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Posted: 2/11/2006 4:04:04 PM EDT
I've been playing the guitar on and off (more off, it seems) for 10 years. In 10 years time, I haven't progressed as much as I should have. I can play all sorts of tunes, but I'm not satisfied. Here's the thing:

I can sit down and learn (within reason) pretty much any tune. Sometimes I pick up tab books, and other times I just play songs over and over until I get them. As a strange example, I can play Cream's Crossroads beginning to end - note for note. While everybody that listens is impressed, I'm not. I have no idea what I'm doing. Sure it sounds great, and I get the occasional thumbs up from approving bystanders, but I'm just memorizing finger placement. I have no idea WHY I'm doing anything. If I try to improvise or jam on my own (or with a band), it's a dismal failure. It sucks. Why? Because I have no idea what I'm doing. It's just me clobbering bits and pieces I've remembered together in a pathetic attempt to form a solo.

Knowing how to play dozens of songs note for note doesn't work for me anymore. I'm bored. I'd rather someone listen to ME and say "Gee, that's pretty cool. I wonder how he did that?".

Have any of you experienced this same thing? Have you overcome it? If so, how? I need a plan for improvement. I feel like I have a mental block or something. I simply can't improve.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:11:09 PM EDT
Ever try "Band In The Pocket"? It's jam tracks with the lead guitar removed. They have Rock, Blues, Funk, etc in different keys and tempos. Try playing your own lead. Make it up as you go. Record yourself. Listen to the tape and make improvements, or replay what you like.

Learn some new modes. They can give your improve a different feel.



Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:12:34 PM EDT
Have you thought about taking lessons? You can learn a great deal from other guitarists this way. I recommend learning theory (if you don't already). Learn your scales, triads...etc.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:13:43 PM EDT
Do you write your own material? Try listening to some new styles, it helps my playing. I don't practice scales that much, but when I feel like I'm in a rut I'll bust out my scale book.

Ever try alternate tunings?
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:13:52 PM EDT
My dad collects guitars and when it comes to music I have two left feet.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:14:11 PM EDT
I clicked on this because I went through a rut where my guitars just collected dust for about 3 years. I just stopped playing one day, and though I left them out, they collected dust. I just got back into playing about 6 months ago.

As for improvising, I've learned alot just by noodling along with songs, not trying to play them, but fit in as another player. I've found doing that, and just plain noodling when no song is playing, taught me alot about improvising on the fly.


Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:16:16 PM EDT
Never gotten to you level. Ever consider jazz and improvisation?
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:20:36 PM EDT
I went through that several times over the arc of my playing. I really hit what to me was a technical barrier about 5 years into it, where I just ran into a point where I couldn't get faster, or more capable.

In a way, that ended up being a good thing though because it forced me to rethink what I was doing, and instead of becoming faster or more dextrous, I worked on smooth and sound, trying to get my guitar to work inside of a piece of music.

Inevitably I started writing songs and instead of obsessing about how I was playing, I started worrying more about what I was playing, and did it serve the song?

It changed me from a guitarist to a songwriter and I still see the guitar as a tool to make songs with, rather than an instrument for showing everyone how good I am.

Maybe what you need to do is start using your guitar like a gun, not to collect or to show off but to serve a purpose.....use it like a tool.

Hope that makes some sense.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:21:57 PM EDT

Originally Posted By TheStig:
Have you thought about taking lessons? You can learn a great deal from other guitarists this way. I recommend learning theory (if you don't already). Learn your scales, triads...etc.



+1 music theory is a big plus, you will know the "why" after learning the theory, Scales are big, you learn them and you know what notes you "can" play and the ones you "can't"
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:25:10 PM EDT
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:29:11 PM EDT

Originally Posted By swingset:
I went through that several times over the arc of my playing. I really hit what to me was a technical barrier about 5 years into it, where I just ran into a point where I couldn't get faster, or more capable.

In a way, that ended up being a good thing though because it forced me to rethink what I was doing, and instead of becoming faster or more dextrous, I worked on smooth and sound, trying to get my guitar to work inside of a piece of music.

Inevitably I started writing songs and instead of obsessing about how I was playing, I started worrying more about what I was playing, and did it serve the song?

It changed me from a guitarist to a songwriter and I still see the guitar as a tool to make songs with, rather than an instrument for showing everyone how good I am.

Maybe what you need to do is start using your guitar like a gun, not to collect or to show off but to serve a purpose.....use it like a tool.

Hope that makes some sense.



That makes alot of sense. I'm beginning to think that I'm severly deficient in the theory department. Actually, I know I am.

