Stop Practicing Guitar Like This (AWFUL!)

If you are looking to improve your guitar playing, then your musical recall is incredibly important. When it comes to how well you can recall guitar licks and riffs, knowing as much as there is to know about what you're playing cannot be overlooked...

The fastest and most efficient path to developing solid recall skills for your guitar ideas is knowing exactly what is going on with what you're playing.

The more efficient that you are with understanding all of the; note names, interval distances, tonality, and key signature - the more positive your gains will be from your training.


Here’s the thing... there are so many causes of lazy guitar learning and lazy neck learning that they come together to form real problems that originate from when you’re only concerned about where your fingers go.

A lot of times, it’s very difficult for us to come to grips with the fact that we’re actually making next no progress (from a musical stand-point), with our guitar education when we practice like this.

Three of the most helpful things you can do are;
  1. Learn the notes you’re playing
  2. Learn their relationship to the scale for the key you’re in
  3. Learn the interval ideas that relate to your guitar part

If you do those 3-things, you’ll not only know exactly what you’re playing (from a musical stand-point), but you’ll be able to more easily compose your own original guitar parts - from scratch!

Learning guitar ideas by only focusing on where your fingers go, is a complex problem for students for a few reasons. But, I can tell you regardless of whatever level of understanding you have for music, you need to fix this.

If you don’t, you’ll never fully understand what it is that you’re playing, and how to take your ideas to; other keys, or how to move your guitar parts to other fret-board locations, or how to change the color of your parts from being Major over to Minor - or vice versa.

One of the most important things you need to start with (when learning how to analyze what you’re playing), is to determine what the notes are as you play through any and every guitar part you’re working on... so, let’s say that you’re learning this guitar riff.


The first thing that you’ll want to take notice of is what exactly all the notes are that are involved with creating the guitar part that you’re learning.

In this riff, (above), the first thing to do is fully understand the note layout of the part, and how it sits on the neck.

The riff above encompasses a range from the 3rd to 7th frets of the 5th and 4th strings.

 Plot the Riff:

The notes that we’re dealing with here (from the lowest to the highest), are “C, D, E, F#, G and A.”

Understand the Notes:

This riff covers almost every note that we’d need to create a scale. The only note that’s missing is the note of “B.”

Up till now, we’re actually doing pretty good. We’ve analyzed the span of our riff on the neck, and we’ve come to understand our riffs range of how it sits on the neck.

We’ve also organized all of the note names and we’ve realized that we’ve pretty much got an entire scale here - minus one missing note.

So, next, we need to use some detective work here and come to a conclusion of what scale and what key that we’re actually dealing with. 

As you may already know, scales are essentially keys. If we have a guitar part that we’re studying, and it contains a decent collection of notes, (maybe 5 or 6 notes), and we know (from music theory) that a full scale has 7 notes... 

Then, we can use what notes that we have to start making a solid determination about what key we’re working in.

Let’s take the notes from the riff in our example and do a little detective work.

We have a note layout for our riff that starts from the note of “E”

Then, it moves on to, G, F#, and D

After that, the guitar riff returns back to the E once again, but at that point there’s an ending idea that uses a 2-note chord punch, which pushes through a “C” power chord, up into a “D” power-chord. 

Then, the part just repeats… so things will pick-up once again from that note of “E” and everything runs through all over again, establishing our phrasing for this riff.

So, here’s the detective work guys… (and I’ll warn you, you do need to understand a little bit about key signatures to be able to do this), but here’s the question we need answered…

"if we’ve got six notes, all of them except one are natural, and only one of them has an accidental of an “F#,” then which is the one and only key that all of these notes could possibly belong to?"

If you answered “G Major” then you’d be correct.

At this point, we’ve determined our key. But, we still need to understand the tonality.

Tonality, (if you’re not aware), refers to whether a musical idea that we have is of the Major or the Minor sound quality.

Once we know the key that we’re working in, we can determine the tonality by analyzing the intervals that exist from between the starting - to the ending notes.

In our riff, the starting note is “E,” and we move upwards from there to the note of G.”

This interval in music is called a, “Minor 3rd” and it establishes Minor sounds when used within a musical statement.

 After looking into the starting interval, we need to confirm things by looking at the ending interval. 

In this riff, we end things off by moving away from a 2-note “D Power-Chord” back into the note that we had started on, the “E.”

This move is an excellent confirmation for us, because this last movement that we have here (from the “D” up to the E”), is a whole-step apart, (also known as an interval of a Major 2nd). And, that is one of the strongest ways that Minor keys like to resolve.

So, this tells us without any doubt, that this riff is in the key of “E Minor.”

When it down comes to playing riffs and licks on the guitar, there really isn’t anything that’s more fun than doing just that.

But, if all your time is only spent focused on just learning where to place your fingers, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

You need to expand on the knowledge of the information so that you can start learning the; notes, how they sit on the neck and how they interact to be able to actually establish the specific musical ideas behind what you’re playing.

Anyone can learn how to push down on guitar strings, but it takes a guitarist so much farther as a musician to spend the extra time and learn the basic musical elements that form the structure around what is being played.

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