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Slide guitar

How To Play Slide Guitar

There are few things more satisfying for a guitarist than playing slide – you know, proper, blues slide guitar! And guess what? It’s not that hard… if you follow some simple tips!

Hound Dog Taylor

Hound Dog Taylor, a slide guitar legend, with his Kawai SD-40, now reissued by Eastwood.

Before we start, it’s important to make clear that the slide guitar technique wasn’t invented for blues, and is not for exclusive use for blues guitarists. The origins of slide can be traced to one-stringed African instruments, and anyone can use a slide in any musical style – from Hawaiian music to experimental, noisy bands such as Sonic Youth. George Harrison was also an adept of the slide, using it on Beatles tracks and in solo recordings. 

But of course, it’s in the blues format (and blues-inspired rock’n’roll) where the slide found its perfect home, and one of the earliest accounts of the blues, by W. C. Handy, mentions an unknown blues player at a Mississippi train station, playing slide guitar… with a knife!

“As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularised by Hawaiian guitarists who used steel bars. The effect was unforgettable.”

So, it’s for those interested in playing blues slide that this blog is intended.

You don’t need a special guitar… but you will need a “slide set up”

Though lap-steel guitars and resonator guitars are used for playing slide, it doesn’t mean you need one. Any guitar will do, whether electric or acoustic. If you plan to play or practice slide regularly, it’s recommended that you get a new / spare guitar just for that, because it’ll need a few extra adjustments for this purpose, which may not feel great when going back to playing your normal style, without a slide!

Eastwood Custom SD-40

We’re partial of the Eastwood Custom SD-40 , inspired by the one used by Hound Dog Taylor, of course!

But don’t worry, those adjustments are fairly simple:

  • the action on your guitar needs to be setup higher than usual, otherwise it’ll rattle too much. 
  • it’s recommended to use slightly heavier gauge strings for a “thicker” tone, though that’s a matter of taste, mostly.
  • the guitar needs to be tuned to an “open” tuning, because you won’t be making any chord shape with your slide!

What are the best slide guitar tunings?

You’ll manage with any open tuning, but the most common are Open G and Open D, as used in many legendary blues recordings.

OPEN G: G B D G B E

OPEN D: D A D F# A D

Here’s a good example of how the open D tuning sounds like. The slide used was a heavy gauge Bronze one by Dunlop.

 

What’s the best kind of slide: glass or metal?

Again, this is a matter or taste. Generally speaking, glass / pyrex slides will give you a warmer tone, and metal slides (bronze, steel…) will give you a louder and brighter tone, besides the fact they won’t break! Of course, there’s a taste for everything and some players will say bronze is better than steel etc etc… the best thing is: go to a shop and try a few, or if in doubt – just go for any steel slide, because that’s the most common.

There are also ceramic slides, which are not as popular as glass or metal, but which many connoisseurs prefer, because they sit somewhere between the warmth of glass and the sharpness of metal.

This video of the new Eastwood The Continental by Jeff Senn features a glass slide – check the tone! 

 

 

On which finger should I  put the slide?

The most common choice is the ring finger, which makes it easier to use the slide wherever you play on the fretboard. Some players prefer to use the pinky, because this way you can more-or-less easily use the other fingers to play chords. 

For beginners – just go with the ring finger, we say! 

Two quick slide guitar lessons to get you started

Now that you are all set to go, here’s two of our favorite slide guitar lessons on Youtube, to get you started!

RJ RONQUILLO: 6 SLIDE GUITAR LICKS

The always excellent RJ shows how to play 6 side licks plus talks a bit about the guitar setup.

 

SLIDE GUITAR BLUES LESSON IN OPEN D

One of the best and most straight-forward guitar lessons we’ve ever seen on YouTube. WARNING: some profanity ahead… make sure no kids are around!

Vibrato

How to Improve Your Guitar Vibrato Technique, by Tom Boddison

Vibrato, eh? This is one of those well-known guitar techniques that more people know about than they actually know how to do it well. But Tom Boddison will give you a few, precious tips on how to improve your vibrato technique – plus we’ll have a look at the Top 5 best uses of vibrato by famous guitarists!

BB King... king of vibrato!

