Do you want to play with other people on the guitar but don’t know where to start? Do you watch other people jamming together and wonder how they do it? Do you want to dive in but worry you lack the skills to do it?
Below is a handy list of 7 skills that will make playing with other people easier and more fun. You do not need all of them to get started. I recommend finding some nice, encouraging, supportive people who will be patient to play with. If you have spent 20 years playing in your bedroom.
You may sound great playing on your own but lack the skills to play with other people. The list below may help you to know what you need to work on to find the whole experience less scary.
Just to begin with, as a beginner or a seasoned pro. Being able to count and keep time is one of the most important skills. When you make a mistake, you need to know when to come back in. You don’t want to slow down or add in extra beats if you are struggling with your chord changes.
Either count under your breath or by tapping your feet, to begin with. Get good at counting and playing at the same time.
The first place to start with you play with other people is by playing the rhythm part. Getting good at playing chords and doing chord changes well will really help your confidence.
Try to get onto barre chords as soon as you can. Learn the major and minor variations on 5th and 6th string. And learn the notes on the fretboard for the 5th and 6th string as well. Once you can play any major and minor barre chords and transition well between them. You can comfortably play 90% of the popular music in some variation or another. This will really help boost your confidence for playing with other people.
If you can watch what other people are doing with their hands and fingers on the guitar and which frets they are playing. You can quickly work out what is happening. Whether that’s to work out the key of a song or recognise what chords they can playing so you can just copy. This is really useful when you can’t hear what’s happening or no one has told you what’s happening, but you want to join in. Just watch your hands and copy it, then figure out what’s happening and play your own variation of the chords or strumming patterns on top to make it interesting.
Improving your ear training is a long-term game. You won’t get it from day one of learning the guitar. It’s definitely something you can continuously work on to improve your playing. Things to focus on for ear training includes being able to identify melodies and translating them onto the guitar. Recognising chord progressions. Listening to the song so that you can work out what key a song is to play along. There are so many other benefits to ear training, but those are some of the more useful things you can do with basic ear training to help you play with other people.
Music theory will help you for communicating with other guitarists in several ways. You can understand what they mean when they talk about what “key” a song is in. You can learn what chords are in keys so that you can quickly play along on the guitar to someone else playing the lead. Knowing music theory along with ear training will also help you work out what keys songs are you so that you can either play along the rhythm part. Or be able to improvise along as well.
Improvisation just means making things up on the spot. This can be for a variation on chords, strumming patterns, or making the melody more interesting, or doing your own solo and lead parts altogether.
The more you can do this; the more interesting the covers that you play of famous songs can be.
As a beginner, you can start by making up your own strumming patterns or picking patterns. Then try out some variation on chords. Work on your lead playing so that one day you can transition between the chord playing to lead playing as well.
This will also help impress your friends too, and give them the feeling that you understand guitar as an instrument. Make sure the improvisation techniques are integrated with your ear training, so you know when you sound good or not.
Most importantly, don’t worry about making mistakes! Go out there and make a tonne of them. You will never improve if you don’t. If they are real friends, then they will be nice about it and help you along.
The more you play with other people, the less scary it will be. So, get as much practice playing in front or with other people in a group as possible to help your confidence!
Darryl Powis is a guitar tutor and instructor from London, England. Offering electric and acoustic beginner guitar lessons to students in the local area of East London.