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:-D
you're an idiot
Join date: Dec 2007
279 IQ
#1
I've seen a whole lot of threads concerning topics related to how and why people should go about learning different aspects of guitar study and music study in general. I think the thing people haven't realized is that balance is more important than anything, so my first thread ever is going to be a little long; just a heads-up, hopefully it'll prove helpful. Hope somebody can learn something from this.

Introduction
The study of guitar encompasses much more than many people think; in fact, just to say "study of guitar" includes a vast range of topics, concepts and practices that aren't defined well enough by simply applying an umbrella term to the playing of the instrument. In this post I'm going to focus on three elements of guitar and music that I feel are the cornerstones of building a solid foundation both in guitar playing and general musicianship. These areas are:

1. Music Theory
2. Technical Proficiency
3. Aural Skills

It's important to have a balance in all three, lest you fall victim to the inability to play what you want. All three relate to each other in this regard. For example, without any aural skills you won't be able to hear music (in your head or from an external source) and figure out notes and intervals; without technical ability you may not be able to translate what you hear onto the guitar, and without a knowledge of music theory you won't be able to describe the music or figure out why certain things work together.

However, the good thing about studying the guitar (and music) is that you're in control of what you want to do. Yes, there are exceptions, such as music schools or guitar lessons (in some cases), but generally speaking you are in control of your own "guitar destiny" of sorts. Don't want to write contrapuntal classical music? Don't. Don't want to sweep and eight-finger tap at 1,000,000 bpm? Don't. You determine exactly what you want to do.

With that said, I'm going to give a general overview of each of these three fields with a few tips and tricks, and hopefully outline the benefits of learning each as well as showing the benefits of balancing all of these concepts.

Music Theory
I'm going to start this section by saying something that a lot of people fail to realize: there is no way that learning and understanding music theory can inhibit your growth as either a guitarist as a musician. Music theory is a descriptive tool, so think of it with this analogy: learning a language is the same thing, learning different words to describe things. Improving your vocabulary in a particular language only enhances the ways in which you can construct sentences and allows for more intricate passages and descriptions. Following this logic, expanding your knowledge of music theory can only improve your understanding of music and will make the writing and improvising processes easier. You'll know how things work together and how to achieve specific sounds, so you'll spend less time guessing and more time pinpointing exactly what you want to do. This way, when you go to write some music, you'll already have some idea of the sound you want to create; all you have to do is figure out the specifics of how you want to achieve this sound. Music theory will allow you to understand exactly what you're doing and what the implications of those actions are.

However, theory is arguably the most daunting aspect of guitar study; very few preteen kids listening to Green Day in their rooms will want to study jazz and eventually perform Schenkerian analysis. Because of this, it's important to work theory into what you're already doing. Instead of just sitting down and trying to absorb diatonic theory, the Circle of Fifths and the theory behind chord progressions, try applying some theoretical study to what you already play. Look at how known (or unknown) musicians apply theoretical concepts; studying other people's music can never hurt. It'll only increase the amount of licks and harmonies you're opened up to, and can really open your eyes when you think, "Wow, I never even thought of using this scale like that." This will help immensely when improvising as well.

At the very least, you'll end up learning a pattern or two of the pentatonic scale so that you can use it when you jam with friends. Eventually, though, you're probably going to think to yourself, "Why does this work so well?" Hopefully the study will lead you in the direction of the major scale. If there is no other musical concept you ever understand, make sure you at least learn about the major scale. It's the cornerstone of Western music and is the starting point for everything you'll do musically. The pentatonic scales are born from their parent major and minor scales, so you'll be able to understand those better as well. If you understand the theory behind the major scale, you'll have a huge advantage when it comes to writing and improvising. So how exactly do you go about learning any of this?

