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More of the Popular Questions and Answers from Readers
by Domenick Ginex

Thought I would publish some interesting questions and answers...

QUESTION...

O.K. You asked for questions, so here you go. I have been playing about one year (just me, no rock bands, jams, etc.) I know all open chords, understand bar chords, practice my scales, etc. I read music fine and can play most any simple songs. I love playing Beetles. However, I seem now to be at a stand still. I am not ever going to be playing riffs and leads in a band, backing up leads in a club, etc. I would just like to play nice, "full" music. An example would be(understanding the impossibility given his classical training etc.) like Esteban. Nice, contemporary songs that a single acoustic guitarist can play without just the plinky plinky single notes. All materials I see always seem to assume I am a 15 year old practicing to be in some hip hop band. While I appreciate the basics of your system and will continue to practice scales etc., how do I get to the next level. Please, don't go there with the everything is in the scales. How do I start to work on a better "solo" (no backup, just me) sound? James

ANSWER...

James, Excellent question! You have a few options...

Option 1 - Do you sing or do you want to sing? If the answer is yes then it sounds like you already know enough guitar to perform your favorite songs. Just get a Beatles song book or any other favorite artist or song collection and start playing and singing along. That is how I really started performing, with my acoustic guitar and my voice and my favorite songs. I am no Pavorotti. If you have a half-way decent voice and you put feelings into it then people will appreciate it. That is the quickest and easiest way to perform "solo", or by yourself.

Option 2 - Maybe you should consider getting another musician to accompany you. Not a full band, just a duo. It can be any instrument... flute, saxophone, keyboard, another guitar, etc. One of you can play the melody and take solos while the other plays rhythm. This is much easier than coordinating with a full band.

Option 3 - Really the option you are inquiring about but also can be the most difficult, which is basically playing chord / melody style. This is where you play both the melody and the chords and rhythm parts at the same time. This typically requires that you are well versed in all types and inversions of chords all along the fretboard. It also requires you to be able to play melodies well and that you can coordinate between melody and chords. Many people that play this style also incorporate orchestrated bass lines into their arrangements. Most people that play this style also make extensive use of finger picking techniques in order to fully take advantage of playing as many strings as possible while working the various rhythm and melody parts. It is definitely an advanced way of playing which requires patience, dilligence and practice. It is really the ultimate use of the guitar as an instrument. Even if your goal is Option 3, you should also experiment with Options 1 and 2 just to acquaintyourself with the various styles and methods of playing. Here are some tips for starting on Option 3...

- You have a head start since you read music. Start learning the melodies of the songs you want to learn, playing them "single string" style. Learn to play the melody in a few different areas of the fretboard. Pick out a small handful of songs that you want to learn.

- Also learn the chords for those songs. Get to the point where you can play the chords to the songs in any area of the fretboard. This will require that you are familiar with all of the chord inversions up and down the fretboard. See the Guitar Lessons Pro Guitar Chord Dictionary if you have it.

- Start practicing finger picking techniques. There are several books and other materials out there that can help in this area.

- Start putting together the chords and the melodies. Keep the melodies as the highest tones of the chords that you are playing. You don't have to play a chord for each note of the melody. You can if you want but you can also play several melody notes between chords.

- Play extended and altered versions of chords to make things interesting (see the Guitar Lessons ProIntermediate lessons and the Guitar Chord Dictionary for more info) There are several books out there that go over chord / melody techniques and concepts. One book that I have is entitled "Jazz Guitar - Mastering Chord/Melody" by Jodie Fisher. Don't let the "Jazz" part of the title fool you... it does give you the basics of the method. I hope this helps...

QUESTION...

Hi domenick, I have to say I don't know how to play I just got my first axe from my supervisor from my job, he has been playing for 22 years he was in a band at one time I tried to pay him to teach me how to play but being a new dad & all he don't have the time, I asked around the Atlanta area where I live but all the money that is being ask for I'm at the point that I may give up, Rodney

ANSWER...

Rodney, What kind of guitar did you get? I wouldn't give up at this point. You should try to get a hold of some books and hang out with other musicians who would be willing to teach you some basic things for free. Maybe go to jam sessions and listen to what the other people are playing, then ask them questions afterwards. Soon you may be playing alongside them.

QUESTION...

Hello dginex, I was wondering if there is any advice you can give regarding playing in public again. Back in the 70's I played for a living and even made a couple of records with various bands, but I stopped playing until a few years ago when a friend who now lives in America sent me some tapes of his work and this inspired me to start again. I then found your site which has helped me tremendously to get some sort of ability back again, my problem is remembering all that I used to play, I have the ability but not memory. However maybe I should forget the past and start a fresh with new, but am not sure where to start, your site has got me back on track to a certain degree but am lost at the moment because I get a little fed up practising and playing on my own, I am into Blues and rock and did a circuit of accoustic folk club playing but am having trouble finding people to play with or to form some sort of band. I think it is the age as you can see I am from the 70's era and need to find people of the same age or same interest. Do you have any ideas. I live in Southampton England. Any advice would be appreciated. Gerry.

ANSWER...

Hello Gerry, Thanks for the feedback Do you have any recordings of the work you did in the 70's? If so I would like to hear them I would say... don't forget the past and also don't forget the present either. I play out live and people still love to hear and dance to songs from the 50's, 60's, 70's etc. You might be surprised at how young people know the older songs and love them! Even if they don't know them you can't diminish the value of these older hits and people recognize that and appreciate it. A song was a hit back then because it was good and it still is good. Also, there are a lot of people in the audience that also were around back then and absolutely love hearing their favorite songs from back then. As far as re-learning how to play the songs that you used to know...

- Dust off your old records, download songs from the Internet or buy the CD's and start listening to them again to see if you can get them back by ear

- Get a hold of sheet music or a song book that has the songs that you want to play. These can be found at bookstores or on-line. Sheet Music Plus is a web site that has a huge selection of sheet music and song books. It can be found at the following web site: Sheet Music Plus

- There are plenty of web sites out there that provide tablature, chord charts and lyrics for free. Just go to Google or Yahoo, type in the name of the song and then "chords" or "lyrics". A search line might look like his... +"Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes" +lyrics +chords

Now for the second part of my advice... don't forget about the present either. I really really like 70's music too. I grew up with those songs. Some people used to say I was stuck in the 70's, musically. I have had to almost force myself to listen to new music on the radio and you know what... there are some really good songwriters out there these days! There is some very melodic pop and rock music currently being created... enriched with harmonies, intricate orchestration and good lyrics. So how do you start getting tuned in to the new music? Start listening to the radio every day. Listen to one of the more popular stations that plays pop and rock music. Maybe tape several hours of that station on any given day. Then pick out a few of the songs that you like. Go to the Internet to get the lyrics or chords or buy song books or sheet music. With regards to finding musicians... I live in Tampa, FL, US. In the Tampa Bay area there are free music publications that you can pick up at local music stores that contain advertisements published by people searching for musicians. The ads can be very specific, for example... "Group of New Wave musicians looking for singer. We play Cars, Devo, Clash, Joe Jackson, etc." There are also typically bulletin boards in the music stores that have messages of the same nature. You might check out music stores near you to see if they provide the same type of communications.

QUESTION...

Just have a few questions

1 - I just been playing and its not been easy due to the shape of my hands i can play notes pretty easy except the top strings e-string-f -g a-b-c are uncomfortable. i may not be holding the neck right any help i can get i would be grateful.

2 - I have trouble stretching my fingers apart to get the chords and when I do I touch the next string so they don't sound right. I do have thick fingers. I beleive I am not holding my hands right. I can get lower notes no problem just can not get the chords. Thank you and God bless you. Donald

ANSWER...

Donald, You may want to investigate other guitars, maybe one that has a wider neck. For example, classical or nylon string guitars have wider necks and may be easier for you to play since you have large fingers. Also, make sure that your thumb is in the middle of the back of the neck and that your fingers are not laying flat down on the fretboard. In other words, you want only your finger tips touching the fretboard and the strings. Then it is a matter of practicing and practicing. It will be hard at the start but you have to play a chord over and over until there are no accidentally muted notes when you play. A friend of mine has large hands and fingers. He has the same problem as you but he has been getting better and better the more he practices and plays. Just keep at it and you will see an improvement

Well, that's it for now. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to send them to me. I am always ready to help.


Domenick Ginex is a guitarist living in Tampa, Florida. He has played in several groups in the Tampa Bay area for over 25 years. His website, located at http://GuitarLessonsPro.com, offers guitar instructional information for beginner to intermediate level guitarists.


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