How To Transition From An Intermediate To An Advanced Guitar Player

If you are a guitar player looking to take your early guitar playing to the next level, then you have come to the right place. Is theory important to know when playing guitar? Are there certain scales that you should be studying? I will cover all of this and more in this article.

There is a bit of a lull that many new guitarists will experience once they start to feel comfortable with the basics of playing. This happens after they have a few progressions, scales and guitar riffs under their fingers. But once they start looking for ways to continue their learning, many places will fall short. While there are usually a fair amount of resources for the beginning player, and even more for the experts, the resources for the intermediate guitarists seem nowhere to be found.

The sad truth is that this is usually the stage when guitarists will abandon their playing. Not due to a lack of interest, but due to not knowing how to take the next step. It doesn't help that a lot of the teachers you will find today only focus on teaching either beginner or advanced levels. However, all hope is not gone.

I am going to share with you here in this article some of my best advice for the intermediate guitar player. This is in no way an exhaustive resource, however, it is a great place to start. You are sure to find a few pointers in here that will get you headed in the right direction. So keep reading and see if you can add some of these tools into your own playing.

Perfect Your Practicing

Practicing is the #1 proven way to get better at playing guitar, so you need to spend some time making sure that you are doing it correctly. Every other great guitar player had to do it, and you are no different.

The problem with practicing is that people often think just sitting down with your guitar is enough. You need to be playing the right things in the right way for your practicing to truly be effective. Here are a few things you should be able to confidently do before moving on to the harder stuff:

1. Write yourself a practicing schedule. Does not have to be complicated, just something to keep you on track throughout your playing

2. Always play slower and with lesser strength then you want to. Only increase your speed once you feel relaxed and ready

3. If your notes are not ringing out clearly, it is no good. Decrease your speed till each note is clear
These are only a few of the many things you can do to make your practicing more efficient.
Know Some Music Theory

The key here is some. I'm not asking you to thoroughly read a 400 page book on theory and analysis (unless you really want to). However, you will benefit greatly from having some knowledge on basic theory rudiments. Consider starting with the following:

1. How scales and chords relate to each other

2. Identifying and playing major and minor scales

3. Writing a chord progression in specific key signature

This is only small selection of practices you can start exploring. If you are unsure about anything I mentioned, you can find a helpful download on my website titled "Beginning Music Theory" that will guide you. Alternatively, if you do feel comfortable with this stuff then take a look at another download provided on my site called "Music Theory Map".

Using Your Ear

What a lot of people don't realize is the importance of simply listening to music as a musician. Sitting down and listening to different kinds of music is just as useful as playing. On top of that, creating an ear training routine will benefit you greatly. This means more than just simply being able to hear chords. Check out the following to strengthen your ear:

1. Take note of the dynamics in various songs. Notice at what points it increases or decreases intensity. Also notice exactly what effect this has on the tune itself.

2. Broaden your musical tastes, and consume as many genres of music as you can. The more well rounded you are as a musician, the better off you will be.

3. Not only play your scales, but try to sing them too. You will find that being able to sing the scales will help you in being able to hear them.

Don't Be A Lone Wolf

Sometimes with learning guitar, its easy to sit in a dark lonely basement and feel like you've got it all figured out. This can only go on for so long until you either:

A) Get bored of what you are doing or

B) Hit a road block where you don't know what else to learn, or if you have been learning anything correctly

Music is all about working as a team. One of the best things you can do as a player is take time to seek out the right guide that will teach you the right things and keep you motivated. Like i've said before, there are a lot of less than qualified teachers out there. But my advice to you is to look into the results of a given teacher. Look into their students and their credentials. If nothing shows up on them, thats a bad sign.

Connecting Theory To Playing

As interesting as music theory can be, it's a little pointless if not connected to actual music. A big mistake that many teachers will make is teaching theory without explaining how it connects to performance. The best part of knowing why certain certain notes sound good together is actually being able to play them.

If you've never considered that it could be fun to incorporate your theory knowledge into your playing, then it's about time you change that. In the following video I will explain the idea of "sequencing", and then show you how to create new riffs with it using the pentatonic scale:

Now What?

You're going to want to print off this page and keep it handy for the next time you're feeling in a bit of a learning slump. There are plenty of things out there for you to learn and explore, and if you need any help feel free to ask me by writing to me on my web site.

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio