Even if you are tone deaf, can't keep a beat and color blind like me
Playing guitar for over 30 years. Once a frustrated, dissatisfied and jaded wannabe, now helping others on the journey to play good guitar. Founder of SongKids, a movement to make space for under privileged kids to find their song.
Let me explain. Learn guitar online is bad because the information is here, there and everywhere. People share what they know too easily, too fast and often do not piece then together for the reader. Unless you enrol into a systematic course, it can get overwhelming pretty fast.
In my 30 years of trying to learn to play good guitar, I’ve found out that its too easy to get sidelined and distracted. Even more now than before because of information clutter that can be so easily obtained online.
Here’s 4 key plan that you always need to have with you. And you can find all of these (except the last one) online.
1. Learn Chords But Know What Forms Chords
Major chord is Root, Major 3rd, Perfect 5th (1-3-5)
Minor chord is Root, Minor 3rd, Perfect 5th (1-m3-5) Dominant Chord is Root, Major 3rd, Perfect 5th and Minor 7th (1-3-5-7b)
Then learn how these chord feels.
2. Learn Songs But Study The Chord Progressions
Master the chord progressions of songs. Study what makes blues blues, folk folk, jazz jazz and pop pop. It’s in the chords and its chord progression. Know the progression and the song will set you free (to play it)
3. Learn Scales But Know The 3 Key Ones
Learn the scales of the key to a song. Know where is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7th note of the scale of the song you are playing. Know what’s a major, minor and dominant scale. Just the basic ones first. You can learn the complicated scales which is derived from the basic ones.
4. Muck Around Online But Work On Your Groove Offline
Yes the internet distracts and overload us with information but often it also makes learning fun. Much around online but at the end of the day, its not just the notes that matter in playing, its the feel. The feel is found in the groove. Develop your groove by listening to the original songs (oh ya online). You can also work on your groove offline. Without the internet or your instrument. Tap to the song you are learning in your head. The groove is really what makes a song flow. A flowing song connects hearts of people. Without it, you may just not have the song. It’s that important.
These are the 4 things to have as a plan when learning to play guitar. Have a question? Just drop me a line and we’ll see where the conversation goes to. Enjoy!
Music is fundamentally sound that is used to tell a story. It is made from authenticity of the soul. It has real expression that touches other people’s hearts. The Ego wants something else. The ego is eager to make music faster and through some form of achievements or amazing feats. The fruit of whether its real music is its impact on people listening to the music.
Here’s 4 Ways To Make Music Without The Ego
Play for yourself (not someone else)
Play what you love, not what you think others will love. I know there’s a difference between playing music as your industry vs playing music as your hobby. One is to make a living and to a certain extend you need to play to impress. But for most of us, we are playing because its fun and do it as leisure, so its good to let the instrument expresses who you are. So play the music that you love. Really get into what music you like. Don’t worry about if the interpretation of the tune is accurate to the recording. Play it your way. Getting to this level of playing for yourself may not be an easy path as its so easy to reach out to a chord chart or a already prescribed tab on the Internet. Well, you can do that to start but beyond that, go with your feel and music that’s from your heart.
2. Play as a form of meditation
Play music as a meditation. I have one that is just right for you. Check out “A Guitar Playing Meditation”. If you play to meditate, you play for yourself or for God, you’ll get out of playing to perform.
3. Play From Inspiration Not Egostation
Keep yourself in check. Be aware of the ‘ego’ and it’ll go away. At any point in time when you practice or play that you feel a bit frustrated. Think are you playing from ‘Inspiration’ or from the ‘Egostation’. If you are from the latter, just be aware of it and it’ll go away. Always think of your inspiration, what inspire you to play? What’s your motivation? If your motivation is pure, recall that purpose and it’ll set you free.
