The Informed Guitar Student Archives – Guitar Principles

Category Archives for "The Informed Guitar Student"

Jul 10

The 2 Kinds Of Guitar Growth You Need

By Jamie Andreas | The Informed Guitar Student

Are you getting better on guitar, or just playing more things badly?


There are two kinds of growth we can experience on guitar.  I call them Vertical & Horizontal Growth.Both are necessary, but Vertical growth is hard to come by!

When someone who has been playing for awhile comes to me for a guitar lesson, I always try to find out why they have come to me. I ask them  "What do you want to do that you  can't do now."

They often say "Well, I play lots of things, but I play them all the same way. I want to learn how to do chord melody solos, more interesting chords and strums, and also improve my fingerpicking so I can try some classical. I'd also like to be able to play fast runs without missing so many notes!"

In other words, they want to move to a higher level as a player. They want to make Vertical Growth. They want to get better and be able to do things they can't do yet.

They don't want to continue to learn new songs and play them the same way. That would be Horizontal Growth. Everyone can always make Horizontal Growth, even on their own. You just learn more material, but you don't actually play any differently, musically or technically. Vertical progress as a player is the tough one. It requires what is usually considered "work".

 I have always found it enjoyable, although challenging.

I Can't Play Anything! 

Here is another even more common scenario. Someone comes in for lessons after playing for awhile, and when I ask them to play, they make a couple of excuses, and then they play really badly! Then I ask them to play something else, and they play that really badly! This is the person unable to create any Vertical Growth. They started, as we all do, with no ability,a and have not been able to develop ability on guitar.

The reason they cannot raise their level as a player, is because they don't know how to practice to solve problems and achieve results. Also, because of this, there is no solid foundation of technique for Vertical Growth to be built upon. So there is only Horizontal Growth, more things played the same way, in this case, badly.

Sadly, I have seen hundreds of would-be players in this situation.  

These players have no choice but to go from song to song, and piece to piece, struggling and and mutilating all of their music as they go along. It's sad, and unnecessary.

If you love the guitar, and are dedicated to your own development as a player, if you are dying to play the way the guitarists you admire play, you must know how to create Vertical Growth. This is done through an understanding of how to practice. I am of course talking about correct practice, not repetitive "run throughs" that only re-enforce the muscle tensions causing the problems you already have.

The Good News

From my experience as a player and as a teacher, it is extremely difficult to create Vertical Growth, once bad, or insufficient practice has locked in tension and bad habits. The good news is, it is not impossible. In fact, the word difficult is not the best word. I use it only because we have such a tendency to under-estimate the intensity of concentration it takes to undo past damage. A better word is "challenging".

 If you want to keep getting better and better as a guitarist, you had better learn to love challenges! As Mark Twain said "Life is one damn thing after another", and that is what playing and practicing are. One damn problem to deal with after another. But as we learn to actually deal with and solve those problems, what a sweet reward we earn.

It is not the problems we face in our playing that are really the obstacle to our growth. It is the growing feeling of frustration and helplessness we experience as time continues to go by, and we see no fundamental improvement. We start to feel helpless. We may not admit this feeling to ourselves, we only notice that, for some reason, we are beginning to lose our motivation to practice.

When we learn how to really practice, we start to feel powerful. Problems and challenges don't frighten us, they excite us. Because we know that we can look forward to those problems getting smaller and smaller, weaker and weaker, as we continue to do powerful, correct practice. 

If you want to learn how to have this Vertical Growth as a regular experience for you, I invite you to look around this site further for more information about "The Principles Of Correct Practice For Guitar".

first guitar lesson
Jan 18

What You SHOULD Have Learned In Your First Guitar Lesson!

By Jamie Andreas | The Informed Guitar Student

What You SHOULD Have Learned In Your First Guitar Lesson!

In this lesson, I tell you the 2 most important concepts a guitar student must know in order to teach the fingers how to move in a smooth and relaxed way. They are:

  • Muscle Memory (YOUR FRIEND)
  • Sympathetic Tension (YOUR ENEMY)

There is a best way for beginners to start to learn guitar so that you do not get all the bad habits most people get. These bad habits will make you struggle to play, and stay stuck and not be able to get better! If you know these secrets from the beginning, it will save you years of struggle! 

The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar by Jamie Andreas

This Method for guitar will start you perfectly, or solve your playing problems.

Jul 11

Do I Need Natural Talent To Learn Guitar?

