First, we need to prepare the soil as a frame of reference. Just so you know where we’re going with all the following lessons.
Think of it as ’tilling the soil of your mind’ – preparing it to plant new ideas so they will flourish and grow to their full potential. (Without being swallowed up with weeds and negative thinking.)
The concept is one of building.
Like building a house… you could think of it as the FFD of playing guitar – Foundation – Framing – Decorating.
- You start with the Foundation, drainage etc…
- then erect the Framing timbers… with roof, wiring, insulation, cladding, doors etc…
- then you Decorate the interior & exterior – this is where your own personal tastes and creativity come into play.
Things must be built in the right order for it all to stand firm and not come crashing down.
So how does this relate to learning and playing guitar?
- The ‘Foundation’ of music is SCALES – everything comes from scales. Understanding what a scale is and how it’s made is basic foundation knowledge on which everything else is built.
- The ‘Framing’ are those things that we use to arrange the notes (in the scale) to produce chords, arpeggios and triads. And the different scale fingering patterns… including pentatonic and ‘blues’ scale patterns.
- The ‘Decorating’ is the application of the above to songs… lots of songs. With a healthy dose of your own ‘creativity’ and ‘inspiration’ thrown in for the ‘magic’ to happen.
Without understanding scales and chords, and how they are inextricably linked to one another, you won’t have anything to decorate.
The Foundation is more about what you ‘know’ in your head. It’s the knowledge you have about what music is and how it works on the guitar.
The Framing is more to do with the physical skills you develop to play chords, scales, licks, solos etc.
Just as there is a ‘pattern‘ to the way framing is erected when building a house, there are fingering ‘patterns‘ for chords, scales, arpeggios, triads, chord sequences etc. These can range from very simple to very complex.
However, the complex variations are ALL based on the simple versions. HINT: Learn the basic patterns first and you’ll have something to build on.
Once you understand how this works, you will know how to learn to play anything… and better than that, you will know exactly what you need to do to move the the next level any time you choose. You’ll find yourself spending more time practicing these ideas instead of searching YouTube and tab sites for the answer. You’ll be spending your time building real playing skills rather than “spinning your wheels” going nowhere.
Attitude, Focus & Direction… (pep talk)
At the heart of everything is your mind. The way you think, what you know, and how you ‘apply’ what you know… your ‘mind’ represents the ‘tools’ you’ll use to build.
All it takes is a slight shift in attitude….
Instead of thinking there has to be an easy way to get good fast, and instead of trying to ‘cheat’ the system, realize that you have to pay your dues! You have to do the groundwork. You have to build the foundation and erect the framing. All hard, and sometimes boring, work. But all very necessary none the less. That’s if you’re serious about being as good as you can be, that is. If not, get another hobby!
So instead of being in a big rush to get to the ‘fancy’ stuff, work steadily on the basics. Take your time with them because this is where you set yourself up for your entire guitar playing future.
If you cock it up, you’ll find it’s almost impossible to go back later and try to correct all the bad habits that have crept into your attitude and playing. I have some tips about this under guitar practice tips.
Now that doesn’t mean you can’t learn songs and have some fun trying something new which may be beyond you. It just means that you should have a plan to do daily practice on the core Framing skills. 20-30mins minimum per day learning fingering patterns. Repetition is important so you get some momentum and internalize them. So they become automatic and you can play them perfectly in your sleep.
The rewards from approaching it this way, slow and steady like a Tortoise, far exceeds any temporary boredom or struggles/plateaus you will experience. Be persistent and patient. Give your nervous system (and muscles) time to adapt to these new tasks you are asking them to do. Send them consistent, accurate information repetitively (daily) over a period of time and you’ll be amazed at the results.
You WILL break through. Then you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. You’ll wonder why you thought it was all so hard!!
I gotta tell ya, that is such a buzz when that happens.
- Take your time. Don’t try to rush. It takes time to internalize playing skills and train your muscles.
- Focus on one step at a time.And especially focus on playing as ‘accurately’ and perfectly as you can when you practice. Don’t practice for mistakes. Practice for perfection. Program your muscle-memory to play perfectly, fluently, effortlessly. Stay relaxed at all times during your practice sessions. Tension is the biggest technique killer. If you practice with tension in your body and make mistakes, that’s how you will play. You’ll develop bad habits that are almost impossible to correct at a later date.
- Start at the beginning and work through everything. That way, your direction will always be up. So long as you do daily practice to keep building momentum and success.
What’s coming up…
- First we’ll look at the Foundation… the ‘theory’ of scale and chord construction.
- Then we’ll look at the Frames – the fingering patterns for chords and scales. And we’ll look at chord sequence patterns too.
- Then we’ll dive in and look at some practical examples of Decorating… how to use and apply these patterns for songs and for improvising.
So the first thing is to get an understanding of what a scale is. (We’ll talk more about focus and direction a little later.)
Please leave a comment below… I’d love to hear your thoughts…