easy bluegrass guitar songs

7 Easy Bluegrass Songs on Guitar

easy bluegrass guitar songsEven beginners can start playing a little bluegrass guitar. Music teacher Matthew K. shares a selection of his favorite easy bluegrass guitar songs…

When I first listened to bluegrass music, I knew I had to learn the guitar parts. They are very intricate and fun! The patterns weave in and out of each other, creating a sound that is unique to the genre. It can be a daunting sound for any beginner – and it may seem impossible at first – but remember, everyone has to start at the beginning.

There are some bluegrass tunes that are slightly less difficult than others, and easy guitar songs are still fun to play and impressive to listen to. The following are seven of my favorite easy bluegrass guitar songs.

Please note that you should have a general knowledge of guitar chords, and have the ability to use a flat pick in order to attempt these songs. It is always good to listen to the songs, as well.


1. “Keep on the Sunny Side” – The Carter Family

“Keep on the Sunny Side” is one of the most famous bluegrass songs. The version I am showing you is in the key of C. It is played with a standard bluegrass-strumming pattern: Down – Down – Rest – Up – Down – Up, then immediately repeat. Below are the chords used in the song and how they are played to the lyrics.

 Chord Chord (easy) Chord


Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side


Keep on the sunny side of life


It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way


If we’ll keep on the sunny side of life


2. “Foggy Mountain Top” – A.P. Carter

Here is another very popular bluegrass tune. It can be played quickly with a Down – Down strumming pattern while counting, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2. There is a new chord introduced.

uitar Chord D7


If I was on some foggy mountain top


I’d sail away to the west


I’d sail all around this whole wide world

D7 G

To the girl I love the best


If I had listened to what momma said


I would not have been here today


A lying around this old jail-house

D7 G

A weeping my sweet life away


3. “On Top of Old Smokey” – The Weavers

“On Top of Old Smokey” is a slower song, played in ¾ time. It can be played with a Down - Down – Up – Down pattern, while counting to three. It features the G7 chord.

7 Chord


On top of old Smokey all covered in snow

G7 C

I lost my true lover by courting too slow


But courting is pleasure but parting is grief

G7 C

For a false hearted lover is worse than a thief


A thief he will just rob you take what you have

G7 C

But a false hearted lover will take you to your grave


A grave will decay you turn you into dust

G7 C

And there just isn’t one girl a poor boy can trust


4. “Man of Constant Sorrow” – Dick Burnett

This is a song originally written by Dick Burnett, but made famous by The Cinch Brothers, and later made even more famous by the motion picture Oh Brother Where Art Thou. The following is a simplified version that can be played with a Down – Down pattern.

 Chord Chord


In constant sorrow all through his days


I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow


I’ve seen trouble all my day


I bid farewell to old Kentucky


The place where I was born and raised


The place where he was born and raised


For six long years I’ve been in trouble


No pleasures here on earth I found


For in this world I’m bound to ramble


I have no friends to help me now


He has no friends to help him now


5. “Kentucky Girl” – Larry Sparks

“Kentucky Girl” is a nice song that only features two chords. It can be played much like “Keep on the Sunny Side.” The pattern is Down – Down – Down – Up – Down.

G D7

Kentucky girl are you lonesome tonight


Kentucky girl do you miss me


Does that old moon shine on the bluegrass as bright


As it did on the night you first kissed me


In a valley neath the mountain so high


The sweetest place in all the world


In a cabin with vines on the door


Is where I met my Kentucky girl


6. “Old Doc Brown” – Hank Snow (“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”)

“Old Doc Brown” is a song that is played very slowly and has spoken word over it rather than traditional singing lyrics. It’s a classic. It was first performed by Hank Snow, but later popularized by Johnny Cash. It shares the same chords as “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” which is a very old hymnal song that bears no author. I chose this song because there are a few new chords introduced.

7 Chord7 Chord


I am weak but thou art strong, Jesus, keep me from all wrong

A A7 D A E7 D A

I’ll be satisfied as long As I walk, let me walk close to thee


Just a closer walk with thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea

A A7 D A E7 D A

Daily walking close to thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be


7. “Nine Pound Hammer” – Flatt & Scruggs

“Nine Pound Hammer” is another fast-paced, classic bluegrass song. It can be played with the Down – Down –Rest – Up – Down pattern that we have seen before. The chorus is as follows.

7 Chord


Roll on buddy


Don’t you roll so slow


Well, tell me how can I roll roll roll


When the wheels won’t go


Roll on buddy


Pull you load of coal


Tell me how can I pull


When the wheels won’t roll


It’s a long way to Harlan


It’s a long way to Hazard


Just to get a little brew brew brew


Just to get a little brew


And when I die


You can make my tombstone


Out of number nine coal


Out of number nine coal


Please keep in mind that these seven easy bluegrass guitar songs can be expanded upon greatly. These are merely open chord versions of the songs. The best way to learn is by sitting with a guitar teacher, so that he or she can go through the strumming patterns and fills.

