Updated: Oct 23, 2019
When I have some free time, I occasionally read guitar related posts on Reddit. I like to write giant novels in response to questions like "why does this chord progression sound good?" or "what guitar should I buy?" It helps people and it makes me feel super smart.
Today, I came across a question I could have written in 1998:
"Where to go next? I feel like I have a good grasp of the major and minor pentatonic scales going up and down the neck, I'm automatic with all the major and minor chords in open and barre positions, and my picking and strumming are both where I want them to be. But I don't know where to go from here, what should I work on next to become a better player?"
So, true to form, I peppered this person with literally 35 questions of my own:
"What a question. Overwhelming.
There are always new techniques and areas of knowledge to explore. Here are some questions to help you find a direction:
- Is there a song or a piece of music you'd like to play that you're not sure if you're ready for? You probably are. Learn what you need to make that song work. Technique? New chord forms?
- If someone asked you, could you play "Happy Birthday" right now on the guitar? "The Star Spangled Banner?" "Lift Every Voice and Sing?" "When The Saints Go Marching In?" A wedding classic like the Mendelssohn Wedding March or Wagner Bridal Chorus? A current ultra-catchy pop hit like "Sunflower" or "High Hopes?" Could you accompany someone while they sing said song? Could you accompany yourself?
- Can you play a I - IV - V progression in any key on the guitar? In multiple positions? ii - V? I - vi - ii - V? I - V - vi - IV? 12 Bar Blues? Circle progression? I - VII - IV - vi?
- Can you play an interesting solo on only two strings? One string? In A♭? With one finger? - Do you know your Major and Minor scales? Harmonic Minor? Melodic Minor? Modes of the Major scale? Modes of the Melodic Minor scale? Arpeggios?
- Do you know your seventh chords? Could you spell any seventh chord out loud without having to think too hard or long? Do you know your Drop 2 forms? Drop 3 forms? Drop 2 & 4 forms? Extensions? Could you read a jazz lead sheet and sight read your way through the chords? Could you substitute chords on the fly?
- Can you read music? If not, it may be time to learn."
And these are good questions for any guitar player, from hobbyists to professionals, to ask themselves on occasion. What do YOU do when someone says "hey, you play guitar. Play me a song?"
(besides give them your business card and tell them where and when your next gig is)