The following are some tips on staying motivated in the early stages of learning guitar. It can be a tough instrument, particularly where you’re starting out and so I hope these ideas will inspire and help keep things fun for you!
Learn easier arrangements of your favourite songs. It can seem like a long road learning to play the songs of your guitar heroes. However there are some great books that carefully adapt classic tracks to be beginner friendly and yet still sound close to the originals. A couple of examples are Trinity’s Rock and Pop series and Hal Leonard’s ‘Graded Guitar Songs’. And no, sadly I’ve not been paid to recommend those books.
Keep listening to new music. Not only can this renew inspiration, but it also develops your musical ‘ear’ by familiarising you with new forms of harmony, rhythms, styles of playing etc. If you’d like some ideas, here is a totally biased list featuring some of my favourite guitarists: Jeff Beck, Django Reinhardt, Joe Pass, Guthrie Govan and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Improvise. For me this is one of the most expressive and satisfying ways to play the guitar. It’s a bit like being given a palette of paints and a canvas and being told to do what you like – wonderful! It also helps keep things feeling fresh in your practice routine so that you’re not simply going over the same scales, riffs etc. all the time. Even if you only have minimal scale knowledge you can improvise; it is not just for advanced players. There are online guides to improvisation and countless backing tracks on Youtube for you to solo over.
Set targets and rewards. I owe one of my students thanks for this idea, as he recently told me that he was keen to buy a new guitar but wanted to create a target that he would have to reach first. I think this is a great idea and a good target could be learning to play a certain song. Of course a reward can be as small or as big as you like – from a new plectrum to a new amplifier.
Play with others. If you’re lucky enough to be learning alongside someone else (as I was when I started), then you can spur each other along and share in your frustrations and successes. If not, there are other options such as jam nights and open mic nights where even if you don’t feel comfortable performing, you can meet other guitarists and share advice, enthusiasm etc.
Use Apps. A few of my students are using apps to help them with guitar practice at the moment and there seems to be plenty to choose from. A quick search online brought up this list: www.guitarworld.com/25-best-guitar-and-music-apps Having a database of chords, licks, scales, songs etc. on your phone sounds pretty cool to me!
Keep track of progress. The initial stages of learning guitar can be a challenge and so to keep perspective you could try measuring your progress. This way you can see how you are improving and aren’t as likely to feel ‘stuck in a rut’. One example for this is practising in time to a metronome to see how the speed of your playing is increasing. Another idea from world-famous tutor Justin Sandercoe relates to one of the most common problems for beginners – changing between chords quickly. He calls it ‘one minute changes’ and for this you write down how many times you can change between two chords in one minute. Then when you manage to beat your record you can see for yourself that you are progressing.
I have been particularly enjoying my jazz playing lately and decided to have a go at arranging a classic – ‘Autumn Leaves’. I decided to play it on a classical guitar because I felt the tone worked well and I’ve mixed in a variety of techniques and ideas to try to give the piece my own feel. It’s a lovely song and I hope I’ve done it justice!
If you enjoy it please share it around; and check back soon as I plan to upload another arrangement.
I’ve noticed that some of my younger guitar students seem to get very excited at the mention of playing a game! This is particularly true when they’ve been struggling with something, such as learning a new chord or piece, and want something a bit different to add variety to the lesson.
Therefore with this in mind, I’ve created a guitarist’s version of the classic ‘Memory’ card game, in which cards are laid face down in a random order and the student must find each corresponding pair.
In this guitar version, the cards relate to key elements from the Rockschool Grade Debut guitar book, such as basic chords, rhythms and tab. For example one corresponding pair in my game includes a card with ‘D Major’ written in text and a card with D Major written in tab.
I’m hoping this will be helpful for fellow guitar tutors, parents of young students and students themselves!
You can download it here and it’s free to use. Enjoy!! [media-downloader media_id=”135681847″ texts=”Download ‘Guitar Memory Game'”]
Jake Munn and I are very pleased to see that our debut EP ‘Bring Out Your Ghosts’ has been featured in the latest ‘The Musician’ magazine. It’s also great to receive their kind words and be compared to The Everly Brothers!
You can see the review below and remember if you’d like a copy of our EP, you can buy a CD via the ‘Store’ page of this website or find it via digital retailers such as Itunes and Amazon MP3.
Here is my entry for the Jam Track Central Guitar Solo competition 2015!
There’s some stiff competition out there (this is an international competition), but I’ve always enjoyed creating/playing solos and so I’ve given it a crack. I went for the category of rock and made sure to put on my best display of face gurning – this is undoubtedly something judges will look for..
