The Long Way IS The Shortcut

You know, sometimes when you’re learning guitar it’s hard to know what to do next.

Especially in the modern world with all the YouTube stuff and TAB sites and so
much info available – it’s really tough to filter through it all and focus on the
right things.

So what do you do?

I came across a great article from Griff Hamlin of Blues Guitar Unleashed where he talks about this very topic and how sometimes it makes more sense to take what seems like the long approach than going at it head on.

Check it out…

Let’s say you really want to play a song – any song will do but let’s pick Stevie Ray’s “Pride & Joy” as an example.

But right now, you don’t play very well. You can’t play any songs at all.

So you spend the next 3 months hunched over the TAB and Youtube videos until you’ve learned all the notes to Pride & Joy.

You feel great now, right?

Probably not – it’s not going to sound very good.

But let’s say that instead of spending 3 months trying to learn “Pride & Joy” (which is probably too hard of a song to start with anyway… but I digress) you instead spend 3 months learning a few common chord voicings, some common rhythm and strumming patterns, and a couple of lead patterns.

You spend a little time each day focusing on your technique, and a little time each day focusing on the building blocks of guitar playing and blues playing specifically.

When you’re done with that 3 months, you decide to go back and learn “Pride & Joy,” but this time you discover that you’re able to learn it in 2 days instead of 3 months.

And not only does it sound better, but you realize that you can also play “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Guitar Hurricane,” “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” “Purple Haze,” “Born Under A Bad Sign,” “I’m Tore Down,” and a bunch of other tunes without too much additional trouble.

So using the “direct route” you learned 1 song in 3 months. Using the “roundabout” way, you learned 12 songs in 3 months and a week.

More importantly – in 6 months you’ve learned 20 more songs instead of 2 songs.

Now I’m not against learning songs – quite the contrary as I’m all for it. I think it’s a big part of learning to play and you should devote some time to it every day once the basics are down.

But if you don’t have those basics, those fundamentals, and you’re just going for gold right off the bat, you’re really setting yourself up for some disappointment. And if there’s one thing I’ve seen that takes people from playing their guitars to using them as closet decor, it’s frustration.

Think about some of the things you need to know in order to actually play a song like it sounds on the record:

  1. Chords – you need to be able to play all of the chords in the song. If you don’t know some of them, you’ll have to learn them.
  2. Scales (or melodic lines of some sort) – If there are melodies or lead lines, they all come from scales and will require your ability to play single notes to be up to par
  3. Rhythm – you have to be able to play along with other people or the recording. If you can’t play in time that’s going to be a problem
  4. Dynamics – you have to be comfortable playing this stuff or it won’t sound good. If it’s forced, it’ll sound forced. Just looking up how to play an E7#9 chord won’t make it so that you can play it easily on command. You’ll have to give it some time to sink it.

Think about where you’re weak spots are – and be honest about it. Make note of those things.

Look up some TABS or music to some of your favorite songs. Look at the rhythms and look at the chords – do you know them? If you don’t, write them down.

There may be other things – make note of what you see that you don’t know. That way you know what to work on. Look at several songs because you’ll start to see similarities between them. Maybe they all use barre chords and you’re weak with those. Maybe they all have solos that probably use the blues scale… there’s no telling what you’ll find, but you’ll find something :)

Once you have an idea of what you want to learn – it’s time to go about finding it. Of course, I’ve got several guitar learning DVDs, but there are many options available all the way from YouTube to a local private teacher.

So get to it and have some fun with it, I’ll talk to you soon.