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What was learning guitar like in the 60s and 70s?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Telephonist, Jun 6, 2020.

  1. Icatfishman

    Icatfishman NEW MEMBER!

    Oct 19, 2014
    Cleveland, Ohio
    There were a lot of books out there in 1965. I think most of us started out picking out melodies along with records and progressed to learning A, Am, C, D, Dm, D7, E, Em, G, G7. The real break throughs came with adding barre chord forms. I had a bit of advantage in being a play by ear violin player from the time I was 4 or 5 years old.

    For me the real break through was the Mel Bay Orchestral Guitar Chord book where I learned the chord form built around the open D. This enabled me to develop runs up and down the neck. It was probably my 2nd or third year of playing when I made this leap.
  2. Telesavalis

    Telesavalis Friend of Leo's

    Apr 28, 2009
    Deep in the Heart O Texas
    Lessons and a lot of needle dropping.
    eddie knuckles likes this.
  3. Jon C

    Jon C Tele-Meister

    Mar 16, 2003
    Mid-Atlantic USA
    Mel Bay (vol. 1-3)

    My teacher, the brilliant Lou Pallo (Les Paul Trio)

    Radio & ears. And buying sheet music (hit or miss)
  4. rebelwoclue

    rebelwoclue Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

    Jan 15, 2012
    1969 (12 years old) picked up my dad's '55 Gibson Southern Jumbo and began with chord books and Country Song Roundup magazines. Then turned to the 45's and 33's and wore them out.
    Now, it's a breeze. I can pick up and play along on a new song within about 15-30 seconds on any media. And learn a decent copy of the the leads pretty quick as well- all by ear.
  5. goodcheaptele

    goodcheaptele Tele-Meister

    Sep 16, 2009
    Hi Telephonist...For me it took a serious car accident that laid me up for two years with broken legs and shoulder. I was 19 then in 1965. I had tried a "music school" in my hometown of Mt. Vernon NY when I was 15 but two weeks of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (standing next to a 5 year old kid who could play it better than I) ended (for a while) my pursuit of guitar. I was using this Made in Japan PLAID STAMPS REDEMPTION BOOKS (back then when you bought groceries or gasoline you would get trading stamps to use to reclaim prizes) GUITAR. It had no adjustable truss rod and brand new it could have been used to slice hard boiled eggs. At 19 I was in the car accident and my surgeon told my parents to help me find an interest that would occupy my mind while recuperating. I asked my parents to get me a bass guitar. It only had FOUR STRINGS and perhaps I would fare better on that than on the guitar. My parents bought me a Univox Beatle Bass copy for $90 (it was good and I used it on my first gigs some time later) AND...a gorgeous Ampeg B15 35 watt Porta Flex tube bass amp. The same amp that James Jamerson of Motown was using. After a year of jamming to records in my room I was able to hobble to the local music store while on crutches. My Mother would carry my bass for me as I could not walk on crutches and carry the bass. 6 months of lessons and I was ready for my first gig in a band called DREAMLAND CHOO CHOO. It was the best gig to this day. We were the opening act for CIRCUS MAXIMUS (which contained Jerry Jeff Walker (Mr. Bojangles composer) and Bob Bruno, pioneer jazz rock wiz who wrote "The Wind" (an FM radio staple back then). They were Vanguard recording artists. and the middle act band, THE HELLO PEOPLE, also recording artists who appeared on THE SMOTHERS BROTHES SHOW, etc etc. The gig was at the famous CAFE WHA? Where Jimi Hendrix was discovered (in NYC's Greenwich Village). It was the highpoint of my gigging career sad to say. It has all been down hill since then, LOL. DCC broke up after two years because of two of the members ego tripping. It was then that I switched to guitar. As you say the song books weren't very clear cut or plentiful. So I started making my own songs with the chords I knew just to develop chops. This is how I ended up being a songwriter. True. I have been published a few times (for minor artists, nothing bigtime) but it has been a feather in my cap. We learned because we had the desire to. I knew I wanted to be a musician by the age of 4 in 1950. RnR wasn't even around then. But we were on the poorer side of the economy back then. It wasn't long ago that WW2 ended and the economy would grow well throughout the 1950's. But being an early Baby Boomer I kind of missed out on that until my later teen years. But never say die. If you want it you will get it. The human mind is a miracle. You can find your own way if you want to. You may even invent your own methodology as I did. Since those years I still play in bands, still write and have taught myself, basic keyboards, tenor banjo, harmonica, mandolin as well as Bass and Guitar. Keep at it and be your own guide. Vince.
  6. JJLC

