My long term goal as a guitarist is to play live one day, to be one of those guys you see in a small bar or restaurant playing acoustic cover tunes, maybe even an original or two, or to be in a cover band. That’s all I want. I love acoustic music. I have no plans to quit my day job to be a guitarist.
I will be playing 4 years in December, I am 33 and my work pretty much takes up my week 7am-7pm Monday thru Friday. I try to practice 7-12 hours a week. Usually the weekends I play more, and during the week its 30 minutes here, 15 minutes there, etc. I can play tons of chords, arpeggios, scales (blues, pent, minor, major) up and down the neck, I have studied the CAGED method extensively over the past couple of years.
I know what notes/intervals make up what chords and scales. I am still learning the 7ths chords. I have a couple of hundred 3x5 inch index cards that I have made into flash cards of music theory questions. (Example: One side of the card may ask “what is the third interval in the key of Bb? The answer will appear on the back). I use these on my morning commute to work almost everyday.
I sometimes use a little hand device that is supposed to strengthen your fingers and arms. I can play the beginning to alot of songs, but there are only a couple that I can play all the way through. Everyday I have a “key of the day” that I work on playing scales and chord transitions in that key. I know all of this stuff, but I still feel like I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO PLAY MUSIC.
My instinct tells me that one day my study of all of these notes, scales, arpeggios, chords, and keys will evolve into making me a player. I have the desire, I think about the guitar all of the time, and when I travel without it, I feel like a part of me is missing or something. If a friend comes over to ask me to play them something, I can’t play a whole lot of music, but if they want to hear a blues pentatonic scale in the key of E then I can let it rip.
So finally, the question is... Am I traveling down a path that you have seen other successful guitarist travel...have other people who have evolved into good players shared similar stories with you? Am I doing something that you think is just plain stupid and a waste of time?
I feel for your situation Scott, and I would like to tell you a few things. First of all, your desire is obviously strong, and everything you are doing is great, and the sign of someone who knows how to study, and how to learn. You are being “aggressive” and creative in your learning approach, and you should keep that up. By doing the things you have mentioned, you are acquiring the “tools” you need in your toolbox as a player.
However, there are some other things that you MUST do to FEEL like player, and to actually BE a player.
YOU MUST PLAY!
Scott, here is what I would tell you if you were my student sitting in front of me (and I have had many people in your exact situation). I would say “get yourself right away, into some kind of playing situation”. Go to a music store and hang up a sign, describe yourself, and ask for people interested in playing in some informal situation for the purpose of developing as players. Head immediately for your goal of a cover band doing acoustic tunes. You don’t have to wait for anything. At the point you are at, getting into a playing situation is more important than learning new scales or chords. ACTUAL PLAYING is the only thing that will tie all your knowledge together, and meld it into that intangible condition we call being a “guitar player”.
The demand of hammering out tune after tune is what finally produces a player. You are like a pie right now, all the ingredients are put together nicely in the pan. But you need to get in the oven!
Once you are playing with other people, fill in your knowledge as needed. If you need some chords, scales or whatever for a song, you’ll learn them. In this way, your learning process is DRIVEN by the demands of PLAYING. Right now, your floating kind of aimlessly, thinking you have to “qualify” in some way first before you can set about being a player. Not true.
What I am describing to you is the way all the players I know have become players, by playing. Some remained lopsided, they did more playing than studying and growing, so they remained at a low level of playing. On the other extreme, are the “perennial students”, they are always studying and never playing. That is your tendency. So do what I said and balance it out, and you will be happy and feel a sense of direction and meaning to the good efforts you are making now.
Good Luck, Scott