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  • Does playing songs dampen progress?

    Posted by Guy_H on October 20, 2021 at 9:31 am

    It may seem an odd question but often I’ve wondered if time spent to learn songs that one would play & sing reduces your “skill” as a guitarist?😕

    I thought about this again after viewing @JulieI ‘s latest great performance. Daniel Morin is another example. Much of his excellent playing is “instrumental.

    So if my goal were to be a better guitar player would I be better off learning instrumental pieces – like the ones that were in the song vault, rather than learning chords and words to a new song each week…Hmmm 🤯

    the-old-coach replied 1 year, 9 months ago 21 Members · 55 Replies
  • 55 Replies
  • Fletch

    Member
    October 20, 2021 at 9:38 am

    Isn’t the question what do you wanna do Guy…? Just play; or play and sing…?

    I’m sure if I’d just focused on Guitaring I’d be able to do it by now… But I wanna sing and play, performing songs I choose…

    Guess, you can’t have it all… Only focus on what is most important to you…

  • SoCal_Ian

    Member
    October 20, 2021 at 11:13 am

    Interesting question to be sure. I’d say that if ALL you do is play songs then yes, you’re likely hampering yourself from learning new techniques (assuming your song list is limited and repeated). I don’t think there’s any one answer to the question though. Everyone is different. I have a friend who practices scales for hours a day. He’s a great soloist but not so good with rhythm. Is he a “skilled” guitar player. For sure. Just different skills than I possess as I seem to have a scale aversion.

  • DavidScoggins

    Member
    October 21, 2021 at 4:18 am

    Interesting question, Guy. As So_Cal Ian and Fletch pointed out it really depends on what your main goals are. Something I will add is the skill of singing while playing is not to be underestimated and takes a lot of practice.

    Also, if you’re learning a song with techniques which are challenging for you but you aim to be able to sing and play then you’ll make progress with both areas.

    Final thoughts, learn new material which is challenging but achievable and which will be fun to perform.

  • Marty73

    Member
    October 21, 2021 at 5:40 am

    Hey Guy_H here is my take on learning songs. I have over 250 songs I have played or worked on. I work on a song after I do the daily challenge. I have used some of the riffs that Tony has taught us and work them into songs I practice. To me, learning songs and singing is still “making progress”. If your just learning songs, then you will only go so far in your playing. It depends on how you look at it. Just my 2 cents. 😊🧙‍♂️😎

  • N-lightMike

    Member
    October 21, 2021 at 10:37 am

    After reading all the comments so far, @Guy_H , I can only repeat what others have said.

    First, what @Fletch said, it’s a choice. If you focus on one thing, you’ll get good at that, but then you will be sacrificing something else.

    So you choose singing and playing. Does that hamper your improvement? Yes, absolutely… IF you never practice guitar skills. But if you do the daily lessons, you are constantly working on your skills.

    You can get really good at strumming, so good it seems like you simply don’t need to work on flat picking or finger picking. Ok, but then you are starting to stagnate right there. We must keep going, which means that eventually you will get so good at something you are working on now that you must start working on something else that you thought you weren’t interested in.

    Anyway, that’s my take.

    MG 😀

  • Carol-3M-Stillhand

    Member
    October 21, 2021 at 10:39 am

    @Guy_H Not an odd question at all. Time is a precious and valuable resource and should be spent wisely when it comes to our guitar geek lives.

    There’s a load of really good advice in here already. I will try to add to it without being redundant, hehe.

    Firstly, the term skill means different things to different people. Also what makes for a “good (or better) guitar player? These are pretty subjective terms. My best advice for you is to write down your reasons for playing guitar, then write down your specific guitar goals, both long term and short term. Once you have all that in writing, it’s easier to make a weekly or monthly list of practice objectives and Bingo, you are on your way to becoming a “better” guitar player. Tony has a most excellent 3 month guitar plan in here that is great to print out and fill in your personal guitar journey and goals. (Then you can share your progress at the 3 month guitar parties)

    So, if your goal is to be able to sing and play (which also makes you a better player) then that belongs on your goal list. Make it your own, because you are the best at being you!!!

  • Guy_H

    Member
    October 21, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks to all of you @Niels @Carol-3M-Stillhand @Fletch @SoCal_ @Marty69 @MikeGa

    Appreciate your thoughts. I know that I have developed skills on the guitar in order to play different songs so of course they aren’t an either/or. So many options on this rewarding journey and I’m certain there are no “wrong” roads 🤠

    I came down to my music room this morning with the intent of continuing a Bluegrass cross picking lesson BUT… I ended up spending the morning playing Banjo 🤣 Oh well wait till you hear Man of Constant Sorrow on the 5 string ! 😆

    • Niels

      Member
      October 22, 2021 at 1:23 am

      Sounds great with the banjo project – cannot wait to hear it 😀

      Recently I have had problems with commenting on TAC topics.
      The comment backgrounds turned pink, and then they vanished into thin air – but a recent browser cache reset seems to have fixed the problem.

