What is Flamenco Guitar Techniques and Terms You Need to Know

What is Flamenco Guitar? Terms and Techniques You Need to Know

What is Flamenco Guitar Techniques and Terms You Need to Know

Falling in love with the sounds of flamenco guitar is easy, and this music is fun to learn to play too. Guitar teacher David W. is here to help you learn the basic terms and techniques you’ll learn…

Some folks get interested in flamenco through its virtuosic guitar playing, rhythmic dancing and colorful dresses, or the expressive nature of Gypsy singing. For guitarists of other styles, playing flamenco is among the most respected styles in the world thanks to its sound, tonality, and technique.

Since flamenco guitar has shared roots with classical guitar technique, it will help if you are at least familiar with a bit about the classical guitar. If you are a complete beginner to guitar, no problem!

Understanding Flamenco Guitar

Want to learn flamenco guitar? As you may know, it’s traditionally played on a nylon-string (classical) style guitar, using not a pick but the fingers and nails of the right hand to drive the sound. The left hand is used much the same as in other styles, with some tonal and positional particularities. The right hand is related to classical technique in some regards, but as we’ll see there are some big differences.

First, an analogy: Imagine that the guitar is a car, driving you down some Andalusian country road. Your right hand works the gas and brakes, and the left hand is the steering wheel. There are foundational rhythms that you can play with the right hand that can be applied to any chord or melody, given the technique you are using.

What are these right hand techniques? We will cover each of the foundational right hand techniques for flamenco guitar later on in this article. But let’s start with some basic terminology relating to the art.

Spanish Terminology for Classical and Flamenco Guitar

Terminology is important to learning flamenco guitar, partly because flamenco comes from Spain. Here we’ll cover terms used to describe musical elements, parts of the guitar, guitar technique in general, as well as those particular to flamenco that are an integral part of the journey. Just as you have learned to say “pizza” and “sushi”, these words are easy to learn and will enrich your life by connecting you to a colorful world and its unique art.

Flamenco Music

Here are some basic terms describing some fundamental parts of a flamenco performance:

palo = song style (eg; Solea, Tangos, Bulerias, Alegrias, etc.)

cante = flamenco singing

toque = flamenco guitar playing

baile = flamenco dance

palmas = rhythmic hand claps that accompany a performance

falseta = a prepared or improvised guitar-focused interlude between sung verses or dance sections, or as a compositional development in its own right

The Guitar

This is terminology that relates to the guitar itself, and accessories used in flamenco:

guitarra = guitar

cejilla = capo

golpeador = tap plate

cuerdas = strings

acordes = chords

The Fingers

When notating the music played on classical and flamenco guitar, we use the following terms and abbreviations for right hand technique:

pulgar = thumb (notated as “p”)

indice = index finger (notated as “i”)

medio = middle finger (notated as “m”)

anular = ring finger (notated as “a”)

rosado = pinky (not used as a term, notated as “x”)

Guitar Technique

These are the techniques used in flamenco guitar, with a focus on the right hand in this article. With the exception of arpeggio, they are more specific to flamenco than to classical music:

arpeggio = plucking individual notes of a chord, e.g: p, i, m, a, m, i.

picado = playing single note melodies using i, m.

rasgueo = raking across the strings using x, a, m, i, and sometimes including p.

abanico = a sub-category of rasgueo, using either p, i, and m, or p and ma.

alzapua = using the thumb (p) to articulate a combination of single notes and parts of chords.

arrastre = raking backwards (high to low) over the strings using the ring (anular, a) finger.

golpe = tapping the body of the guitar, on the tap plate (golpeador) using ma (middle and ring fingers together), or just the ring finger (a).

Right Hand Flamenco Guitar Techniques

These techniques can be dizzying to watch live up close and in person, but I hope to demystify them a bit here:

arpeggio and picado

As mentioned earlier, right hand technique for flamenco guitar is to a degree built on classical technique, with some additions. The classical component consists of arpeggios, and the use of alternating index and middle (i, m) for melodies. The arpeggiated figures in flamenco are particular, but you can use exercises from classical repertoire to build the needed dexterity.

Picado is one technique used to play single note melodies in flamenco, and is played with a short, percussive stroke that is muted immediately after playing each note. To build your picado, just apply an alternating i, m sequence to any of the scales that you’ve learned; while keeping the notes short and “punchy”.

pulgar – the thumb: melody and alzapua

The right hand thumb warrants special study, as it is used in arpeggio and alzapua, as well as in melodies. A major difference with classical technique is that the thumb is almost exclusively played with a rest-stroke (apoyando). This means that when you strike the string, your thumb pushes down through the active string, coming to a brief resting position on the adjacent string below.

This gives a more penetrating action that is louder, more percussive; and also unique in tone. Alzapua is a highly specialized technique that gives a unique effect. The thumb performs up and down strokes through both single and multiple strings, striking both through parts of chords and single notes on the bass strings.

The thumb is used also used in an approach alternating with the index finger, for a unique effect. Start with the following sequence on the open E strings (index on high E, and thumb on low E): p i, p i, p i, p i.

Then, begin changing the notes of the bass using the left hand, one for every 2 or 4 thumb strokes. You’ll find that the open high E string provides a nice pedal-like accompaniment to your bass melody. Alternately, leave the low E open, and change notes on the high E string (right hand is still playing with the index finger), for a brighter sound accompanied by the droning low E played with the thumb.


Perhaps the most renowned of flamenco guitar techniques is the rasgueo (aka “rasgueado”). This technique is unique to flamenco, and doesn’t find a truly comparable counterpart in classical guitar technique.

If you’ve played some rasgueo in a classical piece, it was likely borrowed from flamenco in some fashion. The first one you should try is just stroking up and down through all strings with the index finger, while making a chord with the left hand: up i, down i.

If you’re using fingers and no thumb, the only finger that makes an up stroke is the index. All others (middle, ring and pinky; m, a, x) only make down strokes. Try these basic right hand sequences to get yourself started:

-down x, down a, down m, down i, up i. -up i, down m, down i.

Repeat these patterns to increase your sense of relaxed control, changing chords as you’re comfortable.

These exercises really do take some time to develop so that they sound authentic and feel natural, so don’t give up. Spending a little time (5-20 minutes) every day is better than sitting for an hour or more at a time once a week or less.

Of course, lessons do help! If you can find a guitar teacher in your area, or one that is available through skype, do so to help you get on the right track. In general, try alternating between loud and soft dynamics. This way, you give your muscles a bit of a break, as well as build relaxed control, which is both sustainable and eventually will sound better than playing with too much tension.

The payoff is immense when you can play this music, even a little bit! And getting the basics down opens up the potential to play with others, which magnifies your enjoyment and propels you even further on your musical journey. Good luck and happy strumming.

David W.

David W. is a guitar teacher in Berkeley, CA. An instructor for more than fifteen years, David can also help students focus on classical, flamenco, or bass guitar. Learn more about David here!




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10 Things Every Great Jazz Guitarist Knows

10 Things Every Great Jazz Guitarist Knows

10 Things Every Great Jazz Guitarist Knows

Be the next great jazz guitarist with these tips from guitar teacher Zachary A.

To quote the late Frank Zappa, “Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny”. Jazz may not be as big and popular as it once was but if you learn how to play jazz you will be set up to successfully play any genre of music. The great jazz musicians all have numerous things in common, things that set them apart from the crowd and make them legendary.

In this article, I will be going over ten of those most important things that anyone playing jazz guitar must know. Remember that as a jazz musician, and really any type of musician, you should be listening to as much music as possible. Listening to great performances really is vital for becoming a great performer yourself.

1. Timing is everything

Timing in music is imperative, and especially in jazz. Music itself is the manipulation of time. When you play music with people and you don’t have a good sense for time, the music you create will most likely be a jagged, clustered mess. The people you play with will not know what to play or when to play. Timing is everything.

2. Practice with an external time source

A good tip to obtain a little bit more of a jazzier feel to your music is to use a metronome or even a drum sequencer.  If  if the time signature fits, practice playing on the 2nd and 4th of the beat. The more you play with a metronome the better your time will be. It is that simple.

3. All jazz musicians have a great ear

The most common trait in every jazz musician is that they have an impeccable ear for music. Developing a musician’s ear, as it is referred to, takes time and lots of practice.

To help build a better ear for music there are numerous exercises that you can do. Training your ear can involve hearing intervals, lines, chord qualities and chord progressions, and learning all of this in every key, with the ability to decipher what change, what interval, what progression is in what key.

Jazz guitarists should also have a great ear while on the bandstand. It is imperative to listen to your band mates while on stage. The better your ear is on stage, the more people will want to play with you.

4. Take every opportunity for a session or gig

Take every opportunity for a session or a gig. Every time you play a session or gig it is a learning experience. Through these experiences be sure to take the opportunity to learn from other successful musicians. Always keep an open mind; I am sure that there is something you can learn from just about every musician out there.

At times it is easy to get stuck in a narcissistic mind set, trying to find your own solutions to your own problems. Having a handful of trustworthy musicians to go to when you get stuck can be very helpful when you’re studying music.

Another reason that it is important to take every session or gig you can is because you never know who you will run into at these events. It has been said that music is about being in the right place at the right time. For that luck to strike, you actually have to be out playing and engaging with other musicians. You never know which gig or session will be the one that could change your career.

5. Practice everyday

This is pretty self-explanatory. To be a great jazz guitarist, it takes practice – and lots of it. Practicing daily, even if it is just for an hour, is way more beneficial than practicing for 8 hours one day and not at all for the rest of the week.

6. Have an extensive amount of heads and changes memorized

All great jazz musicians have a back log of themes and heads memorized with the ability to recall them at any time. This knowledge of heads will be extremely beneficial when playing at a jam session or playing a gig.

When deciding on what to learn, I recommend start off by learning some of the more well known jazz standards. For example, “Autumn Leaves” is a well-known song which is played in the key of g minor.

Another well-known jazz standard that is essential to have in your repertoire is the song “Summertime”. A George Gershwin classic, the jazz version was made famous by John Coltrane and has since been covered by many other legendary musicians. Summertime utilizes the major and minor pentatonic scales. Learning this song will help you be a master at these scales.

A few more common jazz standards you should learn include “Cherokee“, “All the Things“, and “Stella by Starlight“. When learning these songs transpose them for all 12 keys for complete mastery.

7. Always go back to the fundamentals

Jazz is a complex genre, and it is always important to revert back to the fundamentals when learning jazz guitar.This means spending time reviewing the major and minor scales and practicing the pentatonic scales before breaking out in Frank Zappa’s solo in “Black Napkins“.

It is important to know a multitude of chord progressions and phrasings as well as the different forms these phrases can be arranged. Again, it is important to know all these phrases and chord progressions in all of the 12 keys. Another helpful way to learn and master the fundamentals for anyone playing jazz guitar is by learning and getting a general sense of the piano.

8. Talent is great but determination and perseverance win every time

Talent is great but perseverance and determination will triumph every time. Being naturally talented at anything is always a nice thing. The one thing that every jazz musician has in common is that they have spent many dedicated hours in the shed practicing and perfecting their trade. Remember the path to learning one hundred songs begins with learning one.

9. There is no set formula for becoming a jazz musician

There truly is no set formula for becoming a jazz guitarist and musician, but there are many different formulas out there that you can pick and choose from. In the end, use what works best for you.

With jazz there really is so much information out there. There is always room for improvement. You could always be brushing up on changes, learning old jazz standards, or perhaps learning new scales.

It is important to steer clear of the mind set of being overly confident in your abilities. This bottomless pit of a mindset can cause you to become complacent and lose that drive every dedicated jazz musician has. One common thing in jazz is that it will take you years to learn, a challenge that I just love.

10. Set goals and stick with them until completion

To avoid getting stuck in a rut, it helps to set goals. Both short and long term goals will help you grow as a musician. Your goal could be as simple as learning one new song a week.

There is something though, that is even more important than setting the goals, because in reality setting the goals is the easy part. The hard part, and the most important, is to finish the goals you set. Working with a guitar teacher is the best way to meet your goals and achieve your dreams!


Zachary AZachary 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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19 Signs You're In Love With Your Guitar

19 Signs You’re Head Over Heels In Love With Your Guitar

You’ve been hurt by instruments before, so how do you know if what you feel for your guitar is the real thing? Read on to discover the signs that you’re completely crazy in love with your guitar. How many of these things sound like you?

1. The first time you saw your guitar, your heart skipped a beat.

They say that when you find the right one, you just know.

2. Your guitar has a place of honor in your home.

Making space for it in your home is a sure sign that you’re really falling hard. Whether it’s a special practice corner or the iron throne, when you have a designated guitar spot you’re showing how much you care.

3. You give your guitar hugs.

You don’t want to put your guitar down, even when you’re not playing. If you’ve ever sat with your guitar in your lap, in total silence, you might be falling in love.

4. You’ve slept with your guitar in the bed.

This was a huge step in your relationship with your guitar, but you’re so glad you made the plunge. Now you don’t have to get out of bed in the morning to start playing guitar again.

5. You dream about your guitar.

It’s on your mind all day long, so of course it’s on your mind when you sleep too.

6. You would rather eat bugs than hurt your guitar.

You always take good care of your guitar and would hate to put even the smallest dent in its finish. Even watching someone else hurt another guitar is torture.

7. Your phone is full of guitar photos.

If you’re flipping through your phone to find guitar selfie after guitar selfie, you’ve definitely given your guitar your heart.

8. Your guitar has a name.

Just like B.B. King with his Lucille, you know you’re a goner when you’ve named your guitar.

9. You stay up late to spend more time with it.

If you’re missing sleep for your guitar but you don’t mind, it sounds like you’re in love.

10. You buy your guitar lots of presents.

Picks, straps, new strings… Nothing’s too good for your baby!

11. You and your guitar have a special song… or hundreds of special songs.

And whenever your song comes on the radio, you think about playing it with your guitar.

12. Sometimes, your guitar is all you can talk about.

Wherever you go, the word “guitar” is right on the tip of your tongue.

13. Sometimes, your guitar is the only one you can talk to.

No matter what happens,  your guitar is there for you.

14. Everything makes you think about your guitar.

Why can’t you be together all the time?

15. You want to keep getting better, so you can impress your guitar with your skills.

You practice every day, and you’re always learning new things. Maybe, one day, you’ll be good enough for your guitar.

16. You’ve introduced your guitar to your friends and your parents.

When they’ve met your parents, you know you’re in the love zone.

17. Sometimes you’re overwhelmed by how beautiful your guitar is.

Is it real? And it’s really yours?

18. You don’t mind carrying your guitar around.

Wherever you go, your guitar can go too!

19. Playing guitar makes you happier than anything else in the world.

At the end of the day, you know you’re in love because you feel great. Colors are just a little brighter, sugar tastes a little sweeter, and life is better because you have your guitar by your side.

Ready to take the next step in your relationship? Take the leap and sign up for guitar lessons!

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blues guitar

5 Blues Guitar Secrets That Will Make You a Better Player

blues guitar

Learning how to play blues guitar? Pay extra attention to these five things from guitar teacher Mike B.

1. In Tune Bends

The blues guitar style is full of bending strings. Bends, as well as hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides, give guitarists the ability to imitate the way singers use various inflections while singing melodies. However, unlike hammers-ons and slides, bends are not guaranteed to be in tune. Since there is nothing worse than an out-of-tune bend in the climax of a great solo, we need to pay special attention to training ourselves to make sure our bends are in tune.

When you bend a string, it is supposed to be bent up to a specific pitch. The most common bends are up a whole step (the distance of two frets), or up a half step (the distance of one fret). For example, if you are on the 8th fret of the B string (the note is a G), and you bend up a whole step, it should sound like the 10th fret of the B string (the note is an A). If you are going to bend up a half step from the 8th fret on the B string, you bend it up to make it sound like the 9th fret (the note is an Ab or G#). Here are a few ways to practice being in tune:

  • Play the note you are going to bend to first, get the sound of the note in your ear, then bend up to it, and try to get it to be the same exact note.
  • Plug in to a tuner, and practice bending from one in-tune note to another, either a half step or a whole step away.
  • Practice unison bends. Unison bends involve playing two notes, the note you are bending and the note you are bending to, on two adjacent strings. When doing this, take special care, and make sure that they are exactly the same two notes. To get started, practice the examples below:

Blues Guitar Secrets Bending Strings

Be sure to practice this all over the neck of your guitar, since it will take different amounts of strength to bend in tune in various parts of the neck. We want to train our muscles and our ears to be in tune no matter where we are on the neck.

2. Learn Entire Solos

A lot of players tend to overlook this aspect of learning, and just end up digging into individual licks they enjoy. The importance of having a lot of licks and ideas available to you cannot be overstated, but there is a lot to be gained from learning the entirety of a solo.

Learning an entire solo gives you a chance to see how the soloist paced themselves, and how they built their solo from the beginning to the end. It also gives you a chance to see how the soloist utilized space. When we look at just individual licks, we don’t get to see what led up to them, and what came after them. It’s these aspects of a solo that really make you stand out from the rest.

3. Serve the Song

Typically, a solo should serve the song it is within, and should be viewed as your turn to speak and convey how you feel. What you choose to say in your playing should serve the song in some way. For example, if its a slow song, it may not be the time to unleash your fastest licks, back-to-back. In other instances, a song may need all of your fastest licks. Keep your ears open, and think about what it is that you are trying to express. Does it add to the song, or are you simply letting your fingers speak? Don’t forget that the song has a melody. You can quote it in your solos, or simply just use the rhythm of the melody to relate your idea back to the melody. Leave space. Sing along with your playing.

4. Repetition

Repetition can be viewed in a few ways: repeating your idea verbatim, repeating the rhythm but changing the notes, or playing variations on your original idea and allowing them to morph into new ideas.

This is such a crucial tool for crafting a good solo. If we think about it, do lyrics typically have a bunch of unrelated ideas through the duration of the song, or are the lyrics all along a central theme? Typically we will find the lyrics are all around one idea, but when a lot of people go to take a solo, they tend to play a bunch of unrelated ideas stringing them together one after another. Sometimes it works; a lot of times it doesn’t. Wouldn’t it make more sense if instead of playing 100 ideas or guitar licks in a solo, we played three or four, and got as much out of them as we could?

Here are some ideas on how to practice this:

  • Play the lick, and have a different ending each time.
  • Vary the rhythm a few different ways.
  • Keep the rhythm the same but change the notes.
  • Play an idea, then “respond” to it (“call and response”).

5. Listen to the Greats

This probably doesn’t need to be said, but always be listening to guitar players (and other instrumentalists) who you enjoy, and learn from them. If you haven’t already, you’ve got to check out these great blues guitar players:

  • B.B. King
  • Freddie King
  • Albert King
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • Everyone that ever played in the Allman Brothers Band
  • Eric Clapton
  • Mike Bloomfield
  • Muddy Waters
  • Robert Johnson
  • Robben Ford
  • Larry Carlton
  • Charlie Christian
  • Tinsley Ellis
  • Albert Collins

There are many, many more tips worth mentioning, but this should get you started as you continue to learn blues guitar. Hopefully there are a few names here that you don’t yet know. Keep practicing!


Mike B. teaches acoustic guitar, blues guitar, and guitar in Arcadia, CA.  He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Guitar Performance from University of Redlands, as well as his Master’s Degree in Studio and Jazz Guitar from University of Southern California.  Mike divides his time between performing live, doing recordings, and being an educator.  He has been teaching students since 2004.  Learn more about Mike B. here!


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guitar tone

Of Tubes and Tones: The Only Guitar Tone Guide You’ll Ever Need

guitar toneEvery guitarist wants great tone, but what if you’re not entirely sure what that means? Guitar teacher Noel S. breaks down the basics of guitar tone and shares what every electric guitarist should know about their gear…

We’ve all heard great classic guitar tones from our favorite musicians and felt motivated to hit the practice room or visit the music store, determined to achieve the same results. Finding a way to achieve those results, we’re faced with the infinite choices of strings, pickups, amps, tone settings, and effects, which leaves us looking for additional knowledge of how mastering guitar tone all works.

It’s easy enough to get creative with imagery-based tone descriptions like “warm,” “bright,” “mellow,” “harsh,” “clean,” “dirty” and so on, but many guitarists feel frustrated by the subjective nature of these types of descriptions. For students who want clear pathways to the guitar tones they love, we require definite terms to communicate those elements which produce guitar tone.

So, to enhance your knowledge of guitar tone, check out the following terms to know, gear to experiment with, and musicians to listen to as you embark on your path to becoming the guitarist you’ve always aspired to be.

Guitar Tone Terms to Know

Pitch: Any note you pluck on the guitar is heard as a “pitch,” defined as the fundamental cycle-per-second sound vibration produced (typically measured in units called “Hertz” or “Hz”). Say you played an A note on the 5th string open. The whole string vibrates at 110 cycles per second to produce the fundamental note – its lowest vibration speed for the note that you’re playing. That is the pitch of A that you hear.

Overtone: Your A string is also vibrating in halves, creating a sound that’s called an “overtone.” This doubling of vibration speed produces the first overtone, heard at the same time one octave higher.

Your A string vibrates in thirds as well – three equal pieces, producing the second overtone. Even higher divisions of string vibration occur at the same time you pluck, and as the number of divisions goes higher, the less audible the sound of that overtone is.

As a side note, understanding vibration speed explains why the first guitar string is called “high E,” even though it’s located lower (physically speaking) than the other strings. It is also why moving “up” the guitar neck is a sideways and downward movement.

Timbre/Tone: Play that A string again, this time stop only that string’s vibration. You will discover that the D string is also vibrating a little bit, because of the overtones contained in that fundamental A noted you plucked.  You’ll hear it as “A1,” or the same note sounded as if the D string were plucked at the 19th fret.

The human ear hears only the fundamental A as the defined pitch, but it hears those overtones as what is called ”timbre” or “tone.”  That allows us to hear which instrument or voice has sounded the fundamental note. Your ear takes in the sound of the fundamental note, plus all the overtones, then your brain recombines this information into a perception of tone.

Bass: A fundamental note contains energy that moves with a specific frequency, categorized into ranges, or bands, known as “bass,” “middle” and “treble.” Frequencies ranging from 20 Hz to 300 Hz receive their regulation from your amplifier’s bass control knob.

Pluck your low E string, and adjust your bass knob from zero to 10. Then, perform the same experiment with your high E string, noticing that low E changes considerably, while the high E string doesn’t. That’s because your high E string is tuned to a standard 329.63 Hz above the range for bass frequencies.

Middle: The best frequency range for human hearing is the midrange: 300 to 4000 Hz. Most human vocal sounds are produced in this range, which explains why our hearing tunes in to sounds in this band of frequencies. This fact reveals one cool way you can help create sonic space for your band’s singer, by omitting notes in your guitar chords that would crowd his or her midrange-frequency space. Note that most of our guitar’s fundamental range falls within the midrange, and we can set that control higher than our bass and treble.

Treble: Finally, treble encompasses sounds from 4000 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Remember our definition of tone? Sound vibrations known as overtones are generated by a string moving in halves, thirds and continuously smaller divisions, with audibility diminishing and disappearing after the seventh division.

So, high-string riffs from above the 12th fret can have a consistent and dynamic level, great tone and well-balanced audibility, provided you keep the treble or presence knob on your amp from venturing far beyond the midpoint. The pain from hearing too much treble will let you know when to back off.

Guitar Tone and Gear

In order for you to gain confident knowledge of the guitar sound you want, it’s important to know the following descriptions of tone controls, amplifiers, pickups and effects pedals. As you experiment with these sounds, be sure to listen to guitarists who have used these effects in their music.

How Guitar Amps Effect Tone

An amplifier’s true tone needs to be measured at power inputs of at least 30% volume, and then measured again at 50% and beyond. The tone descriptions below follow those standards of measurement, and differences in tone between tube amps and solid state amps emerge only within those categories.

Tube Amps: Transformers on a tube amplifier provide a natural, high-frequency gate that keeps a guitarist’s high-note overtones in check, which is a desirable quality. When the amp warms up, and the transformer reaches a point of core saturation, tube amplifiers deliver a level of compression to the tone, evening out the dynamics of the guitar sound during performance. This reduces the chance of a note sounding like it was plucked too hard, too softly, or with an abrupt attack. It provides a more sustained dynamic level of loudness, another desirable quality for guitar tone.

Fourth overtone harmonics are produced by tube amps, and the interval produced by this tone delivers more sustain to the fundamental note. For examples of tube amp sounds, listen to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” intro. You can also check out Stevie Ray Vaughan recordings, such as “Crossfire,” “Voodoo Child,” and “Pride and Joy.” Want to hear more? Try Steve Vai or Angus Young’s recordings.

Solid State Amps: The sharper sound wave generated by these amps provides for a more sudden “attack” portion of your tone. The overtone primarily produced by these amps, the 3rd harmonic, provides for a quicker decay of the sound. These characteristics lend themselves very well to a precise attack of each note – an instant response. Listen to B.B. King’s “King of the Blues” solo for an example of a solid state amp sound. Or, check out guitar recordings from Andy Summers of The Police, such as “Every Breath You Take.”

Stack Amps: Since the guitar tone effects from amplifiers present their most desirable qualities with the volume turned up to a certain amount, guitarists require these amps only for performances in very large venues. Smaller amplifiers provide better tone conditions for recording and practicing, and restaurant, bar or club performances.

My experience performing up and down the New York City andNew Jersey coastline started with a solid state Polytone Amplifier. I needed more volume for every venue where the band performed, so I got rid of it and bought a used Roland Jazz Chorus 120, which sounded great at low and high volumes. I’ve performed with it for decades and never spent another cent maintaining the Roland.

How Guitar Pickups Effect Tone

Guitar pickups effect tone to the extent that some effects pedals now feature settings with a design for each type. Every pickup takes physical variations in acoustic sound energy and converts them to electric sound energy. The materials used and the way that they’re used makes the difference in tone.

