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Troy Stetina Series - F.A.Q.

Back to the Guitar Lessons page.

Guitar Lessons - Troy Stetina SeriesThe Troy Stetina methods are among the most popular rock and metal guitar instruction methods in the world. This page contains information about his series, and how to best utilize the methods in your practice. He also offers insight to his teaching philosophy that is reflected within the books.

  1. A personal word from Troy on his teaching philosophy and the goal of his methods.
  2. I'm a beginner. Where should I start?
  3. Should I learn rhythm guitar before starting lead?
  4. How should I be using these methods in my practice routine?
  5. What about reading music notation? Is it necessary? What about tab?
  6. How long will it take me to get through these methods?
  7. Do I need to master everthing in this series?
  8. Which is better, a DVD (video) or a book/CD?
  9. Many of the "greats" were self-taught. Do I really need any books?
  10. My son/daughter wants to play guitar. What ages are your methods appropriate for?
  11. I'm old! Is it too late for me to start?
  12. I have the original "Heavy Metal Guitar" series. Is the new version very different?

1. A personal word from Troy on his teaching philosophy and the goal of his methods.

"Welcome! And thanks for checking out my methods. If I had to say it in one line, my philosophy of teaching boils down to this: All that really matters is the sound and attitude that comes out of your speaker cabinet. Getting control over this is what these methods are about. They are a practical, in-depth system for mastering the guitar. The methods cover the entire range of playing from the beginning up to the most advanced concepts and techniques, including relevant music theory and ultimately even developing a personal lead style.

I have tried to take people right up to a professional level of playing -- the real thing -- as directly as possible, without any unnecessary stuff "in the way". My thought is that if you hone right in on just the things that you need to accomplish, youíll get there faster. So I packed the methods full of what is truly relevant and omitted what is not. They tend to be somewhat fast-paced and ambitious. But in my experience, most of you out there don't want to be coddled. You're saying, "Donít hold back... Show me what I need to do, and Iíll handle it!" OK.

The main themes I try to incorporate within the books themselves are practicality, variety and inspiration. After you learn about something and practice it in some exercises (licks, riffs, whatever), then we apply it in real music as soon as possible. So, for example there is a song at the end of each chapter in Metal Rhythm Guitar, and a solo at the end of each chapter in Metal Lead Guitar. And it helps if the music rocks! Of course, the point of the music is not just to teach you a bunch of songs and solos that I think you should learn. Each is a "study" designed to solidify certain techniques and exemplify certain concepts. The relevant music theory is also woven into the methods. When you learn a concept and immediately see it attached to something you can grab hold of and understand, the idea is no longer abstract or complicated. It becomes very concrete and practical. That's what these books do.

Using these methods, you can speed up your progress. They will help guide you along the right path. They offer a detailed roadmap to mastery which you can follow a little, a lot, or all the way! It's your call. How good a musician do you want to be? The bottom line is that it's all about making music. So whether your musical vision requires just a little knowledge and technique or a lot, these methods are at your disposal should you choose to avail yourself of them. If this is something that interests you, I would encourage you to browse through the book summaries and soundclips.

Thanks for visiting, and good luck with your playing!

2. I'm a beginner. Where should I start?

Yes, of course you can play rock and metal right from the start!If you are a beginning guitarist, check out one of the Starter Packs, the Full Metal Pack, or try the Mega-Pack if you are REALLY nuts about guitar!

Now if those packs are too much and you want just one or two items, the best place to start is Metal Rhythm Guitar Volume 1. Whether you're into rock or metal styles, that method covers a wide range and starts at the beginning. A good second item to add to that would be the Beginning Rock Rhythm Guitar DVD along with its pocket guide. The DVD is handy because you can actually see all the techniques demonstrated. And you want to get the pocket guide with it, because it has all the tabs written out for what's played on the DVD.

If you are more into classic rock, pop or other contemporary rock styles -- not the heavier types -- check out Total Rock Guitar and the Beginning Rock Rhythm Guitar DVD together with its accompanying pocket guide booklet.

If you are a beginner and want a jazz-based approach which is also heavy on learning to read music (staff), check out the Berklee Press methods.

If you are a beginner and want a general, easy guitar method that teaches music reading (standard staff notation) with a folk-style approach, you'll want to check out the Hal Leonard Basic Guitar Method.

