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Improving Guitar Skills

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GUEST,Woody 03 Jun 04 - 01:49 PM
C-flat 03 Jun 04 - 02:28 PM
Amos 03 Jun 04 - 02:33 PM
jeffp 03 Jun 04 - 03:05 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Jun 04 - 03:49 PM
Once Famous 03 Jun 04 - 03:58 PM
Grab 03 Jun 04 - 06:15 PM
Clinton Hammond 03 Jun 04 - 06:19 PM
s&r 03 Jun 04 - 06:33 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Jun 04 - 06:55 PM
khandu 03 Jun 04 - 07:34 PM
Mudlark 03 Jun 04 - 08:23 PM
The Fooles Troupe 03 Jun 04 - 08:50 PM
Once Famous 03 Jun 04 - 09:12 PM
Amos 03 Jun 04 - 09:31 PM
wysiwyg 03 Jun 04 - 11:22 PM
Mark Clark 03 Jun 04 - 11:54 PM
Mooh 04 Jun 04 - 12:29 AM
M.Ted 04 Jun 04 - 01:24 AM
Big Al Whittle 04 Jun 04 - 04:11 AM
Big Al Whittle 04 Jun 04 - 04:17 AM
s&r 04 Jun 04 - 04:22 AM
Sir Roger de Beverley 04 Jun 04 - 04:29 AM
GMT 04 Jun 04 - 05:38 AM
GUEST,woody 04 Jun 04 - 08:26 AM
The Fooles Troupe 04 Jun 04 - 09:09 AM
s&r 04 Jun 04 - 10:10 AM
Peter T. 04 Jun 04 - 11:33 AM
The Fooles Troupe 04 Jun 04 - 09:16 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 05 Jun 04 - 02:49 PM
Mooh 06 Jun 04 - 12:10 AM
Eve Goldberg 06 Jun 04 - 10:09 PM
Grab 07 Jun 04 - 05:26 PM
s&r 07 Jun 04 - 07:20 PM
Terry K 08 Jun 04 - 04:29 AM
M.Ted 08 Jun 04 - 03:52 PM
Once Famous 08 Jun 04 - 04:57 PM
Chief Chaos 09 Jun 04 - 12:57 PM
Wesley S 09 Jun 04 - 01:50 PM
Once Famous 09 Jun 04 - 02:33 PM
Maryrrf 09 Jun 04 - 02:36 PM
Mark Clark 09 Jun 04 - 05:29 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Jun 04 - 05:31 PM
s&r 09 Jun 04 - 05:54 PM
The Fooles Troupe 09 Jun 04 - 06:47 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Jun 04 - 07:42 PM
GUEST,Wesley S at Home 09 Jun 04 - 07:58 PM
Mark Clark 09 Jun 04 - 09:21 PM
shepherdlass 15 Jul 04 - 07:32 AM
Richard Bridge 15 Jul 04 - 03:46 PM
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Subject: Improving Guitar Skills - Advice?
From: GUEST,Woody
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 01:49 PM

Hello, I posted a while ago asking if a mediocre guitar player could get away with it if they could sing. Everybody said yes, but I still want to improve my playing. What I would really like to do is pick out the melody for a verse, or at least a few bars, of the song - something like Doc Watson (I realize he's very advanced but you get the idea). I can't read music (only chords) and I can't afford lessons, so I'm on my own. I've picked out several songs and have managed to figure out how to play the melody and have been practicing although I still can't play anything through entirely without mistakes. I've chosen things like "Star of the County Down", Loch Lomond", "Barbara Allen" etc.

Here are my questions:

Is it better to just stick to a few songs and just practice ad nauseum until I can play them all the way through without mistakes i.e. perfectly, or should I experiment more in the beginning. For example, I'll be working through "Star of the County Down" and then start thinking about other songs and start trying to pick out other melodies. I'm getting much better at it as I go along.

Another problem I'm having - I find it so difficult to play bar chords. It's like I don't have enough hand or finger strenght. Any tips on how to overcome that?

Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: C-flat
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 02:28 PM

A great many songs are constructed on a simple melody that is easy to find within the chord shapes they use. It may require a small shape adjustment or the use of different fingering, but, with time your hand-memory will kick in and you'll start to "visualise" what notes are where within certain shapes.
Play lots of different tunes, you'll see the same patterns emerging in many of them (there are plenty of exeptions) and your "ear" will develop to the point where you can busk along with unfamiliar songs.

As for barre chords, it has more to do with technique and the shape and size of your hands, rather than strength, also hand strength is helpful.
Keep doing what you're doing and the rest will follow!

C-flat.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Amos
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 02:33 PM

I found it helped a lot to take some tune like "Jesu Joy Off Man's Desiring" and practice picking it out note by note until I had it down cold and could do it fast. Doing several songs in this fashion adds up to knowing a lot of runs, which in turn fit into playing lots of songs. You can start with simpler tunes like Laredo or the like but the trick is to use a tune to focus your attention on playing sequences smoothly.

Expand from there into doing runs of duples -- two note pairs up and down.

A


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: jeffp
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 03:05 PM

If you know somebody in your area who has these skills, try to get together with them occasionally and trade songs, tips, whatever. If you feel you have nothing to offer, you are probably mistaken. Offer food, beer, applause, whatever you can offer. Who knows, you may wind up forming a band. It happened to me over 20 years ago and I still get together with the same guy from time to time even though it's now a long drive to do this.

Where are you?

jeffp


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 03:49 PM

Strengthening your hands does make barré chords a lot easier - and a way to do that is to get hold of a foam rubber ball (size of a tennis ball, but more flexible), and squeeze it repeatedly in odd moments. For the muscles going the other way (opening rather than closing the fingers) a rubber band, the kind posties have when they are delivering letters, will do the trick.

But you can get a long way without ever using barré chords anyway, more especially if you have a decent capo.

What I've always tended to do is, look for the note I want within a chord I want to play. Or pick a chord that has the note I want to play. And just doodle around picking out bits of tunes on my own, so my fingers know where the notes are without my mind telling them.

Different people have different shaped brains for this kind of thing. What works for one person won't work for the next. Some people like to know what they are doing before they do it, some have to do it before they actually know what it is they are doing. (And if that last doesn't make sense, you are probably one of the first sort.)


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Once Famous
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 03:58 PM

what hasn't been mentioned about barre chords is the guitar itself. Certainly, a cheapo with a baseball bat neck and high action will make it more difficult.

It is pretty well known that a half way decent guitar will improve your playing speed and intonation. No one is saying to go out an buy a Martin D28, but some mid priced Epiphones and the like might help.

When I was very young (12-13) and did not have as good left hand strength and an Old Kay guitar as described above, I used to capo it on the 5th fret or so which would give me lower action for first position F chords like F or Bb.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Grab
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 06:15 PM

MG, the capo technique does give lower action, but there's the tradeoff that the frets are closer together so it's more difficult to squeeze your fingers in... :-/

Woody, bar chords are a combination of technique and strength. It takes both to play them properly.

One problem with bar chords is that since you're using your first finger for the bar, the other fingers are used much more heavily, and in ways which you're not used to. Try playing E and A chords using your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers to build up those fingers and get them used to the shapes they'll be doing. If you're feeling brave, try D and C as well. Believe me, your fingers will be letting you know all about it after half an hour of that, especially D and C! ;-)

But part of it is simply strength and endurance in the muscle at the base of your left thumb. Keep working on it, and it'll develop. You can try using a Gripmaster or squeezing a squash ball, but as with other "sport-specific" muscles, the best way of developing them is by using them to play bar chords! Work on the F bar chord first, as that's easiest to maintain, and when you're getting that about right, try Bm. Songs in Bm are *very* good for practising bar chords, because there's usually Bm, F# and F#m in there. Hotel California, Down to the Waterline (Dire Straits) and Famous Blue Raincoat (Leonard Cohen) were my practise pieces for that, although there's plenty of others out there. Bb is more of a finger-twister, so I wouldn't recommend that until you're getting confident with F and Bm shapes.

