Helping you book more students one product release at a time…

 

Encouraging Delightful Discovery

Over the past few months, we’ve done a bunch of research to make sure we’re highlighting the most influential information possible on your profile. Students want to know what lessons will be like and they want to get to know who you are! That’s why you may notice a new test we’re running on teacher profiles. Some students will see a reformatted version of the top section of your profile that makes it easier to discover the most important information for booking (see below). This is one of many tests we’re running to constantly improve the booking experience for your future students!

TakeLessons Profile
Can you spot all the changes?
– Circular profile image
– Easy access to pricing and availability
– Profile badges displayed prominently
– 100% Satisfaction Guarantee highlighted

Promoting Online Lessons

Did you know more online lessons are happening now than ever before? Online lessons are quickly becoming one of the most convenient and effective ways to learn! You’ll notice more prominent offerings for online lessons throughout the TakeLessons experience. If you don’t already offer online lessons for the subjects you teach, we highly recommend updating your location settings to offer lessons online in addition to local lessons. Why? Students love to learn from the comfort of their couch!

TakeLessons Online Lessons

 

Making You Look Good on Mobile
With so many people shopping for lessons on their phone, we gave your mobile profile a sweet new design to help prospective students engage with your profile easily. Booking lessons is just a tap away!
TakeLessons Mobile Profile

 

Keeping You In Step On the Go
Have you downloaded the TakeLessons app for iPhone? Click here to download from the App Store

When it comes to staying on top of marking attendance, scheduling students, tracking your earnings, and more, the TakeLessons App is the easiest way to tackle your to-do list on the go. If you’ve turned the Ask a Question feature on in your account, you can now read and respond to questions from prospective students through the TakeLessons app!

Haven’t heard of the Ask a Question feature? It’s an awesome new way to connect with potential students before they book lessons. Keep your eyes peeled for more updates about the Ask a Question feature coming your way in a few weeks!

TakeLessons Ask a Question Feature in the App

And there’s a lot more where that came from…

Check back here for more updates about your TakeLessons tools and don’t forget to chime in on the exclusive TakeLessons Partner Community on Facebook. Not a member? Request to join now!

Get Lost in Indie Band Decker’s Emotional Psychedelic Folk

Decker Interview

Indie-folk group Decker is a band on the move. When I called guitarist and singer Brandon Decker for an interview, he was signing the paperwork for a brand new van for the band.

“I think it’s the nicest vehicle I’ve ever owned. It’s gonna be very nice to not have to worry about being stranded roadside.” Decker admitted.

And with their busy touring schedule, Decker needs reliable transportation now more than ever. I chatted with Decker about his musical roots, his prolific songwriting, and the Wu Tang references on his new album Patsy.

TL: How did you get started in music?

BD: My mom had great music taste and I grew up listening to vinyl records of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Neil Young, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys and stuff like that. I liked rock and roll at a young age and I enjoyed singing.

So how it all came together for me is that I’ve always enjoyed emotively singing music and I also enjoyed writing, more so just words, like prose and poetry and short stories. I started playing guitar in my late teens, just covers.

I went through a really profoundly dark time in my mid-twenties, and when I came out of that I just wanted to write songs and I’ve been trying to write songs ever since.

You have written a lot of songs since then, in fact you have a few albums under your belt. What’s your process like when you’re creating an album and has it changed since you started out?

I’ve done five albums in the last six years, and I don’t know if I have a process. I don’t mean to sound mysterious or something. I feel like my songs really come out of the ether. I never know when it’s gonna happen.

I found that all my records tend to happen in these flurries. The pattern that I’ve gotten into is you make an album and it’s exhausting and all encompassing. You go and you tour it for some length of time. Then the touring ends and you just start writing another one.

All of a sudden I’ll have this set of songs and go, “this is it”, and start recording. I don’t know what’ll happen.

I’ve been going so hard for so long I haven’t been able to write lately. It’s really left-brain, right-brain. Being an artist of our stature which is so working-class and do it ourself, it requires a lot of right-brain functioning just to keep the wheels in motion.

But I’m looking forward to when this phase settles down for our most recent album that I feel really proud of and we worked really hard on, I’m looking forward to not worrying about that stuff and being musical and artistic again instead of working.

Yeah, you have to be a songwriter, a bandleader, a marketer, a business-person…

Oh I wear many hats!

Of all those hats, it’s clear to me that you’re a great songwriter, plus you have some wonderful musicians in your band with you as well. How do you choose the people you work with?

The number one requirement is that they have a pulse [laughs]. Kidding!

They have to be able to put up with me. I tend to be in my own world sometimes. Really sensitive artists don’t do well with me.

