guitar for kids

5 Best Guitar Books for Kids

guitar for kidsGuitar books can be a great help for kids who are interested in guitar lessons. Guitar teacher Matthew K. shares five of his favorite guitar books for younger students…

The guitar is an instrument that has to be learned by doing. During my experience as a guitar teacher, I’ve found it essential to use a book for kids ages six to ten. Books can keep the student on track, but should not be the only teaching method used. It’s important to keep lessons fun and interesting with songs and riffs that the child can connect with.

A child won’t learn everything about the guitar from a book, but books can provide a great visual aid during your child’s learning experience. Below, I’ve compiled a list of five of my favorite children’s guitar books (in no particular order) for kids to use during lessons.

1) Guitar for Kids for Ages 5-9 by Bob Morris and Jeff Schroedl - Hal Leonard Guitar Method (Songbooks)

Hal Leonard makes great books for learning the guitar. This particular book is one I’ve used on many occasions when teaching younger kids. It introduces each string individually with fun songs and exercises. It includes popular songs such as “Yellow Submarine,” “Hokey Pokey,” “I’m a Believer,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “This Land is Your Land,” and “Hound Dog.” There’s also a CD included to aid the learning process when your child’s guitar teacher is not around. The only drawback to this book is the lack of stimulating illustrations that many other children’s books use.

2) Children’s Guitar Method by William Bay – Mel Bay Publications

Mel Bay is another popular name when it comes to instructional books for guitar. I like this one because it introduces guitar chords early, in an easy and fun way. It is also a great introduction to note reading, music theory, and introduces strumming patterns before getting into the individual notes. There are two drawbacks to this book. First, it has out-of-date visuals. The book was authored in 1982, and it shows. The other drawback is the lack of introduction to tablature. Tablature is the most popular form of notation on the guitar, and it is completely ignored in this book.

3) Kasey’s Guitar Jams for Kids: A Play-Along Guitar Book for Young Beginners (Volume 1) by Kelly Gordon Weeks – Kelly’s Music Books

I really like this book! It was published in 2012, and it’s primarily for very young, beginning guitar players. The visuals are great, and the author immediately introduces pick-holding technique and chords with fun new songs. The songs are original, very funny, and will keep your child interested. The only drawback is that this book doesn’t have any popular songs included. However, as a teacher, this doesn’t bother me, as I would introduce popular songs through my own method and would only use the book as an aid for chords and notation.

4) Alfred’s Kid’s Guitar Course, Book 1 (Book and Enhanced CD) (Kid’s Courses!) by Ron Manus and L.C. Harnsberger – Alfred Publishing Co.

This is the ‘best-of-both-worlds’ book. It’s 48 pages full of colorful illustrations that draws children in immediately. It introduces partial chords and rhythm immediately, and contains a CD to show your child how the songs are supposed to be played. I prefer guitar books for kids to contain a CD, because it’s important for a child to hear how he or she is supposed to sound when playing the guitar. This book is great because it introduces blues, jazz, and classical through colorful cartoon characters. It gives kids a great introduction to the roots of music.

5) Beginning Rock Guitar for Kids: A Fun, Easy Approach to Playing Today’s Rock Guitar Styles by Jimmy Brown – Hal Leonard

Some kids just want to rock! This is the perfect book for those kids. It doesn’t bog the student down with too much theory and history but instead jumps right into proper technique and fun, modern rock songs. I really enjoy the comic-book-style illustrations. This one also has a CD included and is probably the best of the bunch to really get the student excited about learning the guitar.

If your child doesn’t have a guitar teacher yet, what are you waiting for? Find a great guitar teacher and book lessons today!

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!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

 Photo by ferrie=differentieel & Jöran Maaswinkel DailyM.net

beginning guitar

3 Things Nobody Told Me About Beginning Guitar

beginning guitarWhat are the secrets guitarists might not tell you about beginning guitar? Guitar teacher Matthew K. shares his discoveries about the guitar from early in his musical journey…

I remember the day I went to the store with my father and picked up my first guitar. It was an Ibenez Stagestar with a tiny 10 watt Crate amp, and I couldn’t have been more excited to get home and try it out. Dreams of being on stage in front of thousands filled my mind, but I knew it would be hard work just to get comfortable with the guitar.

This was before the Internet and YouTube, so I couldn’t even check out the most basic instruction on what to do. I strummed each string, trying to figure out how to put these sounds together to make a chord, but it was too difficult. After my first guitar lesson, my whole world blew wide open, but there were still a few difficulties I had to get over in order to play my first song. Like any difficulty, these can be overcome. The following are the three things no one told me about beginning guitar.

1) Your Fingers Will Hurt

Initially our fingers are, believe it or not, not accustomed to pressing down slim metal strings to a piece of wood. It can be painful for a while. Your fingers will harden and eventually develop calluses, but until then, it can be a slightly painful and annoying process. But don’t give up! Everybody goes through this.

Chords can also be a challenge. Forming your hand into what looks like a lobster claw can hurt at first. (I refuse to teach guitar to children under the age of 6 because of this very reason. We do not want to push kids away from learning an instrument because it’s too hard on them physically). If your hands start cramping up, step back from the guitar and stretch them. It isn’t worth hurting yourself, and with practice, these difficult hand positions will become extremely easy. 

