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Learning guitar theory (without breaking the bank!)

GodfatherGodfather Registered User regular
edited July 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
So things are a little slow in my neck of the woods: they've been cutting back on hours at my job, i'm new to the area so hanging out with friends is pretty slim, and i'm looking for something to do to pass the time.

I've been playing acoustic guitar for a little over three years now, but most of that was me just taking lessons on tunes that i'd like to play. My first year mainly consisted of lessons, my second I hardly touched the thing and my third is where I really cracked down on it. I'm able to play some real fancy pieces, but all I know how to do is read tabiture! When I think about it, I hardly know anything about guitar at all, and i'd like to better myself while I have the down time. I don't really have any reason why I shouldn't; i've got a (somewhat) solid job that will offer more hours starting August, a sweet girlfriend who's very caring and affectionate, and i'm pretty comfortable with my surroundings so I wouldn't mind secluding myself for a bit in order to get better.


Last year I was able to build myself a nice electric at my old guitar job for free, but I don't really know how to play electric at all. I've always wanted to learn how but things kept getting in the way, like school, bills to pay and important errands to take care of. I'd say for the next two months things are gonna be real slow, and I thought i'd make the most of it by really trying to absorb myself in learning all I can about guitar haha. A guilty fact i'm willing to admit is that i've always wanted to learn how to play powermetal! There's a phenomenal power metal teacher in the area, but apparently it's $160 a month for four half-hour lessons, which is just outrageous. I can't afford to pay that much money at all, but I do know that I work best when I do happen to have a teacher :?


I noticed that whenever i'm under the gun on things it usually forces me to truck through and get over those little humps that produce great musical strides. I'd like to get involved in something like that outside of my own personal vigilance, but without breaking the bank.


Does anyone have any tips or advice on how I can really sink my teeth into this and really learn what I want to play and music theory on top of it? I don't mind spending money so long as it's not going to cost me an arm and a leg.

Godfather on
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Posts

  • EshEsh Tending bar. Eating out. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Have you looked into any books at all? It's how I keep myself going in French. Grammar and Verb drills. I'm sure there's got to be something good on Amazon in regards to guitar instruction.

    Also, that's really not that expensive if the guy is as good as you say he is. Money well spent and all...

    EDIT: Are you saying you want to learn to read music? Are there any specific styles you're looking to learn?

    "At first he thought it might be a natural occurrence - maybe a rabbit. But upon closer inspection, it was clear a knife had been used. And rabbits don't carry knives."

    Final Fantasy XIV:Lilja Sunblade
  • GodfatherGodfather Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Well power metal in general, but I think guitar music theory in general is a pretty solid way to go. I've tried teaching it to myself on my own but I just can't muscle through it some times. It's much easier when I have a class or assignments to study on the side. Sometimes its the sheer repetition of being forced to confront it that will have it stick in your head. That's what's happening with my AutoCAD classes, i'm thinking that sort of approach is what I need.

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  • wonderpugwonderpug Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
  • DehumanizedDehumanized Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    I like this book

    I second this book.

    parabol
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  • garroad_rangarroad_ran Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    I'm not familiar with that particular book, but for music theory in general, Barbara Warrham's "Elementary Rudiments of Music" is pretty much the Bible 'round these parts.

    I warn you ahead of time that it is full of grueling, brutally boring, seemingly pointless exercises. Learning from that book sucks balls. Everyone hates it.

    But damned if it doesn't teach some theory.

    My main gripe with that book is it lacks any element of taking the "theory" and showing you how to apply it in real life music. This is where a teacher can come in handy, or you can find different ways of applying the material. In my case, i found I got a lot out of composing. Every time I studied a new theoretical concept, I would write a short piece using that concept.

    I would also suggest that learning to read standard notation is critical if you want to get into music theory seriously. Grab yourself a beginner's book (almost any one will do. You just need to learn to read basic notes and rhythms at first) and get on that. If you're modestly comfortable with reading notes and rhythms, I would then recommend the Berklee book ("A Modern Method For Guitar Vol. 1") which will present you with a lot of good reading practice material. Once again, a few lessons can help to ensure that you're reading the tunes correctly.

