Adult Guitar Lessons

In the early stages of playing guitar you will be focused on learning the "mechanics" of playing. How to form chords, develop picking techniques, learning scales and riffs and all the basics. The "meat and potatoes" of guitar.
tutorial pic 05

Copy Others

Then, as your skills increase and the basics become second nature, your focus begins to shift to "emulating" other players. Copying songs, chord progressions, licks and riffs that other guitarists play.

Eventually all the "emulated" material becomes slowly ingrained into your own playing. The licks, riffs,  scales, modes and chords that were initially copied, are re-born and begin to emerge into what becomes your own unique "style".

The absolute "nirvana" for a guitar player is to reach the apex of emulating and cross the threshold into improvising. To reach that point where you can speak creatively in your own voice.

From Copying to Improvising

Crossing that threshold, however, is not like crossing a state line where one minute you are in this state, and the next minute you are in another. The line from emulating to improvising is a blurred, gradual process and one that you may not even realize you are crossing at the time.

But crossing that line is what we all, as musicians, strive to achieve. To finally reach that point were we can sit down with a group of our peers and make a musical contribution to the whole.
65 d5 2 picWhat can a beginning guitarist do to start working toward crossing that line? First and foremost, focus with laser vision on emulating others. Copy every note, lick, riff and chord of the artists that inspire you.

It may sound contradictory, but the road to playing and improvising in your own style is paved by relentlessly copying the style of others.

Jam with Recordings

Once you have copied a lot of licks and riffs, a good first step is to play along with recordings of songs that interest you and just "jam" with them. Figure out what key they are in and play along using things you have copied in the past.

Play along with no thought as to right or wrong, turn off the "internal editor" and just play for the fun of it. Amazingly, when you allow yourself to just play without over-thinking things, some really cool things can happen.

If you allow yourself to play along, just like you were in the studio or on stage with the artist, and simply "feel" the music, before too long new ideas can hit you and suddenly you hear yourself playing  things that you never have before. Almost out of nowhere, new licks and riffs roll off your finger tips.

Whether you realize it or not, you are now crossing that line. You are improvising.

In an earlier article we discussed allowing yourself to enter periods of "Doodle Time" (see "Practicing on Guitar"). Doodle time is nothing more than free form playing, with no rules and no thinking. Just allowing whatever wants to come out of your fingers to come out, with no concern for right or wrong.
lessons 1In a sense, improvisation is controlled "Doodle Time". Controlled only to the extent that you are doodling within the parameters of whatever key the song is being played in.

In addition to playing along with your favorite songs there are various jam along materials available. Many are genre specific so you can find jam along CDs and tracks for rock, blues, country styles and more.

As much as you can advance your improvisational skills by playing along with recordings or jam tracks, there is absoultely no substitute for actually getting out and playing with other musicians.

Jam with Others

The sense of camaraderie and satisfaction of sitting down with a group and creating music is like no other, and this is where your improvisational skills will have a chance to shine and flourish. There are times when "magic" hits and you experience a "high" that is unequalled by any drug.
lesson 2I have always found that when improvising with a group on stage, that I play must best stuff when I don't think about what I am doing. When I can just let myself "feel" the music.

Feel - Don't "Think"

Conversely, there are shows when I am thinking about what I am going to play next, planning on what licks would sound cool - and invariably, that's when I play my worst stuff. It sounds, to me, contrived.

It is my sincerest belief that "thinking" is the enemy of "creating". You can't "plan" on creating something. Creation is something that happens by "allowing" it to happen. It can't be forced.

So if learning to improvise on guitar is a goals of yours, start by copying others, then play along with the recordings of artists that inspire you, then get with a group of other like minded musicians and let it happen. You won't regret a minute of it.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!
You probably know or have heard of people who never went to college, or barely got of high school, but yet went on to be wildly successful. Through hard work, determination and persistence many of these people wound up becoming millionaires living the life of the rich and famous.

On the other hand we have all known people that had the degrees and sheepskins. That spent years in the hallowed halls of higher learning only to wind up in a mudane job with little room for advancement, or, out of work altogether.
theory 1 01What's the moral of the story? It is that the "act' of getting a formal education, although admirable, in no way guarantees success in a given pursuit.

The years of studying, the sleepless nights and untold dollars spent on a higher education can leave one no further ahead of the game than the "uneducated" individual that just "jumps in there" and gets busy!

Music Theory - The Reality

Much of the same can be said about playing music. The profession is littered with individuals that worked hard to get a degree in music and have a thorough knowledge of music theory, but would be hard pressed to get on stage with a band and just "jam" through improvisation.

In my early years I became enamoured with the idea of taking my music to the next level by pursuing a degree in music. I enrolled in college as a music major and spent several semesters learning how to analyze and dissect the music that I had, up to that point, played strictly by "feel" and instinct. It was by far an unrewarding experience for me.
theory 2 01The Allman Brothers got their start in my hometown of Macon, Georgia. They lived here for many years and there is a story around town that during their heyday, Dicky Betts, the famous lead guitarist, approached a music professor at Mercer University and wanted to pursue a higher education in music theory.