2) You Have to Practice… a Lot!

I had a guitar student a few years ago who never practiced. We would go through the basics, while also keeping it interesting with a simple riff. This method has worked countless times for all of my students, but for some reason it wasn’t getting through. I would try different songs and different methods to gain his interest, but each lesson was similar to the last. No practice, no progress.

I came to find out that he really had no interest in the guitar; it was his mother that was really pushing him to learn. The passion for an instrument has to come from within, or for a younger child, there have to be designated practice times. If you don’t practice, each lesson’s progress will be like a tire stuck in the mud.

3) You Must Learn How to String a Guitar

After a few lessons, make sure to ask your guitar teacher how to string the guitar. It can get expensive and time consuming to take the guitar to a shop every time, and you should have new strings almost every month. Over time, strings will get dirty and could get rusty, depending on where you keep the guitar. You will need to buy a string winder and wire snips (or a combo package) and a set of strings; but once you do it a few times, it will be a much easier process.

Don’t rely on others to change your guitar strings for you. It is an easy process, and there are plenty of YouTube videos with different methods to get you through it. I usually change my strings while watching a TV show or movie to pass the time.

Ready to learn even more secrets about beginning guitar? Find a guitar teacher today and set out on your own musical journey!

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!

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by simon_music

Tips for Parents The 5 Best Guitars for Kids

Tips for Parents: The 5 Best Guitars for Kids

Tips for Parents The 5 Best Guitars for KidsFiguring out how to find a great first-time guitar can be a challenge in itself, but what to do when you’re looking for a child? Have no fear, guitar instructor Matthew K. is here! Read on for some professional insight, purchase recommendations, and how to find the best guitars for kids…

Learning to play the guitar can be the most exciting time in a child’s life so it’s important to choose a guitar that fits!  Full-size guitars can be too big and bulky for a child’s small hands to work around, which can be extremely frustrating and result in aggravation directed at the parents or the teacher.  Nobody wants that frustration!

To help your child love playing guitar, I have selected a list of five guitars that, in my eyes, are the best five guitars for kids. The list includes both acoustic and electric guitars. Just keep in mind if you go with an electric guitar, you will have to buy an amp to accompany it. The following are in no particular order since it’s most important to try guitars out in the store and see what works for your child. Let’s get started!

Yamaha JR1

yamaha jr

Photo via Alto Music

Yamaha has a reputation of making great affordable acoustic guitars. Their ¾ size JR1 is no exception. This one is modeled after Yamaha’s famous FG folk guitar series, and has a great tone for such a small-bodied guitar.

It’s listed at $129.99 on Sweetwater.com.

 

Ibanez PF2MH Performance 3/4 Size Acoustic Guitar

Ibanez

Photo via Reverb

I actually own this guitar and love it.  Personally, I use it as my travel guitar, but it’s also a great guitar for beginners. The neck is very easy to maneuver, and the sound it produces is almost of full size quality.

It too is listed at $129.99 on Sweetwater.com.

 

Squier Bullet Stratocaster HSS Electric Guitar with Tremolo

 

Squier

Photo via Squier Guitars

If the electric guitar is more your kid’s style, the Squier Fender Bullet Stratocaster HSS is an excellent choice. Modeled after the American Series Fender Stratocaster, the Squier Bullet is the perfect electric guitar to get your child excited about music.

It can be found for $129.99 on Amazon.com.

 

4) Epiphone Les Paul 100

Epiphone

Photo via musicradar

This guitar is slightly more expensive, but tonally superior. If you’re more of a Gibson than a Fender person, this is the guitar. The Epiphone Les Paul 100 is a slimmer guitar, so it is perfect for a beginner with smaller hands. It is a little more expensive, but this is a guitar that will remain in their collection for some time.

It can be found on Sweetwater.com for $269.00.  The bag and amp are sold separately.

5) Martin LXM Little Martin

martin

Photo via Martin & Co.

This little guitar was just made famous by Ed Sheeran. Extremely playable, it sounds like a full-size Martin. It may be a bit more expensive than the rest, but this is a guitar that should last your child a lifetime.

GuitarCenter.com has it listed for $299.99.

There are many guitars for kids out there, so hopefully this list will help to narrow your search. Remember that it’s important to try before you buy- especially for beginners, so don’t just buy online! Once you’re all set with an instrument, you’ll be ready to find your child the right guitar teacher and get rocking!

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!

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo By Eric Peacock

easy guitar songs for beginners

Throwback Thursday: 5 Easy Guitar Songs From The 90′s

easy guitar songs for beginners

Ready for a blast from the past? Guitar teacher Collin K. shares five easy guitar songs for beginners that will take you back to the 90′s…

From grunge to ska punk, the 1990′s were a diverse and exciting time for rock music. Some songs stand out in particular for their highly creative, yet not-so-difficult guitar work. In this article, I will give you the tools you need to get playing five of the most iconic 90′s rock songs!

