So, you want to be a guitar player huh? You want to strut like Chuck Berry, be as cool as Keith Richards, rock like Jimi Hendrix and astound like Steve Vai. You want to wake up in the morning a beginner and go to bed at night an expert. You want to be hero-worshipped and have people chant your name. Idolised, admired, remembered and revered. You want your money for nothing and your chicks for free. You want all that and more!
Good for you! You have ambition; fire in your belly and a lion in your heart. It takes a lot of gusto to want to be a great guitarist. I wish you well and hope you achieve your dreams many times over.
Now that we've established that you want to be a great guitar picker, how would you feel if I said I know the secret of being a great guitar picker? Furthermore, how would you feel if I told you I was going to share that secret with you right now, free of charge? I suppose you would think there's a catch and that really I just want to sell you something. Well, it's true that I do have an on-line store that sells great guitar tutorials. It's also true that I would love you to visit and buy everything in the shop. However, that's not why I'm going to share this secret with you. No way, I have another reason for giving you this information.
When I was starting out playing the guitar, I always wished that I could have known somebody who could already play and could teach me a few things. Unfortunately, in those early days I didn't know anybody that played. I had to struggle along trying to learn chords, scales and arpeggios from the printed page. I used to worry about whether I was holding the guitar correctly, or if I was putting my fingers on the correct fret or string. A lot of it was pretty much hit and miss. More often than not.....it was miss!!
For that reason, I would like to offer some advice to guitar players that are just starting out. If you promise to listen and take notice of my advice, I promise I will share with you the secret of becoming a great guitar player. Deal? Ok, settle down with a cold can of fizzy pop, and read on......
I'm going to list these pieces of advice one by one in a bulleted list. Remember, the deal is you read and digest the information and then I will tell you the great guitar playing secret. Press your focus and concentration buttons.........Now!!
1. Buy a guitar tuner and tune up! If you don't know anybody who can tune the guitar for you, and you can't yet tune it yourself, then you need to invest in a tuner. Do this today! Don't struggle along on a guitar that sounds like elastic bands on a shoebox. You will not get any enjoyment whatsoever from an out of tune guitar. So, piece of advice number 1 - Tune it and keep it tuned!!
2. Consider lessons! When beginning anything in life, it is good to get off on the right foot. A teacher, a mentor, an advisor, call it what you will. To teach is one of the most fantastic things we can do. Find a teacher that takes great pride in what he does. Usually the best ones are found by word of mouth. Ask people, make enquiries, e-mail, telephone, write a letter, anything it takes to find the right person. Remember, no matter how good you get there is always somebody who can teach you something new. Hiring a teacher is not just for when you are starting out, it is something you should consider throughout your guitar playing life. A good teacher will advise you on technique, theory, performance, attitude and practicing. He or she will set you goals and reward you when you accomplish them. He or she will also explain the small things such as the importance of using a metronome in your studies, keeping your instrument clean and changing strings. Advice number 2 - Find a mentor!
3. Practice, practice, practice.......but not too much!! What does that mean "Practice, but not too much?" Well, if we want to get good at anything then obviously we do need to practice. With regards to learning the guitar, we need to get our hands to play the right notes in the right way. Although great technique takes a lot of time, effort, commitment and PRACTICE, we need to be aware of when to draw the line. Sometimes we can get that wrapped up in something that we are interested in; we can forget that there are other things in life. Our family, our friends, sports, the theatre, cinema, books, etc... Advice number 3 - Practice to get good, but chill out and relax to get even better!
4. Know what you have to learn and its importance to you now!! There are so many things to learn on the guitar that it is inevitable that you will get distracted. Chords, scales, arpeggios, licks, tunes, exercises etc... They all have to be learnt as they are all important. If you realise the importance of learning these things before you start to practice them, you will stand a better chance of keeping your focus and completing your studies. If you are learning a new chord for example, think about why it is important that you learn the chord. How will it benefit you? How will it help you to advance? How will it help you to evolve into a better musician? Everything you learn is important, understand its importance. Advice number 4 - Make sure you know the relevance of everything you need to learn.
