How did you learn to play?

Discussion in 'Lessons & Techniques' started by Layne Matz, Jun 10, 2018.

  1. Layne Matz

    Layne Matz Well-Known Member

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    Thank you to everyone who has coninued to add to this thread, hopefully its of some use to someone. Its certainly interesting to read about all these different approaches compiled in one thread.
     
  2. sparky88

    sparky88 New Member

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    I decided to start playing after seeing Bon Jovi at (the original) Wembley Stadium... the very last concert there before they tore it down to build the new one. My parents then bought me a guitar that Christmas and I've never looked back since.

    I taught myself to play by obsessively working out how to play all my favourite songs using books, internet tab (often wrong) but most importantly my ears. I had a couple of lessons at school but the guitar teacher wanted us to learn nursery rhymes reading notation so continued self-taught for maybe 6-7 years.

    I then decided to pursue music professionally so went and studied music at college and subsequently university, where suddenly all the stuff I'd been playing for years began to make sense ("Oh, the intro to Livin' On A Prayer is 3rd position E minor pentatonic... that's why it uses those notes").

    In hindsight (and through my work as both a session player and a teacher) I'm glad I learnt the way I did because I honed my ear skills early on - learning how to improvise, work things out by ear etc. When I now teach students who have come from doing exams and say "This tune is in E minor, play a solo" it's amazing how many of them don't even know where to begin. This is why I now teach people exactly the way I taught myself, through learning their favourite songs and THEN making sense of why it uses those notes and scales etc.

    Of course it's great to know theory and all that stuff too, but no amount of theory or book learning can substitute real world playing experience. Imagine trying to explain vibrato in a book!
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
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  3. jtees4

    jtees4 Well-Known Member

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    I took lessons for a couple of weeks in 1968 (10). I hated them, I stayed just long enough to realize I had to press down on the frets, not try to strum the string at the fret with my fretting hand (think that oen over)....yes I was a total noob.
     
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  4. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Well-Known Member

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    I took classes in 8th and 9th grades. 8th grade was cowboy chords and old folk standards ("Tom Dooley", "Aura Lee"), 9th grade was fingerpicking, both years on a crappy MiK plywood banger -- I wish Bluto had gotten hold of it.

    Got my first electric at 15, and stopped classes at school. I bought a copy of The Guitar Handbook, and this Rush anthology (which contained everything they'd done up to and including Moving Pictures), and got to work. If you need a good guitar reference, TGH is one of the best out there: everything from how to play it, to how to mod it, to how amplifiers work (and modding them, too), a chord dictionary with 600 or so chords, a scale library with a lot of exotic stuff, just anything you'd really want to know. $20, online. I still have a copy of it on my bookshelf. Self-taught the next few years, which including learning Zep, Jane's Addiction, Satriani, and "Beano".

    Took classical guitar classes in college, and then private jazz lessons with Raj Rathor. This is at about 1988. After I joined the service, self-study was the thing, and I learned a lot cutting demos on my 424 -- that learning was about music, rather than just guitar.

    After leaving the Air Force, I returned to college and took a year of piano. The school had a vintage Steinway, that was a gas.

    Played guitar in bands all that time. Took up bass in the 90s for my own demos, ended up gigging on that as well. Picked up drums somewhere along the way but I'm nowhere near good enough to gig on a kit.

    Been through a ton of guitars, most of which I don't have pics for. Here's the family from 1991. 73 Les Paul DeLuxe, 80s Alvarez 6-string. You can see the headstock of my Washburn 4-str bass poking from behind the amp (which is a 71 Bassman 100, 4x20 KMD/Celestion cab). The brown gig bag holds a Ramirez copy I bought in Spain. The only pedal there worth noting is the original 3-knob Butler TD.

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    Avatar is me and my 89 MiK Epi SG, best-playing guitar I've ever owned. It's the guitar that changed me from a Les Paul guy to an SG guy. From the same shoot that got my av pic:

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    Around the same time, 09 Faded Spec in front of the VK212 that amplified them both at gigs:

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    I went acoustic-only for about five years (I'd done that in the 00s as well until I got that Epi):

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    Got back into electric in 2016, here's the guits I owned a year ago. The SG's an 04, sold for having a poorly-set neck. The Ibanez is a great guit:

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    The 09:

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    A bedroom shot of the Ibanez:

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    That Ibanez and this Squier go through an Egnater Tweaker 15 or a VHT Special 6.

