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Beginner Guitar Tips?

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Big Al Whittle 01 Aug 06 - 01:45 PM
Scoville 01 Aug 06 - 02:32 PM
SharonA 01 Aug 06 - 07:48 PM
Johnhenry'shammer 01 Aug 06 - 07:54 PM
The Fooles Troupe 01 Aug 06 - 09:08 PM
The Fooles Troupe 01 Aug 06 - 09:19 PM
SharonA 01 Aug 06 - 09:24 PM
The Fooles Troupe 01 Aug 06 - 09:39 PM
SharonA 01 Aug 06 - 09:40 PM
The Fooles Troupe 01 Aug 06 - 09:42 PM
The Fooles Troupe 01 Aug 06 - 09:44 PM
SharonA 01 Aug 06 - 09:58 PM
Johnhenry'shammer 01 Aug 06 - 10:53 PM
SharonA 01 Aug 06 - 11:37 PM
Johnhenry'shammer 01 Aug 06 - 11:58 PM
SharonA 02 Aug 06 - 01:44 AM
s&r 02 Aug 06 - 02:49 AM
SharonA 02 Aug 06 - 04:27 AM
s&r 02 Aug 06 - 04:46 AM
Betsy 02 Aug 06 - 05:07 AM
Grab 02 Aug 06 - 05:13 AM
SharonA 02 Aug 06 - 05:20 AM
Scrump 02 Aug 06 - 07:19 AM
The Fooles Troupe 02 Aug 06 - 07:20 AM
s&r 02 Aug 06 - 08:01 AM
Peter T. 02 Aug 06 - 03:02 PM
just john 03 Aug 06 - 01:19 PM
Don Firth 03 Aug 06 - 03:41 PM
Scoville 03 Aug 06 - 04:53 PM
Murray MacLeod 03 Aug 06 - 05:54 PM
Peace 03 Aug 06 - 05:59 PM
Johnhenry'shammer 03 Aug 06 - 06:54 PM
Grab 04 Aug 06 - 05:48 AM
Don Firth 04 Aug 06 - 06:25 PM
Johnhenry'shammer 05 Aug 06 - 10:52 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 06 Aug 06 - 10:36 AM
Don Firth 06 Aug 06 - 02:45 PM
Grab 06 Aug 06 - 03:37 PM
Peter T. 07 Aug 06 - 09:13 AM
PoppaGator 08 Aug 06 - 01:42 AM
Peter T. 08 Aug 06 - 06:54 AM
PoppaGator 09 Aug 06 - 11:54 AM
Grab 09 Aug 06 - 01:13 PM
GUEST 09 Aug 06 - 03:10 PM
PoppaGator 09 Aug 06 - 10:05 PM
Johnhenry'shammer 11 Aug 06 - 02:04 AM
Johnhenry'shammer 11 Aug 06 - 02:31 AM
Don Firth 11 Aug 06 - 01:37 PM
Don Firth 11 Aug 06 - 01:42 PM
Don Firth 11 Aug 06 - 02:38 PM
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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 01:45 PM

the trouble is that its a fair old while since some of us were beginners.

I'd give this advice though

1) use a felt pick when you start doesn't sound good but it is forgiving and sounds better than mistakes. it makes a woolier sound.

2) there lots of two chord songs. singing in the rain. how much is that doggy in the window, jambalaya, the wheels on the bus, whole world in his hand. Give a performance - either a kindergaten or an old peoples home - somewhere where they probably won't throw things. Anyway don't wait til you're Eric Clapton before you start performing - otherwise you won't learn anything up to performance standard - which should be aimed so high that its not pissing too many people off. Nothing worse than someone who can half play everything John renbourn and bert jansch ever put on record.

3) the guitar is only the accompaniment - sing out loud and expressively also. If possible in the correct key - but thats some way down the road - not really to be hoped for from a beginner.

4) songs are like little stories - sometimes they are happy - other times not so happy - let this be reflected in your singing.

5) buy an electronic tuner, lemon oil for the frets, guitar polish for the wodden bits, change your strings at least every 3 months.

6) practise silently when everybody is watching TV. If there is a tv programme that is on for an hour. Hold an unfamiliar chord down - till the first lot of adverts come on. then when the second half comes on, the second chord. In the third section, try moving from chord one to chord two. the more you practise the easier it gets.

7) sometimes you will think - this is horrible. I sound terrible and I'm not getting anywhere. Strangely enough this is often the day or two days before you make a breakthrough - keep plodding on as long as you can, before taking a break. But when you can't stand another minute - then its okay, you did your best.

8) if your hands are cold they don't work so well.

hope some of this is useful.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Scoville
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 02:32 PM

Second learnng the I,IV,V7 chord patterns--this will save you a lot of trouble. I somehow took five years of piano lessons and yet failed to translate all my theory nonsense into "guitar speak" until I took a beginner guitar workshop somewhere, years later. Suddenly, life got a whole lot easier.

Additionally, I think the minors are usually the VI and sometimes II (i.e. F# minor and secondarily B minor in the key of A, A minor and secondarily D minor in the key of C, etc.)


