Welcome to the fourth instalment of this series where I provide guitar tips and advice based on questions from the guitar community. These questions are a mix of questions that I’ve seen asked elsewhere recently and questions that guitarists have asked me directly. The questions aren’t on any particular topic and I shall do my absolute best to keep my answers concise. If you would like to read parts one, two and three, follow the links below.
We will be covering a lot in this article so an unnecessarily lengthy introduction will not be required. There’s only one thing I’d like to add before we dive in and it relates to how I write my answers.
When I write articles like this, I try to do it in an almost conversational way.
My answers are very much off the cough. They’re a reflection of what I’m thinking about the subject in question at the time based on my years of experience as a guitarist. Don’t worry about this too much. My opinions are always one hundred percent correct so you can feel rest assured that the guitar tips and advice found here is sound.
Now, let’s take a look at our first question.
Guitar tips and advice question 1 when can I say I’m not a beginner on guitar?
Our first question for this edition of guitar tips and advice is a question from a newer guitarist. A newer guitarist who is far too preoccupied with the wrong sort of thing.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with asking questions like this. Far from it. Questions like this demonstrate ambition and determination. Those who ask questions like this are clearly intending to get good at guitar playing and that’s great. Furthermore, this kind of question shows a level of self awareness that will only aid in the development process. Delusion equals stagnation but the person who asked this is clearly aware that they’re still at the early stages.
Let me first answer the question directly. In my opinion, a guitarist moves from the beginner stage to the intermediate stage when they have a basic grasp of the fundamentals.
I know I know. What are the fundamentals. This is a subject for another day. For now, I’ll try and roll it up into on sentence. Turns out doing that is hard. Let’s put it this way. You can say you’re no longer a beginner when you can make music on your guitar. I don’t mean that you should be able to compose like Mozart or shred like Malmsteen. Just that you should be able to create sound that folk would consider music.
I know the above us still somewhat vague but it doesn’t matter because the more important answer is that it doesn’t matter. Don’t be concerned about labels or how you want to be perceived by others. Complete waste of energy.
I remember asking a multitude of questions like this back in the day. That time would have been better spent on actually playing guitar and making music.
Focus on the guitar playing. Look forward and keep learning. The rest will just fall into place if you’re doing the right things.
Guitar tips and advice question 2 why do so many guitarists never learn the notes on the fretboard when it’s so easy to do so?
We get it bro. You know the notes on the fretboard. Congratulations. I’m joking of course.
Is this really a thing? I guess when I think about it, there are a percentage of guitar players that either don’t learn anything about the notes on the fretboard or, only learn the notes on the top string or top two strings.
I’m unsure of the percentage of guitarists who fall into that category and their reasons are I guess their own but I would encourage every guitarist out there who hasn’t already learned about the notes on the fretboard to do so.
Learning the notes on the fretboard is incredibly easy if done correctly. Even the absolute beginners out there can do it fairly easily. I myself started this process in my first ever guitar lesson.
Returning to the question, off the top of my head, I can only think of one or two reasons why a guitarist would elect not to learn the fretboard.
This decision maybe related simply to their aims and objectives. Not all of us want to become some great virtuoso guitar player. Many see the instrument as a simple hobby. If that’s you then that’s perfectly fine but the lack of urgency may not be down to that. Perhaps it’s down to a lack of quality guidance and or misconceptions. For those who want to become a great musician, I’ll make it clear. You MUST learn the notes on the fretboard. I won’t get into the reasons why here. Just know that I’m correct. Generally speaking, you can’t “get away” with not doing it if you want to move into the realm of the advanced guitarist.
Fear may also be a factor. Some shy away from anything that even smells like it could be related to music theory. If that’s you, consider what I said earlier. Learning the fretboard is very easy indeed.
Then of course there’s the drive factor. Some may just simply not want to put in the work. Many won’t admit this but this will one hundred percent be a reason why many don’t study the fretboard. If that’s you, stop being a lazy s***.
Guitar tips and advice question 3 what is the saddest key?
My answers for the first two questions in this edition of guitar tips and advice were anything but brief despite what I said in the introduction so I shall answer this very directly.
The saddest key in music is D minor. This is demonstrated perfectly by Nigel Tufnel when he previewed a piece he was working on at the time. The composition, should you wish to experience it was entitled “Lick My Love Pump”.
Guitar tips and advice question 4 are there any exercises that can build my left hands strength when playing guitar?