4. Be Inspired by Listening More Than Playing
Chances are you started playing because you heard someone play and you are inspired by the music. As you progress in your playing, don’t forget to come back to your first love. Listening and enjoying music. Spend time away from your guitar. Go to the record store (or today iTunes or your favourite download centre), browse for new music that inspires you. Or go to your existing collection, tidy it up and get to music that gives you inspiration. Listening is a very enduring quality and it’s a sure kick in the butt to your EGO and will help you play better.
So there! Get back to making music without the ego getting in the way! Wish you all the best. If you like this post, don’t forget to like and share! Thank you.
That’s true, but how do you when frankly, practising isn’t the most interesting thing to do?
While a certain aspect of playing require brute force & harsh practice, the fun aspect of playing the guitar doesn’t. So as you work hard sometimes, there’s room for fun practice as well.
What if you dedicate your next practice session to creative ways of making practice fun? Wouldn’t that add value to your playing and make you want to spend more time with your guitar?
Here are 5 ways you can make playing fun.
1. Make A Few Notes & Make It About Rhythm
The next time you play, maybe choose a few chords (the I, IV, V) or notes (eg the 1,3,5,7) to play and practice playing different rhythm type
Rhythm 1: Do a chuck chuck chuck chuck on each of 4 beat in a measure.
Rhythm 2: Then a chucka chucka chucka chucka to play 2 to each beat.
Rhythm 3: Then to a chuckaci chuckaci chuckaci chuckaci in triplets.
Varies your rhythm from one rhythm type to another. Make the whole practice session about rhythm with just one or two notes changes.
2. Play In The Tempo Of Another Song
Play anything but play in the tempo of a well-known song. For example, play your solo in the rhythm of your favourite nursery rhyme like ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ or ‘London Bridge’ Is Falling Down. You will find a fun way of playing and develop very unusual tune from your guitar.
3. Compose A Riff & Play That Riff 90% Of The Time
Compose a Riff (or people call it motives). Make the riff as melodic or memorable as possible. Once you find it play it according to a certain time and keep playing it 90% of the time. The rest of the 10% develop small variation. Chances are you will attract more people to listen to you, this way of playing, than playing many more notes without a direction.
4. Rearrange A Song You Already Know How To Play
If you know how to play a song well, don’t play it the same way. Rearrange it maybe to sound a bit more jazzy (using the 7th) or make it more bluesy (using the blue note) or make it slower or faster or replace certain notes with others. Whatever it is, rearrange the song such that people still know what you are playing but the difference is that it adds your personality to the playing. You’ll have more fun playing songs this way and at the same time, maybe turn some heads.
5. Put Down Your Guitar, Close Your Eyes & Practice With Your Mind
What? Yes, I’m talking about day-dreaming. Do you know that when you envision yourself playing well in a certain way, you are practising? Athletics do that all the time. They rehearse how they are going to perform on performance day and very likely they will. When you day-dream, you tell your subconscious mind you already believe you can play and your brain does all it can to get you there. The next time you are bored of playing, imagine yourself playing. Not just in your boring corner. Imagine yourself playing on stage, in your favourite club or why not in a stadium filled with screaming fans. If you are doing to do it, why not have fun doing it.
Some say it’s as good as having played.
Well even if it’s not, at least you made guitar practice fun and will most likely do it again soon.
My dream is to make your guitar play better without spending big dollars.
Why? Because I have experienced what so many new beginners experienced. To have with me a guitar that is hard to play. Fingering chord becomes painful, barre chords traumatic to say the least. You want to be a guitar god but you just can’t get yourself to finger another chord. What should you do?
The trouble is real and it affects too many players. Recently I have 3 people came to me in the last 2 weeks to ask for help to setup their guitar to be more playable. And I have done it for them. And they are happy and gave me a raving review for what I have done. One of them even told me this the guitar I setup for him helped him secure a recording deal when he used the newly setup guitar to play an inspired tune to his client on the same deal he collected it from me.
That’s why my dream is not a daydream, it’s rooted in reality. A guitar can play better without spending a lot of money. You just need to know what to do and then learn to do it or get someone who can do it for you.