      So I can no longer see my contribution to your thread (talking about switching betwen both modes of playing guitar), but apparently you have read it anyway (?!).

      • Guy_H

        Member
        October 22, 2021 at 8:00 am

        OK that’s what happened. Notifications showed that you had sent a reply but I couldn’t see it. I thought it might appear later. Of course I got this one so it looks like you’ve solved the problem.

        Yesterday I was going over the TAC practice plan that I think is quite relevant to the topic – “Without an intention everything gets your attention” 😲

  • That_Guy

    Member
    October 22, 2021 at 6:04 am

    Playing actual songs is probably the entire goal of all of this so I don’t see how I could possibly hurt. Practicing playing songs has help me far more than any exercise as far as chord changes are concerned. I wouldn’t recommend bothering to learn songs that you don’t like. Figure out what kind of music you like and then work on that.

    • Guy_H

      Member
      October 22, 2021 at 8:01 am

      This Guy appreciates That Guy’s comment 👍

      • AttyTJ

        Member
        October 25, 2021 at 9:47 am

        😁

  • AttyTJ

    Member
    October 25, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Ceasar’s “Vini, Vidi, Vici” comes to mind when I see this question. My Take, “I see you when I come to the events and note that you are conquering, both play and voice.”

    Do you feel like you are failing? You are not.

    Is the intent to duplicate Segovia, or Emmanuel, or Molly Tuttle? Keep at it, you and I both have about 4% of their experience, and should keep going.

    Learning and writing (which I am not great at yet) songs is a wonderful way to become a better player. Note the number of songwriters that play guitar to write songs.

  • the-old-coach

    Member
    October 27, 2021 at 7:26 pm

    Guy-

    There are some really great, thoughtful responses already here, for sure.

    As for me, one of my best/worst traits is that I’m an overthinker.

    And I think I’m at almost the same spot as you in your wonderings.

    So- (not to steer the conversation)- is there some sort of “normal progression” to follow? Is that what “drives us” to practice and learn, practice and learn, repeat…..?

    I know in my remaining lifetime, I certainly will never learn all I want to know about— or be as skilled as I want to be— when it comes to guitar/playing/singing and playing. And I’m good with that. I’ll settle for getting- (more slowly)- better at BOTH.

    And it sure seems like there has to be some sort of goal line out there somewhere.

    I know there’s no magic “line” out there, that once you cross it, you’re now “good at guitar”, and likely also that even once you reach that “where you want to go” place, there will always be the “next”.

    So…. doesn’t there HAVE to be some kind of big goal of some kind out there that we are ALL, actually, striving for?- (the reason we all joined TAC?). Granted, it is different for each of us. But if there is no “goal”, aren’t we just practicing just to enjoy the practicing?- (which is fine by me, by the way).

    So I guess- (after all my worthless ramblings)- that my thought is that I think you aren’t hurting anything at all by working on DIFFERENT parts of your entire guitar-music-learning-enjoyment as you travel your path.

    So for me, I guess, it makes the most sense to continue on BOTH the “skills-stuff” and the “music/fun stuff”.

    Remember when I said I was an overthinker?…….. there ya go.

    Mark

    • N-lightMike

      Member
      October 30, 2021 at 10:29 am

      Hello Mark ( @mkjohnsons ), (and @jumpinjeff , @AttyTJ , @Guy_H , @That_Guy @Niels , @Moonhare , @DavidScoggins @SoCal_Ian , @Fletch )

      You said: “As for me, one of my best/worst traits is that I’m an overthinker.” I sure do relate to that statement. I don’t think that trait does our guitar journey much good. Music is from the heart and received by the ear. In both directions, the signal has to go past our brain, and that’s the rub. If we could learn to make our brain leave the signal alone, then we would enjoy music more as it passes back and for between our ears and our heart in one direction, and between our heart and our fingers in the other direction. Just sayin’. 😎

      Also “And it sure seems like there has to be some sort of goal line out there somewhere.” Why? I now think that is false. What is music, what is the goal of music? Isn’t it to have and to express joy? In other words, there is no goal other than to have fun. Have fun playing your guitar and giving others joy. Have fun listening to the music of others and receive joy.