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    But the most important gear:

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    Last edited: Jan 20, 2019
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  5. Layne Matz

    Layne Matz Well-Known Member

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    This thread rocks, I hope someone finds it helpcul sooner or later. Thank you everyone who has comtributed!

    Theres lots to learn by hearing how others learned and developed.
     
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  6. Guilll

    Guilll New Member

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    I started playing when I got a (rather crappy) acoustic guitar at Christmas when I was 16 (I think). I also had a method book with a CD of examples. I never took a lesson, which means I sucked for a lonnng time. First 5 months I didn't even have a tuner. My poor family suffered! I didn't really understand rhythm and had zero ear (I'm just beginning to be able to tune up by ear now, 12 years later ...) But I absolutely loved it. I played for hours and hours, and never found it boring, which is very strange because I'm an easily bored kind of guy. Music didn't come easy to me at all, but I've always sticked to it. I don't really know why. I just love playing, even when I suck !
    When I got to college I had a lot of friends who were into music, but they were a lot more advanced players than I was, so I didn't get a lot from them as far as playing was concerned. We had a lot of fun though :o)
    After I graduated I started to slowly get better because of two things : first, I met my Better Half, who used to be a classical dancer and taught me how to feel the rhythm, which is the single most important thing for a musician. It's actually the only skill you really need in my opinion. And second, I discovered guitar lessons on Youtube, which were a game-changer for me. Much more useful than tabs.
    Now I'm 38, and I think I finally can play rather well. I've been giving guitar lessons for a few years also, which was super useful to me as a player. Sometimes I feel bad taking my student's money, because I'm learning as much as they do! I've never really been in a band, but I write and record a lot of stuff. Some of it I even like :o) Maybe I will try playing in bands when my kids are grown and I have more time. The journey is only beginning!
     
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  7. Wolfcoyote

    Wolfcoyote Member

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    I just pieced it together over a long period of time...figured out everything by fiddling with an squire brand les paul copy (now highly collectible too bad it was stolen at a punk show)anyway, could shred without knowing what i was playing...had to reverse learn to play correctly once I plopped down money on a fender strat texas special...now I’m a gibson guy and sg more specifically and just enjoy fiddling around again!
     
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  8. Chubbles

    Chubbles Well-Known Member

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    When I was 8 (1973), I took lessons on an acoustic. I used Mel Bay book 1. I learned Yankie Doodle and Over the meadow and down the lane. It was TOURTURE. I quit until I was 14. I bought an electric. The first lesson, I learned all the chords for most Frankie Valli songs. I was hooked. (My first teacher was super hot). I took lessons until I was 19 (some theory, jazz chord progressions, etc.). These days, I use Youtube to save time learning individual songs.
     
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  9. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Active Member

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    I think I might have been 13 when I got my first guitar, a really crappy homemade (not by me though) electric guitar that I got cheap, which I intended to learn how to play on in order to be able to create music like my big musical heroes back then, Manowar.

    Soon after I acquired the guitar however I got hired by a friend to start a punk band together with a couple of his friends.

    Non of us really knew anything about how to play our respective instruments, and even the lead singer sang out of tune, it was truly horrible, though we had a lot of fun, and most of my guitar work consisted of my "home made" barre chord, later learning that horrible chord actually already had a name, namely Minor7add11, just one finger across all the strings on the same fret, moving around on the fretboard, and always running through my first pedal ever, the infamous Boss MT-2 Metal Zone, to top off the horror of it all.

    After that band eventually gave up trying to make music I finally decided to actually learn how to play guitar properly, by borrowing a series of books called The Real Rock Guitarist from the local library, teaching me how to play guitar from the very bottom, covering all the most basic stuff with small exercises consisting of snips from real songs, and by then I also had got a lot better guitar, a Tokai Strat clone that my dad bought me for Christmas.

    After that I learned from other books borrowed at the local library, various guitar instruction books and chords and scales books, as well as from eventually starting to play in a bit more serious original bands, and taking some solo lessons from the local music school, starting to play in the cover band they had for their students.

