Guitar Lessons Atlanta: Top 10 Guitar Lessons Myths
— by Jimmy Cypher
Be sure to see the accompanying text articles with each myth which includes info from guitar teacher Jimmy Cypher, not included in the videos as well as links to rare interviews, research and quotes from Eddie Van Halen, Lee Ritenour, Keith Richards, Malcolm Gladwell, Timothy Ferriss, etc.
GUITAR LESSONS MYTH #1:Â
“To learn guitar I must learn to read a piano treble clef.”Â
“Many rock and pop guitarists who learn by ear have better ear training than studio, jazz or classical players.Â Some of the most innovative guitar playing has come from rock guitarists (e.g. Jimi Hendrix) who did not read a note.” — Lee Ritenour
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Necessity of Reading
SOURCE: GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE
2. Write down on music paper as many random notes as you can think of. Use
natural notes, sharps, flats, and notes way above and below the staff. Make sure
you assign no rhythmic value to the notes. Read these notes on the guitar as fast
as you can. Then put down the guitar and merely recite them, including all flats,
naturals, and sharps (for example, A, Fk B q, D, etc). If you were able to recite the
notes quickly, then your basic knowledge of the staff, ledger lines, etc. is probably
adequate. If you slowed down when you played the same notes on the instrument,
your knowledge of the fingerboard is possibly weak. If you did well playing the
notes on your guitar but slowed down considerably when you recited them, then
your basic understanding of the notes on the staff is probably weak. By the way,
this test should include both treble and bass clefs; I believe it helps greatly for a
guitarist to be able to read in both clefs.
3. This part of the test involves writing out a rhythmic pattern with no pitch content.
Copy the rhythmic values from a piece of music, or make up your own. Next, either
sing or tap out the rhythm and see how your performance compares to parts 1 and
2 of the test. If you have an easy time with them, but you’re having trouble tapping
out the correct rhythm of part 3, then you’ll know the weakest part of your reading
ability and you can concentrate on improving it.
Be honest with yourself, and if you really can’t accurately pinpoint what part you’re
weak in, try the tests with a friend or a teacher. If you’re weak in all three areas, really get
Currently in the United States (and probably abroad) there are more guitarists
earning a living professionally than ever before. The competitiveness is incredible, and if
don’t know how to read music your chances of making it will become less and less
The 1960s witnessed an incredible boom in rock music and many people took up
guitar. The children of the ’60s are coming out in droves and a whole lot of them are
er guitar players!
If I could give any advice to young guitar players, it would be simply two things: Learn
read music, and study ear training. If you can hear a piece of music and play it
lately, and also read music well, then you’re going to cut down your competition
sely and have a good chance of making it in the music business.
Here’s a list of some books that may help you practice your reading:
For Clarinet, by H. Close (from Carl Fischer, 62 Cooper Square. New York, NY 10003). This book is only for single-note
the clarinet and guitar have basically the same range it is an excellent study.
ight Reading, Vols. 1 and 2, by Gaston Dufresne (from Chas. Colin Music. 315 W. 53rd St., New York, NY 10019). This is
reading, but if you can get through the complete book you’ve got it made.
omplete, Vols. 1, 2, 3, and 4. by Bugs Bower (from Chas. Colin).
e Steps To Syncopation For The Modern Drummer, by Ted Reed (from Ted Reed, Box 327, Clearwater, FL 33515). ThiS
rt 3 of the test that we just covered.
Conception For Saxophone, Vols. 1 and 2, by Lennie Niehaus (from Try Publishing, 845 Vine, Hollywood, CA 900
uets, Vols, 1, 2, and 3, by Bob Nelson (from Chas. Colin).
aughlin And The Mahayishnu Orchestra (frbm Warner Bros. Publ., 9200 Sunset Blvd., Suite 530, Los Angeles, CA
d Roberts Guitar Book, by Howard Roberts and Jimmy Stewart (from Playback, Box 4278. North Hollywood, CA 91
uitar Style (from Warner Bros.).
ing Styles For Guitar, by Happy Tram (from Oak Publ., 33 W. 60th St., New York, NY 10023).
