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Can’t play the F barre chord? Use this chord as a replacement

You can’t imagine how many students have asked me this question – do I really have to use barre chords? Is there anything simpler that I could use instead? I can’t play the F barre chord, is there a replacement?

Let’s set this straight – you need barre chords, if you want to be able to play some cool songs from the internet you will need to master them (by the way this is covered extensively in my Academy Membership lessons – CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO). But today we will try to make our life a little simpler. Let’s have a look at something called the Fmaj7.

The name can scare you away, but trust me the chord is actually very simple. It is similar to the C chord with some tweaks to it, check the diagram below:

Fmaj7

Start with the C chord, now all you need to do is to move your third and second finger one string down. As a result, we end up with a sweet sounding chord called F major 7. It is an F chord with the 7th degree of the major scale added, in this case, the note E which is your open first string.

How do you like the sound? It is not really a direct replacement for the F chord, but in certain situations, it may work really nicely. As usual, it all depends on the context we put our chord in.

A few progressions that you may try:
C – Fmaj7 – G – C
C – Am – Fmaj7 – G
Fmaj7 – G – C – Am

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How beginners can get consistent results on the guitar

Once you pass the initial beginner stage of your guitar playing, you’ll realise that in order to grow your skills, you need to do more than just play the same songs over and over again.

You might think that just by simply playing the guitar you will get better, but will you? Of course, your chord transitions for your favourite songs will get smoother and it will feel a little bit easier to strum these songs, but after a while, you may have this frustrating feeling that you are actually not progressing anymore.

Here is my point of view – you need to challenge yourself regularly so that you keep getting consistent results.

Make it a goal to learn a new song every few weeks. It should be something out of your comfort zone, something that will make you think, focus and should feel difficult.

Now here is the important thing to remember – it is our practice song. It means that you can’t get frustrated simply because it takes you a long time to learn the new chords or the transitions between them because even the rhythm will be unfamiliar.
You might start working on your new songs by analysing the first few chords in the intro or the verse. These days, guitar tabs and chords for the songs are readily available, so use them to your advantage.

This exercise will force you to do things in a different way. Now here is the truth. It will be difficult, but that’s where the value is. Trying to learn a new chord or the transition between a group of chords that are out of your comfort zone, will stimulate and strengthen your memory and help you develop memorisation techniques.

 

Once you have a few new chords to work with, you can build a new practice routine:

  • CHORDS – warm up by playing simple chords that you already know (practice changing between them)
  • RHYTHM – do some simple strumming with simple chords such as A minor or E minor (try to get a consistent sound from your strokes).
  • SCALES – practice the A minor pentatonic scale or do some chromatic exercises
    (as an example)
  • NEW CHORDSMEMORISATION – memorising is about learning and forgetting – in my case, it takes me a good few days to get familiar with a new chord or scales – that’s just how it works. So every day you need to try to memorise it again until you finally remember it 🙂
  • SONGS – switch to something you are familiar with – play one of your favourite songs from start to finish.
  • NEW CHORDSMEMORISATION – repeat this step, again, don’t get angry if you don’t remember the shapes. It’s normal; you will need to repeat this for a few days.
  • HAVE FUN – enjoy playing your favourite tunes

Once you are familiar with the chords you are trying to memorize, you can replace the MEMORISATION steps with the CHORD TRANSITIONS and then swap those out with STRUMMING/RHTYHM practise.

Remeber not to get frustrated with yourself. It is a long-term process and just an addition to your routine. Enjoy it and try to feel excited that you are going to learn something new.

As a final word, I want to say that working on more difficult or challenging stuff will boost everything else you have learned up to that point. This is a great way to accelerate your progress on the guitar. Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you.

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Do we still need guitar teachers?

These days, the Internet dominates our lives. We search for new information, news, exciting places to visit, interesting blogs and also for guitar related articles and videos. The Internet and You Tube look like the natural place to start learning how to play the guitar. 

I think it is an awesome resource – in a few clicks, we can get access to enormous amounts of information on how to learn the guitar. Countless hours of video guitar lessons are just in front of us. This abundance of information can also be very time consuming and confusing. It takes a lot of time to get through this huge library of instructional materials. You land on an awesome page and then you realise that the explanations are not very good or the video does not cover the subject advertised in the title.

