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To All Guitar Players – What have been the guitar milestones along your own journey in music?

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I 'introduced' myself in 2018 and have since been a contributor, but "Introduce Yourself" seemed by far the most appropriate category out of all those available for this particular posting.  PLEASE respond with stories of your own guitar development, long or short.


My own guitar milestones have been:


** Starting Guitar, aged 12.

Having learned piano formally from age 7, my guitar playing started in the late summer school holidays of 1963.  I still can remember helping my mum in the garden when I heard 'She Loves You' on our transistor radio.  Wow - it stood out like a diamond compared to everything else of that era.


** Competitive learning with my school mates

Lots of guys at school were also going through the same fabulous learning experience, and it became a race to find “new” chords - the songs that had them, and how to play them.  Through the lack of owning a quality guitars (and not even knowing what constituted a good guitar!) I never became proficient in playing barre chords, always using my thumb hooked over the neck to play bass notes on strings which were far too high. As a result I could not play a large section of music which used Ab, Bb, Eb, Db,etc..  A lot of Beatles songs were published in these “flat” keys.  


** Developing a fingerpicking style

Aged 16, I came across a young lad of 13 who was proficient in fingerstyle bluegrass/ragtime guitar. He introduced me to the world of alternating bass beats, slide, counter-beat instrumental melodies, and TAB notation. The prehensile left thumb is a definite advantage to this style!  It tends to be a style that, once achieved, it’s hard to shake off!  From my late teens I never used (or wasted time trying to find) a plectrum again. I learned at least a dozen pieces from Mel Bay TAB books (by Stefan Grossman) that came with a flimsy record of the pieces recorded. 


** Travel and the start of a life with the 12-string

I escaped England to Australia in 1970. Within the first few months, and still without a job, I blew more than half my meagre funds on a twelve-string EKO guitar (made in Italy).  It could be I was simply overwhelmed by being in the “biggest department store in the Southern Hemisphere”, or else it was the aural orgasm that the EKO provided. Many people find a 12-string unbearably twangy/jangly but a good quality one, accurately tuned, just rings with shimmering overtones that make the best 6-string sound ordinary.  It was the sound I didn’t know that I had been waiting for and, from this moment, I played 12-string exclusively.



With a slightly wider neck, I had to remove my rings (all the rage at the time, man) to avoid them buzzing on the strings and I have never since worn rings ... even a wedding ring, much to my wife’s disgust! 😊


** Chord extensions and playing in any/every key

The next musical wave followed the purchase of a sheet music book for Chicago’s first three albums. These virtuoso instrumentalists were pioneers of jazz/rock fusion covering guitars, keyboards, vocals, percussion, brass and woodwind (plus scoring for strings and other orchestrals where required). They played in every key, sometimes in the same song! Because they used instruments besides guitars, they always played at concert pitch … tune your guitar at the start of Side 1 and you could still play along with them at the end of Side 4.  Most of their stuff was breathlessly intense – forcing me to change chords smoothly and quickly to keep up.  The rhythms varied greatly.  And because of the many key changes, I finally twigged what chord shapes were all about … how to work out a Seventh, Maj 7th, #9th, augmenteds, diminished etc..  Understanding this on guitar helped me see what was happening on the keyboard, and vice versa.  


** Moving from pop/rock to singer-songwriter arrangements

I had spent many hours pretending to be the rhythm guitarist in one the best bands ever.  However, this loud and frenetic phase eventually gave ground to my natural musical spirit ... soft and melodic. I became more involved with the music of Cat Stevens, CSNY, Paul Simon, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. Although I could not emulate them in ability, I keenly hunted out their sheet music so I could figure out what/ how they played.  I probably ended up closest to James Taylor in guitar style.  I still feel cheated that only recently did I discover that most of Joni’s stuff was unique open tunings … the sheet music had never revealed that!