The funny thing is I can still sight read for the sax and clarinet. Why I never did this for the guitar is a mystery to me. Lord knows, I've probably got TONS of bad habits.

I'll be in a better position to use the guitar as a tool to make songs with, when I get an idea WHY some things are done the way they are. If you asked me to play along with "x" in A minor, I'd stare at the fretboard while making a face that looks something like this ->
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:41:56 PM EDT
Playing notes isn't really satisfying in the end,

Working to obtain a unique style is very satisfying. A lot of guitarists know how to play Crossroads. But only SRV will sound like SRV while playing it. Same with Clapton, Hendrix or Vai. The cords are the same, but the strumming, pick attack, finger picking, power cords, harmonics, syncopation and arrangements are unique to the individual player.

Have some fun. Try playing the same song ten different ways. Unique design is mixing two or more seperate techniques to form something new. Flaminco & Blues. Trumpet styling and Jazz guitar tones. Look at Jeff Healey's combination of steel guitar and blues riffs.

There are many guitarists, but only a few with a unique style you recognize within a few bars.

What kind of guitar do you like to play? What type of originals do you write?
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:45:03 PM EDT
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:46:08 PM EDT


I'd take a few lessons with a teacher. Tell him you want to learn to improvise.


Can you jam to basic blues progressions? Maybe get some of those big "encyclopedia of licks" type books and try to internalize some licks to make your improves sound more interesting. SAme thing with books of transcriptions of great guitarists solos. OR you can improve your ear at the same time as your playing by trying to learn great players' solos note for note just by listening and copying.


If it were me I'd start by find a good teacher to help you get the improv thing going better.



Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:46:54 PM EDT

Originally Posted By The_Beer_Slayer:
join a polka band



Given that my last name ends in "ski", it does seem inevitable.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:48:00 PM EDT
Also, if you hit up the bittorrent trackers, you can usually find shite-loads of guitar instructional materials. Books, videos, etc.

Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:48:45 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Spyda:
What kind of guitar do you like to play? What type of originals do you write?



I've written nothing original. As for my guitar, it's an SG. Or did you want to know what style of music I enjoy playing?
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:49:01 PM EDT
Might sound funny, but what always helped me… Quit. For a month or a week, just give it a rest and when I came back to playing I always improved by leaps and bounds.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:52:09 PM EDT
Both,

Polka huh? Might be a trip. What kind of music do you like? Rock, etc? Do you finger pick? Own an acoustic?
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:53:05 PM EDT
1. Learn theory.

2. Join a band.

3. Play a totally new style of music.

4. Take a riff, and mold it, change it, make it your own. Don't just change keys or anything like that, play it backwards, cut it up, play it at a different tempo, skip parts, do whatever, take stuff and start changing it.

Don't know what to change it to? See #1, or just start messing around until it sounds good to YOU.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 4:54:50 PM EDT

Originally Posted By SubnetMask:

Originally Posted By The_Beer_Slayer:
join a polka band



Given that my last name ends in "ski", it does seem inevitable.



Link Posted: 2/11/2006 5:06:24 PM EDT
Duh! Daytona beat me to it.
Sit in with some good "Git Fiddlers."
I was fortunate enough to jam a lot with some old Black "Git Fiddle" players.
They complimented me: Said I a had a nice complexion for a white man!
And that I had the extry hand bone to play!
Or try a new style, or tuning. Open G is fun, more with a slide.
Get bored, try a lot of alt. tunings, and workout with the heavyweights.
And, have FUN! JAM!
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 5:33:23 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Spyda:
Both,

Polka huh? Might be a trip. What kind of music do you like? Rock, etc? Do you finger pick? Own an acoustic?



What kind of music? Whoa boy, that's opening a can of worms.

Let's limit the discussion to riff oriented blues-based rock. Think Cream, The James Gang, early Zeppelin, Hendrix, Budgie, Sabbath, early Aerosmith, early Jethro Tull, Creedence, you know...stuff like that.

I don't want to give a laundry list of everything I'm into, or people's heads will spin over Kris Kristofferson, ELP, Charlie Daniels, May Blitz, David Allen Coe, Merle Haggard, and Frank Sinatra (to name a few).

Think blues, think heavy, think old, think analog.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 5:42:38 PM EDT
Learn your scales and learn your keys.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 5:46:31 PM EDT
I'd call Esteban.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 5:47:38 PM EDT

Originally Posted By SubnetMask:
Let's limit the discussion to riff oriented blues-based rock. Think Cream, The James Gang, early Zeppelin, Hendrix, Budgie, Sabbath, early Aerosmith, early Jethro Tull, Creedence, you know...stuff like that.