All chord photos are from JustinGuitar.com.

Want to learn even more bluegrass guitar songs and techniques? Working with a private guitar teacher is the best way to improve your skills. Search for your guitar teacher now!

Matthew K

Matthew K. teaches guitar, piano, and music theory lessons in Brooklyn, NY. He studied music composition at Mercyhurst University, and he has been teaching lessons for four years. Matthew is available to teach in-person lessons as well as online via Skype. Learn more about Matthew here!



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3 Common Bluegrass Guitar Terms and Techniques

3 Common Bluegrass Guitar Terms and Techniques

3 Common Bluegrass Guitar Terms and TechniquesWant to join in a bluegrass song circle or play on your own for fun? Guitar teacher Matthew K. shares the three terms and techniques you’ll need to know to play bluegrass guitar…

Learning bluegrass on the guitar is not much different than learning blues, rock, or country guitar. There are terms and techniques that you will come across in learning bluegrass guitar that may confuse you, but do not fret! Below are three common bluegrass terms that you will certainly come across while learning the guitar.


Flatpicking is a bluegrass term that means…well, using a pick. This is opposed to using your fingers, finger picks, or a thumb pick. We have all seen a common guitar pick, this is just the term that bluegrass player have to describe using one.

If you are a bluegrass fan, you understand that the majority of the guitar work is fast! Before playing bluegrass guitar fast, you have to learn the proper flatpicking technique. First, the pick should be held between the thumb and the index finger. Hold it just tight enough so it does not fall out of your hand, but do not squeeze too tightly! Make sure you are comfortable

Alternate picking is the only way to play quickly. You have to play slow before you can play fast. Rushing the process will result in sloppy rhythms and ugly performance. The best way to gain this skill is to practice scales, alternating down strums and up strums on every beat. For example, if you are tapping your foot, your down strums should be on the tap. Below is tablature for a common bluegrass scale.

G major pentatonic


Once you graduate from this exercise, you can jump into a full 2 octave pentatonic scale. Practice it both forward and backward.

G major pentatonic



Crosspicking is a much more difficult technique used in bluegrass guitar, and should only be attempted when the player has mastered alternate picking, as alternate picking is the basis of crosspicking.

This technique creates a sound that simulates the fingerpicking style, but it has a much more clean and polished sound when mastered. Usually crosspicking is done in groups of three and features a similar pattern that repeats. Again, it should be performed slowly at first, gradually getting faster. Below is a great video that demonstrates the technique.

When crosspicking, you will have to learn to alternate pick in a different way. Instead of Down-Up-Down, the pattern may call for a Down-Down-Up or an Up-Up-Down pattern to your strumming.

Carter Style

In the 1930s, there was a group that revolutionized bluegrass music. They were called The Carter Family. The Carter style, which is a technique commonly used in slower bluegrass tunes, is still used today. The band would often play the melodic notes on the bass strings of the guitar, and the rhythmic fills on the treble strings. Meaning, the lead guitar parts are played on the low strings.

This technique is very similar to crosspicking. Rather than picking the strings next to one another, your pick will be jumping from the low strings to the high strings.

BluegrassGuitar.com is a great website that explains these terms and techniques in much more detail. If you are looking to dive into this style of guitar playing, first do research online, but it is always better to find a skilled teacher for private lessons.

What are you waiting for? Search for your guitar teacher now!

Matthew K

Matthew K. teaches guitar, piano, and music theory lessons in Brooklyn, NY. He studied music composition at Mercyhurst University, and he has been teaching lessons for four years. Matthew is available to teach in-person lessons as well as online via Skype. Learn more about Matthew here!



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rhythm guitar

3 Fun Rhythm Guitar Patterns So You Can Learn to Sing and Play

rhythm guitarMastering a few basic rhythm guitar patterns is key to learning how to sing and play guitar at the same time. Follow this guide from guitar teacher Andy T. and you’ll be strumming like a boss in no time…

Singing and playing guitar at the same time is one of the most challenging things that a musician can do. It’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach, only ten times more difficult. Today, we are going to look at three easy and hip rhythm guitar patterns that you can use to get started.

For the purposes of this article, we are going to use a guitar as the example instrument. However, with a little creativity, these rhythmic patterns can be converted to piano, ukulele, banjo, or any other chordal instrument. Each rhythm guitar pattern is notated using slash notation and is accompanied by an audio clip.

Above each beat, you will see either of these two symbols:

a downstroke



or an upstroke



These symbols refer to downstrokes and upstrokes, respectively. Don’t forget to play the rests! In other words, any time you see a rest, go ahead and move your strumming hand over the strings like you’re strumming, but don’t actually touch the strings. This will keep your hand in sync so that you are strumming down on downbeats and up on upbeats.

