The Challenges of Learning Guitar...

Why is it so hard to learn the guitar? 

Jane's 27 years old and she's been playing guitar for 3 months. She gets rather irritated when she keeps seeing those advertisements that claim you can learn guitar in 3 weeks and be playing like a pro in no time. Highly annoying!

Deep down she knows that it takes years of dedication to get to a high level of skill. Jane also understands that there are many common similarities that most beginners will run into when they are learning the instrument.

Since so many new players are going through the same problems, I decided to do a quick post about the most common ones, (as basically every novice guitar student will find something useful and relevant among them).

Here are the most common problems that new guitar students have, and a few tips for what to do about solving them.

We live busy lives, which means that a lot of guitar students don't have time to practice. But, even worse, new students have no routine for practice and it is very difficult to create one. Especially students who have never played an instrument before. If the person has no prior practice knowledge, (of what it is like to maintain a framework of study), it will be incredibly difficult to cultivate this into daily life.

Treat your study time as shorter in the beginning and keep what you're learning to the point, reviewing concepts a couple of times each. Keep your study sessions down to about 20 min. or at most half an hour.

Print out your TAB and music lessons placing them on a music stand in front of you, and practice guitar techniques for a set period each time, (which means that you can practice and just fool around at any time of the day afterwards).

Begin with very short study session segments - even 5 minutes at a time per topic will be to your benefit. Keep the guitar out and play at other moments during the day as well. While you're watching TV, while something is in the microwave, while you're talking on the phone, while you're waiting for someone or something, etc.

The point is to have your guitar out where you can see it, making it easily accessible, and able to pick up whenever you can.

This is definitely the first serious problem that beginners run into. They learn to "sort of" hold down a couple of chords (which takes a considerable amount of getting used to in itself). Than they realize that they'll need to change in between all of these different chords. This is where the trouble begins.

Start with an easy to finger chord shape, such as an, "E Major," "A Minor," or a, "D Major." Develop the tone, get rid of flubbed notes and aim for clarity of sound at first. Then, work on another chord that starts getting more challenging, like learning to hold down a "C major."

It may seem impossible, but it will get easier to hold down and get decent sound from each chord. The same thing holds true with chord changes. Learn how to change between chords correctly, and work hard at it.This means going from a chord you know well, to a chord you're still learning.

"I have no idea how to properly study a song?" ...This type of statement comes mainly from students who like to skip between songs, without really learning them and without mastering the techniques that the song can offer the player.

What usually happens is that the student will start learning one of the beginner guitar songs, run into a problem and decide to go for another song leaving the first one behind. But the new song is a bit difficult as well, so they try something else, and so on.

The result is that without having learned any of the songs properly (or with dedication) and thereby not having improved at all, they feel like they've looked at every song, and don't know what to do next.

The better approach is not to give up on learning a song when you run into the first sign of difficulties. This is why you need to practice learning songs that are manageable. Often the beginner song books can be an excellent place to start.

For example, one song I recently taught in a class was Audioslave's, "Doesn't Remind Me." The songs' chord changes are really straight-forward with the verse only using "E and A" major chords. The chorus adds the "D Major" and the "E Minor" so overall, we have a perfect song for a beginner strumming piece.
Get the TAB here for "Doesn't Remind Me."

Finding songs like this would be the perfect place to start for a beginner. But, the most  important factor in learning this piece (or any piece like this), would be to develop the chords outside of the song. Then, add them in one by one. Afterward, study the strum pattern. In other words, learn the song in pieces, in small chunks. Keeping everything manageable.

The last point I want to make is how important it is to speak to a professional teacher along the way. I conduct Skype Classes with people from all over the world who often only touch base with me once every few months. They want to be assessed and then be reassessed to know that they're on the right path to learning most efficiently.

This is a critical key to development. Going at this alone places you in a vacuum and that will do nothing but foster a lot of bad habits. Those bad habits will cause you a ton of grief as time goes on. So, avoid them with either a private instructor, or through using a proper guitar learning system (like my Creative Guitar Studio course).



