TOP 10 GUITAR LESSONS MYTH #1: In order to play guitar really well I must learn to read a treble clef that was designed for piano. 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. 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. 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. Some of the most innovative guitar playing has come from rock guitarists (e.g. Jimi Hendrix) who did not read a note.” — Lee Ritenour
There are so many reasons not to use a treble clef to learn guitar that I scarcely know where to begin. Guitar World 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! 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! 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. Yngvwie Malmsteen when he was starting out didn’t read music. Only Segovia read music.
As, renowned studio guitarist and jazz player Lee Ritenour says in a guitar player anthology article, the secret of the classical guitarist is that most actually don’t read very well and are poor sight readers. 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. 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: 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. If you’re Steve Vai and you’re playing with zappa, you need to read… but not with Whitesnake! But if you’re in a guitar/bass/drum band or singer songwriter or solo acoustic player, you absolutely don’tneed to do this and it will hold you back. I cannot tell you how many guitar lessons 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. Duh! It’s a notation system written for another instrument (the piano) designed hundreds of years ago if not longer. Before the phonograph was invented. Or Pro Tools recording software. Or Appalachian country. Or Mississippi Delta blues. The rhythmic notation system doesn’t even capture things adequately like a simple 12 bar blues shuffle. And it certainly doesn’t capture Hendrix’s “Red House.”
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For guitar lessons, these chords are used in thousands and thousands of pop songs. 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. 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. However the open forms shown here are the ones to know first which is what guitar teachers focus on. 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. 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. The answer is YES 🙂 Most chord encyclopedias list over 1000 chords in mostly random order, irrespective of importance. 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! The paradigm is completely different! 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. 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. 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.” but most of those perfect performances online are actually quite stiff. 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 things 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! One guitar player that I knew was in a cruise ship cover band 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. 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! And they had this massive song repertoire. 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. The players that are out there making money doing this for a living know there’s simply no time for that and the audience doesn’t require it. The only exception to this perhaps is a tribute band where people are paying to see you replicate a particular artist perfectly. 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. It’s going to sound like you taking your square peg and putting it in the round hole that is the other players tendencies.! You’re trying to make your neurophysiology play like them and that is simply not possible. 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, all for audiences who usually don’t care and won’t pay you a dime extra for it! When Joe Satriani got the gig with Mick Jagger, he was out there playing stuff perfectly the first few nights. 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.” 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. S.H.O.W. ! Capital letters. 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. 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. Your audience. Your fans.