You’ll also notice that each pattern has two versions. The only difference between two versions of the same pattern is where the change in chord takes place. By altering where the chord change takes place, you can significantly change the feel of each pattern.


Pattern #1

This is one of the most common types of strumming patterns and is a good start to getting a song under your fingers. The trick to nailing this progression is remembering to start the second group of notes on an upstroke, so that you can smoothly land the downstroke on the downbeat of the next measure.

Strumming Pattern 1A:



Strumming Pattern 1B:



Pattern #2

Take note that this pattern is swung by observing this notation:

Triplet Feel or Swing


This means that all upbeats are shifted from perfectly in between each downbeat, to about 2⁄3 after each downbeat (or 1⁄3 before each downbeat, depending on your perspective). While difficult to explain in words, hearing and feeling a swing rhythm is much easier. Just imagine the sound of a train clunking along the tracks, or your car’s tires as you drive over a bridge, or a pair of boots or high heels walking around on a hard surface. You’ll notice this kind of strumming when listening to artists like Jack Johnson.

Strumming Pattern 2A:



Strumming Pattern 2B:



Pattern #3

This is one of my favorite patterns, especially the second version with the quicker chord changes. That’s because the chord change happens on the last beat of the second measure, as opposed to the first beat of the third. It’s that unexpected (and early) change that makes this so groovy. This pattern and its variations are frequently used by artists like John Mayer.

Strumming Pattern 3A:



Strumming Pattern 3B:




These are three fun, easy strumming patterns to get you started. Before you go, let’s talk a little bit about the best way to practice these: Slowly. Start by playing much more slowly than you think you need to. Make sure that you have the pattern looped smoothly before increasing the tempo. Despite popular logic and opinion, it is much harder to play slow than fast. Which brings me to my next (and last) point: Use a metronome. A good place to start is typically 60 bpm. See if you can loop a chord progression for at least three minutes (the radio­standard length for a song) before increasing the tempo.

Good luck, and have fun!

Get more guitar guidance by studying with a private music teacher. Guitar teachers are available to work with you online via Skype or in-person depending on location and availability. Search for your guitar teacher now!

Andy T.

Andy T. teaches in-person guitar, performance and songwriting lessons in Austin, TX. He has a degree in education from the University of Texas at Austin and has been teaching private guitar lessons for 6 years. Learn more about Andy here!



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Photo by Mathias Miranda

Where Guitar Picks Really Go When You Lose Them

13 Relatable Theories About Where Guitar Picks Really Go When You Lose Them

The life of a guitarist is not all glamour and glory. Mostly, you spend your time looking for a guitar pick, you know, the one you just put down a second ago. Over the years, many explanations have arisen to explain the phenomenon of the disappearing pick, but unfortunately science has yet to give us a definitive answer.

So, in the spirit of investigation and with hopes of someday exposing the truth, here are 13 of the leading theories on what happened to your lost guitar pick.

1. It fell between your couch cushions.

Check in your couch and you’ll certainly find a guitar pick or two, a handful of change, and a long-lost remote control.

2. Check your dryer.

Step one: leave a pick in your pocket. Step two: forget to empty your pockets before you do your laundry. Step three: check your dryer, because it is now full of guitar picks.

3. It joined a colony under the furniture.

Guitar picks like it under your furniture. It makes sense — it’s dark down there and they can live relatively undisturbed until you move.

4. Your cat took it.

If you’ve got a pet in the house, chances are they’ve gotten their paws mixed up in something to do with your guitar. Cats especially like guitar picks because they are small, fun to bat at, and most importantly, you need them.

5. It grew legs and walked away.

Sometimes this is the only possibility that makes sense.

6. You dropped it in the soundhole, didn’t you?

Have fun trying to shake it out! If you’re feeling adventurous, you can fish your guitar pick out of your soundhole by affixing a piece of double-sided tape to the end of a stick or pen.

7. It was picked up by a gnome.

Mischievous pick gnomes have been the bane of guitar players on the Internet since this Ultimate Guitar forum post back in 2007. Apparently these small magical creatures are consumed with the desire to steal guitar picks and they will stop at nothing to do it. If gnomes are at the root of your trouble, you can publicly express your frustration and take a stand against the gnomes by liking I Hate Pick Gnomes on Facebook.

8. Did you check your pockets?

Your pockets are a perfect hiding place on the way to the dryer, the couch cushions, or worse. You can keep picks safe by checking your pockets!

9. It is taking a year off to “find itself”.

This is a big problem, especially among millenials. Picks these days!

10. It is hiding under the rug.

No one knows how picks get under rugs. Somehow, they just do.

11. It was a time-traveler from 1985.

Don’t grieve. It will be happier back in its own time. Besides, you don’t need a time-traveler hanging around your house, messing with the time space continuum.

12. It fell in love with a sock and ran away.

Socks and guitar picks are basically the peanut butter and jelly of lost objects. Since both disappear with alarming frequency, it makes sense that they would occasionally run off together.