3. Should I learn rhythm guitar before starting lead?

No, not exactly. The fact is that you donít improve in neat little bundles: "Now I have this area mastered, so I can move on to the next one and master it." Improvement is holistic and overlapping. Each skill overlaps into the next. In fact, those two divisions -- "lead" and "rhythm" guitar -- are really just two sides of the same coin. It's all guitar playing. So you can and should learn both together.

But isnít playing lead harder than playing rhythm? Generally, yes. That's why people often do tend to focus on rhythm first, then later progress on to learning lead guitar. But is that always true? Is lead always harder than rhythm? No. I could fish up a few rhythm parts that would eat your average lead solo for lunch. And I could also find a few very easy solos. So letís not draw any hard and fast rules about these categories in terms of what we can or cannot take on.

What IS important is that you tackle music that is roughly at, or slightly above, your present level. In the method books, I have already taken care of this for you. All you have to do is take it one page at a time, and the level of difficulty gradually rises. So you can go through the Metal Rhythm Guitar and Metal Lead Guitar methods at the same time.

Of course when it comes to learning songs which are not "graded" by level of difficulty, itís probably true that youíll be learning mostly rhythm parts first. But even then, you can also be on the lookout for easy solos or melody lines you can learn, too.

Interestingly, in the end itís actually rhythm guitar that turns out to be more critically important and in some ways more difficult -- mastering the subtle qualities of groove and so forth. Here's the common pattern: A person starts out learning rhythm guitar because it seems "easier," then he/she eventually progress on to lead. But if they get far enough, they eventually realize that they missed a few things on the whole rhythm thing and they go back to REALLY learn how to play rhythm well. So maybe lead isnít harder than rhythm at all. Each just requires slightly different skills and techniques.

Bottom Line:

You can and should learn rhythm guitar and lead guitar simultaneously. Go through the Rhythm and Lead Guitar methods together, at the same time! If youíre an absolute beginner, start with Metal Rhythm Guitar Volume 1 and Metal Lead Guitar Primer. If youíre an intermediate player, start with Metal Rhythm Guitar Volume 1 and Metal Lead Guitar Volume 1. Working out of both together also has the benefit of giving you a lot more variety in your practice, so you don't get so tired of practicing the same stuff.

4. How should I be using these methods in my practice routine?

The best, most efficient learning happens when you strike a good balance between theory and application, have plenty of variety and some musical inspiration. Also, the music you are learning also needs to be at, or just slightly above your current ability. So first of all, I made sure there was quite a bit of music in the Metal Rhythm Guitar and Metal Lead Guitar methods, and that it progresses gradually. All you have to do is go through them, one page at a time. But these methods aren't the ONLY thing you should be working on. I would suggest that you also learn as much music from outside the books as you can -- whatever music inspires you. Variety is good -- just don't get so scattered that you forget to come back and finish!

Exactly how you should incorporate these books into your practice depends more than anything upon your level, so Iíll briefly outline how I see it, for three different groups: beginners, intermediate level, and advanced players.

  • For absolute beginners: As a general guideline, try a few examples (riffs/licks/exercises, whatever it is) and repeat them until you've got it. If you are using Metal Rhythm 1 and Metal Lead Primer together, for example, maybe you learn a half page out of one book and a half page out of the other. Each day, you add a couple new examples. And as you progress, lay off some of the earlier examples that you've become very comfortable with already. You can still review a few random favorites from time to time as a warm up each day. At first youíll spend 100% of your practice time in the books, but as soon as possible, start learning outside songs. For more variety, you can also work through some supplement books such as my "Guitar Lessons" series if that interests you.
  • For intermediate-level players (already hittin' it hard for a year or more): Go through Metal Rhythm Guitar Volumes 1 & 2 and Metal Lead Guitar Volumes 1 & 2 together. When you're nearing the end of volume 1 of each method, add one or two of the more advanced technique books such as Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar, Thrash Guitar Method, maybe a Sig Licks book or whatever, depending on your interests. Yet, you should still spend at least 1/3 or even 1/2 your practice time on learning outside songs and solos, composing your own tunes, and so forth. Youíll have a smorgasbord of stuff to practice! And thatíll make you and I both very happy.
  • For more advanced players: You may find it useful to go through portions of the core methods (most likely the volume 2s of Rhythm and Lead), because although you probably already have many techniques down, some important areas may have been overlooked. Speed Mechanics is perhaps the most appropriate book for the advanced player, and is something that one is unlikely to ever "outgrow." You can use, apply and perfect the principles on an ongoing basis. You might also benefit by the Ultimate Scale and Barre Chord books, as they cover all the shapes and fretboard patterns you're likely to ever need. They are really 'reference books' arranged like a method in a gradually building format. In terms of your practice routine, you're advanced... so you already know what you are doing, right? Just follow your own instincts.

