17. What’s In Here?


Most students come to me wanting to play–or get better at playing—pop music. For the purposes of this tutorial, “pop” means rock, indie rock, folk, country, alternative, roots rock, punk rock, classic rock, postpunk, lo-fi, alt-country, R&B, singer-songwriter music, metal, rockabilly, and other categories too numerous to mention. In fact, I believe the information contained herein is vital for anyone not interested in playing classical music only. I have met classical musicians who are able to read and play beautiful and complex repertoire but have trouble executing relatively simple pop music syncopation and phrasing. Most of what I describe in this area is available in other publications, but it is often given scant attention or is presented in an ambiguous way. Everything I learned in the first 20 years I played guitar was by imitation and whatever materials I could find that made sense to me. Not much did. Eventually I learned things that could have helped me a lot when I was young, when I thought I was ‘hot’ and thus not teachable!

Most people who take guitar lessons want to play music casually. They don’t have either the time or patience to learn by classical method, but here is the real issue:  For what they want to learn, classical method alone doesn’t work. Its focus on sight reading melody lines is the problem. Reading melody is a wonderful skill, but there are other things just as important–and some more so–for playing modern styles. I suggest taking this material in small bites. I aim to be clear and concise, but these concepts are best learned in conjunction with individual lessons from a qualified teacher. Still, the most important thing is for you to have fun playing the guitar, which is all I ever wanted to do with it, and all I have learned has been for that purpose. So most of all, enjoy yourself!

©2012 Jim Greenfield