1 Way To Play Better In 2018…

You’ll see about 37 different “5 ways to play better in 2018” articles this week (I even did one in 2015 if you want to read it it’s not like anything has changed)…

But here’s the thing… I really believe there is only 1 way that you’ll get better in 2018 (or any year, for that matter.)

Or at least, there’s only 1 way that really matters…

You see, when it comes to playing music, we constantly are faced with musical problems…

And the answer to that musical problem is going to be a “how” or a “what.”

Simply put, hows are mechanics (like how to play something) and whats are concepts or approaches (what do I play when I want to solo over a blues in C?)

Problem: I want to play [insert song name here.]

So how might you address that problem? Let’s look at it…

First, do you know what the notes are that you need to play? Do you know what the chords are? Do you know what the rhythm figure is? 

Are you planning on playing it similar to a specific recording? Or do you intend to play it with a band where it might drift a bit (or maybe a lot?)

Will you be expected to solo over it? If so, are you copying someone else’s solo or making up your own?

If you don’t yet know the chords, then you path is clear – find out what the chords are supposed to be. When you know what the chords are supposed to be, then focus on how to play them along with the recording until you can.

If you don’t know what to play for a rhythm figure, then you need to look into that and get that down. Then you can focus on how to play it.

Notice that if you’re learning a solo by heart – it’s nothing but a how unless you dig deep and figure out what is behind it (what scales, what patterns, what approach.)

And as you can see, that seemingly simple problem of learning a song has opened up a beautiful can of worms that will lead you down a path of learning and development… and that’s a GREAT THING!

Problem: I want to walk into a music store, sit down and just play something cool while I try out guitars.

Ok… what do you want to play?

Most folks will answer me with, “I don’t know I just want to make something up.” Which makes a lot of sense until you compare it to something like talking…

If you were 4 years old learning to talk, and you walked into a debate, would you be able to articulate anything that made sense and organize your thoughts? Probably not.

Or if you are an adult who is learning a new language – like Chinese we’ll say, and you sit down with a native Chinese speaker to have a conversation after you’ve only been studying Chinese for a few months or maybe a year… how long do you think that’s going to work out?

I know that for me, I wouldn’t last very long. My vocabulary would run out almost instantly because I would want to hear myself say something that I would not know how to say – and guitar is no different.

So instead of approaching that problem as making something up, try first learning something short, and fairly simple that you like the sound of… something that would sound good (assuming you played it well) when played by yourself.

If you could walk into a guitar store and play that piece of music comfortably, that would give you something that would solve the problem. But more importantly it would give you a template that you could build on.

You could take a small section of the piece you learned, and change it. That is how you sow the seeds of “making it up as you go along.” It almost never happens all at once.

Remember, your Blues Guitar Unleashed course material is how you gain experience… and that experience is what prepares you to solve those musical problems later. But you’ll have a hard time putting your lessons to use if you aren’t thinking of them as tools to solve a puzzle.

One of the main reasons for the Member Forum is to help you identify and solve those types of puzzles – so if you are finding yourself stuck and wondering where to go from here, and you’ve purchased any BGU courses over the years, then you have that forum as a tool to help you down the path.

And one final thought… don’t be afraid to write down your musical problem (or as I like to think of it, adventure.) As you can see, one “problem” begets another, and so on. Sometimes you go pretty far down the rabbit hole and learn a lot of things, and you forget the purpose of why you started.

That’s the funnest part 🙂

36 Comments

  • Gaston Collin

    Reply Reply January 4, 2018

    happy new year Griff to you and family and thank you !

  • Michael Chappell

    Reply Reply January 3, 2018

    Hi Griff, You hit the nail of the head with your above Tips.Judging from all the comments everyone has similar experience even the expressions “Geezers” and the “Geriatric Club”, “The Geriatric Blues Brothers”…Age is just part of a Guitar Players Vintage.. ie No Barriers for learning and playing a Guitar and it is even better playing Blues with a Guitar…When you look at some of the BGU LIVE Jams they are more than encouraging..I just turned 71Yrs and have 6 Guitars (4 electric and 2 Acoustic Electric) and maybe a dozen BGU & CRGU courses. It is an awsome experience learning the Guitar Journey with such a great Teacher as Griff as well as all the feedback under comments.
    Happy New Year 2018 to you Griff and Family and all the BGUers Geezers..

    Cheers Michael-Sydney-Australia 4th Jan 2018.