Overall, keep an eye on yourself as you practice, noting what bores you and what you really get into. Common sense, really. And practice primarily what you are drawn to. So, for example, Iím suggesting you go through the lead and rhythm guitar methods together. Thatís the general guideline. But letís say youíre just foaming at the mouth to learn lead guitar, and couldnít care less about rhythm right now. Then go for it! Inspiration takes precedence. Itís not like anyone will be calling the guitar police on you.

For more specific advice on practice routines, check out the posted info on that subject on my Practice Tips page.

Bottom Line:

Use a few books together with lots of songs and anything else that interests you. The idea is that you should have as many interesting things to practice as you possibly can. Remember, class, we always follow our own sick preferences -- thatís why weíre musicians, right?

5. What about reading music notation? Is it necessary? What about tab?

Rock is a riff-based, pattern-oriented playing style. The ability to read standard music notation ("staff") is NOT essential. Most of the musicians who are creating the music that you hear on the radio do not even know how to read the staff. Now I'm not saying that learning to read staff is a bad idea... I read it myself. I'm only saying that if your goal is playing rock or metal, it's not essential. It has benefits, but they are indirect to our stated goal.

Tablature (or TAB) is an alternate method of reading music by indicating fret numbers and strings -- tailor made for guitar -- and this is much easier and faster to learn. Is it any wonder more than 90% of guitar players just read tab? Tablature has one significant drawback: It is often presented with no rhythmic (timing) information. So many books employ a combined staff/tab system that includes both. Some of my books use this system.

My Troy Stetina Series methods, however, cut right to the chase by omitting the staff entirely and fusing rhythm information directly onto the tab fret numbers. There are two benefits of this: 1) The notation takes only 1 Tab staff instead of 2 (staff + tab), so it takes up about half as much space. That means I can pack twice as much music into these methods! And 2) I don't have to teach you how to read the staff within the method and can therefore focus on just what IS crucial to learning this style.

On the other hand, if you are interested in jazz or classical guitar, learning to sight-read staff notation is a must. Also, it may well be helpful if you aspire to being a session player and getting a wide variety of studio work. Furthermore, if you just want to take your guitar playing skills as far as possible, certainly reading music is a skill that you'll want to develop, at least in the background at the same time you are developing all the other necessary skills.

Bottom line:

Reading staff may be a useful skill, depending on your goals. Or, it may be next door to a waste of time. You don't need it to rock. To sum up notation approaches: There are basically four different styles of guitar notation: 1) staff only, 2) tab only, 3) tab with rhythm info, 3) combined staff/tab. Most rock instructional products published these days use staff/tab. My products feature either tab-with-rhythm-notation or staff/tab.

6. How long will it take me to get through these methods?

It depends on your playing level, the amount you practice, and how you practice.

Generally speaking, my books tend to pack in a lot of material so they'll last you a bit longer. Figure on maybe 4 to 6 months of diligent, consistent practice to really get down the material in the volume 1s of my Metal Lead & Rhythm books. (I recommend you take them both together.) If you are coming into it with more playing experience, you may cruise through them a little faster; if you are starting from stratch, maybe longer. Don't worry about how long it will take, though. What you learn and how well you learn it is more important than how fast you progress. Also, to make sure you are practicing efficiently, read the posted info under Practice Tips.

For the volume 2s, you're pushing toward a professional playing level. So figure on the better part of a year or so to complete them. I know that sounds like a long time, but you'll be steadily improving all the while, so it'll be something you're having fun with -- not a grind that you're just waiting to end!

Books like Metal Guitar Tricks or the faster paced methods like Thrash Guitar will be a little quicker. The Guitar Lessons books are probably a month each or more. The Beginning Rock Guitar videos and booklets have a bit less material than a full-fledged book/CD simply becasue of their format. Maybe a couple months for all of them. But a book like Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar or Secrets to Writing Killer Songs can be used for years.

Bottom Line:

These books take longer than most others, on average, because there is more in them. Just focus on what you're getting out of them, and how much improvement you see in your playing.