Ives Guitarists, by Woody Mann (from Oak Pub!.).
ss lines, by Carol Kaye (from Warner Bros.). This book is great for bass clef reading.
The Folk Blues Guitar, by Jerry Silverman (from Oak Publ.).
ethod For The Guitar, by G.C. Santisteban (from Oliver Ditson Co., dist. by Theodore Presser, Lancaster and Presser
viaâ€”Studies For The Guitar By Fernando Sor (from Edward B. Marks Corp, dist. by Beiwin-Mills, Melville, NY 117
enour Book, by Lee Ritenour (from Flat Five Publ., dist. by Professional Music Products, 1114 N. Gilbert St., Anah
Deluxe (from Warner Bros.).
ty (from Warner Bros.).
es Of Maynard Ferguson (from Warner Bros.).
This list goes to show you that reading everything and anything available will help
Go to it, and believe me it will pay big dividends.
NOTE: This article was written before modern guitar tab was invented — Jimmy Cypher
The Necessity of Reading Music by Lee Ritenour
SOURCE:Â Guitar Player, June 1979.
Guitar players (regardless of style) have the reputation of not being able to read
music, or at least the reputation for being poor readers. This attitude has changed slightly
in the past decade, but not enough to convince many musicians that the guitarist should
be allowed to sit in with a symphony orchestra. Although this article will not involve any
musical examples, it will suggest some very practical ways in which to improve your
First, I think we should list several guitar styles and show the levels of reading ability
among guitarists in each genre. This analysis is based on my 20 years of experience in
crossing all types of guitar players, and by no means is the final word (there are plenty of
exceptions); however, trust me that the general assumptions are accurate. The list starts
with the best guitar readers and ends with the worst and takes into account the overall
ability to read music, knowledge of the fingerboard, sight-reading facility, horizontal reading (single notes), and vertical reading (notes stacked upon one anotherâ€”chords,Â counterpoint, etc).
1. StudioÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 4. RockÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 7. Blues
2. JazzÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 5. PopÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 8. Flamenco
3. ClassicalÂ Â Â Â Â 6. CountryÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 9. Folk
It’s not hard to guess that studio guitarists would be the best readers. They have
usually spent the most time practicing their reading in preparation for becoming session
players. In general, jazz guitarists have also spent a great deal of time with written music,
and in many cases have attended universities that stress the reading of music. Classical
guitarists usually spend a large amount of time in learning to read music; their goal is
usually to learn how to read well enough in order to read or transcribe classical guitar
compositions and then memorize them. Unfortunately, classical guitarists are usually
Starting with the rock, pop, and country guitarists, the levels of reading drop
considerably for a few simple reasons. In the case of the rock guitarist, he or she usually
starts to pick up the guitar by ear. This is by no means a detriment; in fact, I’ve noticed that
many rock and pop guitarists have better ear training than the studio, jazz, or classical
players. As we know, some of the most innovative guitar playing has come from rock
guitarists who did not read a note (e.g., Jimi Hendrix). So if you plan to be in that category
you need not read further.
However, for those of you who are a little more practical, you
can see that the days of the rock guitarist not needing to read music are over. There are
just too many guitarists out there competing for the same job.
The blues, flamenco, and folk guitarists are usually the worst readers, but I don’t
mean any insult. The traditions for learning such styles run very deep, and in the past
have had very little to do with reading written music.
Looking at this list of guitar stylists and their general reading abilities, you might get
some idea of where you fit in. For example, if you are a folk guitarist looking to break into
the studios, you just may have a great deal of work to do in the reading department.
There are several steps you can take right away to help improve your reading. First of
all, give yourself this test to determine your weakest points:
1. Randomly select a note, such as B b. Play it on each string, starting with the sixth up
to the first, as fast as you can. For example, if you were using the note B b, you
would go from the sixth string’s 6th fret to the fifth string’s 1st fret, the fourth string’s
8th fret, the third string’s 3rd fret, the second string’s 11th fret, and the first string’s
6th fret. If you can complete the test from the sixth string to the first string in
between one and two second’s time, you have an excellent knowledge of the
fingerboard. Three to four seconds is average; if it takes longer than thatâ€”well,
you know you need some work. Try this exercise with all the chromatic tones.
