So You Wanna Learn How to Play Guitar (Pt. XV)

Sheet Music

Here’s another entry from our awesome San Diego Guitar Teacher Jason M:

Q: Jason, I’m in Paris right now and won’t be back until August but I want to learn how read music and be able to play a song I’ve never heard before just from the sheet.  For now, do you have any exercises I can do so I don’t lose dexterity?

A: Thanks Max, a great rut to get out of is the tablature rut and being able to sight-read music is a feature that a lot of people end up getting hung up on.  A great way to start off is to block out any tablature that you see attached to a regular five line staff (typically in older Guitar Magazines) and then look at the notes in place.  Starting off, you’ll want to learn the diad and major shape.  A major shape is simple, it’s just three notes located directly on top of each other.  If you see notes scattered around the ledger lines check and see if it matches the (1,3,5) Major or (1,b3,5) pattern throughout.  Just because there are six notes on the staff doesn’t mean there are six different notes you have to play.  Usually it’s just a simple chord shape.  Picking up the Circle of 5ths is the next step in learning what are called Key signatures.

As for dexterity, if you would like a variation on the “chromatic scale” there are versions that I like to use.  Instead of first middle ring pinkie, try first ring middle pinkie, or first pinkie, ring middle.  Another trick you can try is a chord exercise where you make a chord and then shift one finger of that chord at a time.  For example, make a D chord in 5th position, then slide it back to the 4th fret leaving the rest of the chord in place.  Or you can make a D chord in 5th position and bring back your ring finger back or forward on fret.  One last one would be to keep your chord in place and just let your pinkie wander around a bit while you’re finger picking.  That should keep you up to speed… plus a constant switching from a major to a minor diad shape into a power chord should be enough to keep you busy for now.

Rock out man, let me know if you have anymore questions.

Jason M

Jason M

Breaking through the Fear of Failure and Stage Fright

Here is the first blog entry from our new Bay Area piano teacher Drina B:

So, you (the student) are well on your way toward making musical
. You are practicing diligently, daily and accurately. It has
been taught to you that:
Practicing Piano

A) The muscle memory “memorizes” every movement, and the quality
thereof (jerky, smooth, relaxed, tight, etc). And that, any mistakes
you practice, probably become automatic habits too. To practice
correctly becomes very important, even key to your practicing at home.


B) Consistency is important. This means consistent daily practice,
and also consistent quality of work. Your attention must be focused, to
assure that your joints are relaxed as you play, that you maintain your
good form, in order to “teach” your muscle memory the correct way to


And yet, there is a problem with this model. As absolutely necessary
as it is to practice correctly and with consistency, there is a certain
mental rigidity which can develop from lack of freedom. One can feel
boxed in psychologically, and practicing becomes a chore instead of
joyous. Above all, there is a fear of failure, particularly in
performance situations: What if one “Messes up” and makes a mistake?
Uh-oh! Disaster strikes? Particularly when “on the spot”, in public?
Nerves begin to flutter at the very thought, never mind the actual
experience. And the very thought of practicing so cleanly and so well,
can also be what fosters such nervousness. Stage Fright

There must be a solution to this. And of course, there are many
solutions to every problem. It would be fun to read what other music
teachers do with their students in this same situation, and I am not
suggesting that my method is the only way to go. However, I also am
sharing my own way of working with this, in the hopes that this article
will spawn further conversation, among teachers and students alike. It
would be interesting and fun to read all the various ways of tackling
this same issue!

What is my method of conquering stage fright and helping my students to overcome the fear of failure?

Yes, you got that one right. Practice making mistakes. On purpose.

No, I am not kidding.

Students look at me as if I’ve gone crazy, the moment I even suggest it. Particularly, my young students.

But once they get going, they have a blast at it.

And then something very interesting begins to happen.

The door to freedom has been opened, and particularly my child
students begin to improvise. Let freedom ring! Let it sing! It works!
Actually, every time. I cannot think of even one case in which a child
did not begin to improvise, after practicing deliberate mistakes, not
in all my twenty-four years of teaching.

Adult students are naturally resistant at first too, but then they
settle in with it. While adults may not be as inclined to improvise as
readily as children, in my experience they also do find the permission
to make mistakes psychologically freeing. And of course, the ensuing
laughter is very healthy for the student-teacher relationship, just as
it is for the psychological freedom carried into the student’s
practicing at home.

