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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.



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!


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



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!


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.


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:


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.

10 Ways to Maximize Your Guitar Playing

Many times it is necessary to acquire an over-all knowledge and understanding of how to go about practicing guitar, as opposed to just learning techniques, riffs, scales and modes. All of these things are highly important of course but when applied correctly, can make the ultimate difference in progress. Progress is the ticket for many guitarists because everyone, no matter what their passion is, strives for personal growth.

Even if a guitarist starts out sloppy and looks at their own playing half-hearted, eventually they will start taking it more seriously, because they tend to get a taste of what’s possible in their own playing. Eventually a guitarist will become somewhat of a perfectionist, and for many the word perfection is sublime, but once you attach that “ist” to it, it some how taints the beautiful word perfection, by suggesting that there is a lot of work involved.

Well, I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t any work involved, but feel comfortable in saying that, because if you do play guitar, then you already know that there is no really easy method to establishing an exclusive prestigiousness in your playing.

However, there are two ways of looking at this. I don’t believe in right and wrong, I only believe in good and better. In my opinion there is no wrong way to do anything, only a better way and I strongly believe that those who have chosen to remove words such as “can’t” and “wrong” from their vocabulary, travel further. Also, a hard lesson for most of us, and I certainly am no different, is this false form of competition. The competition that I am speaking of, comes in the form of competing with time itself. Usually this is cleverly masked as competing with someone who is better than yourself. This is an unhealthy form of competition. You shouldn’t compete with those who are more advanced than yourself in anything that you do in life. Instead, you should correct your thinking and use them as a milestone to reach. This is a mandatory outlook, and I am sorry if you do not agree, but after studying many things in my life, it still stands tried and true.

There is one person that you should compete with, and only that person. That person is you. By doing this, you inspire and push yourself to accomplish what you know that you are capable of doing. Yes, this is a pep talk, but I often remind myself in my life of these very same things, though over time it gets easier and easier to the point where you almost don’t have to remind yourself of these desirable attributes in thinking.

I’ll leave you with this very true thought. Success in anything is 90% proclaimed by the correct and positive mindset. Re-read that and eliminate the word “correct”.

1. Practice everyday for an hour.
For many of you, finding the time to tackle personal interests is daunting, considering that many of you work very hard in the job world, and many of you have a family to attend to, not to mention the things that would seem necessary to conquer in order to exist. Its all about being able to manage your time. An hour isn’t much and can be fulfilled effectively. The best time that I have found to practice is with the TV on and the sound on mute. If you have a favorite program that you cannot get away from, keep your guitar handy and practice during the commercials. That is not the most effective way to practice but it still does the trick. Practicing throughout the day or evening is the best way. Practice for 20 minutes, take care of something that requires your attention, go back and practice for 10 minutes, take care of something else, then practice for 25 minutes.

That is not a formula. Don’t take me literally when I say practice for 20, then 10 and then 25. The key is to break it up and you really shouldn’t keep track, unless you are having trouble disciplining yourself.

2. If possible work with a metronome.
You can buy one for peanuts, but there are a lot of free ones out there. My personal favorite is a program called Guitar Speed Trainer. I like it the best because its an actual training method that doesn’t require a lot of time, and you can program your own passages into it. The best part about it is that it has the typical tick-tock sound of a metronome, but it is one step better for the simple reason that you can match up the notes you play with the notes that are being played in the program.

The key to using a metronome is to find your limit and then set the metronome to an extremely conservative number. If you can play something very easily at 80bpm (beats per minute) then set it to 60bpm, no matter how incredibly boring it is. Practice a riff at this speed, several times over, until it is flawless, then set the metronome for anywhere between 61 and 65bpm. Take breaks in between, repeating this process until you have reached a speed where your hands lose control, then stop. Call it a day. The next time you go to practice, practice starting at 60, and then practice starting at a slightly higher setting like 65bpm. Use that formula for taking breaks and slowly building your speed. It will take a little bit of time to reach your goal, but being consistent is what will get you there, a lot quicker than you might think. You’ll be glad you did it.

3. Don’t always practice the same thing.
Make the attempt to step back and look at the exercises that you are playing, and make the effort to figure out how you can make them a little more difficult, interesting and melodic in order to challenge yourself. Then practice them with the metronome using that same principle. Figure out different timings and look at ways to make your picking hand pick out 2 notes on this string, 3 notes on that string and 4 notes on another string, within the same pattern or exercise.