You have to listen to recordings for that or go play with these musicians to learn this musical rhythmic “dialect.”Â So it stands to reason that you’re going to have trouble playing pop music that’s based on all of these modern genres.Â Scrap this clef idea and follow the model of your heroes! If you want to play guitar like a certain person, find out how that person learned guitar and do the same thing! Â Do not be browbeat into using this archaic system for modern popular guitar because people are out there in the industry, in the trenches, where it is brutally competitive — making money, getting paid, honing thier unique sound and craft, making fantastic recordings, having fantastic musical experiences charting on Billboard who never ever use this.Â I should know, I’m one of them!Â I haven’t used it since music school!
It’s a bit like wanting to be a great American English novelist but the first thing you do is go to learn Japanese.Â Â Well, it’s great to know some Japanese when you have a publishing deal with Random House and you’re on the best seller lists and your book is being translated into other languages and you’re doing a book tour of Japan. Â Very handy for that but not to actually write a magnificent masterpiece work in English. I don’t know anyone who would say “yes that sounds like a great idea” and yet this is what is routinely done when you buy these guitar books off the shelf: these archaic guitar methods that are 50-100 years behind the times! I will post a link to the Lee Ritenour article below and hopefully you will see that reading or not reading off this clef has absolutely no correlation whatsoever to the quality of your guitar playing ands success in guitar lessons.Â The people who read this stuff are paid to read: studio musicians being best, academic second, and down from there.
I have had incredible success tossing out this treble clef and relegating it to the closet where it needs to be for reference until you’re already an expert/professional guitar player.Â I can’t tell you how much faster you will learn when you start learning notation in guitar lessons for your instrument the guitar:Â guitar tab and rhythmic notation only.Â Â To understand the absurdity of this let’s just reverse the roles: imagine the looks that you would get if you insisted when someone comes to school for piano that they’re going to have to learn to read for their piano on guitar tab! Â Now we start to see the folly of it in terms of paradigm shifting here to borrow from Thomas Kuhn and the role that social conditioning plays in this discussion.Â There’s absolutely no reason to start your guitar studies there and often not to ever use this at all depending on what you want to do as a career or hobbyist with the instrument.
TOP 10 GUITAR LESSONS MYTH #1:Â In order to play guitar really well I must learn to read a treble clef that was designed for piano.Â FALSE!
This is about one of the most awful things that you can do. This is to be assiduously avoided when you are starting out in guitar lessons. It may or may not be a great thing to know once you’re a professional guitar player and you’re out getting work where you’re communicating with horn players or piano players and so forth but to actually learn the guitar, you want to stick with the notation system designed for guitarists.Â The problem with the treble clef is that it shows you the alphabetic pitch for example (the middle C in this video) and on the piano that’s in one place so you know exactly where to play.Â On the guitar it’s in multiple places five or six or more when you start generating harmonic overtones and different things like this.
“Many rock and pop guitarists who learn by ear have better ear training than studio, jazz or classical players.Â Some of the most innovative guitar playing has come from rock guitarists (e.g. Jimi Hendrix) who did not read a note.”Â — Lee Ritenour
There are so many reasons not to use a treble clef to learn guitar that I scarcely know where to begin. Guitar WorldÂ magazine took the treble clef out in year 2002 and now only put the guitar tab staff and rhythmic notation. Of the four most influential and innovative guitar players of the 20th century arguably Andre Segovia, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and Yngwvie Malmsteen, only Segovia reads off of a traditional treble clef when learning OR performing. Eddie Van Halen who was a concert pianistas a child does not read the clef for guitar in fact quite the opposite!Â As you can see in this Smithsonian interview, what Eddie was playing was so highly innovative that there wasn’t even a written language for it!Â They had to invent modern guitar tab – as he talks about in the Smithsonian interview – just to explain what he was doing because there was not a language for it. Jimi Hendrix never read a note of music.Â Yngvwie Malmsteen when he was starting out didn’t read music.Â Only Segovia read music.