Once we have confidence that it really is okay to make mistakes, we
become much more free artistically, and therefore, more expressive as
players or singers.

But there’s more too.Confident Singer

When performing, consider the knee-jerk reaction to playing a
juicy-sounding mistake, in public. Yikes! Grimaces take over the face
like a tragi-commedia mask, and training to hide that grimace still may
or may not relax the performer, from within. So the question becomes,
how do students learn to deal with making a mistake, on stage, and in

In the lessons and in the practice room, that’s where.

For a solid two months before any recital my students are preparing
, I always have them playing at least three mistakes for me in each
movement or piece, on purpose.
Thereafter, we begin the theme of working with the mistake instead of through it.

For example:

A) The student makes a mistake, and practices continuing right on
playing the piece, as if nothing had happened. This is good practice
for maintaining one’s composure, in public.

B) Improvising around the theme of a mistake can be a creative way
to cover up a glaringly “Wrong” sound. To practice improvising around
the theme of a mistake is to keep a cool head in public situations.

C) To repeat a mistake is to create symmetry and balance in a piece,
as if it had been written right onto the page, in the composer’s own
hand. Surprise: Mistakes can often sound quite nice, sometimes even

D) Once in a concert I attended, the soloist played a mistake. She
did a surprising thing: She made yet another much worse one, right in
the next bar, quite intentionally. She lifted up her instrument and
practically shot that next mistake right at the audience! And of
course, everybody laughed. This, incidentally, was a world-caliber
virtuosa player, and was her way of cutting through the enormously high
pressures particularly coming with being a virtuosa player. After all,
virtuosi are humans too, and everybody makes mistakes. No exceptions!

Of course, as goes without saying, such deliberate mistake-making is
only done after the student has already mastered the basics of good
technical and musical form, has learned how to practice well, and has
made good progress. I would never attempt such a thing with a new
student: I only do this after the student and I have come to know each
other well, and the student feels relaxed in the lessons.Dualing Pianos

We all strive for the highest standards possible, especially when we
are as in love with our music as we professional musicians are. There
can be no arguing that aiming for utmost beauty, the best technical
proficiency, and practicing with meticulous intention is the only way
to go. There is not a doubt about it and the purpose of this article
would never be to argue with that high standard, which the artist
inside demands of all of us.

However, there also may be a time and a place when, in a very safe
setting, to make deliberate mistakes is not only freeing, but opens up
new creative doors. In the safe context of the lesson or the practice
room, making deliberate mistakes can help to cure the fear of failure,
conquer stage nerves, aid our presence of mind in handling public
bloopers, and may just be one cornerstone of all healthy practicing
habits. The new-found freedom may even open up new artistic depth and
improvisatory exploration. Have fun with this!

Drina B, Novato, CA


So You Wanna Learn How To Play Guitar (pt. XIV)

Owning the lick

Owning the lick – that’s really what it’s all about.

My thoughts on this are ten fold and it basically starts out from the beginning and trying to figure out all the notes on the fretboard.  I’ve seen on numerous occasions where people have transcribed things wrong, or put chords in a position that could very well have been made easier with finger economics.

Some of this “ownership” has to do with how well your ear has developed so let me give you an example.  Metallica’s new album Death Magnetic came out and immediatly I gave it a one time through before attempting to play it, and sure enough my ear told me the opening track “That Was Just Your Life” was almost entirely the same as “Enter Sandman” off the Black Album so that’s the position I decided to learn it in (Vth).  Now looking at the “professional” transcription it’s in (Ist) position.  Now I can be bias and say ya know “the tone is going to be thicker on the E string than the A” but personally I think it’s important to learn how to play a riff/lick/lead in as many different spots as you can find.  Master a riff in 2 spots and it’s yours.

Other times I’ll be showing a riff to a future rockstar and the chord will span a four or five fret fingering.  This may be okay for someone with developed technique, but if you’re stretching that far, there is more than likely another way to make that same chord.  I’ll give you another example… The intro to the Incubus song “Are You In?” has a C#/A diad on the B and E string.  Pretty big stretch… but if you move the C# on the B string to the 6th fret of the G, you’ve narrowed your stretch down from 4 frets to 1.  And now not only is it more economical, but now you also know it in 2 positions!

