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Greg Howe interview – Why more theory does not mean better guitar playing

by Johnny

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Hey It’s Johnny,

Too many guitar players want to learn more theory or more techniques. The thousands of techniques and ridiculously large amounts of theory that are available today about guitar and music. No good.

The problem is… it never ends.

There’s always going to be more theory and technique to learn. And the sad part is, learning more theory will not automatically make you a better guitar player. Your stuff might still completely suck.

Luckily for me, one of the most influential guitarists in the world agrees (otherwise my credibility would be shot to hell). Check out what Greg Howe had to say over at live4guitar.com recently:

Question: You’ve said many times that you’ve never been properly trained yourself. Do you believe that sometimes musical training can restrict creativity?

Greg: I honestly do! And I’ll be honest with you, even though this is probably the most non-scholastic statement you’ll hear…

I actually have a lot of students that have already gone to the MI or Berklee and they got all this information in their heads. They have so much information sometimes that they don’t know what to do with it or how to make anything happen. I’ll always say to them: Listen to your favourite guitar players – Pat Metheny, Yngwie Malmsteen or B.B. King, whoever they are – and you’ll notice that they don’t have a lot of stuff that they do. They have a few things that they do but they’ve mastered.

Any guitar player is going to always sound much much better if he masters seven or eight concepts, than he will if he has fifty things sort of half-there. And that’s because the world of music is endless, I mean any door you open there’s six doors behind it. You can never learn everything, but at some point you have to stop and ask yourself: “What can I grab from this array of endless stuff that’s going to suit to deliver my vision of music?” A lot of times when I have people stuck I will say this to them, and they’ll immediately go “yeah… that seems true”.

You don’t have to have an inversion for every arpeggio or play every scale that is known, you just have to figure out what you want to do with your music, then find what’s out there for you to learn in order for you to best deliver it. So yes, I do think that sometimes players can be over schooled.

Bingo! Greg pretty much nails it on the head.

That last part pretty much sums up what you should be doing as a guitarist. Look at what you want to do with your music, and figure out the stuff you actually need to learn to do it.

Doing this will magically cut down the INFINITE things out there to learn to just a few that matter. You’ll feel less stressed out about having to master 1000 different things and instead get really good at those few things that will separate you from the thousands of crappy guitarists out there who are more confused than ever (thanks internet!).

I strongly recommend you read the entire interview. Greg talks about how to separate yourself from the pack as a guitarist, and again nails it.

Lemme know what your thoughts below in the comments :-)

~Johnny

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Johnny April 24, 2011 at 11:42 am

So what did you think? Let’s here your thoughts below.

~Johnny

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Dilip April 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Hi Johnny.I’m from India & just started relearning the guitar.Thanks a ton for your most insightful & spot on observations & suggestions on how best to internalise the guitar.After I read your first newsletter I taught myself to play
“Love Me Tender” It was,as you said,great fun & I’m feelin’good.
You’re also dead right in saying that you don’t need to know too much theory.
I’m a heart surgeon & I can tell you that you don’t need a hell of a lot of theory to be a fine surgeon.Superb technique? Yeah & that is something you acquire by repitition,visualisation & laser-like focus.To that you can add spotting flaws in your approach & technique & working hard to correct them – early.Thanks again!

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Johnny April 25, 2011 at 1:28 am

Hey Dilip! Good to hear that you are making progress on the guitar. Great points about spotting flaws. That is definitely a HUGE part of what’s required during practice (especially the first few days learning something new). Glad to have you here man.

Oh and it’s cool for me to get to talk to heart surgeons. Wow :-)

~Johnny

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