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: SharonA
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 07:48 PM

And what, Mr. Hammer may ask, is all this Roman-numeral mumbo-jumbo that Scoville and Peter T are talking about? It's music-theory shorthand. They're talking about how the chords in a song relate to one another.

Without getting too technical about it at this early stage in your song-learning, the "I" (One) is the key the song is in. The best example would be the key of C. Now, find a piano keyboard or a picture of one on the internet and, considering the white key that is the note "C" as your first piano key, count up to the fourth WHITE piano key. This will be the note "F". Counting up from C (the first white piano key) to the fifth white key will give you the note "G". Okay, now, getting back to your guitar and our Roman numerals, if the "I" (One) chord is a C chord, then the "IV" (Four) chord is an F chord, and the "V" chord is a G chord. Learning to play this I,IV, V pattern will allow you to play many, many, many songs!

The reason they call it a I, IV, V pattern is that it's a pattern no matter what key you're playing in. In the key of D it'll be D,G,A. In the key of E it'll be E, A, B. In the key of F it'll be F, B flat, C... and so on. So how do you know what the "IV" guitar chord will be for any particular "I" guitar chord if you don't know pianos or music theory? Start with the "root" note of the "I" chord (the note for which the chord is named -- for example, the root of a C chord is the note C) and, on your guitar, count up 5 frets (for example, to the note F). That's the root of your "IV" chord.

Hey, wow, whaddaya know... if you look at your piano keyboard and count upwards using all the white AND black piano keys, it's the same number of notes.

For a "V" chord you'll count upwards 7 frets. Et cetera.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

I second Scrump's advice to watch what other players do. Attend sessions, find jams where you will be welcome to join in as a beginner, go to folk guitarits' performances, and in all cases watch the hands of the players. Watch how their picking hands pick. Watch how their chording hands form the chords (some chords have several fingering options from which to choose) and watch them change from one chord to another. Listen to the chord progressions as they change, in order to learn more chord patterns. Be a sponge and soak it all in. Teach your ear to hear the chords and the chord changes, as well as teaching your eyes to see them. This will help you immensely when following along in jams. Following along in jams will, in turn, help you learn to play what you're watching others play.

When you practice, try to discipline yourself to keep going through a song or a picking sequence, instead of stopping-and-starting-over, even if you make mistakes along the way. Just keep repeating the whole song or sequence, and the number of mistakes within it will lessen over time. The formation of those brain pathways that Foolestroupe was talking about is dependent on this kind of practicing!


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Johnhenry'shammer
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 07:54 PM

Alright Don, I'll go to work on that right away!


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 09:08 PM

" Start with the "root" note of the "I" chord (the note for which the chord is named -- for example, the root of a C chord is the note C) and, on your guitar, count up 5 frets (for example, to the note F)."

Sorry, that's not quite right... but I'm a keyboard player, not a guitarist...

Try "count up 4 notes in the scale" eg C, D, E, F...

You see, there are sharps and flats in the middle there, which will throw out the fret count... at my count, it's nearer 6 frets....


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 09:19 PM

Forgot to say

"which may throw out the fret count... " depending where in the sequence of the 12 chromatic notes you start.... and trying to remember the correct number of semitones (frets) for the correct number of steps in the scale is confusing for musical beginners, and varies with Major & Minor.

F G A B C is 5 notes from I to V in the scale of F Major - 7 semitones (frets)

C D E F G is 5 notes from I to V in the scale of C Major - 7 semitones (frets)

C D E F is 4 notes from I to V in the scale of C Major - 5 semitones (frets)


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: SharonA
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 09:24 PM

Foolestroupe: Yes, but you're talking about whole notes in a scale. I was talking about counting frets up the fingerboard.

You quoted me out of context! Note the sentence before the one you quoted: "So how do you know what the "IV" guitar chord will be for any particular "I" guitar chord if you don't know pianos or music theory?"

I was trying to answer that question, which I imagine might be posed by the beginner guitarist, without referring to scales and whole notes and half-notes and the chromatic scale and dominant chords and so forth ad nauseum.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 09:39 PM

Ok SharonA

I go along with the 'lies to children' educational approach too, but sometimes just getting beginners to an understanding of the real basic theory is easier in the long run... you don't have to get them relearn things... and some never will want to relearn things correctly...

The learning of some basic musical theory is inevitable if you really want to progress as a muso, just ask any long term player here, you will find many such reinforcing quotes from them in the past threads.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: SharonA
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 09:40 PM

Sorry; I failed to end my italics in the first paragraph of my previous post.

Anyway, I think I covered the matter of counting up to the fourth and fifth notes in a scale when I talked about the white keys of a piano (i.e. the C scale). I was counting the "I" as the first note of the scale, just as you did.

However, when I talked about simply counting frets up the guitar fingerboard, I did not count the starting place as one of the frets. In other words, in my example of counting up from C to F, the C (let's say the one at the 3rd fret on the 5th string) was counted as "number zero". In this example of the 5th string, the C is on the 3rd fret and the F is on the 8th fret. 8 - 3 = 5 .... which matches the count you made in your post of 9:19 PM.

So I think we're on the same page.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 09:42 PM

We're posting out of phase...


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 09:44 PM

"I did not count the starting place "

That's the old Maths 'Fence posts and panels' hassle...


