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Advancing as an Intermediate Guitar Player
Many guitar learners wonder how to progress from beginner to intermediate. If you feel like you’re stuck and not improving, don’t worry – it’s a common challenge for many players. Before we dive into intermediate guitar lessons, let’s first make sure you have a solid beginner foundation before advancing.
Foundational skills for beginners:
- Able to identify guitar parts and their functions
- How to properly hold a guitar
- Mastering the open string notes
- Learning the musical alphabet and the 12 notes
- Tuning your guitar accurately
- Proper fretting technique
- How to hold a guitar pick and strum properly
- Strumming and playing basic open chord songs
- Playing easy guitar songs
- Knowing basic guitar care and maintenance
By mastering these skills, you can ensure a smooth transition into intermediate guitar playing. Don’t rush the process and take the time to practice each skill. With a solid beginner foundation, you’re setting yourself up for success in advancing to intermediate level playing.
Remember that learning to play the guitar takes time, patience, and consistent practice.
The Next Step: Intermediate Guitar Lessons
Learning to play the guitar is an exciting journey, and as you progress from a beginner to an intermediate level, there are several techniques and skills you can master to enhance your playing.
Here are some intermediate guitar lessons to consider:
1. Comfortably Fretting and Smooth Chord Changes
At this stage of guitar playing, which can overlap between beginner and intermediate guitar playing, it is important to develop the ability to cleanly fret chords without any buzzing sounds and smooth transition between chords, particularly the basic open chords. Proper finger placement and movement between chords can greatly affect the overall sound and feel of your playing.
In order to transition between chords smoothly, one useful technique to employ is air chord changes. This involves forming the shape of the next chord in the air before placing your fingers on the strings. Ideally, all fingers should press down on the strings simultaneously, but there may be a slight deviation during the transition.
2. Developing Rhythm and Playing in Time
Developing rhythm and playing in time is a fundamental skill for any guitar player, and it takes time and practice to master. By understanding time signatures, using a metronome, and practicing playing along with recordings, you can develop a strong sense of rhythm and become a more confident and skilled guitar player.
Good rhythm is essential for playing with other musicians and creating a tight, cohesive sound. It’s important to remember that playing in time is not just about hitting the notes at the right time; it’s also about playing with a consistent groove and feel.
3. Barre Chords
Playing barre chords is a significant milestone in progressing from a beginner to an intermediate guitar player. Although they may be challenging, mastering them can expand your guitar-playing abilities and offer new possibilities. With barre chords, you can play any chord in any key, which is essential for more complex songs and improvisation.
Two of the most common barre chord forms are the E and A forms, both in major and minor versions. These chords require you to use your index finger to barre across multiple strings while using your remaining fingers to form the chord shape.
4. Music Theory
Don’t feel overwhelmed just yet. It’s not as complex as you may think. We’ll only cover a few foundational lessons to help you understand what you’re playing and accelerate your learning process. Topics to study include scales, chords, and chord progression.
- Music Alphabet: This is a recap of the foundational skills you learned in your beginner guitar lessons. The music alphabet is a fundamental concept that every aspiring musician should learn. It includes the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, which are arranged in alphabetical order. From these letters, you can create a total of 12 notes, which includes the accidentals such as sharps and flats. The notes are A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, and G#/Ab, with a half-step interval from one another.
- Scales: Learning scales is a crucial step in understanding how chords are formed. Our focus will be on the major scale, which forms the foundation of music theory. The scale consists of seven notes, following the pattern of whole steps and half steps: W-W-H-W-W-W-H. An example of this is the C Major Scale: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.
- Key of a Song: The key of a song refers to the central pitch or note around which the melody and chords of a song are based. It’s the tonal center that provides a sense of stability and coherence to the music. The key of a song determines the notes and chords that can be used in the melody and harmony.
- Chord: A chord is a collection of three or more notes played together to create harmony. Chords are the building blocks of music and are essential in creating songs and melodies. There are several types of chords, but the most common are major and minor chords. A major chord is formed by playing the root note, the third note, and the fifth note of a major scale. For example, in the C major scale, the C major chord is composed of the notes C, E, and G. A minor chord, on the other hand, is created by playing the root note, the flattened third note, and the fifth note of a major scale together. Using the same C major scale, the C minor chord is composed of the notes C, Eb, and G.
- Chord Family: A chord family is a group of chords that are related to each other and share similar characteristics. These chords are typically based on the same root note, which makes them sound harmonious when played together. In a major chord family, the 1st, 4th, and 5th chords are major, while the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th chords are minor, and the 7th chord is diminished. The chord family of C major includes the following chords: C major (I), D minor (ii), E minor (iii), F major (IV), G major (V), A minor (vi), and B diminished (viiº).
