jazz guitar licks

5 Delightful Jazz Guitar Licks – Tabs and Audio

jazz guitar licks

Having a few guitar licks up your sleeve is super helpful when you’re improvising. Guitar teacher Samuel B. shares a few of his favorite jazz guitar licks…

Before we begin playing these jazz guitar licks, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the pentatonic scale.

The pentatonic scale is a more versatile and useful scale than you might think. While being an easily-recognized basis for blues, rock, and country solos, it can be (and frequently is) a scale used for jazz solos, too. Adding a few accidentals (notes other than the baseline ones indicated below) can make for some memorable moments in jazz guitar licks.

jazz guitar licks


I’ve heard jazz called “the American classical music,” and here’s why I agree: its chord structures are more complex than those in blues, rock, and country. Sixth, ninth, eleventh, augmented, and diminished chords are all common to it. Solo jazz guitar licks feature a level of intricacy comparable to that of their chord counterparts.

Here are a few tricks guaranteed to spice up any pentatonic-based jazz solo.

Lick One

The first of these jazz guitar licks covers the segment between the fifth through eighth frets. Notes 2, 5, and 12 are the only ones foreign to the scale itself:

jazz guitar licks


Lick Two

The next one is grounded in the second-through-fifth-fret territory. It features three open-string notes and only one otherwise “outsider” (the note that’s both ninth and twelfth):

jazz guitar licks


Lick Three

Lick three is a different animal entirely. It’s plucked with an open hand (not a pick) and is based on notes comprising a moving triad. As indicated, the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth notes are pairs (not single notes) and are played simultaneously with the thumb and index finger. The remaining ones can be played with an index-and-middle-finger alternation:

jazz guitar licks


Lick Four

Like the first two, the fourth and fifth jazz guitar licks are based once again on pentatonic segments (the highest and the lowest ones respectively).

jazz guitar licks


Lick Five

While the fourth lick involves four accidentals (the second, fifth, ninth, and eleventh notes to be exact), this fifth lick is comprised entirely of notes that are pentatonic:

jazz guitar licks



As seen above, these five jazz guitar licks are intricate and unique creations that can make any jazz guitar solo an instant hit. Learning the pentatonic scale on the guitar is essential for jazz guitar licks, and once you do, you can apply it to other genres, as well. Be creative, have fun, and if you’re looking for further practice with your jazz guitar, ask your guitar teacher to help you out with some new moves and grooves!

SamuelBPost Author: Samuel B.
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!

Photo by Larry Johnson

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guitar goals

50 Awesome Summer Guitar Goals

guitar goals

Summer’s here, so grab your guitar and set a new goal with the help of guitar teacher Jerry W.

Summer has officially arrived, which means the sun is out, the days are long, and you have plenty of opportunities to pick up and practice your guitar! Now is the time to go after those dreams you’ve had of mastering the tricky aspects of learning guitar that have been a roadblock in your practice throughout the year.

To help you get started, we’ve compiled 50 guitar goals that you can focus on when practicing your guitar this summer.

Some are easy fixes, while others take more work, but altogether, they will improve your skills as a guitarist and get you back on track to reaching your guitar goals. So get out your guitar and sunglasses, head out to the beach, and start practicing.

There’s no better place to learn the guitar than in the summer breeze!

1. Take lessons.


The quickest way to improve is to take guitar lessons. A good guitar teacher will be able to tell you what you need to work on and help you achieve your goals.

2. Teach someone else how to play the guitar.


Teaching what you’ve learned to someone else has been proven to improve your memory as well. Plus, now you’ll have a new jam buddy. It’s a win/win!

3. Learn a new song.


Use your summertime to add a few new songs to your repertoire. Consider learning a new song that forces you to become a better player.

4. Memorize a new song.


Memorizing a song will help you master both the music and the techniques and allows you to play it anytime you have a guitar. If you struggle with memorization, these tips from Easy Ear Training might help you look at memorizing music in a whole new way!

5. Learn a new music style.


Do you always play one style of music? Learn to play a different style. The challenge will give you a reason to practice.

6. Restring your guitar.


How long has it been since you put new strings on your guitar? The beautiful sound of new strings will make your practice time more enjoyable.

7. Get your guitar set up.


Setting up your guitar involves adjusting the parts of the guitar to get the best action and intonation possible. Having your guitar set up will make it easier to play and better in tune throughout its range.

8. Upgrade to a new instrument.


Is now the time to upgrade to a better quality guitar? Better quality guitars can not only sound better, many are also easier to play. And, as every guitarist knows, having an instrument you’re proud of is great motivation to play every day.

9. Learn how to play classical guitar.


Are you looking for a different challenge? Learn to play classical guitar. It will help develop your music reading and fingerpicking skills.

10. Learn how to play electric guitar.


Do you only play acoustic guitar? Stretch yourself a little by learning how to play electric.

11. Learn how to bend the pitch.


Bending the pitch is one of the classic soloing techniques for guitar. Add this to your skill set to become a better lead guitar player.

12. Learn how to pull off.


The pull off is another standard guitar technique that works well for solos, strumming, and picking.

13. Learn how to hammer on.


Like the pull off, this technique will help you for solos, strumming, and picking. This lesson from Ultimate Guitar will help you learn the basics of both hammer ons and pull offs.

14. Learn how to use a capo.


Learning how to use a capo is easy and can really increase the number of keys you can play comfortably.

15. Learn how to palm mute.


The palm mute is great technique to add to your strumming patterns.