    I then at a later point started to play bass as well, and it slowly took over as my main instrument of choice, though I continued playing guitar on the sideline, and have had periods of time now and then where I have gone back to concentrating more on guitar again for a while, currently having one of those, as well as I all along have used my guitar for recording some of the songs I have made with my solo musical projects.

    Overall what really taught me most about playing guitar and bass, and music as such really, has been playing in original bands, learning how to play my instrument in the context of working with other musicians, learning first hand what works and what doesn't work, and not least why, as well as by contributing to composing the songs we played, giving a first hand insight in how composing and songwriting works, and later continuing to develop that insight and skill by starting to write and compose my own songs for my own musical solo projects.

    Sure you need to learn the basics somewhere else, but in my opinion actually playing in a real band is what will teach you most about how to play your instrument properly, just like writing your own songs will teach you most about songwriting and composing, and add a whole other level to how you perceive music as such, which in the end will also improve your skills on the instrument(s) you play.

    Composing and recording my own songs from scratch has also taught me a lot about how to mix and produce music, as well as I have picked up some basic skills on several other instruments, for example being capable of some simple accompany and melody playing on keyboard, as well as I feel quite at home with programming drums and other instruments in midi.
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2019
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  10. Bad Penguin

    Bad Penguin Well-Known Member

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    I started about the age of 18 on bass. Why bass you ask? Well, the guys I was hanging with needed a bass player, and I found a decent bass, and the rest is history. (1967 or Gibson EB-3L in case you were wondering.) I took lessons from the one guitar player, who was into jazz, and from the keyboardist, who was into classical. And played in a punk band. Learned my theory, but never learned to read. ( I know, doesn't make sense to me either!) Learned mostly by ear, figuring out the licks and bass lines by burning out records. (You know, the big black things that looked like CD's.)

    I gigged, toured, then switched over to guitar some 15,20 years later. I LOVE me some chord books! And kinda figured out what I was doing on the guitar by trial and error. (Mostly error.)
     
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  11. Brian Kenny

    Brian Kenny New Member

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    Im still learning to play at 46 . After not haveing the patience to learn and giving up a few times i finnaly decided its time . That was alittle over 2 years ago . I have not accualy gone and taken lessons ( im evetialy going to try to find the time . So far its been u tube lessons/videos . Having an Autistic child thats now 9 yrs old that keeps us on are toes i just try to practice when ever i get a chance . So far im learning and getting alittle better each day.
     
  12. NMA

    NMA Well-Known Member

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    Played songs I knew.

    1. got a chord book and practiced chords
    2. got a Beatles song book and played the songs. Knowing how the songs were supposed to sound, I knew instantly if I was doing something wrong.

    That's it. Playing guitar wasn't that hard to learn.
    (Piano and drums are real hard.)
     
  13. ezypikins

    ezypikins Member

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    My first hero was Ringo. Beat the **** out of that ride cymbal. Had lessons and everything. After a few years I realized I couldn't play a song by myself. So switched my focus to guitar. Learning John Denver on Dad's acoustic. My first electric was a Sears SG copy. Concentrated on Santana, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple. Now maybe 1973ish Bought a Fender Musicmaster for $5.00 at a yard sale. acquired a Big Muff. Would plug headphones into the Big Muff and (bliss) . Could play all night without disturbing anyone. Alice cooper was all the rage in my neighborhood. Nugent emerging without the Amboy Dukes. Stranglehold, Hey Baby, Queen Of The Forest, Just What The Doctor Ordered. Bad Co. And so on and so on. When I joined a working band in 78. I knew enough to know I didn't know enough. I got a stack of records 2 feet high. Lead player was leaving on tour. I had two weeks to learn 4 hours of leads. Had 3 guitar players so all I needed to worry about was Fills and leads. That 9 pc. rendition of the band taught me allot. Learning the likes of Doobies, Eagles, Little River Band. Lots of harmony's.
     