Even once you find a resource that looks legitimate, you may not know how to use and implement it. What I mean by this is that: you do not know what you do not know. Simple, you may not know how to link the information and how to systemise the knowledge in a way that will be easy to use and will take you to the next level.

The internet is open to everybody, you, me and our neighbours can publish instructional materials on the web. And this is the danger; it is difficult to verify the content.

There are tons of great articles and tons of very bad ones. This is why I think traditional one to one guitar lessons are still important in today’s world because:

  • A good music instructor will identify and correct all your mistakes
  • Interaction with somebody who is better than you on the instrument will stimulate your passion
  • Customised lesson plans will make your practicing time more efficient
  • You can ask questions

A good guitar teacher is much more than just a tutor. He or she can mentor you, suggest solutions and enhance your creativity.

There are also plenty of great websites with structured guitar lessons and knowledgeable tutors. This a great way of learning to play the guitar, when you do not have time for private guitar lessons.

So what is the answer to the question in the title? I think a combination of both will be the best solution. Taking private guitar lessons and trying to learn from the internet. You can always verify the information with your teacher.

Happy searching!

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5 Tips – How to start playing the guitar?

When it comes to learning how to play the guitar, many people’s stories are the same; I have always dreamed about playing, I have tried to teach myself, I love the sound of the guitar, It’s so cool… 

Great, you have taken the first step – you have the desire to play the instrument. Now, let’s discuss the steps required to start learning how to play the guitar.

1. Buy a guitar.

Quite an obvious one! You need to practice, so having a decent quality instrument is essential. Check my other article on how to buy your first guitar. But in a nutshell:
Depending on the style you want to play, you may want to buy an acoustic or an electric guitar. I would suggest to start from an acoustic guitar. The size of the body, general feel of the instrument, no need for any amplification and cables, make the acoustic a pretty good choice. The electric guitar is also good to start from, but I have noticed that it is a lot easier for students to develop a good foundation and strumming habits on the acoustic. Remember to check my article on how to buy your first guitar.

2. Learn a few simply chords.

A minor, C major and E major are perfect chords to start from. As a beginner, these names may not mean much to you, however theses mysterious symbols are labels for the shapes we are going to play on the guitar. In the chords section on this website you will find theses shapes.

3. Learn a few simply songs.

At the end of the day, you want to play songs. Chords and strummings are just the ingredients required in order to play a song. A very easy song to start from is “Zombie” by The Cranberries. It has just four very simple chords and has extremely easy strumming (unfortunately the chords A minor C and E are not in this song, but the chords are so easy you will be able to play this song in no time – the chords from my point in #2 are really important because they are commonly used in many songs).

In the How To Play section of this website, you will find this song with chord diagrams and a full explanation. If rock music is not your thing, I would still suggest to try to learn this song. Think about it as a learning tool rather than me trying to turn you into a Cranberries fan. As soon as you can play this song, go the the next one – which is Oasis “I’m outta time”. Once you learn theses songs you will have a basic understanding of the guitar and you will know what it is all about.

4. Learn some more difficult songs

At this stage you may notice that if you are struggling you may have to go to step number 5, which is ….

5. Find a guitar teacher or invest in some kind of educational materials

Let me clarify something, I have never studied with a guitar teacher. Everything I have learned is a result of my own searches, studying and playing with others. So you will be absolutely fine on your own. But you may save a lot of time and frustration by having clear guidance.

Good guitar teacher can accelerate your learning process. What is important is he / she may help you get through difficult times. A lot of beginners quit because they reach a wall and don’t know how to break through it.

If you cannot afford a guitar teacher, try to find some beginner guitar books with accompanying ads or mp3s. Books can be a little dry, but if you commit to studying it, you will definite learn something from it! It is a little bit old school but skill a cool way of studying.

A more modern method is to study online. If you type “how to play the guitar” into your browser you will find thousands of results. The web can also be a little overwhelming, knowing where to start and also overloading you with information.

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How good should you be on the guitar by now?

This is my favourite one! A lot of my students say the same phrase -“I should be” … For some reason, those three words are extremely popular amongst guitarists 🙂 “I should be much better by now”, “I should know this”, “I should be able to play this song because …”

As Tony Robbins once said, people should all over themselves with unrealistic expectations. The ‘should’ word is a magic pill that helps explain everything. I have done this in the past, are you guilty of it?