16. Learn how to left-hand mute.


The left-hand mute can add a lot of spice to your strumming.

17. Increase your practice time.


There is no other way to get better at the guitar than to practice. As a general rule, the more you practice, the better you will become.

18. Improve your technique.


Work on improving your technique on the guitar. Remove string buzzing from poorly fingered chords, make sure you are hitting the right strings with your pick or fingers, learn to use the tip of your fingers to reach fret notes, etc.

19. Learn to read music.


Set yourself apart from the crowd of guitar players by learning how to read sheet music for the guitar.

20. Learn to read TAB.


If you learn to read tablature, you will find you have a much larger repertoire of music to play.

21. Learn to read Nashville Number charts.


Nashville Number charts are one more method musicians use to share music. If you’re not already familiar with them, summer is a great time to learn.

22. Learn a new strumming pattern.


Don’t be stuck with using only a couple strumming patterns. There are so many possibilities.

23. Learn to fingerpick.


To make your playing even more interesting, learn to fingerpick. It will make the guitar sound smoother, and you will be able to play more complex patterns.

24. Learn a new picking pattern.


The number of fingerpicking patterns is nearly infinite. Add some new ones to your bag of tools.

25. Learn to keep a steady tempo.


No one wants to play with a musician who can’t keep a steady beat. Try practicing with a metronome.

26. Join a band.


Playing with others will always make you a better player. Just steer clear of these band practice mistakes!

27. Start a band.


Have you always wanted to have your own band? Summer is a great time to start! Try these tips from Music Industry How To to get the ball rolling.

28. Find someone to play duets with.


Playing duets is easier to do than putting together a band, but you still gain the benefits of making music with someone else.

29. Learn a new tuning.


Using an alternate tuning, or “scordatura,” can make playing certain types of music or certain songs easier to play.

30. Learn how to improvise a solo.


Do you only play chords on your guitar? Use the extra time you have during the summer to learn how to solo.

31. Learn some new guitar licks.


A great way to get started with soloing is to learn how to play some common guitar licks. As you get comfortable playing licks, work your way up to solos.

32. Learn the pentatonic scales.


The pentatonic scale is one of the most common solo scales.

33. Learn the blues scale.


The blues scale is also very common for playing solos, but a little more colorful than the pentatonic scales.

34. Learn major scales.


Most songs are in major keys, so knowing these scales will make it easier to feel the key when playing a solo.

35. Learn minor scales.


This scale is essential for mastering those minor keys.

36. Learn the modes.


Modes are alternative scales that are generated by starting the major scale on a different tone. The modes are most common for jazz improvisation.

37. Learn arpeggios.


Arpeggio is an Italian word that means, broken chord. Essentially, when you play an arpeggio you are playing the notes of the chord individually instead of strumming them. Arpeggios are great for picking an accompaniment or for solos.

38. Increase your speed.


Take any technique, arpeggio, or scale, and learn to play it faster. Use a metronome, and gradually increase the speed.

39. Experiment with new tones.


Whether you’re playing an electric guitar and using new amp, pedal, and tone settings, or you’re learning to change the tone of your acoustic by picking or strumming in a different place on the guitar (closer to the fretboard will sound mellower and closer to the bridge will sound brighter), learning to change your tone will make your music much more interesting for you to play and for your listeners.

40. Learn chords in a different range.


Are you still only playing chords in the first few frets? Expand your range by learning how to play chords in the higher frets.

41. Learn barre chords.


One of the best ways to play chords in the higher frets is to learn to play moveable barre chords.

42. Learn Dominant 7th chords.42

Add some color to your playing by learning to add the 7th to your dominant chords.

43. Learn Major 7th chords.43

Give your music a little jazz flavor by learning the Major 7th chords.

44. Learn 6th chords.


Another simple way to add color to your music is by learning the 6th chords.

45. Learn added 9th chords.


The added 9th chords and 2nd chords can make a major chord sound much more interesting.

46. Learn how to play power chords.


Power chords are the foundation of much pop music and essential for making distortion sound good.

47. Learn basic music theory.


Maybe you don’t even know what a 7th chord is or what chord is the dominant. Learning basic music theory will make you a better musician and make it easier for you communicate with other musicians.

48. Learn basic song forms.


It is easier to memorize songs and play with a band if you understand the basic song forms.

49. Write a song for the guitar.


Take your musical creativity to the next level by writing your own song.

50. Become more musical.


Musicality is an intangible skill that is hard to describe but will set you apart from the average guitarist. Learn to use dynamics, tone, and variety to express your music rather than just blandly playing the notes.


Feeling inspired? Time to start practicing! As you’re trying to establish your guitar goals for the summer, be sure to seek help from your guitar teacher, who can point you in the right direction. Best of luck!

JerryPost Author: Jerry W.
Jerry W. teaches classical guitar, composition, trombone and trumpet in Grosse Pointe, MI. He received his Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition from Cornerstone University and went on to receive both his Masters and PhD in Music Composition from Michigan State University.  Jerry has been making music and teaching students for over thirty years.

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11 Quick and Easy Tips for Reading Guitar Chord Charts HEADER

11 Quick and Easy Tips for Reading Guitar Chord Charts

11 Quick and Easy Tips for Reading Guitar Chord Charts HEADER

While it’s true you don’t need to read music to play guitar, you do want to learn to read chord charts. A chord chart is a visual representation of a guitar chord. Chord charts are a little like music-by-numbers—they tell you which finger goes where and on what string, so in case you come up against a chord you don’t know, you’ll be able to play it.