BB King… the king of vibrato!

Vibrato is one of the most important lead guitar skills you can develop. It adds attitude to any phrase, and works brilliantly to improve your sound.

In this lesson I’ll focus on showing you how to practice your guitar vibrato. There are hundreds of lessons on the web about the motions that you’re supposed to use, but if you don’t know how to practice and improve your vibrato then you won’t get anywhere!

Some players believe that vibrato develops on its own as you play, and although this is partly true, you’ll get much faster results if you devote practice time specifically to this one skill. If you want to make your solos sound really professional, this is absolutely vital.

The Key Elements of a Great Vibrato

In this lesson I’ll assume that you know what vibrato is and you know how to perform the motions. We’ll focus on how to improve it; what you can do to make it sound better and better every time you play.

There are a number of things that make up a really good vibrato technique:

1. Staying relaxed
No matter how much you practice your vibrato, if your fingers are tense then you won’t get anywhere. Having a great vibrato is all about control, and control comes from staying relaxed. If you’re tensing up then slow down, and don’t use so much force!

2. Having an even rhythm
If you don’t have an even rhythm when you play vibrato then it’ll always sound out of control and messy. To make your vibrato sound better, you need to do it in an even rhythm – and preferably in time with the music. Focus on bending and releasing the note in time with the beat.

3. Having even pitch changes
The pitch change is also important when you play vibrato. Try to bend to the same pitch every time – this way, your vibrato will sound in tune and you’ll have much more control over the way it sounds.

4. Using the right vibrato for the job
This all comes down to context. If you’re playing a heavy rock song then your vibrato will most likely be wider and faster than if you’re playing a slower, softer song. Consider what kind of song you’re playing and then adjust your vibrato accordingly – will it suit a more aggressive sound, or a softer, mellower one? Some of this will obviously depend on personal preference.

Vibrato

Playing vibrato is a great lead-guitar skill

How to Practice Vibrato

Now that you’ve got a good idea of what makes up a good vibrato, we’ll go through how to practice it. Do this for five to ten minutes each day and within a couple of weeks you’ll definitely see an improvement in your technique.

1. First, play a note on any fret and bend it up in pitch slightly.
2. Then, release the bend back down to the normal pitch again. Make sure you completely release the bend – otherwise your vibrato will sound out of tune.
3. Now, try and bend back up to the exact pitch that you bent up to before. You can use a tuner if you like to make sure you bend up to the same pitch.
4. Then, fully release the bend again and repeat the process.

Once you’ve gotten used to bending to the same pitch every time, then start doing this exercise to a metronome. Gradually speed it up over time, and before you know it your vibrato will sound great!

After you’ve practised in this way for a days, you can start to apply this stuff to songs. Whenever you add vibrato to a note, pay attention to how it sounds – try to make it sound just a little bit better every single time you do it.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has helped you to improve your vibrato technique. If you’d like to see more cool articles check out my website www.tomguitar.co.uk, which is filled with reviews, guitar secrets and free lessons!

– by Tom Boddison

Top 5 Best Songs with Vibrato by Famous Guitarists

What are the best songs to feature vibrato? Well, there are a few great examples, but here’s our top 5, picked by Tom, who explains:

“Each of those feature very different vibrato styles, from the subtlety of BB king to the raw, full expression of Stevie Ray Vaughan, to the fast, smooth vibrato of Gary Moore. There’s something to learn from every single one of those.”

1) BB King – The Thrill is Gone

2) Stevie Ray Vaughan – Ain’t Gone ‘n Give Up On Love

3) Rory Gallagher – Bad Penny

4) Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways

5) Steve Vai – For The Love of God

More info:

 www.tomguitar.co.uk

vince4

Tips on Tones – Issue 1

It’s never good enough is it? With every new guitar and each new amp, every acquisition of gear and fancy “toys”, satisfaction always seems to be fleeting. It’s only a matter of time before you ask yourself that familiar question, “what can I do to sound better?!” and then run out to add something to the collection.

vince1

Sure, new stuff is fun and definitely a viable way to improve your sound pallet, but there is a plethora of ways using the equipment you already have that could help you get that tone you’re always looking for! Over the next few months I’ll outline some tips and tricks I’ve learned through my own experiences, as well as some things I’ve picked up from professionals around the world.

