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Guitar Tips

It is important to find a good guitar teacher who, ideally, is able to play all guitar styles including rock, classical, blues, jazz, ragtime etc also, both fingerstyle and plectrum style.

It is important for you, as a student, to learn these styles in the early stages of learning how to play the guitar, to help you to become an all round musician. This will also help you to appreciate different musical influences that will enable you to become more creative in your guitar playing in the future.

In a recent survey it was discovered that 95% of guitarists do not read music and merely play by ear, compared to 95% of piano/keyboard players who do read music.

To develop as a competent guitarist it is vitally important that you are able to read both Tablature and music notation as well as developing a good ear for music.

Do make sure that your guitar teacher can teach music notation and is able to instruct, teach and give you good advice on the grade examinations for guitar in both classical and rock styles.

Whilst it is possible to develop an ear for music to such an extent that you are able to listen to most songs, establish the key and the relevant chords within the key, for more complex music it is important to refer to the music to ensure that you are playing precisely the music you are listening to - most classical guitarists such as John Williams and Julian Bream can read guitar music extremely fluently, their strength is in their reading - other guitarists such as Tommy Emmanuel, Jimmi Hendrix, Eric Clapton have developed their style(s) of playing purely by ear and rarely read dots. Ideally you should try to develop both reading and listening to improve your guitar-playing and musicianship.

As you progress with your guitar-playing, always try to keep an open mind to different types and styles of music. Go to see guitarists playing live in your area - note the range of styles from classical to rock, both Fingerstyle and Plectrum styles. You need to be exposed to as many musical influences as possible so that you are able to develop your own unique guitar style in future.

On the subject of practice between your guitar lessons, try to practice as frequently as possible. Ideally two 30’ guitar practice sessions per day will help you make the best progress. The worst scenario would be to put down your guitar for 3 - 4 days and pick up your guitar for 2-3 hours. This does not help you make progress. Remember frequent and often will get results.

Try to discipline your practice sessions so that you work through all the songs and exercises that you are learning in a structural way. Keep saying to your self - ‘How can I improve this song or exercise compared to the last time I played it!’

Set yourself realistic time targets for learning songs and exercises and work towards achieving them. I would recommend that at any one time you are working on perhaps five or six songs or exercises and learning perhaps five or six bars of music at each practice session. Try to ensure that the songs you are learning at any one time are of contrasting styles and above all ensure that you are aware and are developing your sense of time, beat and rhythm.

Always refer to the time signature before you commence a piece of music and feel a good sense of rhythm and pulse before you start. Timing and feel is everything - Jimmi Hendrix had perfectly natural time and feel and played instinctively with natural rhythm.

Try to make the guitar an extension of you and make those riffs and licks sing out.

Once you put together a repertoire of songs try to perform initially in front of close friends and family to gage a reaction and help you gain in confidence. If you start to get positive feedback then consider playing with like-minded musicians who are at a similar level of competence.

If you play with other guitarists take it in turns to play ‘lead’ guitar and rhythm guitar. This will help to develop your guitar playing and you will quickly learn other riffs, licks, scales, chord sequences and other styles and influences. Playing with other guitarists can be invaluable and most well-known rock groups are formed initially by the lead guitarist and the singer. They have the biggest influence in the style of music played.