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: SharonA
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 09:58 PM

Foolestroupe again: Hmmm... reading your last post, maybe we're not on the same page after all. I'm not proposing that we tell "lies" to children. I don't think that anything I said here is a "lie". I just wanted to give the most rudimentary explanation of I,IV,V that I could think of, without throwing around a lot of terminology that might only add to a beginner's confusion.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that, ideally, a beginner should come to an understanding of "the real basic theory" ASAP. But what did I say that was not "real"? You and I simply explained the same concept in different ways. I don't think it's necessary for a beginning guitarist to learn all the proper terminology of basic music theory before learning to play chord patterns. I think it's perfectly all right to learn both as one goes along. Besides, most if not all beginners already have some knowledge of music, as well as preconceptions and misconceptions about it, simply from having listened to it. There's always something that has to be unlearned!

Then there are those innovative players who, having formed their own ideas about music before picking up an instrument, develop their own styles of playing and writing that defy the rules. "Learning things correctly" may be proper but it may not be "right" for everyone...


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Johnhenry'shammer
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 10:53 PM

You guys have been having this argument or dicussion or whatever you want to call it for quite some time now and I still have no idea what either of you are talking about.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: SharonA
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 11:37 PM

JH's Hammer: Thank you! In a way, I feel vindicated.

See that? Beginners can play guitar and learn to play I-IV-V songs like "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" -- which Mr. Hammer mentioned in his first post here -- without having to know what I-IV-V means. Hah! :^D

Okay, John Henry's Hammer, let me try to explain it using "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" as an example. What chords do you use when you play the song?


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Johnhenry'shammer
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 11:58 PM

G, Em, C, and D


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: SharonA
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 01:44 AM

JH'sH: Thanks for the chords -- that's perfect! Okay, I can see that you're playing the song in the key of G. Therefore, the G chord is your "I" (Roman numeral One) chord.

The C chord is named thus because C is the note that's the root of the chord. The note C is four whole notes up the scale from the note G (or, if you were singing it as "do re mi fa", G would be "do" and C would be "fa"). Therefore, the C chord is your "IV" (Roman numeral 4) chord.

The D chord: D is the note that's the root of the chord. The note D is five whole notes up the scale from the note G (if sung as "do re mi fa so", G would be "do" and D would be "so"). Therefore, the D chord is your "V" (Roman numeral 5) chord.

What about the Em chord, you ask? ...You did ask, didn't you?... That's the "VI" (Roman numeral 6) chord, because E is six whole notes up the scale from G ("do re mi fa so la"). It's a minor chord because it is a -- deep breath here as I introduce a new phrase -- "scale tone chord". The chord (E-G-B) is made up of three tones (the "la", "do" and "mi" notes) that appear in the G scale (G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G), so it comes out as a minor chord in the G major scale.

Now, here's why we've got this fancy-schmancy Roman numeral system in the first place: The system makes it easy to figure out the chords when you change keys. Pretend that you found the "Flowers" song really hard to sing in the key of G and you wanted to sing it in a key that would be more comfortable for your voice instead, like D. So that would make the D chord your "I" chord. The D scale is D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D. So what's your "IV" chord? G. Your "V" chord? A. Your "VI" chord? B minor.

All of this might sound confusing and perhaps even somewhat useless to you at the moment, but trust us when we tell you that it's worth learning. Since so many songs are written in a I-IV-V format (not always with that VI thrown in!), you should practice playing those chord changes in different keys so your chording hand will get used to switching back and forth among them. Here's a chart that shows you the I-IV-V chords in every key: I-IV-V chord progressions

Here's a page that discusses the Scale Tone Chords in more detail: Scale Tone Chords

Here's more stuff about chord progressions, including II-V-I and III-VI-II-V-I: Chord Progressions explained

Here's a page with a piano keyboard display, which will show you the notes that make up different chords when you click on the chord name: Chords and Scales on Piano Click the "play" button to hear the notes in a chord. This will help you to learn the notes you should be hearing when you play the chord on guitar.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: s&r
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 02:49 AM

It doesn't help to learn anything about the piano to play the guitar. What seems instinctive to a keyboard player and common sense is a source of confusion to a non keyboard player. I have taught guitar for 30+ years: the only time I use a piano keyboard is when the student asks a piano related question.

Someone above said to leave the guitar out of its case so you can play at every opportunity. Hear Hear! Cases are for transportation, not storage IMO.

Learn barre chords, learn closed scale patterns, learn to play with other people. Do some warm-up exercises to get your fingers supple. Have two or three lessons with a good teacher (you don't have to commit to a lifetime's expense) to make sure that your basic techniques are OK.

Stu


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: SharonA
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 04:27 AM

s&r says, "It doesn't help to learn anything about the piano to play the guitar."

I couldn't disagree more. Music theory is music theory, regardless of instrument. I learned piano as a child before I picked up any other instrument, and that instruction has been priceless in helping me learn to play other instruments more quickly and easily. Early instruction on piano also has been an invaluable aid to my songwriting, virtually all of which I do on guitar. I've lost count of the number of times my guitarist-songwriter friends have expressed envy of me for my knowledge of music theory which they never picked up from learning to play only the guitar.