As, renowned studio guitarist and jazz player Lee Ritenour says in a guitar player anthology article,Â the secret of the classical guitarist is that most actually don’t read very well and are poor sight readers.Â Most classical guitarists only read well enough to memorize the music that they are going to play when they’re looking at that piece of paper.Â Usually, they already know the composition which shows just how hard it is to read off of this thing. It’s absolutely torturous: you’ll spend three years learning to sight read a treble clef for guitar and in that time you’re not necessarily becoming a better guitar player: in fact you probably won’t because you have to limit yourself to simple things that you’re able to read off of the thing!
Whether you should learn to sight read is very situation specific:Â If you’re Brian Setzer orchestra and you have to score out parts for a 16 piece horn section, you need to know that language to communicate with your horn players.Â If you’re Steve Vai and you’re playing with zappa, you need to read… but not with Whitesnake!Â But if you’re in a guitar/bass/drum band or singer songwriter or solo acoustic player,Â you absolutely don’tneed to do this and it will hold you back. I cannot tell you how many guitar lessonsÂ Â students come to me who struggle with this six months, nine months, a year, two years who can hardly play anything and within two weeks I’ve got them playing the kind of music that they want to and accelerating like they never have before.Â Duh!Â It’s a notation system written for another instrument (the piano) designed hundreds of years ago if not longer. Before the phonograph was invented.Â Or Pro Tools recording software.Â Or Appalachian country.Â Or Mississippi Delta blues.Â The rhythmic notation system doesn’t even capture things adequately like a simple 12 bar blues shuffle.Â And it certainly doesn’t capture Hendrix’s “Red House.”
HOW TO PLAY: CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE TOP 25 CHORD VIDEOS!
THIS WEEK’S FEATURED CHORD VIDEO: HOW TO PLAY THE E7:
For guitar lessons, these chords are used in thousands and thousands of pop songs.Â They are most commonly associated with all styles music such as the 12 bar blues structure however you will find it in everything from Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Ray Vaughn or Zeppelin, funk, soul, metal, pop, jazz, reggae, etc.Â Know these chords ! They are very common and are the first taught the first week in guitar lessons with Jimmy Cypher.
As with most of the chords in the beginner section there are many different “voicings” of the chord whereby the order of the notes played will change, the notes that are doubled, the notes that are omitted or where they are played on the guitar fretboard and what register.Â However the open forms shown here are the ones to know first which is what guitar teachers focus on.Â Songwriters, rhythm guitar players, lead guitar players will all need to know this chord as as such, it is taught in guitar lessons the very first week.
Artists who use these chords include: Stevie Ray Vaughn, John Fogerty, Jack Johnson, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Dixie Chicks, Jimi Hendrix, metallica, Santana, Joe Satriani, Van Halen, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin, Supertramp, One Direction, Sam Smith, Taylor Swift, Neil Young, James Taylor, Stone Temple Pilots, AC/DC, Lynard Skynard, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash, Bob dylan, Kasy Musgraves, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pantera, Foo Fighters, Queen, Audioslave, Rage Against the Machine, Rush, Dream Theater, Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Oasis, Ozzy Osbourne, Tool, Lucinda Williams, Ben Harper, Tracy Chapman, emerson, Lake and Palmer, Lenny Kravitz, Aerosmith, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ed Sheeran, Maroon 5, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Ssuan Tedeschi, Allman Brothers.
This list is by no means complete.Â Jimmy cypher is often asked by students in guitar lessons if ALL of these chords are necessary since some are not easy to play on the first day.Â The answer is YES :-)Â Most chord encyclopedias list over 1000 chords in mostly random order, irrespective of importance.Â Jimmy has pared it down to less than 50, and every one of them will eventually appear in student’s favorite songs that they bring into guitar lessons.