Don't forget that lighter strings are *not* cheating. Clean playing is *always* better than volume, and if lighter strings make it easier to play now then by all means use them. When your finger strength has built up a bit then you can always go for heavier gauge strings - like weight training, there's no point in using heavy weights before you're ready for it.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 06:19 PM

I found the best way to improve my playing at bar chords was to just play 'em... No amount of hand exercising or ball-squeezing (grow up!) had half as much impact as just playing them... sure fo rhte longest time they sounded like cr@p... but then one day, they just sorta fell into place...

Seem to me to be the answer... the best way to improve your playing is to play!

:-)


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: s&r
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 06:33 PM

Sorry if this is a long boring post - these are the observations I have made with many students. If you are anywhere near us (NW I would be happy to show you.
You need someone to check your position - in general the barre is made by the straight part of the finger i.e. away from the palm. It's easier if there's a gap between the guitar neck and the base of the thumb. When you practise barres put the barre on after the other fingers in the chord, else your barring finger gets tired. To develop, use the "F" shape at the fifth fret (A Chord) the strings are 'softer there and the frets a bit closer together. To minimise wrist strain, keep the neck high, at or about shoulder level, and the face of the guitar neck vertical. Make sure that the guitar is supported by the body or strap - if you use the neck as a handle to hold the guitar with the hand will not be free to place the barre. Don't put pressure on until you play the chord, and when the string s hit the wood stop pushing.

Stu


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 06:55 PM

Of course, with most non-classical guitars, you can play the F shape all the way up the neck without actually using a barré at all, but fretting the low E string with your thumb - this has the advantage that, on the third fret (where it becomes G) you can just lift the second finger and let the open G string ring out. And the same on the eighth fret (where it becomes C). I love the sound of those two chords shapes.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: khandu
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 07:34 PM

Woody
If you would join Mudcat, rather than sign on as a guest, we could PM you & be of more inter-active help!

Ken


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Mudlark
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 08:23 PM

I'm not one to give aid, as I'm in about the same boat as you, but there are certain songs, like Wildwood Flower, that when played in a certain key, C in this case, sort of play themselves...the melody is all there in the chord...900 miles is another, in E, I think. I've also resorted to "cheater" barre chords, since I too find them impossible...and with care in avoiding the "off " strings they do very nicely.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 08:50 PM

The principle is:

Practice most the things you are having the most difficulty with: practising the the bits you CAN do doesn't help with the the bits you can't do.

Playing scales (on any instrument) trains your mind/body reflexes to play those runs in any tune. The 'Hannon' style method of exercises also trains the player to play arpeggios, and other patterns, all of which occur regularly in 'normal music'.

The thing I found the most difficult when learning the tin whistle was the octave jump. A few weeks of practising a lot of those and things improved massively (it's breath control really) - that improvement in techniques assisted many other things I was having difficulty with that also involved breath control skills.

Robin


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Once Famous
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 09:12 PM

Grab, in my case as a youth the closer together frets were also welcome. I had small hands.

I ended up buying a wonderful Gibson LG3 new in early 1963. The top of the line small guitar by Gibson, it's great action and thin neck solved my problems. Good guitars do make a difference.

I still have that sweet little LG3 in my collection today. Unbelievable sound.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Amos
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 09:31 PM

I weep for an LG3 I had as a gift and left in the trunk of a taxicab in a drunken stupour one night in 1969, on a Danish waterfront. Ah, woe, what a loss.

A


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: wysiwyg
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 11:22 PM

When you watch a good player play melody at tempo on any stringed/necked instrument, what you see is a series of gestures sort of thrown casually at the neck, with each gesture forming a phrase or part of the phrase. With enough time racked up eking out a tune note by note, the brain integrates the pattern of movements and, after awhile, the feel of these gestures get ingrained in the brain. Watch for the development of this. The brain and brain-hand coordination do it on their own while you're focusing on something else, or while you are sleeping, and you'll see the skill emerge in gestures without a conscious effort on your part to make it happen.

