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Resources for guitarists

Check out some of my favorite resources for guitar playing.

Reflections in Music

Reflection #1 : Change the Way You Hear Music


Music is an aural art form. Therefore I believe that visual, intellectual (theory) and tactile feedback is only secondary in the learning process. It may be hard to understand at first but there’s still only one way to play better music : hear more and differently.

It is quite challenging, in the world we live in, not to think of the guitar fretboard in terms of physical (visual) placement. Most of our society is built around reference points that are visual in nature : television, roads, cellphones, computers, etc. Music is an exception. Most people learn to play the guitar (or other instruments) with their eyes. However, this approach can only go so far ... Listeners are still just hearing the music!


To improve our aural abilities we have to redefine the way the whole music is heard. Traditional “ear training”, although a very important step, won't accomplish this shift. It is not about interval and chord recognition or melodic dictations. Changing the way you hear is about listening from another angle. It's perceiving the same musical idea differently.



Play any full chord. Select two notes from this chord. Make them stand out. Now play the two notes by themselves. This is one “angle” from which you can perceive the interval.


Next, choose a different bass note (preferably on the sixth string). Play your two selected notes against this new bass. You now have a different perspective on the interval. Keep going and you'll find more and more “personalities'' in the two selected notes.

Another example:

Play any scale in time and then play the same scale but start on a different beat. Count yourself in (1-2-3-4) and play the first note on beat 4. The scale will be reborn. Your ears are most likely very familiar with the scale starting on good old beat 1.


As you can now see (and hear) the musical material hasn't changed at all but your perception of it is now broader. Keep in mind, these are only basic starting points from which you can create countless exercises. This new way of thinking will lead you to greater rhythmic and melodic freedom.


This is changing the way you hear.


Keep your ears wide open at all times. The tactile, emotional and visual aspects of playing (and learning) the guitar should be secondary most of the time. Prioritize the aural perception.


Finally, reconsider your own practice material with the ears in mind : listen more and “noodle” less. Relying purely on technique can be a waste of time (“... I'll learn 'X' amount of scales so that they come out when I improvise...”) Learn the fingerings, but don't let your fingers guide the music. 



Reflection #2 : Learn from the Masters

What and How to Learn from the Masters


Specifically, I strongly suggest you learn and imitate your favorite recorded solos. Other aspects of recordings can be studied such as :


  • Repertoire (melody, chords and form of tunes)

  • Song Interpretation (how the melody is played)

  • Comping (listen to pianists and guitarists)

  • Arranging (intro, ending, overall “big picture” structure)

  • Orchestration (what instrument plays what)

  • Rhythms (singing / clapping just the rhythms)


  • To summarize, the wealth of information available on recordings is yours to explore and learn from. It is also a very personal quest : two similar musicians will, more often than not, explore different aspects of the very same track. The beauty of the process is that it really is yours to discover.


Reflection #3 : Study Repertoire

This is the most precious piece of advice any student of music can be given. Listen to good music everyday!

That being said, listen to your favorite tunes hundreds of times and learn them directly from the recording. You can never listen too much. I find it is best to learn a tune from a recording than from a sheet of paper. An album will give you ideas as to how to interpret the melody and how to solo. Make a leadsheet from the recorded track if needed.


Put many hours of work into mastering your repertoire. That means to memorize and polish the statement of the melody. It also means taking the time to practice accompanying a soloist. Guitarists “comp” lots! Create a chord melody if you wish to go deeper harmonically.


To study a tune also means to improvise quite a lot, both playing with the melody and blowing over the chord changes. Embellish the melody creatively. Improvise on the chords and attempt to outline the changes effectively while creating meaningful musical statements.


To conclude, playing music is playing the tunes! Every aspiring musician should build a decent list of memorized tunes and study repertoire on a regular basis. Practicing technique (scales, chords, arpeggios, etc.) is useless by itself; we need at least a few good tunes to play and improvise on.




Reflection #4 : Learn from Others


Listening to, practicing and studying isn't all it takes to become a great musician. This music is social, it's alive. Famous musicians did not stay at home and practice all night...they went out, they met with other cats and they heard live music. They were immersed in the language.


It's enriching to attend concerts and local events. It's even more important to become part of your music community and increase your awareness of what's going on in the music and entertainment world. This understanding allows for a more mature approach to playing and learning the music.


Playing with the same few people on a regular basis was the key for me as far as absorbing the language. I learned so much from practicing countless hours in duo with the same drummer! I also believe that it is important to meet and play with a lot of different musicians. All the different personalities, approaches and levels will challenge you and contribute to your daily improvement.


To conclude, get involved early on and your growth will be very fast. Try to play with advanced musicians right from the start even if you feel intimidated. Everyone learns by osmosis. The better your band mates, the quicker your progress!

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