I don't want to give a laundry list of everything I'm into, or people's heads will spin over Kris Kristofferson, ELP, Charlie Daniels, May Blitz, David Allen Coe, Merle Haggard, and Frank Sinatra (to name a few).

Think blues, think heavy, think old, think analog.



A good starting point would be to learn the pentatonic scale and it's fingering in each position. For the most part all of the music that you listed is based on a couple of scales (the simplest being the pentatonic scale) which is played using the same notes in different positions on the fretboard.

Link Posted: 2/11/2006 5:54:24 PM EDT

Originally Posted By SubnetMask:

Originally Posted By Spyda:
Both,

Polka huh? Might be a trip. What kind of music do you like? Rock, etc? Do you finger pick? Own an acoustic?



What kind of music? Whoa boy, that's opening a can of worms.

Let's limit the discussion to riff oriented blues-based rock. Think Cream, The James Gang, early Zeppelin, Hendrix, Budgie, Sabbath, early Aerosmith, early Jethro Tull, Creedence, you know...stuff like that.

I don't want to give a laundry list of everything I'm into, or people's heads will spin over Kris Kristofferson, ELP, Charlie Daniels, May Blitz, David Allen Coe, Merle Haggard, and Frank Sinatra (to name a few).

Think blues, think heavy, think old, think analog.



Oh, you play blues? Do you know your basic blues scales? You should be able to fly off those.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 5:58:48 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Daytona955i:

Originally Posted By SubnetMask:

Originally Posted By Spyda:
Both,

Polka huh? Might be a trip. What kind of music do you like? Rock, etc? Do you finger pick? Own an acoustic?



What kind of music? Whoa boy, that's opening a can of worms.

Let's limit the discussion to riff oriented blues-based rock. Think Cream, The James Gang, early Zeppelin, Hendrix, Budgie, Sabbath, early Aerosmith, early Jethro Tull, Creedence, you know...stuff like that.

I don't want to give a laundry list of everything I'm into, or people's heads will spin over Kris Kristofferson, ELP, Charlie Daniels, May Blitz, David Allen Coe, Merle Haggard, and Frank Sinatra (to name a few).

Think blues, think heavy, think old, think analog.



Oh, you play blues? Do you know your basic blues scales? You should be able to fly off those.



I know the patterns, but I can never remember where to play them in a particular key. I'm unable to point at any particular fret and instantly identify a note. I have to stare at it and think about it for a second.

When I practice scales, it never seems to go anywhere. I'm just...playing scales.

Like I said, I seem to have some sort of mental block.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 6:08:39 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/11/2006 6:09:33 PM EDT by heavily_armed]
So you're not in a band? Why do you play guitar exactly?

If it's purely for personal enjoyment, then take up the lessons. But consider getting together with some musicians a few times a month. Start with some covers. Eventually you'll end up in some kind of "free jam" situation--someone walks in with a cool riff and everyone else feeds off it. When everything works it's better than crack (or....something, but I digress). The process of creating music like this puts you under pressure--just a little--and even if you flub it the first time you'll take that home and it will inspire you.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 7:19:14 PM EDT
SubnetMask, I'm in the same rut man.

I just ordered a book called "Fretboard Logic", by Bill Edwards. I'll admit it, I bought it based on reviews at Musician's Friend and Amazon. Then, I checked out his site, and of course, everything is glowing and, "this is the best book ever man!". I don't know, I'm taking a chance with it. Just a book, hell, I'll shoot seventeen bucks worth of ammo, in an afternoon at the range, so I thought, why not.

I'm not shilling for this guy, and if anyone else has any expirience with the book, I'd love to hear it. Not all the reviews were good, but it seems like it might be worth reading.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 7:24:27 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Swervedriver:
SubnetMask, I'm in the same rut man.

I just ordered a book called "Fretboard Logic", by Bill Edwards. I'll admit it, I bought it based on reviews at Musician's Friend and Amazon. Then, I checked out his site, and of course, everything is glowing and, "this is the best book ever man!". I don't know, I'm taking a chance with it. Just a book, hell, I'll shoot seventeen bucks worth of ammo, in an afternoon at the range, so I thought, why not.

I'm not shilling for this guy, and if anyone else has any expirience with the book, I'd love to hear it. Not all the reviews were good, but it seems like it might be worth reading.