You will probably discover keys that are most confortable to do this in, that also work well for you to sing in. Its OK to retune the guitar to make this easier, as long as other players you play with know what key to capo to in without retuning. Eventually you will be able to transfer the skills to any key and various tunings.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Mark Clark
Date: 03 Jun 04 - 11:54 PM

And Woody, don't forget that a great many knowledgable players have spent countless hours building the store of guitar knowledge contained in the threads crossreferenced at the top of this very page under the heading Related threads:. There is enough detailed information in those threads to help you as a beginner and continue to help you as you become more advanced. True, the information isn't presented as graduated lessons but reading them and trying the tips over and over will be very helpful.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Mooh
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 12:29 AM

Sorry if I repeat anything previously mentioned...this is from my chord workshop notes. On the barre chord front I suggest trying...

1) Lighter guage strings to reduce string tension against the fingers and perhaps drop the string height slightly if the neck senses the reduction,

2) &/or drop the tuning a half step to achieve the same.

3) Get the guitar a decent set-up.

4) Do not hammer away at barre chords for longer than it takes to develop muscle tension or pain in the fretting hand. Muscle tension is not good. It's better to practice the barres in many short spurts every day than in one long session. The constant formation and de-formation of the fretting hand will create better muscle tone and hand shape more quickly. Do not miss a day of practice and better yet, do not miss the barre drill for more than 4 or 5 hours if possible. Relax the hand between forming each chord to get the muscles used to making them from the relaxed state. Quit your day job and commit yourself to guitar.

5) The thumb of the fretting hand should be pointing roughly upwards (perpendicular to the neck) and positioned opposite the first or second finger for maximum pressure with minimun effort.

6) Some players can reduce the pressure they exert on the strings being fretted by other fingers, reducing the required hand strength.

7) Fret all strings as much as possible directly behind the fret required. The further back the finger, the greater the required pressure, and the less accurate the pitch.

8) Many players are more comfortable with the first finger turned or rotated a bit. Your milage may vary.

9) Avoid muting strings/notes with fingers on neighbouring strings by directing the non-barreing fingers straight down on the string.

10) Using the strumming arm to "lever" the guitar physically against the fretting hand works for some players, though it can cause some additional restriction of strum hand/arm movement if used too much.

11) Cocking the fretting arm towards the body is often suggested but I don't care for it as it seems to create some muscle tension in that side of the shoulder and arm reducing freedom of movement for the fretting hand.

12) The capo will lower the action on most guitars enough to notice, and when combined with detuning it makes playing at concert pitch easier.

13) The actual physical weight of the hand and arm can help if you allow gravity to direct that weight against the strings, however slight.

14) To form the barre, do not add pressure to the strings until all the fingers are in place. As you get faster at this, the time between formation and pressure will become instantaneous. Don't forget to relax the hand between barres, even if it means playing some familiar open chords to reduce tension and build confidence.

15) As you get faster and stronger, return the guitar to standard pitch &/or string guages, remove the capo, and play without missing a day. A missed day for many players takes a day to catch up.

16) The discomfort of the strings cutting into the tender flesh of the fingers will reduce with time and practice and toughening of skin, and the finger will eventually find the placement of optimal comfort virtually every time.

17) Fretting fingers should have short nails which do not contact the fingerboard.

18) Loose the jewelry if it inhibits finger movement or contacts the strings.

19) The angle of the wrist should not exceed the point of any (!) discomfort. Adjust neck angle and lower arm posture to help. Many players do not bend the hand quite enough at the large knuckle, forcing the wrist to bend more than necessary. Yes, your hand size and strength plays a part in this, and with most guitar things there are compromise positions too.