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Making a Living Playing Guitar (4 Traits)

Making a Living Playing Guitar (4 Traits)

Playing the guitar as a primary income source may be a unique way to earn a living. It can also be very stressful. It's not the 1st choice career path for everyone. Learn what it takes to earn a successful life-long  income as a professional guitarist... 

If you decide that the only way you can make it through your life is by playing the guitar as your main source of income, then you need to realize that the select number of people who have had success at this all share very similar qualities. 

They've all learned a lot of their primary income skills through trial and error, and they've all worked very long hours developing their knowledge and experience for what they needed to do in order to establish and maintain their long term success as musicians. 

Obviously, there are common traits involved like; versatility, confidence, and musical skills. But, there are also other interesting attributes as well. In this episode of the GuitarBlog Insider, we're going to discuss. "Making a Living Playing Guitar."

In this discussion, we'll be running through FOUR areas that are important to anyone who's interested in Playing Guitar for a Living. They are; Becoming a Complete Musician / Learning to both Perform and Record to a high level of skill / Getting Comfortable with Technology / as well as, Learning to become a highly competitive person.

Making a Living Playing Guitar (4 Traits)



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Clickbait Guitar Lessons on YouTube...

ClickBait Guitar Lessons on YouTube Might Not teach You Much, But They Will Generate Clicks and Revenue for YouTube...

If you're serious about learning to play the guitar you probably won't learn the bulk of your guitar knowledge from YouTube. 

After all, there's nothing better than studying a proper step-by-step course with an organized curriculum taught by a professional teacher with hundreds of streamlined examples. That will absolutely excel your guitar playing better than a stack of random YouTube videos on any day.

Back in 2008, (that was the year when I first started posting a few short guitar lessons on YouTube), there weren't an overwhelming amount of guitar lessons posted on the site, at least not compared to today's standards.

Most of the guitar videos on YouTube were about how to play "this or that" song. I thought making some YouTube videos that focused on things like; scales, theory and technique would be a good way to help my local guitar studio and possibly boost my in-person business. 

At that time, YouTube had a "Partner Program" but it was very difficult to become accepted. So, making money on YouTube wasn't even on my radar when I began posting lessons. Have a look at the video below, (back from the first year I started posting)...

Posting on YouTube worked okay for my local business, but it grew into more of a direction where it stood on its own after YouTube expanded its Partner Program. 

After a year or two, I decided to focus on the YouTube lessons as more of a separate entity. Most of the people who were watching my YouTube videos did so because I was discussing more about guitar and music theory and I combined that with practical knowledge.

However, doing this type of video-post on YouTube does not spawn 10's of thousands of views in a matter of days when a video is first posted, and that's what YouTube wants today in 2017. 

YouTube does not care about substance, it rewards strictly on immediate video clicks. That is how YouTube makes all of their money.

The way YouTube works has more to do with views, "gained quickly," (very quickly) than it does with high-quality intellectual content. You could make the best content in the world, but if your video doesn't receive thousands upon thousands of clicks and views in the first 24 hours, then our friends at YouTube use a computer algorithm to shuffle a video to their back-burner list and it sits there with 18 views (or whatever) going no-place fast.

New YouTube content uploaders often tend to think that YouTube has everything to do with gaining subscribers, but it does not. It is about very quick views when a video is first posted onto the website. 

That's probably why all of those silly, goofy, ridiculous content content videos are viewed a million times in their first 24 hrs. and your phenomenal YouTube guitar lesson only has 18 views in it's first week.

Some YouTube creators provide a slice of both good content and stupid ridiculous content, to gain subscribers but more often than not, the most successful YouTube videos thrive on something called, "ClickBait."

ClickBait is when a YouTube creator places a titled on their video that reads something like one of these below...

- Here's why you should give up sex and devote your life to guitar

- Why guitar lessons suck

- 5 sexual reasons for learning guitar

- The most boring guitar lesson ever (Don't Watch This)

- Why you should forget everything you ever learned about guitar

The titles listed above sound nothing short of idiotic to any sane person. However, what they do quite well is entice a person to wonder "why" a video would be titled in such a ridiculous manner in the first place. 

