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Thread: The slowest way to learn guitar

  1. #1
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    The slowest way to learn guitar

    I have realized that I am the slowest learner in the world. Without going into all of the details, let me give you an example.

    I am now in my 5th month of trying to learn the major scales and applying them to the fret board. At this point in time, I have no idea how long it will be before I can move on to the next level of studying music theory.

    I love this site and have read some of the articles about using your practice time efficiently. I guess I have to admit that a couple of my biggest problems are that I am stubborn and lazy. On the positive side, I guess you could say that I am very patient…

    I want to take lessons but I can see the scenario….First lesson:
    My teacher tells me that I need to learn the major scale and the notes on the fret board.
    I reply “OK. Here’s your $50. I’ll see you in about a year for my next lesson”.

    I practice quite a bit but have never played with other musicians. I have learned a few songs. But because I play by myself in my bedroom, I have had to learn to sing while playing these songs. This learning to sing has slowed things down even more.

    Yesterday, my brother-in-law came over to visit and asked me to play him a song. I picked up my guitar and played a song that I thought I knew well. Because I didn’t “warm up”, I made several mistakes. He said it sounded good, but I knew better. It wasn’t very good at all.

    I would like to play at an “open mike” (open stage, amateur night, whatever it’s called). But now I am concerned about this “warming up” problem. I’m guessing that I need about 45 minutes (and a couple of beers) of warming up before I can play at an acceptable level.

    (Finally….I bet you didn’t think I would ever get to it).

    My question is:

    For the folks that play for an audience, how do you warm up before you make your appearance on stage? Do you get to a point where you can just pick up the guitar and play well? Or do you have a method that you use to warm up before a show?

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by time2kill View Post
    For the folks that play for an audience, how do you warm up before you make your appearance on stage? Do you get to a point where you can just pick up the guitar and play well? Or do you have a method that you use to warm up before a show?
    I know you will not want to hear this --- I run a few scales, do some chord tones - bass line riffs and in one or two minutes I'm ready.

    Course I've been playing over 10 years. Sounds like you need to find a garage band and mix it up with other musicians. If guitar is not fun take up sky diving. No need to beat yourself around the head and face, move on.

    However, it's not rocket science. Think of the major scale pattern as just that, a pattern. A pattern that can be moved all over your fretboard. A pattern that can be modified and then used to play other scales, i.e. like the natural minor scale or the melodic or harmonic minor scales. How about some modes - God forbid.

    All those other scale shapes, I'm sure you have run into, have not helped you so forget them, this one shape is all you need right now.
    Code:
     The Major Scale Box Pattern:
    
    E|---7---|--R(8)-|-------|---2---| 1st string on the 6 string guitar
    B|-------|---5---|-------|---6---|
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string on the 4 string bass guitar
    D|---6---|-------|---7---|--R(8)-|
    A|---3---|---4---|-------|---5---|
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---| 6th or bottom string on both guitars.
    Place the R on the E string 8th fret and the C major scale notes await you.
    Place the R on the E string 3rd fret and the G major scale notes await you. Why? What note is on the E string 3rd fret? Yep, it's a G. You take it from there.


    Scales
    Major Scale = R-2-3-4-5-6-7
    Natural Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 Change three notes of the major scale and you have the natural minor scale. Now that is not a step for a stepper. When you see a b3 note that means move that note back toward the nut one fret. If you see a # that means move that note one fret toward the sound hole.
    Harmonic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 Start with the major scale box and change two notes.
    Melodic Minor Scale = R-2-b3-4-5-6-7 Here you change one note.
    Major Pentatonic = R-2-3-5-6 Here you only use 5 of the major scale's notes
    Minor Pentatonic = R-b3-4-5-b7 Here you only use 5 of the natural minor pattern notes.
    Blues = R-b3-4-b5-5-b7 Here you start with the minor pentatonic and then add the blue note (b5).

    Major modes
    Ionian same as the Major Scale.
    Lydian use the major scale and sharp the 4 - yes, it’s that simple. Sharp = #
    Mixolydian use the major scale and flat the 7. Flat = b or move back one fret.