Firstly, thank you for specifying “when playing guitar”. Secondly yes. An exercise does spring to mind and it is very effective indeed. Quite the challenge too. It’s a trill based exercise that I got from guitar legend Steve Vai. I’ll break it down for you.
Take a look at the TAB below. It shows a tiny part of the exercise.
As you can see, we are starting down at the first fret on the high e string. Our first finger sits at that first fret and then we hammer on and pull off at fret two with our second finger. We do this for a bar. We then hammer on and pull off at fret three with our third finger for a bar then finally, at fret four with our fourth finger for two bars.
Ensure that you follow the rhythm rigidly. I don’t want you to drop out of time. Perhaps doing this exercise alongside a metronome will be beneficial.
Once you’ve done that, you shift the entire shape up by a fret and repeat. Your first finger now rests at fret two and you’re hammering on and pulling off at frets three, four and five with the second, third and fourth fingers respectively. Then once you’ve done that, move up another fret and repeat again.
Continue to do this until you’ve reached fret twelve with your first finger. Then, go to fret one on the B string and start all over again. Once you’ve completed the B string, move to the G string and so on untill you’ve covered all six strings.
This sounds easy but it really isn’t and just to add in some spice, if you make a mistake, you must start that string again.
This exercise is fatiguing and rather time consuming. This isn’t something you should do during every prasctice session. Just try it every now and again if and when you feel you need it. You could also cheat and do a shorter version but I will know if you do.
Guitar tips and advice question 5 what’s your best piece of advice for guitarists new to playing with others
Great question. I have two pieces of advice that I feel are equally important and you’re already showing promise in one of the areas.
Firstly, have the timing of a metronome. If you’re playing with other musicians, you need to be competent at playing in time. Listen to the other players while you’re playing and follow the beat. Don’t just play and expect others to fall inline with you because it just won’t happen. The drummer will dictate your tempo so pay attention to them with both your ears and eyes. Yes, looking at other musicians will help. Don’t just glare at your fretboard.
I remember the first time I attempted playing with others and wow, I sucked at it. I basically did the opposite of all the advice I just gave. I even tried to verbally count the band in for God sake (drummers job with their sticks).
Nerves played a part too. I was incredibly nervous and this shattered my concentration so be on guard for this too.
The next piece of guitar advice on this subject is more simple. Here it is. Be the most prepared person in the room.
Being the most prepared person doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the best instrument player in the room but it does mean that you’ll know your material inside out. It means that you’ll have all your resources and gear and it means you’re not constantly f****** about with your guitar. Be in tune. Be ready to play. Set up quick. Help others load in and out. Fit nicely into the mix in the room with your volume and settings. Help others if you can. Basically, be professional. This is something that all musicians can aim for and achieve easily.
Guitar tips and advice question 6 can a pro guitarist play an F chord?
This seems to be a question written by a beginner guitarist who is having trouble the the F major and so is exploring the possibility of avoiding it entirely.
Sadly my friend, the answer is yes. All Pro guitarists and even all intermediate guitarists can play an F major chord with ease.
They all struggled with it though, as did I. Truth is, all guitarists struggle with the F major chord at first but the even better news is that with some practice and a sprinkling of determination, we all got through it and so will you if you want it.
Take a look at the below article. It’s a deep dive into the exact thing you’re struggling with.
Guitar tips and advice question 7 in music, which chord do you associate with fear?
Another mood related question. This, of course, is entirely subjective but I find fear is created on guitar via suspension and tension and one chord’s relationship to the others in the passage as well as how the chords are performed in other words, a single chord won’t necessarily invoke the feeling of fear.
A good starting point would be to implement sus2 chords alongside your standard minor chords. For example if you were in the key of D, you could try introducing a Dsus2 chord to the mix alongside you D minor chord.
Consider also experimenting with diminished chords and also minior major7th chords.
The minor major 7s are a great shout and they’re easy to incorporate as they can be used as your root chord if you’re using the harmonic minor scale.
How do I play a G major chord?
The answer to “how to play a G major chord” is quite simple. Or so you’d think. The most “standard” way of performing a G major chord is probably this.
All well and good. But there’s a but.
With the open G major chord, I’ve always recommended moving slightly away from the conventional. I have always been a huge fan of playing the open G major chord like this.
The chord sounds very slightly different but it’s basically the same thing. All the notes in both shapes are the same. Check and see for yourself.
So, why play your G major the way that I recommend? The answer is simple. Efficiency of movement.
This isn’t necessarily a game changer but I feel that this shape makes chord changes involving the open G major feel much slicker and for beginner guitarists, this could make life a lot easier.
