What has helped your playing the most?

Discussion in 'Fred's Barcalounge' started by blueruins, Jul 4, 2021.

  1. hogrider16

    hogrider16 Gretschie

    Oct 18, 2017
    charles town wv
    There is no ONE thing. Learning scales and chords is great, but if you don't know how to apply them, what's the point? Learning songs is great, but if you can't take what you learned and apply it elsewhere, what's the point. Playing with other people is great, but if you don't know what to play, what's the point. We, as musicians, need to stop looking for the ONE thing and realize that there is no ONE thing.

    If you want to improve as a player - practice (by yourself), rehearse (with a band), and perform (for an audience). There is no other way; no shortcuts; no secrets; no tricks.
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  2. Fathand

    Fathand Electromatic

    Mar 14, 2019
    Port Dover
    Playing with other people, both in a band setting and in jam sessions. There is an overlap of skills but they will teach you different things. Most important, they both teach you to listen.
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  3. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    I think I saw the same video. There was a lot more to BB than just the simple licks he used to accent his Blues. He was capable of a lot, but also knew that he had to play t9 his audience’ tastes.

    Obviously, there is no magic bullet. However, if you combine knowledge of theory and scales with experience from playing a wide variety of songs, the application should reveal itself.

    One of the trickiest parts of teaching guitar is balancing technique, theory and repertoire. If you don’t give the students something that they can play and be proud of, they will become downhearted and give up. If you invert the logic of that, and just teach songs, you can end up in the “buy a lick” business and your students may not have enough theory to apply what they are learning for themselves.

    If you find the right mix of people, a band can really help.
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  4. Roy Clark

    Roy Clark Synchromatic

    Jun 16, 2017
    Bat cave.
    These video's. More than one.
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  5. hogrider16

    hogrider16 Gretschie

    Oct 18, 2017
    charles town wv
    Actually, I don't think it's obvious to a lot of people, based on threads I've seen on multiple forums. Even the OP frames this as "Learning songs or gaining knowledge?" Although he says, "Understanding that it all works together the theoretical and the practical," If you REALLY understand then you know it's not an either/or question.

    Just my 2 cents.
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  6. blueruins

    blueruins Country Gent

    May 28, 2013
    Savannah, GA
    My original (maybe not very well expressed) curiosity was if you felt that as a player you benefited more from techniques you picked up from learning other artists songs or from applying a lesson on theory?

    The question came to mind as I was reflecting on the influence that learning a few Hendrix tunes as a young kid had.

    I’ve spent a lot of years working on scales and CaGED and whatevs but I was wondering if my focus ought to be more directed at acquiring a wider repertoire?

    The answers have been way beyond the scope of what I expected from my stupid question...it’s pretty sweet really.
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  7. Bertotti

    Bertotti Friend of Fred

    Jul 20, 2017
    South Dakota
    A decade ago I thought a drum machine would be a good way to go so I popped for Maschine. I have barely scratched the surface and it was nothing more than a gateway drug to some synths and a full darn DW kit. I really think these things should have safety labels warning of their gateway possibilities.
  8. hogrider16

    hogrider16 Gretschie

    Oct 18, 2017
    charles town wv
    I don't think it's a stupid question, it's one we all struggle with - balance between theory and practice. As long as you understand it's not one or the other, which you do. Maybe another way to put it is, what percent of your time do you spend on each?

    There's also a third part to this - improvisation. I spend time learning new licks and figuring out how to use them in songs I already play; how to move a lick from one song to another, how to use pentatonic scales to move from one lick to the next; how to combine licks into solos.

    The big one on the bass forums is "Which is more important, theory and technique or groove?" Well dumb $#!+, if you are struggling to play your bass because your technique sucks, or you don't know what to play, you sure as hell aren't going to groove.
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  9. My sense is that nobody touches harmonic pairs well & explains them adequately. If anything gets you recognizing intervals, I should think learning pairs is a worthwhile skill.

    There are a number of skillsets (obviously). Categorizing them & working a bit on this & that keeps it from getting boring & changing to another category if bogged down ain’t a bad idea.

    If someone unscrewed the top of one’s head & just poured it in, people would cop an attitude.
    Whatever is pivotal to one person, may not be to the next.
    Is there a core set of archetypes?

    Whatever you didn’t know but learned right now is the most important thing. Everything you learned yesterday is an annoyance today. Seems to be the prevailing mindset of guitar players.

    Which is why so many think they are “self-taught?”
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2021
  10. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    Yep. I own a copy.

    We see ads along the lines of master the Blues with this one simple trick, which is insulting and stupid. If there was a single trick that would open up the world of music and make it all simple and easy, I would have stumbled on it by now.

    A number of years back, I was playing with another guitarist and he seemed to think that playing something well was a matter of luck. This fellow had one rhythm, a hard edged, straight four Rock beat, but he did create a few interesting solos. I came to the conclusion that he lacked the tools and techniques to play effectively, but recognized a tasteful and effective solo, so he created a solo that sounded good, it was mostly by trial and error. In this case, I would suggest that he was trying to play music without adequate understanding to support what he was playing.

    Understanding, in conjunction with knowledge, can be powerful. If you are playing a II, V, I in G Major, you can use any note from a G Major scale and be on safe theoretical ground, but that hardly guarantees a tasteful solo. Understanding that the melodic line has to express the tension and resolution of the chord changes allows you to select notes which will be tasteful and express the changes properly, but that doesn’t promise that the solo will be creative and satisfying.

    Everything in the last paragraph could be accomplished with a computer program. In order to create a meaningful and expressive solo, this computer logic has to be relegated to the role of framework, which guides the hands, but the ultimate product has to come from the imagination of the player, and that requires both experience and an ability to get what you hear in your kind, out and onto the instrument.

    If I play a Blues phrase well, it’s because all of the elements are working together. The BB King video mentioned above, in its entirety, reveals that the man knew his theory, had a good understanding of technique, had listened to great players and learned from their example and had successfully tied all of that together into a suite of capabilities which allowed him to express himself effectively. It doesn’t hurt that he had a lot of heart.

    IMHO, the CAGED system is a perfect example of knowledge without application. I use the same forms, but I organize them differently in my mind. I use three basic forms of two octave scales for Major and (harmonic) minor keys. One, superimposes over the open C chord (Major or minor) in the first position. The second superimposes over and open position A chord (Major or minor). The third superimposes over an open position E chord (Major or minor). I use these three forms as basic guidelines for selecting positions and I practiced these as full, two-octave scales in every key. It was tedious, but it paid off handsomely.

    I use other forms, but these three basic scale forms are my anchor and I use them to orient myself on the fretboard. I also use pentatonic forms, and these are very useful for moving on the neck and the built-in position changes in some of these forms make for efficient ways of moving between positions on the neck.

    Triad inversions helped greatly in stitching together the neck and giving me a simple way to orient, no matter where I find myself. These triads allow me to find pentatonics which are also great for orientation.

    Everything I mentioned was learned by slogging through the scales in the Johnny Smith Approach to Guitar, along with chord forms, triads, arpeggios and all of the elements that book brings together. When I first saw this book, i had been playing for at least 10 years, and I felt that I knew everything in the book. But then, when I tried playing those scales, etc. I realized that I wasn’t able to play all of those scales fluently and that my technique lacked discipline.

    The next few months were tough, as I had to unlearn bad habits and discipline myself to use only good habits. I’ve referred to this experience/process many times in various threads and I believe that this was pivotal in my development as a guitarist. Not only did I learn to do it the right way, but I also eliminated some spurious choices, with regard to scale forms, etc. As the years passed, I was able to expand upon these forms and to granulate-in ways to move between the three major scale forms, but I still orient myself with these three basic forms.
  11. There are easier ways than method books, or the “magic one trick.”

    Like guitar teachers: they know to do it in chunks, because you’ll be a repeat customer. The mealticket.
    However, if they could & did give it up in one sitting, the student would not absorb it all, or blow it off as too easy, undervalue what they were unselfishly given. Besides they had to slog thru it, why not their students?

    A lot of insecure general guitar teachers… teach what they personally do & dare not venture to speculate further. Like fingerstyle guitar, with or without picks, Thumb & 1,2,3 fingers. Rules like classical guitar thumb.
    Yeah, I have the 3 video (VHS, sigh) set as well. Not sure it was ever released in a higher res form. It should have been twice as long & has some tasty licks which underscore Riley B. did not freeze his skillset in the 1950’s / 60’s.

    The first one was also released as a book/CD.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2021
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  12. hogrider16

    hogrider16 Gretschie

    Oct 18, 2017
    charles town wv
    I think most people would be better off focusing on the basics rather than looking for that "pivotal" revelation. Most of my "pivotal" moments have come from suddenly understanding how the basics come together, rather than some new grand bit of knowledge.
    It's hard to image who wouldn't be helped from knowing their scales, chords and pentatonics.
    Just MHO, but I think most people are self taught because they are lazy. Taking lessons is hard work and takes discipline and sacrifice. All concepts becoming less and less popular.
  13. hogrider16

    hogrider16 Gretschie

    Oct 18, 2017
    charles town wv
    I agree with everything you said.
    blueruins likes this.
  14. There is no “self taught” for most people.
    Reading a book, is still “taught,” the same way studying CLEP material & taking the test, is still taught—just not someone reading it to you. Unless one learned to play on a desert island & learned some type of structure which they themselves invented.