20) Practice. Leave your axe out where you can grab it for a few seconds every time you see it. Make the barre, and release it. Apply muscle force and relax. Repeat until comfortable. Deliberately try to increase the speed at which you can do this.

Class dismissed.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: M.Ted
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 01:24 AM

When you start out, you need to learn to play clean, full sounding notes, and you need to learn to keep perfect time--you also need to play chord changes and single note passages in smooth, continuous movements without fudges at the beginning and end of phrases, and you need to be able do it without mistakes.

You need a good instructor to show you how to do this stuff, because you generally can't figure the technique out yourself--more important, you have to develop "Musician's discipline" which, simply, is to start at the beginning and work it through to the end, staying with it until each part is done properly. A big mistake beginners make tends to be thinking that they've got something down when they don't--


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 04:11 AM

woody, I've been thinking about your letter and what I'm gonna say will conflict with a few people here, but I've played the guitar and taught guitar a long time so I think my opinions are as valid as anybody's.

first off you seem quite desperate to perform - at least you did in your first letter, so you've got to prioritise. I think to turn in a decent performance has to be one thing in your life, and your guitar studies is another. Sure we would all like to play like Doc Watson, but it ain't gonna happen in five minutes or even three months.

there is nothing quite as bad as listening to someone doing the same repetitive fingerpicking pattern to a song - particularly a long song . there is no other way with fingerpicking - you have to put the hours in - I do now, after over forty years playing - most of that time as a professional.

so for your performances you need a simple technique

first off make sure you've got the two and three chord trick off. that is you move naturally without hesitation and you hear the chord change without having to 'know' when it comes

second don't choose songs with lots of chords you can hardly do

experiment with different sounds til you find something you like - different guitars, different strums, different plectrums, using different parts of the hand, later on different tunings, putting effects like phase and chorus on a guitar. these are all things you can do without putting the man hours into practise

many guitarists find they don't need any more than this - I never see Paul Weller for example doing much more than this, but what he does sounds right
wishing you all the best


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 04:17 AM

oh and reading through what I wrote

make sure the song is in the right key for your voice.

get and experienced guitarist to sort this out for you. you sing and let him sort out the key. all the keys are easy to play simple songs in, with a capo. different songs will make your voice pitch in different keys.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: s&r
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 04:22 AM

C'mon Woody - Join Mudcat, it's easy and free


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Sir Roger de Beverley
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 04:29 AM

At the age of 19 I had the bones of my left hand and wrist crushed by a heavily laden vehicle. The upshot of this is that I can't play barre chords or any other chords that require much of a stretch.

My answer was to use simple first position chords and a capo most of the time, play partial chords in order to get just the note I need and (as has been said earlier) move F up and down the neck to give some variation to the standard chords. Oh, and taking up the mandolin was a help as the neck is so much narrower.

Roger


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: GMT
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 05:38 AM

I overcame those barre thingys many years ago at school but still remember how unnatural it seemed to contort ones fingures into those peculiar shapes. It was amatter of pride really (another chap took up the guitar at the same time and we out practised each other).

Woody, I went the try everything at once without mastering the bit before route, and 35 years later I still haven't mastered anything.
I know the chords but I need a cheat sheet to tell me which order they go in.

Cheers
Gary


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: GUEST,woody
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 08:26 AM

Thanks for all the help. I can only access Mudcat from work and they don't allow cookies, so I don't think I can join, I have to remain as a guest. Now I am going through the threads at the top and finding a lot of good advice and techniques. Sorry, I didn't know about this before I posted.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 09:09 AM

As someone who trained as a Sports Trainer (ASMF) Level II - one thing to not forget is the dangers of 'overtraining'.

The 'many short bursts rather than one long session' is basically good advice. But if you train EVERY day with NO REST DAYS at all, you can push yourself too hard. With muscle training (weight resistance lifting) one rule of thumb was to have regular periods of rest to allow the muscles time to rebuild/relax. With guitar, it is a little different from weight lifting, but taking one day off a fortnight, a few days to a week off after a month or so, etc, would be in line with advised medical theories.