A  pickup affects guitar tone in many ways, such as the strength of its magnetic field, size of its magnetic field, diameter of the wire wrapped around the magnet, its location on the guitar body, and how the guitarist is playing. When choosing a pickup, keep in mind the range of frequencies you’d like to emphasize in your tone, the abruptness or subtlety you’d prefer in a sound’s attack, and the dynamic curve in your sound’s sustain and decay. Discover these points by experimenting with this information and listening to examples of guitarists playing different types of pickups.

Piezo Pickups: Piezo pickups use quartz crystals to receive and transmit sound energy. They’re mounted in the saddle bridge of guitars that use them. The very accurate dynamic response to a guitarist’s string displacement (how hard you pluck) surprises people upon first trying Piezo pickups. That’s why everyone who uses them also uses a compression effect to even out the dynamics.

On a related note, string displacement affects tone, too! A downward displacement of 45 degrees toward the soundboard or body is the goal I always recommend to students. Compare that tone to a sideways pluck and also an upward pluck (away from the soundboard or body). In each case, we take note of how all of these parameters affect the presentation of our overtones, our note’s attack, sustain and decay. These are the important factors in determining the guitar tone we want.

Listen to Jesse Cook perform “Mario Takes a Walk” and also Sting’s recording of “Fragile” to hear good examples of the Piezo pickup tone.

Single Coil Pickups: Your plucked guitar string sends sound vibration into the magnetic field, emanating from copper wire coiled around a magnet, which makes up the single coil pickup. This results in the vibration of the magnetic field, as well. When the magnetic field is in flux from this vibration, an electrical signal is generated and amplified though your amp.

The field of magnetism produced by the single coil pickup covers a smaller area than the field of magnetism from Humbucker pickups. A smaller range of harmonics (overtones) are captured from a smaller field of magnetism, providing for less low and midrange-frequency overtones. This results in the single coil pickups generating a tone that occupies a tonal space in the higher midrange; giving the tone a clearly audible presence for the listener. Check out Yngwie Malmsteen and Eric Clapton to hear single coil pickup recordings.

Humbucker Pickups: Humbucker pickups are designed to provided the answer for the single coil’s tendency to pick up surrounding electromagnetic fields and accompany the guitar’s tone with an annoying “hum” sound. Two magnets were used in Humbuckers to cancel out extraneous electromagnetic hum noise.

Since a larger field of magnetism captures a greater range of middle and low-frequency overtones, Humbucker’s put out more of the lower midrange of tonal space. This sound is very desirable, especially for riffs or chords using the lower strings. Listen to Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin perform “Rock and Roll”.

Effects Pedals and Your Guitar Tone

There are many different types of effects pedals on the market, and all of them are designed to alter the tone of your guitar. Here’s a great guide to the main types of effects pedals from ScaleTrainer.com:


The order of adding effects and using effects pedals generates from common sense and practical experience. Place the wah pedal before your compressor to obtain a more abrupt attack to your sound, or after the compressor to provide a more subtle attack and a lower and middle-frequency boost.

To even out your dynamics before adding effects, you can place the compressor at the beginning of the effects chain. A distortion pedal adds overtones, so place it before the equalizer so that you can control those added tones.

Phasers and flangers add a slightly delayed or out-of-phase sine wave to your original sound, which is something you wouldn’t want to add a lot of overtones from your distortion pedal to. Put these types of effects after the distortion and EQ. 

Look at the descriptions of your reverb/delay sounds. You will see words like “large hall,” “small hall,” “dome,” “tunnel,” and “studio.” What would my tone sound like if I were playing guitar in one of these locations? That’s why we want our total tone package in place before adding these effects.

Using the science, recorded examples and your own experimentation, keep on improving your guitar tone. We can achieve a lot more than we ever thought possible with great improvements in sound quality!

An experienced guitar teacher can help you perfect your tone, technique, and repertoire on the guitar. Find your guitar teacher now!

Noel SNoel S. teaches guitar, piano, and music theory lessons in Beachwood, OH. He holds a Masters degree in music from Dusquesne University and he has been teaching since 2001. Learn more about Noel




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Photo by Stew Dean

guitar barre chords

Guitar Essentials: How to Play Barre Chords

Learning to play barre chords on the guitar is a big step for many beginning guitarists. Guitar teacher Joe L. breaks down the basic things you’ll need to know in order to play barre chords and shares tips for practicing them…

First off, if you don’t know the basic open guitar chords you will have tremendous difficulty with these chords. Learning basic rhythm patterns with simple open chords gives you familiarity with different types of chords, how to play chords, and how they sound. Once you’ve mastered your basic, simple guitar chords, you are ready to take on the challenge of learning to play barre chords.

Barre chords are based around the familiar shapes of open chords, but they are fingered in a different way. Barre means you lay your index finger across an entire fret pushing down all the strings, using your other fingers to fret the rest of the chord shape. Barre chords can prove to be difficult to play at first because of the awkward hand position that you’re not used to.

Yes, they can hurt a little bit but the payoff is huge and very rewarding. These chords are also crucial to playing guitar as they are a major part of learning some songs and part of the technique of guitar playing. Without them you may never fully develop the muscle coordination and strength to play other techniques.

Getting Started With Barre Chords on Guitar

Another beautiful thing about barre chords is that once you learn one you can play the same figure across the fretboard, giving you a huge array of chords to play. When you’re playing your first barre chord, just hold one down and strum it for a while, adjusting your fingers to make the strings ring out better.

You’ll want to practice this way at first for two reasons. Firstly, you need practice pushing your fingers down on the strings correctly.  Second, you need to build endurance holding these chords down. Many popular songs use barre chords throughout the entire song so for that reason alone you need to be able to endure holding them down. After a while it gets very easy and becomes second nature to use barre chords.

Learning barre chords also opens up your ability to play music up and down the fretboard. It shows you how the frets align with one another and gets you to venture out of the comfort zone found in playing open chords.  One thing you can do to improve your ability to play barre chords is to switch between barre and open chords. This gives your fingers the dexterity that they need as you progress to becoming a guitar great.

Another thing that you can do to improve your ability to use barre chords is to play a barre chord all the way up and down the fretboard. This gives you the muscle strength you need and the coordination to be able to play them on frets that are closer together. It’s important to do that as the frets that are higher up the neck are  closer together and you need to be able to be comfortable playing these chords in any position on the neck. Learning barre chords can be work but the payoff is huge. Good luck!

For more help with barre chords or any other guitar techniques, studying with a private guitar teacher is the best way to learn. Find your guitar teacher now!

Joe L.Joe L. teaches guitar lessons in New York, NY. He has been teaching guitar for 15 years and in his teaching he focuses on breaking down music theory to make learning music easy and accessible for all his students. Learn more about Joe here



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women in music

Happy Mother’s Day! Shout Out to 5 Amazing Rock and Roll Mamas

Being a mom is hard work, way harder than being  rockstar, yet somehow these amazing women do it all! In honor of moms everywhere, music teacher Jessica D. highlights a few amazing women in music who deserve a great big breakfast in bed this Mother’s Day…

Where did you get your love of music? Was your mom musical? Maybe she played an instrument, sang in church or in a band, or splurged (or currently splurges) so that you could take guitar lessons?