Here are 3 ways you can make your guitar play better.
Shave some height off your guitar saddle
The number 1 issue guitars that are brought to me is – The action is too high. By high action, I mean the distance between the string to the fretboard when not fretting is too high that holding the string down becomes unpleasantly hard. The culprit is always that the saddle and the nut first. The saddle is rightly made to be high. It’s normal to have them this way from the factory because being tall it can be shaved to be made lower. However, the other way, to have a low saddle made high again is impossible without adding additional things to it.
With a high saddle almost expected from the factory, it is essential for guitars to be setup at the shop before bringing it home. Sadly not all stores do that for their customers.
That’s why its important to know, the very first thing I do is to shave some height off the saddle. The work is not complicated but its not easy because it requires you to remove the strings or loosening it enough to be able to take the saddle out of the slot at the bridge. I shave it with sand paper and get it to the right height to make the action lower. This work itself solve at least 70% of the action problem.
Shave your guitar nut too
While lowering the saddle height solves the general issue of high action, lowering the guitar nut solves the specific issue of high action at the lowest end of the fretboard (the part closest to the guitar neck). Like how you have shaved the height of the saddle, shave the nut as well. But be careful, there’s usually lesser to shave on the nut compared to the saddle. Keep shaving and putting it back so that you don’t over-shave that may create buzzing on the first fret.
With both your saddle and nut adjusted to the right height, you will find your guitar instantly more playable. If you have over-shaved and experience buzzing, a shim can be used to heighten it again by placing it under the saddle/nut. You can buy a “shim” which is just a piece of small plastic or wood from your local guitar stores.
Adjust your truss rod
You can find tune the playability of your guitar after adjusting the height of both your nut and saddle by adjusting the truss rod.
The truss rod is the metal part of the guitar that runs through the neck of well built guitar. Its function is to make the neck straight through adjustment made using a L shaped Allen wrench key. To adjust the concave or convex nature of the neck we can adjust the rod to either straighten it or bow it back.
Change your strings wisely
Someone brought a guitar to me recently complaining that “twanginess” of his guitar. My first suspect was the nature of the guitar was built bright. So the twang comes from how the guitar was built. But I was wrong. After setting up the guitar and playing it for a few days, I suspected that the string choice presently installed in the guitar is of the bright kind. So knowing my guitar string brightness chart, I went out and bought a mellower string. I tried the GHS silk and steel set (Affiliate Link) and immediately the twang was gone and it played like how the owner wanted it to. You should see the gladness in his face when he came to collect his guitar. So next time you want to rule off your guitar sound, put another set of carefully chosen strings.
Being a jazz player, below is the chart I used. Google “[Brand] guitar string chart” will return the chart for strings of other brands.
Clean your guitar, especially the fretboard
You will play better when you have a clean guitar, especially in the fretboard. A clean fretboard helps you slide through easily without the stickiness of one full of dirt. Besides psychological effect of a clean guitar has proven to be real. Why not serve your mind by playing better with more clarity. I used the Gibson Gear Stringed Instrument Care (Affiliate Link).
So what are you waiting for? Either do some DIY or send it to some good people to do them for you. You can end up with a guitar that easily plays 2 or 3 times better than before.
If you like this and would like me to write on “How to make your guitar sound better instantly”, drop me a comment.
Today I want to explore this topic call the feel and the mechanics of music. It is two elements that go hand in hand but they are very different components. One makes the sound, the other one makes the feeling.
When a note is being played in music, there’s the sound. The sound can be of different pitch, frequency or quality. It is heard but it’s not felt. The sound is only felt after the sound is being made.
The feeling of music is more important because it’s the part of the music that moves us. We cannot have the feel of music without the mechanics of music. And you cannot have the mechanics of music without it generating a feel of it.