    My point abt guitar teachers: finding a good one in person, is not easy. You are the recurring mealticket.

    If we allow the so-called “self-taught,” means people without a teacher in the same room forcing them into practice, I guess you’d have to explain how that is “lazy.” Taking lessons seems like a shortcut & the will comes from another person.

    Archetypes require reducing a thing down to primitive elements.
    What those are, is what I questioning. There are some good angles given from a lot of people.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2021
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  15. Byron

    Byron Country Gent

    Sep 4, 2009
    Eventually you learn that if you can't play it by now, it's probably no good
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  16. Butch Ammon

    Butch Ammon Gretschie

    Jan 3, 2016
    Richmond, VA
    Hmmmmm.... what has helped my playing?

    Musical diversity. I know... I know... it sounds strange, but it honestly helped. Instead of playing "Slowride" by Foghat or "Takin' Care of Business" by BTO, over and over and over and over... (Basic 70's three chord classic rock stuff that's been played to death...) I branched out and looked at 50's Rockabilly, I looked at slow jazz and swing 40's style stuff. I watched videos of Chet Atkins and Doc Watson, and my mind was blown...

    All sorts of different genres have helped me learn to become a better, more rounded, type of player.
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  17. Gregor

    Gregor Country Gent

    Glad you mentioned Scott Grove, Roy .I've been focusing on my so called soloing for the last while and decided to to go with a couple of Scott's courses. I've learned more practical tips about soloing from these two courses than anything else I've ever tried. Finally I can go anywhere on the fretboard in any key and sound pretty darn good IMHO. So this, I would say, has certainly helped my playing the most as far as soloing goes. Of course the journey is never over.
    blueruins likes this.
  18. Wavey

    Wavey Gretschie

    Dec 31, 2016
    For me it's probably been the overwhelming desire to play guitar at every possible chance. This in turn has led to practice sessions, which led to learning and playing modes and scales, and also learning songs which in turn led to creating my own compositions. Now...back to playing!
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  19. dougmon

    dougmon Synchromatic

    Jan 9, 2013
    The thing that got me away from playing "demo blues licks" was learning more complex chords and arpeggios. But it's going to be a lifelong process; I know some cool jazz chords/scales/arpeggios, but learning to use them in a musical context is ongoing.
    Viking Power likes this.
  20. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    As you posted, there is no one secret. The “secret” is learning everything you need to know in order to play music, plus practicing so that you can put everything you have learned into practical application.

    Johnny Smith once wrote that the goal of a teacher is to teach someone how to learn on their own, or words to that effect.

    I’ve learned a great deal on my own. When I was fourteen, having heard the song twice, I sat down by myself and learned to play Classical Gas from sheet music. I still use those fingerings, decades later, so I would say that I did alright.

    But I have had five instructors over the years and I’m thankful to all of them. Beyond that, I taught guitar for years and made a significant part of my living from teaching. I believe that I had a lot to offer my students, but in retrospect, I could have done better had I prepared more supplemental material and not relied so heavily on method books.

    The trick is finding a good teacher and not just a lick salesman. I would agree that more than a few teachers leave a lot to be desired. I’ve met a couple that went straight for the gold and taught their students select intros and solos from Classic Rock and Heavy Metal songs, but don’t do much to equip their students to be able to learn songs on their own.

    I would not agree, however, that taking lessons is some sort of shortcut or that the will to practice comes from the instructor. I never pushed my students or insisted that they learn at a pace beyond what they wanted to do. However, I insisted that my students use proper technique and wouldn’t let them use sloppy fingerings or poor RH technique. I was respectful about it and patient, but I monitored their progress and made certain that they weren’t backsliding into bad habits which could keep them from reaching their potential.

    I provided a service and I was not shy about charging for my skills. No one forced my students to continue their lessons and some didn’t last, while others I had for years. A good instructor can work wonders and help to keep a student on track. I’ve had any number of intermediate players come to me for lessons because they had stalled in their learning. An instructor shouldn’t be a Drill Instructor, but should serve as an objective observer that helps a student by providing feedback and helping an intermediate student to understand why they are not progressing.

    I have no dog in the fight; I don’t teach for pay anymore, but I have been known to do a little informal, pro bono, teaching if I feel that the student is sincerely interested in learning. That having been said, if you can find a truly good instructor it is well worth the money and much more importantly, well worth your time.
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