    As for learning to play power metal.... that ain't exactly my bag.

    And PS: An electric guitar isn't really any different from an acoustic guitar unless you're talking about some pretty fine differences. If you can play an acoustic modestly well, what is it about the electric that makes you think you don't know how to play it at all?

  • GodfatherGodfather Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    I don't know how to play with a pick :?

    I only use my fingernails

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  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Austin, TXRegistered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Start using a pick. Force yourself to use it. It'll feel weird at first, but eventually you'll get used to it.

    I'll also second the Justinguitar stuff.

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  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Powermetal? Yeah, you'll want a pick for that.

    parabol
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  • GodfatherGodfather Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    What about lessons? Is there any sense in taking that at the moment?

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  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Austin, TXRegistered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Not if you want to learn power metal, unless you get lucky and find a dude on craigslist or something.

    I would only recommend formal lessons if you want to learn to read music or get heavy into theory right off the bat. I would find a friend that plays, though, to get them to show you some technique or point out what you're doing wrong. In that vein, in you don't know anyone, it might not hurt to take lessons for a month or something.

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  • amateurhouramateurhour Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Mel Bay's Guitar Chords is still the gold standard intro level guitar book in my opinion.

    Here's what I do...
    The Vac - My Science Fiction Epic
    Fortune Pancakes - My Gag-A-Day Comic
  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Austin, TXRegistered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Mel Bay's Guitar Chords is still the gold standard intro level guitar book in my opinion.

    Yeah, this is how I learned chords, but it was also before the internet. I'd only mess with the major and minor chords right now, but play around with the others and add them as you see fit.

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  • TDevTDev Registered User
    edited July 2011
    I like this site: http://www.jamplay.com/ it is $20 a month (autorenew) or $140/year (non-autorenew). I suck but it has helped me suck less and has a variety of styles that they are constantly updating. They have live sessions where you can ask questions and watch an instructor.

    edit: justinguitar is also good.

  • garroad_rangarroad_ran Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Not if you want to learn power metal

    Lies. This is why every month I get a new student who "has been playing for years" and "already knows a lot of stuff" but can't play in time and sounds like total shit.

    Although I will grant you that finding a teacher that suits your needs is important if you've got a specific style you are looking to learn.

    But still, any decent musician (doesn't even have to be a guitar teacher, specifically) can help you develop key skills (and rhythm is the key one) that will cross over between all styles.

  • GirlPantsGirlPants Registered User
    edited July 2011
    Not if you want to learn power metal

    Lies. This is why every month I get a new student who "has been playing for years" and "already knows a lot of stuff" but can't play in time and sounds like total shit.

    Although I will grant you that finding a teacher that suits your needs is important if you've got a specific style you are looking to learn.

    But still, any decent musician (doesn't even have to be a guitar teacher, specifically) can help you develop key skills (and rhythm is the key one) that will cross over between all styles.

    I can't reccomend learning good rythym enough. Play to a metronome. Rythm is actually the hardest part of becoming a good musician. I was one of the above mentioned people for years until i started playing with a guy that was completely dedicated to have great rythym.

  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Austin, TXRegistered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Not if you want to learn power metal

    Lies. This is why every month I get a new student who "has been playing for years" and "already knows a lot of stuff" but can't play in time and sounds like total shit.

    Although I will grant you that finding a teacher that suits your needs is important if you've got a specific style you are looking to learn.

    But still, any decent musician (doesn't even have to be a guitar teacher, specifically) can help you develop key skills (and rhythm is the key one) that will cross over between all styles.

    I was more referring to the fact that if you go to a music store and sign up for lessons, you aren't going to be learning anything you want to play, unless you like playing Mary Had a Little Lamb type stuff. You would have to learn that on your own, which for a lot of people would defeat the whole purpose. I get what you're saying, and agree with it, but if the dude just wants to learn power metal, he's probably going to have a bit of a search finding a teacher that will help with that.