By Jamie Andreas | The Informed Guitar Student

Many "ordinary" people get the idea in their head that they would like to play guitar. The next thing that pops into their head is "Wait, don't you have to be talented to play the guitar.....umm, I don't know if I am talented or not"....(sigh). Am I kidding myself here, thinking I can learn to play like these obviously talented players I hear, who make me feel so inadequate?"

I spent a lot of time feeling like that myself, before I started teaching full time, saw hundreds, then thousands of people trying to learn the guitar, and then realized the truth.

The Truth About "Natural Talent"

As I began teaching, I got the opportunity to see large numbers of people attempting to learn to play, and I started to really investigate this idea of natural talent. Was there such a thing, and what were the reasons some people got really good, and others did not. I saw many people grapple with the challenges of learning to play, and I realized that yes, I do have some natural talent, because many of these people were having such a harder time than I did.

But I also noticed another interesting thing. A very good percentage of the people I was teaching seemed to have at least as much talent as I did. Some maybe more. But a there was one big reason why I got further on guitar than they did: I knew what to do to train my fingers effectively when I sat down to practice guitar. 

I got better faster because I was doing the right things in practice, and they were not (until I taught them to do what I was doing, that is!). 

What Is Natural Talent?

Natural Talent is a pre-disposition in the mind and the body, to do the right thing. When a person who has natural talent for singing hears someone sing, their body and mind "know" what that person is doing to get that sound. And their body/mind knows how to do it too, or how to begin moving in that direction. (They don't have to know this consciously, that is "know what they know, and how they know it, they just "know"). 

Some people come in for lessons, and they "tend" to do everything right, from sitting comfortably with the instrument, to positioning and using the fingers. Some people do everything wrong, and must be shown, painstakingly and minutely, exactly what to do. This is the majority of people - they need to be shown all the right things to do.

Now, this is very good news! Since natural talent is the tendency to do the right things, once you know the right things to do, and you start doing them, you will find yourself discovering your own natural talent! You will find yourself becoming that guitar player you didn't think you could become!

The Rest Of The Story....

Talent is nice, but it will never make you a great guitar player, or even a good one. The 2 most important things that will do that are:

  1. The right training.
  2. Time spent doing the right training

Understand that everyone falls somewhere in between the two extremes of total cluelessness, and being a genius. Yes, I have some talent, as do many people. If I didn't work really hard, and do the right things,  it would have got me nowhere. I needed a whole lot of education to go with that talent. So did Beethoven, who studied with Haydn, and so did Bach, who spent his life copying out the music of composers he admired, in order to study their work. So did Eric Clapton and Keith Richards, both who spent years copying every blues record they could find.

More Important Than Talent

With the right approach, any one can learn anything. I have proven this as far as playing the guitar goes, for myself and for my students. Many of them got nowhere after trying to learn guitar for years. Once they started doing the right things in practice - they became good guitar players.

The more you know and do the right things, the more "Natural Talent" you will discover in yourself. It is like having a little voice in your head guiding you in the right direction if you will listen. The more you listen, the louder that voice gets, and you will hear it more often.

Now that you know the truth about natural talent, it is time to mention the one factor that will really make or break you as a guitar player. Without this, all the talent in the world won't make you a guitar player. 

I am talking about desire. Your burning desire and desperate need to play, coupled with the correct understanding and approach, are the most important things you must have.

There are lots of people with talent, but not a lot who allow their desire to grow, and become powerful. You must allow yourself to feel this need and desire, and use its energy to take the steps necessary to get the information and training you need. You will then overcome all the obstacles all guitar players encounter along the way, and you will find all the talent you need to be the player you want to be.

May 25

How Long To Learn YOUR Style Of Guitar?

By Jamie Andreas | The Informed Guitar Student

How Long To Learn  Your Style Of Guitar?


3 styles of guitar

Learning the different styles of guitar requires different methods.

What does it take to learn rock guitar? And how long? What does it take to learn acoustic, or classical?.

As important as training the fingers is for a guitar player, there is a lot more to learning guitar. One of the greatest needs you have as a guitar student is to have a guide through the very complex process of changing from an ordinary person into the guitar player you want to be. That process will be different for the various styles of guitar.

There are things that are the same about learning every style, and there are things that are different. For instance, all styles of guitar are played with the fingers! If you do not know how to train the more than 25 muscles that move the fingers so that they gain strength, stretch, and coordination, you will have serious problems learning any style of guitar.Continue reading