For those unfamiliar with Outlaws Kept The View, we are an acoustic duo featuring myself on guitar and lead vocals and Jake Munn on bass and backing vocals. We initially teamed up to perform each others solo material, but in a short space of time we discovered that we had a very natural songwriting ‘chemistry’ with each other (no jokes!). We therefore spent many long and happy hours writing songs together, in between a healthy amount of ‘mischief and mirth’ as they say.
I like to think we have developed our own distinctive sound, which I would sum up not very succinctly as: rock/blues/folk/country/film-score/ambient/acoustic. In other words we take from a lot of influences!
Perhaps ‘Acoustic Prog-Folk’ is the neatest fit? You be the judge!
Anyway we were put on hold when I injured my arm several years ago; very unfortunate timing as we were on the verge of finishing our EP at the time. Work commitments and all of that boring stuff extended our hiatus. Still, all of this has made it even more satisfying to finally put the last touches to ‘Bring out your Ghosts’ – our debut release.
This project means a lot to us and we have poured our hearts and souls into writing and performing the music. We hope you really enjoy it and you can now hear the ‘teaser trailer’ at the top of this page which gives you snippets of all 5 tracks that will be on the EP.
Please stand by for EP artwork and a release date!
‘I don’t care about the rules. In fact, if I don’t break the rules at least 10 times in every song then I’m not doing my job properly.’– Jeff Beck.
Whilst I can’t claim to ‘break the rules’ nearly as often as Jeff does, or even claim that I try to, I still enjoy this quote and admire his words. As a guitar teacher I’m naturally concerned with imparting the most accurate and effective advice to my students. I want to make sure that they have the best chance to play the songs they want to play and develop the techniques they want to develop. But as important as it is to pass on practised methods, part of the joy of playing guitar for me has always been experimentation and finding out what works best for you.
Many of the greatest guitarists have gone with this approach and the already huge body of guitar techniques has grown accordingly to include playing with your thumb, ‘finger-tapping’, percussion using the body of the guitar and all manner of other techniques.
However the above examples relate only to the invention of new techniques. Not many of us will have the privilege of creating a new technique, so how about just finding your own distinctive sound on the guitar, how do you do that?
I think by playing what you want to hear. This is a very natural and authentic way to create music. It doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to break rules, but instead you follow your gut, listen to what you’re doing and find out for yourself what works and what doesn’t. In other words you don’t write music for other people, but instead write and play in line with your own sense of beauty and enjoyment. People tend to enjoy this authenticity in music anyway.
If you’d like a plectrum with Kermit the Frog on it, this could be your lucky day… I’m offering free ‘starter packs’ to my new guitar students.
Each one includes a folder of guitar tabs, chord charts and tuition materials I’ve designed/transcribed (including ‘Tom’s Top Tips’ for getting started on the guitar), a pick holder, selection of picks and a choice of a novelty pick (it’s not just kids that like the Muppets or the Minions after all).
I decided my recent ‘guitarist video reel’ needed to showcase a bit more of the louder stuff – so I have made up and added a metal-style solo to the start of it. I’ve always loved playing in a variety of genres on the guitar and am happy to teach all sorts of things! If you’re interested in lessons please visit the ‘Teaching’ page of this website. Here is the new video reel:
The title of this article, ‘Notes like raindrops’, refers to a review written about one of my favourite jazz guitarists – Randy Napoleon. The words are as lyrical as the musician himself:
“…each note hangs, suspended with raindrop-like clarity from its bough of melody.”(Lawrence Consentino, Lansing Michigan’s City Pulse).
What a beautiful way to describe the playing of this guitarist.
Several years ago I watched Randy play live in Hertfordshire and was impressed not only by his guitar skills and feel for melody, but how gracious and unpretentious he was as a performer. Known for playing alongside top acts such as Michael Buble (amongst other projects!), he came out on to the stage to find only a handful of people in his audience. Despite this, his first words were something like:
“Don’t worry, we will play the same for you as we would for an audience of ten thousand people.”
Friendly and down-to-earth, he was willing to spend time chatting with us afterwards. I felt at the time that this was the sort of performer I aspired to be – always giving my best on stage and with no superiority complex!
As for the guitar-work, the tone and technique were wonderful and he moved around those solos with the precision of an SAS sniper (but with none of the violence). The other two musicians accompanying him were also fantastic and clearly enjoyed their job!
Of course, all of this is a way of encouraging you to check him out.
Have a listen here and enjoy: http://www.randynapoleon.com