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  • GodfatherGodfather Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    I would like to say that there is actually a teacher down here who specializes in Speed, Power, and other forms of quick playing Metal style. The problem is that he's made quite a name for himself, is in a band that is somewhat famous, so his lesson rates are pretty high ($160 for 4 lessons/1 month). He would teach me what i'd like to learn, but since I don't have a lick of theory under my belt i'm worried that he'd just use the lessons to teach me the chromatic scale or basics instead of cutting to what i'd pay for him to teach me :?

    I'm wondering, is it better to spend the next few months ironing out my theory, despite the fact that it's not what i'm truly interested in, or should I take a chance and study what I really want to do? The former would definitely help me more in the long run but I know I would hit things a lot harder if I were studying something I truly wanted to master.

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  • amateurhouramateurhour Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Godfather wrote: »
    I would like to say that there is actually a teacher down here who specializes in Speed, Power, and other forms of quick playing Metal style. The problem is that he's made quite a name for himself, is in a band that is somewhat famous, so his lesson rates are pretty high ($160 for 4 lessons/1 month). He would teach me what i'd like to learn, but since I don't have a lick of theory under my belt i'm worried that he'd just use the lessons to teach me the chromatic scale or basics instead of cutting to what i'd pay for him to teach me :?

    I'm wondering, is it better to spend the next few months ironing out my theory, despite the fact that it's not what i'm truly interested in, or should I take a chance and study what I really want to do? The former would definitely help me more in the long run but I know I would hit things a lot harder if I were studying something I truly wanted to master.

    No offense, but this is the wrong attitude to take. If you don't know any guitar theory you're not just going to be able to start taking metal lessons and get good at it. I mean you might learn how to do a few little rhythm things that would be cool at a party but that's about it.

    You need to learn guitar theory, you need to learn proper scales.

    If you just want to learn your favorite metal songs, then yeah, you can just buy a tab book or get the tab online somewhere and practice it until it sounds kind of decent, but you're never going to be able to write your own music that way.

    It's the difference between simple memory retention and actually learning how something works so that you can craft with it.

    Here's what I do...
    The Vac - My Science Fiction Epic
    Fortune Pancakes - My Gag-A-Day Comic
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    $160/4 lessons doesn't sound that bad. That's $40/lesson, which is certainly in line with what my mom paid for my sax lessons for many years in the 90s... maybe even cheaper with inflation and all, but maybe guitar teachers are generally way cheaper.

    Learning the theory can only help you. Without the theory you can learn to play other people's music well, which can certainly be fun, but I think most people find that only being able to play music someone else wrote gets old. A good teacher should be able to teach you the theory while keeping it interesting and showing how it's relevant to your end goals. "Play this scale. Now play it with 16th 16th quarter triplet triplet triplet 16th 16th 1/2 note. Great, you just played the solo to X." or "Here play this scale. Now here's a sweet lick using that scale."

    Where are you located? I've got an acquaintance on another forum who is the rhythm guitarist in a long lived, relatively well known power metal band. He's an incredibly nice guy and would almost certainly be willing to name some potential teachers in your area if he knows any (and is around... haven't seen him lately).

  • GodfatherGodfather Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    I live in Texas, in the Spring/Woodlands area. The teacher I was referring to is named Rusty Cooley.

    Anyways, the most i've ever paid for lessons was $30 for half and hour. It's not the $40 for the lessons that would kill me, but the paying it in bulk that does the serious damage.

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  • amateurhouramateurhour Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Your best bet there is to do a little bit of practice on your own and then get the lessons you want. Get to the point where you can switch between the major chords with ease (if you're not already there) and to the point where you can easily play an F-Chord or a bar chord and learn one or two of the basic scales, if for nothing else than finger exercises for when you start picking out solos.

    Then go to the metal god and ask him for a month's lessons.

    Here's what I do...
    The Vac - My Science Fiction Epic
    Fortune Pancakes - My Gag-A-Day Comic
  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Austin, TXRegistered User regular
    edited July 2011
    If you just want to learn your favorite metal songs, then yeah, you can just buy a tab book or get the tab online somewhere and practice it until it sounds kind of decent, but you're never going to be able to write your own music that way.