The reasons I made reference to the diagram of a piano keyboard are that (a) it makes it easy to visualize a C major scale (the white keys) and that (b) it makes it easy to visualize sharps and flats (the black keys).

I linked to the "Chords and Scales on Piano" page because it's a very handy one-spot reference for defining and listening to many different chords. If you know of a similar site that uses a guitar fingerboard, shows the proper fingering for chords and chord inversions, gives the sound of the chord as it should be played, etc., then by all means please post a link here.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: s&r
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 04:46 AM

Sharon - you make my point 'What seems instinctive to a keyboard player and common sense is a source of confusion to a non keyboard player' when you learned piano as a child it seemed the natural way to visualise notes.

As an example, playing F#major scales on a piano is difficult; on a guitar using closed position scales it is no different to any other scale.

What you seem to be saying is 'So you want to play the guitar? OK let's learn piano first...

Stu


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Betsy
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 05:07 AM

Learn to play with a thumb pick which wraps round your thumb and protrudes at a right angle to your thumb.
I learned with my fingernails and regret it everytime my thumbnail breaks , or is not long enough / worn and I can't get a little purchase on the base strings with it.
Having learned to play without picks ,it is a different angle of playing and unfortunately I cannot managed the change in technique after these many years, although Alaska picks almost solved the problem , but alas not completely.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Grab
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 05:13 AM

Tim, Alaska Piks are a worthy effort, but they don't really work. Like all finger-mounted picks, they will either (a) fall off at a critical moment, or (b) catch on the string and jam up your finger.

If you're playing fingerstyle, your best friend is a good nail file. My experience is that filed nails are more robust than clipped nails, and it's easier to fine-tune them to the right length with a file than a clipper. Some people (classical music gurus) say they sound better than clipped nails too, but us mere mortals are unlikely to notice. Keep your right-hand nails filed level with or just beyond the fingertip (1-2mm longer at most) as you look at your fingers sideways on. Shorter than that, and there's no nail to catch the strings, which gives a fuzzy, weak "thud" kind of sound. Longer than that, and the nails are the only thing catching the string so you get a thin, metallic sound, plus the nails are weaker so you'll be forever breaking them. Somewhere in the middle, both the fingertip flesh and the nail are hitting the string, giving a good solid sound.

If you bite your fingernails, stop immediately. Or at least restrict yourself to your left hand anyway (which is my deal with myself! :-)

If you're currently strumming chords, starting doing fingerstyle patterns on those chords will improve your left-hand no end. Playing a chord, you might not hear that you're not quite holding down one of the strings properly, or that you're fouling an open string with your fingers. Playing fingerstyle, each note rings out individually, so there's no hiding place! :-)

For simple fingerpicking, the main thing for starting is to keep your thumb covering all the bottom three strings, and the next three fingers covering the top three strings. I think Don kind of hints at this. This is the "default" fingerpicking position. Obviously as you get better then you'll be able to break away from this, but you want to get comfortable with playing like this before you start doing anything more fancy.

A few fingerpicking patterns to try. I'll try and avoid the "p/i/m/a" notation that Don's used too. It's correct, but it's confusing to start with, so I'm going to show it as strings, where "6" is bottom E and "1" is top E. Remember that strings 6/5/4 (E/A/D) are all played with the thumb. And play any chord - Am and G work well for practise, but the same patterns will work on all chords. Also note that all these patterns are based on 4 beats to the bar.

Simplest pattern: 5 3 2 1 or 6 3 2 1. Try the two on different chords and see how they sound.

A better pattern: 5 2 3 1 or 6 2 3 1. This is a very common pattern, so it's worth getting the hang of.

Once you can do those, try alternating the string played by the thumb, so: 5 2 3 1 | 4 2 3 1 or 6 2 3 1 | 5 2 3 1. Or any variations.

All these assume equal-length notes. Another different pattern would be: 5-- 3 1 where the 5 is held for two notes' worth. This sounds very good if you play: 5-- 3 1 | 5 2 3 1 to break up the rhythms. And you can use the same thing for all the other patterns, just holding the first note on for longer and skipping the second note.

All these patterns will be covered in any decent guitar tutor book, but it's something to get you going.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: SharonA
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 05:20 AM

Hi, Stu:

No, I didn't mean to say that one should learn piano before learning guitar. I understand your point about my own visualization of notes, but again I disagree with your statement that it "doesn't help to learn anything about the piano" in order to play guitar. I'm certainly not saying that one needs to learn how to play chords on a piano before learning to play the same chords on guitar. I am saying that the piano keyboard can be a useful tool for beginning guitarists when it comes to visualizing BASIC MUSIC THEORY (and not that it absolutely is or is not). Okay???

Anyway, I found a couple of guitar-fingering reference pages, on the same site as the piano-keyboard page, with many of the same features. Check out the chord fingering, listen to the chord as it's played, look at scales in different keys, do it all in different tunings, etc. Here are the pages:

Guitar Room (Easy)

Guitar Room (Advanced)


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Scrump
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 07:19 AM

I learnt piano (I had a lessons as a kid) before teaching myself guitar, and I think it did help me work out basic chords, etc., in the early days, because I already knew (for example) that the C major chord consists of the 3 notes C, E and G, and once I'd figured out where those notes were on the guitar, I was able to work out where to put my fingers on the strings to get the same notes and hence play the chord.

But I don't know if it would have been any easier or more difficult the other way round, i.e. learning guitar first then keyboard. And I never will know.

And after learning guitar I found it relatively easy to learn banjo, mandolin, etc. Although I've never been able to play fiddle - that requires technique/skill that I don't seem to have :(

I would have thought that learning any instrument and getting a basic idea of music theory would help when learning another instrument, though, even if it's in a completely different family of instruments.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 07:20 AM

"lies to children"

an example - when a death occurs "they have gone to sleep" or "gone away"

They are not really 'lies', ok, maybe 'white lies', but just simply an explanation that is not highly technically detailed, but is adequate for beginners (not always just children)

~~~~~~~

Not wanting to learn any Music Theory when learning your first instrument, unless you are teaching yourself to play be ear, is like wanting to drive a car without wanting to know the rules of the road - you may survive, but life is easier if you know a few simple rules...


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: s&r
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 08:01 AM

I learned guitar first: following that keyboard was easy but not very logical.

The difficulties are to do with playing rather than theory - many theory books are keyboard based, and to read and understand those books, a knowledge of piano layout is an advantage: however, there are now many books which are theory for guitarists, and don't rely on keyboard.

Differences and points of confusion: guitar, all closed scales are the same in all keys. Piano - all scales have different fingering. Chord shapes are easy on piano; complex on guitar. Bending notes doesn't work on piano. You don't tune a piano. Alternative tunings are not used on piano. Ornaments are played differently. Notes occur once on a piano, six or so on a guitar.

Sometimes learning a second instrument can be confusing: I find that the Double Bass is confusing since it is tuned in fourths, not fifths (like most bowed strings), but has no frets like the electric bass. Similarly, I find that I use different fingering for Violin and Mandolin.

Musical knowledge is completely transferable - timing, emphasis etc, but instrument knowlwedge/skill not so. IMO

Stu


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Peter T.
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 03:02 PM

the tough part about the piano/guitar switch is the fingernails!

yours,

Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: just john
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 01:19 PM

Tip for guitarists and operators of similar instruments, especially when there's more than one present:

If you're going to be drinking or imbibing other stuff, don't start doing so until you've completed tuning up.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 03:41 PM

All good stuff, Graham. Pretty much what I was going to go into next.

On fingernails, I've always used "natural meat and bone," never fingerpicks. No surprise, considering that I play a nylon string classic, but even when I play steel strings, which I do from time to time, I still use my nails. I've tried using thumb and fingerpicks, but I found it like trying to tap-dance with combat boots on. Best combination, as you say, is flesh and nail—for both classic and steel-string guitars. Some of the best steel-string guitarists I know personally, like Walt Robertson (who played both six and 12-string) and George Austin (who plays outrageous alternating bass stuff) don't use fingerpicks. Only their nails. And they get a good, clean, loud sound out of their guitars.

There are nail files on the market that are really good for shaping and smoothing the nails, like an emory board, only made of metal—some kind of fine grit embedded in the metal. The first ones I found were called "Diamon Deb." They're very good, but the one I like best is put out by Revlon. One side is for shaping and the other side, with somewhat finer grit, is for finishing. You can actually polish the edges of your nails with the finishing side You should be able to get them at any drug store, on the Revlon display rack. I have a short one that I carry with me all the time for touching up and repairing the occasional snag, and a longer one for serious work. A couple of bucks.

Everybody's nails are a little different, so it pays to experiment with different lengths and shapes. And the nails will strengthen and thicken as you use them. My first classic guitar teacher told me that my nails would strengthen just as a result of using them, but he suggested that I might massage each right-hand finger near the back of the nail (the matrix, where it grows out of the finger) a couple of minutes every day to stimulate blood flow. Something worked, because the nails on my right hand thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers are actually about half again as thick as the nails on my other fingers.

The reason I prefer the p/i/m/a form of notation for the right hand is, first, it's an international standard for classic guitar notation (and I've also seen it used in some folk guitar books), and second, it avoids yet another collection of numbers for the poor beleaguered beginner to try to sort out. When you use numbers for the left hand, numbers for the frets, and numbers for the strings to be played with the right hand fingers—I've learned from my pupils that they can often get really confused about what's being said. Hence, numbers for the left hand, letters for the right.

Since, as you noted, one doesn't always play the three basses with the thumb and the three trebles with the fingers, one can say, "Play the 2nd string with i and the 1st string with m," and the whole thing is pretty clear.

But as long as it communicates and the aspiring guitarist can keep it straight, either system works.

Just to continue a bit on the numbers theme:    In music theory, when discussing things like scale structure, numbers are usually used rather than letters (C, D, E, F, etc.) because one can say, "In major scales, there is a half-step between 3 and 4, and 7 and 8. All the rest are whole steps," and that applies to all major scales, not just the key of C. Then, when talking about chords, one says "a chord consists of a root, a third, and a fifth." Then, when one runs into things like, "The 3rd of the IV chord is the 6th degree of the major scale," is it any wonder that some poor music students leap up and run screaming into the night, never to be heard from again?

If it's a standard, recognized system and it gets away from the confusion engendered by whole strings of numbers, I'm all for it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Scoville
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 04:53 PM

I pretty much keep my nails cut off either way, for piano or guitar. They used to get caught in the piano keys, but then I couldn't fret a guitar with long nails (I leave the ones on my right hand long because a) I'm right handed and tend to do a poor job of nail-trimming with the left hand, and b) I use a flat-pick so I'm not playing with the nails, anyway).

I'm going to learn a bit of fingerpicking one of these days (years . . . decades . . . ), I swear. Right now I'm always the back-up guitarist for a bunch of other instruments, and we don't have a bass, so the aim is for sound volume and not intonation. Flat pick and a lot of pounding on bass strings. It's not pretty but, by God, I'll keep everyone on the same beat.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 05:54 PM

Some more Useful Techniques for Beginners


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Peace
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 05:59 PM

Banjo is a good instrument, too.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Johnhenry'shammer
Date: 03 Aug 06 - 06:54 PM

I'm just tryin to take it one step at a time, Peace. Haha.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Grab
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 05:48 AM

Cheers Don. I agree that p/i/m/a is the best way of showing right hand. But as you say, the less things to learn at once, the better - I reckoned that counting strings assumes less knowledge than saying "with p on the D string". :-)

JHH, the quality of tone you get from fingerstyle is *absolutely* dependent on how your right-hand fingers hit the strings. Now you can try and work out yourself how to get this right, but the best way is to go and get a few lessons from someone who knows classical guitar. You don't need them to teach you anything else (scales, pieces or anything), just to look at what you're doing and correct your technique.

That's the best way to use a teacher, incidentally - work out what you need them for and get them to polish up your skills in that specific area. It's like getting a decorator in to do your house. You'll get much better results for less money if you know in advance what colours and wallpaper you want, instead of making the decorator do all the running. :-)

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Don Firth
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 06:25 PM

I agree wholeheartedly. For any aspiring guitarist who wants to play things that require the use of the right-hand fingers, I can't think of a better way to get off to a first-rate start than to take a few lessons from a good classic guitar teacher.

Just curious, JHH. What kind of guitar did you get?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Johnhenry'shammer
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 10:52 AM

Takamine GS330S. Great, rich tone.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 10:36 AM

Learn to sing and play as many different kinds of songs that you can. In this process you will find the direction you need.

Out of the singing and playing, the instrumental will come.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 02:45 PM

Eureka! Hosanna! I'll even go so far as to say Gloriosky!!

I've had a book on my bookshelf for years called How to Play by Ear, by M. Emett Wilson.   It was one of the textbooks I was required to get when I attended the Cornish School of the Arts in the early Sixties. We never actually used it that much in class and I just stashed it on my shelves along with other textbooks I kept.

I've just pulled it out and scanned through it. I haven't come to any solid conclusions yet, but I think this could be the very thing for people interested in folk music or other kinds of music, but don't want to get involved in taking extensive (and sometimes expensive) lessons or immersing themselves in classes on music theory. It gives great information on how to hear and figure out what's going on in melody lines, and how to determine what chords to play, and answers to all kinds of other questions that pop up here on Mudcat—all without using written music! Whenever Wilson does use a brief passage of written music, he "translates" it for those who can't read music.

The copy I have was published in 1960, so I went on line to see if it was still available. Apparently it has been reprinted (1982) and it may be available through Amazon or various used book dealers.

HOWEVER—

As I was googling, I found THIS. It gives a synopsis of the book, and then, if you scroll down to where it says, "To get started reading this free material, just go to:   Free Piano Music and click on Free Piano Music. This will take you to another page, where once again, scroll down to where it says "CLICK HERE TO READ CHAPTER 1," and lo! and behold, as far as I can tell, the whole book is free, on line.

It's basically written with piano in mind, but don't let that put you off. What Wilson talks about can apply to any instrument, including the guitar, the banjo, whatever.

Give it a look.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Grab
Date: 06 Aug 06 - 03:37 PM

Too right, Frank! If you don't enjoy playing, it's all a bit of a waste of time. That's the tragedy of too many young people in the classical style, unfortunately - some teachers manage to suck all the fun out of it. If you're doing it for yourself instead of for a teacher, you get much more out of it.

One more thing on fingerpicking - alternate thumb picking. This is simply changing which note your thumb plays. So in Am, the following will work nicely:-

5 3 2 1 | 4 3 2 1 | 5 3 2 1 | 6 3 2 1

Then try putting a thumb stroke in every other note, and just playing the same note with the other fingers:-

5 2 4 2 | 5 2 6 2

Then put them together:-

5 3 4 2 | 5 1 4 2

Then just mix and match, any combination in any order. At that point, it's up to *you* to find the fingerpicking sequence that *you* like for each song. And by then, you'll be really motoring - if you're not playing open-mics and singarounds by then, you should be! :-)

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Peter T.
Date: 07 Aug 06 - 09:13 AM

