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  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2016

    Not sure how to improve my playing. Too much info out there!

    Iíd say Iím an intermediate player, I started guitar when I was 17 mainly simple things. Took a good few years break from playing and fell back in love with guitars about 4 or 5 years ago now. I am now 34 nearly 35. Youtube has been an amazing tool I wish I had it back in those days. I just learned from tabs mainly.

    My tastes have changed a lot since I first started at 17 I was into Nirvana, Oasis, Metallica, but I started liking a lot more classic rock, country and Guns N roses and Van Halen. My tastes In guitars definatley changed too. I loved fender guitars when I was younger now I completely love Gibson guitars.

    My goals are to be able to improvise more. I still feel stuck in the pentatonic scales with a few licks thrown in here and there. But it never seems to sound natural. I found some recordings of myself jamming 2 years ago and I donít seem to have improved this. I try to play some backing tracks and play along as much as I can but it just doesnít seem to flow very well. Maybe learning blues will help this?

    Frustrating part is I do tend to learn things quite quickly it doesnít take long for me to learn a new riff or a song. I do spend time palying everyday not as much as I would like due to my lifestyle but I find when I pick up the guitar I will try to learn something new for a few mins then I just revert back to playing the same old stuff everytime. I think my wife is going to kill me soon if she hears me playing the November Rain solo many more times. (which I have been playing for ages and I still canít play the last part properly J )
    Whilst youtube is great and Iíve look at Jamplay and got some dvds, I find there is so much choice I donít know where to go. Some of those DVD courses start slow as I am already past that level so I lose interest. I had the idea of going back to basics to cover anything I missed but it doesnít seem to work. I also try to look at what players I like and try to see if I can play like them for example on youtube I love the way Phil X plays.
    I end up learning bits and pieces here and there that donít really help me overall. Learning some shreddy run or sweep picking things. But I donít actually want to play that style.
    I just play guitar for fun at home but want to get better. Should I take actual lesons?
    Any tips on how to improve this sort of thing would be highly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    SW Virginia

    Re: Not sure how to improve my playing. Too much info out there!

    It's ironic that I once had a part time job as guitar instructor, and it was the only job I was ever fired from in my 42 years on this Earth. Anyway, please bear with me here, my recommendations:

    1) if you haven't already, learn to listen to other instruments in the music you enjoy, and then learn to listen to other styles of music you'd not normally expose yourself to. The goal of this exercise is listening to both the melodies and the play of rhythm in the music. Eventually you'll start "saying" something with the guitar while jamming, almost like organized chaos.

    2) learn the notes on the fretboard in standard tuning. Look at it like a piano, where every fret on every string is akin to individual keys on the piano. Know your notes, then you won't be stuck relying on patterns.

    3) learn to read music, at least in a marginal way.

    4) learn chord composition (what makes a 9, 11, 13, etc.). A really great reference for guitar players is the "Guitar Handbook." It been in print quite a while.
    2007 CR8
    2000 Elegant
    1953 J50

  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member renderit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009

    Re: Not sure how to improve my playing. Too much info out there!

    Mel Bay and Sister Mary Margaret tapping the rhythm on your knuckles or head with a ruler. To this day I am sure the good Sister knew not one whit of music, but she was a virtuoso inflicting timing (and exquisite pain) with a piece of thin wood. Felt more sorry for the poor orphans learning to play organ or pianny like Floyd Kramer...

  4. #4

    Re: Not sure how to improve my playing. Too much info out there!

    Adamm28 there are a lot of things in your story I can relate to. Most of my musical adventure has been spent inefficiently. I would be working hard for little results, maybe coming up w/a cool idea or two but not understanding what I was doing or how to apply it too other areas. That changed when I started taking formal lessons w/a couple of jazz guitarists in my area. They in turn helped me to narrow my focus when searching for other examples/concepts on YouTube.
    If private instruction is not an option for you there are still steps you can take to improve your playing:
    First, learn the major scale & its five shapes (or blocks) across the fretboard. It doesn't matter where you start as long as you stay in one key. After you memorize these shapes you can apply them to different keys, but at first just pick one. G is nice because of where it sits on the neck, but any key will do.
    Second, identify the notes as you can, but more importantly think of them as degrees: 1, 2, 3, 4... After this is accomplished, play the degrees in small sequences like 1-2-3, 2-3-4, 3-4-5... climbing up the scale as you go. The third step is actually a modified second step: Play the same notes in thirds: 1-3-5, 2-4-6, 3-5-7... This will create "triads", which are chords. They are the basic building blocks of music.
    That may not seem like much but it's a good start, & the best advice I can think of. Three more points I'd like too add would be:
    SING the scale as you play it. This creates more connections in your brain between your ears & your fingers. That's a good thing.
    WRITE STUFF DOWN. Draw fingerboards & chord shapes in blocks & grids. YOu can download pretty good chord grid documents from the Internet.
    Lastly, if you want to learn a type or style of music, immerse yourself in it. Listen constantly to a genre or a specific artist. Sometimes if I want to learn a particular song or solo I just loop it on my iPod & listen to it over & over again while I'm working.
    Just about every player that I know who is any good does these things.
    the faster we go the rounder we get

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Worcester, MA

    Re: Not sure how to improve my playing. Too much info out there!

    Get the CAGED system down. Then learn basic theory, like relative minors, e.g. If you play in C major, it's the same scale Am, just different starting points. Then learn the Roman numeral systems, like I, IV V. THEN, learn the modal scales and piece them together like the CAGED system and you'll have a much better working knowledge to "speak" while playing.
    "'s a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder." Lennon-McCartney

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member Karldoog's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Charlotte, NC

    Re: Not sure how to improve my playing. Too much info out there!

    The simplest and only answer that's going to help you is this: fins a good teacher and stick with him. A GOOD teacher. Not just some bloke who's going to teach you a song or how to read music. Reading music is a waste of time unless you plan on being a studio musician. Learn the scales, chord theory, scale theory and the modes. I can't believe how many people think they can learn the guitar themselves, or from some online course. YOU CAN'T. You need a teacher. period.

  7. #7

    Re: Not sure how to improve my playing. Too much info out there!

    I haven't been on the Forum for a while but just saw this. If you haven't found something by now I highly recommend an on line course from Artist works. Your story is very similar to mine. I played guitar when much younger, gave it up for many years then came back and love it. I started playing out again and was having trouble improvising and playing over chord changes. At any rate one of my favorite guitar players is Guthrie Trapp. He is a session player in Nashville and while primarily a country player is able to play just about anything. I am about half way through his first series and I highly recommend it. He takes you through slowly and in small increments teaching you not only how to play but the fundamentals that a lot of us skipped over. He teaches you how chords ,scales and different positions all relate to each other and it is all starting to make sense. There are other instructors with Artist works in other styles of music as well. Its inexpensive and you just go at your own pace. You can also submit videos of you playing back to him then he provides you feedback. I can not recommend this course enough. Hope this helps.

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