Hmmm. Might be worth consideration, pending further discussion from ARFCOMMERS who have read it. Then again, it's only 17 bucks, so why not?
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 7:42:15 PM EDT

Originally Posted By SubnetMask:

Originally Posted By Daytona955i:

Originally Posted By SubnetMask:

Originally Posted By Spyda:
Both,

Polka huh? Might be a trip. What kind of music do you like? Rock, etc? Do you finger pick? Own an acoustic?



What kind of music? Whoa boy, that's opening a can of worms.

Let's limit the discussion to riff oriented blues-based rock. Think Cream, The James Gang, early Zeppelin, Hendrix, Budgie, Sabbath, early Aerosmith, early Jethro Tull, Creedence, you know...stuff like that.

I don't want to give a laundry list of everything I'm into, or people's heads will spin over Kris Kristofferson, ELP, Charlie Daniels, May Blitz, David Allen Coe, Merle Haggard, and Frank Sinatra (to name a few).

Think blues, think heavy, think old, think analog.



Oh, you play blues? Do you know your basic blues scales? You should be able to fly off those.



I know the patterns, but I can never remember where to play them in a particular key. I'm unable to point at any particular fret and instantly identify a note. I have to stare at it and think about it for a second.

When I practice scales, it never seems to go anywhere. I'm just...playing scales.

Like I said, I seem to have some sort of mental block.



I'm pretty sure I know what you're problem is.

You're good, you can play, but you don't know WHY you play what you play. You've got all the patterns and your physical skill is to par, but you need the background to fill it in to make connections between things.

You're right, it is a mental block, because you're looking at the neck of your guitar as strings and frets. Learn what things are and how they relate to each other, and I think the rest will fall into place for you.
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 9:45:38 PM EDT
Hey all,

Long time fingerstyle player here. Great ideas all around. I think that Daytona and hdhogman said it best, and if I were to help a student out of their "rut", I would probably follow their direction. Get practicing and possibly start fooling around with some open tunings. Like hd said, standard G(dgdgbd) or standard D(dadf#ad) would be great for the kind of blues rock syle that you enjoy.

1) If you are unsure what the notes of the board are, learn them. Use notecards - at least that has worked for me. Also, if you are not completely familiar with the patterns of certain scales or arpeggios, write them down and go through them. If you like electric blues playing you should be familiar with your maj, maj/min pent in ascending positions, Mixolydian, etc. Further, you'll want to start learning your inversions in as many positions as possible just to keep things fresh - too many players with first position limitations, so practice up to keep it fresh!

2) Leo Kottke once commented at a master class that, "your rut IS your style". I see that as highly profound. I dont know if that has any bearing on this situation, but I really feel that I know what he was saying and it helped me analyze myself a bit. We all get stuck.

3)There is nothing as therapeutic for your playing as putting the thing away for a while to come back fresh. If you use the instrument for expression, you can get caught in its quirks and particularities, and your own mindset or approach. If you notice, you may approach a certain chord the same way, or a scalar run, chord movements or lick. This is what you are feeling. This is your rut. So, expand it if possible, and an easy way to get started is to purposely eliminate certain elements of your vocabulary. Dont worry, you will never really forget them, but you will push them back a bit.

4) Alot of times, I like to go through chord books just for the heck of it. You can really get lost for awhile. Also, play in keys that you usually dont attend too. Regardless of how good you are, you are used to playing in A, C, D, G, E. Try G#, or Bb. Wes Montgomery used to speak about playing around with octaves and working the instrument from there.

5) If you play with a pick, why not start working on incorporating fingers M (swear) and A(ring) into the mix. In fact, get working on your neglected pinky if you can. Tons of great players in your style get doewn with their fingers - Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanon(sp), Duane Allman, Mark Ford, Jeff Beck, SRV, Mark Knopfler, ad nauseum. That will open up alot of avenues for grabbing at chords, double stops, licks, etc.

6) If you are getting into really learning the instrument on a more theoretical level, the CAGED system is a good one to investigate for those that like to solo on electreic alot. Its a fairly simple system that is not lacking "real" knowledge. Its good. Google it.

Good luck and keep playing!

By the way, it's always nice talking to firearm enthusiasts who love the guitar. CMJohnson, are you on the 13th fret, ASIA or MIMF forums? Im looking for some advice on a hobby build I want to do - it would be my first. If you are willing, please email me at NRAattackdog@yahoo.com
Link Posted: 2/11/2006 10:16:09 PM EDT
Try learning solo's from the guitar gods like G&R, Metallica, satch, Vai, SRV, or whatever style you like best to improve on solo's.

But solo's arn't everything. Many guitar players focus too much on them when 95% of most songs are rhythm.

Jam with others and pic-up things they do. write a song or two with someone else. That should get your creative juces flowing.
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