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5 Easy Guitar Songs to Play at Weddings

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Accompanying vocalists or playing solo guitar at big events like weddings is a great way to share your talents (and even earn some extra cash!). Get a head start on your side business by mastering these five easy guitar songs, as compiled by Greeley, CO teacher Andy W...

 

At some point in your guitar playing life, it’s likely that you’ll get the chance of playing at a family member or friend’s wedding. When that happens, do you accept the challenge or run away thinking that you can’t do it? Well, I bet that you can do it! This article lists several songs and some suggestions that will guarantee a memorable performance.

If you’re a beginner who is starting to learn these songs, I would suggest playing the melody by itself first. Then, play the chords without the melody. For the performance, you can have a singer or an instrumentalist play the melody as you accompany them. Or once you get the melody and chords down, you can eventually combine the two, to play fuller sounding chord/melody arrangements with just solo guitar. Now, here are the five easy guitar songs to play at weddings:

1. Here Comes the Bride

If you’re playing at a wedding, there are good chances that you’ll be asked to play “Here Comes the Bride.” The video below shows how to play a beautiful and easy chord/melody version of it. Also, towards the end of the clip, it goes over how to play “The Wedding March.” This is another traditional wedding song that is great to know.

2. Here Comes the Sun

You can always count on The Beatles to please an audience, especially the song “Here Comes the Sun.” Here’s a great demonstration of how to play this classic as a chord/melody arrangement. The video below does a great job of breaking down the song in a very easy-to-understand way.

3. Ave Maria

This is an instantly recognizable classic that has been made famous by many artists and was originally written by Franz Schubert. The video below first shows how to play the melody and then shows how to play the chords. Once you have learned the two parts separately, try playing both at the same time to make your own chord/melody arrangement. This is challenging and takes time, but it’s well worth the effort!

4. Make You Feel My Love

This is a favorite wedding song from the last decade or so. Adele, Billy Joel, and Garth Brooks are some of the many artists to have made commercially successful recordings of this, but it was actually written by Bob Dylan in 1997. The clip below shows how to play an easy finger-style version of the chords. After you get the chords down, learn the melody by ear or by using tabs. Then, try playing the chords and melody at the same time to make your own chord/melody arrangement.

5. My Cherie Amour

This has been a wedding favorite since it was recorded by Stevie Wonder in 1969. It’s a soul classic that is sure to receive a warm reception. The video below shows how to play only the chords. Once you learn the chords, learn the melody separately. Then, try combining the chords and melody to play your own chord/melody arrangement.

I hope that this list has given you some confidence to say “yes” to playing at weddings. These five easy guitar songs can be played easily and are sure to win over an audience!

AndyWAndy W. teaches guitar, singing, piano, and more in Greeley, CO. He specializes in jazz, and has played guitar for 12 years. Learn more about Andy here!

 

 

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Teach Yourself to Play Guitar: Is it Really Possible?

How To Teach Yourself To Play GuitarThere are a lot of resources available to teach yourself to play guitar. Whether you’ve found an online cache of instructional videos, or a book for beginners at your local music store, there are many ways to become a self-taught guitar player. But how effective it is? Read on as we review two of the ways you can teach yourself to play guitar, and how far each can take you:

Online Learning

A quick Internet search will turn up tons of websites that boast claims of being able to help you learn guitar through video tutorials. These are good resources that allow you to quickly reference a specific topic. When you’re trying to master a certain technique, or need to look up an obscure alternate fingering of a chord pattern quickly, you can usually find these without too much difficulty online. You can also easily find printer-friendly charts for easy guitar chords.

The downside? It can be all too easy to get stuck. When you’re watching videos and repeating what you see, you’re missing one critical thing – feedback from a professional about your technique. That chord may sound right, but is your posture off? Is there a certain technique you’re just not understanding – no matter how many times you rewatch that video clip? Without a guitar teacher there to answer your questions on the spot, you may find yourself hitting a wall.

“Teach Yourself to Play Guitar” Books

Any brick-and-mortar music store will have a wide selection of books available for purchase. These books are quite similar to the online learning resources, in that there will be photos of each technique, and diagrams for chord fingering patterns as they are discussed in the lessons. The advantage of a book over online resources, of course, is that you don’t need an Internet connection or a computer to teach yourself to play guitar. You can practice outside on a nice day, or in the car while on a family vacation.