To kick things off, we’ll start with the basics. Playing an instrument and making music in its purest form is an extension of yourself. You’re the one playing the guitar, so ultimately you are the one responsible for the majority of how it sounds. Your mood, your focus, and your blood-alcohol level are just a few things that can have an effect on your overall playing before we even get into the equipment you’re using! If you feel like crap, you’re going to play like crap. One of the main things that can contribute to all of these factors is how the guitar feels in your hands. Think of it this way: you’re a lumberjack and your boss hands you a dull saw, asking you to cut down the thickest tree in the forest. Is that going to put you in a good mood? No. Will you be able to remain focused? Probably not. Are you going to want to grab a cold-one half way through the tree? …Maybe.

vince3

Like saws for lumberjacks, guitars are tools for guitarists and should be treated as such. This brings me to my first tip:

Get your guitar professionally set-up!

Your guitar is not going to remain the same since the day you bought it. It is absolutely necessary to maintain it with string changes and set-ups to keep it playing the way you want it to. Comfort and ease of play will make you want to play your guitar, and really enjoy it! Things like old strings, fretbuzz, dead notes, sharp frets, high strings and poor intonation are all things that physically make you need to play your guitar differently in order for it to sound acceptable.

vince2

Those changes you are making (like using a lighter touch to avoid fretbuzz, applying more pressure for high strings, or completely avoiding dead notes) are obvious factors that affect your tone in a negative way. The height of your pick-ups, as well as dirt or poor connections in the electronics are typically inspected with full service set-ups as well. Issues with either of these will affect your output, and therefore your tone will suffer.

With a guitar that feels good in your hands, sounds smooth through the amp, and looks clean and polished, it will be as if you got a brand new instrument without the price tag.

Happy playing!

Written by: Vince Schaljo

Dr. Dave Walker (guitarist)

Finding the Chords in a Key

Dr. Dave Walker (guitarist)

Dr. Dave Walker (guitarist)

“How can there be a Dm chord in the key of C?” This is one of the most common questions I get asked as a theory teacher. In some cases the person has not considered that there must be different chords in any given key or else we would have to stay on one chord for a long, boring time. More often though the student knows that “the chords of the key of C” are C, F, and G (or G7). This last idea is partly true – those are the MAJOR chords in the key of C. However, every major key contains 3 major chords, 3 minor chords, and one diminished chord. And not only does every major key have that same number of chords of the same type – they are all in the same order.

Let’s start with the C major scale. This is simply all of the notes (i.e. the letter names from A to G) put in order, starting and ending on C. So the C major scale is: C D E F G A B C. I have placed these on the staff in example 1, with tab underneath for those who don’t read music.

Chords in C (Ex. 1)

Chords in C (Ex. 1)

To create chords in any key, we take each individual note in the key and build a chord on top of it. We call the note that we are building on top of the “root” of the chord, and its note name is the name of the chord. We then take the 3rd note above the root, and the 5th note above the root, and these form the notes in our chords. So if we take C as a root, the 3rd note up from it is E, and the 5th note up is G. Our C chord then contains C, E, and G. Likewise, if we start on D, we get F as the 3rd note up, and A as the 5th. So Dm contains D, F, and A. Example 2 shows all 7 chords in the key of C.

Chords in C (Ex. 2)

Chords in C (Ex. 2)

How do we know that C is a major chord but Dm is a minor chord? There are three ways. First, you might be able to just hear the difference between the sound of a major and minor chord. Second, you can learn the theory of intervals which will tell you the internal construction of these chords. But the third is the simplest: you can memorize the order that chords appear in a key. The sequence is the same for every major key.

Let’s number the notes in the scale from 1 to 7 (since 8 brings us back to C again). The chords we build on notes 1, 4, and 5 are always major chords. The chords on 2, 3, and 6 are always minor, while the one on note 7 is always a diminished chord. So the sequence for any major key is this: 1 – Major, 2 – minor, 3 – minor, 4 – Major, 5 – Major, 6 – minor, and 7 – diminished. (MmmMMmd for short.)

