Listen (Shhhh) to what the flower people say (Ahhhh) Listen, it’s getting truer every day

The great Spinal Tap with sage advice.

So a while a go a very good guitar player came to me. He had a request to learn something. He was a good jazz based player and was teaching for a well known music tuition group.  His request was to learn to play “rock solos”.  He was proficient at jazz style and clearly loved to do that.   I asked him so who do you listen to ?  He reeled off a list of superb jazz based players and not once was a rock player mentioned.    OK so what rock music do you like? He said well I don’t really like it.

The answer seemed simple listen to some rock.  I gave him a suggested listening list. I find study those that you believe to be excellent, learn from that excellence, try to get into the mindset of those players.

On his return I asked so what did you listen to from the list, the reply being, yeah some of it, but I don’t really like it. They aren’t as good as jazz players.

So the next question is, so why do you want to learn it?  Well I feel I should.

OK well if you aren’t drawn to it and inspired by it, chances are you aren’t going to bother to spend time learning it.

The listening as referred to in the title is a vital component of learning the guitar. Hearing and listening are two different things. I hear things on the radio, I don’t necessarily listen to it.  As you grew up you listened to your parents, family, teachers, and from this you learnt to talk, you developed a vocabulary and what ever accent you have.

If you want to learn a style of music, then that is what you need to listen to, internalising the sounds and then learning the mimicry allows you to absorb the tones and so forth.

An example would be , trying to learn a foreign language without hearing it spoken. Yes you can try to learn it from a book, but does it give you the pronunciation and inflictions? Rarely. They say the best way to learn a language is to live in teh country.

If the language you wish to learn is rock then go live in rock land, if you want to be fluent in country, live in country land, and so on.

This also applies to students starting out.  I have lost count of the number of younger students sent along , who upon being asked what they listen to either list monotone rap or say they don’t really listen to music.  Not really the best starting point, but workable.  Music is sound, it is not guitar hero  and matching coloured buttons to flashing lights on a tv screen.  You need to listen and interact with the sounds.  ( this may explain why I cannot play guitar hero for toffee) The whole premise makes no sense to me at all. My hands move as if synchronised to the sounds.  Notes go up my hands go up. How? These days I don’t know it is autopilot most of the time. The same way that if I asked you how do you breathe or walk, you’d reply I just do. My subconscious takes care of the guitar playing, the same place that is filled with all the music I’ve listened to.   Can you see a pattern here?

When learning sets for bands I make myself a playlist on my ipod and generally listen to nothing but those tunes until I feel I know every note as I listen to it.  This is especially true if it is tunes I had never heard before. This was the case recently when I learnt a set of tunes that I had heard one of before and the rest were completely new to me.  The first stage was listening to the songs until I was recognising all the sections. From then it just flows.  I once read that Steve Vai used to sleep with various tunes on headphones so he could absorb them as he slept.  There is a lot to be said on the power of the mind, but that is my other role in life and for a different blog..

So my answer and suggestion here is to LISTEN, really take time to listen to songs that are in the areas you want to explore and learn.

If you’d like to have a suggested listening guide for various styles please feel free to contact me and I’d be more than happy to make suggestions.


I wish you well.


Listen up 🙂


~ by Geoff Lea Guitar on January 31, 2012.

One Response to “Listen (Shhhh) to what the flower people say (Ahhhh) Listen, it’s getting truer every day”

  1. Great article & so true….

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