  14. jtees4

    jtees4 Well-Known Member

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    I was born in 1958, so I'm a bit older than you BUT when I was 10 I started learning guitar and took a few lessons....and MEL Bay was huge, it was the big thing at the time. I indulged in the tirure for a few months and a handful of lessons, but you're right...it was torture. My Music Store was smart, they would get these young hip guys to teach, and they had a bunch of cool looking Japanese electric guitars which were not seen too much before then....and the coolness kept me going back for awhile, just to see what guitars they had. And then I'd take this cool guitar, and with my cool teacher....I learned to play Yankee Doodle Dandy or similar! Then I discovered Leslie West's first album Mountain....and it was over for me. I dropped the lessons. Luckily my sisters boyfriend left it at my house, and he never got it back. I still have it stored away. And that lead to Sabbath, Zep and everything in between. Fun times when I think back though. People just don't realize how lucky they are to have all the resources available today.
     
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  15. sazista

    sazista Active Member

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    Started around 79 with a deep need to play the music I loved. Queen was my first concert in 1978, Jazz Tour. Of course there was KISS, Alice Cooper, Zep, etc, and I just wanted to get going. Parents got me a 14.00 nylon string, which I played incessantly for a year, just listening to a melody and finding it on the 6th string. Had a Mel Bay guitar chord book, took about 6 class lessons (playing "Proud Mary", etc chords. Loved AC/DC, so started learning the Highway to Hell melodies, but coudn't figure out how to get the KISS songs straight. I was always off note. (I learned in the 90s that they tuned to Eflat). I would go to 'real guitar lessons' and i was handed sheets with scales and their corresponding chords, which helped in many ways. I also would hand my teacher a song on a cassette that he would learn in like 3 minutes and then show me how to play it. It was a good stepping stone. Now you've got youtube. I continued to play A LOT, trying to replicate the sounds I was hearing. Got an Encore LP copy (similar to this black one), of course with action higher than a cloud. In 1981 Mom bought me an Ibanez 1978 LP (Cherry wine with stickers), copy of course, but it was an amazing guitar. Each encounter motivated me to try something different in sound, style, etc. My first recording was with the band Black Widow: a compilation album Metal Massacre III that we recorded a cheesy song in 1982. We were all 14-16yo. It included Slayer's first ever released song, as well as other bands. The Ibanez was my main guitar through rock, punk, etc until 1989, when I got a Fender frankenstrat, 1983 Reissue with stacked pickups. Got more into prog-stuff and clean sounds and echos, etc, I was started tinkering with effects and odd chords. In 1999 I started taking flamenco guitar lessons (THE most difficult guitar style to learn). Studied for a year with books, a teacher, got pretty good, then fell in love with a Turkish bağlama (check it out), started incorporating my guitar knowledge and played Turkish and middle-eastern music for 10 years, including Oud, Persian "setar". Now I have an electric bağlama, 2 SGs and I mix it all up: rock, folk from Turkey through effects and distortion. It's all there. If you're interested here are a few more recent things, but I've been at it since then.

    https://clyp.it/user/0qa545ve

    It was good to go back over this past trajectory and hear those of others. Thanks for sharing.
    Keep widening your horizons.
     

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  16. Chubbles

    Chubbles Well-Known Member

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    My first electric guitar was a Sears special made in Japan called a Lyle. My teacher was a blonde bombshell in high heels. I outgrew her and moved on to a professional. That's when Tab books became popular. I got a book called Improvising Rock Guitar.
    Video and pdf:



    It came with a record and went over improvising over scales. It was a start for me.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2020
  17. Rusty Chops

    Rusty Chops Well-Known Member

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    Nick Manoloff’s Spanish Guitar Method, c 1960. I was ten.
    Pretty soon my teacher had me reading Mancini tunes like Pink Panther, etc.
    Had to learn Duane Eddy and Surf tunes from friends.
    Then learned to finger-pick Folk songs, and read American Heritage Campfire songs over my mother’s shoulder while she played piano.
    Paul Butterfield came to town and suddenly Mike Bloomfield and Chicago Blues was IT!

    After the service, I wanted to play jazz in the worst way.
    I eventually went to the local Junior College, learned to play jazz in the worst way, got an AA Music degree, and a day job!

    Been part of the local music scene since 1974.
    The day job fed the kids and bought the house while I kept my hand in playing Union “Tuxedo” jobs, as well as the local club wars, playing Funk & Soul, etc.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2020

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