The downside to using a book to teach yourself to play guitar is that you won’t have any of the technological advantages on your side. A book won’t be able to play videos of the techniques, so you will have to rely on the photo and the description alone to help you understand the concept. And although most books will contain a chart of all the common guitar chords, with primary and alternate fingering patterns, nobody is there to check your technique or offer tips for getting the finger placement correct.

How to Really Improve

While it might seem exciting to teach yourself to play guitar, the truth is, it’s not the best method for learning. Sooner or later you will run into a situation where your resources, whether online or in print form, can’t help you completely understand the technique. In the end, there really is no substitute for learning with a private guitar instructor.

A private instructor will guide you through the basics of guitar, cater the lessons to your individual learning style and goals, and show you the best exercises to practice in between lessons as well. Most of all, they can provide an important source of motivation, holding you accountable and keeping things fresh. After all, even the most dedicated guitar players sometimes need an extra push! So keep on strumming – and have fun!

 

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4 Must-Have Apps for Guitar Players

Best Guitar AppsExcited about learning how to play the guitar? Awesome! You’ll need the perfect beginner guitar, a great teacher by your side, and a personal commitment to learning and improving. Using extra resources like smartphone or tablet apps to help you practice efficiently in between lessons can help a ton, as well. But with so many apps available these days, you may feel a little overwhelmed when you’re trying to find one to download. Below are a handful that we really like:

Guitar Toolkit

For any guitar player, having an app that can function as one of the many tools needed for practice and performance is always nice. There are a lot of apps for guitar that serve as metronomes, tuners, and chord reference charts, but what makes Guitar Toolkit stand out above many of the other apps for guitar is that it combines all of these tools and more into one slick interface. If you need to tune your guitar, this app makes it easy, whether you’re looking for standard tuning for a 6-string, or an alternate tuning for anything between 7 and 12 strings. It can also help you practice scales and arpeggios to get ready for your next lesson!

The Guitar Toolkit app is available in the iTunes App Store for $9.99 from Agile Partners. The cost is a little daunting compared to other apps, but if you’re willing to pay for efficiency and not having to switch apps every time you need to reference a chord chart or switch tuning, this is the best option.

The Gibson Learn & Master Guitar Application

The reputation of Gibson in the guitar-playing world is second to none. So it goes without saying that when they create a mobile app to help with mastering the guitar, it would be an excellent resource as well. This app has it all: a fully functional tuner for either chromatic or standard guitar tuning, a metronome, a chord reference chart, and even video lessons. You can also use the in-app links to get to Gibson’s website, where you can stay updated with the latest news in the guitar industry.

The Gibson Learn & Master Guitar Application is available in both the iTunes App Store as well as the Android Market from Legacy Learning Systems, and is free to download and use.

Lick of the Day

There are a lot of apps for guitar out there that show you how to play guitar solos and popular riffs. What makes this app different is that a lot of the licks showcased in the app are taught by the guitar players that wrote the riff themselves. It’s not every day that you can learn from Joe Satriani!

The Lick of the Day app for guitar is free, but the Lick Packs cost $4.99 each. However, you can still get a lot of the features for free, such as a new free featured lick each week! The app is available in the iTunes App Store from Agile Partners.

Ultimate Guitar Tabs

You might already know that Ultimate Guitar has a huge database of online guitar tabs for you to browse through. So it should come as no surprise that one of the most essential apps for guitar is their mobile app, which features the entire library! You can search quickly by song title or artist, or you can narrow your search by a multitude of different parameters, such as difficulty, tuning, and overall rating. And if you’re at a loss for what to play next, you can always use the random tab button to find something new!

The Ultimate Guitar Tabs app is available in the the iTunes App Store, Android Market, and Windows Phone Store from Ultimate Guitar USA, LLC. It costs $2.99, and there are numerous in-app purchases for add-ons, such as a metronome or tuner.

Don’t Forget the Best Resource of All!

These mobile apps for guitar are fantastic for helping you practice, but don’t forget that your private instructor is your best resource of all! He or she will guide you through lessons at a pace appropriate for you, keep you motivated, introduce you to new songs and genres you may not have considered playing, and show you exactly what to practice to improve your skills. Have fun – and keep up the great work!

 

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How Playable Is That New Guitar Of Yours? | Tips for Beginners

13391315285_18381a67a6_b (1)Are you ready to buy a guitar? Before you part with your hard-earned cash, find out how some minor adjustments can make a world of difference in this guest post by Perth Amboy, NJ guitar teacher Jeff S...

 

There’s nothing like the thrill of picking out or buying a new guitar. But did you know that very few new guitars are set up for optimum playability? Well, it’s true. It’s a rare guitar indeed that plays with maximum ease, right off the rack at the music store.

However, if you get smitten with the looks of an instrument, only to get it home and find it a bear to play, don’t panic. There’s a very good chance it can be adjusted and transformed into an easy-to-play, pain-free instrument.

You Bought A New Guitar, Now Make Sure It Has New Strings!

If you’re buying a new guitar off the rack, keep in mind that many sets of hands played it before you. Because of this, the strings can often sound dull and be tough to glide across. So unless the instrument you end up buying was recently put on the rack or brought in from the storeroom right out of the box, you may encounter dead strings. You can ask the salesperson or store owner to put on new ones, which they may include or may charge you for–but either way you want new strings!

But You May Need More Than Just New Strings…

While putting on a set of brand new strings will produce a significantly brighter, more ear-pleasing sound, they will not make the notes any easier to fret, nor will they reduce finger discomfort. If you’re experiencing discomfort virtually every time you play, you most likely need an “action” adjustment.

What’s an Action Adjustment?

Lowering the action brings the strings closer to the fretboard, and that in and of itself should relieve a lot of your weary, notched-up fingers. This action adjustment is done by using an Allen wrench, which comes with your guitar (don’t lose it!), by inserting it into a little slot inside the sound hole of the guitar. This controls the position of the truss rod, the steel rod which spans the neck of the guitar. If this all sounds too technical, don’t worry–all you need to do for your hurting fingers is take your guitar in to a repair shop (or the store you bought it) and ask them to please lower the action as much as possible without the strings buzzing too much. Simple as that!

How Much Does a Truss Rod Adjustment Cost?

Depending on the store, your relationship with them, their mood, how busy their store is (or more specifically, how busy their repair person is the day you’re there), and what you spent on the guitar, they may or may not charge you anything to do a truss rod adjustment. If they do, it shouldn’t be more than $20.

Couldn’t I Save the Money and Time and Do This Adjustment Myself?

I’d suggest having a professional guitar tech or repair person do the action adjustment the first couple of times. The reason I say this is because you don’t want to turn a not-so-great-playing guitar into possibly an unplayable guitar. Or worse yet, you don’t want to harm the instrument and throw the neck out of whack or put too much pressure on your bridge. Until you get a feel for what needs to be done to adjust the neck, it’s best to watch a pro do it. Ask questions and take notes, so you can eventually do your own adjustments.

What if the Adjustment Doesn’t Make My Guitar Easier to Play?

Quite often a truss rod adjustment is enough to get the action significantly lower to the point where it’s a lot easier to play. But in those cases where it doesn’t sufficiently improve things, a guitar “setup” is required. A guitar setup is a series of adjustments a guitar technician makes to lower the action so that a guitar plays as easily as possible (as well as intonating the guitar). It’s a much more involved and time-consuming job than a truss rod adjustment and often requires leaving the guitar at the shop. It might take a week or so to get the guitar back and it generally costs between $50 and $80 for a set-up. But if it’s done right, it’s well worth the money. Without it, the results can be sore fingers, frustration, and in extreme cases, blisters.

Best of luck with your new guitar, finding your ideal guitar setup, and your quest to have it play as easily and comfortably as possible.

JeffSJeff S. teaches guitar, ukulele, speaking voice, songwriting and more in Perth Amboy, NJ, as well as online. Jeff has created and taught songwriting and music business classes at colleges, universities, and music schools throughout the country for many years. Learn more about Jeff here! 