13. You sat on it. It is stuck to the back of your leg.

The calls are coming from inside the house!!

Now that you’ve found your guitar picks, maybe you’d like to sharpen your skills by studying with a private guitar teacher. Search for your guitar teacher now!

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Ten tips on building muscle memory with guitar

10 Guitar Exercises and Tips for Building Muscle Memory

 Ten tips on building muscle memory with guitar

Did you know that by programming your muscle memory, you can make playing the guitar feel more natural, and even improve your technique? Guitar teacher Michael N. shares 10 guitar exercises and tips to help you build up your muscle memory…

1. Understand muscle memory

Every instrument player uses muscle memory. Every day activities like driving, riding a bicycle, and even typing this article,  are easier because of muscle memory. Remember to continue slow, correct, and “meaningful” practice so that the muscle movements needed are correctly memorized. Once you learn a scale or a chord really well, you will have a remnant of the scale embedded into your memory, specifically your muscle memory. Use this to your advantage by imprinting these memories really well early on!

2. Use a metronome at a slow speed

This type of metronome practice gives you room to concentrate on new technical aspects at an attainable tempo. This type of practice is more valuable, proving the fact that multiple reps of something aren’t worth as much unless focus on improving each time with consistency is inherent.

3. Practice placing chords shapes one finger at a time

Analyze what each finger has to do between each chord. Make those movements with finger one finger at a time, then two at a time, and eventually place your fingers in the whole chord all together. Eventually the entire chord movement will become an automatic move into place with simultaneous finger movement!

4. Practice the chord “shapes” without strumming

Place your fingers in a chord and then change to the next. Try practicing chords in sequences of three or four at a time. These should be chords that you have already learned, so you can make the shapes while watching TV or having a conversation. Taking out the variable of strumming is a great way to isolate and improve your left-hand technique!

5. Pay attention to what changes from one chord to the next

Sometimes a finger does not have to move very far to get to its next location. Sometimes it is already where it needs to be! Be conscious of these situations to make sure you are moving efficiently from chord to chord without extra movement.

6. Make the switches between chords a fast snap

Even if you are waiting four beats between chords or just switching chords freely when you can, try to start quick “snaps” to prepare and think ahead to the next chord. With four beats for instance, you should be thinking about the next chord as fast as possible or on the second beat of the group of four.

7. Counting and closing-in exercise

This is one of my favorite guitar exercises for when you are building up a specific chord change, but you need to be able to do it faster. Example: playing C to G is a challenge for you. Put a metronome on at a very slow and attainable tempo and the first time think in groups of 4 clicks. Play the chord only on the first click of four while counting out loud and changing the finger positions as fast as possible. Feel good after a while? Next try changing the chord within three clicks. Can you move right after the second click? Finally, when you’re up to speed, you can move the chord on each click and the counting and closing in exercise is complete.

8. One finger can get there before the others

When you are learning new chords, you have a chord change that is usually challenging to get in time, or you have a fast tune; you may still be able to make the chord! Remember that one finger could get to the next chord before the other fingers trail along, so you could strum a few strings that include the finger that has made it, position your fingers that are late, and then complete the strumming when all fingers are positioned. Try it out!

9. Focus on your fingertips

You might be noticing buzzing or strings that sound weird for certain chords. It could be that you are half-muting a string with part of your finger! Make sure to arc your fingers and use just fingertips on the fretboard for some chords and you can avoid the extra contact with the open strings underneath those fingers. Practice placing each finger down on the fretboard, being mindful to only press through the tip of your fingers. Boom. Problem solved.

10. Think ahead

As soon as one chord or note is placed, strummed or plucked, think ahead to the next necessary movement and make it. Then as soon as that chord is placed, do the same. We will always be thinking ahead until the end of a piece. Now, I am just thinking ahead about the next article I might write!

Learn more guitar exercises and improve your skills by taking lessons with a private guitar teacher. Guitar teachers are available to work with you online via Skype or in-person depending on locations and availability. Search for your guitar teacher now!

Michael N

 Michael N. is multi-instrumentalist and instructor in Oak Creek, WI. Available for lessons in person or online, Michael teaches guitar, drums, singing, and piano, as well as trumpet, marimba, and kazoo! Teaching for more than 7 years, he earned his Masters of Music in Instrumental Conducting and is even the current Youth Percussion Ensemble Director at UW Milwaukee and the Percussion Coach at Oak Creek High School.  Learn more about Michael here!



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metal guitar lessons

5 Things You Need to Know Before Taking Metal Guitar Lessons

metal guitar lessonsBefore you start your metal guitar lessons, be sure to take this advice from guitar teacher Zachary A.

Taking metal guitar lessons at first can seem rather challenging, but learning to play metal guitar really isn’t as a daunting of a task as it may seem.  As you continue to read, I will go over few different tips and practices that would be beneficial to know before embarking on your epic journey in learning how to play metal.