This generates the all important, "Click." Which is what YouTube desperately needs for their revenue stream and when creators achieve this, YouTube rewards them.

For me there are three kinds of content on YouTube...

#1). The first is the ‘digitalizing’ of things that people have always been able to do such as learning songs, scales and whatnot. How many song tutorials are there on YouTube, and how many "Pentatonic Scale" videos have you seen? Far too many I'd suspect.

#2). The second is ‘unseen’ content, involving the teaching and insight into how a player thinks. Which can be very hard to locate in today's world of clickbait. 

To me this is amazing content. I can get a lot out of videos like this. But sadly they are getting harder to find. Usually buried way way down in YouTube's filtering process.

#3). The third, is all of the ridiculous crap content that generally angers me as to why in the world I bothered clicking on it in the first place. I knew it was clickbait. WHY?

So after trawling though the crap, click-bait, and begging-for-subscribers videos, here is a fantastic video about rhythm guitar, sadly it only has a few thousand views...

Oz Noy Clinic – Rhythm Focus in Solos

If you haven’t heard of Oz Noy, then you should definitely check out his music. I like this lesson, and most of his other lessons, because he gets right down to the fundamentals that a lot of players are lacking and he provides concise and clear explanations.

In this video he covers how to inject rhythm into solos, which sounds obvious but you’ll find that a lot of guitarists, neglect this element of their playing and it remains underdeveloped.

You may think you’ve milked the A Minor Pentatonic scale to death, but take a look at how Oz makes it groove and how you can add this dimension to your soloing through a couple of really good exercises.

Sadly videos like the one above are buried on YouTube. This type of solid content gets shuffled to the back-burner and finding it can be next to impossible. 

Instead, your next search on YouTube for Guitar Lessons will have you only find those same videos that you saw time and time before, and time and time again...

Look, there's another song lesson on, "How to Play Taylor Swifts ********* Song." Oh no, it's another video by that guy who only talks about the Pentatonic scale (in every video he makes). And good grief, there's another video by the same dude (who comes up in every guitar lessons search) always showing the same triad chord as the same strumming idea.

Unfortunately, you'll need to dig and dig and dig to discover the good stuff on YouTube. It is there, only it gets buried under all the clickbait. Keep looking - I know it's like digging for gold - but there are great video lessons out there and they are worth finding.



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Easy Guitar Fingerpicking Patterns

When playing through finger-picking patterns, you have some choices as far as your right hand is concerned. If you make sure that you understand your options, you'll have more freedom when developing your fingerpicking style...

A lot of great guitar playing can come from patterning out just four notes when fingerpicking. As a starting point, (when you are playing four notes ascending or descending together), you can use your thumb, index, middle and ring fingers, (one per string), to play those notes. After you've become familiar with this technique /set-up, the technique can be modified even further.

When you begin to alternate ascending and descending patterns in the same bar, you can keep the same approach, but you will have to double up your ring finger on the top note of the first and second pattern, (which may or may not work out feeling comfortable for you because it may feel a bit awkward for some players).

Fingerpicking Pattern 1).
The first fingerpicking pattern that we’ll explore features an ascending approach to each chord in a given progression. Here, (and in each example in this lesson), you will first learn the pattern over a C and G chord, I and V in the key of C major.

Patter 1). click image to enlarge

 After you can apply this pattern to C and G, try making up your own chord progressions and work on each pattern over the new chords. Some common progressions you might want to explore are F-G-C, C-Am-F-G, C-A-D-G, or Am-G-F-E. All of these can be found in many classic rock, folk, country and pop songs.

Fingerpicking Pattern 2).

In the next fingerpicking pattern, you will reverse the first pattern to produce a variation that descends down the chord you are playing, such as the C and G below.

Pattern 2). click image to enlarge

While pattern #2 is simply a reversal of the first pattern, it is still a great way to expand your fingerpicking vocabulary while not having to learn anything brand new. Often times as musicians, the easiest way to expand your performance vocabulary is to alter a technique, concept or musical device that you already know, (such as reversing this fingerpicking pattern, rather than starting to learn something new from scratch).