4. Practice with one chord.
Pick any chord and see how you can condition yourself to come up with different strumming approaches and rhythms. Really think about it. “I’ll try playing this chord with 3 strums in even timing. Now I’m going to take that chord, play 2 strums and hesitate before the 3rd and final strum”, or “I’ll play this chord five times, with 4 down strokes, but the 5th one will be an upstroke”.

5. Practice with multiple chords.
Go out there on the world wide web and find a chord chart. Pick five randomly and play each one over and over again, repeating its name as you are playing it. Then, ignoring chord progression formulas, rearrange the order of those 5 chords. This will help you memorize and will train your ear for ultimate modulation. After you have mastered those 5 chords, add another 5 chords. Now you have 10 guitar chords to work with when you experiment with chord progression. Continue this process.

6. Get a simple tape deck for recording purposes.
I would say use some recording software that you might have, but a tape is a little bit faster, for when you want to record quickly and have immediate playback. Record yourself playing a chord that interests you. Record yourself strumming it over and over again, with any rhythm that you like, but make sure to record it for a good length. Play it back and then solo over it, which brings us to….

7. Soloing.
People think to hard about guitar and they think way to hard about soloing on the guitar. They have no idea because they choose to be stubborn and not correct their thinking. It is not hard. Forget scales – forget modes. Do you honestly think that when I am improvising, I am thinking about what mode I am playing out of? If someone asks me later what mode I was playing out of, I can most certainly backtrack and define, but let’s look at the word theory. Theory, as in theoretical, as in theoretically this is a way to explain something so that two people can be on the same page, but it is a tool like the guitar itself, and it is far from being set in stone. Unfortunately, people base their musical lives around this. The world of musical theory is beautiful and fascinating, but until a guitarist is willing to experiment, it will not make a lot of sense, no matter how knowledgeable that guitarist may be. Which brings us to….

8. Improvising.
Yngwie Malmsteen declared that “The genesis of all musical creation comes from improvisational playing”. I know that I have quoted him before, but I can’t even put it as well as he did. Don’t be afraid of it. Too many people ask about how you get started improvising and then developing your own solos. The answer? develop your own style. Listen to a lot of different types of music and not just guitar related music, and yes, Malmsteen even said the same thing. Build a massive collection of varying musical genres and then jam with those Cd’s or mp3s as often as possible. You may not be very good at first, but that’s a part of any challenge. Start with a note and if it matches what you are listening to, then find another note that matches to go along with that note. Try to keep in rhythm with the music that you are listening to while you are playing those 2 notes, and then take a chance and grab another note. That 3rd note may not work so well, but you always have options like bending or sliding that note up to one that does work. In doing this, you are training your reflexes. I still hit a lot of funky notes when I improvise, but have taught myself to correct them, almost before its noticed. You can do this too. Some people don’t even know when I’ve made a mistake and some people do. I don’t care because I’m having fun. That’s the whole point of music and people are quick to forget this. Which brings us to the fact that the best musicians, artists, scientists, human beings…

9. Do not judge.
I have learned so much from musicians who were not nearly at my level of skill, just as much as I have learned from those who were way beyond it. The thing to ask yourself, is whether or not you are doing this for yourself or for other people. If your answer is that you are playing what you want to play, the way that you want to play it for yourself, then you have already won. The reason is because even those who have massive dreams to become musical icons, start with what they want to hear in music. One of my other great passions is film-making and the greatest filmmakers; Fellini, Scorsese and Kubrick were highly self indulgent. Most people are too afraid to be this way. They feel that it is selfish and they are sadly mistaken. When you have an idea or a style in anything that you do, you will attract to you, those who appreciate it, and considering that the world currently suffices some 6 billion people, I think that if you desire to, you can certainly find those like-minded individuals.

My point for saying all of that was because it is important to realize that the most unlikely sources can be great teachers. Mankind desires recognition. Give your fellow man recognition. This is key and the reason is, because those who cannot recognize others around them are not capable of recognizing their own self worth, and therefor, their own potential. You could say that this is really heavy stuff, and you are right in saying so, but the truth of the matter is that everyone has at least a personal dream of what they want to see come out of themselves, and even the everyday Joe, who just wants to learn a few chords, has a secret longing to see where they can take an instrument such as the guitar. It does not matter how far you want to take it, but everyone presents themselves with a challenge that is worthy of their own capabilities. Sadly, few go through with this, when it is just around the corner. This now brings us to the conclusion, which is…

10. Limit yourself.
This is a trick that Steve Vai uses that I read about when I was a kid, and it almost works too well. What you do is pick two notes, generally next to each other but they can really be anything. Take those two notes and play only those notes for as long as you can. You can do absolutely anything that you want with them. Bends, sliding up, sliding down, hammer-ons, pull-offs, tremolo picking, etc. Make a good attempt every now and then to play those 2 notes for at least a half hour. I’m not going to paint a pretty picture. At first it is interesting and you come up with lots of ideas for those 2 notes, but after about 5 minutes, you start to lose your mind. However, if you stick with it, you will very soon realize that there is a whole plethora of concepts and ideas out there.