Top 10 GUITAR LESSONS MYTH #10 | I Must Play the Song Tabs Exactly | FALSE!
“Don’t worry about getting all the notes right. Make sure the people in nosebleed in the back of the stadium see you smile and wave at them.” — MICK JAGGER
So the trap you want to avoid in pop guitar lessons when you’re using tabs is to remember that this is not classical music!Â The paradigm is completely different!Â This is rock-and-roll; this is about putting your own signature on things so that people recognize what they’re hearing as you and feel something that is distinct that they can’t get anywhere else.Â Â This idea that you have to play the song note for note in order to cover it accurately and in a way that your audience enjoys is one of the most detrimental things to progressing and becoming your own artist.Â Â At my Atlanta studio, time and again in guitar lessons I watch players who are completely at a standstill or roadblock… staring at guitar tab trying to replicate it perfectly… watching other people online play it so called “perfectly.”Â but most of those perfect performances online are actually quite stiff.Â As soon is I decouple students from this and have them start to put their own spin on it within certain parameters of course so it sounds like the song, all of a sudden they start playing thingsÂ that they never thought they could.
This is a secret weapon of cover band artist with massive song repertoire who are out there getting paid great money!Â One guitar player that I knew was in a cruise ship cover bandÂ and every night on the ship there was a different style of music: classic rock one night , reggae the next, funk the next, disco, Latin, I forget all the different kinds.Â But the punchline is the costumes changed, the genre music changed… but it was all the same guys are playing on his crew ship every night! Â Â Â And they had this massive song repertoire.Â You’re never going to get a gig like that if you’re sitting there trying to replicate the song exactly: chasing this perfection this “ghost” if you will and trying to impress people on YouTube that you got it exactly right.Â Â The players that are out there making money doing this for a livingÂ know there’s simply no time for that and the audience doesn’t require it.Â Â The only exception to this perhaps is a tribute band where people are paying to see you replicate a particular artist perfectly.Â Noticed that in a tribute band you’re doing only one artist: it’s just not practical to try to do this for lots and lots of different bands and cover songs.
So the most important thing to remember in guitar instruction is that when you try to play a tab exactly what’s usually going to happen is: even if you manage to accomplish this goal, it’s not going to sound like the artist that you’re trying to play.Â It’s going to sound like you taking your square peg and putting it in the round hole that is the other players tendencies.!Â You’re trying to make your neurophysiology play like them and that is simply not possible.Â Â So even if you nail all the notes right, you won’t be able to learn nearly as many songs doing that; you’ll be stuck in your room a lot longer trying to replicate this,Â all for audiences who usually don’t care and won’t pay you a dime extra for it!Â When Joe Satriani got the gig with Mick Jagger, he was out there playing stuff perfectly the first few nights.Â Mick comes up to him, put his arm around him and tells Joe “Don’t worry about getting all the notes right. Make sure the people in nosebleed in the back of the stadium see you smile and wave at them.” Â You don’t get bigger and more successful than Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and yet this is exactly why people are coming for a show.Â S.H.O.W. ! Capital letters.Â As a guitar teacher this is one of the most important things I try to convey to students, getting them away from the idea of taking tabs literally.Â They don’t care that you hit every note right: they want to feel something viscerally right in the chest and they want to see you connect with them.Â Your audience.Â Your fans.
Â GUITAR LESSONS MYTH #9 | I Must Learn Everything about Guitar | FALSE!
“On guitar, there will always be someone who is better, faster and more versatile than you. Get over it and write great songs.” — Dickey Betts.
“Become the best at being you.” — Doug Doppler
In guitar lessons, I often mention that David Gilmour, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Angus young, B.B. KingÂ and so many others never worried about their limitations: they focused on what they were great at and developed that exclusively. This idea that you’re going to learn everything there is to know about guitar and be able to play anything and be the best guitar player is as much of a fool’s chase as say, being the greatest doctor.Â What does that mean exactly? There are heart surgeons and brain surgeons and cancer specialists and so on.Â You have to pick the area that you want to focus on and it should be the areas that you enjoy.Â Also, what one guitar student may view as a liability or limitation, another player uses as an opportunity to develop a unique sound.Â Tony Iommi chopped off his fingertips in a sheet-metal accident so used metal thimbles and this became part of his sound in Black Sabbath.
