Learn Electric Guitar

12th November

online-guitar-course2Thinking back, I can vividly remember how bad I wanted to learn electric guitar skills. You know – probably just your average teenager at the time, with a deep passion and burning desire to become a great rock star and chick magnet… And who knows, have I had access to the remarkable tools available today, like the web based Jamorama guitar course or the superb, free Beginner Video Lessons shown to your right, then perhaps the dream would have become a reality?

My parents, bless them, tried more than once to convince me it was for my on good to learn classical music and study piano or violin (ouch). “Proper music”, that’s what I do tend to remember they called it back then.

I did in fact try that “un-cool” piano for quite some time – more to please my folks than anything else. However, all I really wanted was to grow my hair long, buy a Gibson Les Paul guitar and play loud riffs all day and all night long. Soaring lead guitar – oh, yeah! Naturally, just the kind of stuff parents didn’t approve of at all.

That ol’ beat-up six string

Without telling anyone but my closest friends, I borrowed an old German Hofner guitar – from where, I can’t quite recall – and began to teach myself guitar whenever my parents were not at home. In the beginning, I tried to pick up songs from the radio or from records.

Learning electric guitarI could sit for hours just trying to figure out simple songs, basic chords and licks on that beat-up, old guitar wreck. Actually, like the song goes, I literally “played it till my fingers bled”. Small wonder when you combine an untrained wanna-be rock star going for hours on end, real heavy strings and a guitar with an action that would make a classical guitar player green with envy. I suppose it was just sheer luck I managed to avoid getting tendinitis…

After a while I hooked up with a couple of guys who were a little more experienced than me, and I was in “advanced guitar lessons” heaven. Thinking back, it was still basic stuff. But hey, these dudes played lead guitar! At the time, I thought this was way cooler than playing your average rhythm, chords and riffs stuff, and I tried to suck up those lead guitar lessons like there was no tomorrow.

Getting my first proper electric guitar – a Japanese Gibson copy – helped getting things up to speed. With that old Hofner wreck I probably never would have managed to learn electric guitar properly.

Eventually, we (myself and one my guitar allied) formed a band. My parents had eventually, and very reluctantly, accepted my stubborn vision of becoming the next Jimmy Page (yeah, right…) and from that moment on, Chopin and Brahms was a lost case. A guitar case on the other hand… I could see myself getting a handle on that.

The leading man

As luck would have it, my friend was a better guitar player than me (he taught me stuff, remember). Consequently, I was delegated to keeping the rhythm going, while he took those enviable lead playing chores. At the time, I didn’t fancy that much, so how can I talk about luck?

Well, years later I found that my friend never quite had mastered the basic – and really needed – skill of playing songs. So he gave up and drifted along to other things, while I kept plugging away; perhaps not your bona fide riff master, but quite capable as years went by.

Many years later, I even managed to save up money for a real Gibson Les Paul custom, and I haven’t looked back since. Shoot, I even grew to love classical music through the guitar. It was said I managed to make my old man proud in the end.

The moral of the story

If you intend to teach yourself guitar, then I strongly suggest you A. learn the art of playing songs … even if the riffs and solos is what you urge, and B. that you play with other people in a duo, group, ensemble or band – what ever tickles your fancy.

With all the brilliant tools available today you can save years on your learning curve. You have any number of DVDs in all styles and a host of web solutions. The earlier mentioned Crash Course Muso (Beginner Video Lessons), or Jamorama is perfect for beginners and intermediates (I would probably been able to kill for something like those two…), or the way cool Guitar Superstars, which is suitable for beginners, intermediate and advanced player alike. I have tested and used all three of these programs extensively, and they are all worth their weight in gold. Great time savers! The first one has the added benefit of offering free lessons.

Needless to say, your best option would be to pay for private tuition. This can be costly, however, and you would need to find someone who “talks your language” as well. Not all teachers are created equal!

What ever you choose to learn to play electric or acoustic guitar, do seek qualified advice and tuition! It will save you both time and (consequently) money.

Who knows, if I had laid my hands some of the tools you guys have at your fingertips these days, maybe I would have become a chick magnet and rock guitar hero? Probably not quite. Becoming a better guitar player in far less time, on the other hand? Definitely!

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Overcoming Stage Fright

24th May

Learning by doing

overcoming-stage-frightOne of the best ways to educate yourself in the complex art and skills of guitar playing is without a doubt to play with other musicians or perform in front of an audience.

When you interact with others, you learn to listen, adapt and improvise. You also get a better feel for rhythm and tempo, volume adjustments and playing for the song rather than to “impress” with your skills. The single most important guitar lesson is perhaps this: To understand the art of standing back – when not to play or what not to play :-)

Sure, you can accomplish quite a lot of these things while you play with others in your basement or garage, or in front of a few selected friends. However, there’s even more to gain from bringing your act to a live stage – either alone with your guitar or with a band or group.