The important thing about this exercise is that when you finally give yourself a break, your hands go crazy. Its like they’ve been cooped up in a prison cell for 6 years and are now being set free. The ideas will flow to you so quickly that your mind can barely keep up. I will also say, that this method of training works best if you are pretty relaxed when it comes to improvising on the guitar.

Final thoughts. You will notice a common factor that seems to act as an under-layer throughout these 10 methods of guitar training. That layer is the metaphysical, aka mental power. This was cold turkey, I admit that as well, but I did not write in such a heavy manner to scare you, I wrote this the way that I did, not even to inspire you. You can only inspire yourself. I wrote this to hopefully settle that negative thought process and attitude that most guitarists have. Why are guitar players so arrogant? well, you don’t have to be. No matter how good you become, there will always be someone better and that’s a very good thing. It will push you to get better, at the same time keeping you humble.

The over-all message is to just have fun with it. This is not work, this is play. Those 10 approaches to playing really do work, but if you apply them, you have to think of it as fun and get excited about the progress that you are making. With that, I will simply say, here’s to you and the wonderful journey ahead.

Post by: Tennyson Williams
Tennyson Williams has been studying guitar for eight years, sixteen hours a day, and has studied every style of music imaginable. He has played in bands, that encompassed a wide range of music. It wasn’t until after eight years of piano lessons, that he made the decision to become a self-taught musician, but the journey has been well worth it for the guitarist. His sole passion is to share with others, his endless knowledge of music, in order to make their musical dreams a reality. He currently maintains a site called GuitArticles, where a wide variety of lessons and articles on the intellectual properties of music can be found.

Practicing Guitar Scales & Guitar Chords: The Inherent Value

When thinking in terms of practicing guitar scales and guitar chords, many guitarists tend to overlook the overwhelming value of such practice. After all, some might argue, practicing a guitar scale just for the sake of practicing a guitar scale, doesn’t seem like a very exciting prospect. The same argument, for some, is also applied to learning and playing guitar chords. In other words, why learn a major 9 chord, when a major triad is easier to learn and play? We’ll examine the answer in a moment.

Keep in mind that many guitarists are satisfied with their ability to play just a few songs here and there. There are many guitarists who enjoy performing in clubs for larger audiences. Others strive to become accomplished nationally and internationally. The practice habits for all are different, because the goals are different.

For the purpose of this article, I believe it’s safe to say that those who enjoy playing a few songs here and there, will, most likely, bypass the rigorous schedule of scale and chord practice.

For the intermediates, advanced, or professional players, scale and chord practice is absolutely essential. In fact, daily practice sessions are in line with these levels of musicianship. Why? The development of strength, endurance, recognition of melodic and harmonic structure, and, of course, more facility on the guitar.

The leap from good to great on the guitar is actually a short distance. Shorter than one might think. It’s really all about the level of desire and commitment one has, that will determine the actual distance. However, willingness without action equals fantasy. Good intent means nothing if one is not prepared to act.

None of us believe that, as guitarists, our fingers somehow magically end up on the correct note, the correct string, at the right time, merely by accident. In fact, a great melodic solo and chord work is generally reflective of many years of pure practice. It’s almost a guarantee that behind every great guitarist, there are thousands and thousands of hours of scale and chord practice. It’s important to remind ourselves of all the benefits as a result of this hard work.

For starters, practicing scales develops finger strength, wrist control, picking techniques, pivot techniques, thumb placement, fret logic, and a multitude of other essential elements needed in order to execute in a professional manner. By practicing scales as scales (not musical statements per se), we learn very good habits and general rules of performance. We also learn that rules are made to be broken. When we, as experienced guitarists, break a rule, we at least know that we are, in fact, breaking a rule. Further, we all know that it’s permissible to break certain rules due to the impositions of certain styles of music, among other things.