Notice that all of these chords have just 3 different notes. On the guitar, we can distribute these over the strings at different locations to give us different “voicings” of the chord, but it will always have the same name. For example, whether you play a C chord in the “cowboy” shape closest to the nut or as a bar chord at the 8th fret, you are still just using the notes C, E, and G.

So to get back to the original question, there is a Dm chord in the key of C because that is the chord that we can build on the note D. The same logic applies to the Em and Am chords, as well as that B diminished chord.

Written by: Dr. Dave Walker

Jimi Hendrix in Studio

Beginner Guitar Tips: Acoustic vs Electric

Jimi Hendrix in Studio

If you are thinking of learning guitar or getting into the guitar scene, one of the important decisions that you will need to make is whether you want to go acoustic with your guitar or electric. Both types of guitar are fantastic and offer a wide range of playing styles to experiment with. Today we are going to highlight the main differences between the two to help you make your decision.

1. The type of music you want to play
The type of music you want to play will be the greatest indicator of which kind of guitar you would like to go for. An electric guitar is best suited for rock, metal and blues music, although it can be used more creatively if you have the knowhow. However if you are seeking a guitar to sing songs with and play alone, classical guitar or ballads then acoustic is the best bet for you. You can also play acoustic versions of rock songs with an acoustic guitar which can be great fun, trying to figure out how to play a rock song on your acoustic will also help with your learning process.

2. Where you are going to play
If you are going to play your guitar with others and will have access to amps and other equipment, then you may be happy with an electric guitar. If you goal is to play in a band with a drummer, bassist and so forth then you will definitely want to go electric. If you need a guitar that will be more mobile and give you more options (such as playing by a campfire or playing in a park) then acoustic is the best bet. Acoustic guitars are great for taking to a barbeque or round to a friend’s house, if your friend also has an acoustic there is nothing more fun than strumming some tunes while sat outside on a beautiful summer’s day.

3. Your budget
An acoustic guitar can be picked up for as little as £50 whereas an electric guitar is significantly more expensive. As well as the cost of the guitar itself, electric guitars tend to be more high maintenance, requiring specialist equipment and storage to get the best out of it and keep it running for a long time, so if budget is a primary consideration for you then an acoustic guitar is probably the better option for you. But if you are serious about learning the guitar you may want to invest a little more to get a semi decent guitar, the sound quality and tone will be far superior to any low cost options.

4. Your commitment
If you are absolutely committed to the art of playing guitar then an electric guitar will give you more options, more longevity and more variety for the kind of music that you can play, whereas an acoustic guitar is quite limited by comparison. If you really want to be a guitar pro and you are fully committed then you will derive very intense pleasure from mastering the nuances and subtleties that you can achieve with electric guitar.

5. Your need for variety
Although acoustic fans will hate that we are saying this, the truth is that acoustic guitars have limits that electric guitars simply do not have. Whether you like to twang your notes, extend them or vibrate them, the electric guitar is a lifetime of new discoveries, special skills and moves that you can show off at various opportunities! (sorry acoustic guitarists, but its true!) There are also a whole host of different techniques and styles that you can adopt on the acoustic guitar, using a slider or even a loop pedal can give you hours of fun.

6. The kudos factor
Electric guitars are just plain cool and so if you are taking up an instrument to impress, win fans or show off then electric is definitely the way to go. Electric guitars look good, sound great and can make a relatively novice player seem like a superstar with a just a few choice skills. Acoustic guitars can also be very cool, however you will need some more advanced skills with an acoustic to really start attracting fans.
Choosing which guitar to start on is a big decision, there are multiple factors you need to weigh up in order to make the right choice. Everything from your preferred style of music to how much noise you can make will have weight. The best way to know is to go into your local guitar shop and ask to try a couple of guitars out, get a real feel for the difference between acoustic and electric. Whatever you decide on it is important to pursue your learning, the first few weeks are often the hardest but, like with most things, the more you put in to it the more you get out.

Ben writes about music and currently works for a guitar shop specializing in acoustic guitar strings .

7-guitar-tips

7 Ways To Get Your Guitar Playing Out of a Rut

It is pretty much an unavoidable thing that happens in every guitarist’s lifetime. We get in ruts. The difference between great players, and players that tell you that they have pretty much given up, is that great players’ know how to steer out of the ruts.