Practice this pattern and keep in mind how it does sound similar to the first fingerpicking pattern, but that it also has a unique sound that you can use to enhance any song that you’re playing on the guitar.

Fingerpicking Pattern 3).

In the next pattern, you will combine the ascending and descending fingerpicking pattern within the same bar of music. If you are having trouble with the fingering for your right-hand on this exercise, work slowly testing your feel for how to address this combination pattern in your practice.  As the pattern becomes memorized, you'll feel more at ease.

 Pattern 3). click image to enlarge

Fingerpicking Pattern 4).

In the next fingerpicking pattern you will reverse the previous combination pattern so that you begin on the descending version, followed by the ascending pattern over C and C.

As was the case when you reversed pattern one earlier in this lesson, you'll need to keep in mind that even though you are simply reversing an existing pattern, this fingerpicking pattern in example four does have a sound unto it’s own. Once your ears learn to hear this, then you’ll be able to apply it at the right time in your playing and songwriting.

Pattern 4). click image to enlarge

Fingerpicking Pattern 5).

In the last fingerpicking pattern, we will play pattern 3 over C and pattern 4 over G to take the combination concept to a larger progression. Playing one idea over one chord, (such as pattern 3 over C), and another over the next chord, (such as pattern 4 over G), is a great way to expand your fingerpicking chops without having to learn new ideas. All your doing is creating new combinations of previously learned material.

 Pattern 5). click image to enlarge

Once you have worked out these five patterns, over C and G (as well as, other chord progressions that you know or that you come up with), try expanding upon them.

Work at different tempos with a metronome to keep your time steady and study unique combinations of these ascending and descending patterns. Once you begin to experiment further with these combinations, you’ll quickly realize how much mileage you can get out of a few easy fingerpicking patterns when you bring creativity into the mix.


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MASTERCLASS: Scale & Arpeggio Phrasing

January 20, 2017:
Scale and Arpeggio Phrasing

PART ONE:  In part one, our focus will be on redesigning melodies that are composed from the 5-tone Major and Minor Pentatonic scales. The first example will cover a Major Pentatonic scale melody in the key of, "A Major." We'll reorganize the Pentatonic idea to apply phrasing that will operate with the 7-tone "A Major" scale. Our second example will carry on with this concept but we will switch over to the 5-tone "A Minor" Pentatonic and the 7-tone "A Natural Minor," scale.

Watch Part 2 of this lesson in the members area where we'll study the concepts of transforming 5 and 7-tone Major and Minor scale melodies to phrases that target chord tones of an underlying progression using "Arpeggios." Paid members can download the handout along with the MP3 jamtrack in the members area at:



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Secret Sounds Found in Blues Harmony...

Even if you're brand new to jamming on the Blues it doesn't take long to notice that in Blues, just because a scale tone fits well with one chord doesn’t mean that it will necessarily fit well with the others...

Basic blues revolves around three primary chords. There are sometimes others, but for now let’s consider the primary three as the core of the blues universe. They are known as the "I-IV-V," Blues progression chords, and they are normally performed as Dominant 7th.

Have a look at the progression shown below. It is what we commonly refer to as the "12-Bar Blues Progression." This one is in the key of "C Blues."

Example 1). click on any image below to enlarge...

In a majority of cases, the typical guitarist would play the "C Blues Scale" over all the chord changes in example one. And, while that would sound "OK," it doesn't truly highlight the sound of each chord.

For instance, the B that is found in the G7 chord isn't in the "C Blues Scale." And, if we added it in, it's sound is actually completely inappropriate for the C7 chord, because the C7 chord has a B♭, and these tones conflict.

So knowing the chord tones helps, but doesn’t complete the full story. A better (and more interesting) approach is to learn scales that connect with each chord of the 12-bar progression.

For each of the blues chords, there is a scale of pitches that fits. This scale is known as the the mixolydian scale.

