Are you watching guitar lessons on youtube? Do you use only tabs and music notation for learning?
That’s good, but it’s not enough if you want to become the best that you can be. You are missing the most important part of music. You are not listening.
It is hard to imagine, but there was a time when there was no youtube. If you wanted to learn something, you had to listen. That’s how all the great players learned to play.
After years of struggling I realized that only by developing great ears you can become great musician.
For a long time I was learning just from videos, tabs, books and charts. I was playing scales and modes, I was playing all those arpeggios but I had no idea how to use them. I was playing chord inversions all over the neck, trying to remember them, but I wasn’t successful. One day I realized that something must be wrong. I was spending many hours with guitar, but I wasn’t getting any better. I was confused. So many scales, so many arpeggios, so many chords – how can I learn all this stuff? It was just impossible. And then I realized …
I am not listening to music. I am learning stuff just because it is written in the book. There is no real connection between me and music. I have no idea how it should sound, I just know how to play those numbers.
It was a big day for me. I realized that my knowledge has to come from real music not from books. Books and videos are great, but recordings are the real deal. You cannot get closer to your guitar heroes than by listening to their recordings.
Watching music won’t make you great. You have to listen. Very carefully. Stop watching. Start listening.
Learning from videos and tabs is great if you want to learn something really fast. It is good for hobby players, but it is not good enough for serious musicians. You won’t become great musician by watching videos. You won’t become great by learning from tabs.
I don’t know about you, but for me it is hard to learn from tabs if I don’t know musical background of people who are creating them. I cannot trust somebody who I don’t know so I rather started to trust my ears. I know that I will make a lot of mistakes and I also know that it doesn’t matter. It is for sure that I will learn much more just by learning through my ears.
I think there is no choice. You have to listen if you really want to get somewhere. I know it is the harder way to learn, but benefits are awesome. Your musical imagination will grow. Your timing will get better. And most important, you are learning from great players.
Recordings of your favorite players are your university
You don’t want to miss the opportunity to learn from the best. You have to listen to those recordings and learn from them. It is your chance to get very close to the players that you admire. Sit down, put on headphones and listen. Vibrato, bending, pull offs, slides, chord progressions. It is all there. When Steve Vai was transcribing Frank Zappa’s music, he spent 10-12 hours a day listening to one minute of music. Can you imagine how good his ears are?
Great players did not learn from tabs
They were listening to vinyls or tapes. They usually didn’t have CD or iTunes and it wasn’t that easy to rewind and slow down songs. Tommy Emmanuel slowed down vinyls by putting coins on them. Now it is so much easier. You can download Audacity for free, or you can buy great piece of software called Transcribe. With both you can slow songs down, change keys, start from whichever point you want, repeat and much more. No more excuses. The sooner you start, the better for you.
Don’t worry you can still look for tabs if you get stuck.
So stop watching and start listening and transcribing. Go!