Want to pick up guitar and play whatever

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by emerica1184, Apr 12, 2016.

  1. emerica1184

    emerica1184 TDPRI Member

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    Hey guys, I've been playing guitar for about 11 years now. My single biggest weakness is I can't just pick up the guitar and start playing. I always default to a song I already know, or a basic chord progression. I understand a decent amount of theory but as far as picking up a guitar and just beginning to play what I hear in my head, i'm useless. My buddy, who has been playing a similar amount of time, can just pick up his guitar and play any genre he thinks of on the spot, and he has zero understanding of theory. So what are some things I can work on in order to get to that level?
     
  2. screamin eagle

    screamin eagle Poster Extraordinaire

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    Focus on learning song melodies. Songs outside your comfort zone. Songs inside of and outside of styles you like.

    Spend enough time with this and you'll start to hear similarities and common patterns, as well as specific artists' tendencies. Paul Pigat told me that he spends much more time learning song melodies rather than solos as the melodies almost always contain the artists best ideas, or at least the artist spent much more time developing those ideas.

    Once you've done this long enough, you'll be piecing things together like you never have before and will find yourself pickup up the guitar and playing new things.

    When I hear of someone who can pickup an instrument and play without any theory understanding, my first thought is they have a strong sense of melody, whether naturally or learned.
     
  3. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    screaming eagle is right. The solo to "Reelin' in the Years "is actually the melody with lots of great embellishment.
    It helps to learn scales also for your own solos.JMHO
     
  4. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Sit in front of the TV and try to replicate what you hear - commercial jingles, theme songs, incidental (scene) music, etc.
    Do the same thing with the radio or any recorded music.

    It takes time and commitment but if you do it, you will get better at just pulling things from thin air (i.e., what you hear in your head).
     
  5. thunderbyrd

    thunderbyrd Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    i've got a church hymnal. i flip it open, find a song i know, then work until i can play the melody all the way through. not easy! but i do think my ear has improved since i started doing this regularly.

    i wish i had done a lot more of that back in the formative years, but it's helping me even now.

    and doing what Klasaine says above is basically the same thing, but church hymns tend to be somewhat simpler and hang with the major scale more, so it's a good basic way to start.

    it ain't easy, but it's worthwhile.
     
  6. 4 Cat Slim

    4 Cat Slim Friend of Leo's

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    It's somewhat difficult to do this.I had no musical theory instruction when I started playing, so I never knew if
    what I was playing was right or wrong and I muddled around this way for years.

    klasaine has a good idea. If you try to play everything you hear and can reasonably mimic themes, jingles, and a variety of songs in different styles, it will probably help you develop that link between what you hear and the ability to get your fingers on the right notes. It just takes time.

    Otherwise, I 'd suggest taking lessons, but it can take some trial and error to find a teacher who can help you with what you want to do. Good luck with it!
     
  7. T.J.Chillingham

    T.J.Chillingham TDPRI Member

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    When you say play the melody, do you mean the vocal parts? I can pick out guitar or horn bits here and there, but translating the vocals to guitar eludes me.
     
  8. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Yeah. It doesn't have to be perfect. Just see what you can get.
    If you keep doing it I guarantee that you'll 'get' more and more until you can even anticipate what will come.
     
  9. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Chill-- can you sing the melody? If so, then you are hearing it just fine. Then it's a matter of finding the corresponding notes on the guitar. Just hunt and peck till you find them. Keep doing that and the hunting gets much faster over time. If you can't sing it back after a couple listens then you should focus on ear training.
     
    4 Cat Slim likes this.
  10. 4 Cat Slim

    4 Cat Slim Friend of Leo's

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    That's another good point, klasaine.
    You won't be perfect, there might be an occasional clam (wrong note) here or there, but you will improve and your
    ear (or affinity) for melody and structure will be developed.
     
  11. screamin eagle

    screamin eagle Poster Extraordinaire

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    The theme of the song. Every song has one. The vocals may, and probably do, follow it, but it's more than that. It's the theme. It's what makes that song that song.

    Flintstones vs Rhythm Changes...different melodies.
     
  12. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    eleven years of ... formal instruction? bedroom noodling? serious woodshedding? actual gigging?

    "beginning to play what I hear in my head"

    it depends on what you hear. when starting out, you may find it helpful to do this:

    1. pick a chord shape
    2. play a scale and/or arpeggio through that chord shape (one octave to start)
    3. sing a note, then find/play it in that shape
    4. sing two notes, then find/play them in that shape
    5. sing three notes, etc.

    do this every day for two weeks, just ten minutes a day, and pretty soon you'll be able to "think and grab" notes and combinations of notes pretty quickly

    and of COURSE, vary those chords shapes (think CAGED if you like)

    "my buddy ... can play any genre he thinks of on the spot, and he has zero understanding of theory"

    I would bet -- because hey, I'm a betting man -- that he has a strong sense of rhythm. he feels a rhythm first, and then puts some notes to it. you could try this. think or listen in your head to a simple shuffle in a major key. sing/grab a simple melody to it.

    soon enough it'll be like riding a bike

    above all, have fun -- no one is grading you, it's ok when learning to hit a lot of clams
     
  13. emerica1184

    emerica1184 TDPRI Member

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    Wow thanks for the great replies guys. Funny enough when I ask him how he got so good at improvising, he claims he used to spend hours just putting on a playlist of random songs and trying to learn them as they were playing, a lot like what some of you are suggesting.

    And I mean 11 years of bedroom noodling.
     
  14. sacizob

    sacizob Friend of Leo's

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    A lot of times the melody starts on the fifth of the chord.
     
  15. T.J.Chillingham

    T.J.Chillingham TDPRI Member

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    That might explain why when I'm trying to figure out the key, a lot of times I'll be off by a fifth (I think it's in A when it's in D). Thanks for the help.
     
  16. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    figuring out random songs is great if they vary enough

    to really nail a style, though, you have to dive deep and be obsessive about it
     
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  17. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Do you have the ideas in your head and you just can't express? Or do on not have the ideas?

    Different issues.

    And I'm not critical if it's the latter. I can't noodle worth anything in a shop. But drop me into a band. With drums and bass and vocals and whatever else - all kinds of cool ideas pop into my head and out of my amp.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2016
  18. 4 Cat Slim

    4 Cat Slim Friend of Leo's

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    MilwMark, I'm the same way. I feed off the energy of other players, and like a good conversation with old friends,
    one of their phrases will suggest all kinds of replies from me, things I can try to work into the mix.
     
  19. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    fwiw, I love rhythm, everything for me starts there

    like train beat, or slow 12/8, or secondline snare, or the rhythm of somebody's name

    then just pick a key and hop on
     
  20. PaulieBoy

    PaulieBoy Former Member

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