 

 

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5 Guitarists You Should Be Listening To Right Now

When you think about famous guitarists with distinctive styles, do you find yourself time-traveling back to the 1970s? With so many great guitarists writing and performing original music right now, it’s almost a crime to neglect the new stuff. Here are a few great contemporary guitarists whose distinctive style of playing sets them apart from the pack. Of course, if there’s anybody we missed, feel free to let us know in the comments!

Jack White

With his bands The White Stripes, The Dead Weather, and The Raconteurs, and his critically acclaimed solo albums, it would be hard to miss Jack White as one of the best guitarists of today. Due to his prolific releases and incredible talent, White is easily one of the most famous guitarists of his generation. If for some reason you haven’t yet heard his bluesy riffs and passionate playing, this live cover of “Ball and a Biscuit” is the perfect place to start. In addition to his own musical output, White supports many amazing indie artists you may also like on his own record label, Third Man Records.

St. Vincent

Indie darling Annie Clark performs under the name St. Vincent, combining angular guitars and synths with her angelic vocals. Her raw, noisy shredding style attracted the attention of Talking Heads’ frontman David Byrne, who she collaborated with on the album Love This Giant in 2012. Clark’s solo work is also quite stunning, and her live shows are not to be missed!

Benjamin Booker

Born in Tampa and raised in New Orleans, Benjamin Booker is here to show that good old fashioned rock and roll is alive and well. Inject Chuck Berry with a healthy dose of punk rock, add in smoky vocals, and you get Booker. In the past, Booker has toured with artists like Jack White and Courtney Barnett. His first album is due out in August 2014, and based on what we’ve seen from him so far, we can expect great things to come from this young, soon-to-be-famous guitarist.

Sam Bean

Sam Bean releases his tender acoustic compositions under the name Iron and Wine, sometimes playing solo and at other times with the accompaniment of a full band. Bean has drawn comparisons to artists ranging from Paul Simon and Nick Drake to Elliot Smith. You might remember hearing his music before in the movie Garden State, or on TV shows like Friday Night Lights and House.

Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe is an eclectic musician, and in recent years she has released music that ranges from droning metal to delicate folk. No matter what genre she works in, Wolfe brings an interesting ear for composition and an unforgettable voice. She recently collaborated on a song with proggy-metal trio Russian Circles and joined them on tour. If you love experimental music, Chelsea Wolfe is an artist to watch.

Is there anyone we missed? Tell us about your favorite famous guitarists in the comments below! Ready to improve your own skills on the guitar? Find a guitar teacher near you! 

 

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The Do’s And Don’ts Of Buying The Best Beginner Acoustic Guitar

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Looking for the best beginner acoustic guitar to purchase? Read on for some helpful advice from Perth Amboy, NJ guitar teacher Jeff S...

Selecting the right guitar teacher for you or your children is certainly a crucial decision and the choice you make can often dictate how well the lessons will go.

Yet an often overlooked (and quite frankly, often-botched) step that needs to be carefully addressed before lessons begin is selecting the right size and type of beginner acoustic guitar for your child’s age, body and hand size, and musical inclinations.

I would estimate that 60% of my students (or their parents) buy the wrong size or type guitar. And this invariably puts me in the awkward and unenviable position of eventually being the bearer of bad news. And while I never push my students or their parents toward purchasing another guitar, I’m often asked for my input on this subject. So in an effort to be helpful and to point them in the right directions, I have compiled a list of some guitar makes and models that are size-friendly, are reasonably easy to play, and are cost-efficient for most budgets. I have recommendations for acoustic guitars under $500.00 as well as acoustic guitars between $500.00 and $1,000.00, which I will share with you in part two of this article, but first let me offer details on what I consider “the wrong guitar.”

When I speak to a new student’s parent and they tell me they bought a “guitar package deal” at a warehouse or club wholesale store, I have to hold back a wince. Not necessarily because of a lack of quality of merchandise sold there, but because typically there’s a very large-sized guitar featured in these bundles or packages (which can include a small amp, tuner, cable, picks, etc.). But the sad reality is that most children and even some teens and adults will be challenged to comfortably wrap their arms around them and be able to reach the sound hole of the instrument (where they need to place their right hand to strum the strings).