So the question is – How good should you be on the guitar by now? How do you know how good you should be? If you are a beginner guitarist you may not have enough knowledge to judge how good you should be on the guitar by now. You simply don’t know what you don’t know! Many times, it is a result of comparing ourselves to others.

Maybe you have a friend that started to play the guitar at the same time as you did and he is now “much better” than you. But should you be concerned? We all learn in different ways, we are all unique and because of that, the world is diverse and amazing… Certain things come easier for some of us and for some, things are much more difficult.

I have seen countless numbers of examples of guitarists for whom the initial struggle turned into total success. How come you may ask? It is learned stubbornness and persistence. Since things are not so easy from the very beginning, they learned that the only way to get better is by being persistent. As simple as this sounds, you will be as good as you want to be on the guitar, but you need to keep going. You can’t be discouraged by slow results. When you picked up the guitar for the first time you didn’t think about how long it would take to learn a particular chord progression or strumming, you just wanted to play the guitar.

Don’t worry about your progress, pick up the guitar every day, have fun with it and simply love what you do. It doesn’t matter if you are slow or quick. Just enjoy the music and the results that you want will always follow.

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What is that strange squeaky sound when I slide my fingers on the guitar?

Have you ever noticed that strange squeaky sound coming from your strings when you move your fingers between the chords or when you do slides? Are you doing something wrong or is it normal?

One answer to calm your mind is that it is normal. When you do a slide from one fret to the next one, there is some friction between your fingers and the string and that is what causes this squeaky sound. When you look at the anatomy of the guitar strings, you will notice that some strings have something wound around the core of the string. They are like small bumps on the string. This is the biggest source of that squeaky sound. The sound is more audible on some strings rather than others, so it really depends on the types of the strings you are using.

A lot of guitarists consider this extra squeaky sound as part of their music creation. Listen to acoustic music performances, you will hear it all the time. Some guitar players like it, some don’t. I really love it, and in my opinion it adds some kind of the human touch to our playing.

When you watch my video lessons you may not hear that strange sound so much because I don’t use the microphone to capture the sound of my guitar. I use the built-in piezo and magnetic pickup to catch the sound of my guitar (it is a combination of both). It picks up the vibration of the string rather than the overall acoustic sound. That way, it is easier for me to separate the voice and the guitar sound during the recording process, although I lose a little bit of that natural acoustic sound.. As a result, when you try to play along to my videos, these sounds are more prominent on your guitar than they are on mine. However, if you would be in my teaching studio, you would hear it all the time.

To wrap it up: I would consider this squeaky sound as a natural part of our guitar playing. Some people try to apply a lighter touch to the strings to get rid of it. For sure it may work, but it may sometimes affect the way you play the guitar. I would ignore it and just focus on the music itself.

Even if you apply excessive tension to the strings, over time as you get more experienced you will get better with controlling it, so don’t worry too much.

Enjoy your squeaky sound 🙂

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Don’t try to be too perfect

I teach a lot of beginners not only online, but also on one to one guitar lessons. Many of my students have one thing in common; they want to be perfect. But this is something that can actually hijack your guitar playing progress. Striving for perfection is a glorious thing, we want to do things in the “right way”, but abusing this approach will only lead to frustration.

Here is a typical scenario: a student comes for a lesson and tries to show me the song that he or she has learned. They play the first few chords, something goes wrong with the strumming or chord transition and they stop and then start all over again. The same thing applies to scales. My students will make one mistake and then start playing the scale from the beginning again. This is definitely not the way to get good results.

You need to learn how to correct your mistakes on the fly. You should of course, acknowledge that you made a mistake, but keep going, don’t stop and start again. The moment you stop and try to start from the beginning again, you disturb the flow of the song. It’s almost like you are only practicing the first few bars of the song, but what about the rest of the song? You don’t even give yourself a chance to get to the middle of the song, not to mention the whole tune.

Try to do a ‘live’ practice session. Pick up the guitar, tune it up and play one song from the beginning till the end. Don’t stop, ignore the mistakes, just keep playing. This is a great way to develop a more natural / performance approach to your guitar playing. That way, you will learn how to get yourself out of the mistakes and it will also give you more confidence to perform in front of others.

I should really mention that this is one of the components of practicing. Of course, you also need to work on learning songs in sections. You should work on the chords, strumming, than you connect it into the verse and chorus. The method described in this article is another approach that you can add to your practice routine.

So basically you can approach your songs from the perspective of detail practicing and then live/performance practicing. It is like having another tool to fine tune your guitar skills.

Let me know if it works for you!

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Why am I forgetting the rhythm and strumming pattern?

Have you ever noticed that it is relatively easy to learn the guitar chords for a song, but it is quite tricky to remember the rhythm and strumming pattern? Don’t worry, that is pretty normal. I face the same issue all the time.

To be honest, this is the biggest issue I always have when I am learning a song or a guitar solo. The guitar chords in the songs usually are the ones that we commonly use in other songs, so it is no surprise that we remember them quite easily. You may need to work on the transitions between the chords though, as sometimes you may play some arrangements between chords that you haven’t tried before. But that is also a relatively easy fix, but the question is, how can you remember the rhythm?

Let’s take the song “A Horse With No Name” that I just taught for my students and online You Tube channel (I published it at the same time as this article). It is a great beginner’s song, awesome, simple chords, but the strumming is a different story. It is not really that complex, as a matter of fact, it is very simple (at least for me) – but I struggled to remember it. I would memorise the strumming, then play the song perfectly on one day, and then on the next day, I would have to learn the rhythm again from scratch. It took me 3 days to really remember the rhythm and strumming.

One of the reasons, was that I was not really familiar with the song, I knew the song and I could sing the melody of the vocal line, but I really never paid attention to the strumming pattern. I would listen to this song as a whole. And I think this is the key. In order to really dig into the strumming and the rhythm you need to listen to the song in a different way. You need to tune to the part that you are working on, in this case, the rhythm and strumming pattern. And you need to repeat it over and over again.

This process just simply takes time and I have noticed, it usually takes me 2-3 days to really get this into my hand (yes hand). What I mean by that is, that I could actually hear the strumming pattern in my head. Keep in mind that it also takes a lot of repetition to really learn the strumming. We try to learn, then we forget and then we have to learn it again, but at some point, you will start remembering more and more. This is just a natural learning curve and I don’t think you can really speed it up or escape from it.

By working on more and more songs you will develop the ability to remember things faster, but I have also noticed it is like a muscle. If you don’t exercise it, you may slowly lose your ability to pick up the rhythm quickly. So it is essential to keep learning new songs all of the time – maybe one every week or every other week.

I hope that you see now that there is nothing wrong with you and that everybody has the same problem.

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How long does it take to learn the guitar?

Quora and online guitar forums are full of questions like this. How long does it take to learn the guitar? Can you learn it in 24 hours or one week? Or does it take years of dedicated practice?

As usual with everything, you have to know your outcome. What do you mean by being able to play the guitar? Does it mean that you can play a few songs comfortably, or do you mean that you want to play a touching guitar solo and work as a professional musician? Once you know your outcome, it will be much easier to measure if you reached your goal.

If your goal is to play a few simple songs, you can achieve this in a relatively short amount of time. You can learn the song Zombie by The Cranberries in around 30 minutes as a complete beginner guitarist. It is easy, fun and will give you the instant feeling of being able to play the guitar. You can learn this song HERE.

For the majority of songs, however, you will have to develop a good knowledge of open chords and strumming patterns and it may take you a few months of daily practice for 10 – 15 minutes. The transitions between the chords cause a lot of troubles, so you have to be patient and consistent. I urge you not to give up simply because something seems to be a little difficult. Remember that all guitarists, even the best guitarist’s in the world were in exactly the same place where you are right now, struggling with the same things you are struggling with.

Most probably, it will take you around 6 months to start feeling a little bit more comfortable with strumming and chord changes. I have noticed that it can take even more than one year to get quite good with them though.

During that time you can start working on some advanced chords, arpeggios and simple guitar scales. Any time you add some advanced stuff to your practice routine it is going to make material that you have learnt in the past feel a little bit easier. The key thing to remember is that you should all always be learning new stuff and use the older material to monitor your progress.

It could be a good idea to start learning barre chords after 3 -4 months of playing the guitar. These shapes are quite difficult to master so again, you have to be patient. Mastering the barre chords could take 1 to 2 years, but during this time you will probably elevate your guitar skills to an early intermediate level.

 

To reach a solid intermediate level, you will have to play the guitar regularly for around 2 – 3 years. At this level, you will need to be practicing for at least 1 hour per day. During this time you will learn a lot of different songs and you will probably develop a sense of style. You will start doing things in your own way. You will also notice that your musical preferences may get more specific. You may prefer to play more pop or blues songs, or you will simply start to specialise in a certain style and technique.