Do the same thing with your leads and you will most certainly, own your lick.

Have a great week, and I’ll see ya next time.

Jason M

Jason M

Roots In Music

Albert King

“If you
don’t dig the Blues, then you got a hole in your soul..
Are You Listening?!”Albert
This message
holds true for so many musicians alike & shows no matter what style or genre
you like now, chances are its roots are held in the deepest parts of musical
history going back to Ancient times. Our generation tends to forget a lot about
Music history. Were the “MTV” era of music. The era of music where Analog is
replaced by Digital; CD’s, Cassettes & Vinyl records all taken over by Mp3’s
or iTunes (or maybe free downloaded songs you got from shareware programs such
as Limewire, Kazaa, Napster, e.t.c.) The point is we have become so obsessed
with the digital age of music that we have sacrificed quality of music for the
quality of mainstream.Turn on the radio & you can hear the state of music that we
currently are in today. From Artists who choose to sample other artists work to
those who take a simple effect such as “Auto-Tune” & turn a song
from your standard verse/chorus melody to a mainstream creation where it focuses
solely on the “Hook” part of a song. Take an artist liked T-Pain for instance, he appeared in the music scene
with his first single “I’m Sprung”. Since his inception of the Auto-tune in his
music, countless other artists have used this technique to their fullest
advantage even at the dismay of some of their fans. But to the artists, it was a
cash haven untouched.

With that said, their is a HUGE lack of diversity within the mainstream
music of today. Music Videos have went from being about the music to seeing how
much money they can spend for a 3:14 video. Pop stars rather have you pay
$180.00 for a ticket to see them lip-sync an entire set list rather than give
you a money’s worth well-rounded performance. The only artists I say who was
able to accomplish the feat of having a great performance as well as letting you
hear some very beautiful singing was Michael JacksonJames Brown & Wilson Pickett. They’re
many other artists who have done this as well but these are the ones who gave it
life to begin with.

So now, I want to talk in depth about what mainstream music is? What is
indie music? What does it really matter? These are all questions many of us have
asked but never have gotten a definitive answer. Well I’m here to help you out.
Let’s begin with Indie Music. Indie music can be defined as any band who has not
had the national attention nor the backing of any major distribution label. In
other words, a garage band waiting to be signed. Most of us know what it’s like
to be in a garage band. Showing up for practice late; learning the same
three-chords over and over; playing your instrument un-tuned; annoying your
neighbors & parents. It’s a “Rite Of Passage” if you will. But its also a
learning tool because in the beginning your learning how to be a musician. You
start listening to your favorite idols & mimicking their style and/or
ability. From there you begin to develop your skill from beginner to advanced.
Most of us tend to lose track within that learning period due to an inability of
patience. What we lack in patience, we replace with frustration. Hence why
everyone may own a guitar & know how to play the first intro part of
“Stairway To Heaven” but their is only one Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) who knows how to play it
better than anybody.

I want to talk more about indie vs. mainstream. When you turn on the
radio and you hear the same song being played at least 15x within a 3 hour
window as well as looking at the ringtone infomercial with that same song being
reused as an upbeat euro dance track with a green dancing bear going back &
forth. That is MAINSTREAM! When music isn’t about the hard work that went into
it but the money that can flow out of it. From commercials to selling the latest
trends. This is what we have turned our music into. From something that uplifts
the soul to something that sells Dish Soap. It’s sad to see a great song
like Muddy Waters“I’m Your
Hoochie Coochie Man” being used to sell cars but its even worse when a great
blues artist such as Muddy Waters didn’t get the money he deserved from these
great hits. It just goes to show you the respect we have for our past &
those who helped pave the way for us today.