It was during this period, when unable to sing many of these songs I loved, I began to use accumulated knowledge to transpose published chords sets into different sets that suited my vocal range and allowed me to provide finger-picking embellishments.


** Collaboration

Sometimes the promise of a musical collaboration would present itself, only to come to nothing ... until the chance discovery in my late 40s that a work colleague, Mike Levy, also dabbled with guitar and singing. We shared a lot of musical influences and we both preferred acoustic music.  After a couple of cover albums, we cracked open the songwriting door and soon recorded/released an album of originals in my 50th year – Not All It Seems (2002).  This required me to sell my 30-year old EKO and I bought an electro-acoustic Takamine 12-string.  Mike and I remain firm friends to this day.




Other changes around this time involved:

  • stopping all forms of open tuning except drop-D (bass string downtuned) due to the sheer time and effort in tuning/retuning a 12-string.  The ultra-thin octave 3rd string (G) is very prone to snapping when retuning.
  • permanently down-tuning the guitar two semitones (to DGCFAD). Not only does this reduce string tension on the neck/bridge, it makes chords easier to press down, and it better suits my limited vocal range which had deepened a little with age
  • discovering there were capos specifically designed for 12-string. Now, when the specialist capo was applied, the strings were less likely to shift out of tune.  My favourite is the Shubb as it has such a low profile (best for playing), but I now also have a Thalia (best for retaining tuning).


** Home Studio and a Solo debut album (at last!)  

Another collaboration sprung into existence via a chance meeting with a local retiree in 2014, and an album resulted despite very little intention ... “Prescient” (2015). 



The real joy for me was that Martin Hale is a genuinely good lead guitarist ... something I’d not experienced before, and he became an engine for new approaches/sounds.  We still continue to supply parts to each other’s projects and provide general feedback, but a co-written album seems to have been a one-off wonder. 


The ‘crowning glory’ of my home studio was “The Flat White Album” (2020).  The 30-track effort was written, performed and engineered by me alone.  Led by my 12-string on almost every track, and featured prominently in the mix, this was my first ever solo album ... in my 69th year!!  Something beyond imagination at the age of 12 and an unattainable concept thereafter ... until it was actually done!







Edited by GregB
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Before I started playing the guitar I had already been playing other instruments for a number of years. I started playing piano when I was 4. My mum was an opera singer and a piano teacher. I started piano lessons. I enjoyed piano, but after watching Yehudi Menuhin on television I was determined to play the violin. I played for years. Meanwhile I sang in a choir, played in an orchestra and then drums in a pipe band, and then bagpipes. I didn’t stop playing any instruments, I still played piano and violin. The pipe band I played with won the world championships in our grade.


Although I listened to a lot of different types of music, up until this point (age 12 or 13 I think) I only performed classical or folk music. I had sung competitively in choirs, performed with orchestras, competed every weekend with the pipe band and performed special engagements, like playing at the national stadium for the cup final, plus since I was a wee boy I always performed with mum or sisters at family gatherings and special occasions. Trouble was I was listening to punk, ska, heavy rock, blues, 60’s beat music etc. So I took up the guitar. Smoke on the Water was the predictable first song I learned, though I still remember working out Stairway to Heaven, note by note. I didn’t know any chords, but I sat with a tape, rewind-play, rewind-play, over and over until I could play it.


For me, playing guitar was my big break away from the restrictions of dots on a stave. It was my first real foray into improvisation too. Blues, Rock, folk, progressive music, funk, punk, I loved playing it all.


At 16 I loved Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Lou Reed, the Animals, the Yardbirds, the Beatles, the Stones, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jethro Tull, Roy Harper and Fairport Convention… to name just a few of the excellent bands there were about. I was like a sponge. I soaked it all up. I was playing in bands. Playing is somewhat generous. We tortured people. Lol my songwriting was emotional, but naive.


At 18 I was playing all the time. Jamming with people relentlessly. I rode my motorbike, partied and played. Not much else.