    Minor Modes
    Aeolian same as the Natural Minor scale.
    Dorian use the Natural Minor scale and sharp the b6 back to a natural 6.
    Phrygian use the Natural Minor scale and flat the 2.
    Locrian use the Natural Minor scale and flat the 2 and the 5.

    Learn just one box - the major scale box and then take that one box anywhere you want to. Take it one step at a time this elephant is best eaten one bite at a time. I hope this will let you see the major scale in a new light.

    Now that's the whole story. How much of that story do you need right now. Not a lot. The Major scale will let you have melody notes to thousands of songs. Next pattern to use? I'd recommend the major pentatonic scale. It too will let you have melody notes to thousands of songs. When you get those two scale patterns down - we can talk about what lies ahead.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 06-26-2011 at 08:41 PM.

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by time2kill View Post
    .....I practice quite a bit but have never played with other musicians. I have learned a few songs. But because I play by myself in my bedroom, I have had to learn to sing while playing these songs. This learning to sing has slowed things down even more.

    Yesterday, my brother-in-law came over to visit and asked me to play him a song. I picked up my guitar and played a song that I thought I knew well. Because I didn’t “warm up”, I made several mistakes. He said it sounded good, but I knew better. It wasn’t very good at all.
    What are you now using, tabs, fake chord - what? Tell us a little more about how and what you play and perhaps someone will give you some of the answers you need.

    Good luck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post
    I know you will not want to hear this --- I run a few scales, do some chord tones - bass line riffs and in one or two minutes I'm ready.
    Quote Originally Posted by Malcolm View Post

    Course I've been playing over 10 years. Sounds like you need to find a garage band and mix it up with other musicians. If guitar is not fun take up sky diving. No need to beat yourself around the head and face, move on.


    On the contrary, that’s exactly what I hoped to hear, an honest answer from a veteran. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

    I like that sky diving suggestion. Maybe this summer I’ll finally take the plunge.

    But, playing the guitar IS fun. I was just a little disappointed that I didn’t play better in front of my brother-in-law. There was a little “stage fright” going on, but I think the main problem was that I wasn’t warmed-up. Your reply shows me that it doesn’t take 2 hours to warm up. It’s just like everything else. It’s learnable. I think I will adjust my practice a little so that I’m not warming up as long.

    My story is similar to a lot of others that I have read on this site and others: As a teenager, I bought a guitar and learned some chords. I then learned to strum and sing some Neil Young songs from tab. I thought I was a guitarist. The guitar got stolen and I didn’t buy another one. Many years later, I found that one of my friends played guitar. I asked him if he would teach me to play. He said that he would but it turned out that he was not a very good teacher. He spoke “over my head” and he had little patience. I liked the Blues/Rock thing so I bought a book. I learned a couple of blues scale patterns and would spend hours in my bedroom “goofing off” playing along with songs on the stereo. But, I never learned any songs and I just kept hitting a big brick wall. I would put the guitar away and not pick it up for months. Then I would pick it up again. Learn all the stuff I forgot until I’d get to that point where it was getting stale and repeat the cycle. Also, when folks found out that I owned a guitar, they would also ask me to play a song. Well, I didn’t know any songs. I just goofed off and entertained myself.

    I finally decided that I needed to do something about that brick wall I kept hitting. I decided two things: 1) I will learn to play a song. 2) I’m going to start at the beginning and learn music theory.

    I have learned to play 3 songs. (well, 4 songs if you count that Jingle Bells song. Which I’m not counting….lol). I have memorized the notes on the fret board and I bought a music theory book.

    I wasted a bunch of time wondering about things like, why is the B note right next to the C note (E/F too) and who made up this crazy system (I guess I’m easily distracted). I finally decided to forget the “whys” of music theory and just learn the basics.

    I’ve memorized the Major scales. I’ve gone beyond that. I have “internalized” the major scales. (the order of sharps and flats, key signatures. I have written them down over and over, and analyzed the movement of the sharps as they entered each scale. I thought about them as I drifted off to sleep. I understand the WWHWWWH pattern, etc.) I have not looked at the “circle of fifths”. But I can pretty much see the patterns and how it might work, especially after looking at the scales that have flats in them (circle of fourths?). I have peeked ahead a little and can see how the minor scales and pentatonic and blues scales are built from the major scales.