As the story goes, the professor sagely advised him that a formal education would do nothing but dilute what Dickey did naturally. That focusing his thoughts and energies on learning the "theory" of playing guitar could have a serious negative impact what he did by feel and instinct. That he would run the risk of "over-thinking" his playing which can slam creativity into a brick wall.

Of course every individual has their own goals and desires. Many guitarists have their sights set on a career in classical music, or, to one day become a music educator. These are pursuits where a formal education in music will be of good use.

What It Means to You

As a beginning guitar player you will eventually discover which path is right for you. You may discover an affinity for the ins and outs of music theory and want to pursue a formal education.
fretting 04On the other hand, you may just want to learn "how" to play without the shackles of having to analyze "what" you are playing. It's totally realistic to become a proficient guitar player without having to spend years learning music theory.

The truth is, much of what you "need" to know about music theory and concepts will be acquired through the process of learning to play.

I can personally attest to the fact that some of the best guitar players I have ever met did not have one bit of formal music theory education. In fact, many never even had the first guitar lesson!

In my life I had the honor of sharing stages with major recording artists and was able to tour internationally making a good living in the music business without the need for a degree in music.

As is so often the case with schooling, there can be an overload of "book knowledge" that never sees the light of day in "real world" applications.
too old 4This is in no way meant to diminish the pursuit of a formal education in music. It is an admirable pursuit that is a good fit for those of that mindset.

This is only a discussion to solidify the concept that you can become a very good guitar player by focusing on playing by ear and by feel, without having to spend countless hours in the study of music theory.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!
Prior to a game, match or contest, an athlete will typically prepare by going through a "warm up" routine to loosen up and stretch their muscles.
warmup 3 01As a guitarist you will want to do the same. Whether getting ready to play a gig with a band, going out to "jam" with some friends, or just diving into your next lesson - it is a good idea to get into the habit of warming up your fingers ahead of time.

Ironically, one of the best ways to warm up for the guitar is to play it!

Below is the TAB (see "How to Read TAB") for an exercise that I have used for many years to prepare for gigs. It is just a simple chromatic warm up routine.

Chromatic Warm Up Exercise

warmup 1 01

In the above example, you start playing on the 1st fret of the 6th string with the 1st finger. Then play chromatically (one note right after the other with no spaces) using the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers.

Once you reach the end of the run on the 1st string, stay on the 1st string and slide up one fret to the 2nd fret, then do the whole run in reverse until you end that run back on the 6th string.

Use alternating pick strokes to help warm up the picking hand as well. (down, up, down, up, down, up etc.)

Keep progressing up the neck, one fret at a time, until you run out of room on the fretboard, or, until you run out of patience!

You can also mix things up by running things in reverse, starting with the 4th finger and descending. There are a number of ways you could change this up and make it your own. Do whatever works best for you.

The diagram below illustrates the chromatic exercise to make it easier to visualize.

warmup 2 01


Another thing you can do to help warm up your fingers is to just play through some songs or chord progressions. Just by going through a few chord changes and mixing it up between open chords and barre chords, you will find that in a very short amount of time you will be ready to rock and roll!

Always try to spend a few minutes warming up prior to playing. It will help develop you hand muscles and your fingers will thank you for it!

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!

A metronome is a time keeping device that musicians use to assist in maintaining tempo.

Metronomes can be heard audibly with a clicking sound, or can display the tempo visually such as with flashing LED lights.
metronome 4 01 The tempo is set on a metronome to the desired BPM (Beats Per Minute) and the musician plays along with it to ensure that they are staying in tempo.

Metronomes can
be used as a practice tool but can also be used in other applications. In the recording studio, drummers will often play along to a "click track" which helps them maintain a consistent tempo throughout the song.  
metronome 2Metronomes come in all shapes and sizes and can be found as battery operated digital devices, electronic units, or manually operated "wind up" devices.

When learning a new chord progression, lead line, guitar riff or scale; it is often difficult to play the piece at the desired speed the first time.

When it comes to guitar, the best way to learn to play fast is to play slow! This is where the metronome comes in. By setting the BPM to a slow tempo with a new progression, riff or scale; you can work out the passage at a slower pace.
metronome 1Then by gradually increasing the BPM's and playing along, you will learn how to play the passage faster until you are finally able to play it at the desired speed, and, in tempo.

For example. A new progression or riff you are learning may run at a normal tempo of 120 BPM but you can't play it at that speed to begin with. You might try setting the metronome to half the normal speed (60 BPM) and learn to play it proficiently at that speed. Then you could increase to 80 BPM until you can play it smoothly at that speed.

By repeating this process, gradually increasing the BPM's at each stage, you will eventually be able to play it at full tempo with no problems because now your fingers have learned to play the piece through repetition and you no longer have to "think" about it.

metronome 3

It cannot be overstated what an important tool a metronome is for a beginning guitarist. They can be purchased fairly inexpensively and are well worth the small investment.

We would highly recommend that you pick one up and see what it can do to help improve your playing.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.