The other day I released the new lessons for the Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy, and today, I want to share with you some key pointers from them.
If you’re a member or not, I think you will find these very useful… especially if you start applying these tips today…
1 – Learning the fretboard can be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be – Most people waste a lot of time when learning the fretboard. As I often say though, it is far better to learn one thing and learn it really well. For example, in one of the new lessons, I show students how to take one simple note and play it all over the fretboard. That note then gives you marker points for using the fretboard. I like to think of marker points on the fretboard as airports around the world. You can hop on the plane and travel to a different place if you have access to the airports. Without marker points, it’s like you’re hitchhiking your way around the fretboard.
2 – One string at a time – I’m a massive fan of playing phrases on one string at a time. The guitar, unlike the piano, can be confusing, as we have strings and frets to think about. The piano is simple in many ways. You play from left to right, and the pitch goes up. On the guitar, you can switch strings, move further up the fretboard and the pitch can go lower or higher (depending on if you move to a lower or higher string). The guitar can be confusing, that’s why playing phrases on one string at a time can be very powerful.
3 – Simple works! – I’ve seen countless song tutorials over the years where there’s just way too much going on. Usually, it’s fingerstyle tutorials, where there are all sorts of bass notes, chord tones, and jazzy fills burying the heck out of the melody. All the added extras should only be incorporated once the core of the song is great. It’s so easy to want to add more, more, more, but all the great guitarists from Clapton, Gilmour, and Emmanuel all have the ability to hold back and let the music shine. It’s a key skill.
4 – Under pressure – Since releasing the free Guitar Doctor eBook this week, a lot of people have said how useful it was and how fun it was too (thanks!), and how they’ve been struggling with tension they weren’t fully aware of before. The truth is, being aware of tension is the first step to fixing it, so that’s a good thing. Too many people think playing with tension is part of the journey. Nope. Tension should be avoided as much as possible and being aware of it is a good first step.
5 – Melody, depth, and rhythm. These are the things that really matter. Playing a song with a powerful melody, playing it with depth so the music sounds big and full, and playing it with a strong rhythm is key. When playing fingerstyle arrangements, this means making the melody shine, filling it out with simple bass notes, and doing so in a smooth and rhythmic manner. Get that right and you can’t go far wrong.
6 – The guitar comes in two – We have six strings on the guitar, of course. Should you treat them all equally? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I often like to split the six strings up into two sets – the bass strings and the treble strings. Sometimes I do this when strumming to add more character, but I also do this when teaching the fretboard. I often find it’s better for students to learn certain notes and patterns on the bass strings and then the treble strings, rather than being overloaded and learning them all on six strings at once.
7 – Muscle memory should be tested often – Most people struggle with chord changes for at least a year or two – often longer. The main reason is muscle memory. Of course, you can develop muscle memory, and doing so is all about repetition of good technique. The more you do it, and to the best standard you can, the better your muscle memory will be. It’s wise, though, to test your muscle memory often and see how you are improving.
8 – It’s about both hands, not one. Finally, let’s think of playing guitar as riding a motorcycle. You are on two wheels, not one. If you get a flat tyre with one wheel, well, you aren’t getting very far. The guitar is the same, your left and right hand are like the two wheels. You need to treat them both with great care. Don’t neglect either. Make sure they are both fully inflated…Because if your fretting hand is great but your picking hand struggles, your songs and all-round playing will suffer. Always work on both hands.
Anyway, those are some takeaways from the latest Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy lessons for February.
The above pointers are like key summaries from the lessons.
Lessons within the lessons if you like.
Even if you’re not a member, you can use those tips above to help with your playing.
Read them through a few times, have a think, and you can find plenty of ways to incorporate these tips into your playing.
But if you wish, you can join the Academy today and get lessons featuring a classic fingerstyle song (which covers tips, 3, 5, and 8)…
My fun exercise/game called Fretboard Hopping (which covers tips 1, 2, and 6)…
…And a two-minute challenge on reducing pressure and improving muscle memory (that covers tips 4 and 7).
There’s more to the Academy than just those lessons, though.
Anyway, today’s the last chance to join and get these lessons.
P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.