True, missing a day will make the next practice time seem harder (so lower your expectations a little that first day back!), but if you push yourself too hard, you may easily end up with RSI type injuries, which will mean that you will then unwillingly take an enforced break of maybe months before you will be able to play again.

You are more likely to 'overtrain' like this at the beginning, as your body will gain more strength in time, and be capable of more work before fatiguing. RSI is related to excess muscle fatigue. If you don't do the particular specific muscular exercise for many months or years, you will have to start off at a lower level than when you stopped, and build up again, but you will retain some of what you gained, so you will 'strengthen up' somewhat faster than originally.

'No Pain - No Gain' is bullshit! Discomfort is maybe ok if not too severe, pain is right out - that means soft tissue damage!

'Moderation in all things, except moderation itself.'

Robin


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: s&r
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 10:10 AM

I agree with Robin about rests between training. We teach in a prison where the access to instruments is two two-hour sessions a week. What is amazing is that the rate of progress is generally (and significantly) higher than that which most people seem to achieve "on the out".

Learning any repetitive manual skill involves nerve growth (leading to what is known as 'muscle memory'). After stimulation by use, the nerve cells grow closer together. This growth continues after the stimulation, which in part explains the improvement in facility following a short lay-off.

Stu


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Peter T.
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 11:33 AM

This is referred to by McGrath, but one of the big things is to slowly bring in line the two universes of chords and melody lines. The two universes are often separated by beginners relying on strumming TAB chords, or on the other hand trying to pick out the melody. You may already know this, but one of the big skill shifts for me was realizing that the chords are sort of like clothes hanging on the melody line at various points -- as you move along the melody line the horizontal notes are potentially parts of vertical chords (chords usually show up at the beginnings, turning harmonic points, and the ends of phrases), the chords are almost always in the key the song is in. An exercise I was taught was to move down the scale note by note (C, B, A, to C, or whatever the scale is in each key) and find a chord that fits the note, and also flows into the next chords as you go down (from C to shining C). It is a great way of learning about the relationship between minor and major chords in a key; and then you discover when you return to most songs that you can flip backwards and forwards between melody notes and chords (using chords to punctuate the melody), which makes your playing much more interesting.

yours,

Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 04 Jun 04 - 09:16 PM

"realizing that the chords are sort of like clothes hanging on the melody line at various points"

I wish I'd said that! I discovered that idea years ago on the piano/organ when I was a child. It's difficult to self harmonize on an instrument that can only produce a single tone like a whistle.

However, any 2 notes, and I mean ANY 2 notes together form the basis of a chord, indeed many possible chords - or different styles and types of clothing, ranging from warm furlined coats to nice checked vests, from Lumber jack style flanette shirts to manly Chesty Bond singlets, from voluptuous D-cup bras to lacy lady knickers....

What the hell!

PANTY RAID!


oooo, sorry Joe.....

Robin


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 05 Jun 04 - 02:49 PM

Barre chords? Go to a pawn shop and buy a used bottom-end imported-from-God-knows-where Fender Stratocaster (or clone thereof) for about $100 USD. Practice barre chords on it. A Strat has extra-light action and a remarkably comfortable neck profile. It's made for playing barre chords. Don't worry that the thing sounds like crap; it's a learning tool, not a musical instrument. Once you've gotten comfortable with playing barre chords on the Strat, transferring the skill to an acoustic is just a matter of learning to apply a bit more pressure to the strings.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Mooh
Date: 06 Jun 04 - 12:10 AM

Well, Woody did say he couldn't afford lessons so maybe even the used crap-Strat idea would be beyond his resources. Guage down, tune down, and you accomplish the same thing and it won't be for long with a bit of work.