      I know there’s no magic “line” out there, that once you cross it, you’re now “good at guitar”, and likely also that even once you reach that “where you want to go” place, there will always be the “next”. Yet even after saying the above, I have to disagree here. There IS a magic line, but it’s not skill or understanding, but attitude and spirit. I have known people who could make magic with the guitar from the first time they picked it up. And any smallest thing they learn is immediately incorporated into their playing and expressing joy for the benefit of their listeners.

      So…. doesn’t there HAVE to be some kind of big goal of some kind out there that we are ALL, actually, striving for?- (the reason we all joined TAC?). Granted, it is different for each of us. But if there is no “goal”, aren’t we just practicing just to enjoy the practicing?- (which is fine by me, by the way). Exactly.

      MG 😀

    • Guy_H

      Member
      November 14, 2021 at 6:50 am

      👏👍

  • Dirk_R

    Member
    October 27, 2021 at 9:19 pm

    I see Julies performance had a similar affect on you. One of the things that I think about while playing the guitar and singing is that some people reach a point that I will never reach, basically because of God’s gift of talent. So I continue to work on the parts of the singing and , or playing that appeals to me. I do play without singing a lot but not much singing without playing. I would love to be able to sing like Elvis and Play like Mayer, but in the meantime I will continue dreaming and working on singing and playing the best I can.

  • Moonhare

    Member
    October 30, 2021 at 2:02 am

    I’m not here to repeat the brilliant, thoughtful and insightful comments of everyone above. Just wanted to say what a great question and how much I enjoyed reading everyone’s responses. PS you are unlikely to hear me singing any time soon unless it’s with someone else in the lead. I have a perfect bassy backing vocalist voice eg. in tune but utterly featureless.

    • AttyTJ

      Member
      October 31, 2021 at 3:31 pm

      Well, @moonhare, I think about your statement, and feel there may be only one way we will ever know. (or in your way of presenting it, NOT.).

      I am happy to report that my singing voice (once rather useful and effective) has not stopped me from proceeding (much, I am sure, to the grimaces of some of my friends here). It is what you want to do that counts, and how you do it is just the after effect (on others to hear my Mom complain about me).

    • dr_dave

      Member
      November 15, 2021 at 11:52 am

      I share the curse (blessing?) of a bass voice. It makes singing lead on most songs pretty difficult unless I have some electronic help. When I sing an octave down from where most songs are written, the guitar sounds OK, but my voice does not project. If I transpose to a range where my voice has some projection, the guitar doesn’t have the tone I like. Oh, well. I have fun with it anyway and I don’t let it stop me. Playing out at open mics has been a blast because amplification takes care of the lack of projection in the lower range for me. It’s funny how a little bit of power makes me a little crazy.

  • jumpinjeff

    Member
    October 30, 2021 at 9:26 am

    @Guy_H said: “So if my goal were to be a better guitar player would I be better off learning instrumental pieces”.

    I saw a question in there….I believe the answer is yes. Proviso 1: It would need to be your sole goal. Proviso 2: You had trained your fingers and mind to the extent they are ready and capable of playing the instrumental pieces you are trying to learn.

    Addressing the question in your Title “<b style=”font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;”>Does playing songs dampen progress?” …

    No, not if that is your goal. Are two goals better than one?…only Guy H has the answer to that question.

    Lots of great points made throughout the discussion. Mark, @mkjohnsons talked about two things that impressed me. The magic line and practicing guitar. Is there a magic line? I am finding the answer to be yes but to his point there is more beyond it. My magic line is being able to express myself intuitively and completely cogently when I play my guitar. I am a practitioner of guitar, mentally I need to focus on play as my practice rather than practice to play: early childhood trauma with piano, etc. When I go into practice mode it is because I am powerfully motivated by some new discovery (just beyond my intuitive reach) which feeds my determination allowing me to play the same drill over and over and over for hour, days, months and yes now I can say years. Hello WU 17 Even Crosspicking (FLP).

    • AttyTJ

      Member
      October 31, 2021 at 3:31 pm

      👍

    • the-old-coach

      Member
      November 4, 2021 at 10:53 am

      “Focus on play as my practice– rather than practice to play”

      Jeff- You- (along with many others!)- have given us plenty of simple yet insightful and brilliant thoughts to chew on since I’ve “known” you here on the Forum- (over my ~10 months in TAC).

      This is one of the best.

      Mark J

      • N-lightMike

        Member
        November 4, 2021 at 1:05 pm

        Oh, I totally agree Mark ( @mkjohnsons ), this is one of his gems. It is so good, that it bears repeating: “Play is my practice, rather than practice to play”. But if you think this one is the best, you’ve never heard the one that made him famous. 😉

        “Expectation is where fun goes to die” – @jumpinjeff

        That quote is worth of frames and walls. 😄

        MG 😀

      • the-old-coach

        Member
        November 4, 2021 at 2:32 pm

        It remains my favorite.