  • John

    Reply Reply January 3, 2018

    You must know me personally. You describe me to a t thanks again

  • Ljubo

    Reply Reply January 3, 2018

    Hi Griff,
    for so many years I would like to find how to play riffs or part of songs from Band “Sweet Smoke”, album Just a Poke. there are so many good riffs in songs as Baby Night and the Soft Parade.
    If you make some lessons or videos showing some riffs, would be interesting for practicing.

    Regards, Ljubo

  • chas

    Reply Reply January 3, 2018

    Happy New Year, Griff, and to your family. You are a very great man; unequalled as a teacher, and so generous. Chas W.

  • Adam Wilson

    Reply Reply January 3, 2018

    Happy New year my friend and again thank you

  • Ray H

    Reply Reply January 3, 2018

    Would just like to wish you and your loved ones a happy and successful new year, and thanks for all your great teaching,regards ray

  • Alex Mowatt

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Happy New Year Griff. I sincerely hope you managed some semblance of a rest over the festivities.
    I especially like to catch up on your Blog output since I have a fair number of your courses already. There are still gems that come along, perhaps not mentioned within a course.
    My focus this year is to introduce a structured approach to practicing. Not too many element during each sitting but try and move forward and not get stuck.

    Thank you for your enthusiasm and energy you bring to, not only the course work, but your Blog etc.
    I hope we all have a good 2018, with a few tweaks to the political agenda and equally the economic fronts.

  • Charlie Durham

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Happy new year Griff! Really enjoy your online lessons and appreciate all your hard work and dedication in bringing these videos to us.😎

  • Terrance Schlagel

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    A big thanks to all of you and especially to you, Griff. Hate to sound like a skipping record, but I too am in the “senior” camp. Started about 5 years ago at the tender age of 61. After trying the gazillions of video lessons and online teachers, I’ve finally settled on three. But Griff is pay far the best. I’ve purchased at least nine of his courses. Great stuff. So much fun to be passionate about something where you learn something new every day. Happy New Year everyone. You’re a great group.

  • rich zaia

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Ive noticed that many of your respondents are Geezers like me.(73) ”When your young you have no money and time and when your old it’s more difficult to learn”..Oh well its fun anyway and i love buying Guitars. .Two suggestions..

    1).one of your courses that i have shows counting on the botom of the notation. ..Notwithstanding that i have no natural ability for playing . I play every day for at least an hour . My biggest challange (i have many) is timing… Its the main reason i think that when i play a riff it doesn’t sound right. Actually, I would buy more of your stuff if it had the count on it.
    .2) would it be possible for the Forum to some set up a system to link folk looking for others to play with.I believe you have more fun playing with others and learn more as well.

    Anyway… Happy New Year and keep those cards and letters comin in….Rich

  • Rick

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Happy New Year all! I’m so thankful that I signed up for Griff’s emails. I’ve been lurking around here and on the members forum for a few years now. I can’t believe the improvement in my playing. Last year I started recording my practices, and was very pleasantly surprised down the road when I was able to do a comparison. The other biggest factor in my advancement besides Griff, is playing with other people. At least once a week I get together with two other guys. One is a much better player than me and the other is still developing his style between full acoustic and amplified guitar. To be able to bounce ideas off one another is a huge learning tool. Our combined improvement is quite remarkable. Oh yeah we are also in the geriatric club.
    Take care,
    Rick

    • PAUL

      Reply Reply January 2, 2018

      HAPPY NEW YEAR GRIFF AND FAMILY.
      ALL MAKES GOOD SENCE JUST ABOUT LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE, YOU NEED TO LEARN HOW TO CONGJUGATE THE THE WORDS. JUST LIKE LEARNIG THE NOTES IN A CHORD. LIKE APPREGIOS. YET, AFTER THAT YOU DO NEED TO SPEAK WITH A PERSON THAT SPEAKS BOTH GOOD ENGLISH AND THE LANGUAGE. I KNEW HOW TO SPEEK SICIILIAN AND SPANISH THEN I MOVED AWAY AND LOST IT. ONCE I WAS IN A SPANISH SPEAKING COUNTRY, IT COMES BACK. SAME IS MY SICILCAN. I VISTED PALERMO AND AFTER ABOUT 3 DAYS , I WAS ABLE TO UNDERSTAND IT AGAIN.
      JUST LIKE GUITAR, IF YOU DON’T PLAY FOR MONTHS, YOU NEED TO JAM WITH SOME ONE AND GET BACK IN THE GROOVE. TAKE CARE AND HAVE A NICE 2018.

