Greetings, current and future rock stars!
In our last installment, we covered JB’s criteria – the Beginner Fundamentals – for passing from guitar newbie to advanced beginner status.
Guitar playing is based on physical skills AND musicianship, so we included in our criteria some basic theory (understanding simple rhythms, the musical alphabet, common symbols) to go along with foundation technique (good posture, basic chords, making a good sound).
I would also suggest that these fundamentals include miscellaneous-type stuff, such as knowing the parts of the guitar, effective use of a tuner, and even simple use of a capo. For the full list, check out Status Update: Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced?
In order to consider yourself a late beginner, you should demonstrate clear mastery of this material. Someone of late beginner status should also be able to play in a way that “sounds like music” to the average person.
In today’s installment, Part Deux, we’ll list the skills and musicianship that will take you to the Wacky World of Intermediate!
At the risk of sounding completely guitar-biased, I often tell my students that, although it’s relatively easy to make decent sounds on the guitar, mastering the guitar – achieving elite status – is likely more difficult than mastering any other instrument.
Every instrument has its difficulties, of course, and most world-class musicians will tell you that their instrument takes a lifetime to master. All true. But the guitar can take multiple lifetimes to master!
Along with drums, the guitar is probably the most common instrument in the world, and therefore is integral to the sound of…wait for it…pop, folk, classical, country, rock, blues, jazz, and all the SUB-GENRES of these styles!
Think bluegrass, rockabilly, heavy metal, modern rock, classic rock, modern jazz, bebop, Delta blues, punk, new wave, flamenco, etc. We could go on for days just listing the styles that a guitarist could potentially learn. Although there is some common ground between these various styles, they all have their own requirements in terms of musical vocabulary and technique.
What about technique? While the piano has one basic technique, the technical requirements for guitar are wide-ranging and sometimes completely different from style to style. You have your basic guitar technique, but then there is fingerstyle (a whole skill unto itself), slide, tapping, harmonics, various picking techniques, etc.
There is also vastly different chord vocabulary and note articulation depending on the genre; think jazz guitar versus heavy metal. Certain types of guitar music, like slide, metal, and fingerstyle, rely on altered or open tunings.
And the vocabulary requirements get even more intense when we consider that some major genres – rock, blues, jazz, bluegrass, country – depend heavily on the guitarist’s ability to improvise!
So we’d best get crackin’! Our to-do list is hella long… 🙂
You need to OWN the “phase 1” fundamentals and have decent command of the following material – “phase 2” fundamentals – in order to graduate from late beginner to intermediate status:
Demonstrate the ability to correctly form and efficiently change between the common open position chords: B7, Cadd9, Fmaj7, Dm, G7, C7
Understand and execute common open position slash chords: G/B, D/F#, C/E
Properly change your guitar strings
Understand next level rhythms – triplets and 16th notes – as well as rhythmic ties and syncopation
Perform common strum patterns that combine quarter notes, eighth notes and 16th notes
Understand and execute “partial” barre chords – F and F#m – and “pre-barre” chords – Bm, B and Bb
Cleanly execute the basic syncopated strum
Demonstrate competency with alternate picking
Demonstrate competency with palm muting and left hand muting
Demonstrate competency with basic slurs, such as slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs and bends
Understand and execute a basic minor pentatonic scale (usually referred to as “box pattern 1”)
Understand and explain half steps versus whole steps
Build a major scale using the correct formula of steps
Understand how to harmonize the major scale with basic triads
Understand how to find any note on the fretboard via the octave system
Understand and instantly recognize notes on strings 6 and 5 (for use with moveable shapes like power chords and barre chords)
Execute root-6 and root-5 power chords
Execute root-6 and root-5 barre chords of the major, minor and dominant 7 variety
Demonstrate proper fingerstyle technique
Execute simple forward and backward rolls (fingerstyle)
Execute basic Travis picking patterns – outside/inside and inside/outside (fingerstyle)
Tune the guitar by ear, using the relative pitch technique (matching strings)
Understand the 12-bar blues form
Understand and execute natural harmonics
Use the capo in a strategic way (find favorable chord voicings for awkward guitar keys)
Welcome to the Wacky World of Intermediate
If you can handle this material, or at least the vast majority of it, then I would consider you to be an intermediate level player. In my own guitar studio, the intermediate players have most of this covered and remember the rest if nudged in the appropriate direction. As we said before, it’s a lot!
And truth be told, most players never get to this point. It takes a serious commitment. If you’re here, you should be proud of yourself, because it’s quite an accomplishment!
In the future, I’ll post some examples of material that the intermediate player should be focusing on. That list will be heavy on chord vocabulary, picking technique, concepts for improvisation, and creating a larger base of knowledge.
QUESTION: Have you graduated to Intermediate status? Disagree with anything on the list? Leave me a comment below!