But I feel like I’ve got a very talented group of musicians playing with me and they’ve all been playing with me a few years, with the exception of one singer who just joined us.

My bass player is classically trained. The keyboard player and pianist is classically trained. She also teaches a ton of lessons and has her own studio. Same with my drummer, he is a percussionist and it’s his life, he teaches a lot (Ed. note: Decker’s drummer Henri B. teaches drums, guitar, and songwriting with TakeLessons in Phoenix).

I think it’s so many things, fate, destiny, and you wind up meeting these people. It’s just like how you don’t choose your family. When you’re playing in a band with people they end up kind of becoming your family.

So you have a new album, Patsy, out now, and a new video coming out soon. I’m hearing a lot of gospel, folk, and soul, but also some Wu Tang references? Can you talk about that a little bit?

I have this longtime friend and we always enjoyed our inside jokes, and definitely had a shared enthusiasm for ODB.

One of the first songs written on the record, one of the more gospel sounding songs, was inspired by all these people where I live talking about me that I didn’t even know, and I kinda started writing this song, and I don’t even know how the ODB thing happened. It just happened.

Obviously ODB is not a role model for life.

But I feel like there’s one thing about him, if you watch him, he didn’t give a shit about much of anything. He was just in his own world. I felt like paying tribute to how necessary that is for all of us aspiring to put ourselves out there whether it’s artistically or anything. It’s the way you have to learn to live.

I’ve seen your music described as psychedelic desert folk, and you live in Sedona which is a really special place. Are you really inspired by locations, nature, and where you live?

I think so. I love Sedona. I’m standing out in front of my house right now and I live under two mountains that I like to climb a lot, I live right by the trailheads.

When I moved here in 2008, I don’t think I would have considered myself so easily inspired by nature or anything, but I definitely believe that the lifestyle that is kind of fostered by living in this desert-mountain extremely unique place is.

I don’t know if I would say that it inspires me, but it’s fuel for my existence on a cellular level. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

You’re about to head out on the road again. What are you going to be listening to on this tour?

I don’t know the answer to that. I put out a post on Facebook asking for recommendations and I got a lot of suggestions to check out. I just heard of this singer Angel Olsen, she has a record out called Burn Your Fire For No Witness and I guarantee that that will be happening on tour frequently. On our last tour the album of choice was Kendrick Lamar. We like to keep a good mix.

Don’t miss Decker when they come to your town! Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or their website, and support independent artists.

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Matty Steinkamp

drummers

Drummers Stick Together: Drum Tips and Advice for Beginners

 

drummers

When you’re learning drums, sometimes you need some motivation to keep practicing and stick with it. In our Drummers Stick Together series, veteran drummers share their stories and offer their advice and wisdom for beginners…

Dallas Ybarra is the drummer for the Los Angeles-based band The Public Trust (@MichaelTRossi). He has been drumming for over 20 years. Here, Dallas shares how he got started drumming and what keeps him motivated to continue to develop his craft.

How long have you been playing drums? What made you get started?

I actually started on guitar at age eight, then started learning drums when I was nine. My little brother started on drums first, and after watching how much fun he was having and learning a bit about the beats, I tried it out for a bit and decided to switch.

Twenty years later, here I am!

As a beginner, how often did you practice? What was challenging for you when you first started?

Hmm practice… in the early stages I mostly found myself in musical environments. Most of my time was spent playing the basic beats with the school jazz and concert bands, or in the garage with my buddy on guitar.

When I was by myself, I would be in my parents garage, always learning new and more complex beats.

The most challenging thing was playing with other new, beginner musicians, and trying to stay in time!

What do you love most about playing drums?

It’s an evolving relationship with the drums. First it was just banging on stuff, then it was jamming with my friends making music.

After years of playing, I would have to say the underlying layers of rhythm are the part I love most.

Whether it’s within my own drum grooves, or the different layers of rhythm between the instruments and vocals, it always makes me smile when we all find our voice in the groove.

Which musicians inspire you, and why?

I’ve found a ton of inspiration from my band mates; we always try to push each other to the next level. My little brother Dustin was my original inspiration to start drumming. My little sister Darian is killing it on the piano as I write, and I remember when she just started learning. 10 years later, she runs up and down the piano like a mad scientist. She is currently working on “Sonata Pathetique” by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Another source of inspiration came from a book written by one of my favorite bass players, Victor Wooten. It’s called “The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music.”

The list is always growing when it comes to inspiration. I’ve found inspiration can come from any aspect of music and life. Some from showmanship guys like Frank Zappa and Steve Vai and their variety of band mates. Other inspirations come from high-energy bands like Pantera, Meshuggah, or IWrestledABearOnce.

