So Why Be A Guitarist?

How did I learn music?

Learning the guitar:

I learned by listening. In my previous post of “my personal backstory” I explained how I wanted a guitar as young child but didn’t get one for years, so most of my time was spent just listening to music. I believe a lot of people are musicians and don’t even realize it! If you love music and listen to it often you probably have music inside you so much so, that you are a musician and don’t even know it. So I began really as a listener and still do more as a listener than when I practice/play.

I read a few books and got some different perspectives on how to hold the guitar, hold your pick, what gauges of strings to use, different tunings the whole nine yards. At 11 years old, I didn’t have Youtube yet, Napster was about all I had. The best thing that helped me take off was learning the notes of the guitar and playing them on each string and naming the notes off as I went up the entire fretboard… E, F, F#, G, G#, A etc… string by string. THEN, I learned about intervals (two or more notes played simultaneously) This is now how you formulate chords and get into scales as well. So I learned my first scale, A minor scale. The beauty of A minor, is it is relative to the most famously used scale ever, C major. No sharps, no flats… all “natural” notes. I picked up music theory so fast it was like a new language that I already knew.

I wanted to play fast…. Every “shredder” aims for speed and accuracy. So I studied my playing and how I used my pick and played fast on one string, one note, rapidly, trying to be faster and faster. Then I began incorporating scale notes going up and down.

The most important part of guitar is playing clean. This means making sure all the notes or noises that shouldn’t be heard, quiet. So using the palm of your picking hand is vital to this. Resting it on the guitar bridge just right to mute unwanted notes.

I learned music by playing other peoples music. Picking up what I could and playing it to the cassette/CD. Trying to keep up. It took so many hours and hours. But repetitiveness is key. In my early days, it was a lot of Metallica! The 90’s Zeppelin as I call them.

Songwriting:

Now comes the creativeness factor. How do I write my OWN music? Well, I used what I had learned already! If I knew how play some other peoples music, then I knew how they formulated their songs and had a guide. I learned the circle of fifths, which shows you how each chord and scale relate to one another.

I bought a book on how to read music notation, read that book front to back many times. So know I knew time signatures and measures. Knowing the basics is going to go much farther than knowing nothing when it comes to music notation. You should be able to know whole notes, quarter notes, half notes, triplets, dotted notes, rests, just everything, because this will separate you from a creative guesser to a knowledgeable creator. Which, can be debated as to whether or not it is really necessary to learn how to read music notation. I say, yes, learn it. Now, not later!

Writing a song requires you to do it and not think so much about it. Certainly you’ll have a song, where some cool parts come to you easy, verses, the hook .. but then you need to ponder on how to do a breakdown or segue, maybe a transition of some type.. and it takes a lot of thought. But essentially a song should not require much effort, let it flow!

Recording:

I started recording on a Tascam 4 track cassette recorder. Now, an iPhone is adequate to begin with. But to get serious with recording, download DAW software & get a digital/analog converter to plug a mic or guitar into your computer via USB or Firewire. This can start to get expensive. I have a full on 72 channel mixing board, an RME Digiface converter & use Cakewalk Sonar Platinum for multi-tracking & many different software suites for plugins, then VST software (Virtual Instruments) that are prerecorded & controlled by MIDI. This gets very expensive & difficult to master. Recording is like learning an instrument in itself. Mixing your recordings is not an easy task. Then there is getting it to sound good on whatever it’s played, called Mastering which I would leave up to a professional. Sure, you can use some simple techniques to do this,

The importance of being versatile:

My best advice is to learn more than one instrument. I play just about everything, I’m not a great drummer & sing… ok. But I can play anything with strings & love experimenting with all kinds of instruments. I’m also diverse in the music I listen to. I am a lover of music, so therefore I love ALL music. That’s right, all of it. I am a Metal head, but to be a real diverse player, expand your horizons & explore all genres.