    JJLC Tele-Holic

    Jan 20, 2014
    got my first guitar ~50 years ago, and went to a 'teacher' that was a cellist in our local symphony to learn guitar. He handed me an old Mel Bay instruction book & it was BORING as Hell. In my case it was a combination of factors that did not pan out for me.
    (1) I had a nylon string classical acoustic that was never gonna sound like the stuff I was hearing on the radio; Beatles, Hendrix, etc.
    (2) I had no drive to learn something that didn't have my interest & there was no 'competition' in a one on one 'class' with a professional musician.
    I went once a week for about a year, I had no real interest in playing the 'guitar' I had, never got through the first book, and finally said to my parents, ENUFF.

    About 2 years later I ended up in an orchestra class learning of all things, cello. :lol:
    I learned there because there were others in class that I didn't want to be 'better' than me. :rolleyes:
    There was competition in a class setting & that is what got me 'serious' about learning music.
    I played cello for 4 years; the last 2 years I was in an 85 piece orchestra.
    When I was 15 I got BORED with the cello (I get bored easily) and I went back to guitar BUT this time I bought a Gibson SG. :cool:
    I had the music theory from my cello experience so, I learned guitar by ear, and 'taught' myself how to play.
    I based my (self) learning mainly on technique; I learned to replicate Black Sabbath, Led Zep, AC/DC, Scorpions, Hendrix, and eventually went thru my Van Halen & SRV phases.

    I never got serious about playing guitar & I turned down offers from others to join bands. Playing guitar for me has always been about a hobby. I didn't want something I enjoy so much to turn into a 'drain' on my enjoyment of the instrument. Not forcing myself to have to play the same thing all the time keeps it fresh for me so, when I pick up the guitar the next time I am not regimented to specific music.

  7. FenderGuy53

    FenderGuy53 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 14, 2008
    Marion, NC
    The same as it is learning guitar in the 2020's? o_O
  8. dazzaman

    dazzaman Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 12, 2011
    Gent, Belgium
    For me, I started with a nylon strung guitar and having group lessons where we would learn folk songs - just playing the accompaniment part (well, those in the room that could sing did - I didn't). A year or so of that taught me quite a few chords and a few picking patterns and things like adding a walking bass here and there.

    I stopped that when I started learning classical guitar, which was the deal for me being allowed to get an electric guitar (one of the best deals my parents ever struck). So got the electric guitar, but wanted to play all of the usual suspects one played in the mid/late '70s.

    There were two ways - records (like everyone else) and music books. There seemed to be quite a lot of sheet music that was available, but it was all in piano reduction with the melody line above it, and chord boxes for the guitar (which was almost always the same shape, regardless of what might have been on the record). Often in the wrong key too (I have one book which had Smoke on the Water in G#. Whoever transcribed that had a slightly fast record or tape deck... I still have - in a sealed plastic box - many of those books, it seemed that whenever a half successful record would come out, so too would the music book. But never with tab, and never (or very, very rarely) with the solo transcribed.

    Yes, it is so much easier today, particularly with places like ultimate-guitar.com that seems to have pretty much every song anyone could want to learn, guitar magazines that now give tab that includes as many of the nuances it can, and youtube where as often as not there is someone showing you how to play it. I would have loved to have that youtube video of Ed King showing how Sweet Home Alabama really should be played back in the late '70s.
    Telefan65 likes this.
  9. Minggo

    Minggo TDPRI Member

    Jul 25, 2019
    South Carolina
    As all above have mentioned, I was motivated by snow falling outside my bedroom window. Warmer in my room than outside. Picking up licks here and there by watching bands on TV and in concert. I've been playing now for near 60 years and wish we had You tube for those tunes and licks that took a while to find and master. I learned through LPs of Chuck Berry, Ventures, Duane Eddie.... then the Beatles came around and saw how the girls where in a tizzy over them. Never put the guit down since.