Guitar Chord Chart Em

Chord charts are a cinch to read once you learn what all the lines, numbers and circles mean. Here are 11 things you need to know to master this skill:


The grid of six vertical and five horizontal lines represents the guitar fretboard. If you’re having trouble understanding the basic layout of the image above, hold your guitar in front of you so that the strings are facing you and the headstock is pointing up. The image of the chord chart represents this same view of your guitar, with strings running vertically and frets horizontally.


Chord charts are more commonly situated vertically (like above) rather than horizontally, especially in songbooks. It’s good to learn to interpret both vertical and horizontal grids though.


Since chord chart are typically written for right-handed guitarists, they provide a challenge to left- handed players, who have to do a bit of revisualization by flipping the chart around. If a given source doesn’t provide a left-handed version, you can download left-handed charts online.


The letter at the top of the chart is the name of the chord.


The vertical lines on a chord chart represent the six strings of the guitar. The low E string (the thickest one) is on the left of the diagram, followed by the A, D, G, B and high E string, which is on the right of the diagram. The string names are sometimes noted at the bottom of the chord chart.


The horizontal lines on the chart represent the metal frets on the neck of the guitar. The top line will generally be bolded or marked by a double line, which indicates the guitar’s nut. Fret numbers are sometimes noted to the left of the sixth string.


If the chord chart is depicting frets higher than the fourth fret, the top line on the chart will not be bolded (or doubled) and fret numbers will be shown, either to the left of the sixth string or to the right of the first string, to help orient you on the fretboard.


The black (or red or any other color) dots on the diagram tell you which frets and strings to place your fingers on. The numbers inside the dots indicate which fingers to use on each of the frets. They correspond to the four fingers of the fretting hand.

Number 1 is the index finger, 2 is the middle finger, 3 is the ring finger, and 4 is your pinky. You don’t use the thumb to fret, except in certain unusual circumstances. In those cases there would be a “T” inside the black dot.

Fingerings can also sometimes be found written along the bottom of the strings of a chord chart or between the nut mark and the chord name instead of inside the dots.


An “X” above the bolded nut mark indicates a string you don’t pick or strum. An “O” in the same location means to play the string open.


You may come across a suggested chord fingering that you simply cannot contort your fingers to play. In this case try experimenting with alternate fingerings. The most commonly used chord fingerings, however, will work for most guitarists.


As you probably already know, barre chords are chords that involve using one finger, usually your index finger, to hold down multiple strings in a single fret simultaneously. A barre is noted on a chord chart by a curved or solid line running through a fret from the first note to the last note of the chord, or by a series of dots in the same fret that all bear the same number.


Now that you know how to read a chord chart, give them a try and see how they can help with your chord playing!

About The Author

Guitartricks.com is an online subscription service that has provided video guitar lessons for beginners and advanced players since 1998. The site has more than 11,000 video lessons with 600+ song tutorials, and more than 2 million members. With an unending appetite for improvement, via ongoing course production and licensing negotiations, the site continues to expand and progress.


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How to Have a Terrible Band Practice In 10 Easy Steps

How to Have a Terrible Band Practice in 10 Easy Steps

How to Have a Terrible Band Practice In 10 Easy Steps

If you’re anything like me, you’re always trying to find ways to sharpen your skills as a musician and as a bandmate. Even though you try your best, there are still days when nothing seems to go right. 

So I wondered, what would the absolute worst band practice really look like? Guitar teacher Jessica D. shares her nightmare vision of a rehearsal gone terribly, horribly wrong…


Step 1: Nothing’s worse than not knowing if your bandmate will show up for practice, so why not have a lead singer who regularly gets arrested for their art?

Maybe she doubles as a graffiti artist, maybe he protests animal cruelty with a ukulele. Regardless of his or her deal, she’s messing up the band, man! Pro tip: Accept her collect call from prison, duct tape the phone to a mic and play fast: Inmates don’t get a lot of talk time.


Step 2: Make sure your dad is musical, always wanted to be in a band, and then set up your practice in his garage.

That way he can keep sticking his head in to say things like, “You guys need anything?” and “It’s sounding pretty good in here.” This is the gateway to him working his way over the microphone and finagling a guitar out of your hands so he can play a cover of “Black Cow” real quick.


Step 3: Alternatively, have a dad who uses the garage as his workshop.

He always decides he has to drill a hole into that piece of wood just as soon as you get the Marshalls fired up. Dad drill: 1. Guitar: 0.


Step 4: For a truly disastrous practice, it’s necessary that someone in the band has a cold.

There’s always a case of the flu, strep or mono going around. Bonus points if the singer is sick.


Step 5: Make sure half your band smokes.

Every two songs the drummer, guitarist, and triangle player will be outside getting their nicotine fix while you’re inside wondering how in holy hot cakes it takes 25 minutes to smoke a cigarette.


Step 6. Have a band “Yoko Ono”.

Someone in the band must have a serious girlfriend or boyfriend (probably the bassist). Ask them to bring their “other half” along so they can give unsolicited advice to the band, break out in a spontaneous fight, or even better, storm out and then the bassist will have to chase after them. Band practice postponed!


Step 7. Include your sibling in the band, but be sure it’s the one you get along with the least.

Undermine each other at least a handful of times during practice, leaving the rest of the band scratching their heads and taking multiple cigarette breaks. Taking digs at each other or insulting each other’s technique or ability is fine, but if it can come down to fisticuffs every other practice, you’ll start to get a reputation and you know what they say—no press is bad press…


Step 8. Use this one with caution, for serious pros only–Develop a nasty little drug habit.