        Thought about writing it on my forehead- ((sdrawkcab))- so I could read it in the mirror each morning, but I think my wife would fail to see the humor in it.

        Among others here, jumpinjeff is surely in the “Oh, Wise One” circle of honor, whereas I dwell in the “What the hell is he thinking” group😜

        Mark

      • jumpinjeff

        Member
        November 5, 2021 at 11:44 am

        @mkjohnsons , and @MikeGaurnier , the road was really bumpy when I first started. I beat myself up incessantly. After many a lost round I got tired and tried to find another way. These synthesized sayings are not original ideas but ideas that filtered through my sieve and came out as practical thoughts to deliver me from myself who, as it turns out, was my biggest roadblock in becoming the player I always wanted to be. I wish I could have just listened to Tony P and gotten from the getgo. Seems as though I liked to do things the hard way.😄

        Back to Guy H…final analysis…yes, no, maybe. I know…not helpful.

      • N-lightMike

        Member
        November 5, 2021 at 4:18 pm

        🤣😅😄

        Yeah, well, @jumpinjeff , that’s exactly why (you beat yourself up mercilessly; you were your own worst roadblock) you have helped me (and a lot of others but they’re gonna have to cop to it on their own) so much. Slowly but surely, I am learning to stop trying and just play music for the sheer joy of it and no other reason.

        MG 😀

      • Guy_H

        Member
        November 14, 2021 at 6:47 am

        Thanks @juminjeff for your always enlightened and encouraging thoughts!

      • N-lightMike

        Member
        November 5, 2021 at 4:18 pm

        LOL Mark ( @mkjohnsons ), that was so funny I had to share it with my wife.

        MG 😀

  • acousticdave

    Member
    November 10, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    I’d say IF you’re only playing “strummy” songs that you can just march right through and sing…without having to practice them…then, yes you might be hurting your guitar artistry by just memorizing new lyrics and chord progressions.

    But why not find a song you want to learn that has a “harder” guitar part. Or has a very recognizable finger-picked part… maybe James Taylor. Learn to do it the artists way.

    Or maybe a song like: “Wild World” by Cat Stevens which is strummed but has some nice single string runs in it. Or most any of the old Cat Stevens songs that have challenging strum things going on. Peace Train,

    OR

    Work out your own arrangements of simpler songs…experiment with “chord substitutions” such as the chord in the key that’s two steps up or two steps down from the “correct” chord. Often you can still sing the melody against these chords ( especially when you add the 7ths). Because a Em7 chord (E G B D) has a G chord embedded in it. (G B D) So typically what you can sing against a G, you can sing against an Em….(usually). You don’t want to change every chord, but enough to cause interest.

    KEY OF G Chords that fall naturally within the key signature.

    G Am Bm C D Em F#dim G Am Bm C D Em F#dim G

    Gmaj7 Am7 Bm7 Cmaj7 D7 Em7 F#dim Gmaj7 etc.

    OR

    If that doesn’t float your boat, Find ways to make simple songs more interesting. Learn the song, but learn a lead for a verse or for a chorus, or both. Get a looper or a DAW to record your rhythm tracks to play your lead along with to.

    There are so many ways to make a simple song more challenging. Make it a challenge for your musicianship improvement…(and it will be more interesting) on the guitar. Don’t settle for three chord “Old Susanna” when you could do this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVaStQP1wWc

    I learned this arrangement when I was working on Barre chords.

    First line: Amaj7 Bm7 C#m7 F#m7 Amaj7 F#m7 Bm7 Bm7/E

    OK

    that’s too much of an answer to a simple question…but the idea is this, make it interesting to you…and make it a challenge to you. Even if the song is a simple one. If you can play it great in G or in C, put a capo on and play it in the keys of D or E.

    Whatever it takes to challenge you at the moment is worth doing “for practice” and you may find you like the new things you come up with, and they’ll have a new flavor, and pretty soon you have your own “style” going on.

    Then people will be talking about the artistic way you play…when you were just trying to challenge yourself to get better.

    Dave

  • albert_d

    Member
    November 11, 2021 at 9:09 am

    I’m late to this dance, but it has been most fun to catch up. And fun is what it is about. If guitar artistry is what you need for fun, if accompanying your song is what you need for fun, if communal sharing of music is what you need for fun, if soulful emotional expression through music is what you need for fun, then do it. And if you need to play to make a living, then do what is fun for the listener. (Fortunately I have day gig)!

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