1) Finding the way that you learn the best, and sticking to it

There is a multitude of different methods to learning how to play metal guitar, and the guitar in general. Find the way that you learn the best, and stick to it. It might take you a few attempts at various methods of practice to achieve this, but it will be extremely worth it. It’s important to find the right method that works for you, because when you’re trying to learn from a way that doesn’t fit you just right, you might end up getting frustrated and discouraged, which might eventually lead you to give up and lose interest.

2) Practice makes perfect

In order to get truly good at anything – especially a musical instrument – it requires practice and a dedication to practicing. You should set aside a certain amount of time that works with your schedule to practice daily what you learn while taking metal guitar lessons. There might be a lot of distractions around you that might interfere with this. (In my case, this would be the television or a good book.)

But, you need to shut off all the distractions: turn off the television, put away your cell phone, stop watching silly YouTube videos of cats (no matter how entertaining they are) and practice guitar. It truly is the only way that you will progress as a musician. Everyone seems to want to become a virtuoso musician over night, and, well, this never happens. People who put in more hours of practice than anyone else are the ones who become virtuoso musicians. It’s a proven fact. History is the evidence.

3) Listen to the masters

Listen to the virtuoso guitar players of the metal guitar like Sinister Gates, Dimebag Darrell, Dave Mustaine, Steve Vai, and – saving the best for last – Randy Rhodes. You can learn so much from just absorbing all the music that they play. Also, developing an ear for the notes is a priority for successful musicians. Some lucky people have what they call perfect pitch. For the rest of us, myself included, it’s important to listen and play the song you want to learn again and again. This ‘musician’s ear’ you’ll develop comes in handy all the time, even when reading tabs; because tabs aren’t always accurate, and you’ll have the ability to notice when the notes are incorrect.

4) Don’t limit yourself to only metal music

All genres of music are beneficial to you. With a broad knowledge of music, you improve your range, capabilities and diversity as a musician. Every musician out there has had influences that have helped shaped the way that he or she plays. So, even if there are musicians out there that you enjoy and would like to play like, don’t limit yourself to only studying their music. Do some research, and look up who they listened to and who influenced them when they were starting out learning the guitar. Listen to their influences; you should be able to find similarities in their influences with the guitarist that you are aspiring to be.

5) Set Goals!!

This is crucial for motivation. Everyone likes success, and when you set goals, you have those times when you achieve success by reaching those goals. Through this success you make progress. To me, there is no perfection, only progress.

These five things are just a few helpful hints that will be a great stepping stone to achieve progress at becoming a metal guitarist. Have fun and rock on!

Zachary A

 Zachary A. is a guitar instructor in Katy, TX specializing in beginning and intermediate students. He is currently earning a degree in music theory. Learn more about Zachary here!




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bluegrass guitar lessons

5 Ways To Prepare For Bluegrass Guitar Lessons

bluegrass guitar lessonsStarting bluegrass guitar lessons is fun and exciting, and odds are you’ll have a lot to learn! Guitar teacher Samuel B. shares a few things you’ll want to do before you get started…

Bluegrass is as much a piece of American musical culture as jazz, blues, country, gospel and early rock and roll. All of these styles (save for jazz) are based on the same three chords: C, F and G7th. Three of these styles (blues, country and gospel) are based on a slow rhythm that allows the guitarist room to experiment with varied melodic patterns within the space of a single chord.

What sets bluegrass apart from these other categories is not its chord structure, but the way that its chords are played – hitting the bottom string and strumming the chord only once. Bluegrass picking must be in perfect sync with the fast-paced rhythm that this pattern imposes. There are a few things you can do before you start your bluegrass guitar lessons to begin recognizing and appreciating the intricate melodies you will eventually be learning to play that stem from this rhythm.

1. Do a Lot of Listening

One piece of songwriting advice that resonates with me is this: determine what specifically moves you about your favorite songs and copy those elements in the ones you write. Comparably, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the music of various bluegrass artists (I recommend Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, and Alison Krauss), in order to get a clear idea of who you want to sound like (or perhaps not sound like).

If you live in or near a music-friendly city, go to a few local bluegrass shows. They need not be held at sports arenas nor should you treat these outings like field research. They’re just opportunities to surround yourself with the music and let it sink in over a sandwich and a drink. Bring a friend or other loved one and share the experience.

2. Do a Guided Visualization

In order to a gain a more in-depth understanding of the music and why it matters to you, listen to your favorite piece of bluegrass music with your eyes closed and then write down what it made you think of. What’s familiar to you about the sound? What isn’t? Is there a specific landscape or region of the world that came to mind? If so, who was there? What was this person or these people doing? What colors do you remember from the scene? What sounds? What smells? Was anyone serving food? If so, what do you suppose it would have tasted like? Would anything pertaining to your sense of touch have been relevant? If so, what did it feel like?

