BLOG ENTRY 8: Tips To Find Work As A Fingerstyle Guitarist
August 11, 2022
Wow, quite a bit has happened in the years since I last made a blog post. Or has it? Where have I even been? Anything out of the ordinary happen? Did the world almost end or something like that? Mass hysteria at seemingly an all time high? Nah, I'm probably just misremembering. I'm sure everything has been just marvelous! Surely!
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The title of this entry is "Tips To Find Work As A Fingerstyle Guitarist". I should probably rant about that.
TIP 1: Get Your Feet In The Door
I could argue this is the single most important tip of all, but unfortunately it has pretty much nothing to do with things that I would say ACTUALLY matters, when you want to be a good musician. Getting your "feet in the door" refers to being in a position where you can effortlessly get gigs because you're on a more trusted level with the owner or manager of a venue. Lets say you had friends you've known for years who were in charge of booking gigs. If you came to them asking for work, they'd be waaay more likely to give it to you simply because they know you. Maybe this shouldn't even be listed as a "tip", because it kinda transcends anything you can control. However, you can still show up to venues regularly as a guest and make your face known and that will kinda get your feet in something. Maybe not quite the door. Maybe the mail slot on the door. And maybe your toe, not your feet. This is quickly getting stupid and I may be losing my point, so allow me to get to tip number two, and the one I recommend for everyone else:
TIP 2: Email Everyone
Now this is a bit tricky because I can't tell you how to sound super suave when pitching yourself (because who doesn't love a suavely written greeting?), but I prefer to try and let the playing do the talking, which is why I recommend recording audio/video of yourself playing some tunes, then uploading it somewhere (in my case, YouTube) and providing links to it in the emails, so you can let the people you're writing to hear what you sound like. This way, it's easier for them to decide if they think you'd be a good fit for them. But just go ahead and seek out some venues around you that you like, get their contact information, and reach out with links to your stuff. The benefit of doing this is mostly that by the time they're reading your email, they'll only be a click away from hearing what you sound like, which makes the likelihood high that they'll at least hear you.
I actually have more tips in mind, HOWEVER I will revisit this more when I am more well rested. Actually, there's a quick tip:
TIP 3: Sleep Your Ass Off
Do it, you earned it. We can't realistically expect you to be shredding if you don't. Just for even reading this far in this blog post do you deserve a good snooze as far as I'm concerned. Dreamland awaits.
BLOG ENTRY 7: A Dwindling YouTube Page?
July 30th, 2019
Well, it's been a few weeks since I made one of these. What's that? I need to explain myself? I was busy trying to solve world hunger. Cure cancer? Alright, you got me. I guess I've just been lazy.
BLOG ENTRY 6: Guitar Smackdown: Expression VS Flash
July 9th, 2019
ARE YOU READY FOR THE PAIN, THE FURY, THE MOTHERF@#$ING WRATH? BUCKLE UP, YOU FAT BABIES. I'M ABOUT TO FORCE YOUR INSIGNIFICANT LITTLE FACE INTO A WORLD OF BLISTERING HELLFIRE, THE LIKES OF WHICH YOUR POOR, FRAGILE MIND HAS NEVER EXPERIENCED, NOT EVEN IN IT'S MOST INTENSE OF INTENSE NIGHTMARES. YOU DON'T HAVE A CHOICE! NOT ANYMORE. PREPARE TO READ, as I delve into the pros and cons of playing guitar with expression VS playing with flash. Which is better? One or the other? OH YEAAAAAAAH!!!!!!
I don't think I can write like that for the entirety of this entry... Though Macho Man Randy Savage sure is fun to larp as. Don't ask me why I'm even doing that. Anyways, here we are. This is actually a topic that I find myself thinking about a lot. Expression VS flash, on a guitar. I'm sure those of us who play can relate to this. Please let me explain what I mean, layman's terms style.
Expression: Basically, what you're playing.
Flash: Basically, how you're playing.
Expression might be best represented by singer/songwriter types. Why? Because they generally don't do anything with a guitar that is so technically demanding, that it's going to turn heads. In fact, it's almost as if the guitar is a backdrop, something to help fill out the air as the player vocalizes some lyrics. I'd consider this 100% expression. Odds are, you're not trying to make people tremble at your feet. Maybe you're just trying to make them cry, via some emotional lyrics. Is that the case? You probably relish in it. You're sick, you know that?