I was learning lead guitar, rhythm guitar, finger style, 12-string, bass guitar. Jack of all trades and master of none.





It was damn good fun.


Guitar was by now my main instrument. I had no pretensions to being a guitar god. My thing was songwriting, arrangement and production. I had been into recording since I was 16. My first job after school was working in a recording studio. That was where I well and truly got the bug. Guitar playing was something I did. I didn’t stop to think if I was good or not. I just played.


I didn’t expand my playing according to any grand plan at this point. It was an organic growth on a song by song basis. Other than learn the major, minor and pentatonic scales and playing them in different positions I think everything I did was just digging in to the interesting bits and learning as I went.


The first real style I did any real deep dive on was delta blues and the music of Robert Johnston. I’d played loads of finger style pieces before, but the fluidity of delta blues was wonderful. From there I segued into the part playing of Jimi Hendrix. It started with Purple Haze but very quickly Little Wing grabbed my attention, and that kicked me into my first real Hendrix obsession. Sure I had learned to play Hey Joe, but the the loose fluidity of Hendrix caught my attention like few others. I still love playing Voodoo Chile (slight return) as a warm up, and an arrangement for acoustic if I am in the mood.


My fingerstyle playing developed through diving into Bert Jansch, Davey Graham and players like Adrian Legg’s Technopicker opening my eyes to what could be done. Martin Taylor (jazz fingerstyle) and Martin Simpson (folk and blues) we’re both ongoing influences as was Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson.


These days I love guitarists like Jon Gomm, Chet Atkins, Tommy Emanuel, Eric Johnston, Erik Mongrain and the Spanish duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela.


I should also give a mention to a friend that as a 13 year old used to come to see my first real band rehearse, and I have had the privilege of playing with in several bands, Iain Forbes. His dedication and raw ability is a force to be reckoned with. His own band Audiorayz is now regularly on TV in the U.K., but he also releases fingerstyle solo albums. His skill at points encouraged me to apply myself to my guitar and stop taking it for granted.

I have to admit, I really haven’t kept up with modern electric guitarists. The guitarist I studied most would be Dave Gilmour, but I could hardly call him modern. Pretty timeless maybe. 


I don’t know what my guitar style is. Although I do play other people’s songs, I have always devoted by far the majority of my time, almost all, to playing my own songs. I play other people’s songs to learn or for fun, but few hold my attention for long. A few personal favourites. I’d far prefer to work on something original.

So most of my guitar development has been working on my own music.


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3 hours ago, john said:

I play other people’s songs to learn or for fun, but few hold my attention for long. A few personal favourites. I’d far prefer to work on something original.

Thanks John for the long and detailed history ... it was a treat to read. You certainly rocked the 70s hair!!

I concur with your current view of covers vs originals. I've just posted "Crossroads" in 'covers and remixes'. My parts were done just to help a mate ... it was fun/interesting but gave no deep joy or satisfaction.

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I started playing at age 8, having been told not to touch a guitar we were holding for a friend of my uncle's and of course not listening. I was given a Kay semi-hollow with rusted strings "to see if I'd stay interested." My first guitar was some horrid Les Paul gold top knock off, an El Degas, if you must know, and a 15-watt amp. I took lessons for 5 years and then started teaching myself and going through the inevitable spate of buying better guitars and amps. Joined my first band at 17, was kicked out, started recording demos and gigging for the next 8 years. 


Got married, went to school then graduate school, then started writing and producing electronic music, which I did for two decades. Picked up an unhealthy interest in 8-strings, got divorced, sold the house, moved across the country, and am now writing a hybrid form of metal and electronic music with orchestral elements and lots of sound designy type stuff. So, that's me in a nutshell.



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  • 2 years later...

It's fascinating how your interest in the violin was sparked by watching Yehudi Menuhin on television, leading you to pursue it alongside your other musical pursuits. Your dedication to learning and mastering multiple instruments speaks volumes about your passion for music and your commitment to honing your skills. 

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