Playing Guitar – What Does It Take

October 27, 2008 by  

I’m currently working on a new lead guitar series of lessons for playing the minor pentatonic scale using the entire fretboard (coming soon) and I have to be honest, I get the feeling it’s not going to be as popular as I would like it to be. Why? Because I think most struggling guitarists are still looking for that amazing overnight miracle or sudden insight.

When I write new lessons I kind of interact with them while I’m writing, to get ideas and quite often I get caught up in the moment, ending up spending more time with the guitar in my hands instead of writing the lesson. Nothing wrong with that, it’s what playing guitar is all about but today something got me thinking about where a lot of guitarists go wrong and it reminds me of something that I read on Justin’s guitar site (excellent guitar resource) about transcribing. He’s really passionate about trying to convince you to stop relying on TABs and start listening, work things out for yourself, something which I couldn’t agree more.

If you’ve read more than a few of my lessons then you’ll know by now that I’m very passionate about convincing you to stop looking for quick fixes and realise that the boring stuff (which is only as boring as you make it) is where it’s all at. Why am I reminded of this? Because today while I was working on the new lesson, I sidetracked and ended up playing the minor pentatonic scale on one string with only one finger and I didn’t stop for about an hour doing just that and only that. Now the thing is, and this is really important, I’m not new to doing these kind of exercises, I’ve done similar things a thousand times for thousands of hours, I know them inside out but I’m never going to stop benefiting from them. Not ever! What’s more, even after this amount of years I’m still not bored with any of it and I still gain experience every time I do it.

This is what it takes to play guitar. You are never too good to practice stuff that on the surface seems so simple that you can skip to something more difficult or exciting. Many of my readers are guitarists that are stuck in the rut. If this is you then please take notice of what I have said here. It’s probably the most important piece of advice that will get you out of the guitar rut. What do I have to do to convince you?


10 Responses to “Playing Guitar – What Does It Take”
  1. Donald L. Simpson says:

    A couple of days ago I was pondering the question of muscle memory and how to improve speed. I am now a believer in slow practive makes perfect. I am looking for exercise to build speed and would be interested in your pentatonic series. I am trying to put together a practice schedule where on Monday I practice pentatonic scales and warm up exercises, tuesday, warm up exercises and chords, Wednesday warm ups and speed exercises and difficult passages of songs, thursday and fridays what ever I am in the mood to practice. I am going to add a metranome to my practice thats to your articles.

  2. Lee says:

    Hi Dave, good attitude, stick with it and you’ll benefit fast from it. Just don’t forget to have fun, if it starts to feel like work then find a way to make it more interesting.

    The pentatonic thing is still on the way, I have cut it down a bit and hope to have at least some of it up in the next few days. You can find some speed building exercises here I’ll be adding some more to it today.

  3. Hi Lee, as far as I am concerned your ‘Mastering the Pentatonics’ is brilliant.I’ve needed something like this that I can follow for years and feel like I am really getting somewhere now.The stage that I am currently at is,I can now play Am pentatonic anywhere on the neck,have played quite fluently along with the jamtracks including the shuffles. Am now going to try scale boxes to accompany a 1-4-5 chord progression.
    Thanks again

  4. Lee says:

    Thanks Jeffrey.
    Everyone’s got a different way of thinking. My logic won’t work for everyone but hopefully that (long winded) lesson should help others to find their own way. I’m glad you found it useful.
    The 1-4-5 chord tones is definitely going to help as well. And stuck in a pentatonic box kind of summarises the ‘master’ lesson. keep practicing this type of stuff, it takes a while, but all of a sudden you go crashing into another level without knowing how you got there. That’s when everyting changes. I’ve been doing this on and off for a long while and I still have a long way to go so don’t give up!

    happy practicing.


  5. Jim says:


    Happy to see the series and your site in general. Wondering if you might recommend some kind of practice schedule for the intermediate guitarist. I see that Donald had suggested something for himself and I’m wondering if that’s the kind of thing you’d recommend for anyone?

    Thanks for all your dedication and hard work…

  6. Lee says:

    Hi Jim
    I think it really depends on where you are now at and what your goals are, can you give me a bit more info? Style, lead, rhythm, technique, how well do you know the fretboard, etc..

  7. Manny says:

    Just found your site today and read thru some of the lessons etc
    What I’ve always been curious being relatively new to guitar learning
    is how to learn to play without having to look at the fretboard.
    No one seems to have a method for getting there

    thanks for sharing so much great info and interesting ways of looking at the guitar

  8. Lee says:

    Hey Manny, thanks for dropping by!

    I’m not the worlds best at playing guitar without looking at the fretboard but I’m okay. Like everything else, it just takes practice. This is something we don’t do very often because we don’t pay much attention to it.

    When I practice this I do something along these lines … Pick a few chords, reasonably spread out along the neck, just two or three to start with. Now play them back and forth for five minutes or so, really get a feel for them.

    Then stop, close your eyes and without playing, just try to imagine yourself playing what you was just doing. Imagine where they are on the fretboard and then try to play them. Don’t look if you get it wrong, just try again, use your ear to guide you. After a few goes you should find you get it right more and more often.

    Repeat the whole process over. You’ll be surprised how well you can teach your brain something without looking, it’s not that hard but you have to allow your brain to get the feel for it while your eyes are closed. That’s why it’s important not to open your eyes when you get it wrong, this way your mind is forced to think more about it under the condition it isn’t used to, i.e., with your eyes closed.

    Like everything else, it just takes some practice and I’m glad you brought it up … it’s something I need to do more often!


  9. ujjawal says:

    Hi Lee..

    Thanks a lot good man … for writing out the understanding behind the boxed penta pattern.. I think its gonna help me for sure..
    Can u suggest something for..phrasing..
    I can play over certain progressions etc..but..i just think the level is not that myself.
    Please suggest something..

  10. Spin says:

    Hi Lee, your lessons are really helping me out, please keep it up with the great job!

    Thanks a bunch!

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