The name of this type of guitar is dreadnaught (and in my mind, the prefix “dread” is quite apropos). And dreadnaughts, along with jumbo-sized guitars, are the largest, widest-bodied acoustic guitars on the market. When a child attempts to hold them (especially a small child), it feels and looks about as natural as if they were holding a St. Bernard dog on their lap. So I would generally steer you away from dreadnaughts and jumbo-sized guitars, no matter how sweet a deal you find at the club and warehouse stores, In fact, even if Uncle Jimmy offers to loan or give one to you for your kid, I’d say thanks, but no. The only possible exceptions to my admonitions against larger-bodied guitars would be for taller or larger teens and adults. Then the dreadnaughts and jumbos are worth looking into for their big sounds and great values.

I would also steer clear of nylon string (aka classical) guitars unless your child or you are interested in learning classical guitar music, flamenco, or the like. The reason I say this is because the necks on classicals are significantly wider than steel string acoustics, and they’re almost always highly lacquered (making them prone to stickiness and therefore quite difficult to maneuver on). The nylon strings can also be more difficult to grip than steel strings for many students.

So what size and type of guitars would I recommend? How do you find the best beginner acoustic guitar? My suggestions would be: folk size, 3/4 size, orchestra size, mini-jumbo size, and travel size.

All of these body shapes and sizes are nowhere near as wide as dreadnaughts and jumbos, so students (of just about every size) feel much more comfortable holding them. The trick is finding them, because strangely enough these ginormous-sized dreadnaughts tend to be the most common in music stores and are often less expensive than their smaller-bodied counterparts. Strange, huh?

Stay tuned for my list of recommendations for best beginner guitars, play the instruments in the store and compare them carefully, consult a knowledgeable salesperson if you can find one at the store, and buy cautiously (and hopefully at a store or online seller with a lenient return policy). But my closing mantra would be: “Less is more.”

Happy selecting and strumming!

JeffS

Jeff S. teaches guitar, ukulele, speaking voice, songwriting and more in Perth Amboy, NJ, as well as online. Jeff has created and taught songwriting and music business classes at colleges, universities, and music schools throughout the country for many years. Learn more about Jeff here! 

 

 

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5 Guitar Tips for Accompanying a Vocalist

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Thinking about taking your skills to an accompaniment gig - or maybe just jamming with some friends who want to sing along? Check out these 5 helpful guitar tips from Mount Pleasant, SC teacher Christopher A...

 

Guitar is a great instrument to accompany everything from horns to winds to piano to vocals. Whether you’re backing up a soloist, choir, band, or songwriter, there are a few tips to make the experience memorable for you and more importantly the vocalist or other musicians. Let’s get started by discussing some of my sideman gigs.

I’m an up-and-coming guitarist who’s auditioned for the local jazz quartet. They call me in to play along with the other members in a live setting and I’m given a lead sheet with chords. I read over the sheet and look for tempo markings, key changes, and form. Once I’ve done that and begin playing I remember my place in the ensemble. This is paramount to being a great sideman. You are providing a rhythm and chord structure to a song. It’s imperative to do so without blaring out your part and playing too loudly for the melody to be heard. Finding the pocket, or the main beat of the groove, will allow the soloists greater freedom and give the group a tight, focused sound.

My next step as a sideman comes when I visit an open mic and there’s a vocalist who doesn’t have someone to play her song. I know the tune and volunteer to play for her. As I start into the song I am deliberate with my rhythm changes and tempo of the tune. While I’m backing her up I remember to play quieter than the vocals. That means my chords and picking shouldn’t overshadow the vocals. This may mean turning your electric down or strumming lighter on an acoustic guitar. Your job as a sideman is to complement the vocals by providing steady rhythm and musical dynamics with your playing that reflect what the singer is crooning. I remember watching others back up voice majors in college and sometimes the singers were timid and afraid to sing out. It didn’t help when they had a guitarist beside them playing louder than them with their head buried in the chart, oblivious to the singer’s plight.