In a manner similar to what I described about the shows, your visualization should not be treated like it’s supposed to be prize-winning literature. Your answers need not be relevant to the music in any historical or socially significant way – just true to how it made you feel and what it made you think of.

3. Consider Joining a Bluegrass Song Circle

If you’re already familiar with first-position chords (the ones on the first three frets), a song circle will provide you a chance to learn some new tricks as well as introduce you to a network of other musicians you might perform or record with in the future. Above all, song circles will actively engage you with bluegrass music and musicians in a communal format unavailable in one-one-one bluegrass guitar lessons. What you’ll learn in the lessons will compliment what you learn in the circle and vice versa.

4. Practice Your Scales

You probably saw this one coming a mile away, but scale mastery is pertinent to every genre. Bluegrass is certainly no exception. Unless you want to play only chords, practicing scales (particularly major ones) is the only way of improving your dexterity, as well as your familiarity with the notes that comprise the form. Start with the major scale in C, and learn it backwards and forward:


Then, take it up a full step to D, and do the same:


5. Do Some Research About Appalachia

If you’re a serious musician (or are at least intent on becoming one), you’ll want some understanding of what inspired your specific genre to come through in your playing. You’ll want to know about the daily livelihoods and struggles of the people who originally made the music. How did they provide for their basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter? What were their personal struggles (medicine, family life)? Their professional ones (industrial)? In what ways do you suppose all of these daily uncertainties inspired their music?

One of my favorite books about the region is October Sky. Written by former NASA engineer Homer Hickam Junior, it chronicles the slow collapse of a West Virginia mining town. While bluegrass music is a mostly pleasant and playful-sounding form, its inspiration lies in the rugged, desolate and often bleak environment its original makers inhabited. Your goal as a musician should be to paint a both colorful and heartfelt portrait of this environment.

Don’t wait to get started with your guitar lessons! Search for a guitar teacher now.


Samuel B. teaches beginner guitar lessons in Austin, TX. He teaches lessons face-to-face without sheet music, which is his adaptation of Japanese instruction (involving a call-and-response method). Learn more about Samuel here!




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6 Valuable Things to Know About Learning Guitar

6 Valuable Things to Know About Learning Guitar

6 Valuable Things to Know About Learning GuitarBefore you start taking guitar lessons, there are a few things you should know! Guitar teacher Ryan B. shares six things everyone should know about learning guitar…

It really is a magical moment when you first pick up a guitar. The feel of the wood, the tension on the strings, the way the curve of the body fits just right on your lap. You’re filled with visions of yourself on stage playing for thousands who worship your every note.

The problem is the next moment isn’t quite so magical.

You try to play a chord, but the only sounds are dull thuds and ceaseless buzzing. Your clumsy fingers just can’t figure out how to coax music out of this cursed piece of wood.

For so many, frustration is where their experience learning guitar begins and ends. But going into it with the right mindset can make all the difference and lead to a nice payoff. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re starting on the guitar:

1. Your hands need some exercise

There are 35 muscles that control your fingers! And you’re going to need each one of those to make your guitar strings hum just how you hear them in your head. So when you practice, especially in the beginning, remember to warm up and stretch (here’s a great video) so you don’t hurt yourself. And keep in mind that after a long session you might have sore hands and forearms.

2. Practice is really boring sometimes

Just like anything else, practicing your guitar can get extremely monotonous. After a hundred times practicing that new scale or picking pattern and still needing more work, it’s really easy to give up and play something easier. But to get better you really have to hunker down and put in the hours necessary (in fact they say you need to practice something for 10,000 hours before you master it!).

3. Take good care of your instrument

You’ve been practicing every day and really making progress towards your goals, but one day during a particularly intense session you break a string (or input jack, or neck…). The problem is you don’t know how to fix it, and so your guitar sits and collects dust and all your skills melt away. It’s a common story, one that happens far too often. Learning some simple maintenance like changing strings, cleaning the neck and a bit of basic wiring can go a long way towards preventing lapses in your practice because of something as simple as a busted string.

4. The fastest way to learn is to slow down

Everyone wants to play their favorite lick right when they pick up the guitar. When you try to do this, though, you’re either going to fail miserably and inevitably give up or learn it very very poorly. Before you get to killer solos you have to master your scales. And in order to master your scales you have to learn to do your scales very… slowly… In order to really shred through those suckers, you’ve gotta get them perfect going at a snail’s pace and then slowly pick up the tempo. And then once you’ve mastered that, then you move on up to the next step. And so on and so forth…

5. Ditch the phone

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m addicted to my phone. If I’m away from it for just a few minutes I start to get jittery and extremely curious about my friends’ Facebook walls. But too many distractions will keep you from getting productive practice time in. This might mean getting a dedicated guitar tuner instead of an app so you don’t even need your phone in the room with you. Hopefully you can spend the next hour learning guitar and not looking at cute cat videos.

