So You Wanna Learn to Play Guitar (pt.XX)

Kirk Hammett

Here is the latest entry from our excellent San Diego guitar teacher Jason M


So how do you play a Washburn acoustic?  One of the least asked questions I get is that of knowing your tone.  I don’t play a Washburn acoustic but I think that it’s important to note the tonal qualities of the guitar you own.  The sound that comes out of your axe will shape and define your unique voice to the point that it will eventually become “you”.

I use an ESP KH2 “Skully” Kirk Hammett signature model guitar with dual EMG 81 pickups.  It has 24 frets, an original floyd rose locking tremelo set up with a Jackson reverse dinky headstock and a body that looks like an MII Deluxe.  The neck is a little bit wider than your average electric guitar and has an almost “classical” feel to it when you grip it.  Rather than an old “file down the fret” cliche that allows for optimal shredding, my guitar has jumbo “rounded” frets which if pressed down hard enough can actually make a string bending sound.  The floating bridge takes some getting used to and if you haven’t used one before you can actually make the guitar sound out of tune by leaning on it too hard with your right hand palm mute.  It has a 3 way switch which unlike a strat and more like a Les Paul you can “cut” the sound immediatly and make a really nice Morello sounding percussive “on off” sound.

I also use a Line 6 upgraded AXSYS212 ampliphier with a floorboard that carries both a volume and a wah pedal.  The Line 6 was the first digital amp to master the art of “tube tone” back in the mid-nineties.  I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it as a solid-state amp to be honest.  With 32 presets and 32 user presets with 4 channels each, the options are pretty infinite.  This model can not only replicate the greatest artists of all time but holds

Jason M

countless configurations of individual amp models/effect pedals/cabinet sizes/ and even offers a “noise gate” that you can open or close at will.

Now that’s not my only rig.  I also play a Zakk Wylde custom Epiphone “Les Paul” with 22 frets that I’ve tricked out with his custom “.60” string set up.  Getting used to a set of strings of that caliber requires a huge change in the amount of hand strength that you need.  It’s also got a set of dual EMG pickups and the ability to “cut” the sound out immediately when you toggle between the rhythm and treble pickups (having one volume all the way down of course) like the KH2.

I play that one through a Scott Ian signature Randall ampliphier that has an EQ option of being able to shave your eyebrows off under the right amount of pressure.  It’s got a much more pure clean tone than the Line 6 and ultimately I think the distortion channel is superior as well, but it lacks in the pedal effect options.  I like this amp because it has an L and R input in the back that I can hook my CD player or digital studio into and use as a monitor while I’m training.

As the amp and the guitar make up your unique sound I have a digital studio that completly changes all that.  I record with a Boss BR-532 digital 4-track that has it’s own effects that just don’t match up to the tones that I can get live.  So technically I have a “recorded” voice and “live” voice.  There are a lot of subtle things that you have to pay attention to in the studio like thinking about “loop effects” and pre-post effects that you can alter during a mastering.

I bring these things up because as you continue playing you may start to realize that you can’t sound like Dragonforce on an acoustic.  Black Sabbath unplugged only works for “Planet Caravan”… and maybe some of their Dio stuff.  If you want to develop your own tone I believe it’s important to understand how to control those factors.

Breakdown your own rig and let me know if you have any questions that might help create your ideal sound.

Until next time, enjoy your tone!

Jason M

Jason M

Instrument-Switching: A Good Idea?

Here is an interesting article that we found featured on September 17, 2009 on the Oxford University Press Blog about whether it is good or bad that your child is a music instrument switcher:


Amy Nathan is an award-winning author of books for young people including The Young Musician’s Survival Guide: Tips From Teens and Pros, out now in a new expanded second edition. A Harvard graduate with master’s degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Columbia’s Teacher’s College, she is an ever-struggling piano student and the mother of two musical sons: one a composer and trumpeter, and the other a saxophone-playing government major.

Which six of the following professional musicians were instrument-switchers as kids (answers at the end of the post)? Instrument-switchers start learning to play one kind of instrument that either they (or their parents) thought would be great for them — only to discover later that there is another instrument that they love a whole lot more. And so they switch.

( ) Joshua Bell, violinist

Andre Watts

( ) André Watts, pianist

( ) Paula Robison, flutist

( ) James Galway, flutist

( ) Ann Hobson Pilot, harpist

( ) Cynthia Phelps, violist

( ) Carter Brey, cellist

( ) Sherry Sylar, oboist

At this back-to-school time of year when kids are returning to music lessons, many parents have a nagging worry that their kids will turn out to be instrument-switchers. What if they don’t stick with the instrument the parents just shelled out a lot of money for? What about all the money spent on lessons? Will that be wasted? If they switch, how will they ever catch up with kids who didn’t switch?

Judging by the high level of musicianship of the pros in this quiz —

Music for Children

switchers and non-switchers alike — switching isn’t the disaster that some parents fear it will be. However, the prevalence of instrument-switching does mean that it’s unwise to rush out and buy an expensive instrument for kids until they’ve spent a year or so learning to play it and are sure they really like it. If a family doesn’t already own an instrument a child can learn on, start by renting — or borrowing.

Making up lost time on the new instrument didn’t pose a serious problem for the switchers in the list above. Many had been reluctant practicers with their first instrument. But when they switched, practice time became less of a chore, turning instead into something they actually wanted to do — well, at least much of the time. After all, the new instrument was one that they chose for themselves, one whose sound spoke to them, one they really wanted to play. They were willing to put in regular practice time in order to master it. As for all those lessons with the first instrument — they weren’t a waste, but provided an introduction to music that carried over to the new choice.

“Switching is okay, but don’t switch too soon,” warns Daniel Katzen, who plays French horn with the Boston Symphony. He started on piano at age six, tried cello for a while at age nine, and then two years later finally found the instrument that was right for him, French horn. As he explains in The Young Musician’s Survival Guide, “You can’t tell about an instrument in just a few months. Other instruments always look cool. But after you start playing, you find that no instrument is really easy if you want to play it well.”

Instrument-switching may actually be something a parent could encourage a youngster to think about if the child loves music but never wants to practice. Of course, a lack of interest in practicing could come from other causes, such as the type of music the youngster is learning, the approach the teacher is taking or an overly busy after-school schedule. But it could also be that the instrument just isn’t the right one for that kid. A better match may present itself if the youngster does a little exploring by listening to a variety of kinds of music, going to concerts at school or in concert halls, watching performances on TV, having the school music teacher demonstrate different instruments. Maybe that reluctant practicer will discover an instrument he or she really wants to play, as happened with Ann Hobson Pilot, principal cellist of the Boston Symphony. She struggled with piano lessons for years, not liking them much and not wanting to practice. But when she had a chance to try harp in high school, “I felt more expressive,” she says. “I loved it from the start. So I practiced more.”

Answers to Quiz: In addition to the Boston Symphony’s Ann Hobson Pilot, three other instrument-switchers in the list above are also orchestral musicians, members of the New York Philharmonic: Cynthia Phelps, who switched from violin to viola; Carter Brey, from violin to cello; Sherry Sylar, from piano and flute to oboe. The other two are soloists: André Watts, switched as a youngster from violin to piano; Paula Robison, from piano to flute. The two who didn’t switch: Joshua Bell and James Galway.

Jason Mraz Writes About the Power of Music

Jason Mraz at Foxwood's, May 17 2006

We at TakeLessons are huge Jason Mraz fans. We love his music and his philosophy of endorsing the value of music education for all. Here is a recent “Journal” entry he posted on July 9, 2009 on his own site about the gratitude he feels towards all the people who have given him the gift of music in his life:

I am grateful to have music in my life. My mom was the first person to turn me on to it. She sat me at the piano, shaped my fingers to help me make sense of chords, and we would play chopsticks over and over again. My step-dad, an incredible drummer, gave me a drum kit for my 10th birthday. That gift taught me the essential rock/rap beat, a cross-stick over the hi-hat and snare while the foot slams the kick on the 1 and 3. Even if I never pursued music as a career, those few musical moments introduced me to an organized and expressive way of being that would carry over into friendships and academics, improving my attitude and overall performance at school.

I am so grateful for the many, many amazing music teachers in the public schools who kept me enrolled in the power of self-expression and group participation. I am thankful for that extraordinary study of sound and the opportunity to play when the age was most appropriate for playing.

Please support arts programs in your community, especially in the schools. At the very least, it’ll give the graffiti on the overpass some depth.

Jason Mraz’s enthusiasm and passion for music education for all echoes our own sentiments and our desire to inspire a generation through the power of music.

So You Wanna Play Guitar (pt.XIX)


Here is the latest blog entry from our talented guitar teacher Jason, covering his thoughts on Music Theory:

I’m pretty excited about some of the response I’ve been getting from my students about questions they have about Music Theory.  Some of my students are in college, some of them are looking for the lost art of grimoire, and some just wanna know how a chord is built.  I’m finishing up some touches on a book that I’ve been making and am pleased that my ability to make it has been solely on the requests of those that had the balls to question.

Why Music Theory?

Music Theory doesn’t really have a beginning in my opinion.  It is what it is and I don’t abide by it.  I’m also not a hypocrite so let me give you some thoughts on how to know the rules and then break the rules.

Things to know: Circle of Fifths… a basic diagram of the universe that is music.  Also known as the cycle of 4ths.  It’s a circle that can help you determine the Major and minor key signatures and see how they relate to each other.

Modal Scales: Ionian/Dorian/Phrygian/Lydian/Mixolydian/Aeolian/Locrian….. all the same thing.  Ex: CDEFGABC, DEFGABCD, EFGABCDE, FGABCDEF, GABCDEFG, ABCDEFGA, BCDEFGAB.  But is that it?  No, you need to learn the interval structure as well.  W=whole step, H=half step Ex: WWHWWWH, WHWWWHW, HWWWHWW, WWWHWWH, WWHWWHW, WHWWHWW, HWWHWWW.  But is that it? No, now you need to be able to transpose those into all other keys.  Take the same intervalic structure and apply it to the Circle of Fifths in any Key to check out the magic.

Minor Scales: Aeolian is another term for minor, but there are two that you can meld w/the minor to form some almost european metal sound called the Harmonic Minor…. (looks like a minor scale ‘sept the 2nd to last note is sharped in a Major fashion) And the Melodic Minor (looks like a Major Scale except the 1st 3 notes look like a regular minor scale ascending/descend just like a regular minor scale)Jason

Chord Theory: Major (1,3,5) Minor or – (1,b3,5) Delta or “triangle” (1357) 7th (1235b7) Augmented or = (13#5) Delta 9 (13579) Know it to the point where you can just say…”so what” and mean it.

Relative Minor: Built on the 6th degree of the root or “1” tone.

The “5” Em minor pentatonic or G Major box patterns: Fun little thing to know before you can think outside the box is to learn the box you wanna think out of.  Move your box shape back three frets and you’ve uncovered E major or C#minor.

Arpeggios: Just chopped up chords played in a sequence that can be as little as say 3 notes up to 12 notes or more.  Typically you just need to know how far you need to reach to get a solid grasp when really your just playing (CEGCEGCEGCEGCEG) or (AC#EAC#EAC#EAC#E)

Composition:  I wouldn’t be in the postion I am today if I didn’t write all this down.  Start writing immediatly or you’re just blowin’ smoke.  Well, not really… but if you wanna understand what the heck you just played or what you’re playing… jot it down/put it in ink/immortalize that sucker. Know what a G clef is know that an F clef is for bass, think above and below the ledger lines, understand the rhythm structures.  Write your own TAB.

Harmony: A lot of really great bands have 2 guitar players…those that don’t often have a doubled guitar of themselves going while they lead.  Learn to build doubled guitar parts or add a bass part.  Add a vocal melody and you’re good.  4 part harmony right there.

Chord progressions: I IV V, basic blues… everything else is out the door.

Now what?  “So what” man… don’t quit, be yourself, and remember that everything I just mentioned is just a bunch of… well, second thought.  Study it, then play a few power chords of your own to create what you can call yours.


Jason MJason1

Campbell Soup and the Grammy Foundation Help Music Education

We found this really compelling article about Campbell Soup collaborating with the GRAMMY Foundation to ensure that children can receive music education. Here is the article:

Campbell Soup Company (NYSE: CPB) and the GRAMMY Foundation today announced plans to make music education more accessible in tens of TeacherKidsPianothousands of schools across America. Research has shown that when students have access to arts, they tend to also perform better in the classroom.1 Unfortunately, music programs are being eliminated at many elementary and secondary schools due to the budget pressures impacting schools across the country.

To help address this disturbing trend, Campbell is partnering with the GRAMMY Foundation to provide schools access to the sort of innovative resources needed to offer students a well-rounded music education. Through the partnership, the GRAMMY Foundation’s proprietary Discovery Through Music™ curriculum will be made available to nearly 60,000 schools nationwide that are registered in this year’s Labels for Education™ program. Customized for children in kindergarten through 6th grade, the new curriculum will help young students understand the basic elements of music, including beat, tempo, rhythm and pitch, and apply these fundamentals as part of lesson plans for language arts, math, science and technology.

The partnership was announced at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, Calif., by three-time GRAMMY® Award-winning singer, Trisha Yearwood, who Trisha Yearwood pledged her support for the initiative. Yearwood talked about the importance of music education in her life and gave recognition to the music teachers that always encouraged her to explore an interest in music. “Learning about music not only fueled my career, but it also helped me to become a stronger student by thinking creatively about how to learn and explore new ideas,” said Yearwood. The singer is also a bestselling cookbook author, having secured a spot on The New York Times best-seller list for her cookbook, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoman Kitchen.

Several GRAMMY Foundation Artist Ambassadors, including Carolina Liar members Chad Wolf and Rickard Göransson, Crosby Loggins, Dave Koz and Mindi Abair, also were in attendance to endorse the new partnership. These artists will participate in and help promote the program during the upcoming school year.

Enhanced Campbell’s Labels for Education Program

For more than 30 years Campbell’s Labels for Education program has been committed to providing educational resources to schools across the country. Since the program’s inception in 1973, billions of labels have been redeemed and more than $110 million in educational resources and equipment, including computers, athletic gear, and even vans, have been provided to participating schools.

“Today, there is a disturbing lack of support for arts in far too many elementary and middle schools,” said Mike Salzberg, President, Campbell Sales Company. “As we reinvigorate our Labels for Education program this year to support arts, athletics and academics, we are confident that with the support of the GRAMMY Foundation, we will begin to achieve our shared goal of nourishing the potential of our kids by improving access to music education in our schools and communities.”

Participation in Labels for Education continues to be easy, because Campbell products are consumed in nearly every home in America. Leading products for redemption include Campbell’s two most popular soups, Chicken Noodle and Tomato, as well as Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and 12 varieties that comprise the Campbell’s Kids soup line-up. These soups, which include Double Noodle and Chicken with Stars, are offered at healthy sodium levels and are made with whole grain pasta.

“Discovery Through Music” Curriculum

Students with a passion for music will be excited to experience the proprietary six-week Discovery Through Music curriculum designed by the GRAMMY Foundation in partnership with Labels for Education. “The GRAMMY Foundation is committed to music education in schools because it benefits students and fundamentally contributes to our culture by inspiring future generations of music makers,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy® and the GRAMMY Foundation. “The Discovery Through Music curriculum is designed to teach children to explore and discover music within the context of other subject areas like math and science, which will help students to think more creatively throughout their lives.”

GRAMMY Artist Ambassadors Support Partnership

A number of rising young artists currently represent the GRAMMY Foundation through its Artist Ambassador program. As part of the partnership with Campbell, these ambassadors will be visiting selected schools nationwide to discuss their experiences in the music industry and inspire young students to pursue their potential through music.
To further recognize and celebrate the partnership with the Labels for Education program, GRAMMY Foundation Artist Ambassador and singer/songwriter Crosby Loggins is offering a free download of his song, “Time to Move,” at until December 31, 2009.

So You Wanna Learn to Play Guitar (pt.XVIII.2)

B.B. King

In this latest entry, our guitar teacher Jason M offers his in-depth insight on Blues Guitar, inspired by greats like B.B. King:

Now you’ve probably had your own path of music that you’ve been following since you were born and hopefully there was something magnetic about why you enjoy what you do and you thrive off that completely.

I mentioned some of my blues influences last time, and before I talk about the actual music itself I’d like to bring up the individuals.  Let’s start with someone like B.B. King.  My dad is still a huge B.B. King fan, he’s been to the shows, listens to the CDs or cassettes, tunes into the blues station on the radio, and when he’s on T.V. he still watches him.  Now what makes B.B. King or any other bluesman a great artist?  Let’s take what we know and figure out how to learn more ways to find out how to get their sound.

The Guitar: Everyone should know that B.B. King plays a guitar named “Lucille”; a Gibson semi-hollow body with 2 “f-holes” for extra blues tone.

From there you discover what kind of amps he used/what kind of pedals he likes/ and where he prefers his settings when he plays.

Now to go a little deeper without getting personal… what gives B.B. his sound?  So you’ll start to listen and discover that not only does he trademark a signature “A blues pentatonic” in 8th position, but with one single note… a single decending string slide from the 8va area on the high E you can tell it’s B.B. King, or atleast someone trying to play like B.B. King.  Another thing you might notice is that he doesn’t sing and play at the same time.  It’s (line, lick, line, lick, line, lead, line solo etc…)

If you’ve made it this far; now you can look into see more about who the artist likes… is he a fan of Clapton, does he like Buddy Guy, who were his primary influences, who was influenced by him?  Those kinds of questions will help broaden your perspective to find more music as well as newer or older artists.  It doesn’t really end…

Deeper perspective; B.B. King articles/biographies/books/ and columns are out there.  You can actually learn how to play like B.B. King…. from B.B. King.  A few years ago he had his own column in Guitar World magazine, and it’s true you can use that same resource to get complete transcriptions of his stuff.  A common beginner mistake, which isn’t necessarily a mistake is to try and figure out how to play a tune without hearing it first by reading the transcription.  (I’ve discovered how to play songs I didn’t know before and years down the road I finally heard the song on the radio and was like “ah, I’ve known that riff for 10 years… that’s how it goes”) So what I suggest, and this is how I’ll support the record industry is to go out and buy the CD… you’ll never get the same experience through a download.  Ok, so let’s say now you got the CD and you have the transcription… you’ve got the chords located at the top of the page, you know his scales he uses, you’ve got his tone.

From there, there are a couple more things you can look at.  Who transcribed them?  Was is Jeff Perrin or Andy Aledort?  A lot of times the person that transcribed the material has reference notes available before the transcription that can help you get the strum pattern; be it “medium-shuffle” where an 1/8 and a quarter note has a triplet feel or a “down down up up down up” pattern.  Often they’ll include a box scale pattern you can use to play that A minor pentatonic blues scale in 8th position.  Even some secret tricks the artist has used where the standard chords notated are actually played inverted for example.  From there transcriber will often breakdown the modes/notes played with some interval theory as well.  Study that stuff.

Last and not least is take a look at the record label B.B. is on.  Is he on Geffen, has he always been with Geffen?  Who else is on Geffen?  What label was he on before then… you’ll discover her started off on Crown records and from there you can look to Crown Records to find similiar artists that you might enjoy as well.  Record labels like to maintain a diverse but similiar quality that can help you branch from there.

It might be fun just to start rockin’ out to B.B. once you have your music on and guitar plugged in.  But here’s a head’s up if you have the transcription: learn to read through it with the song going before your 1st attempt playing it.  This way you’ll be ready for the changes and will be able to follow through and anticipate the changes and see the techniques involved.  Either way, just have fun and enjoy rockin’ out to some seriously great blues.

Jason M
Jason M


Support Music Education

As a proud partner of NAMM, we support their stance on supporting the arts regarding the "No Child Left Behind Act." Here is their latest positioning:

On August 18, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke with the Support Music Coalition regarding his letter about the importance of Arts Education.

Tell your Members of Congress that when the No Child Left Behind Act is reauthorized, Congress should provide flexibility in the law for music and arts programs.

Every child in America deserves to have a complete, well-rounded education that includes music and arts education. These programs develop and foster skills to help students meet the ever-growing demands of a 21st Century workforce.Music Class

We must call upon Congress to make a strong commitment to our children. By reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act to include music and arts education as "core" academic subjects, our elected officials can make music and arts education a reality for every single American child.

Tell your Members of Congress that support for music and arts education should be strengthened in the reauthorization of NCLB to provide flexibility for all decision makers at the state and local level to include rigorous and sequential programs so that students can continue to reap the benefits of school-based music education.

We at TakeLessons hope that all children can have the same musical education that has been available to previous generations. By supporting the arts you are supporting every child's opportunity to experience the arts as an integral component to a well-rounded education.

Celebrating 100 years of community music

We found this inspiring article about the Community Music Center of Boston's Centennial performances. This organization epitomizes the notion of giving back to to community at large through the gift and power of music:

The music began in a pair of settlement houses in 1910. Within those institutions, the Community Music Center of Boston initially offered education and a sense of community to recent immigrants. Since 1971, the center has been housed at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End, but its mission has remained consistent: to provide music instruction to urban students of varying ages and skill levels. They include some 5,500 students each week, many of them enabled by the $150,000-plus in scholarships given out annually.Community Music Center Students

The Community Music Center is marking its centennial with a series of 100 concerts, the first of which is next Friday at the Boston Arts Festival in the North End’s Christopher Columbus Park. The concerts will run through June 2011 and will range from solo recitals and orchestral performances to jazz and world music. According to David Lapin, the center’s executive director, virtually all of the concerts will be free, and more than half will take place in Boston schools. The Boston Public Library will also host an exhibition of Center memorabilia from January through April.

Lapin says that in its first years, the center focused on Eastern European immigrant children and the small African-American population that had migrated from the South.

“Obviously, we have a much fuller orbit to travel today,’’ he says. The school’s population now includes students from Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. In the 1980s it began working with people with AIDS; more recently it has been reaching out to children with autism and older adults with Alzheimer’s disease.

“What we’ve tried to do, in each decade, is not simply look to respond to demand that’s out there for music lessons, but to create demand where it might not otherwise exist,’’ says Lapin, who has led the center since 1983. “We’re not just waiting for people to come through the door; we’re trying to create new relationships in the community and nurture a demand for arts education generally.’’String Students

That’s why the concerts – which Lapin calls “a gift to the city’’ – will be as much about outreach as about public music-making. Many will feature students from schools with which the center has had long-running partnerships, but there will also be what Lapin calls “reasonably high-end performers’’ in the recital series and in special events.

“It reflects the twin goals of access and excellence in both education and programming more generally,’’ Lapin explains. “It’s part and parcel of what we do on a regular basis, but we’re trying to enhance the visibility of the music center and use [the concerts] as a way to not only celebrate the music center [but also] try to raise higher the banner of arts education throughout the city.’’

Some of the notable events include “Performathon,’’ the center’s annual daylong fund-raising concert, and a student composer venture with the new-music ensemble Dinosaur Annex. One set of performances seems particularly intriguing: the entire cycle of Beethoven symphonies in arrangements for solo piano, four-hand piano, and two pianos. That series – which opens with the first two symphonies on Dec. 10 – should provide an interesting counterpart to the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s performances of the symphonies.

Like other arts institutions, the center has been affected by the recent economic downturn. Lapin found that “the demand for arts education is relatively inelastic; people will still pay for education more than they might pay for tickets to a performance.’’ The largest decline has been in contributions: Lapin says that during the winter, “no one knew what was going on, and so basically, people stopped giving for a few months. And that was pretty scary, quite frankly.’’

Though the situation has since stabilized, Lapin is taking nothing for granted. “We’ll see,’’ he says. “Like everyone else, we have more than one set of fingers crossed.’’

We at TakeLessons avidly support music education for all and wish the very best for the Community Music Center and all organizations that facilitate in providing music education to children and adults alike.

So You Wanna Play Guitar (pt.XVIII.3)


Here is the latest entry from our San Diego Guitar Teacher Jason M:

In this segment I wanted to breakdown how all of the things that we've gone over so far can affect your playing.  1.) Guitar transcription notes 2.) Ability to recognize chords and play to a track 3.) Discovering the influences of those you are influenced by and 4.) Using similar techniques to uncover signature sounds of those same artists.

This time I wanted to take that one step farther in a piece called:  Unraveling the guitar solo.

Many guitarists 10 years ago loathed guitar solos.  It was just a wanky thing Slash and Santana did to imitate proficiency, right?  Wrong.  But still kinda, yeah… I'll get to that. 

You basically have a few ideas that are common to guitarists skills and ideas and are repeated thereafter.  Rather than bore you with notes and garbage I'll share with you a couple secrets that I've noticed occur during these solos.

The classic bend:  Figure out if you're in Em and whole step or unison bend on the 12th and 15th fret of the high e and B. 

The rock lead bend/chop/hammer lick:  Slash/Santana/Hammett all use it.  Uses the 3 lowest strings.  Bend your ring finger up on the 3rd string, barre the next 2 strings down with the first, hammer on and pull off the ring finger in a sequential order 4 or 5 times in a row.

The pedal or pull off ascension:  Three finger pull offs I've mentioned before, but an open E pedal can be added to sound like pieces of Iron Maiden or Dethlok.  Simply take the high e, tremelo pick it…. and sporadically hit the notes that sound right on that same string.  (you'll probably be in Em, but I said I wouldn't mention notes).

End with a whole step bend on the highest note and shake it with a strong vibrato at the end.  This is a great way to climax, unless you wanna shred down into open position for an aftermath.

Ok, so I mentioned a couple tricks… use em, abuse em.  Now do yo know how to play a Slash solo?  Maybe, but let me bring up the points.

The keys to rote memorization of the solo are awesome because it was designed to sound memorable, if what you're playing sounds like crap instead of Slash you'll know it.  Break it down not only by measure, but by use of technique and also melody.  Those three things are going to help you perfect the tones used. 

Say you have 3 of the 4 techniques involved that I previously mentioned.  Spot em, aniticipate them, and lock down about where they come in.  If there is a measure you just can't get, don't get hung up on it…. you'll hear it again the next time you come into the solo.  Your mind should be able to grasp it eventually.  And last, listen for those moments in the solo that feel like passion.  Those notes are the ones you hold on to, and they're generally not hard to play. 

Secret of the day: If you see 16,000 notes in a measure, it's probably only six.


Jason M Jason

How unique is your song title?

Jeff S, our guitar and songwriting teacher from the greater NYC area has given us his insight on how to create a great title for your song:

Some songwriters start out with a patch of melody or a line or two of lyric Songwriting as their creative catalyst.  Others, like me, usually start with a song title.  Obviously, the catchier and more novel your song title is, the greater chance it will stand out and be identifiable with you (as a the songwriter and/or artist).  While a song title is not copyrightable, a strong one can help pique interest and generate listens out of pure curiosity.

As a general guideline, it is probably best to stay away from hackneyed song titles like ”I Love You” or “I Need You”.  On the other end of the spectrum, it is also a wise idea to avoid leeching onto titles that are intrinsically and irrevocably identifiable with the original artist; that they almost become almost proprietary (and in some cases, they are). 

Such iconic songs as Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend”, Tom Petty’s “Freefallin’ ” Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me”, and Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” fit under this category.  They are so woven into the pop cultural fabric that it would be fool’s gold to try to re-excavate them. These are but a few of such seminal songs, but I’m sure you get my drift. 

And more recently there’s another stockpile of uniquely indelible songs/titles like Amy Warehouse’s ”Rehab”, Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl”, Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” or Beyonce’s, “If I Were A Boy”.  All these are immediately correlated with these artists.

I am in the process of titling my 3rd artist CD and I wanted to see just how “fresh” my potential titles were.  So I typed my 3 leading title contenders into the iTunes search engine and it gave me instant insight and tacit guidance.   I emerged with the realization that I had to dig a bit deeper for a title that wasn’t overused and was able to immediately eliminate some titles that I was considering.

My curiosity was sufficiently ramped up by my research, so I decided to plug in some other titles that popped into mind.  I found 147 songs under the title, “Always” and 75 entries called “The Hard Way” or “Hard Way”.  I was surprised to see 150 songs listed under the title of Addicted “.  And this was just on iTunes, so it reflects just a microcosm.

Besides itunes, there are some other fantastic sources you can utilize (for free!) to get a fix on the creative uniqueness of your song titles.  The major performing rights organizations, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, all have super extensive databases. ASCAP has the ACE Title Search.  On the BMI site, look for the word search at the top of their home page.   SESAC has a repertory search at the bottom of their home page.  No matter what title you come up with, have fun and try to find a previously unexplored approach to your title and craft it into something that is truly you!
Jeff S 
Jeff S