Wednesday, July 25, 2007

After Guitar Hero II

In June of 2002, the Motley Fool wrote an article about Guitar Center warning investors of potential problems with its $18-per share price being too high for that stock at the time. They were concerned about P/E ratios and whatnot. By June of 2007, they were singing a different tune, claiming that $63 per share was too cheap for them to sell out. What is responsible for the turnaround? In my mind, and as mentioned in the latter article, it has a lot to do with Guitar Hero (which Guitar Center sponsored). This game has reignited interest in real guitar playing, and at the same time, for me at least, it expanded my tastes in rock music to a whole set of metal bands to which I had never given much of a listen.

Like many others, I dusted off my old acoustic and resumed strumming away. However, this time around, mere rhythm-guitar open-string chords and basic strum patterns were not enough. Having finished hard mode in GHII, I felt confident, or at least compelled, to try to play lead lines, shred some frets, bend some strings, and slide up and down the fretboard with full distortion. I need to rock, and to do that, a trip to the aforementioned Guitar Center where I plunked down $250 for the Strat Pack. p.s., if you just splurged your life savings into GTRC stock based on the last paragraph, don't worry, Musician's Friend is a wholly owned subsidiary. As a disclosure, I don't own any GTRC or Activision stock.

So now that you have your shiny new electric, the trick is, how do you play it? Many people recommend guitar lessons, and I certainly agree. I intend to take some myself any time now. But if you and ornery, intelligent, adventurous, introverted, independent person like me, you will want to do some self-teaching on your own. In any event, it is useful to have more than one source of information about guitar learning, so even if you do take lessons, the instructor should encourage you to learn on your own. If they do not, find a different instructor.

Here, then, are my recommendations for free online learning. Firstly, fire up iTunes or otherwise tune in to and listen to some blues. If you live in the D/FW area, you are in luck, because the new station called Lonestar 92.5 is a commercial-free radio station that plays a lot of blues, country, rock, and other music with great instrumental solos, mainly guitar. It might as well be called the guitar hero station. Incidentally, Lonestar are also sponsored by Guitar Center. While you are soaking up some good blues, go learn the easy blues scale. This scale can be played anywhere on the fret, and then you can play just about any notes up and down this scale in a swing beat, and it will sound great. For rank beginners, I suggest first checking out these excellent absolute beginner guitar articles. Be sure to look around on that site and this one even if you are a little more advanced. For geeks like me, the information is offered in a very digestible format. If you get really serious about this stuff, you can go to this solo guitar site which has information about practice schedules, etc.

However, whenever you get to the point of learning about modes, go to this modes theory page. It is all laid out very logically and clearly, with no mystical mumbo-jumbo. Did you know, for example, that minor A is just a mode of major C? I didn't. Including that one, there are seven modes in all, but the CAGED method only teaches you five, and treats minor keys as a separate topic. Granted, two of the modes overlap so much that they use the same exact fingerings, but still, the theory is incomplete without knowing about all seven modes, and it seems kind of random.

So, did you dust off your old guitar/buy a new one after you picked up GHII? Did you start listening to different music, and/or gain an appreciation for guitar solos?

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