I want to share with you, my 7 top tips on getting your guitar playing out of the ruts and back on the highway of rock ‘n’ roll! What’s best about learning how to get out of a rut, is that you learn the techniques once and become aware of when you might be in a rut, and avoid it at all costs from that day onwards.

So, here we go, lets get stuck into the guitar and have some fun starting from today! Try a technique at a time over the next week and I promise you will want to share these tips with everyone.

1. Listen to a different style of music
Head straight to Spotify or where ever you like to get your music from, and start listening to some music you have never heard before. Honestly, you will be surprised how much your listening affects your playing. If you are an acoustic-pop guitarist, try listening to some hip-hop and hear what the guitar is doing. If there is no guitar part, could you make a part to compliment the track? Perhaps you are a shred guitarist and have become slightly lost in a sea of notes? Try listening to some simplistic music, the type of music often found in film and performed on the piano. Appreciate the note choice and try your hand at working out the note use over the chosen chord.
This is my top tip because it has helped me become a diverse guitarist and it develops your ear.

2. Take a guitar lesson
Ok, I know I am a guitar tutor in Brighton, but I honestly do believe in the value that taking guitar lessons holds. If you explain your current level, tastes and where you want to take your playing, any good guitar tutor should inspire, and put you into action. Quite often, just seeing a good guitarist up close and explaining what he is doing, will be enough to clear your guitar-haze. Give your guitar teacher pieces of music you want to aim towards, and ask about realistic time frames for how long it will take for you to be able play the song.

3. Jam with someone
If you have any time to spare at all, then please find a local musician to jam with you, even just one night a week. Sharing musical ideas and writing parts to compliment each other’s lines will improve your musicality, and give you an idea of how flexible you are. You will also get a good look at how even your rhythm and lead skills are, as you trade off accompaniment.

4. Record yourself
Now, I know this is not quite as easy to do as some of my other tips, but if you have access to recording yourself, then go for it. It is scary at first hearing yourself, but you will get used to it and learn how be critical about your playing, in order to produce a recording you can’t wait to share. You learn how to interweave guitar parts, making use of a variety of tones to create the ambience you are looking for.

5. Experiment with an alternative tuning
This is a really fun way to get out of a rut and an excellent way to make some beautiful sounds you never knew you could make. Investigate into open G and open D tuning for starters, and learn what notes to tune the strings to. What is amazing about this technique is that you can’t rely on your trick book anymore, and unless you learn someone else’s music in this tuning, you rely fully on your musical creativity rather than shape and memorized patterns. Some players get so engrossed in alternative tunings that they never turn back and become completely shaped by the tuning.

6. Attempt to play music performed on another instrument
As guitarists, we quite often have an array of tricks and approaches that we pull out at any time, often slightly adapting them to fit the musical situation at the time. If you consider that the notes we play are largely in part due to the shapes we were told to learn, then you start to realise why many guitarists sound the same. A lot of great guitarists I have met over the years have had this one attribute in common; they all listen to music from piano, saxophone, violin and trumpet, and pretty much any melodic instrument as well as rhythmic instruments to build a great rhythmic command. Being able to take music from another instrument and perform it on guitar may be my number 6 top tip, but it is an art well worth mastering.

7. Immerse yourself in music
Picture music as your fuel. You need fuel to run, and when music equals creativity, then why not immerse yourself in a sea of songs? Find the time to listen to music, both consciously and sub consciously. By that, I mean sometimes have the music as a background sound and then at other times listen to the music and imagine how to play the parts. Pay attention to the tone, dynamics, note choice, space and development of a part throughout the song.
So, that was my 7 top tips that will hopefully guide you out of the woods and onto the road next time you are lost, whilst on your pursuit of guitar mastery.

Tom Clark is the founder of Your Guitar Tutor, and is a guitarist who is passionate about sharing expert advice on anything guitar.