That leads to the next point - know the form of the tune. Be prepared to play the intro and make notes of what lyrics come in when you are playing the different sections of the song. The vocal cues will help you provide the best back up for the song and ensure you don’t get lost along the way. Remember that singers are human, too, and knowing the form of the song is helpful should they forget a verse or jump to a chorus earlier than you anticipate. You’ll be able to get to that part quicker with a chart and the knowledge of the song’s form.

That brings me to the most important tip - listen to the singer! I know it seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen groups where the singer is laying into a vocal and the guitarist is chugging away on loud chords or playing a screaming solo over the vocals. By not working together with the vocalist you can ruin their instrument, their voice, by making them sing harder than necessary to compensate for your overly loud amp and playing style. This is not something you want to be known for, so remember: if you can’t hear the vocals, you’re too loud.

The last key is to be prepared for anything. Bring a capo along. Sometimes a key won’t work for a singer and capoing up will allow them to sing their song without you relearning the chords. Sometimes words are forgotten and they sing the song differently than you’ve learned. They may come in too early or too late on a phrase. Your part in all of this is to be flexible and make them sound great regardless of what happens along the way. By putting the singer/band first, the song ends up being the main attraction and with any luck you’ll earn the respect of the singer, other musicians, and the crowd. When you play your part and listen to the other parts around you, the music sounds best.

So rock on, it’s time to shine but remember the guitar tips stated above:

  • Know your place in the ensemble
  • If you can’t hear the vocals you’re too loud
  • Know the form of the tune
  • Listen to the singer
  • Be prepared
  • Be flexible and make those around you sound great

Applying these common sense guitar tips to your sideman work will afford you more chances to accompany singers and other instrumentalists. Get out to your local open mic or audition for a band. Respond to the Craigslist ad from a vocalist looking for someone to back them up. These opportunities will help you develop the skill set to be a great sideman and ultimately a better musician.

ChrisAChristopher teaches mandolin, violin, music performance, and guitar lessons in Mount Pleasant, SC, as well as online via Skype and Google Helpouts. He has over ten years of experience in teaching in classrooms and studios, and his lessons focus on providing the budding musician with the tools to become a proficient player. Learn more about Christopher here!

 

 

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4 Guitar Exercises For Faster Fingers

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Want to play the guitar faster? Incorporate these guitar exercises, as shared by Greeley, CO teacher Andy W., into your practice sessions throughout the week…

 

A crucial step to successfully melt faces with your guitar solos is to play fast! So, how can you achieve this feat? Here are some suggestions.

Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is one of the most efficient ways to pick fast. This is simply a downstroke followed by an upstroke. Everything suggested here utilizes alternate picking.

There are many ways to alternate pick. Some people focus the movement between the right index finger and thumb. Others rotate from the forearm. From experience and from what most trustworthy musicians find, rotating from the wrist is the most comfortable and efficient method. You want to turn the wrist left and right as if turning a door knob.

Now, let’s address tension real quick. Playing with tension in your fingers and wrist doesn’t mean that you’ll play faster and more comfortably. It actually strains your hand and wrist and keeps you from increasing speed. Instead, make sure you relax your fingers and wrist.

Also, when you alternate pick, it can be easy for the downstrokes to be louder than the upstrokes, making the notes sound uneven. A way to counteract this is to play melodies, scales, or licks using only upstrokes. This is a challenge, but well worth spending time on!

Play Quarter Notes

“Play quarter notes to play fast?“ you reply. Yes, before you spend all your time playing blazing eighth and sixteenth notes, practice guitar exercises to make sure that your quarter notes can be played in time. You should be able to play quarter notes that comfortably sit in the pocket of slow to fast tempos. Once your quarter notes are in time, then you can play eighth and sixteenth notes and increase your speed from there.

Speed Bursts

Using one note, play three quarter notes followed by four sixteenth notes. The quarter notes allow you to lock into the metronome, while the sixteenth notes challenge you to play faster. Start out slow around 80 bpm and keep raising the tempo in increments of 5 bpm.

Chromatic Scale

Play a chromatic scale that takes you up and down across all the strings. Starting from the low E string, play four notes per string, until you get to the high E string where you’ll play five notes. Then work your way back down to your original starting note on the low E string. Do this exercise by playing sixteenth notes. Start out slow around 80 bpm and keep raising the tempo in increments of 5 bpm.