Before we begin: This article uses chord diagrams and tablature for notation. Tablature is an easy shorthand that shows you which fret on which string to put your finger, but it doesn’t give you any information about rhythm. I recommend listening to the tracks and getting a sense of the rhythm when you sit down to learn. Don’t worry, it’s easy!

1. “Today” by The Smashing Pumpkins

One of The Smashing Pumpkins’ radio hits from Siamese Dream, this track features a powerful wall of guitars and a catchy chorus. It’s also a great way to get accustomed to two guitar techniques that defined 90′s rock: two-string melodies and barre chords.

Two-string melodies, like the intro guitar lick, rely on the player holding his or her fingers down over two strings at the same time so that both continue to ring out after they are plucked. In this case, use your index finger to hold down the eleventh fret on both strings. Then, use your middle finger for the thirteenth fret and your ring finger for the fifteenth fret.

Intro Riff:

Today Intro Riff

 

 

 

Barre chords are based on a movable chord shape, which means you can use the same fingering to play a chord at any fret you want! They also require you to place your index finger down over all strings at the fret you are “barring.” For example, “Today” uses the following chords:
Eb Major, Bb Major, Ab Major, C Minor, F Major, G Major

easy guitar songs for beginners

Eb Bb Ab
Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known
Eb Bb Ab
Can’t live for tomorrow, tomorrow’s much too long
Eb Bb Ab Eb Bb Cm
I’ll burn my eyes out before I get out

F Ab C F Ab Cm
I wanted more than life could ever grant me
F Ab C F Ab G
Bored by the chore of saving face

Eb Bb Ab
Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known
Eb Bb Ab
Can’t wait for tomorrow, I might not have that long
Eb Bb Ab Eb Bb Cm
I’ll tear my heart out before I get out

Eb Bb Eb Ab Eb Bb Eb Ab
Today is.. today is.. today is.. the greatest.
Eb Bb C Ab Eb Bb Cm
Day hee-yay, oo oo ooo ooo ooo…. Day hee-yay-ay, hooo…

Placing your finger down across the entire neck can be tricky at first, but keep practicing, and it will pay off! This technique is very common. If you can’t do it at first (and there’s no shame in doing this!), you can substitute the barre chords for power chords. Power chords are basically just barre chords that omit everything but the first two or three strings, resulting in an “open” sound that goes great with a ton of distortion.

2. “Wonderwall” by Oasis

Everyone’s learned this song at some point – it’s practically THE acoustic guitar song of the 90′s. Central to the song’s playing technique is its exclusive use of G position chords in the verses. These are chords that revolve around the open G Major chord position. Basically, it means that your last two fingers don’t ever have to leave the third fret.
G Major, A7sus4, Dsus4, Em7, Cadd9

easy guitar songs for beginners

This technique sounds really cool, and it makes the song easier to play since you only have to move two fingers!

Oasis plays “Wonderwall” with a capo on the third fret, but this isn’t necessary. Play it wherever you think it sounds good!

Em7 G
Today is gonna be the day
Dsus4 A7sus4
That they’re gonna throw it back to you
Em7 G
By now you should’ve somehow
Dsus4 A7sus4
Realized what you gotta do
Em7 G
I don’t believe that anybody
Dsus4 A7sus4
Feels the way I do
Em7 G Dsus4 A7sus4
About you now

C D Em
And all the roads we have to walk are winding
C D Em
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
C D
There are many things that I
G G/f# Em A7sus4
Would like to say to you but I don’t know how

Cadd9 Em7 G
Because maybe
Em7 Cadd9 Em7 G
You’re gonna be the one that saves me
Cadd9 Em7 G
And after all
Cadd9 Em7 G A7sus4
You’re my wonderwall

3. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

No 90′s list is complete without mentioning this track – it should probably always be number one! “Teen Spirit” is all about power chords. They’re played with heavy distortion during the chorus, punctuated by the simplest possible, two-string melody during the verses.

Power chords are notated with a “5” because they consist only of the root note and the note 5 scale degrees above it. Most players play these chords with three fingers: the index, middle, and ring, OR the index, middle, and pinky. Some, however, prefer just the index and ring fingers.
F5, Bb5, Ab5, Db5, E5

easy guitar songs for beginners

F5 Bb5
With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Ab5 Db5
Here we are now, entertain us
F5 Bb5
I feel stupid and contagious
Ab5 Db5
Here we are now, entertain us
F5 Bb5
A mulatto, an albino
Ab5 Db5
A mosquito, my libido

F5 E5 F5 Ab5
Hey!
F5 E5 Db5 Bb5

F5 E5 F5 Ab5
Hey!
F5 E5 Db5 Bb5

And the verse guitar melody:

Teen Spirit Verse Guitar Melody

 

 

 

It’s actually that simple! Use your index finger to hold down both strings at the same time. Halfway through each verse, Kurt speeds it up into double time, so listen for the rhythm!

Another plus – the guitar solo in this song is the same as the vocal melody! Try to sound it out as you play along. Getting used to hearing melodies as you play them will help you quickly improve your soloing skills.

4. “When I Come Around” by Green Day

Like Nirvana, Green Day takes inspiration from their punk rock predecessors in the 1980′s. This means power chords! “When I Come Around” is a very straightforward song, but it’s still so catchy!

Also important when playing this song – the verses make use of extensive palm muting. Palm muting is a technique where you use the side of your right hand to slightly muffle your strings while you strum. Try to keep your picking hand as relaxed as possible, so that you can keep the mute on when necessary and then take it off to let the chord ring out.
F#5, C#5, D#5, B5, G#5

easy guitar songs for beginners

F#5 C#5 D#5 B5
I heard you crying loud
F#5 C#5 D#5 B5
All the way across town
F#5 C#5 D#5 B5
You’ve been searching for that someone and it’s me out on the prowl
F#5 C#5 D#5 B5
As you sit around feeling sorry for yourself

G#5 B5
No time to search the world around
G#5 B5
Cause you know where I’ll be found
B5
When I come around

5. “Santeria” by Sublime

With equal parts reggae and punk rock, Sublime ruled the SoCal scene in the early 90′s. This song is unbelievably fun to play and reasonably simple, too. However, this last technique may take a little while to get the hang of.

It’s called the “ska upchuck”, and it’s what gives a lot of ska (and reggae) music its characteristic guitar sound. After each time the player strums a chord, the picking hand is brought up quickly on an “upswing” to hit the strings once again. This time, however, the strings are muted with your fretting hand, resulting in a “dead, scratchy” sound.

Try it with any chord you like! Listen to Santeria to get the hang of the rhythm. This technique works especially well on the highest three strings, so try these chord positions first:
E Major, G# Major, C# minor, B Major, A Major

easy guitar songs for beginners

E
I don’t practice santeria
G#
I ain’t got no crystal ball
C#m
I had a million dollars but I’d,
B
I’d spend it all
E
If I could find that Heina
G#
And that Sancho that she’s found
C#5
Well I’d pop a cap in Sancho and I’d
B
Slap her down

A B E Dbm
All I really wanna know my baby
A B E Dbm
All I really wanna say I can’t define
A B E Dbm
It’s love that I need
A B
But my soul will have to wait

You did it!

You’re now a master of five 90′s guitar classics! You also got firsthand experience with some of the techniques that defined a decade of music, including barre chords, two-string melodies, power chords, and the ska upchuck. Keep playing along to these songs, and you’ll quickly notice it becoming second nature!

A guitar teacher can help you discover and learn even more fun songs that are right for your skill level and interests! Search for your guitar teacher now!

Collin Klippel

Collin K. teaches in-person guitar and singing lessons in Brooklyn, N.Y. He studied Music Technology at New York University, plays in an instrumental rock band, and writes music for films. Learn more about Collin here!

 

 

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Matt Brown

3 Handy Open Mic Tips for Guitarists' Eyes Only

3 Handy Open Mic Tips for Guitarists’ Eyes Only

3 Handy Open Mic Tips for Guitarists' Eyes OnlyGuitarists, are you ready to hit the stage at a local open mic? Polish your performance with these tips from guitar teacher Samuel B.

Performing (like songwriting) is a craft at which any dedicated musician can excel. It requires no prerequisites – only the desire to share your talent and creations.

My high school music teacher once said Thomas Edison misappropriated the original purpose of music by inventing machinery to record it – that nothing can replace your experience of seeing it live. Your interplay with the audience is actually the most important component of your performance. Here are three tips for open mic performances that will help you connect with your audience.

Make Eye Contact

Most of us are familiar with the term “stage fright.” Even Frank Sinatra admitted to regularly trembling during his walk up to the microphone. You might even have been advised to “pretend that the audience isn’t there.” However, as a performer your job is to create a bond with the audience – not ignore them. In fact, for each song you play, you should be making eye contact with at least three different people in your audience.

The audience needs to understand your music on an emotional level. In other words, they’ve come to have an experience and are trusting you to provide them one. Consider what kind of experience you want to give them. Do you want them to feel welcome and appreciated? Do you want to make them laugh? Do you want to involve them in the music in any way? If so, how?

Be aware that they don’t have to know that you’ve just forgotten a word and had to make up a new one on the spot. They don’t even have to know that you just played a wrong chord. Music is a fluid form of art that (in my experience) has more to do with conveying thoughts and emotions than it does with flawless recitation. You want to reach people on thinking and feeling levels, not show them how perfectly you can hold a piece together.

If you’re new to the guitar and are playing a piece that requires you to keep on eye on your left hand while on stage, practice alternating eye contact between your hands and your audience. Find one person who’s looking at you and look back for a few seconds. See if you can feel a connection being made. A nod or smile helps. After a few more chord changes, find someone else and do the same. A little acknowledgment here and there goes a long way!

Read the Room

Hearing applause is an obvious indication of the audience’s engagement with you. So is whether or not they have their heads turned towards you and are perhaps even smiling. The closer the audience can physically get to you, the deeper their connection to you as a performer generally is. Keep an eye out for signs of this connection and use it to your advantage – particularly if you’re new to performing.

Unless you’re a seasoned veteran of the instrument, I don’t recommend attempting to play complicated arrangements during your set. I’ve been a guitarist for over twenty-five years, and I sometimes play two-chord songs live. Playing material that feels comfortable for you allows you to focus out on your audience and read their reactions to your performance. Choose songs for open mics that give you opportunities to connect.

Go With the Flow

If your audience is clearly focused you and your music, you may decide that it’s time for a ballad or an original song that’s especially important to you. If their focus seems to be drifting, you may decide to switch gears to a fast, high-energy type of number to draw them back in.

Some performers prepare set lists but adhere to them only loosely. Bruce Springsteen’s three or four-hour concert marathons have been known to begin with a pre-planned list of songs and then continue way past them. My favorite example here is Richie Havens who chose his opening number before hitting the stage and then let the rest of the act unfold on its own. I’ve copied this model in my own act and highly recommend it!

As a performer, don’t concern yourself with showing an audience how well you play, sing, and plan. That’s what your daily guitar practice time is for. Once you are on stage, focus on making connections with your audience and having fun!

If you want even more tips about performing and playing the guitar, working with a private guitar teacher is the the best way to expand your skills. Search for your guitar teacher now!

SamuelB

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!

 

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Gordon Dionne

What is Guitar Technique And Why Does it Matter

What is Guitar Technique? And Why Does it Matter?

What is Guitar Technique And Why Does it Matter

What’s the deal with guitar technique anyway? Guitar teacher Alexander A. explains a few of the fundamentals and why they are so important…

If your teacher is cracking the whip every lesson because your hands aren’t in the proper position you may be asking yourself, “Does my guitar teacher hate me?” The answer is “no” – at least, I certainly hope not! More than likely, your teacher is trying to make you a better player by guiding you to play with good technique.

We’ll be looking at effective techniques to use for guitar and bass players, though these principals apply to most other instruments as well. Before we get into specifics, let’s talk about what we’re looking for and why.

Power

In case you haven’t noticed yet, playing music can be very physically demanding. Guitar and bass players face this demand with our hands, as this is our primary interface with the instrument. Ever play barre chords on guitar or an F# major scale on the low end of the bass? These tasks are challenging and require a great deal of power to accomplish. Much like in martial arts, power is not achieved with brute force but by taking every advantage we can find to deliver the most power with the least effort. This isn’t laziness; it’s a fundamental necessity of our instruments.

Control

Like they say in Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.” I think Spiderman must be a rock star. But it’s true! All that power that you’ve harnessed will go to waste if you don’t have proper control over your strings. Among other things, this means letting them ring when they need to and being able to mute them when they need to be silent

Energy

Going green isn’t just for electric cars and paperless billing. Guitar players need to conserve our energy as well. Almost all players will push the limits of their physical stamina at one time or another, so it’s important to make every action count. Work with your hands, not against them.

Simple Guidelines

Here are some simple guitar technique guidelines for guitar and bass players. These just cover the basics, so be sure to ask your guitar teacher about progressing your technique by using more advanced methods when you’re ready.

1) Fingers on the string

When holding down a single note using the second, third, or fourth fingers practice using your other fingers to hold down lower notes at the same time to build strength. For example, if you play a C on the A-string with the second finger (third fret), the first finger should be holding down the note B at the same time (second fret). If you reach for the D above the C with the fourth finger (fifth fret), you should have all four fingers holding down the string. (Of course, guitarists will need to abandon this technique when playing chords.)

By letting more than one finger do the work we are conserving energy and maintaining control over the string. If you are a new player (or just have some old habits to break) this technique will feel strange for a little while, but if you use it consistently you should be forming good habits within a few weeks. Before you know it you will have more power in your fingers; it will feel strange not to have all your fingers on the strings. Just stick with it!

2) Stay close

We can further conserve energy and maintain control by keeping fingers close to the fretboard when not in use. Let your fingers “hover” over the strings just high enough to let them ring, but low enough to be ready for action! Reach for the stars with your music, not your fingers.

3) No negative angles

We need to always have our finger joints at positive angles, curved as if holding a ball. One of the greatest losses of power for new players often occurs in the last joint in each finger – the one by the fingernail. They should never be bent backwards as this greatly diminishes your strength.

4) Maintain your reach

Always maintain a reach covering three or four frets. If you play B-C-D on the A-string (in that order, one note at a time) your first finger should still be reaching the B (second fret) as your fourth finger plays D (fifth fret). By maintaining this reach and not letting the first finger “scrunch up” against the others we keep control over four frets of the instrument and conserve energy by keeping our fingers stationary.

Energy, power, and control are all intertwined. What’s good for one is good for the rest. Let these pillars of success be your focus as you move forward with your guitar technique.

Now, let’s rock!

If you want to learn more about guitar technique, or get help correcting some bad guitar habits you’ve picked up, nothing beats taking lessons with a private guitar instructor. Search for your guitar teacher now!

alexander a

Alexander A. teaches guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, upright bass, and music theory in Tacoma, WA. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Berklee College of Music in bass performance and composition. Alexander offers lessons in-person as well as online via Skype. Learn more about Alexander.