    Now , we have the new Surf tunes , dripping reverb, Los Strait Jackets, and the European Rock a Billy... so much more to learn and a dwindling time left. I'm 71 years old and can, now, afford all the gear I couldn't afford then. The'll bury me with my guitars as my Grandsons and Granddaughters couldn't put their gameboys down long enough to pickup the guitars I bought them. Now, get off my lawn.
    Telefan65 likes this.
  10. Telefan65

    Telefan65 Tele-Meister

    Sep 26, 2018
    As a kid in the late 60’s and 70’s the number one thing for my learning guitar was the TV show Hee Haw. Every week I was getting free lessons from Roy,Buck and cast. For me as a young kid I would watch finger placement and count frets and then apply it to my practice routine. I spent many many hours practicing and jamming with friends once I was a little older. I find that the focus I had in the old days gave me a better learning environment in comparison to the modern day. So much out there now but along with it so much more distraction.
    Minggo likes this.
  11. raysachs

    raysachs Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    May 21, 2017
    Near Philly
    I bought a cheap acoustic in a pawnshop when I was 18, a friend showed me the basic open chords and the minor pentatonic scale in the first position (probably in A, but I figured out pretty quick that you'd just move it up or down to find the right key - when it sounded right, you were in the right key) and I went to work on getting comfortable with them. I was jamming to records with little 3 and 4 note leads within a few weeks. Then another friend showed me how to extend the scale over the whole fretboard and slide it down three frets to play the major pentatonic. After about a year, I bought my first electric and learned the basic barre chords - I'm sure someone else showed me those.

    After a couple years, I took a handful of lessons from a jazz guy - he gave me some exercises to improve my speed in playing scales and he taught me some basic theory. I guess a little bit of the theory stuck and was the basis of the limited theory I know today. But really, I took ONE useful lesson from a rocker who a friend turned me on to. I showed up, he stared playing some chords and I played lead to them. I played some rhythm and he played lead. And he said, "OK, you have a pretty good feel and you know enough to be able to jam - what else do you want to know"? And I don't remember how I answered it, but the upshot was he schooled me on the I-IV-V, and how almost every great rock and blues tune was built around that progression, sometimes with additional chords added, sometimes not. We spent a couple of hours going over a bunch of songs and how they're just the I-IV-V, played in various barre positions, played with open chords, whatever. I thanked him and left - that was the lightbulb moment I needed. Never saw the guy again, but that sort of pulled it all together for me. And from then on, it seemed I could pull all of the other stuff I already knew into an easily understood structure. and run with it. I understood keys and song structure. Using a capo on acoustic suddenly made sense. I just sort of GOT IT on a level I hadn't.

    I'm a really limited player to this day, although I've learned a ton since then (that was 40 years ago) and my playing and understanding has expanded a lot. But really, I didn't play for a long time and I got back into it about 3 1/2 years ago and it's been since then, with all of the online resources, with loopers, etc, that I've learned the most. Much more than I ever knew back in the day. So I've learned without modern online help, and with it, and with it is definitely better, from my perspective...

    Minggo likes this.
  12. Andy ZZ

    Andy ZZ TDPRI Member

    Aug 19, 2019
    What was it like? Excruciating.
    My big brother kicked my butt for touching his (the only) guitar.
    The I tried to play my dad's acoustic lap-slide.
    Which hurt with the raised nut an all, but I learned a G and D chord.
    Then Mom got me a $29 MIJ junker which I LOVED.
    Set me up with lessons.
    I was unteachable, quit after two lessons. (attitude mostly)
    Self taught for the rest of my life.
    It's been 53 years, and I'm finally getting the hang of it....
  13. crackercrumb

    crackercrumb TDPRI Member

    Apr 6, 2012
    south carolina
    I was born in 51 and started collecting 45's at around 6 years old. I was a big fan of Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry so those were my main " teachers" when I finally got a guitar around age 12. books didn't do it for me at first and I got ok at learning by ear. the worst part was the terrible high action guitar and Black Diamond strings that were the only thing available. we had a great old tube Philco radio that could pick up an AM station in the midwest that played blues. Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and so on. it really got to me and still influences my playing. my mom was a big music fan and had lots of records and took me to live shows when I was small. I got to see some great people in the late 50's and early 60's. the guitar has always been my main interest and still is. now at 69 I'm still buying too much gear and still reaching for that sweet spot.
    Minggo, Nogbad and Frank Entele like this.
  14. Frank Entele

    Frank Entele TDPRI Member

    Aug 22, 2011
    The Old South
    As far as ‘Clapton, Hendrix, you name it’ - they were one in a million (two. million, five, ten...) players. How did Bach, Beethoven, et al, do it?

