Pianist learning guitar: any tips?

Guitar Tricks Forum > Guitar Basics > Pianist learning guitar: any tips?

adoser93

Registered User

Joined: 04/03/22

Posts: 2

I'm an advanced pianist and know my music theory, have a good ear, etc., and while I've always wanted to pick up another instrument I'm apparently too stubborn to tolerate being incompetent at music again and have started and stopped guitar too many times to count over the past decades. I think I finally have it in me this time to give it a real try. I'm wondering if people have any advice for books, videos, general strategy on how to learn for someone who's already coming in with very solid musical knowledge and really is just looking to pick up non-obvious technical skills. I have a hard time working with learning material that's geared toward people who don't know what a chord is yet.

I'm pretty sure I can learn all the basic chords on my own and really hammer home getting used to smoothly changing on these basics. From there I'd love some advice on how to advance my technical skills beyond knowing like 10 chords.

Thanks!

#1

I'm an advanced pianist and know my music theory, have a good ear, etc., and while I've always wanted to pick up another instrument I'm apparently too stubborn to tolerate being incompetent at music again and have started and stopped guitar too many times to count over the past decades. I think I finally have it in me this time to give it a real try. I'm wondering if people have any advice for books, videos, general strategy on how to learn for someone who's already coming in with very solid musical knowledge and really is just looking to pick up non-obvious technical skills. I have a hard time working with learning material that's geared toward people who don't know what a chord is yet.

I'm pretty sure I can learn all the basic chords on my own and really hammer home getting used to smoothly changing on these basics. From there I'd love some advice on how to advance my technical skills beyond knowing like 10 chords.

Thanks!

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Hmmm, something tells me you're going to be a tough sell. Obviously, a guitar fretboad isn't laid out like piano, all neat and tidy and in one long string with color coded imperfect notes. And although the theory is the same, it applies much differently to the fretboard. Your contempt for anything having to do with fundamentals is going to get you burned and you'll end up quitting again, because that's how you handle frustration (you said so yourself). And you will get frustrated no matter what path you choose. That's just the nature of playing guitar. Heck, you already sound frustrated and you haven't even started yet. That doesn't bode well for you here.

You may know 10 chords but if you're self taught how do you know you're using proper technique? How do you know whether your playing isn't already riddled with bad habits? Do you know how to voice those chords differently? Do know the CAGED system of chord creation? Does your repertoire of chords include barre chords? Have you memorized the fretboard? Do you know fingerstyle or alternative strumming techniques? How about palm and string muting?

If simply learning more chords is your goal, why not just spend $20 for a chord chart poster showing fingering diagrams for about 80 chords, or for even more chords, a Bound chord directory (360 chords)?

Here's my "tip" for you. Start at the beginning like everyone else: Guitar Fundamentals 1 & 2. You are of course free to skip over any material that you find to be beneath your lofty standards.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#2

Hmmm, something tells me you're going to be a tough sell. Obviously, a guitar fretboad isn't laid out like piano, all neat and tidy and in one long string with color coded imperfect notes. And although the theory is the same, it applies much differently to the fretboard. Your contempt for anything having to do with fundamentals is going to get you burned and you'll end up quitting again, because that's how you handle frustration (you said so yourself). And you will get frustrated no matter what path you choose. That's just the nature of playing guitar. Heck, you already sound frustrated and you haven't even started yet. That doesn't bode well for you here.

You may know 10 chords but if you're self taught how do you know you're using proper technique? How do you know whether your playing isn't already riddled with bad habits? Do you know how to voice those chords differently? Do know the CAGED system of chord creation? Does your repertoire of chords include barre chords? Have you memorized the fretboard? Do you know fingerstyle or alternative strumming techniques? How about palm and string muting?

If simply learning more chords is your goal, why not just spend $20 for a chord chart poster showing fingering diagrams for about 80 chords, or for even more chords, a Bound chord directory (360 chords)?

Here's my "tip" for you. Start at the beginning like everyone else: Guitar Fundamentals 1 & 2. You are of course free to skip over any material that you find to be beneath your lofty standards.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

snojones

Full Access

Joined: 04/17/13

Posts: 624

I have to agree with nicolai. It would be useful to work your way though the beginner courses. You don't have to practice all the "Mary had a Little Whatever" songs, just follow along with the naritive and see if what they teach is new or useful (like... how to hold your guitar or how to arpegeate varrious chords up and down the neck, or how to play harmonic melodies). Piano and Guitar are not the same insturment, even if they both have strings. How theory applies to guitar is critical to understanding the instrument. So you are at a great advantage to most of the people here. Just scan those beginner lessons for what is new to you and remember that.