Causes of stage fright

“Hang on just a second! Just the thought of performing gives me the shivers,” I can almost hear some of you shouting – and rightfully so. The thought of stepping up to the platform and delivering a speech, playing to a group of people, doing an audition or being on a live stage can be enough to send even the bravest amongst us for cover.

Is public speaking natural for an individual? Heck not – I dare say that fear of public speaking or entertaining is far more natural. Deep down, most of us (perhaps all of us) are flock animals. Only a select few amongst us is comfortable to take the spotlight like it’s second nature.

This fear of performing has basically two sides to it – the external and the internal. The external is the situation itself – the lack of control; the unfamiliar setting and the pressure to deliver the goods to a group of people you don’t know, the feeling of being measured and tested.

The internal is the set of physical, emotional and cognitive (though) processes which seems to give you the jitters – literally.

The belly of the beast?

First, Let’s look at the situation objectively. Is an audience there to  stare you down, laugh at your efforts, criticize your guitar playing, frown upon any bum notes, smile at your week guitar sound and talk about your “obvious beginner guitar skills”? Of course not! They are there to have a good time.

And you know what. Here’s a little “secret” which is also explained in one of the videos below. The audience wants to help you; they want you to succeed! Why is that? Simply because total failure is embarrassing to watch… So just go in there and play your guitar loud and proud! Apart from the occasional ignorant village idiot (there’s at least one in every crowd), people really want the best – for you as well as themselves.

And that punk who always seems to find some negative thing to say about your performance? Just smile or ignore him. He’s just an envious and jealous figure really not worthy of your energy.

Practice makes perfect

The more prepared you are, the better things usually works out. This goes with everything: From having spares of everything (strings, picks, effects, guitars, leads, fuses etc.) almost down to an extra guitar amp – to having a well rehearsed set under your skin.

It is vital to acknowledge that your not there to be impressive or to show off. If you do, then you forget to focusing on the two things that matters, 1. the task (your songs), and 2. the audience.

Stick to your game plan!

When you’re only focusing on the task at hand, which is to play the guitar just like you have down to a T, then everything else seems to fall into place almost like magic.

So again, forget about doing impressive new stuff or showing off your deadly guitar tapping skills while doing back flips. Your there to play electric guitar, remember? When you take care of the songs and lean on the things you have prepared, then things usually clicks into place.

What if everything bombs?

Another wise saying from the video below is to put things in perspective. It’s just music, you know. If things go wrong, then so what? Just smile, be cool about it and walk on.

As long as you care for doing your best and try to be there for the audience, then people will forgive even the most crazy mistakes. And you know what? Most people don’t realize it if you play something wrong anyhow.

Did you miss a beat, forget a verse, sing the wrong text, forget to come in a the right moment, even fall of the stage..? Don’t worry! One in a hundred (usually other musicians) will notice something wrong is going on. And here’s the best part: Those who notice, has been there themselves – they will definitely not make a scene about it.

The stress reactions – utilizing the energy

Many inexperienced performers has no clue as to what goes on in their body when they are about to perform. The jitters, shaking legs, sweating, needing to go to the bathroom, nausea, thundering heart… It’s all natural and designed to be!

In a nutshell, this is our evolution which has given us the fight or flight response. And here’s another kicker. We don’t perform better in spite of these seemingly weird things which goes on inside of us. Oh no, we perform better because of it!

This is an enormous pool of energy which is there to help you. Just acknowledge that these reactions are healthy, natural and beneficial. Then take the energy and run with it!  This is perhaps the best stage fright tips I can give you: To trust in this positive energy.

Make sure you watch the video down below about singing and breathing. It shows the importance of controlling your “nerves” and stage fright with the help of proper breathing technique. Good stuff!

Look – don’t look!

Another thing that a beginner live musician or other performer might be tempted to do, is to try (or want) to look at individuals in the audience. Some times an inexperienced performer may even be scared when he/she finds that you really don’t see them but they can see you, because of the stage light.

In either case, you forget that you need to to embrace the whole audience as an entity. By all means, dedicate or deliver your song to someone special but always perform it to everyone in the room!

If you can’t see the audience then just concentrate on your task – on playing the guitar and on the song. If you see anyone in the audience, just defocus (one of the videos below explains how). You can also move your eyes slowly all over the room, or look to the back of the room as if you want to draw everyone closer to the stage.

Don’t worry – be happy!

By working on your performance and taking in the various stage fright tips found on this page and the videos below, you should be one your way to overcoming stage fright even if it may seem as likely as winning the Oscar right now.

Remember, all performers have performance anxiety or stage fright to some extent. In essence, it’s all natural, all manageable and all good. After all, since we can’t get rid of stage fright all together, why not go with the flow and benefit from it? :-)

To wrap things up for you, here are a couple of good, to-the-point videos about dealing with stage fright and the fear of public speaking.

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