Regardless, this Mother’s Day, we can’t help but think about rockin’ women in music who are also moms.

1. Madonna

“Material girl”? More like “Mom-terial girl”! Did you know that Madonna is a mother of four? Her oldest daughter, Lourdes, just graduated high school. Can you imagine having Madonna as a mom? It must be at least a little trippy; one minute she’s singing, “Gimme All Your Love”, and then the next minute, she’s asking you to clean your room.

But no matter what generation you were born in, you’re probably familiar with at least one of Madonna’s songs (“Lucky Star”, anyone?) and that kind of staying power is a dead give away that Madonna rocks, and all while being a mom.

2. Patty Smyth

In the early 80s, Patty Smyth sang the poppy “Goodbye To You” and later, the lady power anthem, “The Warrior”, and young women everywhere were inspired by the pep and fire in the songs. Cut to 2014, to a true story. I had just performed at Joe’s Pub in N.Y.C., when a woman came over to me and said, “I really loved your set.” I tried to play it cool, and I had to try hard, because it was none other than Patty Smyth!

We wandered outside into the cool night air, and she told me, “You remind me of my daughter.” And then I remembered, oh yeah! This lady has seen and done it all, from rockin’ the world’s stages to motherhood. Which daughter? I thought to myself, because she has three. She didn’t elaborate, but wow, it must be pretty cool to have the rockin’ Patty Smyth for a mom!

3. Gwen Stefani

Though Kingston, Zuma and and Apollo might remind you of a town in Jamaica, a dance class and a space mission, they are also the names of Gwen’s offspring. When Gwen sang “Don’t Speak”, the world connected with the song on a serious level. But if you are one of her children, the word’s might take a different meaning…

The powerful lyrics from her song, “I’m Just A Girl” make it hard to imagine Gwen all grown up and disciplining a gaggle of human duckings. However, it’s easy to see that she is a mom who totally rocks.

4. Kim Gordon

This mom surely did things that most moms do—she changed dirty diapers, sang lullabys and celebrated little achievements with her daughter, Coco. But she did something else that most mom’s don’t—she helped define a generation and a genre by creating Sonic Youth with Thurston Moore during a time in music history when no-wave was all the rage.

Unlike many moms, in addition to her musical output she also found time to write a book. (Where does one find the time?!) In Girl In A Band, she elaborates on her life and what it’s like to be as a mom who rocks. Hats off to Kim on this mother’s day!

5. Beyonce

Beyonce’s daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, was in the spotlight from the time she was born. The world waited for her child to arrive like a kid waits for gifts on Christmas. Now she is rumored to be expecting a second and the world is a buzz again about the Queen Bee’s little bun in the oven. But aside from being a rockstar and a mom, Beyonce still finds time to volunteer with the Make A Wish Foundation and from most accounts, appears to be a kind and humble person. And those are totally qualities that make any mom rock!

How does your mom rock? Tell us about her in the comments below!

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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5 Things We Learned About Kurt Cobain from Montage of Heck

5 Things We Learned About Kurt Cobain from Montage of Heck

This month, HBO released a new documentary about Kurt Cobain’s life called Montage of Heck. Unlike past documentaries on the legendary guitarist and singer, this one highlights his humanity and shares perhaps the most intimate look at his life that his fans have ever had.  Director Brett Morgan worked with Cobain’s family, including his daughter Frances Bean Cobain, who provided home movies, photographs, and journals.

At times funny and at other times deeply sad, Montage of Heck manages to give fans a nuanced portrait of the man behind “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and many other classic rock songs of the 90s. Unlike other films that have focused heavily on the dark parts of his life, we got glimpses of his humor, resilience, and heart. Here are just a few of the things we learned about Kurt from the film.

1. Kurt worked really, really hard.

5 Things We Learned About Kurt Cobain from Montage of Heck

Image via Rolling Stone

Despite his slacker image and status in the grunge scene, the portions of Kurt’s journals shown in the film reveal a hard-working driven artist intent on doing whatever it took to be successful. Although his relationship with fame was often difficult, there’s no denying that he worked incredibly hard to get where he did.

2. Kurt was a totally adorable kid.

Honestly, we weren’t surprised he was a cute kid, but watch that clip until he waves and just try not to wave back.

3. Nirvana was almost called “Nasty Rash”.

Actually, there were many names Nirvana could have had, some of them funny, some political, but none as fitting as the one they chose. Somehow, it’s hard to imagine Nasty Rash dominating the airwaves in the same way.

4. He loved being a father.

Footage of Cobain with his daughter Frances Bean reveals his profound love for her. He says many times that playing rock and roll was all he ever wanted, but later in the film there is a clip where he says he would give it up for her. He even jokes about letting her throw up in his mouth. If that’s not love, we don’t know what is.

5. He had a lighter side.

Many portrayals of Cobain focus heavily on his drug addiction, depression, and troubled relationship with Courtney Love. While Montage of Heck certainly doesn’t shy away from these issues, we get a glimpse of a lighter side to Kurt. His music was certainly dark, but he was not all doom and gloom. It’s refreshing and rare to see him crack a joke, and seeing this new side to him gave us a new perspective on on the irony and humor you hear from time to time in his songs.

All in all, it was an engrossing documentary, and we came away with new ideas. Have you seen it? Do you want to? Or is there another music documentary you’d like to recommend? Tell us all about it in the comments below!


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50 Little Things You Can Do To Get More From Your Guitar Practice Time

50 Little Things You Can Do To Get More From Your Guitar Practice Time

50 Little Things You Can Do To Get More From Your Guitar Practice Time

Does guitar practice ever feel overwhelming, too hard, or like a chore? Take a tip or 50 from guitar teacher Jerry W. and you’ll have enough material to work with to keep practice fun for the rest of your life. As an added bonus, we’ve peppered in extra resources for you so you can learn even more about each guitar practice tip. Ready Freddie? Let’s get started!

1. Use a metronome.

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Practicing guitar with a metronome trains you to play in time, which is useful whether you want to play in an ensemble, with a drummer, or as a soloist.

2. Learn the music slow and then gradually speed up.

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Go slow and you’ll make fewer mistakes. Slowing down also helps you develop your muscle memory, so you’ll be able to learn new pieces of music on a deeper level.