Test it for yourself. Change from G major to C major with each shape and see which feels best.
Now allow me to build on this a little. We’ve covered my thoughts on the standard open G major chord but there are many other ways of playing a G major chord. The chart below shows the two versions of G major that we saw above, plus a few others. Try them out and see what works for you. Can you use any of these shapes in your music?
Is it worth buying a guitar tuner?
There are two types of guitar tuner out there. There’re physical guitar tuners and app based or web based guitar tuners. Physical tuners are a small device about the size of a wallet that you can keep in your guitar bag or in a draw or whatever and the none physical tuners take that tech and move it into your phone or tablet or computer. Physical tuners cost money albeit a very small amount and the other type are free.
One could argue that modern technology has now made the physical guitar tuner redundant but I recommend you have both.
A simple Google search will offer up a selection of guitar tuners for you to use on your browser and likewise, a quick search in your app store or play store or whatever will provide you with a list of tuner apps to choose from. My recommendation is the GuitarTuna app.
Physical guitar tuners can be picked up from any music instrument store or from online stores such as Amazon and will only set you back a few dollars.
But why buy a physical tuner if you have an abundance of free alternatives?
Simple. You then have a backup. What if your phone dies or like me, the internal mic in the phone gets damaged?
You can use your easy access app daily and feel comfortable that you’ll never be caught short by having a physical guitar tuner in reserve.
Do you think a lot of guitarists play everyday but don’t actually practice everyday
Another great question here. Not sure what prompted it but it doesn’t matter I guess.
Yes. I think that is definitely the case. I’d say that the vast vast vast majority of guitarists have periods of time where they’re going through the motions. They play everyday which is absolutely great but the playing isn’t necessarily hyper effective and productive. Guitarists certainly do a lot of noodling and general f****** about with their instrument and this can add up to a lot of wasted time.
I one hundred percent include myself in this. I’ve done it for extended periods of time over the years and I very much regret it. I wish I would have done something more productive.
There will be guitarists reading this who know that they’re doing this now. My advice is to shake yourself out of it and get some focus. Do something productive with your instrument.
I’ll close this one with an interesting statement that may give you something to think about. We guitarists always hear “practice practice practice” but I say practice isn’t always necessarily a great way to use your time. More on that another day.
How much time do you set aside for practicing guitar while holding a full time day job?
The last question for this edition of guitar tips and advice relates to an issue that many guitarists must face at some point in their lives and that’s actually finding the time to play the dam instrument. I know that the question is specific and doesn’t address this issue exactly but I can kind of see what the poster is getting at but I’ll answer the question directly first.
Sadly, this will be one of those drab blog type answers because it really depends. I’ve always gone for a rule of thumb of an hour. An hour a day will get you there but, where is there exactly?
Guitar players all have different aims and objectives. One guitar player may want to become the best guitarist in the world and another may just want to jam a few of their favourite songs. Both are achievable but the time that you have to put in is massively different so sadly, I don’t have enough information to answer that question but an hour a day is a nice little sweet spot
Part two of my answer
Now, when you work full time and have other commitments such as children or maybe caring responsibilities, finding time for your passions isn’t easy. I myself have just welcomed my second child into the world and as a result, there have been fewer articles here and I haven’t picked up the guitar for days.
This is just life. There will be young ones out there who smash the guitar playing for three hours or more per day and they won’t see the day in the future where that changes. I know because that was me too. For those people, and for those who already struggle to find the time to play guitar don’t despair. There is always a way.
Getting up early or going to bed late us a shout. I used to get up at 5am so I could have a solid hour of guitar playing.
Volume may be an issue. Sure, you can’t rattle the windows but you can sure use as much volume as say a TV.
Breaking up your time may also be an option. Maybe you don’t have an hour block but maybe you have a thirty minute block of free time and a couple blocks of twenty minutes too. Well, that adds up. Even stealing sets of ten minutes here and there is a hell of a lot better than giving up.
Then there’s good old communication. Speak to your partner and say look, this creative outlet is something that I feel I need. Is there any way that you could help me find some time to pursue it?
Maybe you could do the same for your partner too?
The guitar is a seductive beast. Once it gets it’s claws into you, there’s nothing you can do other than feed it. There’s always a way. You may not be able to burn the hours like a sixteen year old with few friends and chewed sleeves can but you can still do what you love in one way or another
If you need any advice on this topic or on anything else I’ve discussed here, do reach out. Also be sure to check out some of my other recent content such as this list of the greatest instrumental songs of all time.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.