(If you’re unfamiliar with the chromatic scale, it’s all of the available half steps. Going up from C it would be: C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C. And going down from C: C, B, Bb, A, Ab, G, Gb, F, E, Eb, D, Db, C.)

Finally, Just Go For It!

Now I know I’ve said to slowly work your way up to faster speeds. That approach works great, but now let’s add to that another method. And that is: just go for it! If you’re trying to play a fast lick, then just try playing it fast. This forces you to feel the lick at the faster speed. Granted you probably won’t be playing very cleanly or evenly, but that’s OK right now. It’s important for you to get accustomed to new uncomfortable tempos and this method sure does that.

Now, it’s up to you to make these guitar exercises a habit. And if you do, then you’ll be playing lightning-fast solos in no time!

AndyWAndy W. teaches guitar, singing, piano, and more in Greeley, CO. He specializes in jazz, and has played guitar for 12 years. Learn more about Andy here!

 

 

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Guitar Basics: Why is Technique Important?

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New to the guitar? Getting the basics down – including proper positioning and guitar technique – is important from the very start. Here, Lowell, IN teacher Blake C. explains… 

 

Over the years, many experienced guitarists have arrived at my studio doorstep asking for help to improve their playing. These guitarists didn’t understand why they were struggling, and merely thought they were stuck in some sort of a slump. However, the slump that these guitarists suffered was not caused by a lack of musical desire or passion or some other emotional hang-up; poor guitar technique led to their difficulties.

Correcting poor technique is often more difficult than learning proper technique as a beginner. Of course, students can learn guitar basics first, but even the basics are difficult without proper technique. Therefore, it’s a better idea to avoid developing poor guitar technique; instead, study proper guitar technique with a quality instructor who can assist you with learning guitar the right way the first time.

How Do I Know If I Am Using Incorrect Technique?

The simplest way is to set-up an in-person or online video lesson to have your technique reviewed by a professional instructor here at Takelessons.com. If you absolutely cannot take advantage of an instructional session with a Takelessons instructor, below are a few ideas to improve your current technique and guitar playing.

How Do I Identify Guitar Technique Flaws?

Video recording is a good option, but an even better alternative is a bit lower-tech and used at most music conservatories. First, locate or purchase a dressing mirror – these can be purchased for $9 or $10 at most local dollar or general merchandise stores.

mirror

Next, locate or purchase a footstool – these can be purchased for approximately $12.

footstool

Finally, locate or purchase a good practice chair – adjustable piano benches are available for about $30.

chair

Set Up Your Practice Area 

To begin, the footstool is for your left foot if you play guitar right-handed.  For left-handed guitarists, use the footstool for your right foot.  Next, place the mirror directly across from you, setting it up so you can see your hands.

Once the mirror is in place, get into a proper sitting position for practicing guitar. Sit toward the front of the bench – this will help your posture. Keep in mind, after you have a good handle on using proper technique, your sitting position will not be as critical for performing simple guitar parts or songs. However, when you perform more difficult pieces, you’ll need to be in a proper sitting position. Many guitarists will sit for difficult pieces: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and of course, classical guitarists such as John Williams are usually seated when playing difficult guitar pieces.

Next, if you are a right-handed guitarist, place the guitar on your left leg. Left-handed guitarists, place your guitar on your right leg. After the guitar is in place, angle the guitar neck slightly upward, approximately 45 degrees (everyone is different and the angle must suit your body size and shape).

Next, try playing a few musical phrases to check the comfort level of the position. Adjust the guitar angle to the natural and relaxed position of your hand, which typically angles slightly upward. This placement of your guitar is for electric and acoustic guitars.  Positioning the guitar in this manner provides the least strain on your hands and body.

Here is an example of proper guitar position demonstrated by one of my young students:

Blake's student

Now that you are in position, let’s begin by focusing on the position of your left hand. First, you should press with the ball of your thumb on the center of the guitar neck.

fingering

Your thumb position will change for different styles, pieces of music, and even sections of songs. However, to begin this adventure into correcting guitar technique, press from the ball of your thumb onto the center of the back of the guitar neck.