6. Take a break

Now you’ve been doing scales for hours, and despite getting rid of obvious distractions, you’re still having trouble focusing. Maybe you need a break. You need to be able to put the work in, but if you’re getting too stressed it will also hurt your practice (and make your fingers too tense- which is not a good thing). Every once in a while, take a few minutes to play a fun easy song or watch that silly cat video you’ve been putting off. Maybe even a quick power nap.

There’s a lot more to learning guitar than just these, but I hope that these tips can help you along your musical journey. Happy pickin’!

Get personalized tips and tricks for learning guitar by taking private lessons with a guitar teacher. Guitar teachers are available to work with you online via Skype or in-person depending on locations and availability. Search for your guitar teacher now!

Ryan B Ryan B. teaches guitar, banjo, and mandolin in Chicago, IL. A graduate of the University of Illinois, he can teach his students music theory, and as a member of a traveling local band, he can also help with songwriting! Learn more about Ryan here!



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4 Essential Classic Rock Guitar Solos That Will Make You a Better Player

4 Essential Classic Rock Guitar Solos That Will Make You a Better Player

4 Essential Classic Rock Guitar Solos That Will Make You a Better PlayerLearning to play other people’s guitar solos is a great way to begin learning to write your own! Guitar teacher Nils B. shares his tips to learning four classic rock solos so you can develop your technique…

An essential part of every musician’s development is to imitate those who have already mastered their instrument. After settling on a song, give it a couple of close listens (preferably on headphones or a decent stereo), pick up a good transcription, then learn the rhythm parts, while analyzing the chord progressions and any distinctive rhythmical features.

Then start learning the solo, phrase by phrase, while determining the relationship of each note with the chord that’s being played, as well as the key of the song. Also try listening carefully to the guitar tones, and be conservative with the amount of gain or overdrive when trying to copy these. Among other drawbacks, too much overdrive tends to hide your mistakes.

Once you are able to play along with the original (or a backing track if you can find one), try recording yourself, and pay close attention to the details, such as timing, and bending accuracy. And as a final step, once you’re fairly comfortable, try to improvise using the same concepts, simply start by making small variations to the original solo. And of course, if you haven’t already, seek out an experienced instructor who can give you essential feedback about how to play guitar solos like these listed below and keep you from making fundamental mistakes.

Four Guitar Solos You Should Study

The Eagles – Hotel California

This is my personal favorite of the four. Since the progression doesn’t stay in the same key, you are forced to take a more chord based approach. And although there are still plenty of great B minor blues licks to be found, there is also a healthy dose of major pentatonics, played using fairly tricky compound bending techniques commonly used by country guitarists.

On top of this, the F#7 chord adds a darker flavor, which is nicely addressed in the solo with some harmonic minor licks. Last but not least, there’s the harmonized arpeggio outro, which is great to expand your fretboard knowledge, so be sure to learn both parts! In terms of guitar tone, it’s a pretty straight forward approach. Most guitars played into a somewhat overdriven amp will sound great.

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

Jimmy Page was heavily influenced by American blues and rock and roll guitarists, which can be heard in the many great blues licks demonstrated here. Be sure to pay close attention to the dynamic build up, his vibrato, and timing. Page was known for using Gibson Les Pauls, SG doublenecks, and Fender Telecasters into either big Marshall stacks or low wattage combo amplifiers, so any tube overdriven lead sound will do. Try to add some delay to help with the sustain.

Guns & Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine

First off, it should be noted that this was originally recorded with the guitar tuned down a half step (Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb). Even though it is in the key of Eb minor technically, it feels like E because of the tuning.

This guitar solo actually consists of two shorter solos and a long outro. The slower, more melodic middle solos in Eb minor are a great opportunity to venture out of the familiar ‘box’ at the 12th fret, and explore the area around the 7th. The outro solo is a series of well executed pentatonic blues ideas via a tricky harmonic minor lick in the buildup- all while using a wah pedal.

On the recording, Slash used a custom built Les Paul copy into a modified 70′s Marshall amplifier, but any dual humbucker equipped guitar into a Marshall-esque sounding amp will work. Try using the neck pickup for the melodic parts, and switch to the bridge pickup for the more aggressive sounding climax, together with the wah wah.

Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb

This solo is a great way to develop your sustain and vibrato because of the slower tempo, which really works well with David Gilmour’s melodic lead playing. Although his playing is largely pentatonic based there are some tasteful notes from the minor scale thrown in, together with some great bends and tremolo arm tricks. David Gilmour is known for using fairly elaborate setups, but the essentials to get his sound for this song would be a Stratocaster-style guitar with a tremolo into a relatively saturated/compressed fuzz or distortion pedal (he often used an Electro Harmonix Big Muff), into a clean amp via some delay.