Many options lay open to you. Sure, there are zillions of references on the Internet, and a great place to start is with the lessons on this site. In particular, the "Crusades" articles are great, and you can always ask questions on the forum if you don't understand things, and the Musician Talk theory sticky can be a useful reference to clear up a few things when you need. I'd highly recommend the book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory as well. It has a chord reference with guitar fingerings, some practice exercises and is full of information. Make sure that when you learn about theoretical concepts, you apply them so that you can hear them in practice; this will further your understanding beyond what sitting in front of a book for hours could ever do.

In short, learning theory can only make you more creative; it won't inhibit you in any way. However, realize this; learning theory does not mean you're going to be a better musician. It only means you'll have an understanding of why and how things will sound, and you still have to work at becoming a better guitarist and musician, which will hopefully be covered in the next two sections.

*continued in next post*
:-D
you're an idiot
Join date: Dec 2007
279 IQ
#2
Technical Proficiency
Sooner or later, you're going to hit a point where you simply want to play faster or more cleanly, or you'll encounter a part of a song that you simply can't play at your current skill level. There's no shortcut in these cases; practice is the answer. However, there's more to it than just saying "go practice this." Practice does not make perfect; correct practice makes perfect. In this case, the metronome will become your friend.

You don't need anything fancy in terms of a metronome. You just need something that will keep steady time. Korg manufactures a cheap metronome that I happen to love, and it's here: http://www.amazon.com/KORG-MA-30-Digital-Metronome/dp/B0002E2O2Q

When you're practicing technique, keep in mind that the physical aspect of playing the guitar boils down entirely to muscle memory. As your muscles become more accustomed to certain motions, they'll be able to perform these motions more quickly. Don't get ahead of yourself, though! Speed is a byproduct of accuracy. If you practice with economical motion and synchronized hands, your muscles will become programmed correctly and you'll be able to play faster and more accurately. I find it especially helpful to simply narrow down your top speed for a particular passage first; start at a relatively slow tempo, and increase the metronome by 5-8 bpm if you play the passage correctly three times in a row. If not, back off by 1-3 bpm. Repeat this process to zone in on your top speed, and track your progress; you'll see the results as a big ending rather than improvement every minute, and you'll be able to track exactly how much you've accomplished.

Make sure you avoid programming bad muscle memory, however; for example, you'll see a lot of people suggesting that playing the pattern 1-2-3-4 with one finger per fret acros all six strings is very helpful. This isn't exactly true, though; it doesn't help to promote finger independence, and if you do this too much your fingers will naturally expect to move chromatically. So do something like this instead:
e------------------------------------------------------2-3-4-1-----------------------------------------
B-------------------------------------------1-2-3-4----------------------------------------------------
G--------------------------------4-1-2-3---------------------------------------------------------------
D----------------------3-4-1-2-------------------------------------------------------------------------
A------------2-3-4-1-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
E--1-2-3-4---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

You can apply that pattern however you want across all strings or across one string; just make sure that your exercises promote correct practice, good posture, economy of motion and finger independence.

The simple fact is this: if you have great technique, you're going to be less limited in what you can write and play. By practicing technique well, you'll be able to control the instrument; when you're in control of what you're doing, it'll sound the best. Again, this website is a great resource: look in the Advanced Techniques forum for the "Ultimate Exercises" thread, read the FAQ there and look through Freepower's lessons. Looking for classical and classically-influenced pieces is always helpful as well; check out some classical caprices or something like Steve Vai's "Eugene's Trick Bag". Vai's "Ten-Hour Workout" is very helpful as well; it helps to also explore some aspects of playing that are considered emotive, such as vibrato and moving some arpeggio shapes.

Some sight reading can also do wonders for your technique since you won't always be looking at your hands. William Leavitt's "Complete Guitar Method" and "Melodic Rhythms For Guitar", both available through Berklee Press, are two I'd highly recommend.

Aural Skills
All the technique and theory in the world, however, will not do you much good if your ear isn't trained well. In an improvisation setting this really separates the good from the great; if you can hear what you want to do, you're going to sound exactly the way you want to. Ear training can be a little bit boring most of the time, so you'll have to do it in smaller doses. You'll need great discipline, but the rewards will be even greater.