- Chord Progression: Chord progression is a sequence of chords played in a specific order. It is an essential component of music, particularly in harmony and rhythm. Chord progressions create a sense of movement and direction in music, and they can convey different moods and emotions depending on the sequence of chords used. In music, there are countless chord progressions, but some are more commonly used than others. For instance, the I-IV-V progression is a popular chord sequence in many songs. For example, in the key of C major, the I-IV-V progression would consist of the C, F, and G chords.
A solid understanding of music theory will enhance your playing and help you communicate with other musicians.
5. Learning the Note Names on the Low E and A Strings
Once you have learned how to form barre chords and have a good understanding of the musical alphabet and the twelve notes interval, the next step is to learn the notes on the Low E and A strings. Knowing the notes on these strings will allow you to form and play many different chords on the guitar.
6. Strumming Patterns
As a beginner guitarist, you likely began by learning simple strumming patterns that mostly consisted of downstrokes. However, to progress further, it’s important to become comfortable playing different strumming patterns that incorporate both downstrokes and upstrokes. Mastering a variety of strumming patterns can help you play more rhythmically and add texture and variety to your playing.
Guitar dynamics refer to the variation in volume and intensity of sound produced by a guitar player. This can include changes in volume, tone, attack, sustain, and release. Dynamics are an essential aspect of music, as they add expression and emotion to a performance. Learning to control your dynamics (volume and intensity) can enhance your musical expression and help you create more interesting; and dynamic performances.
8. Flatpicking and Fingerpicking
Learning these techniques opens up new possibilities for melody, harmony, and rhythm.
Flatpicking and fingerpicking are two distinct styles of playing the guitar. Flatpicking involves using a guitar pick to strum or pick individual strings, producing a crisp and clear sound. This style is commonly used in various genres, including bluegrass, country, and rock music.
On the other hand, fingerpicking involves using your fingers to pluck the strings, creating a more complex and textured sound. Fingerpicking often involves playing both the melody and the accompaniment simultaneously, making it a popular style for folk, classical, and acoustic guitar music.
9. Learn and Practice Scales
Expand your skills by learning important scales such as major, minor, and pentatonic scales. These scales are fundamental in various musical genres and can provide a wider range of sounds and emotions in your playing.
The major scale has a bright and cheerful sound. It has a quality that makes it sound happy and positive, which is why it’s often used in uplifting music. The minor scale has a different interval pattern compared to the major scale, creating a distinct sad and melancholic sound. On the other hand, the pentatonic scale consists of only five notes and is widely used in blues and rock music.
10. Play Complete Songs
As an intermediate guitar player, being able to play complete songs is a significant milestone in your musical journey. It is a sign that you have moved past the basics of guitar playing and have developed the skills and techniques necessary to play entire songs.
To play complete songs, you need to be able to combine all the skills you have learned, such as chord progressions, strumming patterns, fingerpicking, and soloing, into a cohesive performance. It also requires you to understand the structure of the song, including the verse, chorus, bridge, and any instrumental breaks.
It is essential to choose songs that match your skill level. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself by learning new techniques or more complex music. Practice is also crucial in playing complete songs, as it helps you improve your muscle memory, timing, and overall performance.
Learning how to write songs can greatly enhance your musical knowledge and creativity, as well as help you express yourself through your playing.
To get started with songwriting, you will need a few essential tools in your pack:
- Basic open chords (and barre chords, if possible)
- Knowledge of the key of the song, which determines the set of notes that can be used for melody and harmony
- Understanding of chord families, which helps in selecting chords that fit well together
- Ability to create chord progressions, which is the sequence of chords used in the song’s structure
With these elements in place, you can start creating a melody and compose a song that tells your story to the world.
12. Ear Training
One of the best ways to start with ear training is by tuning your guitar by ear. This will help you develop a good sense of pitch and train your ear to recognize when your guitar is in tune.
Once you have mastered tuning by ear, you can move on to finding the key of a song. Being able to identify the key of a song by ear will help you play along with songs, improvise solos and create harmonies.
With practice and time, ear training will become an effortless skill that you can use to enhance your musical abilities.
13. Improvisation and Guitar Solo
Improvising is the art of spontaneously creating music on the spot. As an intermediate guitar player, this is something you can delve into.
You can start with major scales. You have seven notes to play in any order, and you can play them in multiple positions on the guitar neck. As you become more comfortable playing major scales, you can experiment with different rhythms and phrasing to create your unique sound.
Start Advancing Today!
There are many other guitar lessons and skills that we have not included, but the lessons we have listed serve as a great starting point for anyone looking to move from a beginner to an intermediate guitar player.
The process is not a quick race but rather a long-distance run. It’s not about how fast you can check off each item but about making daily progress.
Developing these skills will undoubtedly take time. With this in mind, the challenge is to start advancing today and commit to making progress daily.
Take action today and start your journey as an intermediate guitar player without hesitation!