Saturday, August 16, 2008

Learning Lessons from Robert Johnson

Learn to Play Guitar Like Robert Johnson by Steve Krenz

Robert Johnson was one of the greatest blues guitar players of the 1930's, and as such he is considered one of the "grandfathers" of rock and roll. He traveled around the Mississippi delta area playing and singing, and recorded 29 songs in 1936 and 1937. Despite the fact that his career seems quite limited when compared to contemporary artists who tour the world and release a new album every year, Johnson's impact on popular music cannot be denied. Eric Clapton, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers, and Jimmy Page all mention Robert Johnson when they are asked to name their musical influences. Johnson had an undeniable talent, and his life and career have some valuable lessons to teach anyone who has dreams of following in his footsteps. If you want to play guitar like Robert Johnson, here are a few dos and don'ts.

Do use any resources you have to learn music. Robert Johnson loved music from the time he was very young, but as the son of a sharecropper he did not have access to music schools, fancy instruments, or private teachers. He did make the most of the musical equipment he had, though, and found a friend who could teach him how to play the harmonica and Jew's harp when he was still a young boy. He and his friend began using these simple instruments to accompany one another while they would sing new verses to popular songs that they made up as they went along. They never failed to draw a crowd when they sang on the street corners, and it was a great way for Robert to learn what things would please an audience and develop a stage presence. As he grew older, he went to other musicians that he knew and asked them to help him learn to play the guitar. He never received any formal musical training, but his inquiring spirit and his ability to learn from observation helped him to understand the structure of chords and harmony that he needed to replicate the sounds that he heard. If you are fortunate enough to be able to pay for music classes, take advantage of them and use your knowledge to make yourself a better player.

Don't be discouraged if you aren't successful right away. Robert used every opportunity he had to listen to guitarists that played at roadhouses and taverns in his area. When he gained some confidence, he brought his own guitar to the gigs with him and hung around, just hoping for a chance to join in on a jam session with the pros. For years, they discouraged him. It seemed like every time they let him play Robert would break a guitar string or commit some blunder that would not go over well with the audience. Instead of giving up, Robert moved to another community where his reputation as a bungler would not follow him and kept practicing. He would work in the cotton fields just enough so that he could support himself and spend hours and hours every day playing his guitar in the woods until his blues solos sounded the way he thought they should. He then began to travel from town to town and played for the tips that people would throw him as he stood on the street corner or in the town square. People were appreciating him more and more and the early criticism he had heard mattered less and less.

Don't be afraid to be different. The more Robert traveled, the more his confidence grew. He was soon adding tricky rhythm patterns to his guitar solos and using his feet and legs to stomp out accompanying percussion sounds. He created an entirely new sound that was admired by people in all parts of the south. Little did he know that guitar players would still look up to him 70 and 80 years after he was gone. If you learn some lessons from Robert Johnson's life and work, they will surely help to make you a better musician.

Stop wasting money on 1-on-1 guitar lessons! Check out Steve Krenz's Learn and Master Guitar, it beats the pants off anything out there. It's the most comprehensive and thorough instructional guitar course available today.

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