    Presently I am trying to take the two things I have learned (the notes on the fret board and the major scales) and put them together. This turns out to be the pattern(s) that you mention. As I memorize these patterns up and down the fret board, I am making a conscience effort to take notice of the notes that I am playing.

    These patterns turn out to be the CAGED system. (with slight changes as apparently in my slow way of learning, I once again re-invented the wheel. Lol).

    Once again, I have peeked ahead and believe that I understand how modes work. Although I’m not giving it too much thought at this point in time. I have pretty much committed myself to learning the notes on the fret board up and down the neck without looking and using the major scales. I must complete my journey of learning the major scales before I move on to the next level of music theory. Otherwise, I feel that I will continue to hit that brick wall.

    I’m not sure what my next step will be after I get these scales/patterns/notes down cold. But, I have read many, many, many posts on this site. I usually don’t start threads because I don’t even know what questions to ask. LOL. At this point in my journey, the questions that I have in my head have been asked over and over and over by other “newbies”.

    I know which people on this site have the correct answers and which people are the newbies and which people are the trolls and which people are just posting spam. It is obvious to me who you are Malcom. I have read many of your posts and I respect your opinion sir. Just the other day, I came upon your first post. (yes, there seems to be little activity on this board, so I just keep going back and reading the old posts. Music theory doesn’t change. The old answers and posts are still valid today). I’ve read many of your postings. There are some of your posts that I want to print out and keep because they are so helpful. I hope you realize how helpful you have been to me and others. I really appreciate it. (There are a few others on this site that I have much respect for also).

    I like your stance and expertise on chord tones. I believe that when I get these notes/scales/patterns internalized that I will be learning the chord tones/progessions next.

    Of course, I don’t just study the theory. I’m working on songs and technique also. I love my guitar. I love playing my guitar. As a matter of fact, it’s becoming an addiction that keeps moving up my priority list.

    I’ve gone and spent all my time this morning on this post. Now I must get ready to go to work. Tomorrow morning, I will read the additional information you have posted and give it some serious thought. I’m sure I will have some more questions or comments on that additional info. I just wanted to reply to your original comment concerning the amount of “warm up” time the veterans need. It gives me something to shoot for.

    (now you can see why I try not to post too much. I'm not a very consise writer either....LOL... Saying that I am a "little wordy" would be putting it nicely)
    Thanks again.

  5. #5
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    No question you have all the stuff down, time to play some songs.

    Now there are several ways of playing songs. My 6 string guitar is used for rhythm guitar. I play the chord progressions. Laying down the harmony for others to solo over. There are a lot of us doing that and then there are a few others that play lead guitar using scale/mode patterns and call it melody. Then there are a select few that actually play the tune of the song.

    My point. Lead guitar in my neck of the woods is playing THE TUNE by ear. A good band normally has one lead guitar and they hang on to them. Ted has been playing lead for 50 years, my chance of taking his job are nill. Think about this - now that does not mean that we all fold our tent when Teddy can not make a gig. We still play, we just do not have any lead instrumental breaks. Read that again.

    You see unless the lead guitar can play echo melody - echoing the melody as the vocalist sings, when the vocalist sings everybody plays rhythm guitar. Even the lead guitar plays chord accompaniment when some one else has the lead. In most bands, even the keyboard plays chord accompaniment until he/she gets the lead. Then and only then will the keyboard play THE TUNE.

    Time to re-think your lead playing. Another point. There are other instruments in the band other than lead guitar. Some fake chord sheet music and a music stand will let you play rhythm guitar in any one's band. Sure, take the stand on stage, sit in the back row and provide harmony. After a year or so you will be able to anticipate the chord progression and can leave the music stand at home. Stand up, move to the front row and sing back up while strumming the harmony.

    Then there is the bass guitar. Love the bass guitar. You play chord tones one note at a time. The beat is the important thing the actually notes are secondary. The roots, fives, and eights, of the chord are generic and you can play a lot of bass using just those three notes. After just about 2 years of playing bass I'm jamming - no sheet music - relying upon hearing the chord changes and playing my own bass lines, i.e. relying upon my rhythm guitar experience the learning curve for bass accompaniment is not that steep.

