I have played guitar as a hobby on-and-off for 18 years now. I am not an accomplished player. I took lessons when I started out. I have bought books, and early-on I learned a lot from Fretboard Logic (the CAGED system). I have always enjoyed improvising while my friend plays a progression, and I can get by ok with that.

A few years ago I took sporadic lessons from a well trained guitarist. My goals were very broad and unclear at the time.

  • Just get better
  • Solo and know the fretboard like the jazz guys
  • Play cool - David Gilmour, Eagles
  • Classical guitar might be nice

My teacher taught me some jazz stuff, but my interest waned, so my lessons trailed off. Pink Floyd was one of my favorite bands growing up, so I began spending more time transcribing to TAB and learning David Gilmour solos. I had some fun, and my phrasing got better though now all my solos sound like a Gilmour wannabe.

I have put the guitar down for a year or so, but now I'm getting the hankering to start playing again. I called my old teacher, but he didn't call me back. That's ok with me. I'm clearly not the ideal student. Since it's just a hobby, and I want to prove to myself that I can be disciplined, I'm thinking that I will try to learn from books. I've spent a good deal of time looking at guitar books at amazon.com. I purchased a couple:

I'm thinking that I want to continue to go the jazz route, and Beginning Jazz Guitar looks good for that, but I'm thinking I'll wait till I finish "Modern Method" before I start Beginning Jazz Guitar.

Because I'm 35, have a job and 2 kids, my practice time is limited. I've started with "Modern Method", and I'm hoping to continue to practice app. 20 min a day, and maybe an hour or so on Saturday.

Here are my questions:

  • From what you see from my history, could you recommend any books or approaches?
  • Any other tips and advice?

Update: Thanks for your responses so far. Since I posted this question, considered your responses and done some reading, I'm feeling that I have some more concrete questions. Perhaps I will post those on this site later. I read some of justinguitar.com under the "Practice Time" section that has been of help too.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Dom Jul 28 '18 at 22:22

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This isn't really an answerable question. Everyone is different. What I would recommend is reading a lot of the questions here on guitar, but also on the entire learning tag and see if they help. Then when you have specific issues, those would likely make questions we can answer helpfully. – Doktor Mayhem Mar 1 '13 at 23:07

If you reckon you are going to get back into learning with such a limited amount of time it makes sense to have one major goal in mind as well as some smaller goals to keep your interest when you get frustrated/bored with working toward the major goal.

Books can be good but actually taking time to play, and most importantly enjoying yourself when you play, will likely (not guaranteed of course :-D ) help you to learn and achieve the goals faster.

The kind of goals that might work well are:

Major: I want to play x song

Smaller: I want to play the part from x song that goes like y

Hope that helps, good luck :-)

  • if you're a parent and also employed, you're lucky to get that much time. I practice mentally by running through the cycle of fifths in my head, mentally deconstructing music to work out the intervals., practising time by tapping along in the car. – bigbadmouse Feb 6 '18 at 12:00

I found myself in a similar situation, and with the limited practice time, it makes more sense to take up lessons, maybe once a week (in my case I take a 2-hour lesson every 2 weeks); worst case scenario, you can't do any homework and so your progress will be very slow but at least you can dedicate a couple of hours entirely to your learning.

Oh and get one of those headphone amps, it helps a lot because you can practice late at night without waking up anyone...


Learn harmony and jazz harmony because that's what it all boils down to. That and rhythm, but you gotta learn harmony first.

Try Bert Ligon's book "Jazz Theory Resources" Michael Martinez's series "Understanding and Implementing Harmony"

  • This sounds like a good tip that addresses one of my underlying questions. Can you explain what you mean that harmony and jazz harmony is what it all boils down to? – Frank Henard Apr 12 '13 at 15:50
  • Hi Ballpark. Sure, when it comes to solo-ing (improvisation), its basically about hinting at harmonic change (chords) in a "linear" way (one note at a time) instead of a "vertical way" (playing a whole chord.) So in order to grow as an improvisor, you must learn more about harmony. Then, as your knowledge of harmony grows, you pick and choose from different chord changes in order to incorporate it into your improvised lines. – Michael Martinez Aug 9 '13 at 22:25

If you don't have much time, I would advise your to search for a new teacher (a good one). Self-training/learning require a lot of trial and error and searching, hence a lot of wasted time. I personnaly love it and have learnt all I know this way but I used to spend 8 hours a day playing guitar (and still do a minimum of 2 hours). A good teacher will guide you in the right direction, and it doesn't matter much if you don't work that hard: he's there to follow your rythm and adapt to your learning pace.

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