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Daniel Hoherd

Play Like a Pro 7 Cool Rock Guitar Licks from Legendary Players

Play Like a Pro: 7 Cool Rock Guitar Licks from Legendary Players

Play Like a Pro 7 Cool Rock Guitar Licks from Legendary Players

Playing famous guitar solos and licks can be really fun. Plus, if you’re hoping to impress someone, a well-known lick can go a long way. We’ve picked out a handful of rock guitar licks that sound great and are at an intermediate level of difficulty. All of them were originally played on an electric guitar with a set level of distortion and overdrive, but feel free to add your own twist. Try playing them with a clean sound, or even on an acoustic guitar if you want to try a different sound.

Aside from our picks, there’s plenty of guitar tutorial videos available to check out online. If you find a really good guitar lick tutorial, feel free to let us know! Here are our seven top licks that everyone is sure to recognize:

7. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Even though Kurt Cobain has been gone for a while, his musical genius still lives on through his songs. With the guitar lick from “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, you’ll feel like you’re back in the grunge era.

6. Enter Sandman – Metallica

Metallica has a few guitar licks that are fun to play, but our favorite is  this one from “Enter Sandman”. If you like playing the lick, try learning the whole song next!

5. Wild Thing – The Troggs

There have been many versions of this song throughout the years, but the original “Wild Thing” is still well known to everyone. Not only is it an instantly recognizable song, the riff is actually quite simple to play.

4. Beat It – Michael Jackson

No countdown would be complete without a Michael Jackson song. With “Beat It”, you’ve got a great riff that you can play and even sing along with if you want to. Of course, it might be hard to moonwalk while you’re playing guitar licks!

3. Layla - Derek and the Dominos

This is one of the more complicated guitar licks of our top seven, but that just makes mastering it more satisfying. While “Layla” is a classic tune, it’s still a really rocking song to play. Even if a younger generation won’t recognize it right away, everyone will still respect how cool it sounds. It’s hard to beat the classic sound of Eric Clapton. You might find yourself spending a little more time working the lick up to speed, but when you get there it’s a lot of fun to play!

2. Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne

If you’re a fan of heavy metal, you’ve probably heard of Ozzy Osbourne. While his personal life has been in the spotlight in more recent years, the music that he’s put together has been fairly illustrious. The guitar lick from “Crazy Train” is very well known, and sounds really nice even if you’re playing it on acoustic guitar.

1. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple

It’s hard to find someone who has never heard “Smoke On The Water”. Even if they don’t know the name of it, the simple pattern is well known to anyone who’s familiar with rock music. Aside from being very familiar, this riff is pretty easy to pick up and play on any guitar.

When you’re deciding which rock guitar licks to work on, make sure to work with your guitar teacher. He or she might have others to recommend, and can also listen to your progress and help you out with anything that needs to be polished a bit more. Search for your guitar teacher now!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

 

Photo by Serjão Carvalho

10 Problems Only Bass Players Will Understand

10 Problems Only Bass Players Will Understand

Don’t let anyone tell you the bass is easier than a regular guitar just because it has less strings! Bass guitar teacher Kevin S. shares the unique challenges you face as you learn bass guitar…

1) Capos are Misleading

victor wooten- things bass players understand

Victor Wooten, Photo by Alexandre Janini

Any bassist who has regularly played with a guitarist who uses a capo has discovered that this simple tool can be confusing to deal with at first. This is a where good transposing skills come in handy, especially if the guitarist is referring to the chords they are playing by shape. For example, you may hear “It’s a D chord” when in fact the guitarist is playing a ‘D’ chord shape with capo on fret 2, resulting in a E chord.

2) The Need for Compression

kim gordon- things bass players understand

Kim Gordon, Photo by NRK P3

Compression is an effect used in live performances as well as on studio recordings that minimizes the dynamic range of an instrument. Compression is most often used on drums, vocals, and bass. Many bass players struggle with the uncompressed nature of the instrument. Some notes are inherently louder or softer than others, which can make producing a consistent volume challenging.

3) Heavy and Big

nate mendel- things bass players understand

Nate Mendel, Photo by Scott Barlow

Lower frequencies require larger instruments to produce them, and larger amplifiers and speakers to push them. Not only is the bass guitar longer and heavier than the guitar, but bass amps tend to be larger and heavier as well. There are many ways you can counteract this physical issue. Short-scale bass guitars, chambered bodies, and wide, heavy-duty straps can help manage the weight of the instrument. In regards to amplifiers and speakers, neodymium speakers, class-D amplifiers, and casters or wheels are great options for reducing weight.

4) Soloing Challenges

jake bruce- things bass players understand

Jack Bruce, Photo by Heinrich Klaffs

In addition to the creative and technical challenges of improvisation, soloing on the bass comes with some acoustical challenges as well. Unlike a guitar solo, whose notes reside on top of the mix, a bass solo has to punch through the mix, since the instrument itself resides in the low end of the frequency spectrum. Soloing on the bass can be a frustrating endeavor if the rest of the band doesn’t come down in volume to make room for the soloist. Depending on the style, it can also be difficult to produce the necessary volume to compete with ambient noise of the venue. As luck would have it, the bartender often fires up the blender when its time for the bass solo.