5. Listen, listen, listen!! Ok, this piece of advice has two parts. The first part means listen to a lot of music. Try and have many influences. Remember, there is no bad music, only bad musicians. Be open to jazz, blues, rock, funk, pop, country, classical, anything! We can learn such a lot by listening. It plays a major part in our musical development. The second part of this piece of advice involves you training your ears. Try to learn to recognise chords just by the sound they make. Be aware of the subtle differences between a 7th chord and a 9th chord. It takes a long time to be able to do this properly. Stick with it and don't worry when you get them wrong. Each time you try, you improve a little bit more. Advice number 5 - Use those ears!!
6. Play with other people!! Join a band or form a band as soon as you can. You will learn so much from playing with other people. Put an advertisement in a music shop advertising your services as a guitar player. Don't worry if you don't feel ready, do it anyway. The experience will be priceless! Everything improves when you play regularly with other musicians. Your time, your feel, your technique, your confidence, EVERYTHING! Make sure you do this at the earliest opportunity! Advice number 6 - Take the licks out of your room and into a band!!
7. Learn your theory!! Ok, your guitar teacher will probably stress the importance of this to you. The more theory you learn, the more your guitar playing will improve. Learn chord construction, diatonic harmony, learn about triads, intervals, major scales, relative minors, modes, etc... A lot of guitar players don't like studying theory. Make sure you are not one of them. Advice number 7 - Read lots of music theory books!!
8. Visualise!! A lot of people do not realise how powerful a tool this is. There is nothing you can't do in your mind! Visualisation will not improve your technique. The only way to improve technique is to sit down and play for long hours. Visualisation helps in other ways. It helps you commit things to your long term memory. Use it when learning chords, scales, arpeggios, songs, in fact, anything. There is however, a time and a place for visualisation. You can use it while travelling on a bus, waiting for your date to turn up, while falling asleep at night, sunbathing or relaxing. You must NOT use it while doing anything that requires your full attention. For example; driving, using tools, cooking and riding you bicycle. You get the idea, right? Also, do not ever think that visualisation is a substitute for hands on practice - it isn't! You have to do that as well. Advice number 8 - Practice in your mind!!
9. Be inquisitive!! The more you play the more chance you have of meeting other guitar players. Never, ever be afraid to ask them questions even if they haven't been playing as long as you have. We learn off everybody. Ask probing questions to see how they developed their technique. Check out the chord shapes they use. If you see one that you don't recognise, ask them what it is. Remember your job is to improve your playing at every opportunity - do your job! Advice number 9 - Ask lots of questions and you'll get lots of answers!!!
10. Smile!! Sometimes the stress of being a practicing guitar player can get us down. Maybe a lick you are working on just isn't happening, or no matter how hard you try you just cannot execute a new scale properly. This is normal. Sometimes it's better to put the instrument down and come back to it later on. Never, ever let it get you mad and never, ever get frustrated. Fight back at these challenging situations with a big smile. Try it now, right this minute. Think of something that is bothering you although deep down you know it isn't important. Visualise it. Ok, hold it there and.......SMILE! Laugh even. Not just a chuckle but a big laugh right from your belly. Go on, feels good, doesn't it? Treat your guitar playing challenges in exactly the same way. Deep down you know they aren't really that important. Tomorrow is another day. I'm not saying don't take your guitar playing seriously; just stop and smell the flowers now and again. Be optimistic, be bold, be the best you can be and........smile!! Advice number 10 - Playing the guitar is fun - Enjoy it!!
There you go, that's my advice to you. Good luck with your playing!
Right, all that's left for me to do is tell you the great guitar playing secret. Are you ready? Well, don't tell anybody but the secret of being a great guitar player is... in everything you've just read!! Sorry guys, but there ain't no shortcut to greatness. If you follow the 10 pieces of advice I've just given you then you won't go far wrong. I still haven't achieved it and I may never will. One thing is for sure, I'm gonna keep on plugging away, and, who knows, maybe one day I'll get pretty close. The fun is in the trying. Work hard and feel yourself improve!
So, you want to be a guitar player huh? You bet your life I do......
About the Author
Peter Jones is the Managing Director of Jack Sky Ltd. Based on the banks of the River Mersey in the great city of Liverpool, Jack Sky is committed to providing 1st class guitar tutorials to all of its customers. A warm welcome awaits you at www.jack-sky.com