Why is it better to have BBKing play one note than a teenage shredder play many notes? Because BBKing’s one note generate more feel than the latter’s many notes. The difference between both their playing is one is confident and not in a hurried, the other is nervous trying to prove him/herself.
The quality of the sound is how the note sounds, the quality of music is the feeling it translates to the listener after it is played.
That’s why it is important to observe the spaces between the notes and study how it impacts us than the note itself. The note is important to invoke different feeling by how’s it played, but it is the space in between that gives room for the feeling.
John Cage wrote a piece music called 4’33” filled with complete 4’33” worth of silence. For the listener, if that silence is lead to a feeling of peace then that’s music to them. Or if the listener is lead to irritation because no notes are heard, then its music in itself by what it caused the listener to feel.
Of course, I’m speaking in extreme terms because that piece is a controversial piece and discussion on it and arguments can be made of it for days. But it’s to prove the point that the feel of music when nothing is heard is a key component to music.
Let’s explore further this concept using different effects we can make to the notes we play. These are common effects we can make either naturally or through using guitar pedals.
Play a note and play with a strong vibrato. How does it impact the note and the after effect?
A tremolo is similar to a vibrato but yet different. If you could play it in your instrument, try it and what do you think is different from a vibrato? One deals with intensity, the other with frequency. It’s different and how different does it make you feel.
When a note is distorted, it will sound harsh and intense. What is the feeling after hearing it? How does that compare to a normal undistorted note?
Now play a normal note but apply compression so that it sustains longer. How does that impact you? Are the silence and the space delayed? How does that delay impact how you feel?
5) Major chords
After the major chord is played, the after effect is the feeling of nice, yes that’s music. Fundamental and as simple as it can be.
6) Minor chords
After the minor chord is played, the after effect is the feeling of melancholy. That’s because of the quality of the flatted 3rd give us that effect.
7) Jazz 7th chords
Flatted 7th note in a jazz chord is what causes that pleasant “jazzy” feel after it’s heard.
Now let’s explore delay. The delay effect is when a note is being played and the effect echoes that note and in subsequent lower intensity as it’s repeated. That intense feeling after the note is repeatedly felt and in lesser and lesser intensity is what makes the effect so pleasant.
Now later, we are going to explore your signature sound. The question is will you choose this to be your signature sound? But before that, let’s ask us how everything we hear makes us feel.
People don’t enjoy music anymore because people don’t let the music move them.
Sometimes because of our hurried contemporary life, we hardened ourselves. We keep feelings in so that we don’t appear weak by being impacted by something that is seemingly trivial as sound. But the sound is not trivial, it is a gift from God and it should affect us. Now the question is how it affects us. The mechanics of music tells us how it played and how it sounds but it’s the feeling of music that makes it enjoyable and a pleasure to be a part of.
From today on, value the feeling of music as you value the mechanics of music when you play it.
It makes a big difference to the quality of life in the world that God has given to us. One that is filled with beautiful sounds and beautiful feelings it invokes.
I hope you enjoy this article and find it insightful to how you hear music from here on. Thanks and I would love to hear your comments about this topic. Please share how sounds affect how you feel?
Want to learn to play guitar. Justin Guitar is the one stop shop. One of the most popular guitar sites run by a great guy with a very approachable happy attitude. Love sites that are free and only if you’ve been served and found it helpful to make a donation.
Many free lessons for learning piano. I like the way the introductory class is about learning the black keys. Having known how the black and white keys on the keyboard is organised, you get a foundation of how every key in the keyboard works. Simple and effective.
If you have rock star ambition or want to be a professional, then maybe it may be too late. But if all you want to do is to play for enjoyment and leisure, then there should be no age too old to start. Even better if you just want to develop the musical part of you in a socio-spiritual way, then you are more than ready to start the journey.
Having said that please note that Eric Clapton, the idol of many players started early but gave up only to start again at a later age.
Frank Zappa, the alternative rock legend started when he was 18.
Wes Montgomery, the legendary jazz guitarist started when he was 20.