I generally agree that there's no practice like that you can do on the guitar, but if you're killing time on a commute, at work, or walking the dog, there're some hand exercises (and exercisers) to help develop hand strength and agility. Pierre Bensusan recommends some in his book "The Guitar Book", and I'm sure a web search would turn up others.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 06 Jun 04 - 10:09 PM

My interest in playing guitar is mostly to accompany my singing. If you are interested in accompanying singing, which I think you are, based on your first message, I think the most important thing to start with is keeping it simple.

There's nothing wrong with playing a whole song through just strumming the chords. The key, though, is being consistent and clear with the rhythm, and developing a strum which is smooth.

I would much rather listen to a song sung effectively to a simple accompaniment than a song sung haphazardly while the singer is trying to do things on the guitar that are a little too complicated.

Once you feel you can be consistent with the rhythm, chords, and strum, then you can start adding a bass note to your strumming (bass strum, bass, strum,-- or bass, strum strum, bass strum strum in 3/4 time).

You will want to learn the bass notes for all the chords you play, and be able to play them without thinking about it-- and that takes practice. Once you have mastered that, there's nothing wrong with playing a song with just your bass strum and nothing fancy added.

Once you've learned all the bass notes, you can progress to learning the bass runs between chords. You will want to learn all the bass runs between the chords that go together in the songs you sing.

And once you have learned the bass runs, in many cases you will actually be partway through the process of being able to play the melody with the chords. I often find the melody is very close to those bass notes or bass runs and I only need to make a few adjustments to be able to play an outline of the melody in between verses.

Once again (not to belabour the point or anything!), I find simple works really well-- sometimes I'm not playing the full melody, just the outline of the melody-- maybe it doesn't include that little trill, or whatever, but it gives the idea of the melody very clearly.

And the more you do it, the more you will start to learn the patterns that tie melodies and chords together, as Peter T. explained so eloquently (I'm still marveling at the idea of chords being clothes hanging on the melody line!).

Best of luck,

Eve


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Grab
Date: 07 Jun 04 - 05:26 PM

Oh, one other thing. You say you can't read music. If you're wanting to play melody lines, this is probably the time to start.

And something else on bar chords too. Hand and arm position is critical. Make sure your left elbow is in right close into your side, and you'll find that your hand naturally turns round so the first finger is perfectly across the fretboard.

In theory (classical guitar-wise) this is the kind of position your left hand should always be in, bcos this gives your fingers the best reach around the fretboard. In practise it's uncomfortable, the position is mechanically weak so beginners don't have the strength to make use of this improved reach, and anyway there's some chords (like A) which can't be done in this position. It's still worth knowing about anyway. :-)

Also (in case your book doesn't say), you don't want want to be using the flat of your finger for the bar, as this bit is soft. If you feel around your finger, you should feel that it's soft on the flat and hard on the side (where it's bone and not muscle). You want to be pressing just where the flat of the finger curves round to become the side, just where it starts becoming harder.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: s&r
Date: 07 Jun 04 - 07:20 PM

Where are you Woody - UK North South???


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Terry K
Date: 08 Jun 04 - 04:29 AM

I agree with Graham - learn to read music. Get someone to show you - it should only take about an hour to grasp enough basics for what you want to do - a valuable investment of a small amount of time and effort.

cheers,
Terry (a fellow struggler)


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: M.Ted
Date: 08 Jun 04 - 03:52 PM

Most non-classical guitarists really are their own arrangers(this really means everyone who isn't playing directly from a written musical arrangement)--as you can tell from Eve's post(others discussed it too, so don't feel overlooked) the guitarist has to decide which sort of rhythm pattern to use, what (if any) bass lines to play, what to fill in between verses, which chord voicings to use, whether to play a moving or static bass line, where to use melodic fills, and exactly what that should be--and on and on--

A lot of players don't really even realize quite that they are making choices, the always play the same walkdown when a certain chord change occurs, or always play the same turn-around in a blues tune--


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Once Famous
Date: 08 Jun 04 - 04:57 PM

The majority of excellent bluegrass pickers that I know cannot read music, or not enough to hurt their playing.