One certain aspect about music that I feel is out of control is
Sampling. Many, Many, Many Pop Stars, Rap Artists/Producers & Musicians
alike have all been guilty of sampling. Sampling music wasn’t always as bad as
it is today. Back in the day, musicians would sample pieces of music from their
favorite tunes/idols and incorporate that into their music as a sign of tribute
& respect to that person/group. The late Stevie Ray Vaughn, who was
one of the greatest blues guitarist to touch this earth, always incorporated his
idols into his music. Listen to “Texas Flood” (Albert King Influence), “Little
Wing” (Jimi Hendrix Influence), “Taxman” (Buddy Guy Influence). Now let’s look at Pop stars/Rap
Artists who have taken this technique and turned it into something of disgust at
times. But the flipside, it has produced some uncanny tracks worthy of a listen
many times over. Songs like Warren G. & Nate Dogg – “Regulators” (Sampled From Michael
 “I Keep Forgetting”). Sir Mix A Lot – “Baby Got Back” (Sampled by MC Hammer – “U Can’t Touch This”). Yes, It’s in
there. Then you have the infamous list of producers & songs you’d wish they
just didn’t go that route. Vanilla Ice “Ice Ice baby” being sampled from David Bowie & Queen “Under Pressure”.(Side note, Vanilla Ice
tried to claim that he created the beat all on his own and that the little extra
bass note(litterally) makes it completely different. He lost that argument).
Then you have the P. Diddy’s, the Kanye West‘s who take
sampling and use it until they’ve sampled everything and made a dollar off of
it. To their credit, it is ingenious but only to a certain extent especially
when its all their known for. There’s no pure creativity going on that most
serious musicians would regard as quality.

But let me be fair, it is us as a society who have allowed this to
happen. We have went from a society who as a whole listened to artists such
as Miles DavisB.B. KingJohnny CashJames BrownAretha FranklinLittle Richard to Kanye West, Lil’ WayneBeyonce & Phone Ringtones. The norm has become
Pop sampling. And since the passing of the Michael Jackson as well as before,
hundreds have ascended to try and claim the title of “King”. If your hip to
today’s scene, you’d see their is a King Of The South (T.I.), King Of The East (Jay-Z), King Of The West Coast (Snoop Dogg). Each Artist is
heavily talented in their own right due to their popularity and style. And these
artists have become the level at which you are judged. Regardless of the opinion
of others, the level of their success is uncanny. But again, we don’t have the
diversity of our past. Too many things have been thrown together in the hopes of
a solid creation. As I am a student of experimentation, there are certain things
I suggest & things I don’t.

As the years go
passing by, less music gets created & we start to focus on the aspects of
musicians which I feel to be irrelevant. No one’s personal life should be the
subject of debate unless it was in their music. John Mayer, perfect example
of someone who lets their fame precede their music. In the beginning he was
known for his voice & ability. Now he’s TMZ front page news trying to garner
attention for himself. Not his music, for himself. Then posts a video response
saying “the media is always in my business!” Every Musician who lets the fame
get to them has been guilty of this trend. It becomes more about the story than
about the fact.

As I conclude this blog, I want people to get a sense of how important
music is in general. It’s not about trying to make money, or selling a million
records. Because you can achieve all that and still be broke in funds &
spirit. So be wise & don’t take music for granted because there will be a
time when all you will want to hear is some Good Ol’ Blues.

Thank You For Listening,

Jeremiah H

Music participation doesn’t appear to diminish performance in other schoolwork

We found this excellent article by Dave Munger all about the power of music in schools and why it should not be depleted from school budgets.

school budgets are cut, programs in music and the arts are often the
first to get axed. While this makes a certain amount of sense because
music isn't always considered "essential" to education, recently in the
U.S. we're starting to see another justification for cutting music out
of schools. The No Child Left Behind Act demands that students meet a
certain basic level of academic success, or a school's budget can be
cut. "Extras" like music classes and recess only distract from the
primary goals of learning English, math, science, and history, some say.

But does music participation actually cause students to do worse in
the core academic subjects? Some studies have found the opposite, with
kids' IQ scores improving
after a year of music lessons. Other studies have found that students
who participate in music tend to have higher grades and test scores in
other subjects. This, however, is only a correlation–we don't know if
music caused the improvement. Kids in music classes might be
better in other subjects just because better students are more likely
to take music classes. Maybe these kids would do even better in school
if they weren't distracted by music.

Peter Miksza took a look at data from the 1988 National Educational
Longitudinal Study to see if he could find stronger evidence of the
impact of music on performance in school. He analyzed the records of
5,335 students who either participated in school music programs from
8th through 12th grade or did not participate at all (students who
participated only part of the time were excluded from the analysis).
Here are some of the results:


As expected, he found that math, reading, science,
and social studies test scores were significantly better for the music
participants. But he also found that socioeconomic status (SES)
correlated with academic success. Perhaps SES could explain the entire
difference in achievement between music students and non-music students.