So even if you want to try to make it big, it may not be too late to begin.
I’ve seen many old players in the local and overseas scene too. Age is never the issue when it comes to playing music. Just like swimming, cycling or learning to a new sport, it’s not the age more than your interest and how much you stick to it in practice. The important thing is the heart attitude of wanting to learn, correct guidance and the right way to practice.
I’m now 44 but really it was only the last 5 years that I made real progress. The first 25 years or so, I feel that I’ve wasted time getting entangled with snippets of information and with a lack of strategy to learn. I’ve done so much here and there but never consolidated all I know into a framework. So I do not think that the years’ matter if you have access to the right information and the right guidance, as long as you are still able to hold a guitar and you are able to move your fingers (and perhaps not deaf), it’s a good time to start.
So am I too old to learn how to play the guitar? I don’t think so.
Tell yourself it’s okay to start now regardless of what age you are and “I am never too old to learn to play the guitar”.
If there’s anyone who started playing late and now consider yourself having successfully learned to play, I like to hear from you by commenting below.
One of the unique services I provide with my social enterprise is to hand deliver my products to my customers. Today I a guy bought a looper from me. He enlisted in our National Service (NS) as an army personal. He’ll be coming out of the enlistment in a month’s time and then have 7 months before going to university. So the topic of our discussion in the brief time we are connected is, what can he do with music in his 7 months spare time.
Here are some of the points we discussed which I thought will make a good post. I added a few more after that, considering what if I would personally do if I had that 7 months.
Invest in a Course and Learn From A Teacher You Admire
7 months is good time to not just improve but have a quantum leap in how you play. The best way to big improvement is to get a teacher. You may have a teacher you admire or a player you like very much. Go and act on asking them if they will teach you. Alternatively get into an online course that is effective. A lot of courses today allow you to submit your playing for critic and guidance by the teacher. Check out courses by Artistworks.com. My time with them learning from Martin Taylor’s FingerStyle Guitar and Keith Wyatt Blues Guitar has been most effective and memorable learning time in my playing history.
Try free samples of Keith Wyatt’s online Blues Guitar lessons or Martin Taylor’s Fingerstyle Guitar Lessons at ArtistWorks.com! below
Get Some Friends Together And Jam
If you are a bedroom or closet player, a long break maybe a good time to bring your playing to a new level playing with others. And if you have already been doing that to form a band and get serious with your music.
One of the joys of playing the guitar is playing with other people. Maybe your time practising and playing with yourself is coming to an end. It’s time for playing with others and becoming more serious about your music beginning.
I have been a bedroom musician most of my life and its only recently that I started to get together with a group of people to jam. Before you do so, maybe you should read the account of how I survive my first jam session.
Write Some Songs Enough To Make An Album
Give it a go to write songs. If you are new to it, it’s a good time to invest in learning how to do it. It doesn’t have to be difficult if you allow yourself to flow with the music that is already in you. If you already have enough songs that can make an album, instead of writing, get it recorded.
7 months to get into recording, producing and maybe even selling your album is worth the time. And today’s music technology to setup a home studio and your own music and selling it is more than adequate and available.
Start An Online Business Marketing Musical Products You Love.
Maybe playing is not the way you choose, if you are entrepreneural and just want to get into the business side of music, consider starting an online business using a website to do affiliate marketting. Affiliate marketting basically is about getting a commission to promote products that you like without needing to own the stocks. You point your buyers to affiliate partners like Amazon, Guitar Centre and Musican Friend and when they make a sell, you get the commision.
One of the challenges of online business is time it takes to build a traffic and if you have 7 months dedicated to do it, it will be excellent as not many people have that. You can start one easily with programs that teaches you how to do it. I have a website called Easyonlinebusiness Club to help you with this with all the research I put into finding the right products you need to get started.
Start a music website just like this one. Click below to find out how I did it.