Flash might be best represented by people who make it a note of interest to flex their abilities. Sure, you COULD be like the singer songwriter... But why? That's so boring, right? Why not play ten million notes a second? Why not utilize quintuple diminished trionic layered chords? Why not tune your 32 string three neck guitar to DABG#EG♭$? Because you can't handle it? Nonsense, of course you can. Because you're AWESOME. You're basically the musical equivalent of a dojo master. You practically scare people. In earlier times, you might be accused of having sold your soul in exchange for your talent. Very metal, well done.
And here, we reach the crossroads. Most musicians fall somewhere in between these two groups, with varying percentages of expression and flash. After all, some people would consider it flash if you could play basic chords, so that counts as flash. Vice versa, some people will dismiss your playing as boring if that's all you do. Let me think, who are some famous examples of each? Someone who plays primarily with expression... Perhaps Bob Dylan. Now, someone who plays primarily with flash... Perhaps Michael Angelo Batio. Now someone who's perfectly in between them? Hmm... Perhaps John Williams (the guitarist, not to be confused with the composer, even though the Indiana Jones theme slaps like a mother). I say John Williams though, because I feel the classical music he plays is just as impressive to watch as it is emotive to hear. I might come back to this later and think of someone more appropriate, but I do think he, and many classical musicians, are able to bridge the gap between expressive and flashy playing, better than anyone. It's the closest to a 50/50 draw between expression and flash as I think you'll be able to get.
So which of these two things is more important? I'm not sure there's a single answer. I guess you could say whichever is more significant depends entirely on the guitarist. I know people who are content strumming two or three chords. I know people who are content with shredding behind their backs. But let's see if we can't at least attempt to draw upon the pros and cons, here:
WHICH IS MORE IMPRESSIVE TO WATCH?
This one isn't really up for debate. Flashy playing is just that: Flashy. If it wasn't attention grabbing and impressive, we wouldn't be calling it that. Again, someone like Michael Angelo Batio, I'd put at around 90% flash, 10% expression. Hey, nothing wrong with that if it suits him. And it is flashy, have you seen him play? It's hilarious. Then you've got a lot of shredders out there, people who generally pride themselves on technical achievements. I'm getting Dream Theater vibes... Have you heard of the Dance Of Eternity? It has something like 104 time changes in 7 minutes. I'd probably put someone like John Petrucci in the category of 60% flash, 40% expression, since DT does cover a wide variety of genres.
WHICH IS MORE ENJOYING TO LISTEN TO?
This one is possibly up for debate. I'd wager the average person around the globe is more interested in hearing a solid catchy song, than they are watching your guitar teacher perform eruption with his teeth, or something. But does that matter? Who cares what anyone else thinks, ask yourself what you'd enjoy more. Listen to that, there ya go.
WHICH IS BETTER SUITED FOR EMOTIONAL PLAYING?
Obviously, expressive playing. That's the whole point, playing only what you need to play in order to illustrate what's on your mind. So again, you've got guys like Bob Dylan, who are almost uniformly expressive. He's like 90% expression, 10% (or less) flash. Then you've got blues guys like Stevie Ray Vaughn, who I'd put around 60% or so expressive playing, the other 40% flash. The guy did like to play behind his back, after all. Then he'd bring it back around and rip into some soulful stuff, again. Interesting balance.
So, I think I'm just coming to the conclusion that there really is no good way to choose expression over flash, or flash over expression. They're not always so easy to tell apart. And at the end of the show, I'm realizing the most important part of all is that you're finding anyone at all out there with whom you can connect and entertain. Is that profoundly cheesy? Of course it is. In fact, I think I'm going to have to give myself a wet willy for that one. But hey, it's true. In fact, I'll go even further and say: So what if you don't connect with anyone else? Are you connecting with yourself? Are you enjoying yourself? I hope so. But guess what, even if you aren't, I'd recommend you stick with it. I have days where the last thing I want to do is play more guitar. I'm not going to lie. Maybe I'm frustrated with life, feeling under the weather, etc. For as long as you're alive, you really have no choice but to stick out bad days. It can't be helped. And the last thing you're going to want to worry about when trying to enjoy your music, is "Is this good enough?", maybe you think it's lacking emotion, or lacking muscle. The fact is, being able to enjoy what you're doing is more of a rarity than we'd probably like to admit. We struggle enough to make it through our jobs, our lives, etc as it is. I hope the only questions you have to deal with when creating/playing music all revolve around whether or not the music in it's current form is to your liking. Wanna slow it down, focus on telling a story? Go for it. Wanna speed it up, focus on shredding at the speed of light? Go for it. I don't feel there are any right or wrong answers, only the ones you make for yourself.
BLOG ENTRY 5: Take Five and The Simpsons
July 8th, 2019
Ah yes, "Take Five". I think I remember the first time I really heard this song. "Really" heard, as in left an impression on me. Perhaps it was just the context, since it was in an earlier Simpsons episode... Well, not TOO early. Somewhere around that awkward shift, where regular viewers of the show could probably sense that things were beginning to get... Meh? I mean, hell, don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm confident I'd be able to do better with the writing myself, and the Simpsons is literally my favorite show of all time. I don't even have to think about it. But fans (to my knowledge) aren't divided on this shift. If anything, they might be divided on the topic of when the shift began. I've heard some claim it happened as early as the Prince and the Pauper episode. To them, I say- What? Are you nuts? That episode has one of the greatest lines Skinner has ever muttered, if not THE best: "Up yours, children!". And this was years before he told Nibbles to chew through his ballsack... Remember when he reminisced about candy bars in Nam? What about when the internet got a hold of his steamed hams? I think I'm losing myself.
Oh man. It's amazing how much you can sidetrack yourself when you aren't actually thinking about what you're supposed to be talking about... The "Take Five" episode. I want to say it was... Season 14 or 15? It's been such a long time since I saw this episode, but I do remember the specific scene, thanks entirely to the addition of the song. You've got Bart standing there in a robe, in his treehouse, which is occupied by dozens of lavish looking guests, and he is doing his best impersonation of Hugh Hefner (I believe?) while he remarks on the jazz to the musicians across from him, telling them to keep playing those smoove tunes, or something like that. You know, I bet if you've read this far on the blog, there's a good chance you've stopped by now, and decided instead to simply look up the clip on YouTube to see if you can't just find it, instead of listen to some guy named Daniel describe it to you, in an attempt to fill out his blog. Oh wait, you're still here? I like you. Have a brownie point.
Alright, I did some research. The episode is called "All's Fair in Oven War", and it's the second episode of season 16. Strangely enough, searching "The Simpsons Take Five" brought up an episode I don't remember seeing at all, where the kids play a sizable portion of the song as opposed to the minuscule portion I remembered. This is very important information. You're now better off for knowing this, if you didn't before. Don't you feel mentally enriched? Don't answer that, I know you do.
I suppose I'll have to go over some more jazz related stuff in a future entry. The fact is I'm not particularly well versed in the history of the genre as a whole. You've got the basics, you know: Jazz was popularized in the early 1920's, there's all kinds of variations of it, Django Reinhardt was quite good with two fingers (that's what she said). But anything beyond that, I'm not confident in what I know. I think I'd like to learn and elaborate on those things more before I rant on them. Having said that, in summation: Take Five is an undisputed jazz standard/classic, and in my opinion, the golden years of the Simpsons were at least the first 12 seasons. But alas, I grow weary of your sexually suggestive dancing. Bring me my ranch dressing hose.
PS: This blog entry is the fifth one, and it talks about Take Five. I just noticed this. Whoa, dude... Cosmic.
BLOG ENTRY 4: How to 110% become a famous fingerstyle guitarist.
Sometime early July, 2019
What I'm about to tell you is highly confidential. There is absolutely no way you can ever tell anybody about this... Do you understand? If such information gets out, it could mean the end. The end of what?
You don't want to know.
You do? Well, crap, I made that up to sound dramatic and get your attention. However, I'm positive I've discovered how to bring in audiences and get yourself the fame and fortune you've always wanted... You do want fame and fortune, right? Perhaps you already have it. Perhaps you want MORE. You power tripping bastard, stop reading this right now. This article isn't for your kind. I'll wait for you to leave. Go. Now. Yes, that's it... You too, in the back. You thought because it's dark and you're short, I wouldn't notice you? Sorry. Hit that dusty trail.
Have they left? Great. Because, if I may reiterate, this is serious business. I'm putting everything on the line to tell you this stuff. So without further ado, let us begin.
STEP 1: Get a crazy haircut.
Perhaps you don't think this is important. WRONG. You need a crazy haircut because it will grab people's attention. And that's what we're going for, here. Attention = Fame. No, it doesn't matter if you believe it's a reflection of your personality (though that's what you can say during your inevitable forthcoming interviews... Perhaps you can relate it to politics or some deep message, somehow? Why not). But this isn't about that, this isn't supposed to be fun. Fun has nothing to do with this. At all. Again, serious business... And because it's serious business, might I recommend a mohawk? Perhaps a giant afro, with a diameter of no less than 150cm (The world record is apparently 177cm). Maybe dye your hair bright neon green? Tickle me pink? Enlarged prostate red? Are you bald? Great, wear a wacky hat. Something big and bright... Whatever tells people around you "I'm more fun than you are". Perhaps you think this is all a weak joke, and you should instead be focusing on practicing fingerstyle guitar as opposed to obsessing over your dome? NO. Please do not question my methods again. I know what I'm talking about.
STEP 2: Get a cute animal
Everybody likes pets, right? WRONG. AGAIN. Everybody likes CUTE pets. Puppies, kittens, ponies, that kinda thing. Anyways, you're going to need one of them. AT LEAST one. Preferably, you'll want as many as you can get a hold of. Furthermore, you're going to have to make sure that they can sit still for hours at a time, while you do take after take on your camera. Why? Because they're going to be in your videos, with you. You think the average YouTube user can resist tuning in after seeing adorable little Mr. Barky in your thumbnail? No way. Guaranteed clicks in the bank, oh yeah. In accordance with your crazy hair, Mr. Woof will certainly help bring in the views. That's a damn good boy. Wait, what will you be playing in these videos? What should you be practicing? Whoa, slow down. That's hardly relevant. Just trust in the method, believe me.
STEP 3: Buy views
Wait, you think this is immoral? Dishonest? Nonsense. I say it's your duty. You know why? Because people need to know you're worth checking out. Picture this: There they are, browsing through various guitar and music videos online... "Oh", they say. "Here's one. This person has a crazy attention grabbing haircut, whoa! And their dog is so cute! ...But wait, what? They only have 10 views? Oh, that's a shame. I thought they were worth listening to, but if no one else is, I guess they just aren't cool enough." I know what you're thinking. "This is awful! How do I avoid this situation?". Well, it's easy. Just get a hold of some cash and find a business that will sell you the views you so desperately seek. Beef up your numbers... Perhaps until they're in the vicinity of at least a modest 1 million views. Hooray! Now people know you must be awesome, because the fact of the matter is you're only as cool and important as the numbers on an orwellian website say you are. Is it any coincidence that Despacito is the most awesome video in the Universe? I think not. And wow! What a great coincidence, this leads me straight to my next step...
STEP 4: Only cover songs that are already very famous
Finally, we get to a section that involves some music. In order to stay relevant, you have no choice. You can only cover songs that have reached at least a billion views. Start with Despacito. Perhaps migrate over to Girls Like You, after that. Katy Perry? Hop to it. Adele? Eh, maybe not relevant anymore. Oh, Ed Sheeran will surely do. See? You're already starting to sound more famous just by reading these people's names and judging them purely based on the numbers for which they've gained notoriety, and we all know numbers are everything. What about substance? Dedication? Passion? Please, this isn't the Hallmark Channel. Wait, is Hallmark Channel the name of a new famous pop song? How many views does it have? Oh, it's not a real song. False alarm.
STEP 5: Bang on your guitar or retune it or some shit
At this point in time, it doesn't matter if you actually are confident in your abilities to play fingerstyle stuff or not. What matters most is convincing people that what you're doing is knucking futs. The best way to do that? Well, get creative with it. Instead of just slapping the strings with your right hand thumb to create a percussive sound effect, try instead smashing your face into a nearby wall, be sure to time it correctly with the tempo of the song. What else? Hm, you could use your tongue on some of the frets. You can even claim you HAVE to, because you believe it softens the tone of the guitar, and you're simply just that dedicated of a player. Don't stop now, though. Oh, here's a good one. Claim you're so talented, so awesome, that you can play in your sleep. Literally. Then, at the beginning of the video/performance, close your eyes... Start snoring... And play. Yes, you'll have to manage without looking at your guitar, but here's the kicker: You won't actually be asleep. Yes, yes... I know. Genius, because it will be an act, the likes of which could rival Houdini on his greatest days. You simply have to pretend, by snoring out loud, on purpose. Your adorning Despacito loving audience will be sure to have their minds blown, when they undoubtedly fall for the charade. And when you're finished, just open your eyes and feign a startled demeanor. "Oh! I dreamt I was performing for the greatest fans in the world... And my dream CAME TRUE". Stand up, take a bow, cue uproarious applause, ten trillion likes, a gazillion instagram hearts, whatever. It's all yours. YOU EARNED IT FAIR AND SQUARE.