I started out learning how to play Nirvana, Green Day, and Metallica songs then moved on to more complex music. Then there are some amazing players that posses a sweet finesse on their instruments, guys like Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Gadd, Bela Fleck, Jason Becker, and Jaco Pastorius.

As a member of a band, the drummer is looked to as the time keeper. How do you learn to take on this role?

Time keeping is definitely important. Over the years I’ve found it to be a split job between the bassist and drummer. There’s a time and place for “the shred” as opposed to keeping time, but it all should be within balance and the mood of the song.

An example would be a slow ballad. At the climax of the song, you wouldn’t play a bunch of fast notes across your 10-piece kit (but if the composer wants it then of course), but rather you would play more of a dynamic increase and more swelling of the cymbals, and that could be considered your “shred” for that particular song.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to learn to play drums?

Just remember that the end result is music. Playing songs and studying things like technique, rudiments, and theory is important, but these things are learned over time. Just think of those as adding a fresh take on your vocabulary; it will help you articulate your desired voice.

What about advice for drummers who want to join a band?

Know your passion, play what you love as it will keep you inspired. Try to be a musically diverse drummer, jam with as many people as possible and in as many genres as possible. It will help you to develop your voice in the long run.

If you’re looking to start a band, definitely start with friends. You already have the most fun with them anyway, might as well keep it fun!


drummers

I hope my story can help not only drummers, but all musicians keep up the search for inspiration, fresh  talent, and to have open ears to experiment and constantly evolve their musicianship!

Want to hear Dallas and his band mates in action? Listen to The Public Trust online.

 


 

 Looking for more inspiration? Check out the personal stories in our Drummers Stick Together series!

Ready to turn your drumming dreams into reality? Sign up for lessons with a private drum instructor today! 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

Korean food blogs

Bring Your Appetite: The Top 9 Korean Food Blogs

Korean food blogs

Learning a new language isn’t just about memorizing grammar rules, it’s also about tickling your taste buds and sampling some amazing new foods. So as you’re taking Korean lessons, let these Korean food blogs be your guide as you treat yourself to some delightful Korean delicacies.

Koreans are foodies, and it shows in their diverse cuisine. It’s an excellent food culture to explore, and it features everything from traditional dishes, Korean BBQ, and street food favorites like the giant ice cream cone.

When you visit Korea,  you will have all sorts of new foods to explore. But you don’t need to wait until you visit Korea to try the delicious food. These 10 Korean food blogs will teach you everything you need to know about Korean food, and teach you how to make some of the delicious dishes at home.

1. Seoul Eats

best Korean food blogs

Find interviews, restaurant reviews, travel tales, and more on this delightful blog written by Daniel Gray.

Daniel guides you through the more traditional customs, teaches you to eat “abnormal delicacies,” and gives you information about wonderful culinary tours in Korea, including his own.

2. ZenKimchi

Korean food blogs

ZenKimchi has become a monster of a resource. The website has all the information you need on the best, highly-rated food tours.

The journal also provides the ultimate restaurant guide, a food calendar, and an extensive list of places to find cheap eats.

3. My Korean Kitchen

Korean food blogs

 

Check out My Korean Kitchen to see Sue’s amazing photography as she gives you a visual tour of the food of Korea.

Find recipes, products, restaurant reviews, and tips for living in Korea.

4. Seoul in the City

korean food blogs

Seoul in the City is an adventure to find Korean food (and other cuisines) in a variety of cities. Seoul is on the list, but when you’re in the states, there are some solid restaurant recommendations as well.

It’s a lovely blog about a girl who loves Asian food, with a strong focus on the best in Korean cuisine.

5. Seoulistic

Korean food blogs

You’ll love Seoulistic for many reasons. Sure, you can find plenty of info on where to eat and unique food spots in Korea, but you’ll also find lots of fun articles about Korean culture.

6. Aeri’s Kitchen

Korean food blogs

Aeri loves to cook. She’ll introduce you to some delicious Korean foods, and she’ll even teach you a little Korean.

With Aeri’s guidance, and her warm personality, you will learn about lots of different Korean foods, and you’ll even learn how to make some of the dishes on your own.

7. Easy Korean Food

easy-korean-food

With easy-to-follow recipes, Easy Korean Food lets you enjoy delicious Korean dishes whenever you want.

Whether you’re looking for a Korean BBQ recipe or a decadent dessert, learn to make signature Korean dishes in your own kitchen at home.

8. Maangchi

Korean food blogs

Maangchi developed a community of dedicated Korean food lovers. Find information about cooking and preparing Korean food, and participate in an active forum of restaurant owners, novice and professional chefs, and foodies from around the world.

9. EatYourKimchi

Korean food blogs

Bloggers Simon and Martina will entertain you with their videos that document their adventures in Korea.

Learn about traveling in Korea, the Korean culture and lifestyle, and of course, the food!


The food of Korea is as diverse as the culture. Exploring Korean food is the most flavorful way to learn the language, customs, and all about the people who live in Korea. Check out these Korean food blogs to discover an array of delightful dishes and delicacies.

Which Korean dishes are your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

Ready to start Korean lessons? Sign up for lessons with a Korean teacher near you! 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Germany

moving to germany

Are you moving to Germany for a job, a significant other, or simply a change of scenery? Whatever the reason, moving to Germany—or any foreign country for that matter—is downright terrifying.

Not only are you away from your closest friends and family, but you’re living in a country you know little about.

Sure you’ve read all the travel books and even learned some German, but nothing can prepare you for the adventure in which you’re about to embark.

Lucky for you, we’ve interviewed several expats who’ve made the brave move to Germany and asked them what they wish someone would have told them before moving to Germany.

Here’s the helpful advice they had to share.

1. Learn the Language Beforehand

moving to germany

“In Germany, German is taught German to German, unless you get a private tutor. I would advise taking a course in your own country to get a base,” says Adriana Kroeller of Changing Plate.

There are many different ways in which you can learn German, whether you choose in-person or online lessons. Whichever you choose, it’s important that you learn some basic German before your big move to help smooth the transition.

2. Everyone Rides a Bike

moving to germany

In Germany, the preferred mode of transportation is biking. In fact, Germany ranked amongst the top five EU countries where people cycle most, according to a survey. When asked what mode of transportation they use most often, 8% of the 27,000 people surveyed in the 28 EU Member States answered ‘bicycle.’

Each town, city, and state has different laws concerning bicycles, and laws are strictly enforced. So before moving to Germany, it’s might be a good idea to brush up on the biking laws in the area in which you’ll be moving.

3. Most German Stereotypes Aren’t True

moving to germany

“Despite their reputations for being cold, Germans are usually very helpful. You just have to ask.  I was very shy when I first arrived, and I think that made things much more difficult,” says Jennifer of American Faultier.

While Germans aren’t ones for small-talk, they are actually quite friendly and willing to help. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask questions—no matter how mundane they may seem.

4. Kiss Your Sunday Routine Goodbye

moving to germany

In the U.S., people will spend their Sundays checking off the many tasks on their to-do lists, such as mowing the lawn, vacuuming the house, and going grocery shopping.

In Germany, Sundays are Ruhetag or “day of rest.” Neighbors are expected to keep quiet and all grocery and other retail stores are closed with the exception of churches, Biergartens, and gas stations.

5. Learning German Isn’t as Easy as You Think

moving to germany

“I think the one thing that would’ve saved me a lot of tears and frustration is if I had realized that stumbling your way through basic social interactions in German is an expat rite of passage. Fluency will take a lot longer than you think,” says Caitlin Travis of Life as an Auslander.

“In my experience, Germans know how hard their language is and they’re more than happy to slow down, listen patiently, and help you fix all your grammatical mistakes. They appreciate your effort.”

6. Start Your Search for Accommodations Early

moving to germany

It can be difficult to find inexpensive accommodations throughout Germany, especially in the major cities like Munich.

“There are lots of things that surprised me about moving to Munich, for one it’s not at all easy to find somewhere to live, it can take months.  If you are moving here with a company life’s a lot easier if you find a relocation agent beforehand,” said Emma of A Bavarian Sojourn.

“Munich is popular for a reason, it’s a great place to work, but even better to live.  Where else can you find a city with so much on its doorstep?”

So, before moving to Germany it’s important to start your search early on. If you want to be extra cautious, you might even want to find accommodation before you arrive in Germany.

7. Germans Can Be Very Direct

moving to germany

“There are tons of things I wish I knew before I moved to Germany. The biggest, however, would have to be researching a bit more about Germans themselves. There are a lot of ways Germans carry themselves and act, which for me was a bit shocking in the beginning. For example, almost all Germans are very direct when speaking with or about something/someone,” said Derek of The Migrant Expats.

“See we Americans are raised in a culture filled with sugar-coated statements that only hint at the truth, especially when talking about something we dislike. The Germans are the complete opposite. This isn’t to say Germans are intentionally mean. Rather quite the contrary. Being unabashedly direct is considered polite and is just a cultural difference. I still find myself getting offended every now and again, but honestly, I’ve gotten used to it…for the most part.”

 8. Germans Take Recycling Very Seriously

moving to germany

Germany is Europe’s leader in all things green. Residents are very vigilant about recycling their trash—so much so that they might give you a dirty look if they catch you placing a plastic bottle in the wrong bin.

There are tons of recycling rules that can be confusing for newbie recyclers to understand. So be sure to acquaint yourself with the all of the guidelines. And when in doubt, just ask your next door neighbor!

9. The Paperwork

moving to germany

“I wish I’d known more about the bureaucratic process that one needs to follow upon moving to Germany. I naively thought that once my visa was approved, that’s all I’d need to do. I had no clue about having to register your address with the bürgeramt to get the official paper that allows you to open a bank account, get a cell phone contract etc.,” said Cheryl Howard of cherylhoward.com.

“I’d recommend that anyone who’s moving to Germany read up in advance on how to go about doing this. It may seem overwhelming if you don’t know any German, but that’s why learning German before you get here comes in handy.”

10. Germans Are Proud of Their Culture

moving to germany

Whether they’re from Munich, Berlin, or Hamburg, Germans are extremely proud of what region they come from and uphold long-time traditions.

“What’s one last thing you should know that I perhaps love about this area the most?  How proud Bavarians are of their traditions, much more so than we Brits,” said Emma.

“Here everything is celebrated from bringing the cows down from the mountains at the end of the summer, the bier, the harvests, spring, and of course the glorious Christmas markets. And a lot of the time they dress up to celebrate – tracht isn’t just worn for Oktoberfest!”

Moving to Germany–or any foreign country–can be extremely stressful. Follow the advice above to help make your move less strenuous and more enjoyable.

Have you moved to Germany? If so, share your best advice for moving to Germany below.

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

One Thing Guitarists Must Know About Chords (But Most Probably Don’t)

One Thing Guitarists Must Know About Chords (But Most Probably Don't)

Chords are the foundation of all of those guitar riffs you love so much. Here, guitar teacher Kirk R. walks you through the basics of guitar chords and the importance of knowing how they’re constructed…

Guitar is an amazing instrument, not only because of all that it can do, but also because of how great it can sound when not doing much at all. One of the ways that guitar is most often heard is by strumming the standard chords that beginner guitarists learn.

However, I often interact with guitarists who don’t realize how many other possibilities exist on the instrument. Today, we’re going to look at just one small idea that you can use to stretch basic chords and better understand why we play the chord shapes that we do.

What Does It Mean When We See a Chord Symbol?

Let’s start with a very basic question: what is a chord? A chord is three or more different notes played together. That means that technically a power chord is not a chord at all, because there are only two different notes…but they sound good, so let’s keep using them!

Notice that there was no mention of strings, frets, or guitar in that definition? That’s because when we play a G chord on the guitar, we’re playing the same three notes as when a G chord is played on a piano, by an orchestra, or in production software. 

Let’s take a look at this three note chord idea. If you play a G chord on your guitar like this:

1 G Chord

You’re playing (from low to high) G-B-D-G-B-G. Yes, despite all that stretching and playing all six strings, you end up with just three notes! So when the bass in a band plays a B, the lead singer sings a G, and the tuba player plays a D, what chord do you hear?

That’s right, a G chord!

What does that mean for us guitarists? If I’m noodling my way up the neck and then quickly have to play a G chord, jumping all the way down to the 3rd fret might not be an option. However, if I can find some combination of G, B, and D near where I’m already at, I don’t need to. How about something like this:

2 G Chord

There are tons of options that open up when you realize that every time you see a G printed over the lyrics, you don’t have to do the same chord. Of course, the usual G shape wouldn’t get used so much if we didn’t like the sound, so if it’s convenient to get to and you like the sound, use it by all means!

How to Build Guitar Chords

Now that you know a little bit about how a chord works, let’s talk about how we build chords from scratch. This can get a little complicated, but stick with me – I’ll keep it simple to begin with.

The usual major and minor chords (if it’s just a letter without an “m,” it’s major) are built of just three notes like we’ve seen. Notice that in the G chord they’re also just two letters apart:

G B D E F G

Luckily, this pattern works for all chords within a key. Let’s take a look at the key of C, so we don’t have to worry about sharps or flats. So what notes would we use to build a C chord? Let’s take a look:

C E G A B C

So we now have our three notes, C, E and G for the C chord that we can play anywhere on the guitar. If we want to play an Am chord along with it, we can use the same pattern:

C D E F G A C 

…uh oh, we ran out of letters. Let’s just rearrange a little bit:

F G A C E 

So now we end up with A, C, and E to play anywhere we like.

Here are a few examples of different sounds you can get from the Am chord:

A Chords

What Difference Does It Make?

Hopefully you can now add a little extra flair to some songs in which the guitar part might have seemed a little boring at first glance. Perhaps you’ve run into this chord progression before:

C G Am G C

Here are a few ways that I might have improvised the chord voicings (depending on style and context) if I were to see a progression like this. Some are faster than others, but they’re all fairly simple if you know the basics of how to build chords on the guitar.

Below are a few options for C and G chords that you could use in this progression. Remember the point isn’t so much to memorize all the shapes, but to understand how these chords work so that you can find the notes of the chord anywhere that you need them.

C Chords

 

Now it’s your turn to take a few minutes, go back to a song that you thought sounded too boring, and add some pizzazz! Chords are so easy and versatile that you can transform any song.

If you have questions after reading this, or you’re not sure where to go next, click on the “Ask A Question” button on my profile!

 

Kirk RPost Author: Kirk R.
Kirk is a classical, bass, and acoustic guitar instructor in Denver, CO. He earned a bachelors of music in Guitar performance at The College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and he is currently pursuing a masters degree in performance.  Learn more about Kirk here!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

 

Tabs and Videos; How to play Acoustic Guitar like John Mayer

Video Lessons: How to play Acoustic Guitar like John Mayer

Tabs and Videos; How to play Acoustic Guitar like John Mayer

Learn how to play acoustic guitar like John Mayer in these video lessons from guitar teacher Jonathan B.

John Mayer has been called one of the new “Guitar Gods.” Claiming Stevie Ray Vaughn as one of his biggest childhood heroes, the blues and jazz influence on his pop style has given him more than just a niche in the radio market.

It’s also made him able to influence millions of guitarists with his playing style and techniques. He continues to release a steady stream of new music and fans continue to take interest in his songwriting as well as his guitar techniques.

John Mayer is equally well known for his electric and acoustic guitar styles; in this article we will focus more on the acoustic. There are several tricky picking hand techniques he uses which throw many would-be cover artists off the trail.

A few of his most popular songs in guitar circles are “Stop This Train”, “Who Says”, “Neon”, “The Heart of Life”, “Clarity”, and “Your Body is a Wonderland”. Although these songs have a few notable techniques in them, we’re going to focus on just one in this article.

The Pluck and Chuck/Pick and Flick Technique

Notorious for confusing guitarists for the last several decades, this technique involves a basic reversal of hand mechanics. You must learn to ‘flick’ the pointer or middle finger and ‘slap’ with the thumb at the same time.

The thumb does not play a note; it simply pushes the string into the fretboard and plants itself there. This creates a percussive effect that imitates the snare drum backbeat. Mayer’s sound is heavily influenced by music with a strong groove, so this technique lets you integrate softer fingerpicking with soulful rhythmic styles without any hitches.

This video has a detailed introduction to chuck/flick techniques, with the most detailed explanations starting at 4:33.

When you start to get the basic stroke to sound good, progress to the following exercises.

They are very simple but they contain the most essential set of motions needed for pluck and chuck songs. When you feel you need a variation or you want to explore a bit, try improvising with these patterns over some chords or making up a solo using the thumb to create a rhythmic drone and playing melodies with the finger plucks and chucks.

Chucks are a tricky technique that take some time to adjust to. It’s usually wise to start learning a song that doesn’t require too many flicks on top of the thumb slaps.

“Clarity” is a perfect example of this, and the main riff to the song is an excellent starting point as you tune your hand position to accommodate the new role of the thumb in your playing.

How to Play “Clarity” by John Mayer

The trickiest basic technique to learn is the ‘single chuck.’ John Mayer’s guitar style uses a lot of individually picked notes that coincide with thumb slaps, so this technique is very important. Aside from basic issues of hand position and accuracy, you have to also learn to mix different fingers into patterns of both plucking and chucking.

Mayer has a strong tendency to do all the flicking with just his index finger, although there are at least a few of his patterns that probably also need to be flicked with the middle finger since the string crossings would be very awkward otherwise.

A good pattern to start with is the opening riff to “Stop This Train.”

How to Play “Stop This Train” by John Mayer

As you start to get this down, it’s good to reach for something a little more adventurous. The opening riff to “The Heart of Life” requires you to pick out a specific melody, which requires you to cross a lot of strings and you chuck out individual notes. Here’s the tab for that passage.

How to Play “The Heart of Life” by John Mayer

Mastering this song is an excellent way to develop pluck and chuck technique. Once you’ve completed this song, you’re likely to find that you can improvise melodies over various bass notes, provided that you’ve already learned a little about improvisation.

One of the best ways to capitalize on your newfound skill is to try to write or improvise on your own changes in the style of “The Heart of Life” and “Stop This Train.”

The first time most guitarists attempt a John Mayer acoustic song they stumble on this technique. Most western string players learn to ‘pluck’ or ‘pick’ strings, where Chinese Pipa and Indian Sitar players prefer to ‘chuck’ or ‘flick’ the strings.

It’s a fundamentally different stroke than what most guitarists are used to, so learning it often makes players feel like a complete beginner.

Never fear, your guitar teacher will be happy to help you, and more and more guitarists are tackling this technique as time goes by, and the number of songs that use it has increased dramatically in recent years.

 

Jonathan BPost Author: Jonathan B.
Jonathan B. is a guitar instructor, Temple University Music Theory graduate, and YouTube creator living in State College, PA. Learn more about Jonathan here!

Photo by Do512

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

 

The F Chord: Guitar Chord Misconceptions and Beginner Tips

The F Chord on the Guitar

If you follow our blog, then you’ve already seen the best tips and tricks for learning guitar chords, but what about playing the infamous F chord on guitar? In this blog post, we’ll address common myths about the F chord and give you some helpful advice that will make playing it more easy.

Misconceptions About the F Chord

The six-string F chord is one of the hardest standard chord shape to play on the guitar. When many people try to play the F chord on guitar (and often succeed) it’s with far too much struggle and effort than is actually necessary. Even extremely influential guitarists can have a hard time with barre chords.

There are plenty of guitarists who can play the F chord without keeping the following points in mind, but for everyone else, here are a few misconceptions to watch out for as you practice F chords (and many other six-string barre chords).


F Chord question about barres

1. Barre chords are too hard. Can’t I just play a different F shape?

This is a good point, and to be honest, sometimes you shouldn’t bother with all six strings. Maybe three or four notes are plenty for the sound you’re looking for.

But there are other times that you really need a full six-string sound, or perhaps you need the low F to keep the bassline across the chords shaped the way you want.

In case you don’t want or need all six strings, below are a couple other options. Included are the six-string F shape, two Fs with fewer strings, and a common chord that is often played when guitarists don’t want to play the full F chord.

Beware, this last example is actually an Fmaj7 chord (notice the open E on the first string). 

F Chord 1 F Chord 2 F Chord 3 F Chord 4


F Chord question about finger position

2) Do I have to press down all six strings with one finger?

No. This is where many people struggle when first learning the F chord. If you look carefully at the chart above, you’ll notice that there are only three strings with dots on the first fret.

This means that you can hold down the low F (first fret, sixth string) with the tip of your index, and curve your finger slightly above the center strings and press the two highest strings with the base of your curved index finger. You only have to press down half the number of strings as most people think! It may take some time practicing but it will save you a lot of energy. 

Once this technique is mastered, it’s possible to actually cover all six strings gently (muting them all) and then while strumming, isolate specific strings to press down one at a time with the same finger position muting the rest. It sounds tricky, but it can definitely be done!


F Chord question

3) If I can’t make all the notes play, I should just squeeze the neck more, right?

Another big misconception among guitarists is that barre chords, like the F chord, require lots of pressure from the thumb pressing forward on the neck. This often works, but takes much more energy than players usually realize.

Because of this, after a few measures of a barre, beginning guitarists often complain of pain or cramping in the thumb or wrist.

The pressure you put on the back of the neck works against your fingers pressing on the strings. Because of our natural reflexes, our body tells our fingers to press extra hard, so the notes tend to ring but with lots of extra work on our part.

Resist this urge when practicing and playing the F chord. Many guitarists can play barres without their thumb touching the neck at all! 

Conclusion

Now that we’ve proved wrong some of the common myths about the F chord, have fun practicing it! Keep in mind that it will take a lot of time and effort to comfortably play the F chord without thinking about it too much. A good guitar teacher can show you every variation of the F chord, so if you have any problems with the normal F chord, you’ll be set up for success.

If you’re just starting out as a guitar player, check out the 5 basic guitar chords for beginners. Share about your previous experiences with the F chord and other barre chords in the comments below!

Kirk RPost Author: Kirk R.
Kirk is a classical, bass, and acoustic guitar instructor in Denver, CO. He earned a bachelors of music in Guitar Performance at The College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and he is currently pursuing a masters degree in performance.  Learn more about Kirk here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

One Simple Thing That Will Make Your Guitar Solos Amazing

How to Use Phrasing to Make Your Guitar Solos Amazing

It takes a lot of skill to stand out as a guitarist. Here, guitar teacher Bernard M. shows you exactly what it takes to pull off an amazing solo and how you should approach phrasing…

You may or may not be ready to play a guitar solo, but it’s good to know what elements go into one. What is it that makes a great guitar solo? While there are many ways to answer this question, there is one crucial element that often goes overlooked by even the most experienced players: phrasing.

Phrasing is the way in which a musician or composer combines notes to create a musical sentence, or phrase. Although it can be very subtle, it often makes the difference between a memorable solo and “note soup.” What does this mean for you guitarists? Play less, leave space.

Want to Impress? Play Less! How to Use Phrasing to Make Your Guitar Solos Amazing

Let your ears lead the way, not your fingers.

Many musicians suffer from the misconception that faster, more technical playing is somehow better and more “musical.” This can be very discouraging to new players, who have trouble competing with their more experienced peers. Never fear! Creativity and imagination are what make great music, and this is what phrasing is all about.

Check out these two samples to hear the difference between a busy solo and one that uses creative phrasing.

The Problem: A Run-On

Example B Full

Not bad at all, but can you hum a bar or two of that solo? Does any part of it stick in your memory? The problem with this solo is that it’s practically one long phrase. Like a run-on sentence, it’s difficult to follow and needs to be broken up!

In this next sample, I add space and punctuation to the previous solo, creating different musical phrases.

The Solution: Adding Space

Example A Full

By simply adding space to create distinct phrases, I have made the solo much more memorable and effective. Each phrase has room to breathe before moving on to the next. By playing less, the notes that are played gain much more power, adding strength to the solo as a whole.

Hopefully, by now I’ve convinced you to focus on your phrasing the next time you go to take a solo. This, however, is easier said than done. Phrasing is very elusive and intangible.

It has a closer link to creativity than technique, and therefore, is difficult to learn or teach methodically. Instead, it’s something that constantly develops as you grow more experienced and more tasteful. Here are few suggestions to help you develop your phrasing and taste.

Want to Impress? Play Less! How to Use Phrasing to Make Your Guitar Solos Amazing

Take your time.

This is perhaps one of simplest yet most profound suggestions on how to improve your soloing. Being comfortable and confident while playing allows you to sound your best. If you try to fill your solo with every last lick you can conjure up, you will very likely end up feeling rushed, nervous, and stumbling through the solo.

Slow down! Savor the solo and don’t overthink it. When you relax and give yourself plenty of time, it allows your creative instincts to take the wheel. Some great ways to leave yourself this room to breathe include long, expressive bends, sustained notes with some tasty vibrato, and even simple rests.

Want to Impress? Play Less! How to Use Phrasing to Make Your Guitar Solos Amazing

Break it up.

Even the most creative players can fall into the trap of putting their fingers on auto-pilot, aimlessly playing up and down familiar scales in monotonous eight notes or triplet lines. One of the best ways to combat this common ailment is to break up the patterns.

Playing a long descending eighth note line? Throw a rest or two in there to punctuate your phrase. This can be a very powerful move and make an otherwise boring lick fresh and interesting.

Want to Impress? Play Less! How to Use Phrasing to Make Your Guitar Solos Amazing

Think like a drummer.

We guitar players spend a lot of time thinking about chords, scales, arpeggios, and intervals. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, we sometimes forget about something just as, if not more, important; rhythm.

Thinking about what you are playing rhythmically is at the core of phrasing. What are you doing on the third beat of the measure, or the “& of 2?” What beats do you want to highlight or downplay? Do you want to play along with the beat, or use syncopation to emphasize unexpected accents?

This might seem overwhelming to players who are not used to thinking this way, so I will refer to my advice above; take your time, play what you are comfortable playing and above all, follow your creative instincts.

Want to Impress? Play Less! How to Use Phrasing to Make Your Guitar Solos Amazing

Emulate the experts.

My final piece of advice is to study the players that inspire you the most. How do they use phrasing in their solos?

Learn your favorite guitar solos, note for note, and study them closely. This is a great way to pick up the playing habits of your heroes and start developing your own individual sound.

Studying the solos of players like David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, or Derek Trucks, who have a keen sense of phrasing, will help you make even the simplest licks powerful, expressive and inspiring. Some of my favorite songs to play are classic rock guitar solos. They feel good and they sound incredible.

As always, make sure you set aside time for plenty of practice. Try to not go a day without playing for 15 minutes. You will start to see significant progress in just a couple of weeks!

 

Bernard M TakeLessons.com Teacher Post Author: Bernard M.
Bernard M. is a guitar and songwriting instructor in Philadelphia, PA. He teaches lessons online and will travel to his students. Learn more about Bernard here!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

 

Quiz: What Should You Write Your Next Song About?

guitar man1
Writing songs is hard enough work without having to deal with songwriters’ block! To help you find inspiration for your next song, we created this easy personality quiz.

Take the quiz and find out what your next hit single will be about…

For more songwriting tips and songwriting prompts, check out our infographic guide 25 Ways to Break Free from Songwriters’ Block! Share your songwriting ideas, struggles, triumphs, and questions in the comments below.

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource