Take stock of your guitar playing abilities and map out your path
By Robert Callus
“I can play a few things, but I’m still a beginner.”
“That’s fine, we were all beginners once. Can you play something you know?”
Jeff plays the A minor pentatonic scale in five positions, flawlessly and on time.
“Can you bend a string?”
“Sure. Here’s a full bend”
He perfectly hits the target note.
“Can you improvise a lick with the A minor pentatonic scale?”
I get a blank stare. “Should a beginner know that?”
A beginner would not, but Jeff, despite thinking of himself as a beginner, was actually an intermediate guitarist.
And since he thought he was a beginner, he kept doing what beginners do: learn new stuff.
By the end of his first lesson Jeff could improvise his first licks on the guitar.
Though this felt like a huge improvement, during the lesson I didn’t teach Jeff anything new.
Rather, I identified his existing skills and showed him how to combine them to make them useful.
Skill Integration is where the fun begins
Learning to play the guitar is a set of skills that, when combined, produce the desired result.
Beginners need to spend their time acquiring the basics of these skills while developing finger strength, stretch and muscle memory.
Intermediate guitar students should spend some time learning new skills, some time improving existing skills, and some time integrating these skills.
The third component, skill integration, is one that many intermediate guitarists overlook.
Not because it’s difficult. In fact, it’s both easy and fun. Many students do not integrate their skills because they are unaware of the need to do so.
Though, unlike Jeff, they may realize they’re intermediate guitarists, they keep doing the same things beginners do – acquiring new information, but failing to put it into practical use.
Taking the Audit
The Intermediate Guitar Audit workbook will get you to perform two tasks:
- Take stock of the skills you have already acquired. These will be grouped into eight different areas of learning: Guitar technique, fretboard memorization, music theory, applied music theory, rhythm, improvising/soloing, skill integration, and speed.
- After filling the audit you will identify in what areas you want to specialize.
Many guitar students remain stuck at intermediate level for years or even decades simply because they do not know where they want to specialize and do not have a plan for getting there.
Their practice items are mostly chosen on whim.
Things like exercises, scales or techniques have value when they’re part of a coherent plan to achieve a musical goal, but are almost useless on their own.
The solution to this is to identify in what areas you want to specialize and start to practice those items that lead to proficiency in those areas.
In the Intermediate Guitar Audit, five different areas of specialization are explored. These are: Performing, songwriting, recording, improvising and teaching.
When you decide to specialize in one or more of these areas, you begin to tailor your guitar practice sessions towards that area/s of preference.
As a result, you will get there much faster.
In the Intermediate Guitar Audit workbook you are given suggestions and practical advice on how to start tailoring your practicing sessions towards reaching your clearly defined goals.
Not a test
The goal of the audit is not to pass a test, but to get a clear picture of which skills you already have, which you need to learn, and which you need to integrate.
As you fill the audit you’ll start getting aware of knowledge gaps that are holding your strengths back.
If you focus on these gaps in your upcoming practice sessions, you will likely see rapid improvement because when you fill a gap, things you already know can be put to practical use.
Intermediate guitarist challenges
Jeff was the first student who inspired me to create this workbook, but he isn’t the only one who faced similar challenges.
These difficulties arise from learning random things rather than have an overall plan with specific goals.
This made me realize how crucial it is for intermediate guitar students to have a clear picture of what they already know as well as a clear plan for where they want to go.
The Intermediate Guitar Audit is a tool to assist you to gain clarity, and make informed decisions about what to practice, how to practice it, and how to tie everything together to get results.
Hi, I’m Robert from Malta.
I have been playing the guitar for 27 years and teaching it for 7.
I have played in Rock bands for many years and was the main songwriter for Punk Metal act Blue Sky Abyss.
After leaving Blue Sky Abyss and taking a break from bands to focus on teaching and on this website, I have started working on a new project with the working name “Trust N Bribes”.
I have been fascinated with concept albums since listening to “In The Court Of The Crimson King” by King Crimson and have wanted to write one since then..
The idea I’m working on for this new band is a concept album called “Prohibition Day”. The concept is an Orwellian dystopia where people are only allowed limited freedoms for one day in a year, the day they celebrate the loss of their freedom.
Songwriting and improvising are among my favorite activities in life since they give me the freedom to express myself the way I want.
Practicing the guitar and learning music theory are close runner ups since the more I improve on the instrument, and the wider my knowledge of music, the freer I am to express my emotions how I want.
In the past years I have discovered the love for teaching the guitar, music theory and songwriting.
I prioritize showing my students how to practice with the right mindset: How to be motivated to practice the guitar every day as well as how to practice efficiently and measure results.
This way they learn faster because they improve the quality of their guitar practice time as well as its quantity since they’re also having fun.