The Mixolydian mode, is the fifth of the seven musical modes. It is similar to the major scale except for having a lowered seventh. The Mixolydian scale is the scale that is generated when a major scale is played with the fifth note (fifth scale-degree) as the root. Thus, a C major scale played from "G" is a G Mixolydian scale. This is why the term "mode" is more appropriate than "scale".

The G Mixolydian mode is the same as a C major. So what's the difference? There is no difference; it's the chords that create the magic. Playing a G Mixolydian scale over a C major chord will sound exactly like playing a C major scale (because they are identical). However, playing a G Mixolydian scale over a G major chord will sound "Mixolydian."

Learn the following "Mixolydian" modes that can cover each of the chords from our 12-bar blues in example one.




When analyzing these scales what we notice right away is that each Mixolydian mode's natural blues structure tends to give us a bit more tolerance for notes that may not fit perfectly. If we played some of these sounds outside of the blues, they could sound off. But in the blues they sound great.

Most improvisers will use either a C major pentatonic (C, D, E, G, A, C) or a C minor pentatonic (C, D, E♭, G, A, B♭) over the C blues.

However, if they use the C minor pentatonic, they will often bend the E♭ up to E, especially over C7 tonic chord. And in addition they will sometimes encounter licks that use the other pitches we’ve talked about. But in reality, you can use both C major and C minor pentatonic scales over the same blues.

Pentatonic Major + Pentatonic Minor
(The Blues Combined Scale)

When dealing with a blues situation, you can generally draw on the Combined Blues Scale as a primary source of pitches. Then you can add color notes to the blues, which are generally context dependent. Color notes are any notes that we discussed already, but which are not in the Combined Blues Scale.

Repeating the ♭3 to ♮3 effect in many cases, opens the door for other “twists” and re-uses of the same idea in another contexts of the 12-bar progression. The ♭3 to ♮3 of the blues (E♭ to E in our example) is one case of this. Because the Combined Blues Scale is very heavily defined by the sound of a ♭3 of the I7 resolving up to the ♮3 of the I7, this relationship can also be used on the other chords.

In the case of the C blues, the F7 has “A” as its ♮3. This note is sometimes preceded by A♭, emulating the relationship first established on the tonic chord. That introduces a new note, A♭, into the blues. The same can happen for the V7 chord, in this case between B♭ and B, but both notes were already in the blues, so no new pitch is added, and it’s a little less special.

The “Blue Note”
We still haven’t talked about the famous “blue note”. This term is most often used to describe another color note that has similar properties as we've noticed from the scales discussed above. The blue note is between 4th and 5th of the tonic chord. (G♭ in our example below).

The "C Blues Scale"

The blue note (circled above) is almost always approached from below the 5th. (G in our example). The application of the blue note is almost always done as a very short duration, not long enough to sound dissonant, (often performed as a grace note).

The blue note almost always resolves up to the 5th of the key, or back down to the 4th. However, using the term “blue note” to refer only to this note is a bit of a misnomer. Actually, many notes that we’ve talked about can be thought of as blue notes.

4 Steps to Understanding Fingerboard Layout...

Learning all the notes on the fingerboard is one of the most important steps you can take as a guitarist to elevate your playing up to the next level...

Before you curse us out for recommending such an arduous task, consider the following: a doctor must know the body’s anatomy, an accountant must know basic arithmetic, and a webmaster must know the code that makes up a webpage.

Knowing the fundamentals of the instrument will make it easier to tackle the more difficult aspects of playing that you’ll encounter down the road. You’re probably familiar with the adage that you must learn to crawl before you can walk. That saying can be applied here as well.

Besides, learning the neck’s notes isn’t very difficult if you follow the simple steps in this lesson. As you’ll see, some of the information in here is about things you already know—we’re just including it to help put all the knowledge into perspective.

So put on your thinking caps and let’s get cracking.

The chromatic scale is a series of 12 tones that ascend or descend in half-step increments, or one fret at a time. In other words, this scale names every note on the neck, one by one, in succession.

Before you put it into playing terms, it’s a good idea to memorize the scale itself without playing the notes on the guitar. There are two simple rules to follow when memorizing the chromatic scale.

