Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

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lue42
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Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by lue42 » October 14th, 2008, 8:33 am

Ok... so a couple of months ago I bought a guitar and after years and years of wanting to learn to play, I decided once and for all to go for it. My mind is in the right place, and have the tools and ready to go.

I initially thought that learning to read music at the same time was very important. It is not that I have anything against tabs. Well written tabs is just a different form of notation... I just thought that learning standard notation would help me understand the guitar and what I am doing with it.

I don't have the time, or finances right now to get an instructor, so I am having to go the book (and online video lessons) route. I bought the Hal Leonard Guitar Method book and started. I am able to get about 30 minutes of practice in every night. I managed to get into the book quite well, and was really enjoying it.

Then, I came across fingerpicking and wanted to try that. So, using various lessons around the net (including off this site) I tried a few songs. It is really enjoyable, but I am finding that I am learning very specific finger movements. It is like I am not really learning to play, but instead learning specific movements - put finger here, then here, etc. Whenever I try a new lesson/song, it is like I am learning from scratch... no base skills are being established.

Then, I came across a couple of lessons for some other songs I like and now am trying a few of them using (using a pick, not fingers). The lessons were in tab format, and I found them a lot easier to use.

I tried doing basic scales as well... just to get the fingers going.

I am kind of lost. I don't know where to go from here. There is too much to learn, sometimes it is too hard and I am getting frustrated. I don't want to stop.

I really want to create a base skill set, so that I can move around the fretboard, and play new songs as I see them. I keep flip flopping back and forth between styles (pick, fingerpicking, etc)...

So, last night, I decided to start from scratch. I decided to go back to chapter one of the Hal Leonard course... focus on learning standard notation... learn from square one. But, even today, I am doubting that and wondering if I should learn some songs first... note by note or, scales, or what?

What should I do? When an absolute beginner gets in-person instruction, what do they generally teach first? I don't have a specific genre of music I like, or am interested in playing. I like everything from blues to rock to classical to Spanish to country fingerstyle, to whatever. My "muse" songs are pretty varied. Most are very advanced, and I am very realistic about (not) being able to play them until way in the future... but they keep me dreaming...
ie...
Fingerpicking - Big Love (Lindsay Buckingham)
Rock - Cult of personality (Living Color)
also... Texas Flood, Little Wing, Is there anybody out there... etc

Help, please! What should I do?
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jmh1819
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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by jmh1819 » October 14th, 2008, 11:29 am

I felt the same way when I first got started. There is alot to learn. Assuming your an absolute beginner, this is the best online guide I've found to what I think most people should know as a beginner.
http://www.justinguitar.com/en/TB-020-B ... actice.php, especially the bit where it says "Completion of Level". They have some lessons on how do alot of that stuff at
http://www.justinguitar.com/en/BC-000-B ... Course.php. I think the most important thing to learn first is how to do change between basic chords and be in time. After you can do that, I'd check out David's lessons on Easy Songs for Beginners and Intermediate Songs on this website. It's alot easier to learn your first song if someone's stepping you through it as opposed to trying to learn it from tab or notes. I'm still a bit of a beginner myself, but I think following those lessons got me a good start. :D

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Minotaur
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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by Minotaur » October 14th, 2008, 11:47 am

Just some random thoughts...

I've only been playing since January '08, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I'm still pretty ignorant. :P

I took lessons from January to August, but decided to go it alone for a while.

What jmh1819 just said is good advice.

One of the first things my teacher did was start with the open chords. He looked at my list of songs I like, and picked examples from there to use as lessons. We worked on forming the chords, changing them and strumming patterns. Then we got into pentatonic scales, which I wasn't happy about, being that I am more interested in rhythm than in soloing. I will eventually get back into them, since all knowledge is good.

For now I'm still working on chords, rhythm and getting strumming patterns down for various songs. Sometimes I branch off into something different, but if I think I'm not getting anywhere, and I'm getting frustrated, I chalk it up to not having enough experience, and I go back to what I am getting better at. Later I'll revisit that stumbling block, and guess what... I get it.

Finger-picking is hard in the beginning because of the coordination, imo, but it's fun. At first I was so frustrated with Dust In The Wind, but then it came to me. I have a couple of songs in my "songbook" that I could play either pick and strumming, or finger-picking. I like the way both sound.

My biggest advice is to not jump around. Set a goal and stick to it, whether it's learning scales or rhythm, or soloing. I bounce around between songs in my "Currently Working On" book, but they are examples of pretty much the same technique with some differences. It's boring to practice the same thing over and over and over... :roll:
It is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.