    There is more to music than playing lead solo guitar. You are ready for the other stuff right now. When someone asks you to play them a song. Play rhythm accompaniment on your guitar and let your voice provide the melody. Another point. Learn 16 to 24 bars of the tune's melody. Play chord accompaniment and sing two verses and one chorus of the song, then, take a 24 bar instrumental solo as a lead break. Then return the lead to your voice, sing the last verse, repeat the chorus and tag the last line to end the song. Now all you need is to memorize the lyrics and chord changes to 50 or 60 songs.


    Take heart. No one ever says anything if the vocalist has a music stand with lyrics on stage.

    Have fun, find a band and start playing with others. One last thing. So you make a mistake, you are probably the only one that heard it.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 06-27-2011 at 04:00 PM.

  6. #6
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Remember that there is no "One Size Fits All" solution relative to learning how to play an instrument or to learning about music theory. I spent years and years trying to learn the fretboard in terms of major scales. And while I did completely internalize the scale forms and the scale spellings in the process - it didn't help me actually learn the notes on the fretboard.

    I'd hate to think how much time I spent trying to learn the notes on the fretboard via scales before I finally tried an approach that actually worked for me. I won't try to "sell" you my approach (it's well documented here at IBM at any rate) but I would offer this:

    If what you want to learn is how to see the notes on the fretboard (read the fretboard):

    Then read a little bit every day until you start to see little things
    Then each day add a little more as you learn to "read" the fretboard more quickly and more easily
    Keep adding a little bit at a time - slowly enough so that you almost don't notice the extra work.
    Do this every day, every day - no exceptions. Learning these things requires short periods of high frequency effort. Do not work hard, and do not work for long periods but work often. It's the "often" thing that most people mess up on.

    By "reading the fretboard" I mean to be aware of the specific notes you are playing - whether you are doing exercises or playing a song. If you start to look at what you play, and strive to see what the notes are - in time you will learn to be able to see the notes as you play and even when away from the instrument. It's not hard to do but it takes a long time to learn how. Working harder won't make it happen faster but working on it a little bit every day will get you there before you'd think.

    Once you start "thinking" in terms of note names - the whole game changes - things get much, much easier.

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    Wow!

    That's a lot of information for someone like me to digest.

    I keep reading it over and over and over. It makes me think about a lot of things.

    Malcolm, 50 or 60 songs? LOL. I've got three down. Just 57 left to go.

    Jed, I spent a couple of days reading the discussion between you and Crossroads. WAY over my head. WAY, WAY over my head. It's like standing on the ground watching a Jet fly by. I have a general understanding how jets fly. I know there are people in there flying that airplane. I've seen videos of the pilots in their cockpit making it look easy. I still have no idea how to fly a plane. (Maybe flying lessons??? LOL).

    Jed, your comments have red flags swirling all around my head. What if you are correct? What if I spend another 3/4 months studying these scales/patterns/notes and I find that I have achieved nothing?

    I feel like I'm on a horse crossing a river. I'm in the middle somewhere. I am now wondering if changing horses is a good idea.

    More later.

  8. #8
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by time2kill View Post
    Jed, I spent a couple of days reading the discussion between you and Crossroads. WAY over my head. WAY, WAY over my head. It's like standing on the ground watching a Jet fly by. I have a general understanding how jets fly. I know there are people in there flying that airplane. I've seen videos of the pilots in their cockpit making it look easy. I still have no idea how to fly a plane. (Maybe flying lessons??? LOL).
    I think you are thinking of the Crossroads / JonR discussion. I don't believe I posted to that thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by time2kill View Post
    Jed, your comments have red flags swirling all around my head. What if you are correct? What if I spend another 3/4 months studying these scales/patterns/notes and I find that I have achieved nothing?

    I feel like I'm on a horse crossing a river. I'm in the middle somewhere. I am now wondering if changing horses is a good idea.
    Working on scales is a good thing. You'll learn more about the scale forms and you'll learn a little about keys. But in my experience, practicing scales doesn't help someone learn the notes on the fretboard. As you progress, your interests will change and you'll find you want to learn various different things at various times in your journey. In my experience, scales didn't help me learn about the fretboard - but thinking in terms of actual notes played and studying arpeggios did.

