A lot of things are written about influential guitar players such as technical prowess and it is mentioned how they are self-taught/never had a lesson. But reading through all this stuff I couldn't find the actual methods these guitarists used to become who they are, which is their learning curve. In his autobiography, Clapton doesn't mention a single word about pentatonic scales, let alone major or minor, or learning new chords but says that he 'played along with the radio'. Same goes fro Keith Richards. Is it really possible to literally figure out chord shapes/soloing by listening to the music you like or appreciate?

closed as too broad by Carl Witthoft, ex nihilo, Richard, Dom Jan 21 at 21:31

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  • Are you talking about scales or chord shapes? Are you saying that Clapton never met another guitarist or bass player, never heard the words "minor" and "major", and had to figure even the E-A-D-G-B-E tuning by himself? Only poor Eric by himself locked in a closet with a guitar and a radio? ;) What comes to learning to solo without a teacher's guidance, I'd ask, is it possible NOT to eventually learn to play melodies by ear, if you want to do it and have nothing else to do for years. – piiperi Jan 21 at 17:47
  • My father taught me chords but I listened to a record of Journey over and over to learn the solos. I also learned to play some songs and riffs on the banjo listening to an 8-track tape. You couldn't rewind those so it was a bit more tedious. I think anyone who takes the time to learn an instrument can learn by ear to play a song. If I don't know the chords, I find the fundamental and then figure out the particular flavor of the chord, major, minor, 7th, etc. I'm just a regular guy - for those who are good and great this sort of thing would be second nature. – Tracy Cramer Jan 21 at 18:58
  • @CarlWitthoft Well, about as many people are familiar with that rule as are familiar with non-colloquial English, so best of luck... – Ed Plunkett Jan 21 at 19:13
  • Why do you think these great guitarists were self taught by listening to songs? Example, Jimmy Page had formal lessons, was a great sight reader and studio musician and once took lessons from John McLaughlin. Check your facts. – ggcg Jan 21 at 23:39
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    @piiperi - I've played with many guitarists who haven't had lessons - made clear by the fact they couldn't name chords or notes, obviously no formal training, and in some cases I believe that's what made them such nice players to play alongside. And it doesn't always take years. Some people's ears (mine inc.) mean it's much easier to play by them than off the dots. In fact, I seem to to be correcting dots/chords too often, alerted by my ears! – Tim Jan 22 at 11:16

In the 60s, that's all there was! No internet, not many teachers, loads of enthusiasm. It's exactly what I, and thousands of other budding guitarists did. Listened to the radio, occasionally t.v., played records to death - sometimes slowing the 33rpms down to 16... Very few guitarists at that time could read, and even if they could, the music wasn't really there to help much. So, ears won the day. And sheer bloody determination.

Because guitars work effectively on shape patterns. eventually we'd hear a riff, a line of tune, and identify which pattern was best fit. It was a very long process to start with - hit and miss as each note was searched for. Listening very, very carefully to what particular guitarists did - t.v. was sometimes helpful, when the cameraman was a guitar enthusiast! Luckily, the basic pent. scale notes made a nice pattern across the strings, due to standard tuning.

So, yes, entirely possible, if painstakingly slow. Everyone nicked bits of technique from each other, and spent very long times practising. No 'ready-made' tabs, although sheet music was available - often in a different key from the track, and missing the solo. I'd sit for hours with the radio on, trying to play along with every track. Trouble was then, not every band would tune to A=440Hz, or tracks were slowed down/sped up a little, so we got pretty quick at re-tuning that crucial half a fret to get in tune with the next track.

It's a skill not lost, for me, as nowadays, when a student brings in a track to learn, it gets transcribed fairly rapidly (not always!), rather than waiting till next lesson. It's a skill that's probably lost nowadays, with the 'net and so many guitar driven sites, and of course, tab; although I believe every player (guitarist or whatever) ought to be able to 'learn' - if that's the correct word - using that same method. Good old days!!

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    so why we both don't have the same carrier as eric clapton, tim? – Albrecht Hügli Jan 21 at 13:20
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    @AlbrechtHügli - I guess you mean career! Right place, right time. Just because one learns something in the same way as another doesn't mean the end product will sound better or worse. Knowing the right people. The list goes on. – Tim Jan 21 at 13:34
  • this would be a meta question of metaphysics: Can someone tell me why I have been born to early? – Albrecht Hügli Jan 21 at 13:38
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    @AlbrechtHügli - having considered the question, I believe the blame is to be laid entirely at the feet of your parents! – Tim Jan 21 at 13:40
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    Ear training should still be the most important thing. I stopped using tabs like ten years ago and focus on learning everything by myself. I believe it was a great choice and urge whoever reads this to make this aspect at least part of the process. – Agustín Lado Jan 21 at 20:31
  1. we had a 45 touring single record and listened it on 33 tours
  2. we used recording from the radio and listened it with half speed
  3. but as I got my first tape recorder finally in 1964 I had to listen the 33 LP in real time again and again and had to stop it .. and start in the middle of the piece with the result that all of my 3 LPs that were my own were fully scratched
  4. so we had to wait for next monday until the title will be played again in the swiss charts - hopefully.

(the absolute biggest problem however (much bigger than the lack of notes and chords - as they could have been found out and written down and identified) was that we didn't have lyrics f the songs we liked to play (and our knowledge of English language from school has been really rudimentary. There has been a lot of misunderstood lyrics, if I think back of blues and gospels, songs by the joy strings or Janis Joplin) From the moment when the Beatles started to ad their lyrics - 1st album was Sgt. Pepper - also lyrics of Elvis and Mahalia Jackson were available.)

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    Still remember that the Beatles told me in Lucy in Sky with Diamonds that "a girl with colitis goes by". – DrSAR Jan 21 at 21:22
  • but exactly with this album they sorted the text. yes, we could surely open a chatroom with misunderstood lyrics. – Albrecht Hügli Jan 21 at 21:35

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