For the experienced guitarist, I truly believe it’s important to remember how we arrived at our proficiency level. This is important because, in reality, we should never stop learning and progressing.

As a progressive guitarist, I enjoy those over-the-top solos that generally send chills up the spine of the listener. However, I also enjoy the hours of personal practice that allows me to execute those solos. Performance is one thing and skill development is another. It’s beneficial to enjoy both.

Imagine setting aside approximately eight straight hours of practice time and devoting a good share of that time to practicing one or two scales only. The thought of this routine might surprise some of the more experienced players. Once again, why practice scales when we can solo into infinity? The answer is forth coming.

I can almost guarantee that after a few hours of practicing a scale, the strict succession of the scale tones will disappear and will be replaced with new musical statements. Further, fresh new techniques will also emerge. For example, one might discover a new way to pick a string, cross a string, mute a string, embellish the scale tones, as well as many, many other discoveries. How’s that for progression?

A hardcore practice session can easily turn into a fantastic creative session. This is great news for the original guitarist and songwriter. Need a new guitar lick or song? Practice, practice, practice.

Everything discussed thus far, pertaining to guitar scales, also applies to practicing guitar chords. In music, time waits for no man. Chord construction and execution takes practice. Especially, when dealing with extended chords and altered chords (let’s not forget inversions). Not all of us will have the opportunity to encounter a major 11 Augmented 13th chord. However, what happens if we do? Answer; play it at the speed of right.

Whatever your level of musicianship, be sure to practice for the sake of practice. Great things will result from your hard work.

Post by: Michael E. Fletcher
©2008 Michael E. Fletcher. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Accelerate Your Guitar Playing

First, define your objectives and determine your approach. These objectives may change as you progress, but a goal is important before starting to play the guitar.

Begin by forming good study habits. Part of your study will be physical performance and part will be mentally engaged in the study of theory, listening to recordings, tapes and the radio, watching television, Internet and watching live performances. You will be talking to other guitarists, students and professionals, studying in classes and with private teachers and of course via online guitar courses, guitar training software etc. You will also be improvising. All of these activities will give you valuable information and experience, increase your skill, broaden your scope and develop your insights. Keep an open mind and learn something from everyone you meet …even if it is not what to do!

The following suggestions should help you in your study and practice:

  • Never practice or study when you are tired or worried. Relax a bit before you begin. If possible study in a quiet place where you can be undisturbed. Have a music stand adjusted to your eye level when you practice, and make sure that you always have good light. Form the habit of studying in a regular place and at a regular time.
  • Several short study practice periods on successive days are usually better than one lengthy period of study. A little study every day is better than spasmodic, inconsistent study. Use various ways of making yourself think about what you are studying. If you are looking at a printed page of notes, try to imagine them on a guitar finger board and vice versa.
  • Form the habit of mentally reviewing every page of music you study before going on to the next one. See how much of it you can recall and try to remember it. When you have learned something make use of it as soon as you can. The sooner and more often, the better. If you have learned fingerings for a few new chords so that you can play them even slowly, make up an exercise or song that involves these chords and has you shifting from one chord to another often. It is not enough to learn about something. Unless you utilize this information it does not become a part of you.
  • When you have completed a reasonable amount of material, take time to summarize what you have covered. You may want to write your summary. Keep a good music dictionary handy, and use it frequently. When you have discovered the meaning of a new word or term, use it yourself.

Self Study

To correct poor study conditions, consider thoughtfully each of the questions below and write specific answers to each one. Then decide what you can do to correct each of the things wrong with your study conditions. Make notes of these and correct them:

  1. What can you see on your desk, music stand, or through your window that distracts you?
  2. What music, talking or other noises are disturbing your practice and study?
  3. What is wrong with your position or posture when you practice or study?
  4. Are you sure your lighting is adequate? What is wrong with it?
  5. Is your work space large enough and arranged well?
  6. What materials do you lack for effect study?
  7. What time of day is most difficult to practice or study? Why?
  8. What worries or special interests divert you from studying?

Effective methods of practicing or studying, of themselves, will not suffice. Careful planning also is essential. Lay out your work systematically before you begin. Each individual’s time, facilities and desires are personal matters. Just be sure to adopt some plan and stick to it as conscientiously as possible.

Post by: Mike Hayes
Mike Hayes is a guitar teacher, author, performing musician and session guitarist with over 30 years of professional experience. Find out more about how to learn guitar fast with his popular free ecourse, available at: => GuitarCoaching.com