I came to GT after decades of playing guitar, song writting, and preforming. I felt much like you describe your reaction to beginner lessons. The important thing for me was to watch all the beginner stuff and just hold on to what was new to me. This made it possibe for me understand the more advanced lessons. Hell people spend years just learning how to hold on to their pick or play chord progressions up to tempo. Simple questions like which way is up, when you are describing movement on the guitar neck, can in fact become confusing if you don't have terminology to understand.

I get that you are solid in theory, and you may find the beginner stuff boring. But rather than focusing on that, try realizing how much less you have to learn compared to someone who is really just starting. Most of those proto guitarists, will likely never have your depth of understanding. Even if they work on it for years. So you are really facing this task with a huge head start.

I have been learning here at GT for several years. I just look for topics that interest me and work on those. I most likely do not have the theory training that you describe having. But I am steadily developing that understanding from the lessons I do study. There is learing in great depth here if you look for it (not to mention the deep knowledge of Steven the guitar tech extrodinare). I do get the boredom delema that you describe and I have survived a simiar experience. For me racing through the beginner stuff didn't take that long and it gave me comprehension to understand the lessons that followed.

Captcha is a total pain in the........

#3

I have to agree with nicolai. It would be useful to work your way though the beginner courses. You don't have to practice all the "Mary had a Little Whatever" songs, just follow along with the naritive and see if what they teach is new or useful (like... how to hold your guitar or how to arpegeate varrious chords up and down the neck, or how to play harmonic melodies). Piano and Guitar are not the same insturment, even if they both have strings. How theory applies to guitar is critical to understanding the instrument. So you are at a great advantage to most of the people here. Just scan those beginner lessons for what is new to you and remember that.

I came to GT after decades of playing guitar, song writting, and preforming. I felt much like you describe your reaction to beginner lessons. The important thing for me was to watch all the beginner stuff and just hold on to what was new to me. This made it possibe for me understand the more advanced lessons. Hell people spend years just learning how to hold on to their pick or play chord progressions up to tempo. Simple questions like which way is up, when you are describing movement on the guitar neck, can in fact become confusing if you don't have terminology to understand.

I get that you are solid in theory, and you may find the beginner stuff boring. But rather than focusing on that, try realizing how much less you have to learn compared to someone who is really just starting. Most of those proto guitarists, will likely never have your depth of understanding. Even if they work on it for years. So you are really facing this task with a huge head start.

I have been learning here at GT for several years. I just look for topics that interest me and work on those. I most likely do not have the theory training that you describe having. But I am steadily developing that understanding from the lessons I do study. There is learing in great depth here if you look for it (not to mention the deep knowledge of Steven the guitar tech extrodinare). I do get the boredom delema that you describe and I have survived a simiar experience. For me racing through the beginner stuff didn't take that long and it gave me comprehension to understand the lessons that followed.

Captcha is a total pain in the........

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Damn snojones, your message make me want to start over with Guitar Fundamentals :)

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#4

Damn snojones, your message make me want to start over with Guitar Fundamentals :)

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

adoser93

Registered User

Joined: 04/03/22

Posts: 2

Not sure my post warranted the level of jerkish response from Nicolai here but I guess that's how these things go. Was really just trying to see if there were any materials that were for people who know other instruments (you can find many guides to coding languages that are designed for people who know others for example). If the answer is no that doesn't exist or you're not familiar with any, that's a fine answer. If my post was taken to mean I think I'm better than everyone, I think that's just a misread. I plan on doing my best to pick up the fundamentals and don't mean to imply I'm skipping them entirely. I also don't really care that much if my "technique" is not up to the par of people on this forum, I guess, I really don't plan on becoming that advanced at it, just hoping to get a little further than I've gotten. In general, I'd suggest going outside every now and then and see if that helps lowering your anger levels when you're on an online message board.

#5

Not sure my post warranted the level of jerkish response from Nicolai here but I guess that's how these things go. Was really just trying to see if there were any materials that were for people who know other instruments (you can find many guides to coding languages that are designed for people who know others for example). If the answer is no that doesn't exist or you're not familiar with any, that's a fine answer. If my post was taken to mean I think I'm better than everyone, I think that's just a misread. I plan on doing my best to pick up the fundamentals and don't mean to imply I'm skipping them entirely. I also don't really care that much if my "technique" is not up to the par of people on this forum, I guess, I really don't plan on becoming that advanced at it, just hoping to get a little further than I've gotten. In general, I'd suggest going outside every now and then and see if that helps lowering your anger levels when you're on an online message board.