First, the notes follow a sequence that starts on C and ends on B (C D E F G A B). Second, between these notes you’ll find sharps (#) or flats (b). A sharp raises a tone by one fret, and a flat lowers a note by one fret.

There are two exceptions to this rule: the note pairs B-C and E-F are just a half step apart, so there is no sharp or flat between them.

By using these two rules you should arrive at this scale spelling: C-C# | Db-D-D# | Eb-E-F-F# | Gb-G-G# | Ab-A-A# | Bb-B. The only thing that may change is your starting pitch, as the chromatic scale can start on any note.

FIGURE 1a, is a complete grid of the notes on the fretboard, ending at the 12th fret. Notice how the notes at the 12th fret are the same pitch as the open strings on which you started? That’s what is known as an octave—the same pitch, only one register higher.

At this point, the scale recycles itself up the rest of the neck (for example, the 13th fret has the same note names as the first). When committing the note names to memory, be sure to use the markers on your fretboard as landmarks, assigning specific note names to particular areas of the neck.

FIGURE 1a). (click on image to enlarge)

Once you have an understanding for the entire neck as seen with every tone, it is important to move on to viewing the neck as how a single tone may be organized. In FIGURE 1b, you can see how an "E" tone sits across the neck in various locations. Memorizing the locations of a single tone is important for finding the root notes of chords and scales.

FIGURE 1b). (click on image to enlarge)

Now that you’re familiar with the chromatic scale, and with how a single tone is located across the neck, let’s focus on applying this newfound knowledge of the neck to different keys.

FIGURE 2 is a list of the notes in each key, both major and minor. The only thing that differs between the two scales on each line is the starting point. For example. C major starts on C (C D E F G A B) and A minor starts on A (A B C D E F G).

FIGURE 2). (click on image to enlarge)

Now that you know the note names in each scale, try to find them on the neck one string at a time. FIGURE 3 is a two-bar phrase, this time centered in the key of E major (row 5 of FIGURE 2).

Here the open high E string functions as pedal tone in between the other scale tones. Angus Young of AC/DC often used this clever technique in his solos, and you should feel free to apply it as well when devising your own licks, as long as the open string you’re using as a pedal tone is in the same key as your solo.

FIGURE 3). (click on image to enlarge)

FIGURE 4 is a mirror image of the previous figure, but this time it’s written in E minor, the relative minor in the key of G (row 2 of FIGURE 2). Try to find the notes in each key listed, string by string, until you get acquainted with their locations on the fretboard. You may want to record yourself strumming the root chord of a given key and then play along using the corresponding scale. This is fun way to not only learn the scale but also get your creativity flowing.

FIGURE 4). (click on image to enlarge)

By now you should have a pretty clear visualization of the neck in a string-by-string horizontal fashion. So let’s move on to vertical scale patterns.

FIGURE 5a), is a G major (row 2 of FIGURE 2) scale pattern in 3rd position. In this case you’re learning the scale across all six strings rather than focusing on one string at a time. (To include the high E string, play the notes A-B-C on frets 5-7-8, respectively.)

FIGURE 5a). (click on image to enlarge)

One of the most beneficial aspects of pattern-based scales on the guitar is that they are movable. In FIGURE 5b), the TAB from FIGURE 5a), is shown as a neck pattern on the guitar fingerboard. Being capable of visualizing the scale as a geometrical shape is extrememly valuable for moving the scale elsewhere on the neck.

FIGURE 5b). (click on image to enlarge)

If you take the pattern played in FIGURE 5b), and shift it up two frets, you would have an A major scale. Simply sliding the shapes along the neck allows for new keys because the scales are seen as geometrical patterns on the fingerboard.
Try to move this pattern to different areas on the neck, improvising over all the respective keys listed in FIGURE 2.

If you’d like to play over one of the minor keys, say E (the relative minor of G), FIGURE 6 offers a popular scale pattern.

FIGURE 6). (click on images to enlarge)

Remember: You can move these patterns to any key simply by shifting the entire pattern in a different position along the neck. There are endless possibilities when combining the horizontal and vertical patterns, so explore as many avenues as possible.



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