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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by Blueline » October 14th, 2008, 1:05 pm

One of the problems most beginners have is summed up in the question "How do I get from here to there?" People should set a goal and knowing where you want to go is a great first step. It sounds as if you have already set a goal for yourself. Now its just a matter of planning out the steps that will take you there. As the others have pointed out, learning open chords and learning how to change chords in time is a great first step. These ARE the building blocks.

By learning chords, you are laying down a foundation that will enable you to play hundreds of songs. I would suggest learning the following chords: G, A, C, D, E, Am, Em, Dm, F.

Here are a few articles that will help you get started
What Chords Should I be learning?
Basics of Strumming
Pitfalls to Avoid as a Beginning Student

There is tons of great material and very good articles on this site. Have fun expoloring.
Its going to take time. But the best way to mark your progress is to record yourself playing now. Keep working at it and then go back to that recording 3 months from now. I'm sure if you stick to practicing and learning new things, you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you hear.
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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by unimogbert » October 14th, 2008, 1:46 pm

Sure can be confusing, can't it? I STILL feel that way after years and being able to do lots of songs.

I've skipped around and can't do some things that others can. Don't know what I'm missing but I'm sure I'm missing something though.

Decide what "there" means to you and work to get "there." Once you've reached it, pick the next "there."

Stop every once in awhile and appreciate what you've accomplished. And then keep going.

It's a really big world and unless you can do guitar full time for the rest of your life, you'll probably never do/know/try it all.

Not doing lessons isn't necessarily a negative. Many people take lessons and the teacher manages to kill all interest in guitar for the rest of your life. This happened to my wife when she was in high school. She took lessons for 2 years but couldn't play anything when asked. So she dropped it totally.

I took lessons for about 3 months in high school. My teacher helped me get to my first "there" and even though I dropped lessons, I didn't drop guitar and with self study for the past several years can play beyond anything I ever had in mind when I went to my first lesson.

Enjoy the trip!
Unimogbert
(indeterminate, er, intermediate fingerstyle acoustic)

Cat
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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by Cat » October 15th, 2008, 9:37 pm

Donnuh trya building la Roma ina daya!

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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by BmanCV-60 » October 16th, 2008, 5:38 am

Welcome and keep PLAYING!

I bought a guitar and jumped on board in April, then went through frustration at not being able to get chords to sound cleanly. Turns out the guitar I picked wasn't a good fit for my hands and skill level. On the advice of the crew here I tried a lot of different guitars to see which felt best then bought it and sold the first. Now I'm working on changing chords smoothly and timely, but at least they sound clean now :lol:

My instructor and several members here have stressed that this is supposed to be a FUN activity, keep it that way. An instructor has been most valuable to me in terms of providing direction. He gives me a LOT of material to study during a lesson but places no time limit on "perfecting". We end lessons by having him tab out two or three songs I want to learn, reinforcing the material I've been given. Learn and play what you want approach. I'd recommend an instructor when you're in position to do so, but take some time and find one you like and can work WITH you.

Before I bought a guitar or decided on an instructor I read the beginner lessons on this site and a lot of the emails on all the forums; this really gave me a good head start. Any time I had any questions or felt stuck I would post here asking for help, and it was given. By stopping here you've taken a step in the right direction. :D
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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by Nuno » October 16th, 2008, 6:26 am

Nice advices here. I agree with Blueline, a kind of planning and perhaps to define just more specific goals. For example, why do you try to learn his list of chords and try to change between them smoothly? Practically you could play the 99% of your favorite songs (or even more!).

On the other hand, you bought the Hal Leonard book, isn't? I need more than a year for each instruction book that I follow from the beginning to the end. If I remember well that book is really three books so you will need time to finish it and understand it by "practicing" each exercise.

Currently I'm following a book on bass and I have to limit the time per exercise. Some of them are really awesome and I could play them for hours. The way in which you organize your "practice" is important, too. You will find several good articles here.

And don't forget have fun while you are playing and practicing! It is the most important!

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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by lue42 » October 16th, 2008, 11:05 am

Thank you everyone for your advice... I am so happy I found this forum, as it seems filled with so many nice and helpful people with good advice.

I don't think I would use the word "frustrated" yet. Confused. Overwhelmed. I think the primary reason for that is that I don't (didn't?) have direction. I kept jumping from technique to technique.

I am not too worried about my guitars not "fitting" me. I really like all of them. It sounds funny for a beginner of my level, but I have 3 guitars right now. I managed to get them all with some fortunate deals and trades, and by selling some junk around the house. I am not yet 'out of pocket' on this hobby, and managed to get a Schecter S-1 electric, Fender acoustic and a Yamaha classical. I love all the guitars and pretty much pick any of them at random when I sit down to play/practice. Most of the time I grab the Schecter, as it doesn't bug the wife to practice (not plugged in).