Heroin or cocaine seem to be the rock drug of choice but those are old school, expensive and way too creepy. No, instead, stay modern and show the kids you’re relevant: get into ayahuasca or good old fashioned pain killers, like codeine. Heck, start a trend and get addicted to Advil, but make sure you let everyone know about it–gotta keep that press machine churning.


Step 9. It’s advised the drummer get a flat tire on their way to practice.

Bonus points if it’s a speeding ticket, because when they finally arrive, they’ll demand that everyone has to split the fine with them, which will spark a debate, “I wasn’t driving, why do I have to pay?” / “Because it’s your band, dude,” and the next couple gigs will be spent raising the funds to pay off the fines. Are you having fun yet?


Step 10. Crash and burn.

This is an easy one. Just play your ax really hard, like you’re Jimmy Hendrix meets Jimmy Page, even if you only know four chords, and snap a string. Make it a good one, like an A or a B string, none of this high E string nonsense, so you’ll HAVE to stop band practice and change it.

While you do that, your sibling can put you down which will start a fight, the band can go take a cigarette break, the bassist’s girlfriend will run off, the drummer will take a ride to blow off some steam and get another speeding ticket, the jailed singer will call while you’re out and blow their one chance at singing into the phone, and your dad will decide this is the perfect time to try out that new drill bit.

At this point at least one band member should quit, meaning you’ll have to find a replacement and that could take weeks. Band practice on hold til further notice!

Got a band practice horror story? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

Jessica D.Post Author: Jessica D.
Jessica D. is a guitar, ukulele, singing, and songwriting instructor in New York, New York. Learn more about Jessica here!


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10 Things Only Guitarists Understand

10 Things Only Guitar Players Understand

Do you know the secrets of being a guitar player? Check out this list by guitar teacher Jessica D. and let us know if you can relate…

Psst. Hey you—guitar player—you may not know it, but you’re actually an elite member in a group of very special people—people who play the guitar.

Sure, there are a lot of us out there, but there are still many others of all ages who are mystified by our moves, flummuxed by our finger work and down right impressed with our axes. They look from the outside in, thinking, “Maybe, one day…” but then somehow life, work, and other interests kept their guitar dreams from coming true.

Thus, they think that “a fret” is to worry about an accidentally unpaid bill, their favorite jam is blueberry, and the fact that you can actually play “Freebird” makes you a rock genius. Here are some other things that only guitar players understand…

1. The Value of a Guitar

At a flea market or a yard sale, a non-guitar player might see a sweet acoustic dreadnought priced at $200 and think, “Wow, what a steal!” But the truth is, you can get a used or even a brand new guitar online for somewhere in the $50 range.

Meanwhile, the same non-guitar player might wonder why that 1960’s Martin Guitar is hanging up at Guitar Center for $10,000. The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing a used classical guitar or a new Taylor. If you love playing guitar, you are happy to have one in your hands, no matter what the value is.

2. How To Pronounce Yngwie Malmsteen

This cat is incredible in his way, and most people who are serious about playing guitar have at least heard of him, and can usually, mostly correctly pronounce his name (depending on who you ask, it’s “Ing-vay” or “Ying-vie” Maahlm-steen). Seeing him live in concert is similar to a religious experience to some guitarists.

But if you’re really a pro, you know the truth: he’s a dude who spent a lot of time practicing his scales, and with time and practice, anyone can do what he does, even a 15 year old girl.

which leads us to…

3. There Are a Lot of Dope Female Guitar Players Out There

Some people think that guitar is a fella’s game, but there are many straight up incredibly talented female shredders out there. Professional guitarists know their names: Carrie Brownstein, Joni Mitchell, Jennifer Batten, Nancy Wilson, Joan Jett, Orianthi, Lita Ford, PJ Harvey, Bonnie Raitt, Marnie Stern, St. Vincent, Kaki King, more recently Taylor Swift and Tina S, the list literally goes on and on.

Anyone who thinks that “guitar isn’t for girls” is just living in the dark ages.

4. Fingernails Grow Like, REALLY Fast

Guitarists notice this even more, because fretting with fingernails totally sucks. Serious guitarists are known to carry finger nail clippers in their guitar cases or pockets, or heck, just bite their nails off before a gig in a pinch. And the hard core ones just get manicures—all the time.

Hold the fancy decals or rhinestones in the nail polish though; the steel strings of the guitar will pull them right off.

5. Picks (for Strumming) Are for Suckers

When most people pick up the guitar for the first time, they assume that a pick is a necessary accessory for rocking purposes. But the truth is, a pick distances you, literally, from your guitar. It takes you millimeters away from your strings, making things like finger picking and even just familiarizing yourself with the strings much more difficult.

The pick, should you decide to include it in your regular rotation of guitar-tillery, should come later, young grasshopper.

7. Guitar players should really be called guitars players

Because NO guitarist in the world has only one guitar. Sure, you start out with one, but one becomes two, becomes 10. Cat ladies don’t got nothin’ on us.

At this writing, I believe I am the proud owner of 8 guitars and counting. If you live with a guitarist, be prepared to sacrifice space for that sweet guitar collection. In a pinch, you can always use a hardcase as a coffee table. Rock n’ roll!