There are obviously plenty of other solos out there which would make good examples, but it is essential that they consist of memorable and coherent phrases. Some other suggestions would include Ozzy Osbourne’s “No More Tears”, Thin Lizzy’s “Dancing in the Moonlight”, Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower”, Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”, and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”.

Learning how to play guitar solos can be tricky, so whichever solo you choose, be sure to learn it inside-out (any capable guitar teacher should be able to assist you), and be open to critique from the people around you. Most importantly, use your ears and don’t simply rely on effects to make sure it sounds its best!

Good luck!

NilsBNils B. teaches guitar, ear training, and music theory in Los Angeles, CA. He attended various schools for his training, including the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. Nils has been teaching students since 2002. Learn more about Nils here!




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The Best, Baddest, Loud Guitars for Metal

The Best, Baddest, Loud Guitars for Metal

The Best, Baddest, Loud Guitars for MetalOn a quest to find the best guitars for metal? Guitar teacher James W. shares a few of the baddest guitars around…

Why are metal guitars so easy to play? The simple truth is metal has been around a long time, since way back in the 1960’s, and technology has kept pace with musician’s demands. Read on, and we shall see how knowing what to look for in a guitar makes or breaks your crunch lead!

1. Schecter Guitars

These guitars are perhaps the holy grail of metal masters. They are completely modern in design features. By focusing on killer design and affordable custom options, Schecter Guitars from the San Fernando Valley in Van Nuys, California knew when to listen to young musicians carefully and knew what to create to lead the way into a new era. It’s hard to find a cooler, high-end guitar aimed so specifically at the metal genre. Even though they started out by copying manufacturers like Fender, they didn’t take long to move on and create original designs for pickups, body shapes and wiring, and custom paint with a very high standard for attention to detail.

Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars. Very Bad!

2. Fernandes Guitars

This maker is another great innovator from the valley, and truly one of the best guitars for metal. Fernandes created the ground breaking sustainer pickup for guitar in the 1990’s. It holds notes forever at the flick of a switch or footpedal. As we all know, sustain of notes is an important part of the metal guitar sound. Just ask for their Vortex Model for metal. He builds guitars that look cool, play well, and have a fast neck. Need I say more? Even used, these guitars are highly sought after.

Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars. Super Bad!

3. Fender Guitars

Some folks don’t know about this one. The Fender Custom Shop in Corona, California will make virtually anything you want – within reason that is, and there are a few metalheads working there. Adding twin blade and custom humbucking pickups by Seymour Duncan or Fender paved the way. Just strike up a convo by asking them about the guitars they like and their tattoos. Surprisingly, they will even answer the phone themselves and are very helpful. Your dream guitar awaits, and dang, it feels so good.

Rating: 8 out 10 Stars. Cool Bad!

4. Jackson

Now here is a company, also from the valley, that almost went under when Kurt Cobain made his “Jagstang” hybrid Fender guitar the cool guitar to own in the 1990′s. Suddenly sales went to nothing. So, Jackson Guitars went on vacation and returned as a custom shop and were revived in the early 2000′s with new ideas and a new love of music and musicians. Metalheads who think Randy Rhoads is the guitar player to follow buy these guitars. The Jackson RR III Randy Rhoads “Sharktooth” Model is back in demand. And the pickups just scream.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars. Awesome Bad!

5. Gibson

Normally I would not think of Gibson as a metal machine maker. But Zakk Wylde of Ozzy Osbourne’s band has proven metal can reign supreme on his custom signature bullseye design pop art Les Paul. These guitars are slightly pricey, but you get a sleek neck, custom Zakk Wylde pickups, Floyd Rose trem, and more. Everything about this guitar is designed to withstand a brutal assault on your worldwide tour and come back for more.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars. Serious Bad!

6. EVH Wolfgang Stealth by Eddie Van Halen

A guitar that is EVH can handle anything. It is Eddie’s guitar of choice; for the last two years it is all he plays on stage. It’s built to Eddie’s specs, a road warrior made for the metalheads around the globe. Comes with patented EVH Drop D-Tuna designed and invented by Ed himself for instant drop D tuning and instant return to regular tuning. If you love EVH “brown sounds”, this guitar is very high end with a reasonable price. It even has a NAMM Award for best value. You can’t do much better than this.

Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars. Totally Killer Bad!

When you’re choosing a new guitar, it all comes down to your own personal needs and what your ear tells you just sounds best. So have fun, and try them all before you buy. Happy rockin’!

For more guitar tips and tricks, taking private lessons with a great guitar teacher is the way to go! Guitar teachers are available to work with you online via Skype or in-person depending on locations and availability. Search for your guitar teacher now! 

James W. teaches guitar, singing, and acting lessons in Jacksonville, FL. He specializes in teaching pop, rock, and modern country styles. James has been teaching for 10 years and joined the TakeLessons in 2010. Learn more about James here!



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