STEP 6: There is no step 6
This space left intentionally blank
So there you have it. You're officially famous now. You don't need thoughts, anymore. Least of all, final ones. You can pay someone to do that for you by this point. Besides, thoughts are a burden. You need to reserve your precious brain powers for the next gig.
The above blog entry and all other blog entries on this entire site are ridiculous. Due to this, they should not be read by anyone, ever, for any reason. That is all.
BLOG ENTRY 3: The struggle to stay productive in the age of social media.
May X, 2019
What's more ironic, that I'm using a form of social media to write this, or that I'm actively struggling to make a third blog entry, despite the fact that it's been months since I last wrote one?
June 11th, 2019
Update: As if this wasn't ironic enough already, I started the first half of this blog entry a week or two ago. Since then, what happened? I don't know. I guess I found myself struggling to articulate a creative or interesting way to illustrate my point, and lo and behold... I got distracted. Probably by other things on my computer. And just now, am I remembering that I even tried to write about this. Wait a second, am I just projecting my lack of discipline to sit still for more than five minutes onto my computer and internet? Maybe. Probably.
BLOG ENTRY 2: Guitar Center VS Amazon.
March 8th, 2019
When you blog, you basically just rant, right? Because that's exactly what I want to do with this topic. Oh, and it's a good, relevant one.
In one corner, we have the Walmart of music stores, the company that springs up in random locations and threatens to run many of our locally owned music stores into an early grave: Guitar Center. If you're here (on this site), you've probably been to one of these stores. Maybe you frequent one of these stores. Maybe you're reading this AT a Guitar Center, right now, instead of shopping. Loitering? How could you?
In the other corner, we have the almighty, all knowing, all seeing, all alling leviathan of shopping and spending: Amazon. Everybody knows that Jeff Bezos is an amazing guitarist. Jimmy Hendrix 2.0. But really... I guess you could argue Amazon, like Guitar Center, also threatens to run our locally owned stores into a grave. So, how is his arsenal of instruments compared to Guitar Center's? Is it any good? Let's break some down some of the obvious and not so obvious pros and cons of each of these two, weigh them, and see if we can pick one over the other.
Which one is better for a beginner?
Guitar Center. BUT, buyer beware... It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the people working at a Guitar Center are encouraged by their superiors to encourage you to give them your cash. Fact is, you might get gipped. Wouldn't want that, but hey, if they recognize you're a beginner, you probably don't know exactly what you want in a guitar or equipment. This basically happened to me, when I got my first guitar, but that's a story for another blog post (Actually, it wasn't even at a Guitar Center, it was some store called Music Unlimited) ... Anyways, I think Guitar Center is better for beginners because you can actually play the instruments for yourself, before you buy them. It's a little like being able to try on clothes before deciding you want them. The closest you'll get to this experience with Amazon is by buying a guitar, waiting for it to arrive, playing it, THEN deciding if it's right for you. Oh, it's not? Send it back, wait a few days for your refund, try again. Rinse and repeat. A very convoluted and drawn out process, not exactly appealing and time conscious. Guitar Center wins.
Which one is better for prices?
Amazon. This certainly doesn't apply to ALL instruments. For instance, Martins and Taylors are almost always going to cost the same amount online as they will at a Guitar Center. Still, it's important to consider the fact that the guitar you'll typically get through Amazon will not have ever been used. Guitar Center might give you the guitar off the wall, ie the one everyone and anyone has been playing for x amount of time. The wear will probably be minor, but still, do you want that? Why not just go online and get it completely untouched? What, you can't wait for it to be delivered? I understand. Here: Just binge drink for the next few days, and the next time you come to, it'll be on your front step. The time will fly like you can't imagine. Great idea, right? Yeah, maybe don't actually do that. Unless you're Barney from the Simpsons. Amazon wins in this one, although that is by association to their wider assortment of brands and used equipment. Speaking of...
