The time I spent with Clif in the past two weeks greatly increased certain aspects of my understanding of the guitar. He helped me figure out two songs I'd been wanting to play, and taught me (in large part) how to pick up a song by ear.
It's relatively simple, actually, if you can pick up on at least one or two chords in a song. Most songs rely on groups of chords. The grouping I'm most familiar with is good ol' GCDEm (many Dylan songs, a couple of Bruce Springsteen tunes, most of the songs Clif and I have written). About half of all rock and roll (and a lot of country and folk) songs use these four chords, mixing them up and rearranging them to suit the individual song. After you know that's what chord progression they're using, it's a simple matter of picking up on the way they've arranged the chords, which is pretty easy when you know what each chord is supposed to sound like. I can pick up on GCDEm songs very quickly now, though occasionally someone throws in a strange chord in a GCDEm song and I have to adapt.
But that's certainly not the only chord grouping out there. I don't know how many there are (hell, I'm not even sure how many guitar chords there are, technically), but I know of at least a couple other groupings. One is the ever-popular EADB7. EAD is another common rock and roll progression (U2's "Desire," the Romantics' "What I Like About You," and who knows how many others), and the EAB7 is the progression for virtually all blues and rockabilly songs. I kinda lump them all togther because I'm fairly certain they're in the same grouping.
But Clif taught me another grouping during our visit: CFGAm. It's commonly used in country music, and the three songs I've been playing lately that use that grouping are Tom Petty's "Rebels" (from Southern Accents, his concept album about the South), the Old 97's "Barrier Reef," and Golden Smog's "V." They're all fun songs to play, though the F still gives me trouble (curse you, barre chords!).
Anyway, it's been fun expanding my musical abilties and knowledge, even if it's not by all that much.
Song of the Moment: Golden Smog, "V"