5) Playing with Drums

geddy lee- things bass players understand

Geddy Lee, Photo by Nick

Arguably the most important relationship between instruments in a band is the relationship between the bass and the drums. When the bass and drums are tight and working together, the effect is fantastic. However, playing with an inconsistent drummer, or even worse, a drummer who doesn’t listen, can be a frustrating endeavor. If you find yourself in this situation, it is best to take a step back and simplify. If you are struggling to make a good connection with a drummer, relax, focus on beat one, and build from there.

6) Bass Strings

flea- things bass players understand

Flea, Photo by Stephen Eckert

Compared to guitar strings, bass strings are longer and thicker, and as a result, more expensive. A typical set of 6 guitar strings will cost around $10, whereas a set of 4 bass strings will cost around $25. 5- and 6-string sets will cost even more. Fortunately, bass strings do not need to be changed as much as guitar strings, but it can still be frustrating to see your guitarist friends leave the music store with more cash in their pockets.

7) 4-, 5-, and 6-string Basses

john paul jones- things bass players understand

John Paul Jones, Photo By Craig

One challenge facing bassists is choosing a proper number of strings. The standard bass guitar has four strings, but five and six string models have become increasingly popular over the past few decades. Choosing a proper number of strings is purely subjective, and is mostly affected by what styles you are interested in playing. For country, blues, jazz, and rock music, a four string bass will work great. For other styles, such as metal, fusion, latin, and solo bass playing, a five or six string bass may be preferable.

8) Building Calluses

rob pope- things bass players understand

Rob Pope, Photo by starbright31

The bass guitar is a physically-demanding instrument. The first parts of your body that will suffer heavily from playing the bass are your fingertips, especially if you play fingerstyle. The best advice I can offer is to focus on multiple, short practice sessions instead of long ones. This will allow your fingers time to harden without risking blowing through a callus altogether, requiring you to start building from scratch.

9) Using Effects

marcus miller- things bass players understand

Marcus Miller, Photo by Guillaume Laurent

Effects are not meant for just guitar. They sound great on bass too! However, there are some special considerations when applying effects to bass. The most important consideration is frequency-based effects, most notably wah-wah. Effects that are designed for guitar will at times not work on bass, simply because they are designed for the frequency range on the guitar, and therefore do not effect notes in the lower range of the bass very well, if at all. Distortion, delay, and  reverb can all sound great on bass, but if not used properly, they can muddy things up quickly.

10) Not in the Spotlight

weezer- things bass players understand

Weezer, Photo by starbright31

Of all the instruments in a standard band, the bass is the one that goes unnoticed most often. This is not because it is unimportant, but because it is so foundational. To the average listener, the bass is certainly there, but is not as discernible as a guitar, voice, or horn. It can be frustrating to feel like the audience isn’t aware of your invaluable contribution to the group. Remember though, that without you there, the audience would certainly notice something lacking!

Despite the challenges, it’s definitely worthwhile to learn bass guitar! A great bassline can make a song funky, heavy, or just plain danceable! Find your bass guitar teacher today and start playing the bass!

Kevin SKevin S. teaches bass guitar, piano, ukulele, and upright bass in Salt Lake City, UT. He began studying music at age 4 and graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance. Kevin regularly performs in Salt Lake City and Park City and spends time as a studio musician and producer.  Learn more about Kevin here!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by BAG Blues Association of Geneva

fist_lesson_fi

Guitar for Kids: How to Help Your Child Love the Guitar

guitar for kidsMany parents aren’t sure how to best support their child in learning a new instrument. Guitar teacher Dylan P. shares his tips for parents to encourage their children to fall in love with the guitar…

You can’t teach a child to love the guitar. You can lead them there, but they have to find it themselves. For a kid, guitar is a hard instrument to play. They have to dig their fingers into steel strings, make indents, and get calluses.

They have to understand that each note has a letter, each fret has a letter, but also a number, and so does each string. These letters are represented by note heads, FACE for the spaces, Every Good Boy Does Fine for the lines, Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie for the strings.

There’s a lengthy period of frustration before the instrument even sounds good. If a child plays a middle C on a piano, it’s immediately satisfying. You have to hurt your finger a bit on a guitar.

To show a child how to fall in love with guitar, they have to find it themselves. As a guitar teacher, I want my students to understand the following things after lesson one:

• They are capable of making the guitar sound good.
• They are capable of making it sound musical.
• They are capable of figuring out how to do these things.
• They want to learn more.

Once your child has had their first lesson, how do you as a parent keep them interested in practicing? Playing guitar needs to be their choice. Here are a few tips to keep your child’s motivation up at home:

1. Don’t hide the guitar.

When you keep the guitar in its case, it becomes a process to take it out again. It’s easier to skip practice when it’s an event. The vice of too much television is common because it’s so accessible. Make the guitar just as inviting. Keep it in a spot where your child can just pick it up and start playing. Is there a room in your house where your child spends a lot of time? Keep it there!

