Ear Training Exercises: 7 Ideas for Guitar Players

If you haven’t heard yet, The Black Keys are taking the music industry by storm – their newest album El Camino is out this week, and they put on an awesome performance on SNL over the weekend.  And the best part?  This is just pure, straight-up rock and roll.  With rock music suffering within the music industry, this may be just what the genre needs to rise to the top again.

As for you guitarists out there: Although it’s possible to learn a few John Mayer jams on the guitar and not even touch a music theory book, there is one thing that will bring your playing from just ok to legendary.  And you already have all the tools you need for it: your ears!  If you’d like to take your guitar playing to the next level, start working on ear training.  After all, music is all about what goes in your ear – and you’ll notice it comes much easier when you recognize things like intervals, pitches and chords.  Once you’ve learned how to put what you hear in your head onto paper, the possibilities are endless.

There are several ways to help with your aural skills – here, Tom Hess over at MusicianTutorials.com, lists a few things to practice that will you help you along your way:

1. Turn on the radio and transcribe (figure out by ear) songs, chords, melodies, solos, etc. using your guitar.

2. Similar to above, try transcribing without using your instrument.  Write the music down on paper and then when you think you have it as close to accurate as you can get it, check your work with your guitar. Notice what errors you made and look to see if a pattern forms in your errors. For example, if you realize that you always think that minor chords sound like major chords, then you can see that this is something you will need to focus your practice time on.

3. Sing (yes, out loud) scales. Start with singing the major scale, later add the natural minor scale, harmonic minor scale, pentatonic scale, blues scale, etc.

4. Sing intervals.

5. Sing arpeggios – start with major triads and then move on to minor triads.

6. Improvise melodies, solos, etc. over chords. This is great thing to do anyway.

7. Record yourself playing several different chords (just major and minor triads for now). Try not to repeat the same chord very often. Then, play back your recording and try to identify whether the chords you hear are major or minor.

Just as your fingers need to learn the chords, your ear needs practice too – so don’t give up!  Pretty soon you’ll be able to pick out chords and intervals as you’re listening to your favorite songs, which will make picking up the guitar and jamming that much easier.  While it may not be the most fun thing to work on, it will make you that well-rounded musician everyone hopes to be. 

Want personalized training?  A private guitar teacher can always help.  Search for teachers near you here.

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Image Courtesy of http://www.mcgill.ca/conservatory/courses/theory/

Do You Have The Right Strings On Your Guitar?

Each year the CMT honors country music stars at their Artists of the Year celebration – 2011’s honorees included Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney.  Before they were stars, however, they had to work up their guitar skills from the very beginning.

Of course, if you’d like to be the next musician in line for country stardom, you’ll need to keep your guitar at your side.  Ideally, you should have already found the perfect guitar (or even better, maybe one of these.) Perhaps you’ve made a list of your all-time favorite songs that you want to learn, and you’ve written down your goals. But there’s one more thing you need to consider: what type of guitar strings are best for you? The quality of your strings can affect your guitar’s resonance and tone, impact your speed as a player, as well as make a different in your ability to finger pick – especially as a beginner.

We recommend speaking to your guitar teacher, who can give you recommendations specifically for your skill level and guitar type, and who will know the best place in town to purchase them.  In the meantime, here’s a great article from Gibson about choosing guitar strings to check out:

If you’re an acoustic player…

Fade to Bleak: Since there are no pickups or amps involved in acoustic guitar playing, string composition – which affects how a string responds to being struck and the retention of tonal qualities – is particularly important for acoustic guitars. Bronze, phosphor bronze and coated strings tends to be the preferred varieties, ascending in price. Bronze strings start out the brightest, but lose their high voices relatively quickly. Phosphor bronze offers a darker tone, but still with a clear, ringing top and the phosphor allows the strings to produce their optimum sound longer. On acoustic guitars, coated strings trade a longer life for less brightness, but good warmth and presence.

– Lighten Up: Typically, heavier strings project more natural sound when struck, but for most live performers it’s practical to have an acoustic guitar with a pick-up for plug-and-play situations. Having a pickup in an acoustic guitar allows for the use of lighter gauge strings. Some acoustic guitars even respond well to slinky electric sets, like .10s, providing electric-guitar-like playability without sacrificing the chime of acoustic tones.