Wow, Don, this is truly amazing. What a find. Just what I have been looking for practically forever. Thanks for it!

yours,

Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 08 Aug 06 - 01:42 AM

Let me register a mild protest against the prevailing anti-fingerpicks school of thought. I've been playing for almost forty years, and I know that my own playing benefits from much greater precision, as well as much more dynamic range, when I use my picks. Not everyone will want to invest the time to accustom themselves to the use of these "unnatural" appendages, but some of those who see, hear, and appreciate skillful picking-with-picks will always set out to emulate and learn thsi method.

I do also play without picks fairly regularly, if for no other reason than to keep my volume down when playing at home late at night ("practicing"). When working up a new piece or new arrangement, I find it useful to work both with and without picks as a way to try as many different approaches as possible. Once I've firmed up the way I want to play a given number, however, I'll always use my picks to perform it.

I should note that I'm talking about picking the acoustic steel-string guitar. On the rare occasions when I fool around with an electric guitar, I find that bare hands work quite well and fingerpicks don't help at all.

I have no argument with anyone who prefers to play in a different manner than I do ~ different strokes for different folks, absolutely. However, I do resent the implication that only flesh and nails can produce sensitive, subtle, expressive playing. It's downright ignorant to assume that picks can only be used in a crude, heavy-handed manner. On the contrary, I know that I can play much more delicately and quickly (and audibly so) with picks than without.

It took a while to learn, of course, and I don't necessarily recommend that every beginner take up fingerpicking ~ with or without fingerpicks, for that matter. I've already invested plenty of time and effort in the path I adopted long ago, but it's not for everyone, I suppose...

One good reason NOT to learn to use fingerpicks: because it's apparently a dying art, it's getting harder and harder to find decent picks! I suppose they'll always be available in Nashville, because pedal steel players doing session work can't function without 'em. But elsewhere, years after the end of the folk music "boom" or "scare" or whatever, not too many of us are still fingerpicking, and we no longer seem to constitute a viable market demographic...

My pair of metal fingerpicks is virtually permanent; they're impossible to wear out, and they've been custom-fitted to my fingertips over the years, so I'm very careful to keep track of them. I lost a pair once, and had to start breaking in and shaping a new pair, so I'm now using my second pair of fingerpicks since 1969. The plastic thumbpick is another story ~ they wear out and break periodically and have to be replaced. As the years go by, fewer and fewer music stores seem to keep good basic thumbpicks in stock. Too often, the only thumbpicks available at a store are weird toy-like novelty items, obviously purchased by a buyer who has never actually played with a thumbpick. (I prefer Nationals, but have found equivalent decent picks under other brand names.)


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Peter T.
Date: 08 Aug 06 - 06:54 AM

One thing about fingerpicks: they sure show up mistakes. You have to be way more careful!!

yours,

Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 09 Aug 06 - 11:54 AM

Hey Peter ~ well, you're right: use of fingerpicks does make your mistakes sound out loud and clear. The corrollary of that observation is this: they also make good, correct playing much more audible. And I might add that they can serve to make a broader range of sounds possible to generate. Obviously, you're able to generate a louder sound when desired, but you're also able to make your quick, delicate, single-string runs and arpeggios, etc., sound very bright and clear, even at relatively low volume levels.

I'm not sure, however, that I'd recommend that a beginner commit to learning the use of fingerpicks. It's a whole extra learning curve to surmount, for one thing, and it puts you in a position where you have to have your picks with you in order to adequately "show your stuff." If you rely upon your fingernails and fleshy fingertips, on the other hand, they're always readily available ("at hand," if you will). Even for those who learn and become dependant upon the flatpick, it's usually pretty easy to find and borrow one ~ if indeed you don't always keep one or two in your pocket, along with your loose change. Because most players use flatpicks, most guitars you might have occasion to borrow are likely to be accompanied by a pick you can use.

Another problem with fingerpicks: they can pop right off your fingertips in the middle of a performance, leaving you in an awkward position. This never happens to me at home, or with friends, or in any low-pressure situation; however, since I recently resumed "playing out" after a 30-year hiatus, I've occasionally experienced just enough nervousness to cause my hands to tighten up a bit, falter, catch a pick on a string, and have it drop to the floor or ground or, worse yet, into the soundhole. Yikes!


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Grab
Date: 09 Aug 06 - 01:13 PM

My pet peeve with fingerpicks is that they force you to only ever play strokes that contract your hand, ie. up-strokes with your fingers and down-strokes with your thumb. You can usually get away with up-strokes with the thumb-pick, but down-strokes with your fingers is a physical impossibility with a normal fingerpick - they're curved so that a down-stroke will *always* snag the pick. Alaska Piks let you do this, but they're more likely to pop off unless you have long fingernails, in which case the "natural alternative" is probably fine.

The problem with that is that if you ever want to strum, you'd better remember to do it with your thumb-pick and not your fingers, otherwise you'll be collecting fingerpicks from all over the place. If your style's developed from classical guitar or frailing/clawhammer and involves strumming with your fingers, fingerpicks are a pain in the posterior. :-/

Having said that, they can give a lovely tone if used well. But I think you're right about beginners not using them - first find your style, and then see whether you can mix fingerpicks in with it.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Aug 06 - 03:10 PM

