Playing Guitar - Applying What You Have Learned

New Players Think You Have To Read Music To Play Guitar. You Don't!Uncle Tim's Building Blocks

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact if you do not learn to play songs by reading musical notation, you really don't need it at all.

Although there are benefits to being able to read musical notation, most guitarists use tablature or plain old chord charts to learn songs.

Uncle Tim's First Year does include notation, but it features pictures and text because it makes it so easy. And you can use the information the same day, not later when you learn a new language, which notation is!

For $15, you can put this all to rest right now. Pick up a copy today.

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Applying new material is indeed a head game. The hardest part of the whole process can be starting. Many times I learn something new by reading or studying and when it comes time to apply it to new music, I get intimidated. I have learned this is very common to guitarists and people that learn new things in general. The same type of thing happens when I learn how to use a new software package. Once the process is started, I find that my natural curiosity kicks in and I really enjoy using and building new things.

Sometimes I do not realize how nice the final product is until months later when I revisit it and notice that I really did construct something special. I was too close to it when I wrote it and experimented, and I failed to see how well the constructs worked. When I first played it back, it seems to leave me flat for awhile. But later when some time has passed, the song sounds fresh and alive. I can even identify the individual components I have used and then I develop a somewhat refined sense of what these concepts will do for my playing. Once in a while I do something that really sounds nice right off the bat, but this is more the exception to the rule.

The reason I go into this is because I find this is really common. I have experienced this in other aspects of my life as well. When I learn something new, there is a sense of uncertainty at first. This can grow to become a dominant force in the process and cloud my judgment. I get jaded by the fact that this is new and I have to jump start the process, and then I begin to think that I could not possibly master this information is such a short time frame. That much is correct, but it can bring on severe head games. There is no mastery present in such a short time frame, but my training, skills and applied work are all still present and they do influence the final outcome. So in a way I am still taking advantage of work done months or years ago. Never underestimate the effects of incubation! And do not turn your back on the head games that are never far away.

The same thing may happen to you. The real tragedy is when the initial process of starting becomes so overwhelming that a person either never starts or gets so psyched out, that the whole process comes to a grinding halt. All of which has happened to me. This stuff can be very hard to analyze, partly because it is so personal. The only way I could really identify any of this is when I recorded something new and let it sit for a while. This gives me ample time to leave it and go back to my standard routine for awhile. Then when enough time has passed and I revisit it, the whole thing jumps to life and I wonder why I left it in the first place. Our heads really do play tricks on us and the sense of perspective time can allow for, is really a big deal. In the overall scheme of things, these are just more mental barriers to be managed and eventually crossed.

But not starting, or even quitting before anything is printed on tape or electronically is the real crime. It also underscores how important recording your work can be. Don't get me wrong. Not everything is a work of art. Some things I record will never see the light of day and shouldn't either. They were experiments and never yielded anything but the opportunity to take another small step. But that is okay too. After all, ability really is established one step at time. Nobody has ever walked up to the guitar for the first time and played something truly spectacular. There may be some initial luck involved, but only a good solid program and the passage of time will yield a fine guitarist.

So where is this going? For one, do not let anything stop you from experimenting. This can involve the process of letting your mind wander and allowing it to explore concepts that have thus far been only academic. When my mind wanders, it is usually playing with some elements that I know, yet have not put in the proper place or given the correct amount of time to develop. The deeper the mental wandering, the better the results can be. This can be very valuable time and yet not be given any credit at all. Sometimes it even get suppressed as a waste of time.

The material presented in The Playground this month, fits into this category. The material is mostly theoretical. I did not really give you concrete chords or scales to use, other than a few examples, but rather concepts that can and should be applied to your music, in a way that has meaning to you. Again, this becomes very personal.

But it also implies you should try to print as much as you can on some tape or flash memory. However it may be impractical to do this with everything. For one thing it would take twice the normal length of time to play it, and then revisit it. Practice time can be hard enough to come by. However if you can print some of it on a CD, you could play it in the car when you are traveling, preferably alone or with another guitarist. Most non players cannot stand much of this, unless they really appreciate music in general. It can also serve as a long term record of your progress. That in itself can serve as a giant wake up call.

This also can have the unintended effect of expanding your musical time. It starts to feed on itself. Printing music will give you a chance to listen to it when you do not have a guitar in your hand, and that might help you develop a deeper appreciation of your own music. Something good almost always comes out of this. It might also stimulate you to continue to experiment with these concepts. And the next time you do, you will build on what you have already put in place. This is the same thing as taking another step. And sometimes they can be big steps.

When I sit down to consciously create something great, it almost never happens. But sometimes when I have five minutes to spare, the sparks fly. It's funny how this works and very unpredictable. It's like you have to catch your mind off guard and then the true power is unleashed. These can be very rare and precious moments. And the times it doesn't happen? Hey, at least my hands are on the guitar, and that's where I like them to be.