With your thumb in position, extend your fingers forward and take a look at your left hand in the mirror – it should create a flat surface that is almost parallel to the plane created by the bottom of the guitar neck.

thumb position

Now, to prepare for a simple, yet very good left-hand exercise, move your hand position to the fifth fret and place your first finger on the “C” note on the fifth fret of the third string.

Keep your first finger depressed while you place your second finger on the sixth fret of the third string, which is a “Db” note.

Next, keep both your first and second fingers depressed while you place your fourth finger on the eighth fret of the third string, which is an “Eb” note.

exercise1

Make sure that you press with your fingertips and don’t collapse your joints.

exercise2

Notice how the second finger in the image above incorrectly collapses. You will intentionally collapse the joints of your fingers in many instances, but try to avoid it. Next, we’ll dive into some exercises to try – check out part two of the article here!

blake clifford

Blake C. teaches songwriting, singing, and guitar lessons in Lowell, IN. He specializes in classical guitar technique as well as modern rock and blues styles. Blake has been teaching for 20 years and he joined the TakeLessons team in July 2013. Learn more about Blake here! 

 

 

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5 Guitar Tricks to Impress Your Friends

Even if you’re new to the instrument, certain guitar tricks are sure to impress your audience! Here, Greeley, CO teacher Andy W. shares five to try out…

 

What better reason to play music than to impress your friends? Below are five guitar tricks that are guaranteed to impress your friends:

1. Slapping

The slap technique is most commonly used by bass players. But slapping can also be done on a guitar, typically electric. There are three basic elements to slapping. One is to slap with the thumb of your right hand over the pickups. The second is to slap with multiple fingers of the left hand onto the strings over the fretboard. The third element is to pluck notes using available fingers on the right hand. Using these three elements to make a slap sound, you can combine them in any order to make whatever rhythms you want.

Guthrie Govan breaks down slap guitar in a very easy-to-understand video here:

2. Tapping

Tapping is a technique where the right hand taps a string and alternates with notes played by the left hand. A basic way you can start tapping is to find three notes that you want to play on one string and play them as triplets using this sequence: tap, pull-off, pull-off. The first note is tapped with your index or middle finger and then pulls-off onto a note held by one of the left hand fingers, which is then pulled-off onto another note held by a left hand finger. Other ways to tap are to use more right hand fingers, use open strings, and to use different rhythms.

The same Guthrie Govan video above also explains tapping.

3. Open String Runs

If you alternate fretted notes with open strings you can create a cascading sound of awesomeness. The video below describes how you can take a scale and substitute as many fretted notes as you want with open strings (E, A, D, G, B, E). The beginning of the lick in the video starts off by descending the G Mixolydian scale (G, A, B, C, D, E, F) from G: G (fretted), F (fretted), E (open), D (fretted), C (fretted), B (open), A (fretted), G (fretted). The video below shows the rest of the lick. This second video demonstrates descending and ascending scales while using open strings!

4. Sweep Picking

Sweep picking may seem intimidating, but it really just combines fretting an arpeggio with the left hand and strumming slowly with the right. The trick with this technique is to simply match up the fretted note with the pick. The video below explains step by step how you can sweep pick without having ever tried it before:

5. Harp Artificial Harmonics

This guitar trick is a variation on artificial harmonics, which itself is a variation on natural harmonics. The natural harmonics are most commonly played on the 5th, 7th, and 12th frets. To play these, you lightly press the left hand on top of the fret without pressing the string to the fret. Then, you pick the note. To make an artificial harmonic, you regularly fret a note with the left hand and then use your right hand index finger to lightly press on that string twelve frets above the fretted note. Then, you pick the string. With this technique, you have to hold the pick between the thumb and middle finger. Finally, to play harp artificial harmonics, you alternate plucking a note using the right hand ring or pinky finger with picking artificial harmonics. This creates a harp-like sound! This technique works well when you can fret a chord using four or more strings without repeating any notes. The video below shows the great guitarist Lenny Breau describing how to accomplish this:

Are your friends impressed yet? If not, then you either need to turn it up louder or practice these guitar tricks even more!

AndyWAndy W. teaches guitar, singing, piano, and more in Greeley, CO. He specializes in jazz, and has played guitar for 12 years. Learn more about Andy here!

 

 

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