I'm not saying it's wrong. Just that the best players I have played with over the years did not learn to play a great guitar lead or break from a music book or sheet music. They either have talent, a good ear, and a great feel for the music.

I guess if all of those don't work for you, learning to read music is not a bad idea.

I think learning to listen is very effective. So is watching and listening to others if you can.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Chief Chaos
Date: 09 Jun 04 - 12:57 PM

One thing that I think is very important that I haven't seen posted yet is stretching. We think of it in terms of running or other exercise, but isn't that what we are doing here?
Limbering and stretching the fingers, palms and wrists is very important for building up the ability to play for longer periods of time without developing cramps or burning out the muscles . Stretching will give you greater flexibility and reach. When you get to a chord that requires a note that's five frets down from your first finger, you'll be glad you did!


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Wesley S
Date: 09 Jun 04 - 01:50 PM

Doc Watson doesn't play barr chords. Never has. Of couse the way he plays he doesn't have to.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Once Famous
Date: 09 Jun 04 - 02:33 PM

I believe that Doc Watson just thinks the chords or notes and then they actually happen. His fingers don't even have to tough the neck.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Maryrrf
Date: 09 Jun 04 - 02:36 PM

Good to know Doc Watson doesn't play barre chords. That makes me feel better because I'm not very good at them. I'm working on it, though. This has been a good thread.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Mark Clark
Date: 09 Jun 04 - 05:29 PM

Well, Doc may not use classical barre chords but you may be sure that he can play them. Of course he does play chords that would look like barre chords on a chord diagram, (all strings noted) he just uses his thumb so he doesn't have to move his noting hand out of position.

Unless you are a classical or a flamenco player, you really need to learn to use the thumb of your noting hand on the bass strings. It doesn't have to be the only techinque you use but you do need to master it.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Jun 04 - 05:31 PM

A good way to find which are the most cpmfortable keys for to to sing a song in is to sing it into an electronic tuner. The last note in the song will most of the time be the key note. Of course there are tunes that aren't like that, but most are. (And sorting out whether it's in a major key or a minor shouldn't be hard.)


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: s&r
Date: 09 Jun 04 - 05:54 PM

There's a huge amount of help and info above - perhaps a bit intimidating. You need a guide; find a teacher and get off on the right foot. It doesn't mean enter into a contract and paying a fortune: a friend can be a good teacher. Good guitarists may however be duff teachers. Find someone with a bit of patience.

Stu


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 09 Jun 04 - 06:47 PM

There are two sets of skills needed to play the guitar (or indeed any instrument).

1) Musical Skills.

2) Technical (includes physical) Skills particular to the instrument.

Robin


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Jun 04 - 07:42 PM

Don't be put off by all this good advice. Basically it's as natural as walking - and we taught ourselves how to walk, on the basis of wanting to do so, and being ready to get up again every time we fell over.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: GUEST,Wesley S at Home
Date: 09 Jun 04 - 07:58 PM

Mark - according to Doc on one of his Homespun Tapes on how to play the guitar - he says in an off-handed embarassed way that he never did learn how to play barr chords.

For that matter BB King never played chords at all. Of course they have huge amounts of talent in other directions.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Mark Clark
Date: 09 Jun 04 - 09:21 PM

One of the great things about the guitar is there are infinately many ways to approach it, some of which have yet to be discovered, I'm sure. The more structure we impose on ourselves the more possibilities we place outside our abilities. Of course the structure is useful in mastering specific approaches but…

      - Mark

“If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got.”


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: shepherdlass
Date: 15 Jul 04 - 07:32 AM

Don't worry about barre chords - I have great facility with them, but remain a lousy guitarist. Reckon it's all to do with working around what your hands will allow - just think about how Django Reinhardt managed with fingers fused together because of extensive burns.


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Subject: RE: Improving Guitar Skills
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 Jul 04 - 03:46 PM

It's mentioned above but not I think with enough force. Get a good setup on your guitar. It won't cost a lot - twenty or thirty quid adn if the guitar fettler is any good you will not believe the difference.


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