    Ehhh, that's not really true. You'll be limiting yourself, and it depends on the person, but I've known a ton of guitarists without formal training that wrote really good songs.

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  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    ^ this.

    Guitar theory is useful to be sure, but it's easy to get up your own ass about it.

    parabol
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  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    If you just want to learn your favorite metal songs, then yeah, you can just buy a tab book or get the tab online somewhere and practice it until it sounds kind of decent, but you're never going to be able to write your own music that way.

    Ehhh, that's not really true. You'll be limiting yourself, and it depends on the person, but I've known a ton of guitarists without formal training that wrote really good songs.

    Did they have lack of formal training or lack of theory, though? I've certainly got no issues with the idea of someone teaching themselves theory. I just believe that if you're writing quality, coherent songs without any sort of theory knowledge it's just luck combined with with some natural sense of musicality (which I'd still consider luck of sorts).

  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Godfather wrote: »
    I live in Texas, in the Spring/Woodlands area. The teacher I was referring to is named Rusty Cooley.

    Anyways, the most i've ever paid for lessons was $30 for half and hour. It's not the $40 for the lessons that would kill me, but the paying it in bulk that does the serious damage.

    Cool, I'm familiar with Rusty Cooley. I'm not a huge fan of what I've heard him play musically, but he's definitely got 1000x better technique and technical ability than I'll ever have. If I wanted to get serious about guitar, I'd jump at the chance to take some lessons from him.

    The guys I know are all out of Arizona (both the power metal band and another guy who has played in a few nationally touring thrash and groove metal bands opening for all the big names), but they both have contacts all over the place.

  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Austin, TXRegistered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Jimmy King wrote: »
    If you just want to learn your favorite metal songs, then yeah, you can just buy a tab book or get the tab online somewhere and practice it until it sounds kind of decent, but you're never going to be able to write your own music that way.

    Ehhh, that's not really true. You'll be limiting yourself, and it depends on the person, but I've known a ton of guitarists without formal training that wrote really good songs.

    Did they have lack of formal training or lack of theory, though? I've certainly got no issues with the idea of someone teaching themselves theory. I just believe that if you're writing quality, coherent songs without any sort of theory knowledge it's just luck combined with with some natural sense of musicality (which I'd still consider luck of sorts).

    Both, usually. These are pick up a guitar and learn to play Metallica songs people. Some people just have it. I've written some really good songs as well and I've never really studied theory. I just play what sounds good, and what pops in my head.

    I'm not saying you don't need to learn theory to write better songs. I'm not even trying to dissuade anyone from studying it. I'm just saying that saying you'll never write songs without studying it isn't really true.

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  • TrentusTrentus Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    For theory, I've found http://www.jazzguitar.com/ to be a pretty good (and fairly comprehensive too) resource, regardless of what instrument you play.
    Jimmy King wrote: »
    he's definitely got 1000x better technique and technical ability than I'll ever have

    Alright, I'm probably gonna sound like a massive ass here (and I'm not going to take any great means to avoid it), but going by all the power metal I've heard, it seems that this is all it is. The guys have chops (technical proficiency), but harmonically and melodically it's some of the most boring shit I've ever heard. The rhythms are all pretty simple too. They just do it really fast (which is still impressive, but for me it gets old pretty quick).

    It kinda seems like you'd be better off learning some theory (how to read notation, chord symbols, some simple harmony) sitting down with a book like Super Chops (the basic premise to this book is that it has a bunch of exercises, you start off by setting a metronome at, say, 60bpm, and for a week you run the exercises. The next week, you up the speed to, say 66bpm, run the exercises and so on...)

    There's really only one way to develop technical proficiency, and it's slow and painful. This guy might be able to present it in a more interesting way, but it all comes down to you spending hours on your own running scales, chord tones and various patterns.

  • GodfatherGodfather Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Trentus, I get what you're saying, but the reason you listed is exactly why I want to learn it; it's not about how it sounds, it's just pure a pure technical skill. If I wanted to play something harmonically and melodically i'd just stick with classical guitar, which can become fucking boring in its own right itself.

    I'm looking for a change.

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