Which one has a better assortment to choose from?
Amazon. Of course. Now, this might not exactly be a good thing... The variety I'm talking about here basically translates into a bunch of obscure brands that nobody has probably ever heard of. Vangoa? Pyle? Lagrima? Davison? What are you getting? Here's a good one... "Best Choice Products". Yes, that's the actual name of the brand. It even says "BC" on the guitar head, and on the amp that comes with it. How can you go wrong? You can't. It clearly says BEST CHOICE, so why look further? It's only worse choices from here on out. It's actually got 4 stars out of 5, over 1 thousand ratings. Best Choice? Maybe "Not As Bad As You Might Think But Still Good Choice". Got a ring to it, right? Idk, still sounds a little sketchy. What were we talking about? Oh. Yeah, Amazon is infinitely more diverse in it's selection. To the point where it's comical. Really, just go on there, search for "Guitar", and scroll through the pages... And the pages... And the pages... They go on and on, and you'll always find new brands. They really have everything you could be looking for, plus way more. Lastly, as far as the obscure brands, I'd recommend Donner. And yes, they paid me for this endorsement. Billions. I purchased a guitar from them that has held up surprisingly well, despite it's cheap price (It was 120 or 130 I think?), so if you're even a little curious about all these random brands and their guitars on Amazon and which one you can trust the most, I'd go with them.
Which one has better customer service?
Eh. I feel like Amazon cares more on average, since they seem to treat it as more of a job, but the average GC employee strikes me as either someone who is overly enthusiastic to be there or overly depressed to be there. Like, they're either so happy they get to be surrounded by music and musicians all day, or they resent it all, because they'd rather be touring the world and making millions? I don't know. Either way, it seems to vary. I'd say this one is a toss up but Amazon seems to be surprisingly well with their returns. Wait, does that even count as customer service? Or is that attributed to UPS?
Which one is more enjoyable?
Enjoyable, as in the overall experience you have from the time you decide to search, to the time you buy, and leave. Well, Amazon is instant. Literally, you can open a tab on your computer right now and start shopping. Of course. Having that ability to browse without much of a second thought is enjoyable. Isn't technology amazing? Ok, what about Guitar Center? Hm. To be honest, I'm not sure "enjoyable" is the word that comes to mind when I think of my average experience at a Guitar Center. Not "unpleasant", either... It varies. There have been times where I'm trying to test an instrument, and can't hear it because a dozen people in the same space want to play Eruption. Sometimes I go, and have a solid conversation about a guitar, guitarist, band, etc. That obviously won't happen on Amazon. This one is hard to call.
Am I still writing? Holy shit. Well, to be totally honest, I'd say Amazon just barely edges it out in most departments, but instead of going to a Guitar Center, or JUST using Amazon, you should support your local Music Store. Stick it to the man, you know? Give them some business. Well, if they're good people. I've got some great stories to share about local business that I'll have to save for another blog. Anyways: I said it before: A Guitar Center is a little like a Walmart. It shows up in a given location, and potentially runs the smaller shops out of business. That might suck if you really like your friendly neighborhood spiderm... I mean, store. But hey, it might be a good thing if you don't. Context matters in these kinds of situations. Alright, that's all. Post is over. Get home safe. You're already home? Excellent.
BLOG ENTRY 1: A few personal tips for aspiring fingerstyle guitarists.
March 3rd, 2019.
What are you doing? How did you get here? Well, congratulations. You must be part of a small select group of people who both spend time wandering the obscure corners of the internet and playing a musical instrument. Again, what are you doing? Playing a musical instrument in the current year? Who do you think you are? Everyone knows electronic music is the way of the future. You're just wasting your time and energy. So, that brings me to my first tip about playing fingerstyle guitar:
Tip 1: Don't.
Just don't do it.
Don't you feel better? What, you don't? What's that? You think I should give up this stupid attempt at cynical humor? I'm not cynical, I just hate everything. I should stop? Okay, fair enough. Well, guess what? Because you're still here, you're still reading- You passed the first test. Yes, it was all an act to determine your level of patience, because you'll need that to get through the fingerstyle guitar tips I'm about to lay on you. No, this is not a terrible attempt on my part to save face. I swear. Okay, let's actually go over some stuff. Here's my first REAL tip:
--- TIP 1 --- Do.