In my opinion, the greatest thing you can do to improve your ear is to transcribe music. No matter what genre you listen to, you can put on a pair of headphones, get some sheet music and write out the song. After consistent practice with transcribing, you'll be able to hear not only notes, chords and progressions, but also be able to zero in on specific rhythmic ideas. This is where sheet music transcription will serve you better than TAB transcription; writing out rhythms will prove beneficial. Again, the "Melodic Rhythms For Guitar" book I recommended earlier will come in handy.

Another thing you can do is find a backing track and as you play along with it, sing each note before you play it. This will allow you to hear what each interval is going to sound like, and how it's going to relate to whatever you're playing over. This is a good habit to get into, because then when you hear music you'll know what intervals are being used. There are ear trainers you can use online as well; study intervals as often as you can and your ear will develop. Studying chord progressions will help as well; you'll learn how nice a I-IV-V will sound and why a V-i sounds more resolved than a v-i. Sound odd to you? A little bit of theory study and ear training and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

It's a slow process, but if you can train your ear you will grow into a much better musician; learning to listen well is a huge step in learning to play well.

Final Thoughts and Ramblings
Hopefully this little post will help anybody in some way. These fields are simply the three most important that I've come across in my study of music. Like I said, find a balance between all three of them; you'll probably benefit more from being a well-rounded musician and guitarist than a theory whiz with no ability to play or an incredible shredder with no musical sensitivity.

Again, keep in mind that you're free to do what you want so that you can define and achieve your own goals. However, as with any skill that you try to build, always remember that you're going to get out what you put in. Always remember that no matter what you learn and do, that there's one rule that goes above any other.
*drum roll*
The guitar is a damn fun instrument. Enjoy it.
yearzero
Heir to The Darkness
Join date: Mar 2008
1,193 IQ
#5
"Bookmarked"


Thanks I really needed some of that
one vision
Trolling /sg/
Join date: May 2007
727 IQ
#7
It was a good read, should be stickied, or at least put the contents into an existing sticky.

People need to understand that music theory doesn't limit you, it lets you understand what you're doing rather than saying "Oh, that sounds good, I'll play that even though I don't know what I'm doing". It lets you build on that rather than leaving it up to complete guesswork and instict (which are not bad in any way).
bluesrocker101
Danny
Join date: Jul 2005
997 IQ
#9
Well written. Well this may not help me, this will be excellent for many users! Thank you for taking the time to write this.

DANNY

Quote by kevinm4435 to some guy
hey d00d i herd u dont like shred u r a genius 4 thinkin dat. all shred is fukin lame wit no soul u no wat im sayin??
Iron_Dude
doesn't like teh br00tlz
Join date: Dec 2006
74 IQ
#10
That's a great overview :-D. I especially think that ear training should not be ignored, as it so often is by guitarists.
"It is always advisable to be a loser if you cannot become a winner." - Frank Zappa

The name's Garrett.

Gear and stuff:
Taylor 310
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bluesrocker101
Danny
Join date: Jul 2005
997 IQ
#12
I already know most of it. That being said, I haven't practiced it, which is something I should really start doing. So I know of it, just haven't applied it.
DANNY

Quote by kevinm4435 to some guy
hey d00d i herd u dont like shred u r a genius 4 thinkin dat. all shred is fukin lame wit no soul u no wat im sayin??
Johnljones7443
Registered User
Join date: Aug 2005
559 IQ
#13
Thanks :-D. Added to the FAQ for reference, couldn't think of a specific category for it, so I just stuck some linkage at the bottom.
Ænimus Prime
Beginner
Join date: Jul 2006
116 IQ
#15
Firstly, everything you said is very true and will be helpful to me and many others. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

Sadly, you actually dealt very little with the idea of balancing these areas. You mostly made arguments for working on those things, not balancing them.

Here are a few questions that I've thought of that you might like to answer:

What is a good balance of knowledge and how can I find one that suits me?

Should I devote equal practice time to these three areas to achieve balance?

If I'm already advanced at one of these areas but have neglected the other two, should I devote all my time to the other two to 'catch them up'?

What other areas could I practice/study? Are they less important than these three areas? How much weight should I give them in my balance?
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
:-D
you're an idiot
Join date: Dec 2007
279 IQ
#16
Quote by Ænimus Prime
Here are a few questions that I've thought of that you might like to answer:

What is a good balance of knowledge and how can I find one that suits me?

Should I devote equal practice time to these three areas to achieve balance?

If I'm already advanced at one of these areas but have neglected the other two, should I devote all my time to the other two to 'catch them up'?

What other areas could I practice/study? Are they less important than these three areas? How much weight should I give them in my balance?

Thanks for the constructive comments.
Answers:
1. A good balance of knowledge differs from person to person; it's going to be based on what you hope to accomplish musically and where you are. Generally speaking, with this balance you would be able to hear and compose what you want, describe and understand it accurately and play it well from a technical standpoint. You can find it by evaluating yourself in these areas in any way you want and seeing where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

2. In my opinion, yes. If you honestly devote balanced time and practice these concepts correctly, you will become a well-rounded player who should be able to bring a solid musical and technical approach to whatever you're doing.

3. Not all of your time; as much time as you can put in while remaining focused. It's quality over quantity, and as long as your brain stays engaged feel free to keep practicing. After a while you'll most certainly get tired, so take a break in order to maintain interest; certainly devote more time to the areas you're lacking in but make sure that you at least maintain your skill in the other areas even if you're not progressing as fast while you focus on other things.

4. You could practice composing, which will help your overall musicality, and you should listen to a wide range of music in order to do so. Everything that I can think of, however, is going to relate in some way to these three core areas so they're not less important (in a general sense) but simply offshoots of the areas I described. I was giving what I feel to be the most important concepts, but that's not to say everyone will feel the same way. Give them as much weight as you feel necessary.
Ænimus Prime
Beginner
Join date: Jul 2006
116 IQ
#17
Quote by :-D
Thanks for the constructive comments.
No worries, glad you addressed them.

I would also add that developing a repertoire is important, as well as improvisation and performance skills (depending on what you want to do of course). It's also fundamentally important to know how to practice these things so that improvement is possible. Practicing how to practice, learning how to learn if you follow me.

Theory
Technique
Aural skills
Songwriting/Composition
Repertoire
Improvisation
Performance
Practicing

These are the areas I can think of that a musician should at least be aware of, and should assess himself (sorry sue) on to see if he is where he wants to be and what he should work on. I wouldn't think of any of these as off-shoots, certainly aspects of some are used in others, but it's a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg situation.
My name is Andy
Quote by MudMartin
Only looking at music as math and theory, is like only looking at the love of your life as flesh and bone.

Swinging to the rhythm of the New World Order,
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
gonzaw
UG's Secret Agent
Join date: Mar 2007
6,087 IQ
#18
Great read!
Maybe you should have added compositional skills, or the "application" of music theory in there too...

I am severely lacking in aural skills
I only practised a little back in the music college I go, and I can't even correctly transpose a simple 5 note song
Freepower
v It's Back! :D
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#19
Excellent.

Quote by bluesrocker101
I already know most of it. That being said, I haven't practiced it, which is something I should really start doing. So I know of it, just haven't applied it.


Believe me, if you haven't practiced it, you don't know it - theres all sorts of depths to "simple" practice and technique that need to be experienced. I don't mean this as a slight, but rather to point out the wonderful nature of correct practice and disciplined focus. It's good for you as a person and it's damn good for your playing.

And once again, nice article/thread.
sisuphi
Registered User
Join date: Jan 2008
153 IQ
#20
nice, i'm going to do some self-evaluation tonight and add some transcription exercises to my practice routine.

thanks alot :-D.
sisuphi
Registered User
Join date: Jan 2008
153 IQ
#22
yea i've seen that video. it's a good idea to learn how to tap your foot, but some people have to develop their sense of time by first using a metronome and playing to it. from there the sense of time develops and the metronome is no longer possible. i find it very difficult to play quintuplets or sextuplets evenly without first using a metronome to set myself up. but then again, i'm not extremely advanced and have only started practicing those.

final note: al di meola gets a bit racist there when talking about who can and who can't keep time. a little disappointing.
RCalisto
Registered User
Join date: Dec 2006
185 IQ
#23
Quote by sisuphi
yea i've seen that video. it's a good idea to learn how to tap your foot, but some people have to develop their sense of time by first using a metronome and playing to it. from there the sense of time develops and the metronome is no longer possible. i find it very difficult to play quintuplets or sextuplets evenly without first using a metronome to set myself up. but then again, i'm not extremely advanced and have only started practicing those.

final note: al di meola gets a bit racist there when talking about who can and who can't keep time. a little disappointing.


i disagree.
first of all: he doesn't speak about any races, white, black, yellow, pink, rainbow, whiter than white, whatever. he talks about regions, so at most you could consider it xenophobic. which i don't. he's just talking there about which regions tend to have more lack of the said rhythm. he's not saying that they are any less good musicians. he's just saying that people there weren't born with an incredible focus.
take the martial art practicers for once. they have amazing concentration, for taking like big hits and not being hurt at all. how do they achieve that focus level? practice. years and years of practice. it's pretty much the same than in that situation.
sisuphi
Registered User
Join date: Jan 2008
153 IQ
#24
"there is some truth to northern europeans not having the ability as well as southern hemisphere. you know what i mean?...asians, not too likely....you know, but south, more likely."

he could be talking about regions. but in this case i'm inclined to think of it as him talking about races because he makes direct reference to asians. furthermore i don't see much difference between talking about regions and races. that's similar to justifying nationalism by saying "i'm not talking about nations, i'm talking about cultures/areas of the world."

i see your point. and i agree with you. but i do think al's tongue slipped him on this one. i have seen later interviews with him where he didn't make a comment like this when talking about sense of time and rhytmic centres.

that said, he makes a good point in that you have to develop a good sense of time. i think even people who have natural sense of rhythm have a bit of trouble with it at first.
RCalisto
Registered User
Join date: Dec 2006
185 IQ
#25
yes what does that matter anyways... he's an amazing guitarist, musician, and you can learn from that video. and his style isn't even slightly american. it's latin. so he could never be racist / xenophobic.
GerGuam
Registered User
Join date: May 2008
177 IQ
#26
Maybe he is talking about the musical styles from each region and how the people used to those musical styles are unable to do what he is saying...

Some people are way too eager to pull the racist card instead of looking into the actual reasoning behind what someone is saying. ANYWAYS...
Great reading, I am trying to develope my aural skills more but I'm not sure how to go about doing it. A tried hitting a note on a keyboard without looking and I seemed to be fairly accurate at guessing what it was. But I just knew certain notes, I could identify G,D,C and E notes almost every time but the others just seemed like a shot in the dark. Would this be an effective way to go about identifying individual notes? Even if I mastered this would it all be lost once intervals/background music is added in?
Phobos&Deimos
I AMZ A TONEZ CHASER
Join date: Oct 2007
371 IQ
#27
Thanks for the exercise in the technical proficiency section, never thought to do that.
Quote by Albert Einstein
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sisuphi
Registered User
Join date: Jan 2008
153 IQ
#28
sorry for defaming someone's idols. i was merely stating my opinion. what he said could be taken either way. maybe he was talking about styles of music, maybe he wasn't. i don't know and more importantly YOU don't either.


gerguam, don't assume i didn't look into what he was saying. it was his presentation of his point that was lacking. and that said, some people are way too eager to pull the "you're pulling the racist card" instead of actually considering the possibility that something is actually racist (in this case i happen to agree with you though.)
RCalisto
Registered User
Join date: Dec 2006
185 IQ
#30
Quote by sisuphi
sorry for defaming someone's idols. i was merely stating my opinion. what he said could be taken either way. maybe he was talking about styles of music, maybe he wasn't. i don't know and more importantly YOU don't either.


gerguam, don't assume i didn't look into what he was saying. it was his presentation of his point that was lacking. and that said, some people are way too eager to pull the "you're pulling the racist card" instead of actually considering the possibility that something is actually racist (in this case i happen to agree with you though.)


why do you have to flame war all the time? you guys are starting to éfe king piss me off. AAAAALWAYS finding a matter to argue OOOOVER and over again till no1 cares anymore and simply stops caring. jesus christ... I POSTED THE VIDEO FOR YOU GUYS TO LEARN SOMETHING. NOT TO ACCUSE SOMEONE OF BEING RACIST FOR KNOWING MORE THAN YOU. JUST FREAKING LEARN AND STFU!!!
sisuphi
Registered User
Join date: Jan 2008
153 IQ
#31
sorry RCalisto. didn't mean to upset you. just felt a little bit attacked, that's all. the video outlines a key component of creative improvisation and composition. thank you.
bluesrocker101
Danny
Join date: Jul 2005
997 IQ
#33
Quote by Freepower

Believe me, if you haven't practiced it, you don't know it - theres all sorts of depths to "simple" practice and technique that need to be experienced. I don't mean this as a slight, but rather to point out the wonderful nature of correct practice and disciplined focus. It's good for you as a person and it's damn good for your playing.


Oh absolutely. Thats why at the end I stated I know of it. And I've applied lots of theory, but I'm definitely going deeper. And And of course I've done all three points, but not to the extent I want to do. I'm farrrrr from done yet. I guess thats what I'm saying. For a while, I was really working on my melodies, which works all three.
DANNY

Quote by kevinm4435 to some guy
hey d00d i herd u dont like shred u r a genius 4 thinkin dat. all shred is fukin lame wit no soul u no wat im sayin??
Flow of soul
Registered User
Join date: Jun 2008
375 IQ
#34
Quote by :-D
However, theory is arguably the most daunting aspect of guitar study; very few preteen kids listening to Green Day in their rooms will want to study jazz and eventually perform Schenkerian analysis.


Hehe I guess I was one of the few

Great article so far, ill continue to read it later
evolucian
Registered User
Join date: Jul 2008
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#35
nice post smiley... good warm up for independance and thinking... earmaster pro x helps with training in a good way... especially with the jazz addition... helps with sight reading too and notation practice... not advertising... just saying its a good tool... anyway... cool post
Freepower
v It's Back! :D
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#36
Quote by bluesrocker101
Oh absolutely. Thats why at the end I stated I know of it. And I've applied lots of theory, but I'm definitely going deeper. And And of course I've done all three points, but not to the extent I want to do. I'm farrrrr from done yet. I guess thats what I'm saying. For a while, I was really working on my melodies, which works all three.


That's certainly a noble pursuit on it's own - being a melodic player owns. (like i would know... )
grille
HB
Join date: Jul 2007
401 IQ
#37
Well written. It helped me think of other parts of the music theory
:-D
you're an idiot
Join date: Dec 2007
279 IQ
#38
Quote by evolucian
nice post smiley... good warm up for independance and thinking... earmaster pro x helps with training in a good way... especially with the jazz addition... helps with sight reading too and notation practice... not advertising... just saying its a good tool... anyway... cool post

Just remembered I had written this thread.

Never heard of this program, what does it do? What's the jazz addition?
Quote by grille
Well written. It helped me think of other parts of the music theory

Thanks.

What "other parts" are you referring to?
grampastumpy
Not actually old.
Join date: Jul 2005
1,206 IQ
#39
Great to see ear training addressed this way. A lot of people learn all sorts of scales and tonalities but forget to get to know what they sound like.
metal4all
Always tripping
Join date: Jun 2004
922 IQ
#40
Sucks i didn't see this before. Very nice.

This really makes me want to work on my aural training which i've been slacking on soo much lately.

cheers man.
“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”


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