8. Not all guitars are gigantic

Just like shirts, shoes and hats, there are different sizes of guitars for different sized people. There are 7/8 and ¾ size guitars for those of us with more delicate frames, smaller hands or guitarists who just like to travel light.

Fun fact: The ¾ and 7/8 size guitar, such as a baby Martin, fit overhead on a plane and work as a personal item. Checking guitars is for people with too much free time! Speaking of which…

9. Not all Martins cost a fortune

The aforementioned baby Martins sell for less than $200 new, and did I mention, they fit overhead on a plane…?

10. People who make and fix guitars are called luthiers

And they are pretty much across the board awesome. My local luthier is a Spanish hippy who grows herbs in his windowsill and fixes my guitars for tips. Not to mention, he builds about a guitar a week using reclaimed wood, found garbage instruments and old parts out of various handtools. Can anyone say life skill?

Luthier classes are very rare and quite expensive, so if you get a chance to learn from a luthier or take a class at a lesser rate, DO IT!

And there you have it, 10 things that only guitarists understand. What did I miss?

Jessica D.Post Author: Jessica D.
Jessica D. is a guitar, ukulele, singing, and songwriting instructor in New York, New York. Learn more about Jessica here!


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10 Most Influential Guitarists Who Were Technically Not Great

10 Extremely Influential Guitarists Who Were Not Technically Great

10 Most Influential Guitarists Who Were Technically Not Great

You don’t have to be a virtuoso guitarist to touch people’s hearts with your music! Guitar teacher Samuel B. shares a few of his favorite great-but-not-that-great famous guitar players…

Towards the end of Johnny Cash’s autobiography, you’ll find the following paragraph:

As to my musical future, my prospects look good. I can whack on a guitar as incompetently as I could a year ago, probably more so. I can sing just as well, or as badly, as I ever could. And I’ve got more songs trying to go through me than ever; I’ve written three in the last three weeks.

Despite his technical limitations, Johnny Cash remains an iconic musician, and likely will for decades to come. It is a mistake, I think, to automatically link great music with technical perfection.

Vaughan, Hendrix, and Clapton aside, the majority of my guitar heroes were not superb musicians. Their influence is based on innovation and expression to a much greater extent than it is on fluid musicianship.

Cash is just one example. Here are nine others:


Bob Dylan

Guitar-wise, the best I’ve heard of Dylan are the tracks on his first album for Columbia: Bob Dylan (1962). With two exceptions, its 14 tracks are traditional songs or material by other artists which Dylan adapted to a fast-paced “high and lonesome” style involving intense strumming and (in some cases) intricate fingerpicking.

Despite these energetic musical highlights, none of his other albums boast remarkable guitar moments. While Dylan has proven himself an exceptional and highly influential lyricist, his musicianship is considered average at best.


Tom Petty

Just listen to the opening chords of “Free Fallin’.” They are about as simple as they come. The song itself has no chorus or bridge.

Very few figures in rock create anthems as memorable as Petty’s. They’re not based on intricacy – just gut and tone. Petty’s music is raw and exuberant. Any listener can relate to it.


Richie Havens

A former doo-wop and gospel singer, Havens maintained a career of playing an alternate tuning with his thumb over the neck. The sound of his strumming and his voice was unmistakable – a powerful yet warm and soothing balm.

At times, he described his guitar as more of a tool than an instrument. Havens’ contribution to music history was not based so much on musical excellence as it was on his ability to use his artistic gifts and his grandfatherly wisdom to inspire the best in others.


BB King

Footage from the 1988 documentary Rattle and Hum includes a collaboration between U2 and King. During the rehearsal, King twice indicates how poorly he plays chords.

King’s calling card was his vibrato which (like Havens’ thumb chords) was his alone. Who can forget his childlike face after telling Lucille to talk to him and closing his eyes?


Kurt Cobain

Even on Nirvana’s intimate MTV unplugged album, no guitar highlights are apparent. In most respects, Cobain was an innovative songwriter and bandleader.

He should be credited as having been one of the key players that brought alternative music to the mainstream. Few bands had a sound as full-bodied and expressive as Nirvana’s.


Joni Mitchell

Mitchell’s diverse use of open tunings is not well-known. She’s used more of them than any recognizable guitarist I can think of. The sound of her lower strings has been compared to that of a snare drum. The sound of her higher ones to that of a cool jazz horn section.

She’s even taken to having her electric “VG-8” guitar tuned offstage as each song on her set list is in a different tuning. Still, she is not a technically brilliant guitarist.


Dave “The Edge” Evans

I once saw Evans provide a televised tour of his onstage lineup of pedals and related electronic tools during U2’s Zoo TV tour in the early 90s. Among the guitarists who’ve honed a recognizable niche in alternative music, he’s a chief innovator.

The haunting opening lines of “With Or Without You” should be considered a revolutionary piece of musical history in of itself – a single sustained note over multiple measure of the bass line (not an easy feat actually). The strumming later in the song comes close to imitating the sound of a train.

As with Cobain, credit is due as praise for the sound itself – not for how fast and flashy he has played it.


Amy Ray and Emily Saliers

When it comes to attitude and energy (not to mention lyrical brilliance and enough stage presence to convert an entire arena of avid concertgoers into instant fans), nobody compares to Amy and Emily (The Indigo Girls). They’ve penned what I consider to be some of the most memorable songs of the last two (nearly three) decades (ie “Closer To Fine”, “Joking”, “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee”, “Least Complicated”).

As is true with many of the others mentioned, unforgettable guitar licks are few (if any) on their albums and in their live shows. They’ve given us a beautiful tapestry of poetry and emotion that’s easy for most of us to appreciate and understand.