..."pedal steel players doing session work can't function without 'em" ...

Not so, PoppaGator.

Although it is true that the majority of pedal steel players do favor picks, there are plenty of eminent pedal steel players who don't use them.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 09 Aug 06 - 10:05 PM

GUEST: Touche, I suppose, but there can't be that many barefingered steel players ~ I've never noticed one, ever. But then again, I'm not primarily a country-music listener.

Grab: Over many years, I've developed a technique of strumming with my picks on, down with the thumb and up with the two fingers. When playing/practicing without picks, I'll go both directions with my fingers (probably more downstrokes than up, in fact, in order to "brush" across the strings with the backs of my fingernails). Somehow, my neural synapses manage to control those two fingers appropriately according to whether or not they are armed with picks ~ I can easily and unconsciously restrict the fingers to upstrokes with picks, but leave them free to go both ways without. (My thumb, in contrast, works in one direction only ~ down ~ with or without a thumbpick.)

For the record, my first guitar was a nylon-string classical type; I learned to pick barehanded, and continued to play without picks of any kind for five-plus years until I upgraded to my current Martin D-18 in 1969. I then felt it absolutely necessary to start using a pick, or picks, because even the best steel-string acoustic, when fingerpicked au natural, simply can't match the volume of a classical guitar.

For a while, I fooled with flatpicks as well as fingerpicks, but after I began streetsinging for long hours, I quit the flatpick because of cramps in my thumb from gripping too hard. (Yeah, I know, I probably could have developed better technique and learned to flatpick correctly, but that was then...) Whereas I had previously divided my repertoire into "fingerpicking" and "strumming" categories, I gradually learned to play all my songs wearing the thumb-and-fingerpicks, even those for which I had no single-string picking arrangement, and for which I employed a multi-string, high-volume approach (i.e., "strumming" with fingerpicks).

It has taken many additional years, but at this late date I have developed a right-hand technique that allows me to attack any number of strings at once, one or two or even all six, at any time, with the thumb or with either finger, and keep a steady pulse gong with the thumb while enjoying a degree of freedom to play melody, or grace notes, or "comping" chords, or whatever, with the other two fingers. Pretty much what I wanted to do all along ~ but certainly NOT anything I was able to do as a beginner, or even as an "intermediate" player.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Johnhenry'shammer
Date: 11 Aug 06 - 02:04 AM

Well I've always wanted to play like Woody Guthrie. I've never seen a picture of him playing with finger picks so I'll probably just stick to my good ole fingers. Thanks to everybody for presenting both sides though.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Johnhenry'shammer
Date: 11 Aug 06 - 02:31 AM

I've got a question for everybody: what does all this shit mean? You know like the dashes with the numbers or the /a-b or /e stuff. That all looks like giberish to me and I'd be interested to know how to play it.


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Aug 06 - 01:37 PM

Tablature.

It's a very old method of writing music for instruments like the lute. Since the guitar is very similar to the lute (strings and frets), this is an example of the old lute tablature updated and applied to the guitar.

The six horizontal lines (a row of dashes or hyphens, which is the only way you can draw a line in this font) represent the six strings of the guitar. The top line is the 1st string, the bottom line is the 6th string. The numbers on the lines tell you what fret to play on that string ("0" = open string). The letter ("G") over the whole thing is the basic chord, the "e/" halfway across the first measure tells you to stay on the G chord, but play an E note on the 4th string, 2nd fret. The "0h2" means play the 5th string open, then hammer a finger down on the 2nd fret (a "hammer on" is the same as an upward slur).

Above the lines, the colon (":") indicates the downbeat (first beat of the measure) and the periods (".") are the main beats (1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4).

Very complicated lute pieces have been written this way, and there is no reason that the system shouldn't work well for the guitar. In fact, I've seen a few classical guitar manuals where, beneath the standard notation, tablature has been added as an aid for students just learning to read music.

It's a good system. But—it's no more difficult to learn to read regular notation than it is to learn to read tablature. And if a melody is written out in regular notation, you can play it on a guitar, a banjo, a piano, a bagpipe, or a glockenspiel. If a melody is written out in guitar tablature, the only instrument you can read it for is the guitar.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Aug 06 - 01:42 PM

By the way, other than the added "e" in the first measure and the "hammer-on" in the second measure, the basic picking pattern is "Burl Ives basic":    thumb plays a bass string followed by all three fingers playing the three trebles simultaneously.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Beginner Guitar Tips?
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Aug 06 - 02:38 PM

Wait a minute, wait a minute! I goofed!

The basic strum is not Burl Ives basic. What Guthrie is doing on this bit of tablature is the basic Carter Family strum.

Maybelle Carter would play a bass string with her thumb, then brush her index finger down across the treble strings and then flick it back up again, so she got a sort of "Bump-Diddy, Bump-Diddy" rhythm. With this as her basic strum, between picking her bass notes judiciously (and even coming up on the treble strings with her thumb sometimes) and adding hammer-ons and pull-offs, she could get pretty close to playing the melody line of a song while accompanying it with chords at the same time.

You can hear examples of this on any Carter Family recording, and at least on her first LPs, Joan Baez used this style to accompany several songs. Woody Guthrie used it a lot.

I hope this helps.

Don Firth


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