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© 2017 by Guitar Lessons Indianapolis

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Indianapolis Music Academy

5703 S. East St. 

Indianapolis, Indiana

317-719-7020

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The difference between learning to play guitar and learning to play songs.

July 12, 2017

Of course every student wants to eventually learn to play songs. This is the goal of every beginning guitarist. I've met many self-taught guitarists who have learned some riffs, parts of songs or even complete songs, but they have no understanding of what they are playing. They don't know what key they are playing in, what scales they are using, what notes they are playing and sometimes they don't even know what chords they are playing. Often students will use improper picking, have timing problems or use inefficient fingering on the fret board. Many self taught guitarists hit a brick wall with their learning and begin to feel like they are spinning their wheels. That is because their method of learning is backwards.

 

 

Sometimes it's not the learners fault. Teachers can also fall into the trap of letting students control the lesson. A student may only want to learn songs they like. It can often be a song that is too complex for their abilities, they miss out on a huge part of their musical education, become frustrated and eventually quit guitar lessons.

 

Essential guitar skills and theory should be incorporated into lessons and each student's practice routine. Obviously students should also learn songs that are within their current abilities. Practicing only skills like scales and arpeggios would get really boring. A song-based practice routine should be incorporated. 

 

Musical pieces called etudes are used in the realm of classical music. Many composers also wrote lesson material for their instrument. These etudes would be used to practice a certain technique like arpeggiated finger picking. The same pattern might be used throughout the piece. This method is used for piano students and classical guitar students, but is often ignored in typical guitar lessons and is especially ignored by self taught guitarists.

 

A metal song, for example, does not take into consideration the use of technical building blocks which will lead the student in a natural progression through each skill. This hinders the progress of the student.

 

There are certain skills that guitarists should learn and practice. These skills include learning scales. Learning a guitar solo becomes much easier if you know what scale you are using and how to play that scale. I've watched new students' eyes light up when they realize that they've already been playing a song that utilized a minor pentatonic or blues scale. Students who know the first position of the minor pentatonic scale are surprised to learn that there are 4 more positions to the minor pentatonic. Learning to play in a major pentatonic and realizing how easy it is to learn after knowing the minor pentatonic can be mind blowing to a student.

 

Other useful skills are alternating picking, arpeggiated picking and chord theory. Not only should know what note combinations create different chords, but learning how chords work together and using song-based skill building to learn different chord progressions is crucial. Once you learn primary chords in each key, relative minor chords and other chords that typically occur in each key, memorizing new songs and learning by ear becomes much easier. The same goes for learning scales before you learn melodies or solos. The task of learning solos becomes much easier once you know what scales you're playing.

 

How can you know what skills to practice, what skills you are missing and what songs you can learn to help you practice your skills? That is where a qualified guitar teacher is crucial to moving forward rapidly on guitar. I've created a book called the Mike Middleton Guitar Academy Guitarist's Book 1 and Book 2 that teaches all of these skills. You will learn picking single notes, note names, reading tabs, chords, strumming, alternate picking, music theory, common chord progressions, arpeggiated picking, pull-off, hammer-ons and many other invaluable guitar skills. I teach guitar in South Indianapolis on US31 just about 1 1/2 miles south of the US31 465 exit, I am near Southport, Indiana and Greenwood, Indiana. Call or text to discuss lessons. We teach children as young as 5 to adult advanced learners who wish to improve their guitar skills.

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