What did you think of this list? Are there any famous guitar players you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments below!


SamuelBSamuel 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!


Photo by Mathias Miranda

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best way to learn guitar

The First Thing Beginners Should Learn on the Guitar

best way to learn guitar

Whether you’ve just started guitar lessons or you’re teaching yourself, the best way to learn guitar is by starting with this one, basic thing. Guitar teacher Jerry W. explains…

The first thing a beginner needs to learn on the guitar is how to tune. An out-of-tune guitar will make even the best player sound bad.

The best way to learn guitar is to first learn how to tune it. Then, everything you play will sound better, and the whole musical world will thank you!

I recommend you tune your guitar before every guitar lesson, practice session and certainly before any performance. In the end, training your ear to know what it sounds like to play in tune is the best way to learn guitar. In this post, I will show you three ways to tune your guitar.

1. Using a Tuner

The easiest tuning method is to use a tuner. There are many types of tuners, including ones designed specifically for the guitar. If you have a smart phone, you can simply download an app for tuning your guitar. I personally use PitchLab on my phone.

When using a tuner, make sure you are tuning to the correct pitches. The strings, from lowest to highest, should be tuned to E2, A2, D3, G3, B3 and E4.

I recommend that you also learn to tune your guitar by ear.

Why is this important? Because you can still tune your guitar if you forget your tuner or your phone is dead. Even more importantly, it will help develop your ear for pitch.

There are two methods of tuning the guitar by ear. Both methods require having the lowest-sounding string in tune. To do this, find a piano or someone who is already in tune and match your bottom string to their E pitch.

If you are just practicing, then you can tune the E2 string using your tuner. In fact, if you are just practicing on your own, you can simply tune to the lowest-sounding string. Even if it isn’t perfectly on pitch, at least the guitar will be in tune with itself.

2. The Fifth Fret Method

1. Play the lowest string (E2) at the fifth fret, and then tune the A2 string to this pitch.

When tuning to a note, it is best to loosen the tuning peg until you are below the pitch, and then bring it up until both strings sound like one pitch.

2. Play the A string you just tuned at the fifth fret, and then tune the D3 string to this pitch.

3. Play the D string at the fifth fret, and tune the G3 string to this pitch.

4. The next string is different from all the others. Play the G string at the 4th fret, and tune the B3 string to this pitch.

5. Finally play the B string at the fifth fret, and tune the E4 string to this pitch.

3. The Harmonics Method

1. This method requires being able to play harmonics. To play a harmonic lightly, touch a string at the fifth fret, and pull your finger away as you pluck the string. This should produce a higher, more bell-like sound. It usually takes some practice to get this to work well. Harmonics can be easily produced at the fifth, seventh and twelfth frets.

2. Play the harmonic on the fifth fret of the lowest string (E2). Then, play the harmonic on the seventh fret of the A2 string, and tune it to the E string. Due to the pure sound of harmonics, it is easier to hear whether you are perfectly in tune.

3. Repeat this for each string, using the fifth fret harmonic to tune the seventh fret harmonic of the next string, except for the B string. You will have to tune the B string using either the fifth fret method or a tuner, because the harmonics method does not work for this string.

Now that you have learned to tune your guitar, go out and make the world a better place for all music lovers by always playing with an in-tune guitar!


Jerry W. teaches classical guitar, composition, trombone and trumpet in Grosse Pointe, MI.  He received his Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition from Cornerstone University and went on to receive both his Master’s and PhD in Music Composition from Michigan State University. Jerry has been making music and teaching students for over thirty years.  Learn more about Jerry W. here!


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5 Tips for Writing a Jazz Song on Guitar

Five Tips For Writing A Jazz Song On Guitar

5 Tips for Writing a Jazz Song on Guitar

Take the plunge into writing jazz songs on guitar with these tips from guitar teacher Samuel B.

Although jazz guitar is a formal discipline, you can mix it into your repertoire of original songs without formal training. Here are five easy ways to do this:

Include Triads In Your Songs

Triads (three-note chords) are your most accessible ally. There are two basic ones.

I refer to the first one as the “L.” It looks like this:

L Triad Guitar Chord


Although it can be strummed, the “L” chord sounds best when plucked (with your thumb, index, and middle fingers to be specific). When plucked, it makes an attractive “thumping” sound. When multiple “L” chords in different positions are played in quick succession, they can imitate walking bass patterns which are common to jazz.

I refer to the other triad as the “triangle.” It looks like this:

Triangle Triad Guitar Chord


The “triangle” is a five (not six) string chord (ADGBE). Like the “L”, it can be easily transposed anywhere on the neck just by sliding it up or down. While writing a song, I recommend experimenting with both formations in as many different positions as possible.

Combine Them With Barre Chords

Jazz chords are typically more complex than the common first-position chords (C, D, E, F, G, A, and B7th). Sevenths, minors, and other chord variations are common. These two barre chord formations can easily be switched from major to seventh if you remove the note marked with an X. They can also be changed from major to minor by moving the Y back a half step.

E Barre Chord


A Barre Chord


As with the triads, I recommend experimenting with barre chords in different positions too.

Add Pentatonic Notes

The pentatonic scale (“penta” meaning “five”) is comprised entirely of notes that make up the circle of fifths (C, G, D, A, E, B, Gb/F#, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, and F):


pentatonic scale 1

pentatonic scale 2

If you haven’t already done so, practice these scale patterns. Use the notes in these scales to improvise.