3. Practice the music faster than the necessary tempo. When you slow down it will feel easier to play.

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When you’re ready to challenge yourself, kick up the tempo on a piece of music that you already know well. You might even enjoy playing your piece along to a guitar jam track at a fast tempo, or one with a different groove than you’re used to. Have fun experimenting with different tempos and you might be surprised at what you’re able to play.

4. Schedule a specific time to practice.

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Setting aside time each day to play is the best way to make sure you never forget to practice, but it’s just the first step to developing an efficient practice schedule.

5. Practice regularly – aim for at least 5 days per week.

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If you still need a little nudge to jump-start your guitar practice, you can try one of these 10 ways to trick yourself into practicing.

6. Select a practice location with few distractions.

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If you can, set aside space in your home that’s just for guitar practice. Make your own guitar practice sanctuary and you’ll find your practice time much more relaxing and enjoyable.

7. Use a music stand.  It will help your posture and focus.

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Using a music stand makes a huge difference in your ability to maintain proper posture while you play, which will make you more comfortable and relaxed. In fact, having all the essential guitar accessories handy when you’re practicing is a great idea. Take a look at this list and make sure you have all the items readily accessible in your practice space.

8. Listen to your body – Can you see the music well? Use proper posture. Get enough rest.

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If you’re physically uncomfortable while you’re practicing, you won’t enjoy yourself and you probably won’t see a lot of results either. Not sure about your posture or feeling awkward with your guitar? You can always check your posture with this handy guide.

9. Find a private teacher.  A teacher will help you know what to practice and guide your practice time.

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Taking lessons with a private guitar teacher is the best way to see huge improvements in your playing. Your guitar teacher can help you pinpoint areas you need to improve and give you the tools to actually get better.

10. Have clear goals.

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It’s important to have both big and small goals when you’re learning to play the guitar. Your big goals are the reasons you started to play in the first place, and mastering small goals along the way will keep you motivated. Not sure what your goals should be? Try asking yourself these questions.

11. Be critical.  Aim for perfection. Only perfect practice makes perfect.

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Remember: the way you practice is the way you will perform. Be mindful during your practice time, and don’t practice with sloppy technique or repeated mistakes. Take the time to get it right.

12. Don’t be too critical.  No one’s perfect!

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Don’t get frustrated or beat yourself up when you make mistakes. Remember, all musicians at every level make mistakes in practice; it’s just part of the learning process. Keep a good attitude and don’t lose your motivation.

13. Practice what you cannot do.  Don’t just play what you already can do.

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Many experts recommend playing your most challenging material at the beginning of your practice, right after you play your warm up. At this point in your practice, you should be feeling warmed up and ready to tackle the hard stuff.

14. Keep practicing favorite pieces that are easy for you. Have some fun, don’t just work on hard music.

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Practice the pieces you love to play and keep them fresh. This is how you develop your repertoire, or your set of songs that you’re able to easily perform and share.

15. Select music to practice that you enjoy.

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If you love what you’re playing, you’ll want to keep coming back to your guitar every day. Having fun and playing music that you like will ensure that you never get bored with your guitar practice.

16. Select music or exercises to practice that will challenge you (even if you don’t enjoy it.)

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Challenges help us grow, so if you want to get better at guitar it’s important to keep challenging yourself with technical exercises on a regular basis. Ask your guitar teacher for some drills or find some online at Guitar Cardio.

17. Visualize yourself playing a passage of music.  Notice where you cannot visualize yourself playing the music.  That’s where you need to work.

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Visualization can be a powerful tool in your guitar practice arsenal. Learn more about visualization and start your practice sessions by visualizing the pieces you want to work on.

18. Practice only using visualization. Can you correct the mistakes in your mind?

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When your visualization skills are a bit more refined, you can even practice without your guitar. This is a great practice method you can use anywhere, from sitting on a train to standing in line at the grocery store.

19. Play duets. You can even play a duet with yourself by recording one part and then playing along with the recording.

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There are many, many benefits to playing duets! If you have the chance, you should absolutely work on a duet with a friend, your guitar teacher, or even with a recording of yourself. You’re sure to learn a lot.

20. Transpose the music up or down.

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Transposing music from one key to another helps you learn intervals and trains your ear to recognize the relationships between notes. If you’ve never transposed music before, start by transposing a guitar chord progression into a new key, and work your way up from there.

21. Practice playing without looking at your hands.  Train your hands to go to the right place without looking.

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Do you tend to stare at your left hand while you play guitar? Try these tips to play guitar without looking at your hands.

22. Just memorized a new piece of music? Shift your gaze to your hands so you can look at your technique as you play through it again.

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Guitar technique is about more than just playing the notes. You’ve got to play them well and with your hands in the correct positions. Watch your hands sometimes when you practice to make sure you’re playing with great guitar technique.

23. Focus on dynamics – don’t just play one volume.

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Dynamics add a dimension of life, power, and meaning to your guitar playing that gets lost if you play only at one volume. Learn how to use dynamics in your guitar playing and make it a regular part of your guitar practice.

24. Focus on articulation – accents, staccato, legato.

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Articulation is all about how you play the notes — fast, clear, slurred, or flowing. Hone in on your articulation with these guitar exercises next time you practice.

25. Focus on rhythm.

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If you like to play pop, rock, or country music, good rhythm guitar technique is absolutely crucial. For extra focus on rhythm, use your left hand to mute the strings while you practice playing rhythm patterns, so you can really focus in on your right hand.

26. Focus on learning new strumming patterns.

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The more rhythm guitar patterns you know, the more options you have to draw from when you’re learning a new song or writing music of your own.

27. Learn to play a new style of music.

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Try a new style of music to spice up your guitar practice. Even if you’re a beginner, you can find plenty of easy country, metal, pop, bluegrass, or any other style of songs to try out on the guitar.

28. Practice playing a musical line or “lick” using a pick and then using fingers.

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Depending on the style of music you play and your own personal preferences, you might find you prefer flatpicking over fingerpicking (or vice versa). However, it’s always a good idea to practice both techniques to keep your playing versatile. You might even change your mind or discover a new sound.

29. Learn scales.

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Scales are the building blocks of chords, riffs, solos, and every piece of music you play. They’re also a wonderful way to practice your technique. If you don’t have any scales to practice, try the moveable pentatonic to get started.

30. Learn arpeggios.

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Arpeggios are another basic building block of music. If you don’t know any, get started with these.

31. Always start with a warm up routine – This might include scales, arpeggios and techniques you are working on.

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Warming up when you practice helps prevent injury to your hands and, over time, your warm up will help you get focused and ready to play. If you don’t have a guitar warm up routine yet, try this one or this one.

32. Learn a new guitar technique. If you haven’t already, try muting, harmonics, left hand dampening, hammer-ons, or pull-offs to get started.

