singing the words to with chords, like Wonderwall by Oasis for me I had to learn the rhythm of the chords and worry about putting words over the top.

2) Hard question to answer really, as there's no real trick to it, apart from practising, starting really slow and getting faster. If you have a hard time hitting single strings accurately just practice playing through the minor pentatonic scale in whatever position until you get reasonably fast with, if you don't know the pentatonic scale google it, you'll find it no problem or try learning riff based songs like Sunshine of Your Love by Cream or Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes.

Bands like Radiohead tend to use arpregiation, which is what embellishes the melody a lot of the time. That's just taking a chord and rather than playing it in one strum each string is picked separately. Again, it's just a matter of practice, try an A major open chord (for example) and just pick each string you'd usually strum starting on the open a string then down and back up, then try it with other chords. Or just get the tab for a song that uses it and sit down and take time to learn it that way.

3) Occasionally I do and it can sound good, lots of bands like Oasis, Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics, lots of british 'brit pop' bands play distorted open chords (And no doubt many many other bands, it's not limited to brit pop I'm sure).

4) Difficult question, I'm sure there are lots of differing opinions on this. Some great players have little or no theory knowledge whatsoever. I didn't even really consider much about theory for the first two years I played, I just learnt to play songs I liked, though it's good to learn at least the pentatonic scale quite early as practising it in different ways can increase speed and accuracy. You'll probably also find that elements of theory come naturally over time, for example if you learn the major or minor scale you by proxy learn about keys and what chords go in them by looking at the notes of the scale. For most players though a lot of music theory knowledge isn't necessary unless they're playing in complex genres like Jazz, though it can be preferable and beneficial. Especially basics.

Hope that helps.
I could go on for hours and I probably will, but I'd sooner put some joy back in this town called Malice
Last edited by Boy About Town at Mar 5, 2008,
Thanks for the replies.

On the strumming vs picking/embellishing (2) - I guess I should have asked whether there's any way to do it properly other than getting a detailed tab and learning the exact strings and the order they are struck in. Another example of a song is good riddance by green day, I just strum the whole thing but I know the actual song is a lot of strings played separately and individually. To get that sound do I pretty much need a detailed tab and then memorize the order of the picking? Or is there some technique that works? I'm probably confused a bit because my friend can jsut give'r on pretty much any song with the picking technique mixed w strumming, but hes been playing for like 12 years :p

On the theory question (4) - is any of this going to make sense to me if I don't know all of the note locations on the fretboard? I've just started to get most of the E and A strings memorized... looking at the wikipedia for pentatonic scale this is like greek to me since C D E A could be played in a number of different ways since those notes appear multiple times throughout the fretboard!

I played sax in high school and learned to read music, those scales were pretty easy because of the limited number of notes/octaves. The guitar is capable of sooo many more notes that I'm not even sure where to start if I wanted to play a C scale. All on 1 string? All on first 3-4 frets? etc.