Showing posts with label method. Show all posts
Showing posts with label method. Show all posts

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Guitar Technique: The Iterative Approach

In my previous post I describe a recent revelation I had regarding parallels between the waterfall and iterative methodologies in the software world and methodologies for learning the guitar. I left off at the point where I had hit a brick wall in attempting to learn Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train". The best thing I ever did for my continued progress was drop it and move on to other areas.

I continued practicing the fundamentals; scale exercises, learning new licks, and working on speed. At the same time, I continued exploring new songs. GuitarWorld is a great resource as it includes transcriptions in each issue. A few months later I picked up “Crazy Train” again and iteration two was much improved.

Although I hadn't been practicing “Crazy Train” specifically, I had been building my chops by working on other songs and continuing to learn new licks and build speed on my scales. I was able to hit about 80% of the song at its actual tempo such that it was recognizable compared to only hitting the intro at a reduced speed on my first iteration.

The premise of all my posts is maximum results in minimum time for us midlife wannabe rockers who want to make up for lost time. When starting out, you will make the most progress by iterating through a variety of songs and technique exercises rather than slogging away on one song in a waterfall approach. I know it is gratifying to be able to play one of your favorites beginning to end. But, if the song requires technique you do not yet posses, move ahead to new territory. The key though is to incorporate those difficult technique areas into your daily practice routine.

For example, I incorporate the licks for “Crazy Train” that I still cannot handle into every practice session. Once you feel you have improved in those technique areas, do another iteration. The critical thing about iterations is that you measure the outcome of each as I have indicated in previous posts. I guarantee that after you compare a second iteration to a first iteration you will realize this is the quickest approach to developing your technique baseline.

If you keep this up you will reach the point in no time where you have mastered the fundamentals such that you could quickly learn a song whatever methodology you choose to follow. I'll be here trying to keep up with you :-).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Learning the Guitar: Waterfall or Iterative Methodology

In the software business there are as many methodologies around how to create good software as there are around becoming a good guitarist. As I worked on developing my guitar skills I stumbled on the fact that there is a relationship between the two. First, a brief outline on software development methodologies.

Software methodologies fall into two main types: waterfall and iterative. In waterfall, you plan everything up front and move through the project in a sequential fashion like water running over the falls. In iterative, you do everything you would do in waterfall but in much shorter cycles. You use multiple cycles to reach the end product rather than one cycle over a longer timeframe. While there are raging debates over which is better, I will outline how this is relevant to accelerating your progress on the guitar.

Let's say you set out to learn Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train". This song requires techniques such as hammer ons, pull offs, tapping, palm muting, harmonics, alternate picking, and most of all, the ability to do all these at a tempo around 140 beats per minute. If you are already an accomplished guitarist, you can learn the song quickly. If you are more of a novice with ambitions to get better, not so much.

I took an initial run at learning this song thinking that if I kept slogging away I would learn the song as well as all of the requisite techniques. After awhile I reached the point where I could play the intro cleanly at speed and little else. In hindsight, I realized I was following a waterfall approach to learning this song.

The waterfall approach calls for planning everything up front and my problem was that my “plan” lacked a key prerequisite, the base resources needed to complete the project, or, in my case a stronger foundation in technique.

In my next post I will outline how I stumbled on this revelation and how I improved progress by adopting an iterative approach.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Music Theory: Learn the Guitar Neck

There is a saying that if you don’t know where you’re starting from, a map won’t help. This is a great analogy for the importance of learning the fret board on your guitar. The dots, birds, or rectangles on the fret board are not just decoration.

In your first lesson, your instructor will cover the fret board, its reference points, and their correlation to the root notes for chords and scales. You can also find millions of sources in stores and the Internet. My problem was I resisted incorporating that knowledge into my practice routine so it was ingrained.

I was getting by in my improvisation efforts; E minor blues for example. I learned each pentatonic form and their reference points on the fret board. However, I wanted to keep improving my technique and make the improvisation more interesting. Whether it is changing the key along with the chord changes, or incorporating other modes such as Mixolydian, it was apparent I needed to buckle down and learn the fret board. It does not work if the chord change is already past before you have found your reference points!

I will outline how I incorporated fret board study in my daily practice routine in my next post.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Guitar Resources: Theory

Music theory as it relates to learning the guitar follows the old proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” If you are going to learn songs by rote, you have learned one song. Learn a few aspects of music theory (music conventions really) such as pentatonic scales and you have the basis for just about every rock song ever written as well as the fundamentals of improvisation. That’s a lot of fish! For me, it has been a great return on a small investment of time.

The instructor I selected when starting out was my best source for introduction to theory. View an instructor like the "Electric Guitar Handbook" I referenced in an earlier post. He or she can provide you with the map and your starting point, which provides your frame of reference for further research.

“The Guitar Grimoire, Progressions & Improvisation” by Adam Kadmon is a reference I picked up recently, which leads you through the building blocks of music theory systematically with clear examples. “The Gig Bag Book of Guitar - Complete” compiled by Mark Bridges is a compact reference to scales, arpeggios, and chords. The Internet is especially valuable here. Search on any term in music theory and you will get a variety of mostly quality references.

I am not advocating that you need to immerse yourself in theory to the detriment of practicing your guitar. But, if you want to start rocking sooner, I recommend from my own experience that you learn the theory basics. The basics are especially important when it comes to learning the guitar techniques behind the music that interests you. More on that in a future post.