– Them Changes: Since the strings on acoustic guitars play a much more important role in projecting volume and clarity than strings on an amplified electric guitar, consider changing acoustic guitar strings often to keep the instrument sounding its best. Remember to wipe down the strings after playing and check for string damaging fret wear. Both can prematurely end a guitar string’s life.

And if you’re plugged in…

– Fast Fingers: If speed’s the goal, most shred-heads prefer light gauge strings. They’re easy to bend and promote fast playing by offering less resistance to the fretting and picking hands. Since guitar strings are measured in thousandths of an inch, the typical recommended gauge for players planning to burn in standard tuning are .009s, available in every guitar shop.

– Sound Judgment: Consider the sonic characteristics of the various materials used in making electric strings. Stainless steel strings are the least glamorous, but offer plenty of bright bite and sustain. Pure nickel has a warm old-school sound, for vintage tones. And nickel-plated steel is a bit brighter than classic nickel and responds more adroitly to picking attack. Chrome guitar strings are typically the province of jazz players or blues artists who are looking for the kind of warm retro tones chiseled into history by the likes of Charlie Christian or swinging bluesman Aaron “T-Bone” Walker. And then there are coated strings – the most expensive and theoretically the longest lasting. They are, however, not really the best, sonically speaking. Coated strings tend to have less sustain. Also, their Teflon exterior surfaces are slippery, which might take some getting used to for particularly aggressive electric guitar players. And when the coatings wear off, they rust like any other string.

Heavy is as Heavy Does: For low hanging alternate tunings like open D or dropped D, consider a heavy string gauge – at least .11s, although Stevie Ray Vaughan, who kept his instrument turned down just a half-step, employed a set gauged .13 to .58. Thicker strings will maintain their tension better when they’re low-tuned, which makes for less fret noise and other undesirable distortion. Many players feel thicker strings make for better slide playing, too, since the strings resist going slack under the pressure of the slide. But that’s really a matter of feel and learning to control a slide more than a string thing.

Ultimately what feels the best under your fingers and sounds right should determine your strings – so play around and figure out what your preference is.

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How to be a Rockstar… On a Budget

If you haven’t already seen it, the Rolling Stone recently released their list of 100 Greatest Guitarists, and none other than Jimi Hendrix has topped the list.  We thought this was an excellent pick – his distinct style continues to inspire and influence musicians to this day.  Hendrix is a true rock legend – and if you want to get to that status someday, you’d better keep working hard.

Yesterday we discussed 7 must-read tips for planning your band’s tour as you start organizing and contacting promoters.  If you don’t have a lot of cash saved up, though, the idea of a tour may be much more difficult to conceptualize.  Luckily, it’s still possible to tour while on budget.  Just consider that a part of the adventure!  Here’s how to make it work:

1.  Consider how you will be traveling. For most bands this will mean long hours in a van of some type. Before you set out, have the vehicle serviced at your local shop. Have your mechanic change the oil, check the spark plugs and wires, air filters, radiator fluid, washer fluid, tire pressure, A/C operation and anything else that you can afford. This will help to uncover any issues before you find yourself on the side of the road outside Podunk, Iowa. Repairs on the road can be costly and interrupt your schedule.

2. Prior to leaving, determine how many hotel rooms that you’ll need and any special requirements. Do some homework and know how far you will travel each day and where you plan to spend the night. Check the Internet for hotels in the area and for special deals. Some of the discount websites can offer great savings, but be sure to read the fine print. Sometimes calling the local hotels directly will actually get you a better deal. Ask to speak with the general manager or reservations manager and explain your situation. If they can rent several rooms together, they might offer a lower price.  It never hurts to ask!

3. Food can also be a major expense if not handled correctly. In the van, bring along a large cooler and purchase drinks at the grocery store prior to departure. These are cheaper than at a gas station and will prevent some unnecessary stops.  For breakfast, consider the complimentary breakfast if your hotel offers one.  Also: sometimes before your show, the venue you’re at may provide food.  Always ask the venue owner about this possibility and you can even use it as a negotiation point.