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When you hear a guitarist do something that makes you think, “wow, how’d they do that?”, ask your guitar teacher, and take some time in your next practice session to work on learning their technique. If none of the techniques listed above are familiar to you, start with hammer ons and pull offs.

33. Practice chords in multiple positions on the fretboard.

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If you’re already familiar with your basic open guitar chords, try learning barre chords, or even start learning new shapes for chords up and down the neck. Test yourself to see how many different ways you can play the same chord.

34. Record yourself and critique the recording.

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If you’re not in the habit of listening back to yourself, you’ll get a lot of insight into how you play by recording yourself. There are at least eight good reasons you should record yourself playing guitar, and you’ll probably think of a couple more in the process. You don’t need fancy recording equipment. The voice recorder on your cell phone or computer should be good enough to get the job done.

35. Play along with a recording.

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Playing to a recording is a great way to get the feel for playing with another musician, but without the pressure of having to play in front of anyone. You can play along to a song that you’ve been studying or see if you can learn something new by ear.

36. Practice the left and right hand movements separately before combining them.

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Practicing your left and right hand parts separately is actually a great way to build coordination. Each part becomes easier for you when you play it separately, so when you put them together, playing guitar will be a piece of cake.

37. Sing the rhythm before you try to play it.

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If a tricky rhythm is throwing you off, try singing it before you play it. Then, try these guitar exercises to improve your groove.

38. Sing the melodic line or lick before you try to play it.

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Singing can help you learn to play melodies too, or even help you write your own.

39. Take breaks – don’t practice so long that it makes you hate practicing.

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The last thing you want to do is get burned out on playing guitar. Keep your practice sessions short and sweet. This will encourage you to play more.

40. Practice more than one time a day – two or three shorter practice times will accomplish more than one long one.

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Several short focused practice sessions are better than one, drawn-out, boring session. Work with your natural ability to focus and don’t push yourself to the point that you’re no longer being productive.

41. Practice for musicality – don’t just practice the notes – work to express the music.

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Beyond great technique, perfect pitch, and solid timing, musicality is the way your playing emotionally moves your audience. To improve your musicality, think beyond just what you are playing to focus on why you are playing it. What is this piece of music expressing? Keep fine-tuning your musicality with these 99 tips.

42. Listen to good guitarists.

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You know those lists of the greatest guitarists of all time that are all over the Internet? Start taking names you’re not familiar with and listen closely. Listen to great guitarists you love, hate, or don’t quite understand. The more you listen, the more you will learn about what you want to be able to do and what is possible.

43. Learn to read music.

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Learning to read music will open lots of doors for you as a musician, especially if you want to play with an ensemble or do studio work.

44. Learn to read tabs.

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Guitar tabs are quick and dirty form of musical notation. If you don’t already know how to read tabs, they will make it easy to learn new pieces of music or jot down ideas of your own.

45. Ask for help or tips from another guitarist.

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Get help when you’re stuck, whether it’s from a friend, your guitar teacher, or a video online. It’s better to ask a question than to struggle with needless frustration.

46. Teach someone something you have learned.

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Research has shown that if you’re learning new information or skills, you’re much more likely to remember them if you teach them to someone else. Pay your guitar knowledge forward and it will pay off for you too!

47. Hammer your fingers down on the fretboard as you play to lock in the feel of a new pattern.

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Many people struggle with memorizing new music. Getting a good kinetic feel for the music can be a big help. Try these extra tips to learn new music faster.

48. Don’t rush over the rests in music – silence is an important part of playing too.

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Rests may not be the first thing you notice when you listen to music, but you would certainly notice if they were gone! Rests play an important role in the pacing, rhythm, and musicality of every piece of music you hear.

49. Always tune before you practice.

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Nobody wants to play an out-of-tune guitar! To make sure you sound your best, always tune your guitar before you practice.

50. Reward yourself when you accomplish something that was a challenge.

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Nobody ever said playing guitar would be easy, so be sure to notice when things that were once challenging become easy. If all of a sudden you can play that hard chord, riff, or whole song in your sleep, that’s cause for a celebration. Give yourself a pat on the back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. You’re doing a great job, now keep going!

Get even more guidance, tips, and tricks by taking lessons from a private guitar teacher. Find your guitar teacher now!

JerryJerry 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.  Learn more about Jerry W. here!



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3 Things Guitarists Must Practice Every Day

3 Things Guitarists Must Practice Every Day

 3 Things Guitarists Must Practice Every Day

With so much music in the world to play, how do you figure out how to practice guitar? Guitar teacher Jack C. breaks it down to the basics…

One of the most common questions I’m asked by students, whether they are total beginners, or seasoned veterans who have been playing for more than ten years, is: “How exactly should I practice guitar in order to get the most benefit from my time?” As my explanation, I always like to break down guitar knowledge in three basic categories.

1. Technique

Technique is the actual mechanical movement of your hands which you use to create the sounds coming from your guitar. It entails training the muscles in your hands so you can develop the strength and muscle memory to pull off the actual chords and scales we use when playing the instrument.

2. Music Theory

Music theory is the mental aspect of learning any instrument. It is the act of breaking down the sounds we hear in to names and formulas. It’s the science behind the sounds.

3. Creativity

I believe, like any skill set, musical creativity CAN be learned and taught. Some people are brought to believe that you’re either born with that creative muse or you’re not. This simply isn’t true.

Let’s say we have a 2 note per string pentatonic scale (you can use any of the scales found here).

A great practice exercise would be to pick each note in ascending order from the low E string to the high E string, then descending using strictly alternate picking (up and down only). Start very slow, then gradually increase the speed at which you do this exercise. Then, once that movement is mastered, and the scale can be played by memory, you can then try creating a simple melody using only those notes found within the scale.

This exercise kills three birds with one stone! You are practicing your technique by working on your alternate picking, you’re learning a portion of music theory by memorizing the scale, and you’re exercising your creative mind by applying the scale you learned in creating your own melody.

By combining all aspects of learning guitar in to one exercise, you are now making the most out of your practice time. This approach to practicing is used by some of the greatest players in the world, and has proven to be one of the most efficient ways to practice the instrument. As you progress in your skill level, this approach can be applied to different scales, chord progressions, and picking techniques.

In review, we know that if a guitar exercise can cover these three aspects of guitar playing: technique, theory, and creativity, all at once, then we know it is an exercise that will serve us well in our guitar journey! Thanks for reading and if you have any questions for me, I’m more than happy to answer your questions.

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Jack C Jack C. is a guitar instructor in Huntington Beach, CA. A professional gigging musician, teacher, producer, and session player, he earned degree in Music Theory and Guitar performance from Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California. Learn more about Jack here!



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Photo by J. Pitt