Well above are 5 things I recommend that you do with your 7 months spare time. Of course these recommendation will be different if the duration is shorter or longer for 7 months, you can make meaningful musical journey.
So what will you do if you have 7 months of break? Let us know by giving me your comments below. I love to hear your adventures.
At PlayGoodGuitar.com we want to advocate you to know what you love. Discover your instrument. If the guitar is going to be your (musical) instrument, value it, cherish it and know how much its worth not just to you but to others in financial terms.
No, your O’thing is NOT going to be defined by how much it’s worth to other people, it is by how much it is to you. BUT it is always good to know the price tag and desirability of the one you love.
The Vintage Guitar Buyer’s Guide is a invaluable tool for this reason. It has been for many years that its been published a directory of how much guitars are worth. The 2017 version has just come out and we are all very excited.
You may not be in the industry of buying or selling guitars but its good knowledge to know how much these guitars are worth to its owners.
Maybe its just figures but maybe it’ll be what inspire you to value yours then look out for other good guitar that you can love for a long time. I have had a guitar that was with me since 1988 and its almost 30 years now. I would want to know how much its worth today. Even if its not worth much, I know what I pay attention to increases in value in my own eyes. That’s worth the price of a copy.
Do you know the value of your guitar? And how much will you project it will be worth in 5,10, 20 years time?
In the advent of the internet that is video based, are old fashioned forums dead? I would say not. I lived through the days of forums and now social media groups and the huddle around video based platforms, but I still frequent forums. Why do I do that?
I think nothing creates a community, like a good forum. The good old posting with your unique Avatar where members of the forum can relate and get to know better is not out of fashion. The next question will be is there any good guitar forums to join?
These are the few that I’m a member of that I list below. You can check it out to see if it’s for you.
This is an active forum where players of all levels hangout. There’s a community of basic. The forum is not intimidating and the most accessible one of all. I love to frequent that place to learn and also offer advice. Great place for starters to hang out definitely.
People in this community talk about strange things like Tele Ashtrays and the bite of the Tele bridge pickup. Confused? Well, if you are not into the Telecaster, you should be. It is a brand specific forum. They talk about the Telecasters but the many wonderful people there also talk about other things other than the telecasters. They are forums for pedals, amps and jamming. I will recommend this forum for telecaster lovers first and foremost of course. Also, those who have been playing for a while and wants to learn more about guitars and playing especially with a telecaster. And it’s never a bad time to jump into exploring the Tele, the first electric guitar in the history of the world and amazingly one that Leo Fender built right from the start. There is also a equivalent Strat Forum
This is a genre specific forum. Jazz! but it a very beginner friendly forum. What I like about Jazzguitar.be is it has lots of lessons for starters and they are all very good quality lessons arranged in topics that interest you. If you are a guitar player, you have to explore jazz at one point or another. With this forum, why not now?
If you are into the acoustic guitar, this is the place to be. It’s acoustic, acoustics, acoustics (and sometimes also the kind of pickups it uses). It has great people in there and it is a great place for a beginner to be a part of. As usually a beginner do generally start with an acoustic guitar, it is also a big plus that its not a techie kind of forum. People are down to earth and the advice given is not intimidating. I love it here when I first started playing the guitar.
Having listed out the forums, I am also an active member of many other music forums that is more brand specific (like Fender Forum and the Gibson Forum). You may want to join them based on your O’guitar’s make and model.
I also frequent forums that not guitar specific. Why do I do that? Because guitar playing should be more about music playing. And music playing should be about life. So if we get ourselves interested in things to get us connected to how ‘humans’ work, we get into life that helps us to play music. Why do we feel what we feel? What touches us? What makes a real connection? These are good questions to get ourselves in communities.
Really being more human makes us more musical. So, it is a great habit to develop when we participate in forums get ourselves into communities.
Enjoy the benefit that comes with that.
How about you? Do you still use forums? Which forums do you frequent and why? What do you use these forums for?