Django Reinhardt also had an accident and only had two fingers on his fret hand but used them to great effect. The notion of becoming great at everything and learning everything reminds me of the scene in the movie “Collateral” with Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise. In the film, Tom Cruise is a hit man and Jamie Foxx is a cab driver who aspires to own his own limo service. When Tom Cruise asks him how long he’s been preparing to have this perfect riding experience where everything has to be just right before he can launch his business, Jamie Foxx replies “12 years” and in that time, all he has is a picture of a limo above his dashboard in his visor that he stares at. Â Trying to focus on everything in guitar instruction all but ensures that nothing or no single thing will be done well.Â To get where you want to go in fact just do the opposite: the best guitar teachers learn your strengths and spend your time there as opposed to trying to compensate for weaknesses and areas that are mediocre at best, uninteresting to you and require 10 fold the work.
Japanese philosophy extols the benefits of doing one thing incredibly well, using that as life’s wheel “axle” and letting the spokes extend out from there.Â Here is a parallel example from the technology industry by expert time manager Timothy Ferriss:
“Mike Maples is one of the angel investors I most respect in Silicon Valley. He says the startup that perfects their one feature and is the best at that is usually the startup that wins. Itâ€™s not the startup thatâ€™s an 8 out of 10 on 10 features. It is the startup that is 10 out of 10 on one feature â€” that just kills it. And you see it over and over again. They might have other features, but they absolutely kill it on one feature.
TOP 10 GUITAR LESSONS MYTH #8| You Either Have Talent or You Don’t | FALSE!
In guitar lessons I deal with the core assumption that can really impede your progress:Â “Well I wasn’t born with musical talent so I’m not sure how much of this I’m going to be able to do.” Â I don’t have the kind of talent that Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix or whoever has so I don’t know how well I’ll be able to play.”Â The myth of “talent” is a really interesting one because we all believe that you either have musical talent or you don’t: at some point I think all of us have thought that.Â Â But as more research actually shows, excellence and mastery of anything really has to do with the amount of time invested and the critical “tipping point” to borrow fromÂ Malcolm Gladwell is 10,000 hours invested.Â Â This has profound implications for guitar instructionÂ .
Invest 10,000 hours into anything and suddenly you are an expert and the research quoted is really fascinating.Â Â They do studies on violinists and they look at the ones who were acceptable, and then the ones who were good enough to get the teaching job to work in academics, all the way up to the ones who were performing at the highest level and getting critical acclaim.Â Â And without exception, it was completely a function of how much practice each group invested.Â Â According to Gladwell’s book, there actually were no exceptions to this!Â In other words the person that may have had a natural proclivity or seemed to be more “talented” in fact just practiced a lot more than the other people in the other groups did.Â Â Another Book called “This is your brain on music” promotes the same thesis and this has a lot of implications for guitar students taking guitar lessons.
None other than distinguished actor Harrison Ford says that 90% of what he does his craftsmanship only 10% of his acting is actually “art” or creativity.Â Â This means really anyone can learn the skills and what separates “average” from “good” and “great” is simply a function of hours invested.Â In fact when I was in med school which I did some time ago for the first two years of it before deciding to change career course, we actually got to disscet the brain of a virtuoso violinist who had donated his body to science.Â Â And what the professors told us was the part of the motor cortex that controls the hand and was actually enlarged relative to the average person.Â So there is a neurophysiological change that goes on as we practice guitar: it develops those motor neuron connections in more sophisticated ways.Â Â So I really can’t stress enough to decouple yourself from the social conditioning once again that talent is what matters; it simply doesn’t and the quote from President Woodrow Wilson really speaks to that. Â If you only take one thing from your time with me learning guitar ,Â if you remember nothing else from guitar lessons , I hope it’s not a scale or lick or your favorite song.Â I hope it will be this quote.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; un- rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.