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Stuck in a rut?

So you can play OK now, you know a few scales, your hands are working well enough and you can even improvise and jam with friends or riff around by yourself at home. That's great and you've come a long way but maybe it's just not doing it for you any more, you feel like you're playing the same old stuff all the time. You're stuck in a rut.

It happens to all of us, congratulations it's part of the journey and you'll get through it eventually but in the mean time here are a few hints to help make that happen.

Getting it right

There's a lot to be said for getting it right. I know there's the whole "no rules" thing that a lot of cbg enthusiasts adhere to but frankly, it's bullshit. Creativity is great, personalising your own style is essential, but that doesn't mean you just make shit up. You could make a guitar with no strings on it, sure go ahead, but it's not going to work real well.

Practice makes perfect

If it's possible to distill learning down to one idea it is this:



  • Start with what you know or what you can do.
  • Identify what you need to know or do next.
  • Practice that.
  • Hey, now you know something else!


And you've created a cycle in which every element is fed by the one before it.  

A journey in Listening - eight bar forms

So we've learned to listen to single notes rising and falling in pitch and we've learned about three important chords, the I the IV and the V. We've found them on our guitars, listened to them move around in cadences and heard them in action in a twelve bar blues. Now it's time to hear them at work in other songs and learn to recognise them for yourself.

A Journey In Listening - The Blues

So you'll recall from the previous blog that we are learning to identify by listening to them, three important chords: the tonic chord (I), the fourth chord in the scale (IV) and the fifth chord in the scale (V). 

To help you recognise these three important chords lets examine a little more closely the standard twelve bar blues progression. While there are variations on how we navigate these twelve bars the most basic version contains three lines, each of which has four bars and it looks like this:

Learning Music - A Journey in Listening

This is the first in a series of blogs aimed at demystifying the study of music using methods that I've found effective over many years.

While it can seem overwhelming to start with, in the end it comes down to unravelling the language that musicians use and connecting it to the music you hear, one step at a time.


To understand music theory you need to directly connect new concepts to musical examples you can hear.


Buying a Cigar Box Guitar

The number one rule of buying a guitar is always, always, always play the thing first.

That's fine if the shop in town can order in any guitar you like but if you're buying a handmade boutique instrument that isn't always possible. Now there's this thing called the internet and we can buy stuff from all over the world but until we can play a guitar on another continent we struggle to obey that number one rule, but we can get close. Here's the rub.

Know what you want.

Step by Step

Have you ever entertained the thought that learning music is something that's just not for you? That some people can do it and other's just can't? That some people just have a gift and they're the only ones that can get any good at it? Well there's some truth in that.

Theory is not a dirty word

After reading another piece 'somewhere' on the internet about the evils of learning music theory I progressed on to update the Syncopation page in the Makin' Music section. This could be a good time to make a confession of sorts. I called the theory section Makin' Music because the word theory tends to scare people, I'm starting to think that was a mistake but I'm not going to change it now. Anyway...


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