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Geez dude, chill. I didn't mean to upset you and I apologize that my response was a tad heavy-handed. My bad.

Look, I've been quitting guitar, and hanging out with other quitting guitarists, probably longer than you've been alive so I know how people talk just before they crack and quit.... again. But I assure you, my message not withstanding, that this place is different. It's even inspirational. It was here that I finally got "over the hump". Now, short of getting hit by a bus, I am absolutely certain that I'm never going to quit again.

So, just try and forget about me and imagine that your first contact was snojones' insightful, informative, empathetic message to you. That's much more representative of what this place is all about. You're going to be taught by full fledged professional guitarists, with whom you can communicate directly via this forum. How awesome is that!

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#6

Geez dude, chill. I didn't mean to upset you and I apologize that my response was a tad heavy-handed. My bad.

Look, I've been quitting guitar, and hanging out with other quitting guitarists, probably longer than you've been alive so I know how people talk just before they crack and quit.... again. But I assure you, my message not withstanding, that this place is different. It's even inspirational. It was here that I finally got "over the hump". Now, short of getting hit by a bus, I am absolutely certain that I'm never going to quit again.

So, just try and forget about me and imagine that your first contact was snojones' insightful, informative, empathetic message to you. That's much more representative of what this place is all about. You're going to be taught by full fledged professional guitarists, with whom you can communicate directly via this forum. How awesome is that!

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7748

Originally Posted by: adoser93

I'm pretty sure I can learn all the basic chords on my own and really hammer home getting used to smoothly changing on these basics. From there I'd love some advice on how to advance my technical skills beyond knowing like 10 chords.

This is going to depend on your specific musical goals. While the underlying music theory (intervals, scales, chords, functional harmony, etc.) is the same for any given style, the specific technical skills can vary greatly from genre to genre.

For example, the physical technique required to strum open chords for pop-rock songs on an acoustic are different from the fingerpicking skills required to play Travis picking or classical style. And those are extremely different from the skills required to play SRV style blues licks, for example. Or 70s classic rock tunes. Or jazz chord melody like Joe Pass or Tommy Emanuel.

I can point you in the right direction regarding GT content. But it's going to be much more precise advice if you provide some specific goals such as types of techniques, styles of music or even specific artists you desire to emulate.

Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#7

Originally Posted by: adoser93

I'm pretty sure I can learn all the basic chords on my own and really hammer home getting used to smoothly changing on these basics. From there I'd love some advice on how to advance my technical skills beyond knowing like 10 chords.

This is going to depend on your specific musical goals. While the underlying music theory (intervals, scales, chords, functional harmony, etc.) is the same for any given style, the specific technical skills can vary greatly from genre to genre.

For example, the physical technique required to strum open chords for pop-rock songs on an acoustic are different from the fingerpicking skills required to play Travis picking or classical style. And those are extremely different from the skills required to play SRV style blues licks, for example. Or 70s classic rock tunes. Or jazz chord melody like Joe Pass or Tommy Emanuel.

I can point you in the right direction regarding GT content. But it's going to be much more precise advice if you provide some specific goals such as types of techniques, styles of music or even specific artists you desire to emulate.

Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

Rumble Walrus

Full Access

Joined: 12/30/20

Posts: 131

Me too adoser93.

Advice first - story second.

I'd say, for now, step away from the theory part of it and step over to the feel/improv side of something like the Blues course. (Mike actually very wisely pointed me that way quite recently). Put on a jam track, park yourself in a position on the neck, and work it. For a bit, go more by position, feel, and sound rather than so much on discipline and strict technique. Loosen your collar, let your hair down a bit, and work less hard.

I know it's difficult - I know! - after years of drills, scales, transposition, hands/wrists here, shoulders just right, posture before the keyboard, to actually slouch a bit and relax. Plop yourself into a key and a groove. You'll find all that hard work at the keyboard will pay off here. You'll hear things: intervals, harmonies, and 2 different directions to transpose - up and down the fretboard, and across the strings.

For me it was a number of years of theory and composition on the piano focusing mainly on performance, of course, of the classics. I picked up guitar because a piano was too big to tote around. I've talked a lot here. I still suck at jamming and my improv skills haven't yet seemed to crossover from keys to strings but I'm hearing things. You can't bend a note on a piano and no mater how smooth your legato is, it'll never match up with a slide on the neck.

Anyway, it is years later and I'm still trying to play the guitar music I hear in my head so, here I am at GT.

#8

Me too adoser93.

Advice first - story second.

