Posted 31 October 2008 - 02:10 PM
I've taken lessons since day one, still take lessons, and will always take lessons.
But just because you're paying someone who knows more than you do to teach you does not in anyway lead to being a bad or good player. As a few of you stated already, lessons do not teach you anything, you must always in the end teach yourself. It's you who goes home after a lesson and practices for hours on end, and it's you who discovers where and when to apply what you've learned in a musical context. I use lessons as accountability tools, and a constant challenge to both guide and direct my learning, so that I don't wind up 5 years from now sounding exactly like I do today, everyday I should be pushing and learning something new, and I often run out of ideas. That's why I pay to play with someone who has more ideas than I do.
Also, if you're going to take lessons, never just take lessons from one person, and never just limit yourself to only taking lessons from guitar players. The most interesting things I play I actually learned from taking lessons with a jazz pianist named Arlington Jones.
Right now I'm taking with a quasi-famous jazz/funk guitarist named Rich McClure.
Those of you who think learning songs is pointless obviously don't pay much attention to the music of famous players; the best players always are those who know the most songs in the most number of genres. Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Richards, Gilmore, SRV, etc. (all great players IMO) all knew hundreds if not thousands of songs by other people, that's where they got a vast majority of their most successful licks, not from themselves, but from other people. Hendrix, Clapton, and SRVs biggest hits were all cover tunes. Hey Joe, Crossroads, and Texas Flood are all cover songs.
Music, and especially styles of music are each a language and a dialect unto themselves, if you want to make up your own language and dialect, that's fine, but the artists that are always most successful are those that know the most songs.
Even Cobain knew lots and lots of songs, and covered lots and lots of songs. That's probably the most important thing you can practice IMO, is other people's tunes. And that doesn't just mean you learn the guitar part, it means you learn the melody, the different positions of the chords they are playing all over the neck, and the arpeggio and chord scale relationship to the structure of the song.
And those of you who think scales are rubbish obviously have some deficiency in your understanding of what a scale is, a scale is essentially a seven note chord, understand that, scales are a CHORD. They are just a pallette from which varying intervallic relationships of notes are derived. Everything you play is an extended expression of a given scale. Learning scales is only useless if you do not understand scales.
The stigma associated with learning scales is due primarily to this misunderstanding of what scales are and what their purpose is. These are the people who when they solo just start running a scale top to bottom, the reason why this sounds bland is because their note choices from the given scale are random and not related to the underlying harmonic and rhythmic structure of the music. When you solo, playing inside the "pocket" or center of the beat, choosing notes that adorn and admonish the harmony, and playing with smooth and varied dynamics will all make for a powerful and emotional solo. Playing random notes, running scales, and just guessing while you make funny faces does not mean you're playing well or connecting emotionally with the music.
And those of you who think Hendrix didn't know his scales are fooling yourself. That guy may not have known the proper terms for what he was doing, but he understood the scale chord relationship better than most people who do know the proper terms. Just analyze anyone of his solos and he is nearly always playing "inside" the music, both harmonically and rhythmically.
If you feel like your playing is bland and unoriginal try this. Walk away from your guitar, and just start humming a short melody to yourself, it doesn't matter if it's good or bad, just hum it over and over a few times so you won't forget it immediately. Then pick up your guitar and pick out that simple melody note for note, then find at least three different chord progressions to harmonize with the melody. Now set the guitar down and think up a new melody, come back and repeat the process again. This will develop your mind to hand coordination. The goal is to be able to think of something and play it immediately as you're thinking it. Also try strumming a chord progression you like and recording yourself singing a guitar solo to it with your voice, do your best to make all the weird sounds and attacks of a guitar when you sing, then go back with your guitar and pick out the whole solo you sang. I promise you this will teach you some unique and amazing new licks and ideas; our own ears and imaginations are often much better players then we pretend to be. A lot of players sound unoriginal because they rarely play what they imagine themselves playing. Don't be like that, imagine what your guitar sounds like, and then try your best to play what you hear in your imagination.
GYPSY SUN AND RAINBOW