So Miksza created several statistical models of the data that
accounted for the SES of the students. Even after accounting for SES,
in nearly every case, music students maintained their advantage over
non-music students. The one exception was a small effect on reading
scores: while music students had an advantage in reading scores, that
advantage diminished over time. This could be due to a ceiling effect:
the music students may have reached the limits of the test's ability to
discern differences between students of different abilities. In all the
other tests, the advantage of the music students was maintained from
the 8th through the 12th grade.

A couple of caveats about this study. As Miksza takes pains to point
out, it's not a controlled study; these results are only correlations,
so we can't say whether overall achievement would improve if all
students were required to participate in music, for example. Also,
while there was a gap in achievement between the music students and
non-music students, the size of this gap didn't change over the course
of the study. How can we say that music participation helps improve
academics if the music students were better in their other classes to
begin with? Perhaps earlier music study (before 8th grade) leads to
improved academic performance, while later music study only doesn't
harm it. From this study alone, we don't know the answer. However, we
do have some compelling evidence to suggest that removing music from
the curriculum won't cause students to improve. Instead, it will only
deprive those students of the many advantages they gain from having
music in their lives.

Miksza (2007). Music participation and socioeconomic status as
correlates of change: A longitudinal analysis of academic achievement. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education (172), 41-57

So You Wanna Learn How to Play Guitar (pt.XIII)


Welcome back,

Looks like everyone is on the same page gettin' ready to take lessons in your home town and building up your skills as a guitar player!  I've been noticing a couple of things that people haven't really been asking about but is fundamentally important, and that's "hand-muting".

Sometimes you'll see this in guitar notation as an "X" on a 5 line staff or 6 line Tab sheet.  Sometimes it'll be used as a percussive passage for example during the intro to Megadeth's "Train of Consequences" or an even better example would be on Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People" where the hand mute is chugging right along with the drum section also during the intro.  There is other times you'll see it in between the two notes of an "octave chord" or sometimes on the 5th string of an open G chord. It's a great tool you can use to improve your playing and should become a natural part of your style with just a couple techniques.

The middle finger mute.  The middle finger should shut anyone up, but in this case we're going to use it to stop the open "E" from ringing while we play barre chords on the 5th string.  Make an Eb barre chord in VI position (tabbed 6-8-8-8 starting on the 5th string) Now jam the strings! This should sound pretty metal if you played the open E as well, but what I need you to do is place your middle finger on the E string without pressing it down.  Now it might possibly make a slight harmonic when you jam it again, but thats rock and roll.  You can use this middle finger technique for any barre chord on the 5th fret.  The other option here is just to hit the root note first.

The whole hand mute.  Sometimes you'll see me rockin' a pedal tone on the low E over an E5 chord and you'll see my index finger depress into the chord when I accent it.  If you see my last three fingers covering the strings while I do this it's considered a hand mute. No vibrations are the key here, I'm deadening everything. If you attempt this and get a rich harmonic you can prevent the harmonic by right hand muting right above the bridge.  Simply place your right palm on any string that remains vibrant.

Now go rock some really gnarley riffs with your new talent!  Have fun and let me know if you have any questions!


Jason M

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Secret Recipe for Vocal Health Right Here!

Project Hydrate!

Just kidding.  There
is no secret recipe.  Really, the best and most basic way to keep your
voice in shape is to hydrate.  Water is key to a great singing voice. 
So you should definitely keep some water around while you’re singing
right?  That’ll keep you perfectly hydrated!  Not quite.  Its good to
have water around when you sing, but it won’t actually reach your vocal
folds.  Whatever you drank about two hours ago is what is really doing
all the work.  So try to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day,
and keep your voice well lubricated. 

But what about tea & honey, and boiled ginger water, and lemon
juice, and cough drops, or some liquid courage, and — none of these
will actually help you out.  Caffeine, which is found in all teas,
(black, green, or white) is a drying agent, and honey is just a
sweetener.  It might make you feel better mentally, but physically, you
need to intake water to help your voice.  The caffeine in the tea will
dry out your voice, possibly making it feel scratchy.  Caffeinated
sodas, coffee drinks and any tea other than an herbal tea will dry you
out, everyone reacts different.  This isn’t to say you need to cut
caffeine out of your life, but counteracting it with plenty of water is
best.  People claim to have all sorts of miracle voice cures – ginger,
honey, lemon, etc. but nothing works as well as plain old water; and
liquid courage? Not a good idea.  Alcohol is also a drying agent, and
takes a lot of the hydration out of your body.  It also takes a full 36
hours to leave your system. 