    It's just an opinion. Don't let any one opinion derail your studies. The internet is full of opinions, many people present their personal opinions as fact - I'm not one of those (or at least I try not to present my opinion as fact). My opinions on learning the fretboard are supported by my experience but they are still just my opinions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jed View Post
    I think you are thinking of the Crossroads / JonR discussion. I don't believe I posted to that thread.
    I'm sorry about that Jed. I dont' have a clue as to why I made that mistake. It won't happen again. Sorry.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jed View Post
    Working on scales is a good thing. You'll learn more about the scale forms and you'll learn a little about keys. But in my experience, practicing scales doesn't help someone learn the notes on the fretboard. As you progress, your interests will change and you'll find you want to learn various different things at various times in your journey. In my experience, scales didn't help me learn about the fretboard - but thinking in terms of actual notes played and studying arpeggios did.

    It's just an opinion. Don't let any one opinion derail your studies. The internet is full of opinions, many people present their personal opinions as fact - I'm not one of those (or at least I try not to present my opinion as fact). My opinions on learning the fretboard are supported by my experience but they are still just my opinions.
    I think I understand what you are saying. Learning scales/patterns isn't the way to learn the notes on the fretboard. A way that worked better for you was to take notice of the notes that you are playing while you play songs.

    It makes perfectly good sense to me.

    What I was trying to say was that I took about 3 weeks to memorize the notes on the fretboard. It just didn't stick in my head because I had nothing to relate it to. After buying the book on music theory and coming to Chapter 4, where they so causually said "Here are the Major Scales. You need to know these". And then moved on....

    Well, I went about trying to memorize the Major Scales in the wrong way too.

    Then I thought, why am I learning Music Therory? Oh yeah, because I want to play the guitar better. So I thought maybe I should combine the two efforts. Apply the Major Scales to the fretboard and re-inforce the notes that I have already memorized. (On a side note, another thing that I am trying to combine into this exercise is NOT looking at the fret board).

    But I think that your advice is solid. It makes a lot of sense. I will try to concentrate more on paying attention to the notes that I play when I play a song.

    Words will never be enough to express how much I appreciate any advice I can get from you veterans. It reminds me of the old Master Card commercials:

    Guitar: $1000.00
    Amps & Mics: $250.00
    Books/Strings/Misc: $100.00
    Advice from a veteran: PRICELESS!!!!

    Thanks.

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    I certainly think learning theory can be very valuable (or else I wouldn't be here) - but I guarantee nobody in the audience at your local open mike cares how many scale patterns you know, or if you can instantly name the note of any location on the fretboard (I'd also bet most all of the players there can't) - they just want to hear some MUSIC!

    You say you only know 3 songs - don't put the cart before the horse! - learn lots more songs, and work on theory in parallel to the extent it helps you make sense of them. Concepts like how melodies can be created from scales and how chords work together to form progressions will only make sense if you actually have some melodies and progressions to relate them to, no?

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    Some time ago, someone in these forums told that theory knowledge is needed, mainly, to discuss with other musicians so that everyone talks the same language and can understand each other.
    I also think it is useful to "detect" minor flaws in your compositions that can cause a song to sound slightly "bad". You know, sometiems a song doesn't sound good enough or there's something that doesn't sound so good as you've imagined in your head. Theory is a tool to find these problems and gives you a set of "rules" to get out of these situations.

    To compose music I don't think you need any theory. I've been doing music for several years and never had used theory to do it.
    But today, when I write a song, I tend to analyse it and to find "imperceptible" flaws so that I can make it sound better.

  12. #12
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by time2kill View Post
    I'm sorry about that Jed. I dont' have a clue as to why I made that mistake. It won't happen again. Sorry.
    No apology necessary. I just didn't want you thinking that I was Jon. He's a much nicer guy than I am.

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    Thanks for all the replies. There is a lot of good and helpful information.

    I've been getting too far into the details and have not been able to see the "big picture".

    After thinking about what I have written and the responses I received, I think I see a pattern. I've seen it many times.

    Rookie creates a post and invites comments. Veterans reply with helpful information. Rookie reposts and defends his position while trying to convince the veterans he is correct. After a while, the veterans get mad and just give up on the hopeless rookie.

    Everyone (except the rookie) thinks "Don't ask a question if you don't want to listen to the answer".