Improv 101 for Electric Guitarists

All music performance is a creative endeavor, whether it’s an original composition or an interpretation of someone else’s piece. Creativity is absolutely necessary to the art of making music, and without it, all we have are meaningless strands of notes trailing across a page or hanging limply in the air. Great musicians nurture creativity, and one of the best ways to do this is with consistent improvisation. How can you give life to someone else’s written music without being able to create your own? It’s possible to mimic musicality, but to own it, you’ll need to create music.

The concept of improvisation can be intimidating for some musicians, but since you’re not going to start out in front of a rock star audience with nothing but an electric guitar and whatever musical ideas might be lurking in your brain, it’s nothing to be apprehensive about. Just think of it as part of your daily practice routine, and you’ll soon begin to enjoy it and cultivate it as an important aspect of your musicianship. To get started, check out some of these tips for beginner’s improvisation on the electric guitar.

  1. Elaborate on Hooks
    You probably have some favorite hooks in the back of your mind, so why not use them as a jumping-off point for your improvisations? Just get solid in the key and repeat the hook until you forget how you got to it and where it’s headed, then make up the rest on your own. Because you’re starting with a certain rhythm and flavor, it shouldn’t be hard to continue it, but be sure to add something of yourself so you’re not just imitating. Think about how you’re feeling in the moment and express it while you play.
  2. Link Sections of Exercises and Favorite Solos
    Choose sections of technique-building exercises that you enjoy, making sure that they’re in the same key or transposing to achieve this effect. You can simply string them together at first, then start to switch out sections, elaborate, and eventually go off in your own direction. If you’re not inspired by your technical exercises, work with some excerpts from favorite solos.
  3. Get In on Blues and Pentatonic Scales
    Once you’ve become comfortable with the idea of manipulating melodic material, it’s time to start building some on your own. The simplest blues scale, and possibly the most fun to work with, gives you the option of taking a major scale down to the blues by lowering the third and seventh degrees. To keep things interesting, alternate the lowered degrees with the original major third and seventh tones – the blues flavor will seem effortless. You can also try the seven-note blues scale by lowering the third, fifth, and seventh degrees of a major scale. Improvising on a pentatonic scale can be a good way to start out because, as the name suggests, it involves only five tones. To play in minor pentatonic, simply choose a tonic tone, then add a minor third, build on two major seconds, and top it off with one more minor third. For example, starting with C, you would add E-flat, F, G, and B-flat. You can take the minor pentatonic scale to the blues version by adding an F-sharp/G-flat.
  4. Turn On a Rhythm CD, Pick a Scale, and Go
    When you’ve got the basics down, you’ll be surprised at what rhythm can do for your improvisation. It can help you bring originality to the process, enabling you to be more creative and bringing out the ideas you’ve come up with while experimenting.
  5. Grab a Friend and Switch Rhythm and Lead Roles
    If you’ve never experienced the energy that builds when musicians jam together, you’ll get addicted once you grab a friend and start improvising. You might have a melodic idea that fizzles when you’re on your own, but a friend can pick it up and turn it into something interesting that you can run with. As long as you both agree on a scale to play with, you can simply switch rhythm and lead roles every few measures to really get the benefits of feeding off of each other. This is a great way to keep your creative juices flowing and get experience in collaborative improv.

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education performing research surrounding online universities and their various program offerings. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

How Your Guitar Heroes Learned to Play So Fast

Have you ever watched your favorite guitarist and wondered how they got so fast? You may think you’ll never get there, but that’s not true. With guitar, just like anything else, you get out of it what you put into that. That’s the first and most important thing.

Guitar Hero: Jimmy Page

Guitar Hero: Jimmy Page

But there are things you can do to help the process along and progress faster to the speed licks you’d like to be playing.

