One of the coolest things about teaching guitar is seeing the progress my students make.
It’s crazy to see someone go from ABSOLUTE ZERO EXPERIENCE to being able to IMPROVISE AND JAM with other musicians.
This is a double edged sword.
Because it means I need to step up MY GAME so my students can keep progressing.
It also means that I need to provide opportunities for my students to play/jam/engage with other musicians.
Which can be tough.
It’s hard for new(ish) guitar players to make the leap from playing alone (or with the teacher) to playing with other musicians (even if it is just an informal jam session).
So what can you do if you’re ready to make the leap?
I came across a great post/comment on reddit (you can read it in full here).
A few of the tips listed include:
Learn the Minor Pentatonic Scale
I usually teach it in small and easily digestible boxes. There are arguments as to whether or not this is the best practice… but for the beginner/casual guitar player I think it makes learning how to play solos/improvise easily accessible.
I start with Box 1 of the minor pentatonic scale, then continue with the rest of the boxes. But honestly…. if you just stuck with Box 1… and got REALLY comfortable with it… you’d be in pretty good shape.
The pentatonic scale is great because you can set yourself up in one position and any note you play within the scale/key will sound good. No sour notes.
Learn Your Bar Chords
There are two types/shapes of bar chords I start with: E shape (with the root of the chord on the E String) and A shape (with the root on the A string).
Learn a few different chords within each shape (e.g. E, Em, E7, Em7).
If you can do this you will be able to pretty much hold your own in just about any key.
As long as you….
Learn the Notes on the E String and A String
Start with the E string. Learn the notes on the the frets with the dots. When you’re feeling good about that, learn the other ones.
Same approach with the A string.
Not only with this help with bar chords (as mentioned above)… it will help with your soloing (e.g. Box 1 of the Pentatonic Scale).
Soon enough you’ll be able to hit chords like Dbm as easily as an open G chord.
Don’t Play So Much and LISTEN
A lot of musicians (especially guitar players) feel the need to CONSTANTLY PLAY. This means…
Playing over other instruments…
Playing over the vocalist….
Playing over other guitar players…
Playing super fast…
Playing every single note in the scale….
The list goes on. The idea is that too many guitar players (both beginner and experienced) focus TOO MUCH ON THEIR OWN PLAYING. Or more importantly…. they DO NOT LISTEN TO THE REST OF THE BAND.
Instead of trying to sound impressive or be the fastest or best guitar player…. instead focus on listening to the other musicians and MAKING THEM SOUND BETTER.
This can be hard to grasp.
It will feel weird to just kind of sit there while others play.
But it’s ok.
Listen to the musicians.
Find a note that you can play to accent a chord. Or just a small pattern of 3 or 4 notes (a riff) that compliments a chord progression.
Keep it simple.
Not only with this sound better… it will make you appear more knowledgeable. It will turn you into the musician that others seek out and actually WANT TO PLAY WITH.
There is a difference between jamming along to a backing track and playing with other humans.
Backing tracks are fun… and are a great way to experiment and develop your skills.
Jamming with other people is a whole different experience… and incredibly rewarding. Improvising and instantly creating new sounds, songs, and music is a crazy and personal joy.
I don’t really know how to explain it… I think it’s something that must be experienced to really understand.
(Jake Posko does in-home and online guitar lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org).