On a side note...I needed new strings for my Fender... the ones on it were rusty to the point that it felt rough running my fingers up and down the strings. After researching a bit, I bought a set of Martin Silk and Steel 11's. WOW! It is like playing my electric. The strings are so easy to press and smooth - almost immediately I was able to do a few chords that I have been having trouble with. I would highly recommend them to any beginner just for the feel of them. They may not end up being my choice in the long run - whether for feel, sound, etc... but for now... I love 'em.

So...

Here is my plan. I am going to keep learning the music theory. I have the Hal Leonard Music Theory for Guitar book as well and am following the lessons in that book. I have put down the Guitar Method book for a while and am going to focus on the simple chords and get my fingering and rhythm going. I think the next step will be the Guitar Method books. I was taking them very very slowly. Every time I sat down, I always redid the previous chapter/section. One step back, two steps forward. I didn't move on until I had the lessons down solid. I didn't get very far into it, so I think I was going at a good/realistic pace.

Again, thank you everyone!
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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by Wes Inman » October 16th, 2008, 1:10 pm

lue42

First, it is not unusual to be confused and overwhelmed by music, especially if this is your first attempt at learning a musical instrument. So, don't feel that there is something wrong with you, and don't stop playing.

I think you've just got to keep it simple and fun at first. There is so much to learn, I have been playing over 35 years and there is still so much to learn. So that never goes away.

I would recommend learning simple songs right from the start. This is fun, and gives you a sense of accomplishment. Go to the Home Page and study David's lessons, but also go to the Easy Song Database and look up songs you are familiar with. Choose some songs with 3 or 4 simple open chords to start and learn them. Start singing right away. You will be surprised, in six months or so you will probably know a couple dozen songs.

Now, you may not understand what you are doing, but that's ok. I am a pretty good mechanic, but I don't know everything about how a car engine works, doesn't keep me from driving. So don't think you have to understand music 100% to be a player. Understanding music takes time. Learn a little here, learn a little there, in time it will become clear.

Stay with your books. Learn scales, learn the notes in each scale and how they relate to the Root note. Learn chords and how they are built.

But don't stress out. It takes years to become a good guitar (or any instrument) player. Just practice and study every chance you get. It will come to you just like it came to all of us. In a few years you will be explaining it to others. :D

But have fun, learn some songs. :wink:
If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis

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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by Blueline » October 16th, 2008, 1:12 pm

You are not alone in the course you have chosen nor the approach. Many people including myself have taken a similar approach in being self taught. There will come a time when you will want to move away from the books and start playing actual songs that you've always loved. When you hit that point...go for it. Nothing wrong with it. In fact, it wil help you.
When you get to the point where you can start putting 2 or 3 chords together and you start hearing some resemblence to a song, that's when it get exciting.

That day will come if you keep practicing. I promise.
Teamwork- A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.

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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by bloos66 » November 7th, 2008, 4:02 pm

Hi lue42, I am with you on this one. I only started to practice/play seriously earlier on this year, and I often wonder about my perceived lack for progress - mainly when measured to other people who are already very good. After a bit of trial and error, I am now starting from the beginning with easy chords, scales and simple blues lessons. After a few failed attempts, my metronome is now my best friend (and Garageband on my MacBook), and I generally start playing songs and scales at around 60. I realised how fast I was going most of the time, and how sloppy my playing was. So by slowing it down, everything's coming together nicely. Also, for me, there's no rush to master anything in particular in a short timeframe, I've got years ahead of me of playing at home, learning, having fun.

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lue42
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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by lue42 » November 12th, 2008, 9:15 am

It has been a few weeks since I wrote the original question...

I did decide to take a step back and start from scratch again. I opened my Hal Leonard Guitar Method back to page one and am now slowly going through the lessons again. At the same time, I am using the Hal Leonard Music Theory for Guitar to re-enforce and expand on the concepts in the Guitar Method book.

By taking things slow, I have made decent enough progress to not be frustrated and I think I am advancing pretty good.

My rhythm is still off quite a bit... I haven't started using a metronome yet, as the course has the play along CD's that you play along with. I am counting out the beats in my head and with my foot.

Overall, I think I am on the right track. Nice and slow... focus on one technique for a while. I want to try out fingerpicking/travis picking again soon... but it can wait.

Thank you everyone!
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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by Blueline » November 12th, 2008, 1:27 pm

Nice to hear. Just remember, its the journey you should enjoy!
Teamwork- A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.

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Re: Beginner, and overwhelmed - advice/help!?

Post by Cat » November 12th, 2008, 6:34 pm

Heck...it's GREAT to at least BE overwhelmed from time to time! There's lots of ways to "git lost" with six strings, matey!

Cat
"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"

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