Top tips for playing guitar with James Ryan

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Top tips for playing guitar with James Ryan


Practise scales and improvisation in all keys more often. Stop playing everything in A minor (or E minor). This is a tricky one. A huge amount of rock, blues, metal, pop and grunge is in the keys of E and A. This is where jazz and fusion players have the upper hand and why they are much more comfortable and versatile in a wide range of keys.

Turn scale shapes into musical ideas and phrases. The longer you spend simply running through scales and exercises, the more likely it is that you will just repeat them when you try to improvise. I’ve had a few students over the years who knew their scales and modes better than me, but getting them to use those shapes as a vehicle for soloing was very challenging.

The pinky finger on your fretting hand is very insecure about its size. It will need to work a lot harder than the other fingers, so the sooner you start exercising it, the better. One of the great things about studying classical guitar is you have to learn to use all of your fingers or you get smacked with a ruler.

Theory is not a dirty word. At least learn the basics as they relate to whatever you’re playing and learning. One of my favourite things as a guitar teacher is seeing the lights switch on when a student starts understanding how and why things fit together and sound good. It also teaches you the language to communicate about music more effectively.