4. Payments for gigs should be immediately deposited into a bank account. This can be done via an ATM or bank drive-through. Before you leave, check your bank for locations in the area of your gigs. This will prevent you from spending this money and limit you to the budget that you have prepared before departure.

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Hittin’ the Road with Your Band? 7 Must-Read Tips

We’re stoked to hear that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have announced an upcoming U.S. tour – especially since they haven’t hit the road here since 2007.  So far just six cities have been released, kicking off in Charlotte, NC, on January 25th – will you be part of the crowd?

If you’re in a band yourself, touring is a great way to get your name out there and of course, do what you love best – play music!  But it’s also something that takes a lot of planning.  Take a look at these 7 essential tips to consider before planning your tour!:

1. Make sure you have written at least one album. Not a couple of songs, an entire album; you’ll need a lot of songs for your shows. Plan on having enough material to play a 45 minute to hour-long set, plus one or two encore numbers (think positive – you want those encores!).

2. Save up money for a few months. Each person should have enough money to pay for his/her own food on the tour and the band should have some money to get started off with – you will need gas for the van, some upkeep money for oil, transmission, brake fluids, etc., and sundry money for sundry needs – maybe one of you will get a cold, and need some NyQuil or something. It’s best to be prepared with more than you think you’ll need.

3. Come up with a route or plan for your tour. Plan which town/city you would like to play on which days. Try to plot a route that makes sense, i.e., try to make a circle rather than playing in one city one day, traveling 150 miles to the next city the next day, and then doubling back to play back in that same starting city the day after that! Instead, try to book two shows in City #1, a day apart, and then travel on to City #2, 150 miles away. Make sure all of your band members are available during the entire time allotted.

4. Search for contacts in each city you hope to play in. The best contacts are local bands that play in the area and venues. Send the band/venue/promoters in each city a message asking them to check out your band and let them know that you are interested in playing a show with them/at their venue on such and such day. You can’t always get a show on the day you are looking for and sometimes have to change your route or find a different venue to play at.  Of course, make sure you aren’t playing on a night when another, bigger band is in the same town. (i.e. If you are an AC/DC tribute band don’t play in Denver on the same night that AC/DC is in Denver, because no one will go to your show).

5. Write up a contract for promoters and venues. You don’t need to hire a lawyer to write it up, just use common sense. Make a form with spaces for venue name, address, phone number, load-in time, sound check time, show time, and pay. This works both as a means of making sure you do not get screwed over, and also is useful as an itinerary. That way you have a contact sheet for every show and know when you need to be there, and other important information.  Send these contracts through e-mail or regular U.S. Mail to each venue or promoter you have arranged a show with. Have them fill it out and send it back. Keep all of the forms they send back for use as an itinerary and also to make sure things go the way they were agreed on.

6. Make up a flyer for each of the shows with the venue name, show date, address and what bands are playing as well as start time and send them to the venues/band/promoters you are playing with. Sometimes promoters or other bands do this for you and send the flyer to you. Either way, make sure it is up on your MySpace and website, if you have one. If you’ll be playing a large number of dates, you may want to make a template poster with a big blank spot to write in the date, time, location, and cover. Make sure your website is on the flyer, so you don’t have to write it out.

7. Get merch made and CDs pressed. If you only have a demo or a three song “EP” you can still get them pressed and labeled packaged inexpensively. You can also do it yourself; it doesn’t really matter, just as long as you have them available to sell/give out on tour. If someone hears your band and likes it but can’t get a CD, odds are they will not remember you. Make sure to include your band name, a track listing and a website/MySpace URL so that they can find you online.

Start planning these things and you’ll make some great headway on organizing your band’s tour.  However, you may also want to keep one thing in mind: Plan for making zero dollars. Most bands just starting out are lucky to just get a gig with a bigger name band – they rarely get paid. You do it for exposure (to get your music out there) and because you love it – not because you have to make a lot of money doing it.  But keep doing what you love and who knows?  Maybe RHCP will open for YOU someday!

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6 Bands We’d Like To Eat On Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and all around the U.S. people are scrambling to get the last-minute ingredients for the big meal.  Of course, if you’ve already done your grocery shopping – or if you’re lucky enough to have someone else doing the cooking this year – sit back, relax, turn on the tunes and take a look at this list we found over at Loudwire.  Here are some bands we’d love to invite to our Thanksgiving feast this year:

1. Buckcherry
You may think of Warrant when you think of cherry pie, but for the ultimate cherry pie we only use the best, Buckcherry. Frontman Josh Todd and his crew are as sweet as can be since not only did they tour nonstop in 2011 but they also held a charity concert earlier this year for a great cause. If Buckcherry isn’t your cherry of choice, there’s always Black Stone Cherry.

2. Meatloaf
Forget the turkey, this Thanksgiving is all about Meat Loaf. The artist known as Meat Loaf, whose birth name is Marvin Lee Aday, is not only a successful musician but a bit of a veteran actor, making appearances in films such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Wayne’s World and Fight Club just to name a few. He even showed off his own cooking skills as a contestant on the most recent season of Celebrity Apprentice.

3. Pearl Jam
Most people can’t have their biscuits without some sugary jam. Pearl Jam have been rocking since the early ’90s and gave Nirvana a run for its money during the height of the grunge music era. PJ just celebrated their 20th anniversary with a festival in Wisconsin and a documentary film. Our list would be incomplete if we were to leave out Eddie Vedder and the rest of the sweet Jam.

4. Korn
Corn is a great side dish for any feast whether it’s frozen, in a can or on a cob. But when corn becomes Korn, it turns into delish dish of nu-metal goodness. The band’s upcoming album ‘The Path of Totality’ incorporates dub-step into the mix, adding a new chapter to the storied career of Korn. With a new single called ‘Narcissistic Cannibal,’ we just hope Korn stick to eating a traditional meal at Thanksgiving this year.

5. Red Hot Chili Peppers
For the lovers of spicy food, no meal would be complete with some Red Hot Chili Peppers, which spices up any of the dishes on this list for Thanksgiving. This band remains as flavorful today as they were when they first started out in 1983. Jump ahead to 2011 where they have released their 10th studio album ‘I’m With You.’ Let’s face it, who doesn’t like a little spice in their life — whether it’s on their plate or on their iPod!

6. Smashing Pumpkins
Pumpkin Pie anyone? What Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a little bit of the season’s favorite dessert. And how do you get the filling for this delicious treat — by Smashing Pumpkins, of course.

What other bands would you add to the list?  If you can think of any, stop by our Facebook page and leave a quick comment.  Have a safe, happy and filling Thanksgiving!

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In Honor Of Amps That Go Up To 11…

If you’re a fan of the rock mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, you know the significance of 11 – you know, one louder than 10?  It’s a big deal, folks.  So much so that fans have dubbed today, 11/11 – among other things – Nigel Tufnel Day in honor of that special amplifier.  (Check out the iconic movie clip here.)

So today, crank your volume up to 11 and check out these other LOUD things in rock & roll history:

Loudest Song Shorter Than Two Seconds
Grindcore, a particularly grating subgenre of hardcore punk, is often characterized by loud, brief songs. “You Suffer,” a 1987 song from genre trailblazers Napalm Death, holds the Guinness World Record for shortest song ever recorded, at 1.316 seconds. Appropriately enough, it was chosen as the band’s debut single, released as a 7″ on Earache Records.

Loudest Mouths In Rock
Oasis bandmates Liam and Noel Gallagher have been publicly feuding since the group’s first American tour in 1994 (and that’s not including the bros’ personal squabbles before Oasis). While younger brother Liam handled vocal duties, older brother Noel wrote the band’s music and generally controlled their creative direction. But egos and grudges got in the way quickly, leading to public fights (including a recorded argument on a 1995 bootleg single and Liam’s last minute withdrawal from Oasis’ 1996 “MTV Unplugged” performance), personal ridicule, and constant conflict that’s never let up since the band’s start. Even after Noel quit the band in 2009 to start his own solo project, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, the siblings have hardly backed down, and it seems we can never go a few months without another outburst.