2. Give music a strong presence in the household.

If you’re also a musician, spend time playing your instrument in the house. If you haven’t played in a while, this is a great time to bring it back. If you’re not a musician, you can make sure music is on in the house a lot, or you might even want to learn music with your child. Bring up conversations about your favorite types of music. Let this be a natural and fun process. Ask your child if they like the music you’re listening to. This lets your child know that music is appreciated here. This is a huge motivation.

3. Don’t treat it like homework.

If your child is practicing guitar at home and it sounds like noise, that’s fine. The lessons will get more difficult. Your child will learn all of the correct vocabulary, music theory, and techniques. During those first few weeks it’s important that your child simply wants the instrument in their hands. Don’t put practicing in the same category as homework. Never use guilt to make your child practice. If you want your child to love guitar, it should never feel like a chore.

4. Let your child explore.

Let your child practice alone. Setting your child up to practice in a common area, with other people around, makes it awkward to explore. If they’re alone, they’re free to make noise and mess up as much as they want. If they want to practice in the same room as you, that’s fine, but it should be up to them.

There’s so much pure joy in playing music. It’s one of the most human feelings you can experience. As your child advances, they will require more discipline. In the future, they might prepare for an audition or a performance. They might write a song and record. All of these things are stressful and rewarding. Let your child learn to love the instrument first. They will keep going.

If your child is interested in learning to play the guitar, taking guitar lessons is the best way to help them learn. Search for a guitar teacher now!

Dylan P.Dylan P. teaches in-person guitar, music theory, and music performance lessons in Coram, NY. He has trained in many genres of guitar music and has experience working with students with learning disabilities. Learn more about Dylan P. here!

 

 

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private

lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by CodeFin

How to Structure Your Child's Guitar Practice

How to Structure Your Child’s Guitar Practice

How to Structure Your Child's Guitar Practice

Playing an instrument offers a lifetime of fun and learning! Children benefit greatly from musical education in both cognition and reasoning. These benefits carry over to school and achieving greater success in all areas, especially math. However, sometimes with children, getting them to do what is best for them is difficult. Here we’ll offer some advice on the best approach to practicing guitar with your child to reduce potential stress and keep your child motivated.

Start With the Basics

To start with, it’s important to choose the right guitar for your child. There are many guitar sizes available to fit smaller bodies: 1/4 size, 1/2 size, and 3/4 size guitars are great for children four to eleven years, or full size for ages twelve and up. It’s crucial to find an appropriate size, as playing a guitar which is too large can be painful for children’s hands and arms, leading to significant frustration.

You also need the right guitar teacher - someone who will understand that children learn differently than adults, and that the lessons need to remain interesting and fun over time, and not just for the first lesson. A teacher who can consistently choose interesting yet challenging guitar songs for kids will motivate your child to love the guitar. A highly motivated child will be likely to succeed in the face of a less than wonderful teacher, but no one can be highly motivated all the time, so it’s important for the teacher to be engaged and consistent even when your child isn’t.

Motivate Your Child

The largest hurdle you and your child will likely need to overcome is how to remain motivated in the face of sustained practice. There are ways you can support your child more effectively, and avoid the power struggles and stress that can easily take over.

Avoid bribing your child by rewarding practices with other activities- such as TV- or with gifts, which can lead the child to believe that learning is only a means to an end, lacking its own inherent value. Also refrain from punishing a child who refuses to practice, as this leads to conflating practice with chores and duties.

If practicing isn’t interesting to your child it’s very important to understand why. Perhaps the materials need to change. For example, finding more suitable guitar songs for kids. Or, perhaps support is needed for difficulties, or your child is not getting enough feedback about the successes and progress they have made. Make efforts to understand and adapt, and you will surely find your child more willing to practice guitar.

Timing and Length

Children are typically less likely to be aware of the long term gains they reap from their efforts in any area. When the dream of becoming a famous guitarist falls away, more abstract benefits may fail to motivate a child who is struggling. Focus on validating and supporting your child’s short term goals, while ensuring that the material your child is learning is appropriate.

It is far less important to have practiced for a certain length of time than it is to have learned something in a certain amount of time. When your child is given homework from their teacher, focus on helping them achieve excellence in a small portion of that material at a time. For example, ask them to practice until they can play eight bars of a song perfectly three times. This method encourages the child to feel good about playing well, and not feel burdened by learning too much at once, or having to play long after they are bored. A practice session which begins with learning and ends with success is highly valuable.

Shorter, more focused practices lead to a more confident child, and less struggle for parents. If your child practices a specific portion of their homework each day until you and they can see some progress, skill building will become natural and require far less struggle to achieve.

Finding Great Guitar Songs for Kids

Times have changed! Most children learning instruments today are going to be put off by having to blunder through “Mary Had a Little Lamb” before they can move on to modern popular songs.

A teacher who can gear material to your child’s interests and age is necessary if you want your child to be invested in their own learning. An instructor’s ability to find guitar songs for kids which are both relevant to your child and at the appropriate skill level is invaluable.
Keeping a child focused over the years it takes to master an instrument can be challenging. Remember to begin well with the proper sized guitar and a compatible teacher. Keeping practices low-stress and focusing on achievements instead of time are solid ways to ensure success.

Ready to start your child’s musical journey? Find a great guitar teacher for your child today! 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Gianni Sarti