  • Ronald Larson

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    I got BGU a couple of years ago (and some other Griff courses). I’ve been playing for around 50 years, but never had much time while I was working. I used to spend a couple of hours a week playing.
    Now I’m retired and play for a few hours every day. I take a variety of online courses, and really like modern blues.
    But I’m 78, and hand issues are starting to appear. Particularly pain and stiffness in the joints of my left hand.
    I’d like to share one solution for this–get a laser with at least 300mW, and 808nm, output, it’s the greatest healer for joint and hand problems ever invented–used worldwide by vets and chiropractors for at least 3 decades.
    It reduces pain and promotes healing. I use mine on my left hand every day and it is really extending my playing time. (I also use it on my shoulders, neck, knees, and back). Check it out on the internet. If you get one designed for veterinarians they are much cheaper because they do not need FDA approval.
    If you are an older player this may really help you heal and reduce the pain of hand problems. It’s not a toy or a scam, it really works. I was very skeptical about laser therapy until I had it done at my Chiropractor’s office. It is pretty amazing, nearly instantaneous pain relief (a few minutes) and not just that–it also significantly speeds up rapid healing.

  • gene

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Wow, I think Griff should rename his web sight to THE GERIATRIC BLUES Brothers. I thought I was the only OLD FART trying to learn the guitar @ 70.
    You guys all give some great advise and stories. Let me trough something at you that may help. First let me say that the BLUES are fantastic and I cant imagine playing much else(as my goal. BUT, I found out along this path that for me, it was essential that I learn other things also to get me to my goal. I found that with Griff being my main source of information and study, I needed a one ( as in 1) song (it didn’t matter what that song was) it just needed to be a song that I really liked, like if someone said; What is your favorite song to listen to right now? Then after I answered that question I needed someone to break that song down for me. Then I needed to stay with that song until I had it down pat, as in, well enough to play it on stage in front of the world. Then I needed to plan a practice plan that was UN-failing and that I would not deviate from. One that incorporated MUSCLE Memory. That’s what worked for me. I don’t know hardly anything about music theory but I can play songs that I like and I have FUN playing. By the way, I don’t play ANY songs that I don’t like. Obviously I can’t tell you how I found someone to break my songs down or where I learn how muscle memory works, that would be unfair to Griff and because Griff is my main man, I wouldn’t do that, but I can say that info can be found on line (like anything else. Finally, (IF IT AIN’T FUN,,,,,DON’T DO IT. IF YOU AREN’T HAVING FUN YOU WON”T COMPLETE YOUR GOAL. That,s just the way it is. You MUST ENJOY DOING IT, that’s just a fact. Cheers, play till you can’t anymore. Gene

    • Michael Chappell

      Reply Reply January 3, 2018

      Hi Gene,
      I like what you are saying in your above comment. I have just turned 71yrs and took up with BGU a few years ago in retirement. I am like you I wanted to learn some of my favourite songs too so I purchased a song book and some of my favourite songs are also in the BGU Courses.

      Happy New Year 2018.

      Michael-Sydney-Australia.

  • Dave D

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    I recently watched Griff demonstrate chords using the caged system. In one of the scenes he showed the C form, but I could not make out the fingering. I emailed him on how he fingered the chord, and he sent me an email back two days later with the answer and diagram! Griff you are an awesome teacher! You have helped me so much and opened a whole new world on playing the guitar!!

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

    Dave

  • Ross Treftlin

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Here’s an interesting point for those that believe in reincarnation.
    “It’s never too late to develop a new skill”
    because you can develop it further in another life experience. Sorry. Just the view of a spiritual healer.

    • Larold

      Reply Reply January 2, 2018

      So…I don’t need to do laundry ever again?

  • Chris

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Thanks griff

  • Ross Treftlin

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    You provide a wonderful service to the marketplace Griff. I’m 66. I got my first guitar at 13,, I love that you help so many guys like me that couldn’t find the resources, time and money when we were younger. You’re keeping our dream alive. Thank you!

  • John whittle

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Happy new year griff, very much enjoy blog and video lessons, keep them coming. I’m 56 years old and have been playing since I was 16, god I wish you were around then, but no internet. You are a true professional. Have a great new year.

  • BIll Edman

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Griff,

    I can relate to all of the emails above.

    I’m only 81 . But I’m really enjoying the ride.