I would expect that an intermediate guitarist would be able to comfortably improvise using simple guitar solo pentatonic scales and being able to arrange songs in a few different ways. You should also be able to jam with other musicians comfortably. It might also be a good idea to join a band at this stage as it will really speed up your learning process and you’ll be able to test your ideas with real people. There are plenty of bands looking for guitarists of all levels, from beginner to advanced, so I am sure you will find something suitable.

Around the 5 year mark, you will start noticing that you are getting really good at playing the guitar and you will probably move into a late intermediate level player. By then, you should be able to play a lot of different songs, use comfortable barre chords, power chords and so on. You should be able to play more complex guitar scales (for instance 3 note per string scales) and have a good sense of rhythm. Keeping good timing is essential for being a good musician but you can develop your rhythm by practising to backing tracks and jamming with other musicians. You should also be building your own practice routines that will give you strong, consistent results.

To become an advanced level guitarist, it may take around 10 years or more (sometimes less – I know plenty of guitarists who get there in 6 – 7 years) but again it all depends on your goals and practising habits. By this stage you should be practicing for 2 – 3 hours per day (some spend as much as 5 hours or more!) to keep developing your guitar skills.

If your aim is to become a well-rounded musician, I would expect a good knowledge of music theory and harmony, good compositional skills and flexibility in using guitar techniques. You should be able to transpose music to different keys, feel comfortable improvising using complex scales and arpeggios and be able to deliver a quality performance in a band or playing with others.

So to answer the question how long does it take to learn the guitar – you can learn a simple song in 30 minutes, but it will take you 2 -3 years to get to a decent intermediate level. 5 years to get really good with what you have learned and 10 years to jump to a more pro level.

I am learning and practising every day and I am enjoying every second of it. I think keeping your expectations realistic whilst practicing regularly, will give you awesome results.

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3 Ways To Fit The Guitar Around Your Lifestyle

It is not always that easy to fit learning how to play guitar around your busy lifestyle. Long working hours and a busy life make it quite tricky to practice regularly. On the other hand, if we don’t practice we don’t get any results, which is a cruel truth. Let’s try to find out what these 3 ways that we could fit the guitar into our lives could be.

Before we discuss these 3 ways to fit the guitar around your lifestyle, its a good idea to remember that even 5 minutes of playing the guitar is better than nothing. A lot of guitarists don’t see any value in playing for 5 minutes, but in my eyes it is still better than nothing and at least you will remember how your guitar looks!

Keeping your guitar visible and out of the case is an excellent way to remind you that you actually play the guitar. Once you notice the guitar in the corner of your eye, you can always pick it up for a few minutes.

Remember to make it fun and social. Play for your friends, don’t be embarrassed! If your friends don’t know how to play the guitar even strumming 3 simple chords will make you a guitar god in their eyes and think about how enjoyable you find it listening to someone play the guitar.

So what are 3 ways to fit the guitar around your lifestyle?

  • Play in front of the TV.
    I have written an article about this subject, so if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, you can check it out HERE. Playing the guitar for just 10 minutes when you sit down in front of the TV is a really cool way of finding extra time to play the guitar. You can do silent chord change exercises or practice simple strumming patterns and work on your tremolo picking (tremolo picking is a way of picking very fast). I teach similar things to my online Academy Guitar Members, CLICK HERE if you are interested in finding out a little bit more.
  • Split your sessions.
    Try to practice for 5 minutes before you go to work and again after you come back. I used this technique for years (actually I practiced for 2 hours before and after work). This method really works and will give you truly awesome results. You can practice chord changes in the morning and strumming (playing songs) in the afternoon. It is also a cool way to trick your mind. Since you picked up the guitar in the morning, it will be much easier to practice in the afternoon, as it will feel like half of the work has already been done!
  • Take your guitar to work
    How about some lunchtime practice? It may sound a little bit crazy, but you could keep your guitar at work. Many of you have a 30 minute or an hour long lunch break. Why don’t you use it to play a few chords and or entertain your colleagues. I have quite a few students who practice that way and they really love it. BONUS POINT – you will also probably become very popular in your office!

We all love the guitar, but we don’t always feel like practicing. I hope these 3 ways to fit the guitar around your busy lifestyle will help you practice some more.

Have a great practice routine today!

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