Learning to play
You are not alone... its nothing like as easy as it looks.
I twiddled for years. I knew a few tunes and even a scale or two but I had no idea how to navigate the fretboard or what I was doing. Recently, I decided I wanted to learn to play this thing properly. I am only 12 months into this process and I have learnt a lot. My patient guide has been Laurence Coleman. Much of what Laurence has shown me I have never seen written down or it has not been written in a way that is intelligble. This blog (if that's what it is) is an attempt to write it down in an accessible way. I have tried not to make too many assumptions but there are a few... but hopefully only involving a very basic understanding of some musical concepts. It is not pure altruism... I hope by doing this it will clarify my own understanding. But I also hope it is a help to anyone else struggling and lost in the kaleidoscope of patterns.
Like any subject, there are layers of knowledge and understanding. However, the theory behind the guitar can be confusing as it is often not clear where to start and how all the elements fit together. There are many many web sites and books that try to lead you through the jungle. What they never seem to do is give you an aerial view so that you have a map from the outset. So this is my fly past:
- Some basic scale and chord theory as this is the rock on which all else is built. It is also important for navigating the fret board.
- The five CAGED chords. There are five basic chord shapes from which you can build virtually any chord.
- The five Pentatonic scale patterns each of which relates to one of the CAGED chord shapes.
- The five Blues scale patterns which are just the pentatonic scales with some extra notes... the blues notes.
- The 7 modal scales... but there are only 5 scale patterns each of which relates to one of the CAGED chord shapes.
- The Circle of 5ths and its relationship to pentatonics.
- Arpeggios... they bring colour and texture to a piece and are an essential tool to master
- The important bit ... how to use all this theory. Practical tips.
- Jazz techniques like enclosures, tri-tone substitution and other clever stuff.
I have tried to maintain a consistent nomenclature throughout. So, for instance, chords have a 'shape'and scales have a 'pattern' ... and so an arpeggio is a pattern played over a shape! Many books interchange ill-defined terms like this. When your starting out, little things like this can derail you. I certainly have got lost in this sort of ambiguity. Another bugbear is calling a shape by its open position key, like the 'A shape'. But I have stuck to this convention as it is what everyone uses.
The site should be mobile friendly but the fretboard diagrams will work best in landscape mode.
It is all still works-in-progress... so please forgive the occassional TBD's. I hope it will contain enough substance to be of practical value in a month or two. But after that I will keep adding to it and hope it is of some help to someone! Any feedback is welcome... especially if I have got it wrong!