Cough drops can be a hidden danger as well.  People will often
inhale cough drops like a vacuum cleaner if they think their voice is
not feeling great.  This is a really bad idea.  Most cough drops
contain menthol, which will suck every bit of moisture out of you! 
Check cough drop packages carefully; there are plenty out there that do
not contain menthol.  Often times, standing in the shower and cupping
your hands around your nose and mouth an inhaling the water vapor for
five minutes will help your nose and throat feel much better than a
cough drop will. Woman-singing-microphone-vintage-525

If you are in a bind, you aren’t feeling 100%, and need to perform
or audition – no way out – sprays like Entertainer’s Secret or Oasis
can help in a pinch.  These products contain glycerin, which is a
lubricant.  So its acts like oil for your car except it’s lubrication
for your vocal folds.  If you just cannot get them to phonate. a little
bit of one these products will help you get your voice up and running. 
My personal recommendation is Entertainer’s Secret
because not only does it contain glycerin, but it also has no alcohol
in the formula, and also contains apple pectin, which is a natural
moisturizer.  Apples are another great way to counteract a parched
mouth during a performance under those hot, drying lights.  Take a bite
of a skinned apple before you go onstage.  The moisture will last in
your mouth much longer than a quick sip of water.  Of course, this is
on top of the 8 glasses of water you drank earlier! 

Water: its free, and you can get almost anywhere – and it’s the absolute best thing for your voice.

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United Breaks Guitars, and we support Dave Carroll and the band

TakeLessons would like to share the YouTube video of “United Breaks Guitars,” musician Dave Carroll’s musical assertion that a United Airlines baggage handler damaged his Taylor Guitar tossing it around at Chicago O’Hare.

In his song, Carroll says another passenger saw Carroll’s guitar being tossed by a United employee. When the airplane arrived in Nebraska, Carroll discovered that the guitar had been broken.

United declined to do anything for Carroll, but that was before his song became a YouTube hit, with nearly 600,000 hits by this afternoon after posting it this past Monday, July 6th.

Now, Julie Johnsson of the Chicago Tribune reports, United may be singing a different tune:

“This struck a chord with us,” said Robin Urbanski, spokeswoman for Chicago-based United. “We are in conversation with one another to make what happened right.”

We transcribed the lyrics to “United Breaks Guitars,” by Dave Carroll and his fellow band members, Sons of Maxwell:

I flew United Airlines
On my way to Nebraska
The plane departed Halifax
Connecting in Chicago’s O’Hare.

While on the ground the passenger
Said from the seat behind me,
“My God, they’re throwing guitars out there!”

The Band and I exchanged a look
Best described as terror,
At the action on the tarmac
And knowing whose projectiles
These would be.

So before I left Chicago,
I alerted three employees,
Who showed complete indifference towards me.

United, United,
You broke my Taylor Guitar.
United, United,
Some big help you are.

You broke it, you should fix it.
You’re liable, just admit it.
I should have flown with someone else
Or gone by car,
Cuz United Breaks Guitars.

When we landed in Nebraska,
I confirmed what I’d suspected:
My Taylor’d been the victim
Of a vicious act of malice at O’Hare.

And so began a year-long saga
Of pass the buck, “Don’t ask me,”
And “I’m sorry sir, your claim can go nowhere.”

So to all the Airline’s people
From New York to New Delhi,
Including kind Miss Irlweg
Who says the final word from them is “No.”

I’ve heard all your excuses
And I’ve chased your wild gooses,
And this attitude of yours I say must go.

United, United,
You broke my Taylor Guitar.
United, United,
Some big help you are.

You broke it, you should fix it.
You’re liable, just admit it.
I should have flown with someone else
Or gone by car,
Cuz United Breaks Guitars.

Well I won’t say that I’ll never fly
With you again cuz maybe
To save the world I probably would
But that won’t likely happen.

And if it did, I wouldn’t bring my luggage,
Cuz you’d just got and break it
Into a thousand pieces
Just like you broke my heart.
When United breaks guitars.

