Principles of Practice
Based on "The Principles of Correct
Practice for Guitar"
by Jamie Andreas
21, 2001 Volume 29
Q & A - "Can You Help Me"
i hv been learnin the guitar for about 2yrs, but i m not gettin
anywhere with it. i hv tried readin all the advices on the net and
i also hv a personal teacher, but all this doesn't help me. i hv
problems playin to wat the music is suppose to sound like. can u
I am making a guess here, and I guessing that you are rather young,
anywhere from 10 to 16. I am hoping you are closer to 10, because
your question shows that you have a whole lot to learn!
I am going to answer you the way I would answer someone who came
to me for personal instruction. And that means that my reply to
you may be rather offensive, but if you get the point I am making,
your chances of someday being a good guitarist will be much greater,
and that is all I am interested in.
The short answer is, no, I can't help you. That's the bad news.
The good news is, YOU can help you. My website is full of things
I have written solely for the purpose of giving the vital information
that makes it possible for anyone to learn the guitar, anyone willing
to pay the price, that is. And I don't mean money. I mean YOUR time
and effort. YOUR reading everything, and thinking, and working,
and reading again.
I have a sneaking suspicion that you did not read much of what is
on my site, because if you did, you wouldn't have asked me the question
you did. If you had read the things on my site, you would have a
very good idea of WHY you are not learning with your teacher, and
also a very good idea of what to do about it.
But instead, you are asking me to somehow magically do it for you,
to write some magical words in reply to you that will all of a sudden
enable you to start being successful at learning the guitar.
Well, I have already written those magical words. They're called
"GuitarPrinciples.com", and "The Principles of Correct
Practice for Guitar". Have you read them, have you done what
they tell you to do in order to learn to play the guitar?
I suspect not. I also suspect that you probably would find it a
little difficult to read what I have written and learn from it.
I suspect that the kind of concentration required to read my essays,
follow them, and learn from them is not easy for you. One of the
things that makes me suspect this is because you sure did not take
too much trouble in your effort to communicate to me. You didn't
even bother to spell the words, or use capital letters at the beginning
of sentences. Also, your question is so general, "can u help
me?" that I couldn't possibly give you an answer.
That is why I am hoping you are very young. It seems to be more
appropriate for kids to do things like that. But if you were my
private student, I would yell at you for things like that, and try
to teach you that you have to be a much more serious, focused, and
mature person in order to learn to do something as demanding as
playing the guitar well.
So, good luck Susie, I sincerely hope you do learn to play well,
and I hope you get yourself to the point where somebody like me
CAN actually help you. I suggest you start reading everything on
my website, beginning with the essays in the "Getting Better"
section. Read one every day. I suggest you give your best effort
to understanding and using all the ideas and ways of learning the
guitar that I have posted. If you are really ambitioius, I suggest
you get a copy of my book, and use it.
I think you will find that when it comes to learning the guitar,
like anything else in life, other people will only really be able
to help you after you have done your best to help yourself. If you
want it badly enough, you'll get it.
When I am sitting in the classical position (as I normally do with
my electric) the only place I feel any tension while playing is in
my left arm and shoulder...
I think this stems from me not knowing where to place my arm and elbow,
so as to achieve a good position.... I tend to have it next to my
body, pushed against it... and when I play the lower frets, it produces
quite a bit of tension...
I just wanted to know where this arm should be? I would be greatful
for any help..
It sounds like you are suffering from something I have seen quite
a number of times, which is a degree of tension being held in the
muscles that bring the arm in toward the body. If you feel your arm
is "pushed " against your body, I'd say you have quite a
high degree of locked in muscle tension that you have failed to identify,
and are accepting as a "normal" feeling.
I recently corrected this problem in my student Victor ( you can read
his student profile). Every time he would go to change chords, the
effort required from the fingers caused him to tense those muscles
that move the upper arm bone, and bring the arm toward the body, which
had the effect of bringing the fingers away from the strings they
needed to get to.
I should say more properly that he was allowing the effort of the
finger movements to tense those other muscles, because the key that
solved the problem was me actually holding his arm out with both my
hands while he made the chord change slowly.
This forced him to use the muscles of the hand itself to move the
fingers, rather than unconsciously and unknowingly trying to move
the fingers to the right place by moving the arm. That is actually
what he was trying to do. He was making the muscles which bring the
arm into the body attempt to do the job that should have been done
with the fingers. And it wasn't working, in fact it was making it
impossible for the fingers to do their job.
It is important to understand why this occurs. It occurs because even
though the fingers themselves should have done the moving and stretching
required for the chord change, which was a G to a C chord, they did
not yet have the strength and flexibility to do so. So the brain figures
it will tell other muscles to accomplish what is needed.
It's a vicious cycle, because unless the finger are somehow made to
do what they don't feel comfortable doing, they will never develop
the strength and stretch necessary to someday do it easily.
After a month of working with this problem, Victor has trained these
various muscle groups to do what they need to do to get the job done
without interfering with one another. As a result, he can change these
chords smoothly now.
As I was sitting there holding his arm out and forcing his hand to
do the work, I was wondering how many people there are that need to
have their arms held in the same way. I have recounted this experience
so that players reading this can look for the same problem in their
own technique. I believe the tendancy to pull the arm in toward the
body in response to the demands made upon the fingers is a common
occurrence among guitar students.
Finally, understand that when you ask "where should this arm
be", there is no one overall answer. The will be in a different
place all the time, depending on where the best place is for the arm
in terms of what the fingers have to do. Your job is always to figure
out where that place is. In your case, if you are locked in muscle
tension which you have not really consciously identified, you will
not be able to figure out your best position. In that case, the best
thing you can do is what you did do, ask somebody like me! Good luck,
Best of the Web: Scales
Last week's article on scales drew some questions from people wanting
to know what I was referring to when I said eveyone should learn
the Major scale that begins with the 2nd finger on the 6th string,
as well as a few other scales I mentioned.
Below, I have provided a few links to those specific scales, courtesy
of the excellent website of a GuitarPrinciples.com affiliate, Cyberfret.
Cyberfret is full of valuable information on numerous aspects of
guitar knowledge and technique, presented in an approachable manner,
using both notation and tablature. There is a great section on scales
I recommend you make use of. Now, don't forget good technique when
you practice them! Get your metronomes out, keep your eyes open
and USE THE PRINCIPLES!
Here are the links:
Scale, 6 string root, 2nd finger
position scales in common keys
NewsFlash! Wife Gains New Respect For Husband Because of "The
Let me get a compliment off my chest before anything: your book
is the most important piece of my instructional repertoire, bar
none. Since I started using the Principles three months ago, I've
enjoyed Vertical Growth in all areas, and now actually believe I
will be a good guitarist in a reasonable time. My wife, who used
to look askance at my new "habit", now gushes with praise
- this, I'm convinced, is the outgrowth of the Foundation Exercises
into my repertoire. Thanks so much for your book!
Eric from Idaho
That is great Eric. There is definitely no greater rush than the
gush from a previous critic! It's like the ultimate "I told
you so". Reports like yours are my big rush. By the way, I
will answer your accompanying question next time.
material copyright © 2003 by Jamie Andreas, GuitarPrinciples.com