My Learning Experience - What Destroyed My Soul And What Didn't

A quick article on my experience as a beginner and the things I found most useful to avoid bad habbits and make the best progress possible.

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I started learning guitar roughly 6 weeks ago with a little back knowledge from previous musical ventures (I had a friend try 'teach' me which just involved him showing off and me eventually just drinking!) and after comparing the two approaches to learning I've made a few conclusions! ------------- My first teacher wasn't much of a teacher, we spent more time discussing why I didn't know the names of every metallica song, who Dave Mustaine is or educating me because I hadn't seen Spinal Tap (I must admit the latter was certainly a lesson well spent!). Unfortunately because my friend spent more time showing off and bragging about how amazing he was at guitar I never learned anything and lost the desire to pick up a guitar ever again - and on top of the practical failure in teaching approach I feel he didn't offer the advice he should have in selecting equipment or essential background theory knowledge. ------------- After selling my Dean Dime From Hell Baby (3/4 size) I only picked up my acoustic very occasionally, strumming the few basic chords I knew and pretending that in an alternate reality (where musical talent didn't exist and war murdered the children of inspiration and expression) I could be a god. Trundling along with nothing more than a shabby rendition of 'behind blue eyes' and a heavy sigh I had truly given up hope. ------------- A light at the end of the tunnel! After a whirlwind change of pace in life I find myself romantically attatched/glued/no-more-nails'd to a shit hot professional guitarist. Watching him skillfully noodle away my desire to learn and passion for the guitar is rekindled - and nearly 6 weeks in I'm working on everything from chords and picking styles to modes, legato, sweep picking, string bends and slides!.. (I now also have a beautiful baby Ibanex RG350EX who now set up properly plays like a freakin' dream - totally kick ass!) The approach to teaching that has got me this far in such a short amount of time has made for an invaluable learning experience. I've learned tips and lessons to avoid falling into common traps and pitfalls that later in my playing (as my teacher experienced) would have needed to be corrected... I hope they benefit you as much as they have me! In absoloutley no particular order: Things I have learned that every newbie should be told (and a very brief overview of each thing) *Please note I am in no position to teach guitar only share the knowledge that has been passed on to me so far :) For demonstrations of anything that you don't understand I reccomend finding some awesome shred guru to take you under their wing or at least demonstrate what confuses you! -*-*-*-*- Equipment My first guitar was and is ... firewood. Its horrible to play, as well made as an argos wardrobe and is painfull to use for the fingers and the ears! This guitar put me off playing and I was convinced to buy a Dean (although I was advised to get a 3/4 size due to my tiny, microscopic, midget hands - and now I'm perfectly happy with my full size Ibanez. Go full sized!) and scrap the 80 piece of gosa I started with. The better the guitar the easier it will be to play and the less likely you are to want to throw it out of the window, burning and chopped into little pieces. Theory As boring as it sounds, theory gets you places fast. I thought theory lessons would be long and arduous and the concept of having to read sheet music alone scared the crap out of me. Once I realised that as a beginner I don't need to understand the inner workings of a grand orchestra to piece together sweet home alabama I started breathing a bit easier! - Scales are very very very important to any newbie who wants to play lead (especially crazy ass metal heads who want to shred as badly as I do) one day. Knowing scales also helps you understand why certain notes are in certain chords and makes scary chords like D7sus2 less scary. Any lick or solo will be based on a scale (I didn't know this) so learning how a scale works/what it looks like and memorising them means that I now know what notes I can and can't use to make a cheesy power ballad solo in B minor. The first scale I was shown was A minor - a scale that has become very close to my heart as well as the bain of my existance. Learning this shape meant I could play any major or minor scale on the fretboard by just moving the shape to a different fret and/or starting the scale on a different fret (If I play the shape of A minor with my 1st finger on A (5th fret) of the low E string I'm playing A minor but if I play the same scale through starting with my 3rd finger on C (8th fret) on the low E string I'm playing C major.) - Key is also very important! If you don't know what key a song is in then how can you work out what chords or scales are used in it? If you know that a song is in A minor then you can work out what chords are in it. this may not seem important to need to know now - the tab you've just looked up shows you what chords are in the song - but later when you get bored of the same 3 chords repeating themselves and want to add a bit of spice to the song you'll need to know what notes you can and can't get away with! I found that understanding how a key works, what scales and chords are in a certain key and all that...suddenly as a guitarist I have more confidence because I understand why I'm doing what I'm doing. - Arpeggios relate to chords. an arpeggio is the first, third and fith note of the scale and played together make a chord. They're not as fear inducing as I expected to be honest and prove very useful! You don't have to play the 1st, 3rd and 5th in that order and can play them anywhere on the fretboard you like to make the shape easier to play. This one I think makes for a fun practice excercise and an excuse to crank the amp up and really piss the neighbours off. - Modes made my brain hurt. Not necessarily an essential thing for a beginner to know...but I suffered so I think you should too. This is my simple explanation that I hope doesn't make your brain turn to gelatenous mutant coconut. Modes give a scale a slightly different feel for whatever style you want to play in (phrygian gives you a more mexican feel for example). Modes are major or minor scales with raised or flat notes and can be remembered as follows (this one tickled me when I was told it): I Discovered Penis Last Monday After Lunch I - Ionian ( Major Scale ) D - Dorian ( Minor Scale with a Sharp 6th note ) P - Phrygian ( Minor with a Flat 2nd note ) L - Lydian ( Major with a Sharp 4th note ) M - Mixolydian ( Major with a Flat 7th ) A - Aeolian ( Minor Scale ) L - Locrian ( Minor with a Flat 2nd and Flat 5th ) *Sharp = a semi-tone higher (one fret - eg, 8th to 9th fret) *Flat = a semi-tone lower (one fret - eg, 8th to 7th fret) And the modes are in this order because it works out that If you play A Ionian you could also say you are playing B Dorian, C Phrygian, D Lydian, E Mixolydian, F Aeolian or G Locrian depending on the note you start on. ----- Thats all the theory my brain has been required to cope with so far but has made my progression as a guitarist far more efficient and much more understood than I ever got with attempted self teaching or my previous guitar 'teacher'. ----- THE FUN BIT Practical work I found practicing before wasn't at all productive when I didn't know what I was meant to be practicing...or more importantly why. My long term goal (for this time next year) is to be a shred demon. Shred demon in a year sounded pretty impossible 6 weeks ago, but there again 6 weeks ago I didn't think I'd be starting to learn how to sweep pick by now. I found that having lots of techniques to work on was better than perfecting only a few. I get bored easily and would rather switch between scales, endurance excercises, alternate/down picking, legato, sweep picking etc and gradually improve on everything than say be kick ass at chords and legato but not know the first thing about speed picking or bends and have messed up picking habbits. Finding the right position for your arm and wrist over your guitar will help make playing it so much easier. If you have the wrong hand position then you're not gong to get the best sound when you pick/strum! Holding the pick correctly (NOT LIKE A PEN) has also been drummed into me. Muting strings is a useful skill which will probably crop up everywhere! Within my first week of learning I was using palm muting to play For Whom The Bell Tolls. Legato I like legato. Its fun to do and once I built up a bit of muscle on my fingers and they got the idea of what was going on I didn't find it particularly frustrating to pick up. Legato (hammer ons and pull offs) seems to make everything twice as fast with half the effort. Yay! Endurance. No point in being able to play the chord sequence for Offsprings 'I want you bad' if you have a dead arm by the first chorus. Simple :D Timing is more important than speed. Being able to play 5 notes consistently at say 60 bpm is better than messily and out of time at 120 bpm! I constantly made mistakes and didn't understand why whenever I used to attempt anything harder than twinkle twinkle little freakin' star it fell on its face. Realising that Master of Puppets sounds better when I play it right and slowly made me realise how much stress I put myself under going for it at full speed. Finger Strength and stretching fingers. I was given message in a bottle as a good song to practice stretching my fingers. Its really simple to play and gets your fingers used to the biggest stretch you should ever really need to pull off! Simple legato excercises over scales are good for building up strength and endurance as well as keeping scales fresh in your mind. --------- The most important thing to remember is why you want to play the guitar! It wont happen overnight so keep your goals and ambitions at the forefront of your mind and don't let people like Yngwie Malmsteen or John Petrucci destroy your soul too much! We won't be newbies forever! Happy playing and I hope this has helped at least one person out there become a better musician!

21 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    sparkeyjames
    Platt3 wrote: Protip: Learn to play guitar before writing an article.
    2nd Protip: Read the article before posting stupid crap.
    SilverSpurs616
    If you play A Ionian you could also say you are playing B Dorian, C Phrygian, D Lydian, E Mixolydian, F Aeolian or G Locrian depending on the note you start on.
    no. just no. even if the notes were correct, still a no. If you're playing A Ionian, then you're playing A Ionian.
    Aindreas
    Let me tell you this. I won't let some guy with ... 6 WEEKS of experience try and teach other people. You should leave NOW. Your experience is nothing, before teaching you should at least achieve something, because when you achieved nothing, you can only teach nothing. You talk about theory and modes, scales and teachers. /spits I went into music 1.5 years ago, and now I play ALL kinds of guitars, drums and piano efficiently. And guess what? I know NO theory and I never had any teachers. And I'm not even coming close to writing my guitar-related article. So go play guitar, noob
    TheVoid
    Aindreas wrote: Let me tell you this. I won't let some guy with ... 6 WEEKS of experience try and teach other people. You should leave NOW. Your experience is nothing, before teaching you should at least achieve something, because when you achieved nothing, you can only teach nothing. You talk about theory and modes, scales and teachers. /spits I went into music 1.5 years ago, and now I play ALL kinds of guitars, drums and piano efficiently. And guess what? I know NO theory and I never had any teachers. And I'm not even coming close to writing my guitar-related article. So go play guitar, noob
    Yeah, funny story... You see if you have no theory, maybe you can memerise tabs and shred but... theory is Important for anyone who wants to move beyond tabs. He used, his personal experience not to bloody teach, rather to help people learn. Be wary of what you say and what you read, or you'll end up, "/spit"-ing over the internet. By no means am I saying you aren't a "efficient" Guitarist/Pianist/Drummer(Quite impressive in a year and a half with no theory to learn 3 instruments) I'm just telling you be careful when you read things and before you fly off into a hissyfit(Granted a moderately well written one by expectations of the Internet) Which reminds me, I have an Intelligence Quotient of roughly 133, which is 99th percentile, I can learn and comprehend things at an astounding rate(I continue being baffled by why I'm on the internet at all, but thats aside from the point)some people can learn a lot faster than others. Not saying he is a guitar legend in 6 weeks, but he might have enough shit together to write an article about learning guitar, and not teaching it as you said. As for my Daily 'WTF' Did you really say 'So play guitar, noob '? Honestly? I want to cry for simply having had to respond to you right now, I want to cry even more that I read that now. This isn't Halo, Kiddo. This is Ultimate-Guitar.com.
    ned216
    Aindreas wrote: Let me tell you this. I won't let some guy with ... 6 WEEKS of experience try and teach other people. You should leave NOW. Your experience is nothing, before teaching you should at least achieve something, because when you achieved nothing, you can only teach nothing. You talk about theory and modes, scales and teachers. /spits I went into music 1.5 years ago, and now I play ALL kinds of guitars, drums and piano efficiently. And guess what? I know NO theory and I never had any teachers. And I'm not even coming close to writing my guitar-related article. So go play guitar, noob
    1.5 years isn't that long either...
    _flea_
    Heeey, uh...if anyone else is still kicking around I've posted an article in the junkyard on my shred demon challenge progress. Figure it won't be up until its been okayed after the weekend but if anyone fancies checking up on the 'noob who went play guitar' (thanks again aindreas for that spark of intellect) then sweet stuff. Off to music college soon and incredibly psyched >.< YAY Catch you around UG guys
    _flea_
    Heya guys, quick comment to say thanks for the feedback and comments. Thanks for pointing out my mistake with the modes, meant to put them starting on C (I edited the article a few times before posting so must have missed it). Now into 9 weeks playing, started learning to sweep over 5 strings 3 days ago and upto 140bpm succesfully - aindreas it is possible if you practice as much as I do dude plus as mentioned I do have a little previous playing experience. also, my other comment would be that I'm not some guy who'se been playing for 9 weeks now...I'm some damn dedicated CHICK whos been playing for 9 weeks now Its because of guys like you that I have such a drive to be the very best thanks again everyone whos commented/appreciated this article, I shall post a new article with corrections on the modes and some added extras in the next few days
    Aindreas
    TheVoid wrote: Aindreas wrote: Let me tell you this. I won't let some guy with ... 6 WEEKS of experience try and teach other people. You should leave NOW. Your experience is nothing, before teaching you should at least achieve something, because when you achieved nothing, you can only teach nothing. You talk about theory and modes, scales and teachers. /spits I went into music 1.5 years ago, and now I play ALL kinds of guitars, drums and piano efficiently. And guess what? I know NO theory and I never had any teachers. And I'm not even coming close to writing my guitar-related article. So go play guitar, noob Yeah, funny story... You see if you have no theory, maybe you can memerise tabs and shred but... theory is Important for anyone who wants to move beyond tabs. He used, his personal experience not to bloody teach, rather to help people learn. Be wary of what you say and what you read, or you'll end up, "/spit"-ing over the internet. By no means am I saying you aren't a "efficient" Guitarist/Pianist/Drummer(Quite impressive in a year and a half with no theory to learn 3 instruments) I'm just telling you be careful when you read things and before you fly off into a hissyfit(Granted a moderately well written one by expectations of the Internet) Which reminds me, I have an Intelligence Quotient of roughly 133, which is 99th percentile, I can learn and comprehend things at an astounding rate(I continue being baffled by why I'm on the internet at all, but thats aside from the point)some people can learn a lot faster than others. Not saying he is a guitar legend in 6 weeks, but he might have enough shit together to write an article about learning guitar, and not teaching it as you said. As for my Daily 'WTF' Did you really say 'So play guitar, noob'? Honestly? I want to cry for simply having had to respond to you right now, I want to cry even more that I read that now. This isn't Halo, Kiddo. This is Ultimate-Guitar.com.
    This is worse than halo
    ned216 wrote: Aindreas wrote: Let me tell you this. I won't let some guy with ... 6 WEEKS of experience try and teach other people. You should leave NOW. Your experience is nothing, before teaching you should at least achieve something, because when you achieved nothing, you can only teach nothing. You talk about theory and modes, scales and teachers. /spits I went into music 1.5 years ago, and now I play ALL kinds of guitars, drums and piano efficiently. And guess what? I know NO theory and I never had any teachers. And I'm not even coming close to writing my guitar-related article. So go play guitar, noob 1.5 years isn't that long either...
    And that's why I don't write articles?
    stndrdprcdre
    You're gonna need a lot more than 6 weeks to determine what's going to "destroy your soul".
    TheVoid
    rockingamer2 wrote: Modes are not that important. It's just another thing to have in one's arsenal. But first one must actually learn how to use modes. What would you do to play in dorian?
    Its a lot less of an actual practicality thing as much as it is a mental thing. I mean, everyone gets discouraged when they hear Jimmy Page and whatnot play solos, they think "Aww I'll never do that" But most beginners get hyped when they learn to play a song they like.When I started, the first song I learned to play on bass was "Play that Funky Music."-Wild Cherry. I was so happy i could do that, its so simple, but its good to know that you can learn things like that. Modes are sort of like that, they give an additional purpose to learn your scales and they show how much you can do with so little. Although your argument is valid, as is mine. Have a Nice day.
    TheVoid
    Well, I'm not a guitar player, I'm a bassist. And All of this stuff is truer then true. I play a lot of jazz and to be honest Jazz guitars(In between some hot solos)Play chords or sissified versions of my bass lines!(Looking at you Peter Gunn Theme) Anyway, the idea is that while no, you won't pick up your instrument and be able to outplay Jaco or Slash, you will be able to start hammering out a song or 2, then (Even more so as a Bassist) you'll want to play with other people. Honestly me, a drummer and a guitarist(Or maybe a Whammy petal instead!) Could keep entertained for hours on end with a basic blues progression, learn what you can and can't play for your solos, just remember at times you will have to force yourself to play C Major Scale in Ionian 4000 times over before it's muscle memory. And Mr Tim, Modes are freaking important! They actually let you spice up music, they change everything. For a beginner sometimes learning that you can turn your dull and dreary C minor into the wonderfully exotic Dorian scales. May they aren't the most important thing ever, but I'd highly recommend learning at least 2 different modes before you consider yourself anything above a Novice. I got to be taught to play Bass, but my teacher, who is an amazing player, never went to indepth with my scales and my modes, which sort of saddens me. I don't blame him for it, but I had to come back through and teach myself later. Okay As for a late reader beware, I may sound like a rambling moron(Which I can be occasionally) but for beginners. LEARN YOUR BASICS OR YOU WILL NEVER BE A GOOD PLAYER.....EVER! Have a nice day.
    Tim-Blink182
    This was all really good advice, apart from the modes. There is NO WAY a beginner should learn modes, it will put them off since the theory behind them is extremely complicated and they're only used in modal music, not something a beginner would be interested in at all.
    krypticguitar87
    And the modes are in this order because it works out that If you play A Ionian you could also say you are playing B Dorian, C Phrygian, D Lydian, E Mixolydian, F Aeolian or G Locrian depending on the note you start on.
    i just want to tell you that this is wrong, the notes in A ionian are A B C# D E F# G# A your fixed statre ment would be
    And the modes are in this order because it works out that If you play A Ionian you could also say you are playing B Dorian, C# Phrygian, D Lydian, E Mixolydian, F# Aeolian or G# Locrian depending on the note you start on.
    also mode rely heavily on the chord progression, which changes what mode you are in. beyond this you give some really great advice.
    Flibo
    Something I would like to add: Do warmup. Also, practise your bends and vibrato and get them in tune and up to rhythm (vibrato, that is). Many people forget about dynamics and other neat things and manage to sound like complete turd even if they could sweep like Becker.
    fireaxx789
    Stretch your fingers out, and massage your forearm. just as important as any exercise.
    longneckdude
    i find it hard to believe you could play for whom the bell tolls after a week and you're learning sweep picking after 6 but other than that good article.
    myownenemy
    longneckdude wrote: i find it hard to believe you could play for whom the bell tolls after a week and you're learning sweep picking after 6 but other than that good article.
    I could successfully sweep pick after 6 months, on an acoustic guitar in need of a truss rod adjustment, but there was no way I could have played For Whom the Bell tolls after a week. The first month and a half for me was forcing my fingers to fit chord shapes by using my other hand to place them in the position. I practiced my ass off, and until my fingers bled, and that was the only way I could sweep pick after 6 months. Although my learning to sweep on that acoustic made it very difficult to learn when I got an electric with a properly adjusted truss rod, and I wasn't used to the sustain of electrics. It took me forever to learn to mute the strings with my picking hand.
    rockingamer2
    TheVoid wrote: And Mr Tim, Modes are freaking important! They actually let you spice up music, they change everything. For a beginner sometimes learning that you can turn your dull and dreary C minor into the wonderfully exotic Dorian scales. May they aren't the most important thing ever, but I'd highly recommend learning at least 2 different modes before you consider yourself anything above a Novice. I got to be taught to play Bass, but my teacher, who is an amazing player, never went to indepth with my scales and my modes, which sort of saddens me. I don't blame him for it, but I had to come back through and teach myself later. Okay
    Modes are not that important. It's just another thing to have in one's arsenal. But first one must actually learn how to use modes. What would you do to play in dorian?
    morierdeity
    I Discovered Penis Last Monday After Lunch Hahahah, I find that hilarious. The way I remembered it was "I Don't Play Like My Aunt Lola" but I'm gonna start using your way now.