United, United,
You broke my Taylor Guitar.
United, United,
Some big help you are.

You broke it, you should fix it.
You’re liable, just admit it.
I should have flown with someone else
Or gone by car,
Cuz United Breaks Guitars.

Yeah, United breaks guitars.
Yeah, United breaks guitars. – Sons of Maxwell

Here’s the short version of the story from Carroll’s Web site,

In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to
Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being
thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered
later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the
experience occurred but for nine months the various people I
communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on
everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing
to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally
say “no” to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce
three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos
for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world. United: Song 1 is
the first of those songs. United: Song 2 has been written and video
production is underway. United: Song 3 is coming. I promise.

We at TakeLessons find this behavior by United unacceptable and wanted to respond to Dave’s video in our own way. Here is our response as Steven takes a stand:

We support you, Dave!


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Featured Teacher Will Retains and Motivates his Students

Will PJuly's Featured Teacher is our very deserving Midwest teacher Will P.
We selected Will because he can nicely balance being a performing
musician, being a good teacher at successfully retaining and motivating
his long-term existing students, and actively pursuing more new
students. Some of his students have taken over 50 lessons with him
through TakeLessons!

Here is what Will had to say when asked how he continues to motivate and retain students:

"I've been really lucky to have some really wonderful students. The
key is to let the students direct their musical experience. When I get
a new student I ask them to list 10 songs that they would like to learn
at some point. When they set and meet their goals, they get really
excited and motivated. It's really important to keep them interested
and direct the lessons toward their goals and desires. Listening to the
students is really important. As a performing musician, it's really fun
to share that part of my life with them, and they really get a kick out
it when they come to my shows. It's also a fun way to motivate people."

Will Phalen and the Stereo Addicts

Will's band is called Will Phalen and the Stereo Addicts, and is now featured on iTunes. Check out their music either on their website, watch their video, or directly on iTunes!

Congratulations on being named our Featured Teacher of the Month,
and thank you for being such a great role model to your TakeLessons

So You Wanna Learn How to Play Guitar (pt.XII)


I've been getting a lot of requests from people taking guitar lessons for ways to think outside of a box pattern and how to be able to solo with speed and accuracy.  Personally, I like to do both of these and would love to help everyone out by sharing a couple techniques I use. 

The Burn (right arm):

One of the first things I'd like to bring up is to STOP thinking notes/tab/intervals for just a minute.  These are fundamentally important but not for what we're going to try and accomplish with this excercise.  Now, I want you to begin by alternate picking in a "loco" fashion for 60 seconds at a time palm muting an open "E" on the 6th string until your forearm starts to tense.  This is going to help with articulation so that when you try the next excercise your pick doesn't get caught up on the strings.  If you're having picking issues, look at how you're holding the pick.  Are you gripping it tight enough?  Are you holding it on the inside part?  Don't wuss out on this one, hit the strings like you want to go through them just don't get stuck.

The Burn (left arm):

So now you can take that same "loco" style of picking and incorporate your left hand fingering.  First and my personal favorite is a pinkie, ring, first back roll that you can take anywhere on the neck.  I used it on my track "Follow the Revolution" before the breakdown into the solo if you want an example of this.  It's simple, alternate pick with the right hand and build up speed using the previously mentioned rhythm excercise.  Notice I didn't state one note, interval, or tab pattern… I could but thats not the point.  After a few times through this your soloing should improve, you'll have better rhythm chops, and you'll understand how to "chug" a lot faster!

The Major/minor 3rd shred:

446px-Cliffburtonfree I continually find myself using this one as you can take it all over the neck and it makes an amazing sound.  Think of an open note pedal tone on the E or A for example.  Now imagine a major 3rd position.  Ok, look at the top 2 notes of a G or C chord if you wanna know what that looks like.  Now start either open E, G, and then B on the 5th string or open A, C and E on the D string.  Repeat those until you feel like you're playing the intro to Cliff Burton's "Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)" off Metallica's 1983's Kill 'Em All album.  For the minor 3rd we'll switch to the b3rd instead.  Now play either the open E, A and then C on the A string or open A, D and then F on the 4th string.  Continue that open E or A pedal throughout and impress yourself finding all the major and minor tones around the fretboard.

Until next time!

See ya,


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