I'd say, for now, step away from the theory part of it and step over to the feel/improv side of something like the Blues course. (Mike actually very wisely pointed me that way quite recently). Put on a jam track, park yourself in a position on the neck, and work it. For a bit, go more by position, feel, and sound rather than so much on discipline and strict technique. Loosen your collar, let your hair down a bit, and work less hard.

I know it's difficult - I know! - after years of drills, scales, transposition, hands/wrists here, shoulders just right, posture before the keyboard, to actually slouch a bit and relax. Plop yourself into a key and a groove. You'll find all that hard work at the keyboard will pay off here. You'll hear things: intervals, harmonies, and 2 different directions to transpose - up and down the fretboard, and across the strings.

For me it was a number of years of theory and composition on the piano focusing mainly on performance, of course, of the classics. I picked up guitar because a piano was too big to tote around. I've talked a lot here. I still suck at jamming and my improv skills haven't yet seemed to crossover from keys to strings but I'm hearing things. You can't bend a note on a piano and no mater how smooth your legato is, it'll never match up with a slide on the neck.

Anyway, it is years later and I'm still trying to play the guitar music I hear in my head so, here I am at GT.

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Originally Posted by: Rumble_Walrus

Put on a jam track, park yourself in a position on the neck, and work it. For a bit, go more by position, feel, and sound rather than so much on discipline and strict technique. Loosen your collar, let your hair down a bit, and work less hard.

That's a great idea, Walrus! I think I'll give that a go. My vision is tanking fast on account of a medical problem so I can't read music anymore. In fact, I can hardly see what I'm typing right now so this may be my last post for a good long while. Your suggestion is an awesome going away present. Thanks!

I'm pretty sure the OP quit again. Sorry to all for scaring him/her away. Anybody with that much experience and expertise could have undoubtedly been a valuable contributor to this forum. Apparently there is such a thing as karma :(

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#9

Originally Posted by: Rumble_Walrus

Put on a jam track, park yourself in a position on the neck, and work it. For a bit, go more by position, feel, and sound rather than so much on discipline and strict technique. Loosen your collar, let your hair down a bit, and work less hard.

That's a great idea, Walrus! I think I'll give that a go. My vision is tanking fast on account of a medical problem so I can't read music anymore. In fact, I can hardly see what I'm typing right now so this may be my last post for a good long while. Your suggestion is an awesome going away present. Thanks!

I'm pretty sure the OP quit again. Sorry to all for scaring him/her away. Anybody with that much experience and expertise could have undoubtedly been a valuable contributor to this forum. Apparently there is such a thing as karma :(

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

JeffS65

Full Access

Joined: 10/07/08

Posts: 1585

Originally Posted by: adoser93

I'm an advanced pianist and know my music theory, have a good ear, etc., and while I've always wanted to pick up another instrument I'm apparently too stubborn to tolerate being incompetent at music again and have started and stopped guitar too many times to count over the past decades. I think I finally have it in me this time to give it a real try. I'm wondering if people have any advice for books, videos, general strategy on how to learn for someone who's already coming in with very solid musical knowledge and really is just looking to pick up non-obvious technical skills. I have a hard time working with learning material that's geared toward people who don't know what a chord is yet.

I'm pretty sure I can learn all the basic chords on my own and really hammer home getting used to smoothly changing on these basics. From there I'd love some advice on how to advance my technical skills beyond knowing like 10 chords.

Thanks!

If you're looking to give guitar a go, there are a couple things I think are useful. It's funny though, I've played guitar for decades and have (somewhat) started playing a little piano. The linear nature of the piano is foreign to me. Even though it totally makes sense, you get so used to the way you 'know' that when it's on a different instrument, it creates mental friction. I'd also picked up a little mandolin but there, the stringed notes are (heavy to light): G, D, A and E. So if I can think 'upside down', I can muddle my way through mandolin. Good thing I can think upside down!

Anyway, a few thoughts:

(1) Since you've got a lot of theory in your basket, you understand intervals and connections between chords and notes etc. So, you've definately got a jumpstart on what most guitarists struggle with, that theory junk. I was one of them for a long time.

The tip is; as part of practicing, just find those intervals. Not as a means of playing but a mental, mapping excercise. On a keyboard, you already know the steps from a 5th, or 7th or an octave and so on, if you're on a guitar, where is that 5th/7th/Octave etc.

(2) Which leads me to number two; jump ahead and learn the scales/modes.

Even if you're not going to use them like a rockstar right away, if I were to surmise one thing from your post above, that your challenge is that; while you know you need to learn physically to play the guitar, starting with the so-called 'cowboy chords' (Gmaj, CMaj, DMaj etc) and going on from there, it's a bit like training for a the 100 yards dash for years (piano) and then they tell you that you're gonna pilot a bobsled (guitar). Yes you can run but how do you drive the thing!!

