Are You Applying What You Know?


When you learn something new, are you applying it to your guitar playing in general? Or are you just learning it?


Whether teaching or answering questions on a forum, I’ve realised that most people learn a new scale, lick, trick or idea and then leave it at that. They don’t take time to think about how they can use it.


This is a big mistake. If you’ve done this, and trust me, we all have, it’s frustrating. You don’t see the progress you dream off and know is possible.



Learn to use not for learning’s sake

You shouldn’t be learning ideas just for the sake of it; you should be learning these things so that you can further your own musical vision and add more depth to your playing.


Sure, learn how the original song is played; really study it, but then do your own version based around what you have spent time working on and some other people’s ideas.


With my students, I remind them, to focus on what sticks – if you can’t remember the whole solo but can remember the third lick. Great, use it – there’s a reason why you can remember it and not the rest of the guitar solo. What doesn’t make it into your long term memory shouldn’t worry you and you shouldn’t focus on that.



In practice

So what are some practical ways to find ideas and then apply them?


Ideas are everywhere, from a fragment of melody from a pop tune, to a song’s opening lick, to a new chord voicing. There’s a million ideas, if we look at guitar chord voicings. The best way is to learn the new chord voicing, how it fits into the theory (yes really!) and see if it can be moved around the fretboard – creating more uses.


With a lick or melodic phrase, if you know your idea fits over the IV chord or fits over a bar of the V followed by a bar of IV, then you can spend some time moving this idea up, down through the 12 keys, so you can use the melodic lick whenever you need to.



IV and V, I’m Confused?!

So what are the IV and the V?


What I am referring to are the chords based on a major scale. These are Roman numerals for 4 and 5, so they refer to the fourth and fifth chords.


For example, if we take a C major scale, the 4th and 5th notes are F and G. So the chords based around them would be an F major chord and a G major chord.


You can transpose your lick or idea into any key by moving between the 4th and 5th chords in that key. If you work on playing the same idea in different keys, then your playing will be taken to another level.


With a lick, for example, you can either transpose the phrase by moving everything up the number of semitones required to get to the new key, or if you are using open strings, then just grab a capo and transpose that way!



If you think about how you can use ideas again and again! You’ll learn at least twice as much as you do currently. Start taking the time to learn how to move ideas around, into different keys or styles. Try to re-use to grow not learn more. Here’s to you growing musically!

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