Playing Guitar - Where Are You Going?

The Easiest Way To Master The Fretboard!Uncle Tim's Building Blocks

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I like to go fast. Not necessarily playing fast, but learning fast. To me it is most fun to pick a subject and tear it apart. I like to get inside the subject and examine every little part of it. I look for the easy opportunities for quick growth first. Once I digest the easier part of a subject, then I usually form a strategy as to how I am going to proced with the rest of the subject. Then it is just a matter of time and effort until I go through the entire thing.

It is a good strategy if you like to immerse yourself in a study of something. I use it in all sorts of activities, like skiing, hiking, fly fishing, whitewater rafting and music. It is not limited to these activities, I also apply it to computer systems, construction projects and other home stuff. I am getting ready to retile some of the tile work in my home now and the discovery process is about to begin.

But that is not what I want to focus on today. Once a new learning project is well under way, sometimes I look up and find myself in uncharted waters. I ended up going somewhere than where I intended to go. That in itself is no big deal, I try never to determine where these types of projects take me. But usually there is some need driving my explorations. Eventually I know this time has to bring me closer to something. So once in a while I have to look up and see where I am going. This can be quite a shock sometimes.

As of yet these is no standardized approach that yields the exact perfect result every time. There is not a pre ordained roadmap that will give you new abilities in a given amount of time. So I end up crafting new plans all the time to help me concentrate on exact skills that should take me in the right direction. When they don't there is usually some sort of real time course correction. I, as a rule do not like it when it happens. It can derail my present approach and stop the whole process of learning as I realign my activities to get more in line with what I want. Only at the very end of the project do I get the full confidence the process is suppose to give me. Then I can see with hindsight which is always clearer.

This is probably a good time to talk about this since a lot of people use the new year to bring change into their lives. I never do. If I am going to make a change, i am going to do it when I see the need. Not some arbritary date. However I so see the benefit to do a year end analysis of what I have done and where I am going.

What Do You Want Your Music To Sound Like?

So what does this mean to you? That answer may depend on what you are trying to do with your music. Have you started to play the songs you always intended to play? Have you learned the techniques that will allow you to shread the way you want? Have you elevated your playing in the areas you think you need to? Do you care if you do?

Hey for some people, they have already arrived at what they want. For others, it is an ongoing road trip towards better skills. Maybe this is a good time to ask these questions in the hope of achieving your goals as a guitar player.

Some additions t a daily routine are easy to incorporate. Like starting to play scales every day. All you do is clear some time and start to play them. Other concepts are much harder, like taking on the challenge of eliminating any stray notes that show up when you play. This is like raising your efficiency from 97% to 99.7%. IF you are at 95% efficiency, that means you are making a mistake once every 20 notes. This may not seem like a lot, but it will b e very noticeable. Most people can go manay more notes than 20 before they introduce a mistake. In 4/4 time, that would only be five measures. But devising a plan to increase your efficiency and accuracy is difficult. And you will not be able to gauge your success until you have put in hard work and time.

Then you will face the same analysis that I have and you will have to determine how well the changes are happening. So here is a chart of some common areas to try to improve and soem ideas of what you can do to introduce change. One thing is almost certain, it will take time for the changes to take effect. That means when you start it will probably be a little shakey. So be it. Remember it is not where you are starting that is important, it is where you end up that should have your attention.

Activities And Exercises




Lead Guitar

Scales: This is at the very heart of lead guitar. Start by playing scales every day and do not think after six months you will not get any better.

You will begin to be able to play simple linear progressions of notes. With time this may develop into the ability to twist a scale into a lead.

Picking exercises: Develop specific exercises to allow your hand to understand the exact movements of your pick hand. Focus on either flat picking of finger picking. Start with simple arpeggios and play them for several hours. Then start to learn some specific picking patterns and commit them to memory.

This will allow you to control the pick and inject uniqque combinations of notes. This is an overall skill that will give you more control over all of your playing, not just lead guitar.

Pharsing: Listen to a passage of music and then try to compose a lead over the passage. Break it down into the component chords and where on the fretboard they are played. Then become very familiar with the diatonic scales in that key, for that part of the neck. Then focus on the exact lead you play. Do not play note after note without switching up and injecting some variation.

This will result in the ability to use a scale as a pallette of notes and craft a lead statement. When your phrasing picks up, your leads will immediately take on more meaning to everyone that hears them. You starts with scales and you tear them apart and assemble them according to some artistic instinct. You develop the instinct by playing scales.