7. Do I need to master everthing in this series?

For many years my own personal goal as a guitarist was complete mastery of the instrument. I put what I had learned into these books to share as much as I possibly could. So in some cases, they raise the bar quite high -- especially a book like Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar. But the "standard" they set is not the norm. Master everything here and you'll be an exceptional player, not merely a competent one.

Also, realize that different techniques are vehicles for different types of musical expression. That is to say, technique is largely style-specific. For example, Stanley Jordanís jazz-based, two-handed tapping technique is worlds away from Kurt Cobainís guitar work in "Smells Like Teen Spirit." But I, for one, like them both. They are both perfect expressions of what they are intended to be. So do you have to learn Stanley Jordan's two-handed, jazz techniques... or Satriani's pitch axis techniques... or Dimebag's picking technique... you see, the list could go on and on. Where do you stop? Well, the only truly important thing is that you gain the ability to play the styles that you want to play, well.

Even within a particular style, mastery may not be necessary. In the end, the real goal of all this stuff is simply to play and create the music that inspires you. The choice is yours. Only you know what you like, and what you want to become. The music that turns you on may require just a little technique, or a lot. Now in the metal guitar methods, Iíve laid out a system whereby you can learn what about what goes on in the world of metal guitar playing. In Speed Mechanics, I took it a step further and laid out a format to develop the kind of technique where you can literally play anything, as fast as you want to. But you, ultimately, pick your own destination. And your goals donít have to be my goals.

My advice is to veiw everything you learn -- from my books and elsewhere -- as the Ďpaletteí from which you assemble the skills for your technique. When your technique allows you to express the kind of music you want, the way you want, then Iíd say you have succeeded, whether you are playing punk rock or virtuosic fusion.

Actually, I think people who are wondering about this question are really just trying to get a grip on how to view themselves. Iíd say, trust yourself. Why is any sort of "rating" system important to you, anyway? How many people have to regard you as "good" before you believe it? One? Ten? A hundred? One million? Isnít it a kind of dangerous thing to put your view of yourself into the hands of others? Why would you do that?

Bottom Line:

Do you need to master all these skills to consider yourself a guitarist? The answer is a big, phat N-O.

8. Which is better, a DVD (video) or a book/CD?

The book/CD format offers a lot more information, simply because of its format. In addition to being far more "information-dense," the book/CD format is also generally somewhat more organized, being written down and all. So is it better?

Well, a video offers an opportunity to actually see the techniques and music demonstrated right in front of you. Thatís something a book just canít do, no matter how good it is. And some people have more difficulty learning things out of books as opposed to watching them demonstrated in person. So it's not an issue of better or worse, it's just a different thing.

So each format has is own strengths. If you could only afford one item, Iíd say get a book/CD because it will give you the most information for your money. But if you can get a video to use in conjunction with the book, now youíre talkin'! That, of course, would be best.

But okay... what if, say, you started with the book/CD pack Metal Rhythm Guitar Volume 1 and then where trying to decide, "should I get the Beginning Rock Rhythm Guitar video, or should I get Metal Lead Guitar Volume 1?" Ah, yes, that is just the kind of dilemma everyone should have....

Bottom Line:

If you can only get one thing, get a book/CD. Then a video. Or another book... After all, two books are better than one. For that matter, three books are better than two! Hell, buy 'em all! Now for all you cynics who just saw this as a thinly-veiled attempt on my part to sell more books -- why, I am offended! Itís not that at all. For THAT, I strongly recommend that everyone buy at least six copies of each and every book and video... one set to use, two as backups just in case you lose the others, and three sets to give away to your friends. (You are generous, right?)

9. Many of the "greats" were self-taught. Do I really need any books?

Nope... If you're a unique talent, and creative enough, I'm sure you'll do just fine. Many successful musicians never studied "formally". On the other hand, some have. I would just say that it makes sense to avail yourself of all the tools at your disposal, to help you improve the fastest. I mean, why waste time? Why re-invent the wheel? I know these methods work... I've gotten thousands of letters over the years like this... So I'm sure they'll work for you too.

