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I bought an electric guitar over a decade ago, and I don’t really know how to play it. OK, so I know the theory, but I don’t have the practical skills. It’s time to learn, and time to put some practice in. Does anyone have any advice? Books to learn from, or web sites, or the number of a rock guitar teacher in St Andrews…

I want to be able to pick up my guitar and enjoy playing it as much as I enjoy playing my piano.

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A major question is whether you want to work from 'normal' music or are willing to learn the tab notation. If you're sticking to normal music then you're leaning towards classical guitar (which can certainly be played on an electric guitar) and I'd recommend "Solo Guitar Playing" by Frederick M. Node.

Most rock music, however, is written in tablature - six lines, one for each string with the number of the fret replacing the standard notes. I can't recommend any books on tab but there are a lot of online resources. I'm currently trying to wrap my head around the lute version; as a classical guitarist I'm used to normal music and it's a major change in the way of thinking.

Edited at 2010-06-02 09:33 am (UTC)

Yep, I’m moderately familiar with tab, and I think for the kind of things that I want to play, that would be a good direction to go in.

I had a couple of years of classical guitar lessons when I was at school, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got a copy of “Solo Guitar Playing”, but I didn’t develop an enthusiasm, and I don’t think much of it stuck. I then had a couple of years of lessons on a bass guitar, and for a while I played that quite enthusiastically, but I am so out of practice that it is practically irrelevant.

Most of my enjoyment from piano playing comes from playing through sheet music books for various rock albums — Queen, Meat Loaf, Rocky Horror, etc. My initial aim with learning guitar would be to develop the same competency, for playing the same kind of music, i.e. being able to play Queen or Iron Maiden sheet music scored for guitar (which from experience would have both traditional and tab notation).

I imagine what I need is some sort of structured learning, and structured practice. I remember years of practicing scales and arpeggios on the piano, and I guess I need the same sort of thing for guitar. And probably a teacher.

I can certainly recommend books that worked for me though if you're able I'd strongly recommend you find a tutor with a good reputation, that's been more valuable to me in the last 2 years than trying to learn on my own for the past 18 years or so.

What I would recommend you start doing is identify *what* you want to play because it'll impact on the direction you want to go in order to achieve that. It's quite different learning to play chords along a Beatles song and learning to play a Dave Murray solo.

I'm not a specialist but I'm quite happy helping you out. Stay away from (free) websites though, only youtube is really kinda helpful, and even then only if you're a geek looking to analyse how exactly a guitar play plays a specific piece you're trying to learn. There are paid-subscription websites which are meant to be quite good but I've never spent the money for them.

Oh and you have an iPhone, there's a whole bunch of apps out there to help you learn which are meant to be quite good (don't have one myself so I'm just going by what my guitar teacher recommended). I can track his blog post about them and let you know if you'd like.

Thanks for the advice. You’re right about having a tutor — I don’t think I would have maintained progress when learning the piano if I hadn’t had a teacher guiding me and telling me what I needed to improve. I guess the local newspaper would be the best place to look — I tried looking on some web sites, but couldn’t see any guitar tutors in St Andrews.

My aim would be to be able to play the guitar parts to the rock music that I listen to — Queen, Maiden, GnR, etc. — so I’m not wanting just to be able to strum along.

Would appreciate info about iPhone apps.

Have you worked towards any exams in guitar? I noticed that Rockschool are an examination board that offer grade-based exams, with a structured syllabus.

Here's the link to the blog post I was talking about: http://www.markmcguigan.com/2009/10/10/handy-guitar-related-iphone-apps/

If you want to play along classic rock then there's plenty of material out there to get you started. St Andrews is a much smaller town than Edinburgh of course so it may be harder to find a tutor, though I would think not impossible. I'll ask Mark if he knows anyone in the area just in case (though he's from Greenock originally so the people he knows are more focused around Glasgow).

I am sort of working towards an exam but not the Rockschool one. I reckon I should be able to sit level 4 of the RGT Exam which is the curriculum my tutor bases my lessons on, and I'm hoping to apply to sit an exam by the end of this year, though we'll see just how much practice I can get.

Starting up with the CAGED system and expanding from that is definitely the best way to get creative quickly and get good foundation on playing the guitar.

I'd be surprised if a Uni town like St Andrews didn't have guitar teachers in the form of students working towards their degrees... you'd prob have better luck looking around the Uni, though.

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