    It is pretty obvious to me that I need to step back and rethink my whole approach to learning music. I have these weird ideas about how to learn to play the guitar. I admit in the first sentence of my post that it takes me forever to learn anything. Apparently, I was right about something. LOL.

    As far as the question about "warming up", here is what I am going to try. Let me know if this is another bad idea. There is this one song that I learned that is pretty simple. Just chords, no melody except the voice. I think I am going to use that song in my practices as a "warmup". Then if one of my friends ask me to play the guitar, I'll play that song. If they like it, they will ask me to play another song and by then I should be a little more warmed-up. If not, "Oh well".

    Yes? No? Maybe?

  14. #14
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Don't beat yourself up too badly. If music were easy everyone would be doing it at the highest levels. The good news is that you don't need to know everything to have a good time playing.

    Ideally, each person needs to teach themselves. So maybe if you talk about how you learn, then we can think about presenting the info in a way that will make sense.

    Be warned though, music is the kind of thing that cannot be learned in a short period of time - no matter how hard you work. There are subtleties that you just won't see until after you've looked at a problem for a long time (think in terms of the "magic picture" thingies). Working hard won't do it. And there's little feed back at first that what you are doing is beneficial. It's weird like that.

    You have to set a course and stay the course through the turmoil and doubt. Eventually, you'll end up somewhere and if that place isn't where you though you wanted to be - set a new course (except this time you've got some experience under your belt to guide you). It's frustrating at first - but it does get better (it really does !!)

    cheers,

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    Quote Originally Posted by time2kill View Post
    Thanks for all the replies. There is a lot of good and helpful information.
    I've been getting too far into the details and have not been able to see the "big picture".
    After thinking about what I have written and the responses I received, I think I see a pattern. I've seen it many times.
    Rookie creates a post and invites comments. Veterans reply with helpful information. Rookie reposts and defends his position while trying to convince the veterans he is correct. After a while, the veterans get mad and just give up on the hopeless rookie.
    Everyone (except the rookie) thinks "Don't ask a question if you don't want to listen to the answer".
    It is pretty obvious to me that I need to step back and rethink my whole approach to learning music. I have these weird ideas about how to learn to play the guitar. I admit in the first sentence of my post that it takes me forever to learn anything. Apparently, I was right about something. LOL.
    As far as the question about "warming up", here is what I am going to try. Let me know if this is another bad idea. There is this one song that I learned that is pretty simple. Just chords, no melody except the voice. I think I am going to use that song in my practices as a "warmup". Then if one of my friends ask me to play the guitar, I'll play that song. If they like it, they will ask me to play another song and by then I should be a little more warmed-up. If not, "Oh well".
    Yes? No? Maybe?
    I wouldn't worry much about the warm up stuff. If you are playing live then there's usually time before the gig to run through parts of the material you are going to play, and for me that acts as "warm up". But everyone makes mistakes anyway, so I wouldn't beat yourself up about that.

    Otherwise, if you are just going to play something on the spur of the moment for friends or family at home, then just try your favourite piece. Eg maybe you have a favourite song which you always liked playing, or maybe there are some favourite exercises which you always play for practice?

    Eg;- although I've moved on to other styles like fusion and shred, I still play a few old Clapton songs which have always been favourite things for me, eg songs like Hideaway, Stepping Out or Crossroads, which I've spent years learning and practicing and which I've played thousands of times before. So if asked, then I'd probably play that rather than attempt some more demanding shred thing that I'm still in the process of learning.

    Otherwise, I have certain practice exercises that I've been doing for years, ie just exercises I particularly like for various reasons inc. the fact that I like the way they sound (often these are arpeggio exercises or short classical pieces from instructional books or DVD's). So again, if asked then I might play one or two of those for someone.
    Because those are pieces I know well.

    But the rest of your post touches on some interesting and quite fundamental questions about how any of us attempts to learn a musical instrument. What stuff do we practice? How do we practice? Is that the best way to learn things? Will it work? Or could you practice that way for ever without ever really succeeding?

    Perhaps it's different for classical students learning at a musical school, but it seems to me a constant problem for the rest of us that there really is no clearly defined way of successful study. That is - there is no path which says if you do A,B,C & D then you will succeed in learning to play quite well.