  1. First the basics: Make sure your guitar is set up properly. If the action is too high, or the neck is warped, or the strings are too heavy or too light for your hands, it’s going to be hard to gain speed. It also won’t be as much fun to play.
  2. Try different picks. Some people like thinner or thicker picks, and you might not be using the right one for you. Many shredders prefer smaller jazz-style picks to the traditional teardrop style. Go spend a couple bucks and pick a large selection of thicknesses and shapes to see what works best for you.
  3. Use a metronome. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Start with a slow tempo on your metronome. Really slow. Like 52bpm. Pick out a scale or musical phrase you’d like to work on. When you can accomplish that phrase at that speed 5 times in a row without making a mistake, bump your metronome up just one notch. That’s generally 2-4 bpm faster. Go through the same process there, bumping it up a little bit each time. Within 15-20 minutes you’ll have that phrase blazing fast!
  4. Work on your right hand. We tend to forget about our right hand a lot since the left is where all the action is. But your right hand is the engine driving the action. If it can’t move fast, it won’t matter how fast your left hand can go. Back to your metronome again, take just one note (preferably a fretted one) and practice playing 8th notes and 16th notes. Again bump the tempo up slowly until you’re reaching speeds you want to hear.
  5. Practice left hand finger patterns. Scales and arpeggios are good also, but these 5 finger patterns will give you most every combination you need. Here they are:
    • 1-2-3-4
    • 1-3-2-4
    • 1-2-4-3
    • 1-4-2-3
    • 1-4-3-2.
    • Do these on each string, in both directions, and on different areas of the neck. You can reverse them all.

  6. Keep a written log of your progress. Using this “slow and grow” method, you may not notice that you’re getting faster in regular playing situations. I certainly didn’t. One day it snuck on me while I was listening to a recording from my gig the night before. I heard a blazing fast guitar lick and asked my girlfriend who the heck that was! She reminded me that I was the only guitarist in the band so it must have been me.

So, yes, it does take putting in the hours to get your speed going, but these tips will help you get there faster. As Eddie Van Halen said in a recent interview, “Just keep playing and playing and you’ll eventually find out who you are.”

Get at it!

Post by: Phil Johnson

Music Practice & Motivation

If you want to learn to play an instrument or get better at playing an instrument there is a guaranteed way that you can achieve this: practice. Like with anything we decide to learn, the more we do something the better we get at doing it. This applies to everything we do in life. Its obvious that practice is a requirement of becoming a better musician, so you want to set up a good routine that is enjoyable and will keep you motivated to want to continue practicing.

Define Your Music Goals

The first question you need to ask yourself is, what do you want to learn? What is it that you want to be able to play on an instrument? We are all different and there are many reasons why we play music. It might be because we want to learn how to play our favorite songs on guitar, learn to play jazz piano, play bass guitar in a band, master the drums to become a drum teacher and so on. They are all valid goals to want to improve on your instrument and they each require different focuses for study. If you sit down and think, what do I want to achieve on my instrument, then you can define your goals and what you want the outcomes to be from your music practice. This will help set up what you you need to work on and also will give you a measure so you can monitor your progress along the way.

What To Practice

Once you have defined your music goals, you can break down the goal to lower level details of what you need to do to achieve your goals and get the most out of music practice. Scales are great for many reasons, however, if your goal is to learn how to play your favorite songs on acoustic guitar, then learning how to play scales isn’t a very good way to go about achieving the goal that got you interested in learning acoustic guitar in the first place. It’s simple things like this, playing mundane exercises, that put people off sitting down and learning to play an instrument.

A better way to learn to play your favorite songs would be to get the music for the songs that you wish to learn, look at the chords in the songs and then spend your time learning how to play the chords and chord shapes in the song. Once you spend some time learning how to play the chords used in the songs you want to learn, you’ll be able to put the chords to use and start playing the songs.

When you break your goal down to a lower level like this, and focus on making sure that what you are practicing will give you the right for the outcome that you want to achieve, its easy to see that any music goal is attainable and can be reached in a reasonable amount of time.

Consistency Is The Key To Good Music Practice

One of the great motivation killers is that we get enthused over something, spend a large amount of time on it and because of the other things happening in our lives and we find that we can’t keep spending all that time on something every day. It’s a big misconception that you need to play for hours on end every day to become a really good musician. For most of us, it’s not practical to be able to spend hours and hours playing music on a daily basis.

When you first start out learning to play something, you usually think that you will need to spend forever on being able to play it. The fact of the matter is, its consistency that will get you to reach your goal, not massive amounts of practice in a short space of time. It is much better to work consistently for short periods of time, than it is to spend all your weekend working and then put not time towards study during the week. A large aspect of playing an instrument comes down to muscle memory. In that way music is a bit like sport. Your muscles learn what to do and they develop over time.