Keep Your Progression Simple

Although may be familiar with complicated-looking jazz guitar scores (and, yes, many of them contain laundry lists of intricate chords), you’ll benefit more as a songwriter by keeping your chords trim. Start with a I-IV-V pattern (such as A, D, and E7th) and embellish it with the suggestions above.

Remember, your objective is not to win a prize for complexity. It’s to make memorable music. The easier it will be to learn to play, the more memorable it will be in the long run.

Keep Your Subject Material Light

Here’s the fun part – writing lyrics. Compared to other American genres, jazz involves soft and gentle themes. “Grab your coat. Grab your hat. Leave your worries on the doorstep,” is a good example of a great jazz lyric. So is “Stars shining bright above you. Night breezes seem to whisper ‘I love you.’ Birds singing in the sycamore trees. Dream a little dream of me.”

Forget angry topics. You’re not out to take your audience on an emotional roller coaster. If you’re writing a song about heartache, it should be sad and not vindictive:

Willow weep for me
Willow weep for me
Bend your branches down along the ground and cover me

For me, jazz is a basically joyful-sounding music. It’s free from the raw exuberance, aggressive sounds, and gritty topics common to Chicago and Texas blues, contemporary country, and metal. Its music and lyrics should both reflect this by having been written in a peaceful state of mind.

Working with a private guitar teacher is a great way to build your jazz guitar skills fast. Find your guitar teacher today!

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



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Walk Off the Earth Interview

How Walk Off The Earth Got A Record Deal On YouTube

Walk Off the Earth Interview

From going viral on YouTube to touring the world, Walk Off The Earth has made an impressive mark on the music scene, and from the looks of it they are just getting started. Their album Sing It All Away will be released this month, and the band has been touring heavily in anticipation of this release.

Singer and guitarist Ryan Marshall gave us a call this week to talk about his inspirations, life on the road, and his complicated relationship with country music. 

How did you get started playing music? Was there anyone like a parent or teacher who really helped you along the way?

I come from a family where everyone has always played some sort of instrument. But for me in grade six, I started playing baritone, which is like a small tuba; some people call it a euphonium.

I had an amazing music teacher. I lived in a small town near Toronto and I had this teacher Sue Smith, who had been the trumpet in Canadian Brass. She actually came to my school and I started with her in grade six and then she came to my high school and continued teaching our class all the way through high school.

When you get a teacher like her it really changes the way you look at things and it makes you want to continue playing. I was the captain of the football team and the basketball team, and sometimes, when I was going to school anyway, the sports guys aren’t too keen on people playing in the jazz band or the concert band. But when you get the right teacher who explains things and helps you deal with peer pressure and all that junk, you can learn a lot.

Coming from that education, how did you form Walk Off The Earth?

I didn’t even start playing guitar until I was 20. I’m a really big Bob Dylan fan, so right away I did a lot of harmonica and guitar playing, and singing at the same time.

I hooked up with a couple of guys and we started a little reggae band that lasted a few years. When that band ended, I continued playing with my drummer, and we wanted to start recording a little two piece project.

He knew this guy Gianni who had his own studio, so we went there to record. Gianni started adding some bass and things into the stuff we were recording. We hadn’t even played a show yet and we didn’t have a bass player, so it just kind of turned into a three piece. We needed a name and Walk Off The Earth just kind of happened, and that was the beginning.

One thing that really stands out about Walk Off The Earth is your instrumentation and the really cool, kind of unusual choices that you make. Where do you get those ideas and what inspires you?

I think a lot of the inspiration comes from the different characters and influences that we have in the band. Having five people adding ideas and influences really allows us to use a lot of different instruments.

For Sarah and Gianni and I, it’s kinda like this: none of us are amazing guitar players and none of us are amazing ukulele players, or whatever it might be, but once you kind of understand the idea of the instrument, if you can shape a chord or something, as long as you have good rhythm you can get away with playing a couple songs on it here and there.

All of us are really interested in learning different instruments and finding things to add to the set. Sometimes it ends up being little kids instruments, and it’s fun to take something like that and say how can we sample it, or how can we record it. Then once you put it into a recording, you’re kinda stuck, and you have to figure out a way to do it live, so you end up bringing all these weird instruments live on stage.

Another thing that Walk Off The Earth is really famous for is that you “got a record deal on YouTube”. Was that something that you set out to do? What would your advice be to other artists who want to follow that same path?

We did the indie band thing, trying to get signed by a label in conventional ways, and it’s really tough. It finally got to a point where we all realized, we’re not going to get signed to a label, we’re going to have to do this on our own.

We had to find a way to reach a lot of people, and YouTube had just started up. Gianni said hey, why don’t we give this a shot? We put up some videos and all of a sudden we had 15,000 views on a video (editor’s note: that video now has over 160 million views). We’d never played to 15,000 people in our lives!

You also have to be lucky in the viral world. If people could figure out how to make a viral video, then everyone would. I don’t know what happens, something happens, and we got lucky with that one video.

We also had another 30 or 40 videos already on that channel, so when people saw the viral video, it wasn’t like a dog that was talking and all of a sudden there’s nothing else to watch. There was a whole catalog of songs, originals and covers, that people could watch next, and we noticed those all started blowing up at the same time.

That also was the thing that attracted the label. Labels want to see a body of work and a fanbase before they put money into a band these days. You have to develop your career yourself.