    Just bought another lesson that I know I’m going to enjoy.

    Have a great year and keep playing

    Bill.

  • Blair Mirrlees

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Right on. Play the chords and rhythm first especially with the song you want to learn until you have it perfected, then you can learn the lead parts and fill parts properly. I have learned so much from Griff’s courses. I thought I was a decent player before but after applying what I learned I have become a much better player and still learn every day and if I can do it at my age (74) then anyone can if they follow the steps outlined by Griff. Great job Griff.

  • Jim

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Another year, another opportunity to practice for hundreds of hours – what, I don’t know.
    I’ve been a student of Griff’s for over 5 years. Been through and completed several courses.
    Sought out and participated in jams, bands, and even a few gigs! I understand blues guitar theory pretty well.
    But, I am nowhere near being a “good” guitarist. I suck! And, I really don’t know why. Seems that It’s easy enough to go from beginner to advanced beginner, but not even close to an advanced player like Griff.
    I think it’s SPEED. It’s the one measurement I can easily take. I can easily see that when Griff rips off a shredding solo, I am not even close to that capability. 5 MORE years?! (I’ll be 70 years old!). Is this a futile endeavor?
    Happy new year.

  • Dale

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Thank you for all the great articles and lessons. I should be further along but life gets in the way! I appreciate the encouragement and tips. It all helps. No plans on giving up as I can see some improvement. I just really need push my ADD aside and get organized and focused!

  • mike z.

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Griff , Happy New Year to you and your family . Over the last few years that I have been taking your online lessons , and bought a few of your courses , I have learned so much . I am not where I would like to be , but am getting there . As everyone knows , it is not only your lessons , but the blogs which help in the learning process . I am a lot older than most of your students , so it is taking me longer . Thanks again for all your guidance . Mike Z.

  • Ken Moree

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Thanks Griff ,I’ve kinda got stuck in the same rut , I practice my scales , major and minor pentataonic . Then finger exercises .
    My dexterity has gotten pretty good but trying to play a song all the way through I find myself jumping from one song to another .
    I’m progressing but not as quickly as I’d like . I normally practice 2 hours a day but I think I need to focus more on one or two songs but I hear all these great tunes during the day and I want to learn them next time I pick up my guitar. I guess I need suggestion on how to use my practice time wisely .

    • John

      Reply Reply January 2, 2018

      I too am always anxious to play a new song I just heard. Lately its been aqualung the acoustic part. Then it was Closer to home GFR. Acoustic.

      I should go back and finish BGU then my new purchase of Creating Blues Songs.

      It’s always fun,

  • alan

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Happy New Year.

  • Joe

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Thanks for sharing your wonerful advice Happy New year!

    • Mark d.

      Reply Reply January 2, 2018

      I’ve said this before.I’ve been playing for 40 plus years.I new all of the open chords(most anyway). Could play some songs had decent rhythm. But I knew nothing above the third fret :-(. Didn’t know what to do with all those squares. Then I joined BGU and it all changed.:-) U should hear me know I’m not blowing my own horn but giving praise to Griff! No matter where u are on guitar keep learning. It’s a great rabbit hole down here B-)!

  • Kim Alexander

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Happy New Year Griff & family -your advice to try out the video surgeon (got it on sale also!) was right on & has done more for my learning lead licks-(being able to slow it down & SEE what they are playing) & achieved wonders for my playing THANK”S for the great advice & a healthy,profitable year for all of us engaged in a business,(23 year old bike shop) Fox River Sports,in WI.

  • cowboy

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Happy New Year…hopefully I’ll poke along a bit better in 2018…later.

    cowboy

  • Steve Watson

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Cheers Griff
    Yes a lot of discipline I Find is required to stop just jamming along to the same old backing tracks
    And continue on with another lesson on one of my many BGU courses I have , but BGU has helped me a lot in my playing but iam still at the base of the mountain hopefully getting some traction this year
    Good year for all of us I hope cheers

  • Ken Harvey

    Reply Reply January 2, 2018

    Thanks for all of your emails Griff, you know so much and you are a good tutor, in my case l think l started to late in life: 67years old (2013). I practice every night for at least 1.30 hours, acoustic guitar, my fingers get sore, I will not give up, however progress is so slow, I want to be able to sing along, difficult!

    I bought your Blues beginners course, started with barre cords, feels so uncomfortable gave up and tried easier songs. I will keep trying, I think I am a country guy at heart!

    A Happy New Year
    Ken Harvey

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