    Second, how we antiques did it in the 60’s and 70’s was to listen to a record player, try and emulate the chord or lick, move the tone arm back - lather-rinse, repeat.

    I guess it’s a good question so not to dis on you, but my Generation reaction also learned how to change a tire, hammer a nail, plant a garden/mow the lawn and lots of other fun stuff you watch on YouTube!
    Minggo likes this.
  15. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Holic

    Feb 20, 2009
    nowhere anymore/UK
    60's/70's...limited in string gauge options.Limited gtr books available.SELF RELIANCE was the only way to 'musically progress'
    Once the electric gtr grew in POPULARITY etc...more ('FOCUSSED') gtr books became available.UNFORTUNATELY...(maybe) digital tuners etc became the plug in & tune reliance. BUT..they cannot ''Account'' for strings ageing!=Pitch recognition(unavoidable if..you want to musically progress)...self reliance/AUDIBLE practise of...is the only way to master it!To be able to TUNE without the assistance of a tuner...ON THE FLY!is the goal...the digital tuner a standby.PITCH PIPES are 100% reliable=No batteries required & they do teach you PITCH recognition(to tune 6 strings) simply from the onset!
    beagle likes this.
  16. Allen Peterson

    Allen Peterson Tele-Meister

    Sep 15, 2016
    Katy, Texas
    I learned from records. Pick the needle up, drop it down, repeat about a thousand times until either I learned the lick or destroyed the record. I learned a lot from playing in bands. I made sure I was the worse guitar player in the band so I could learn something from the best guitar player in the band. It was easy because I was usually the worse guitar player. I saw Hendrix in 1969. I wanted saw my guitar up after seeing him play. There was no way I was ever going to be able to play like that.
    Minggo likes this.
  17. since71

    since71 Tele-Meister

    Oct 29, 2016

    Thank you, Mr OP for acknowledging this somewhat unnoticed point. In 1962 I decided that I should play guitar without having ever seen one. This was based on the sound of the intro of Pat Boone's (sorry) Speedy Gonzales coming out a brown radio. And someone's well meaning advice that learning guitar would help my singing career! Well that never quite happened. A book from the 1930s and a friend of the scoutmaster gave me She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain.

    In the era of Yardbirds, Who, Cream and Jimi there was a bit of grainy B&W tv and reports from the front line - friends who had seen the players. No TAB. Never even saw it until I was 35 and had been a pro for 15 years.

    It sounds like the usual old geezer moaning, but you'd be wrong. We had a tremendous advantage. Firstly we owned this stuff, it didn't require that sanction of teachers (were there even guitar teachers in early 60s? Not on my Dads pay) and we had to use our brains and ears to get this stuff right. We weren't fed it of the end of a spoon. We routinely at very young ages found ourselves in situations that are more or less forbidden to modern kids, playing in a community hall to potentially and often actually hostile people. Not just our parents and teachers at safe school events. How quickly did I learn to improv 12-bar solos armed with one lick that I copied from a record somewhere when we had to play for longer than we had songs? Pretty darn quick.

    I would rather have had that experience any day than this world where we can look up everything. Everything is there, but in my observation as a full time guitar teacher it has little value. You might expect their learning to be faster and encompassing more. Maybe you are right, but I can't see it.
    beagle likes this.
  18. Stevenoodles

    Stevenoodles TDPRI Member

    Jan 24, 2013
    Mount Laurel NJ
    Mel Bay books by a teacher. Still in use today.
  19. Bbjork

    Bbjork TDPRI Member

    Sep 12, 2017
    I figured out the songs by ear, practice, practice etc. started playing around 1962.
  20. Track29

    Track29 TDPRI Member

    Mar 15, 2013
    San Diego
    My guitar teacher was a fellow named Mel Frommer. Thank you Mel wherever you are. Took lessons for about a year then it was just like everyone has described: records, friends, tape recorders...

    Most challenging thing for me was slowing down or speeding up records. It always changed the key. So I had to learn the part in one key, then transpose down or up to the actual key. All these hurdles just make you a better player in my book.
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