You’re currently on the road, and you’ve been out on tour for some weeks now. What are the best and worst things about being on the road?

I love playing for crowds. Honestly, the best feeling in the world for me is getting on stage and having people sing back songs to you that you wrote. To me, it’s the most rewarding feeling in the world. So that’s definitely the best. I have a family at home, and I have a little five-year-old, and I miss home when I’m away.

A couple of you in the band have families, and it’s got to be work sometimes to balance that with your careers as musicians. Recently, your bandmate Sarah even had an experience where she was asked to leave a flight because her toddler was fussy. How does that situation fit in with your overall experiences of balancing parenthood with being rockstars?

The Sarah situation was just insanity. I have no idea what the airline was thinking. I think that’s gonna get taken care of, and that aside, as far as balancing fatherhood and family when we’re on the road, it’s got its pros and cons.

For example, when we recorded our album it took us about three months, and we were at home in Burlington that whole time. So I was home for three months straight, every day. I could see my family every day. A lot of busy fathers are home every day but they work from 6 AM to 8 PM and their kids are in school and then they’re asleep. For me, I get to spend three months straight with my family and they see me whenever I want to see them, which is amazing.

But when you’re gone, you’re gone. When you’re on the road, you’re gone for months. Things like Facetime and Skype have really changed how we’re able to communicate with home. And you know, Sarah and Gianni, they’re both in the band, and they can travel with their son, and the second one coming along soon. I’ve brought my five-year-old Kingsley with me on a couple tours, not a bus tour, but a couple fly-ins, and it was really fun.

When you do get the chance to play music purely for fun, what do you like to practice and what do you like listening to?

I’m a big folk guy, I love listening to Tallest Man on Earth, a lot of Bon Iver. I listen to every type of music but I haven’t really gotten into any country yet. Everything else pretty much ends up on my phone. I have a pretty wide variety. When I’m playing, I usually just pick up my acoustic and I write a lot. I enjoy writing all different types of music. I will write a lot of country songs but I don’t really listen to country [laughs]. But I just love picking up my acoustic guitar and singing and doing singer-songwriter type stuff.

Is there anything musically that you hope to explore more in the future?

As a band, we really like trying to touch all aspects of the music world. On this album, we have a collaboration with Steve Aoki, which allowed us to kind of get into the EDM part of the music scene. We got to go and play with him at Ultra Music Fest in Miami. It was close to 200,000 people, and it’s a different scene for us, so it was great.

Our fans are such a large, eclectic group. We have three-year-olds at our shows, and last night we had an 89-year-old lady at our show. It really ranges and it’s really cool, and we’re able to collaborate with other artists that allow us to explore other types of music.

Don’t miss your chance to see Walk Off The Earth when they come to your town! Keep up with tour dates on their website, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Top 10 Online Resources for Learning Guitar Theory

Top 10 Online Resources for Learning Guitar Theory

guitar theory

With so much information online about guitar theory, how do you know which sites to trust? Guitar teacher Zachary A. shares his top 10 favorite sites for learning about the guitar…

Online resources for guitar theory are extremely helpful. You may want to explore the endless limits of the guitar, or maybe you’re in need of a tiny refresher before your next lesson with a private teacher

These 10 websites are all tremendously helpful tools for guitar players of all levels – beginner, intermediate, and expert. All these websites are open and free to the public, and are also extremely detailed and can be navigated with ease.

1. One Minute Music Lesson

This website is wonderful for beginner musicians who are just starting out and have a seemingly endless list of unanswered questions. Leon Harrell, the man who runs this website, is a teacher who does a wonderful job breaking down the complicated things about music and presenting them in a way that is easy to comprehend.

2. Musictheory.net

Through numerous lessons, exercises, and tools, this website will help you grow as a musician in no time.

3. Jazz Guitar Online

This site is great for jazz guitarists, targeting different aspects of the guitar. This site includes resources for learning scales, arpeggios and different rhythm changes. For guitarists who aren’t as familiar with jazz, this website highlights the fundamentals of music which could be useful for any genre of music.

4. Berklee Shares

Berklee Shares is a collection of free music lessons from Berklee Online, the award-winning online extension of the Berklee College of Music. This website covers various areas of music education, such as production, songwriting, and performance.

5. The Musical Mind

This is an excellent site for developing a musical ear. Musical Mind has numerous exercises that will help you gain experience in the areas you feel you need help with the most.

6. Making Music Fun!

This website has over 600 free printable music resources, as well as over 900 free music lesson plans.

7. Chordmaps

This website goes over an in-depth series of lessons that cover the fundamentals of music theory, which are important for every beginner musician, as well as experienced musicians.

8. Music Learning Tools

This easy-to-navigate site is perfect for developing your musical ear. The site has plenty of ear, scale, and interval training to perfect your listening skills.

9. Essential Guitar

By providing the reader a confusion-free perspective on music theory, this website provides a means to learn practical music theory.

10. TakeLessons

This wonderful website is extremely useful for finding an in-person or online guitar teacher!

Even though you can learn plenty from online resources, personally, I believe that the most efficient way to learn guitar is by actually sitting down with a teacher. This way, you are learning guitar theory through communicating in a more personal, face-to-face setting. Having a person who you can ask every question that pops into your head saves you from scrolling through websites online hoping to find an answer.

That said, these 10 online resources will help to supplement what you learn in your guitar lessons! If you have any other websites that you feel are a step above the rest, feel free to leave a comment and share your favorite guitar-based websites!

Zachary A

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




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Photo by Garrett Coakley