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pix You've Gotta Start Somewhere, Grasshopper pix
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pix pix by Drew Vics  

Page added in February, 2005

About The Author

Drew Vics is a guitarist living in New Jersey who has been playing rock music for about 25 years. His most recent influences are guitarists such as Mark Knopfler and James Taylor.

His self produced, debut CD, "No More Waiting" was entirely recorded, mixed and manufactured in his basement digital studio.

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For more information, visit Drew's site at www.drewvics.com. Comments may be directed to Drew Vics.

© Drew Vics

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  I'm not cut out to be a guitar teacher for two reasons. First, even after 25+ years I don't consider myself qualified, but that's just me. I guess it's tough to feel like a teacher when I have so much more to learn about this instrument myself.

Second, I can't teach someone how to play guitar unless they're willing to take the time and learn the basics, and that requires patience. Patience is a hard thing to muster when you want instant results.

I was lucky. When I was eight my parents were taking me to piano lessons, then at nine I began playing guitar, all the while beating on a set of drums my father had bought for me from a neighbor. I had an early start, so I had the basics out of the way by the time I turned 15 and was ready to start doing some cool things, like playing along with all my Rush, Van Halen and AC/DC albums. I played those records so much I learned them front to back.

Later on, a few years after high school I had a guy come around that wanted to learn how to play guitar. He had all the gear, the coolest guitars (better than mine), and great effects pedals. When he showed up with all his stuff for the first lesson he was perplexed when I had him plug into his amp direct, and play on the clean channel.

He brought a cassette with him of Metallica songs he wanted to learn, specifically the leads. We listened for a few minutes and I told him that in order to play that stuff he was best off starting with some basics to build his ability before he actually tackled the lead work.

He didn't have the patience to get the basics out of the way, and as a result, he was locked in a frustrating position. He was at an age where he wanted to show off by playing the cool stuff, but didn't have the skills to do it. He was just learning how to properly finger some chords.

I had him practicing some scales, and just basic patterns to get his fingers familiar with various motions that would later become second nature. I also kept him working on his fingering for chords so he could develop that ability as well.

I think he came back for two or three more lessons. That was it. He wanted to do leads and I wasn't teaching him leads.

Over the years I spoke with other guitarists who were also teachers, and when I asked them how they approached this kind of situation more than one said something like, "I teach them the leads, that's what they want to know."

While I agree that just playing the guitar in any way can help develop skills, I think potential is limited by focusing on one task instead of the big guitar picture. It's like painting a picture without first really practicing with a paint loaded brush. You can't appreciate what makes it happen, you only see happening.

As I mentioned earlier, I started with the basics. Maybe not everything, but certainly enough to prepare me for solid playing at an earlier age. I don't consider myself an expert, but I know that the basics helped me figure the rest out, and helped me to understand what I was hearing and playing.

In a previous article I urged young guitarists to "just play" and worry about the details later. Just playing is key to being a great guitarist. It's essential to use the instrument regularly, regardless of how well you know your way around it. But this suggestion takes into consideration that you already know the basics. You always need some clue, some basis from which to start your journey. And believe me, being a guitar player is a journey, but you have to practice, and be patient.

It's like that famous line from "The Karate Kid", "Wax on, wax off." It's boring, and it's tiring, but the results are awesome. Start learning now, and keep learning for the rest of your life.

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