Loudest Rapper Alive
There’s nothing quiet about DMX. When he speaks, it sounds like he’s yelling. So when he’s yelling, you definitely pay attention. When Complex magazine did their ranking of Loudest Rappers Ever, DMX took the crown from other rambunctious rhymers like Lil Jon and Mystikal. That’s a pretty deafening statement.

Loudest Band Known to Hold Audiences Hostage
A lot of loud, aggressive bands came out of New York’s early 80s new wave punk scene, though the loudest and most aggressive were probably Swans, whose early shows were sometimes shut down by police due to threatening decibel levels. Said frontman Michael Gira: “There was one European show in a barn that only held 400 people. The stage wasn’t wide enough to put the entire PA in front, so we put half of it in the front and half of it at the back, so the audience was smashed between! The walls, ceiling, everything was shaking, raining down years of collected dust. That was good.”

Loudest Band (International)
Guitar Wolf live the loud life (say that six times). These three guys from Japan playing fast and furious garage inspired punk rock may be something that could potentially cause hearing damage. In fact, their 1999 album “Jet Generation” is said to be so loud that Matador Records claimed that “The levels exceeded the theoretical maximum possible on compact disk audio. In other words, ‘Jet Generation’ is the loudest CD in history.” These guys definitely turn it up.

Check out the full list of 11 Loud Moments in Music on Billboard.com.


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A Guitar Made of Legos, and Other Crazy Designs You Need to See

Here at TakeLessons, we want to help you improve your skills, learn something new and, ultimately, be a rockstar! Whether you want to play classical or shred guitar, the great thing about music is how diverse it can be, and how you can really show off your personality with what you play and how you play it.

Take the guitar, for example.  If you’ve already scheduled your lessons, purchased a guitar and mastered the art of the guitar spin (optional), but want to make an even bigger impression, we have some ideas for you.  We came across these photos of off-the-wall guitar designs from Design Buzz and just had to share:

Lego guitar1. Lego Guitar

Remember the small plastic building blocks you used to play with in your childhood? It seems like the ghosts of your past have come back to haunt you. This time, it’s in the form of a guitar, the body of which is made up of black LEGO bricks. It has everything – from pickups to amplifiers – but lacks the strings. If the latter are fitted, the guitar is ready to rock the world.


Big Foot guitar2. Big Foot Guitar

Big Foot may be meeting a slow death as a legend, but its inspiration seems to pull it back to the limelight again. George Martin, a guitar builder, introduced the Bigfoot guitar at a Miami festival, stunning everyone present with the bulky, odd-looking frame. Though it looks too bulky to be playable, the design itself has gathered its own followers, no matter what it sounds like – or whether it sounds like anything at all!


Pikasso guitar3. Pikasso Guitar

What is formed when you attach four fret-boards to a single guitar-body? Linda Manzer’s Pikasso Guitar. With two sound-holes and forty-two strings, this guitar faces about 1000 lbs of pressure when all of the strings are taut. This custom-made guitar is designed in such a way that the guitarist feels no problem while playing it or even switching from one fret-board to the other. By using the guitar, the guitarist can play any scale and tune to his or her own liking.


Alright, so which one of these guitars did you just add to your wish list?  While these guitars may not be the most practical, they’re definitely awesome.  Readers: what ideas do you have for a wacky guitar design?  Stop by our Facebook page and let us know!

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We Will, We Will Rock You… With This Awesome Stage Trick

2011 marked the 40th anniversary of the formation of Queen in 1971, and it’s been a wild ride for the rock extraordinaires.  Over the course of their career, Queen has sold more than 300 million albums, including 16 No. 1 albums, 18 No. 1 singles and the U.K.’s top-selling album of all time.  And after 40 years, the band is still well-known – at the MTV Video Music Awards back in August, guitarist Brian May performed “You and I” live with Lady Gaga, and Adam Lambert channeled Freddie onstage with the rest of the band members during the MTV Europe Music Awards in November.  Academics have even deemed Queen’s “We Are The Champions” as the catchiest song of all time.

Going beyond the band’s accomplishments, this got us thinking about the late Freddie Mercury’s amazing stage presence –  how can you not have fun while watching videos of him on stage?  So, we wanted to have a little fun ourselves today.

As a singer, you usually have tons of freedom and space on stage to move around, but as a guitarist, you may be a bit more restricted.  So how do you one-up a lead singer as flashy as Freddie Mercury?   Ladies and gentlemen, we give you… the art of the guitar spin!  Here are some helpful tips from Guitar World about learning the craft and how to avoid ending up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Shame:

1. Make sure the guitar is correctly attached to the strap.
This probably is the most useful tip to execute the perfect guitar spin. Guitars can fly pretty well, but the landing is always a problem.

2. Find your center.
Guitar spinning is not a martial art, but you can apply principles from martial arts.  Find your center of gravity. Be sure you are focused on your center. Are you focused enough? Ready … steady … spin it!

3. Employ your coordination.
Guitar spinning is a serious matter. You don’t want to get fancy until you are sure you’ve mastered the gist of the guitar spin. Never try to dance when you flip your guitar – especially if you didn’t find your center yet.

4. Establish a security perimeter!
Guitars can be as dangerous as any blunt object. You don’t want your singer to end up at the emergency room. It doesn’t matter that your singer is a tough one to knock out. Please make sure you have enough space around you when you spin your guitar.

5. Never use your most expensive or favorite guitar.
You don’t want to end up crying just because you wanted to show off. That’s against that rock star attitude you are desperately trying to achieve.

Check out the full article here, complete with several videos of guitar spin fails (trust us, you’ll want to watch these).  Awe your audience with this stage trick, and who knows – maybe you’ll make it to the Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list just like Brian May.

Readers, have you tried this trick?  Any tips for avoiding a guitar spin fail?  Click on over to our Facebook page and let us know how you take charge of the stage! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.


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Purchase the Perfect Beginner Guitar With These Easy Steps

These days, country music is much more than just grabbing a guitar and singing about losing your job, wife and dog.  Just ask the wildly popular Lady Antebellum – who picked up 5 awards at the 2011 Grammy Awards – or the growing list of stars who started out in one genre and have since tried their hand at country – Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Bon Jovi, just to name a few.

If you aim to be a country star someday, you’ll need a good guitar by your side.  Clueless about picking out a guitar?  Don’t worry – these tips from Creative Guitar Studio are a great starting point:

1. Decide what you want:
Decide what you want first. Talk to musicians in your local music scene. Chat with your private guitar instructor, if you’ve already signed up for guitar lessons, and purchase a few guitar player magazines and look through them.  Get catalogs and company brochures, which are often available from your local music store. Read everything else you can find related to guitars that you are interested in. Search for all makes and models and read what people are saying in online discussion forums and threads. Learn and read everything that you can so you can make a decision you’ll truly be happy about in the long run.

2. Acoustic or Electric?:
An acoustic guitar is probably the way to go for the beginner student on a budget. There are no amplifiers or patch cords to buy –  just take it out and play! Also, if you aren’t sure about your long term interest for the months and years of practice ahead, an acoustic can be far more cost saving and sometimes less of a hassle to sell second-hand in the event that you give up on your interest.

Electric guitars are more expensive since they require amplification; a good guitar practice amp can cost around two hundred dollars or more. If you can afford it, however, they do offer a little more room for sound experimentation since their signal can be run through relatively inexpensive sound processors. Another plus to electric guitars is the fact that they do have lower action and are somewhat easier to play than the acoustics. The nylon string acoustics make for excellent beginner models – they are easy to play and quite inexpensive.

3. Go for a “test drive”:
When you go looking at guitars, don’t just look! Grab each one, hold it and examine the shape of the neck. The width and shape should accommodate the size of your hand. It should feel comfortable.  If you have smaller hands perhaps a smaller neck would work better for you (see also: Practice Tips: Exercises and Guitars for Small Hands). Keep in mind that you will be holding this instrument for hours and hours practicing each week. It should feel comfortable.
Check for the following things:
1.) Action – How easy the strings are to depress?
2). Intonation – Is the guitar in tune with itself. (Play chords up the neck to check)?
3). Fret edges – Are they clean and smooth, or sharp and poorly machined from the factory?