The point is that you have very useful knowledge that will translate but there is a physcial skill as well as application of known theory transposed to the guitar that creates some friction. Undertandable. It's why I suggest jumping ahead a bit just to see how the fretboard is laid out with the scales/modes you already know. It'll help you map over what you know. If you understand the notes and differences between an A Major versus an A minor chord on piano, what does that look like on guitar? (which is easy, it's the adding or removing of one finger). Stuff like that.

(3) Physical patience; the above stuff is to keep the musician in you engaged but the immutable fact is that you will still need to build the physical ability and familiarity with guitar which can only come from practice. Something you also know but it can't hurt as a reminder.

(4) Learn some chords and play some songs. Much of the above is more about the knowledge of the instrument. If you got some chords under your belt, just play some stuff. Learning songs is a very important part of building skill as a guitar. I mean, for the first number of years, songs was it for me. I started some theory understanding after playing for a few years (and I barely bothered at that!). Songs build up skill and also remove the drudgery of just learning the what and how.

---

So, just my thoughts but ultimately, whatever it takes to have fun, that is your priority. It's the point of playing.

#10

Originally Posted by: adoser93

I'm an advanced pianist and know my music theory, have a good ear, etc., and while I've always wanted to pick up another instrument I'm apparently too stubborn to tolerate being incompetent at music again and have started and stopped guitar too many times to count over the past decades. I think I finally have it in me this time to give it a real try. I'm wondering if people have any advice for books, videos, general strategy on how to learn for someone who's already coming in with very solid musical knowledge and really is just looking to pick up non-obvious technical skills. I have a hard time working with learning material that's geared toward people who don't know what a chord is yet.

I'm pretty sure I can learn all the basic chords on my own and really hammer home getting used to smoothly changing on these basics. From there I'd love some advice on how to advance my technical skills beyond knowing like 10 chords.

Thanks!

If you're looking to give guitar a go, there are a couple things I think are useful. It's funny though, I've played guitar for decades and have (somewhat) started playing a little piano. The linear nature of the piano is foreign to me. Even though it totally makes sense, you get so used to the way you 'know' that when it's on a different instrument, it creates mental friction. I'd also picked up a little mandolin but there, the stringed notes are (heavy to light): G, D, A and E. So if I can think 'upside down', I can muddle my way through mandolin. Good thing I can think upside down!

Anyway, a few thoughts:

(1) Since you've got a lot of theory in your basket, you understand intervals and connections between chords and notes etc. So, you've definately got a jumpstart on what most guitarists struggle with, that theory junk. I was one of them for a long time.

The tip is; as part of practicing, just find those intervals. Not as a means of playing but a mental, mapping excercise. On a keyboard, you already know the steps from a 5th, or 7th or an octave and so on, if you're on a guitar, where is that 5th/7th/Octave etc.

(2) Which leads me to number two; jump ahead and learn the scales/modes.

Even if you're not going to use them like a rockstar right away, if I were to surmise one thing from your post above, that your challenge is that; while you know you need to learn physically to play the guitar, starting with the so-called 'cowboy chords' (Gmaj, CMaj, DMaj etc) and going on from there, it's a bit like training for a the 100 yards dash for years (piano) and then they tell you that you're gonna pilot a bobsled (guitar). Yes you can run but how do you drive the thing!!

The point is that you have very useful knowledge that will translate but there is a physcial skill as well as application of known theory transposed to the guitar that creates some friction. Undertandable. It's why I suggest jumping ahead a bit just to see how the fretboard is laid out with the scales/modes you already know. It'll help you map over what you know. If you understand the notes and differences between an A Major versus an A minor chord on piano, what does that look like on guitar? (which is easy, it's the adding or removing of one finger). Stuff like that.

(3) Physical patience; the above stuff is to keep the musician in you engaged but the immutable fact is that you will still need to build the physical ability and familiarity with guitar which can only come from practice. Something you also know but it can't hurt as a reminder.

(4) Learn some chords and play some songs. Much of the above is more about the knowledge of the instrument. If you got some chords under your belt, just play some stuff. Learning songs is a very important part of building skill as a guitar. I mean, for the first number of years, songs was it for me. I started some theory understanding after playing for a few years (and I barely bothered at that!). Songs build up skill and also remove the drudgery of just learning the what and how.

---

So, just my thoughts but ultimately, whatever it takes to have fun, that is your priority. It's the point of playing.