You will not become a good runner by running 6 hours every Saturday and Sunday and then not doing any running Monday to Friday. You would do more damage than good and would be much better off if you went on a 30 minute run on six days of the week and had one day off as a rest day. That’s comparing doing 12 hours of running against doing 3 hours of running per week, and its doing the 3 hour of running per week that will make you the better runner.

Its the same with music. Consistency is they key. Can you commit to spending 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week to learning to play your instrument? Even on a busy day, we can usual find 30 minutes to spare. If we make that 30 minutes a priority, it will happen on all 6 days that you decide you are going to commit to practice. If you spend 30 minutes a day, focusing on the music that you set out to learn to achieve from the goal that you defined, you will find that you will reach your goal in a short space of time. Not over months, more likely over the course of a few short weeks.

Try It Yourself, Become A Better Musician

Put the above, simply concepts into place to develop a music practice routine and stick with it for just 2 weeks. After 2 weeks you will find that you will progress significantly and realize that you will be able to reach any musical goals that you set for yourself.

As you achieve each goal you set, the motivation to continue will be in ample supply. After all, we are only talking about a 30 minute investment of your time. Anyone can afford to do spend that, especially when it will turn you into a better musician.

Post by: Nick Cresswell
Nick Cresswell is a musician, music teacher, author and webmaster of FreeJamTracks.com. Free Jam Tracks provides guitarists, bassists and drummers with free, high quality jam and backing tracks as well as articles and instruction on music and music theory. Visit Nick’s site to download free jam tracks and backing tracks.

Guitar String Bending Secrets

This is quite possibly the single most important element in guitar playing. It’s your personality and your signature all in one. It’s worth spending a lot of time to perfect your bends. It’s your identity.

String bending is a great way to make your playing stand out apart from everyone else. With a slight bend of a string you can take your soloing into a whole new dimension.

String bending refers to actually stretching the string upwards towards the ceiling, or downwards towards the floor, causing an increase in pitch as the string is being stretched. If you are not familiar with string bending, you should definitely start taking action today and practice it. Use your ring finger to firmly hold down a note on the fret board. While holding the note down, bend the string upwards or downwards, while making sure firm string pressure remains on the fret of the guitar.

A good rule of thumb is, when bending the LOW three strings ( E,A,D) you should bend down towards the floor. On the HIGH three strings (G,B,E) you should bend upwards towards the ceiling. One very IMPORTANT rule when string bending is to be able to nail the pitch you’re going for without drifting. This makes your playing sound much more professional and pleasing to the ear.

Example: You are playing a solo within the pentatonic scale, you are getting ready to bend a note with your ring finger and intend on bending it a whole step (two frets up). When you bend that note you accidentally over bend making the note slightly sharp. Or, under bending the note making it slightly flat. This is a common over looked problem in players who bend a lot of notes. The majority of the people who are doing this don’t even realize it’s a problem for years. It’s the difference between Professional and Amateur.

A great way to improve your playing with string bending is to work on adding more emotion into your playing by utilizing the bends as a tool. Look at some of the blues greats like S.R.V. or Clapton. They don’t necessarily play with burning speed, but the notes they do play, and the bends they apply, display powerful emotion and feeling within their guitar playing.

When soloing in any style of music, your bends can really take the solo to new levels, unleashing all the power and feeling of what you are trying to say musically. Bending the notes in different ways can change the feel of your solo as well. By bending slowly and gradually reaching that note is a whole different sound then just a quick bend up.

Another great sounding technique to try is “GHOST BENDING”. This is done by starting the note in the bent position and releasing it back to the original note. Pre-bend the note up a whole step and then release it moving it back down to the original pitch. This has a very unique sound, similar to a whammy bar dive.

Take the necessary time to examine how you bend your notes. Be sure to either bend your strings a whole step up or down, or a half step up or down. You’ll need to practice on nailing the pitch with complete accuracy. This will help clean up your playing tremendously.

Out of control note bending can destroy a great guitar solo.

If you properly practice your bends daily, you’ll soon get to a point of complete control, and you won’t even be thinking about it anymore. This is when you’re actually using bending as a tool, Or Weapon!

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Post by: Bob Molton
Guitar Instructional Product Development