4. Pay attention to how it sounds:
The simplest way to define music is the interaction of sound and silence. When checking out an instrument you want to purchase, who cares about the silence part! Just play it! Strum it, pick it, play those strings. Play it in different parts of the store. If you do not play well, take a friend who does and get them to play the guitars that interest you.

Keep in mind accessories you may want to purchase, as well: guitar strap (especially handy for beginners), spare strings, electronic tuner, guitar stand and extra picks.  Oh and don’t forget the cowboy boots, if you’re so inclined.

Once you have the perfect guitar, don’t forget to find the perfect guitar instructor to help you get off on the right foot.  Click here to search for guitar lessons near you!


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Time To Get Real: New Rocksmith Game Hooks Up To Actual Guitars

Ever since Rock Band and Guitar Hero were released, there have been opposing sides arguing for and against using the game as a learning tool – after all, players don’t use actual instruments or use correct finger placements for chords.

But that controversy can be put to rest with the newest music game, Rocksmith – and we can’t wait to try it out!

Rocksmith allows users to hook up their guitars directly to a PC, Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 through an output jack.  The program features mini-games (a “Guitarcade,” if you will) to help improve your guitar skills, including games focused on fret placement, scale patterns, harmonics and slide technique.  Advanced players can take advantage of the Technique Challenge, in which specific techniques must be repeated back, and sections that need work are highlighted and slowed down.

This release got us thinking… what other music games made a big impact on the industry?  CNN recently wrote up a list of Top 10 Music Games Of All Time, and here a few that caught our eye:

1978: “Simon”

Behind the music: Launched on May 15 at Studio 54, this Jurassic forerunner to today’s touch-sensitive Nintendo DS featured four colored buttons (red, green, yellow and blue) and three simple variations on its gameplay. A great memory is crucial — players have to repeat back a randomized or user-created sequence of lights and tones with a simple poke. Named after the child’s game “Simon Says” and created by Ralph Baer — who also invented home console gaming with the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972 — it quickly became an American institution.
Why it rocks: Besides single-handedly popularizing handheld electronic entertainment and directly influencing every subsequent system from the Game Boy to the PlayStation Portable (PSP), its pattern-based action formed the basis for nearly all music-themed titles to come.

1997: “PaRappa the Rapper”

Behind the music: A far cry from what was going on with PCs at the time, this quirky PSOne Japanese import challenged players to bust a move by pressing buttons in time to featured beats. Do it correctly and you drop mad science on martial arts masters, moose driving instructors, Rastafarian frogs and chickens that pass for chefs.  Captivating domestic audiences with its sing-song vibe, hypnotic play and psychedelic cardboard-cutout aesthetic, it’s still one of the freshest interactive approximations of emceeing hip-hop heads will find.
Why it rocks: PaRappa brought the ‘rhythm game’ category home to North American shores, which eventually gave birth to countless hip-wiggling rivals from Unison to Bust-A-Groove.

And of course…

2007: “Rock Band”

Behind the music: The first game to combine all aspects of the virtual music-making experience (singing, pounding drums, playing guitar or plucking bass) was also the initial offering to deliver peripherals for all (including microphone, plastic drum set and faux ax) in one kit.In total, over 100 million digital songs have been downloaded for the “Rock Band” family of games, with more than 2,700 tracks from 900 artists including Metallica, The Ramones and Fleetwood Mac available across all retail and downloadable installments, including digital distribution platform the Rock Band Network. Thousands of masters, re-recordings or alternate tracks (all playable) by artists like Rush and Weezer, not to mention countless fans — who can perform as cohesive four-man bands online — should ensure it remains a house-party icebreaker of choice.
Why it rocks: Providing the now-defunct MTV Games a then-marquee entrée into the gaming universe, it also laid the foundations for groundbreaking tributes (“The Beatles: Rock Band”), cutting-edge online innovations (“Rock Band Network”) and future motion-controlled games (“Dance Central”) to come.

Here at TakeLessons, we’re all for any games that gets kids hooked and interested in music.  Of course, the best way to learn is to work one-on-one with a music teacher, who can tailor the lessons specifically to you and your goals.  (Need help finding a teacher?  Click here to search by zip code and lesson type!)


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