Years ago, I took a few private lessons from this fusion player. I think he felt kind of guilty, like he wasnít able to show me enough to justify what I was paying him, since I already knew a fair amount and had pretty good technique and speed. But I didnít see it like that. To me, just one important insight or approach was more than worth the price of the lesson. It would be something I could latch onto and use for the rest of my life! It might affect everything else that followed! What a deal! I was grateful that someone "up there" how knew more than I did would even sit down and show me some of the wisdom he had acquired. I had spent so many hours learning things by ear with no help whatsoever, so I really came to appreciate someone handing it over to me on a big, fat platter. All I had to do was reach out and take it: after I came up with a little cash, of course...

Bottom Line:

Do whatever you think is best. But let me tell you, Iíd sure have loved to get my hands on a real metal guitar method way back when. It was Mel Bay and Alfredís book 1, rockiní with tunz like "Mary Had a Little Lamb". Accurate transcriptions of rock songs? What? Are you crazy? No such thing. My first Kiss sheet music was arranged for piano, with these little chord charts over each measure. No tablature. Imagine it: Kiss tuned down 1/2 step combined with a transcriber who never even got close to a guitar, let alone heard of a power chord. So Iíve got this book full of wrong keys and wrong chords--stupid Eb, Ab, and Db majors that Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley never played in their lives. Yeah, it was tough. We had it bad. And we walked 5 miles to school every day, and lived in a one-room shack. But lemme tell ya, it really is a lot easier to learn guitar out of my books than the way I learned!

10. My son/daughter wants to play guitar. What ages are your methods appropriate for?

I'd say anyone around 12 years old or more could jump into Metal Rhythm Guitar Vol 1, although 14+ would be more ideal. Younger players may have trouble with the faster pacing, unless they are learning under the guidance of a teacher who could incorporate other materials when they hit 'road blocks'.

Any younger than 12, and you might be better off with a methods designed exclusively for kids, like the Beginning Rock for Kids books by Jimmy Brown. Of course, there are always exceptions. Some kids are 'born older'. And quite a few are picking up the guitar younger and younger these days.

On the high end, I can't imagine another over 80 years old jammin' out on Metal Rhythm Guitar, but I'm sure it will happen some day! Right on. Metallica in the nursing homes!

11. I'm old! Is it too late for me to start?

You donít have to start playing guitar at a young age to become a good player. Of course, it doesnít hurt. But Iíve seen people start in their mid 20s, and in just a year or two get right into it. Adults can generally focus better and longer, and they generally improve faster in terms of coordination. Adults also tend to have a much better sense of rhythm and timing. Maybe you havenít been playing guitar, but youíve been listening to a lot of music. It all gets in there.

Hey, does it really matter whether you are the next Joe Satriani, anyway? Certainly you can get good enough to play reasonably well fairly quickly. The technique required to play basic stuff proficiently is actually quite low in many instances. Iíll bet you can probably find music that you like at a variety of levels of difficulty. So donít worry about how technically proficient youíre going to get. That's not really the important issue anyway. The question really is, "Do you want to learn how to play the guitar?" Think about what is right in front of you. What is the next step? And follow your inspiration.

Bottom Line:

No, itís never too late. How can it ever be too late to start doing something in life that you enjoy? Maybe itís too late not to start!

12. I have the original "Heavy Metal Guitar" series. Are the new versions very different?

Heavy Metal Lead GuitarThe original methods -- Heavy Metal Rhythm Guitar Vol 1 & 2, and Heavy Metal Lead Guitar Vol 1 & 2 -- were published in 1986. These books are now out of print and have been replaced with the newer, updated 'Metal Rhythm Guitar' and 'Metal Lead Guitar' methods.

The new Metal Rhythm Guitar is completely revised and greatly improved. It now covers the wider range of hard rock and metal styles that has developed over the last 15 years, and features 12 full songs throughout the method rather than just the one at the end. (It still ends with the same song, "Babylon".) The new Metal Lead Guitar has been re-written from the standpoint of text only. So the explanations are better. But the music is all the same as the original. Lead playing just hasn't really changed all that much. (Apart from nearly disappearing for a while!)

And the new covers rock. Who is that bad-ass MF, anyway?!?

13. Some of the books are Out of Print. Can I still get them?

Three methods are currently Out of Print: Secrets to Writing Killer Songs, Speed and Thrash Drum Method, and New Rock.

A lot of people are looking for the Secrets book in particular. Maybe try eBay because sometimes people will sell their old used copies. I will be trying to see if the publisher will allow me to make pdfs of it. But in the mean time, finding used copies is the only alternative.

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