    On the contrary, although there are certain things that almost all of us try to study and practice, eg playing scales and learning enough theory to understand the basics of playing in key, nevertheless we usually end up with a scattergun type of approach in which we try hundreds of different things to practice, in the hope that somehow some of it or all of it will eventually turn us into great or at least "good" musicians.

    But always there remains a great deal of doubt about whether we should be practicing something else entirely.

    In the end all any of us can do is decide what seems to make sense to us, and follow that. So if someone thinks it makes sense to follow what it says in favourite books and instructional DVD's, if they believe that should work, then they will do that. Or, if they believe instead that the right way is to put the books aside and learn by listening to records and trying to copy it by ear, by listening very carefully, then they will take that approach. Or, many people will have the idea that it's best to try something in between those two approaches.

    But whatever you do, it has to make sense to you. Otherwise, if you can't really understand why or how someone's recommended method is likely to work, then you're unlikely to invest much time or energy in that direction.

    So does it make sense to learn more than basic theory? And does it make sense to practice scales? Do you have a clear idea of why that theory and those scales will help you succeed in becoming a good musician?

    As Rbarata said - it's been said here before that music theory is really only a way of musicians developing a language to speak with one another. A language to describe what they are doing. And it's also been said here quite a lot recently that maybe you should not spend a great deal of time practicing scales (or presumably arpeggios), but instead spend that time learning to recognise chord-tones.

    Which approach do you think will work? Does your chosen approach make sense to you in respect of you understanding clearly what to practice and how to practice it?

    Eg, attempting to learn by a mixture of listening to records and playing from chord tones might initially raise some questions in your mind about exactly what you are going to do to practice that ... how long are you going to spend listening to records and trying to learn that way by ear? ... maybe you could spend a lifetime trying that and never succeed much? ... how are you going to practice chord-tone playing? ... what practice material do you have for that? ... do you have a practice program or learning-path taking you far down that road of learning by chord tone playing?

    Personally I try to practice everything I can think of, from all those above angles. And the reason I do that is because I try to take notice of what guys like Jon and Jed say here on this forum, as well as trying to learn the stuff in what seem to be the best instructional books and DVD's.

    Sometimes those things are not really completely compatible though. Eg, as I was discussing at length in another thread with JonR - almost all my books and DVD's concentrate 99% on practicing and playing from scales and arpeggios, but rarely if ever even mentioning chord-tones ... whereas I know Jon and Jed recommend less time on scales and more time chord-tones ... and if I look more in Jazz books then I can find more suggestions for chord-tone playing and listening carefully etc., but usually those books are far less clear about exactly what to practice and how to practice, so that presents a bit of a practical barrier to that approach.

    One big advantage of memorising the notes on the fretboard is that you can then jump around the fretboard more easily to play notes that you know are within any particular scale or within any particular chord. You really don't get that ability from practicing scales merely as memorised patterns. That is - if you are just memorising scales as a continuous series of interconnecting dot patterns, then you tend to play up and down the fretboard between adjoining patterns, but you can't easily jump somewhere entirely new on the fretboard, because you don't easily/quickly see how to jump like that into the middle of some distant scale pattern. On the other hand, if you know all the notes, then you can just go to whatever note you want to play, and you automatically know what that note is in relation to the scale intervals and chord tones.

    In order to practice learning the notes, what I do is to play scales and arpeggios in various positions, and I'll try to call out the name of the note and the name of the scale/chord interval as I'm playing the note. And at the same time I'll try to use the CAGED idea of visualising the scale pattern superimposed over both the chord shape and the arpeggio shape in any single position. Eg, if you look in the quite basic book by Barrett Tailgating he has arp-scale diagrams which you can use for that sort of practice (in fact I think he's telling you to try practicing that way, but I can't recall how clear he is about explaining exactly that).

    But when you practice like that, it does force you to think much more deeply about every note you are playing. Ie you have to think what is the name of this note? what interval is that compared to the root of the chord? where is the chord around these notes? where is the arpeggio around these notes ... where is the scale around these notes? Whereas, if you just try to practice from scale diagrams in a book, then you are likely only to memorise the notes as series of connected dots on the fretboard, without paying much attention to the names of the notes or their intervallic relation to the chords and arpeggios within the different scale patterns.

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