Combinations: Playing chords with linear streams of music. It is one thing to be able to create a lead from a scale, but if you are not familiar with the chords attached to the scale, you cannot use them. So identify some chords in the key you are working out of and at the area you are playing in and start to try to combine them within the lead statement. This can be a slow process and you may have to stop and think about them before you can insert them in a lead.

This will result in an increase of your overall command of hte fretboard. Once you start to indetify chords with scale runs, you will never be the same guitarist. Almost every guitarist will benefit from this type of work.


Rhythm Guitar

Chord Changes:Play groups of chords and understanding how to change between them and control the exact strings the pick hand strikes.

This gives the ability to use chords on demand and in a variety of situations that will change as you go.


Holding down barre chords: Playing barre chords and dealing with the fatigue that will come from holding down these demanding chords. Playing them as full six string chords and only playing a subset of all six strings.

This will allow you to understand the chords and the different sounds you can get by changing the strings you play. This will also cause your muscles to be able to handle more before they get overwhelmed with strain.


Switching from chording to linear statements: Playing chords within the context of a progressions and changing the overall progression by adding different scale passages or lead statements.

This will increase your ability to play complex parts on time. This will force you to slow down so the whole thing does not break down. This will give you much greater pick control.


Mixing chords with accent notes:

This will help you to understand how the scale creates the chords and how individual notes within the key can be used to create a fuller sound. It will show you how to extend chords by including additional notes. You can even give the progression additional direction.


Cleaning up any glitches: Analyse every note within a song and determine where you still need help to get things absolutely perfect. This is the cuminulation of many skills and the ability to use these skills on demand and exactly correct.

The result of this is you become a well rounded player that has mastered the ability to use technical skills to create artistic statements. This is an advanced goal.


Cleaning up your playing

Examing each motion and eliminating stray movements:This was stated above as a part of ehythm playing, but any area of your playing can be alalysed and honed. The dynamics of playing are numerous and varied. You can play a whole set of songs very well and stumble on others. All in the same day.

This allows you to test your abilities and see how far you can go before they break down. You may be able to play average songs, but the complicated songs that use advanced techniques may still cause trouble.


Analysing movements and transitions:This is a big area of study that can include all sorts of stuff. Maybe it is identifying which side of the string you sweep pick as you set up the next motion. Maybe it is the ability to identify exactely where you move your finger to play the next line. This is as personal as it gets, because this will be different for everyone. Maybe you can play distince pasts correctly but still break down as you move from part to part. I have a friend who is really starting to get finger picking, but he still has trouble linking apssages without stopping for a moment.

This can make all the difference in how well you play material and enjoy it. Songs are suppose to be continuous and when they break down it can cause people to stop listening. Everyone has their own issues and eventually everyone goes theough their playing and cleans it up. The result is you get to the next level.


Recording and identifying problem areas: Play your favorite songs and lay down some tracks. Try to play them as perfectly as possible without tensing up.

This one is quite an eye opener. You will be surprised how things turn out. The results will most likely be mixed. You will find some things sound better than you thought while some leave you flat when you hear them. Often times the recorded material sounds better than what I thought. The results can be mixed. You may realize you are better than you thought or you need work iin specific areas.


Slowing down and isolating. Any time you hit a snag, slowing down and understanding what is causing the problem may be all you need to start to get rid of it. Slowing down will allow you extra time to discover things you previously missed. Everybody else may hear a problem area but you . Slowing down and recording are two techniques that can give you a very needed reality check.


Just the act of identifying something in yoru playing can be all that is necesary to turn it around. Just my becoming consious of the way something plays out, can be the driving forece behind shaping and changing it. If you do not take time out and really listen, you can overlook bad habits and opportunities for growth as a guitar player. We can all use these course corrections from time to time just as a news year resolution can cause you to focus on a part of your life that needs the attention.

These are just a few examples of the many ways there are to improve a good thing. There are a lot more areas that have not been discussed at all. As you move through time and increase yor efficiency of playing, you will begin to gain a deeper controp of what you already know. You leverage your existing skills and use them to get to know the guitar at a deeper level. This is a different type of practice than what you may experience from day to day, but it really is an opportunity to see where your hard worsk has taken you and where you are going with it.

I hope this helps!