Just do it.
This article has now been dmca'ed by nike, and will cease to exist.
But no, really. As with most anything in life, the best advice I can give, no matter how generic and uninspired it may sound, is to keep going. Don't stop. Sure, you might have people that are more than willing to help guide you in this or that direction, and you'll probably be able to progress much more quickly with their help (like me, please pay me for lessons, my landlord is threatening to break my knees), but will you stop playing when they stop helping you? I hope not. A fair amount of people seem to check out after they see a marginal increase in their abilities, and then they cease climbing the metaphorical mountain. Perhaps they're just discouraged because of outside factors in their lives. Fair enough, I've been there. However, that is only a problem if you make it one. Ask yourself, do you really want to play the guitar? Are you enjoying yourself when you do? It's okay to be frustrated, but do you feel frustrated all the time? Then it's more than acceptable to stop... At least, until you gather your thoughts, again. Because, If you absolutely want to play fingerstyle, then feel free to nevermind all the techniques, theory, training and etc... Being persistent and literally just playing the guitar reigns champion as my most essential piece of advice. You don't NEED to know what you're doing. You just need to be doing.
Now, having said all that, I'd like to move on to the next point, which is going to sound especially odd since I just wrote a fat paragraph describing how I don't believe it's required. But...
--- TIP 2 --- Learn some basic music theory.
"What the hell, man? You just said all I need to do is play, and keep playing. Now, all of a sudden, you go back on that? Learning theory wasn't part of the deal. Get out of my face."
I have failed you.
Wait a second, that's not true. I'm just trying to offer some help. So, here it is. Learning some basic music theory will IMMENSELY help you figure out how to perform fingerstyle songs, in a general way. Do you know the difference between a major and a minor key? What about a major and a minor scale? Do you know how to play that on a guitar? Do you know all the basic major and minor chords? Flat and sharp notes? What about the 7 modes? Diminished stuff? Arpeggios? Sweep picking? Five finger tapping? Playing with your teeth, behind your back, across the room via psychic telekinesis? Well, it'll be such a massive help in your quest to improve as a fingerstyle guitarist, that it's a great idea to look into it all.
Primarily though, you should focus on learning the different KEYS, SCALES, and CHORDS.
Let me attempt to lay out the process for you, virtually, via a hypothetical situation in this following blob of text:
Imagine a song, for me. Any old song will do. No, not that one. Okay, that other one sounds good. Now, try singling out any of the melodies in that song. Take your guitar, and very slowly, try to find and play even one note of that melody. How does it sound? Does it match up? Keep looking. Okay, have you figured it out? Yes? Congratulations. I'm proud of you. Now, try to figure out one more note, preferably the next note after the one you've already figured out. Boom, now you know two notes. So, do those notes match up with any scales you've learned? Try applying the major or minor scales to those notes that you've figured out. Is it starting to sound like it works? Oh, look at that. Because the notes matched up with a scale you're familiar with, you've figured out the key. Now, you're aware of what you might have to expect, since the notes and the chords of the song will revolve around that key (unless there is a key change, but you'll just deal with that as it happens, if it does at all). Now, try doodling along with the rest of the song, and play around with different chord shapes. Try playing along with the song, try playing without it, and switch between the two, until you think you've got it figured out. Wow! How about that, you did it. You figured it out. I award you ten trillion dollars, and the key to the City.
Now, I may be getting a little ahead of myself with that last tip, assuming you aren't trying to create your own renditions of songs, but rather play other people's renditions of songs. Still, rest assured, this kind of knowledge can only help you. For instance, you might be here on this site because you want to learn how to play Snake Eater (Well, I'm just guessing, because that video seems to have taken off). Awesome to have you. Anyways, let me ask you: Are you familiar with the key of F sharp minor? Because if you are, you'll breeze through the tab with significantly more ease than someone who is not familiar with the key, no matter how determined they are. Same exact thing applies to every song and every tab I have. It's a great idea to do even a little research on the keys and learn them. Trust me, you won't regret it. Unfortunately, it can be boring, but hey! You're probably already bored, if you read this far. Sorry about that.
I could go on, but I'll probably save that for another day and another blog post. Feel free to write me in the meantime and let me know if you have questions or anything like that. Until then, keep watching the skis.