The 50 Best Guitar Songs Ever (From Different Eras & Genres)

best guitar songs

Everyone’s list of the “best guitar songs” will be different, but there are certain moments in history when we all seemed to fall in love with the same music together. These songs have stood the test of time, and become enshrined as the classics of guitar repertoire.

Although the following list is by no means comprehensive, it is a representative sample of some of the best guitar songs of all time – including everything from classical to rock.

The 50 Best Guitar Songs of All Time

Before we dive into which songs made the list and why, check out this clickable infographic for a preview of 25 top guitar songs.

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Best guitar songs of all time

Best Acoustic Guitar Songs

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

This popular song was destined to some form of greatness because of Pink Floyd’s established reputation. The fact that the main acoustic guitar riff is so playable has also helped this song become a staple for many beginning guitarists.

Fire and Rain – James Taylor

This song was one of the singles off James Taylor’s second album that made him particularly famous in the 70s. To this day, he still frequently plays “Fire and Rain” in concert. It’s known to both older and younger audiences who are familiar with his music.

Hotel California – Eagles

A reflection on the excesses of the Rock ‘n Roll lifestyle, this song features both acoustic and electric guitar work that stands out and complements each other.

Blackbird – Paul McCartney

An ode to struggling Black women in Detroit, the unassuming charm of this song makes it a favorite for beginning guitarists. The unusual left hand intervals make it challenging but not unattainable.

American Pie – Don McLean

An enchanting (and sometimes cryptic) ode to Rock ‘n Roll history, this song is still popular as a tune for beginners to learn their basic guitar chords on.

Wonderwall – Oasis

Released on their second album, “Wonderwall” has become Oasis’ biggest hit. It’s the most streamed song released before 2000, and it’s the archetypal example of 90s pop chord playing.

More Than Words – Extreme

Ironically the most popular song of a much heavier band, this song was released in 1991 and has since forced its writers to embrace their softer side. Known for their heavy, funk-metal style, Extreme reached a much wider audience with this vulnerable ballad.

Dust in the Wind – Kansas

Another crowd pleaser on this list of best guitar songs, “Dust in the Wind” particularly hit a nerve during the spiritual seeking of the hippy era. The intro has charmed fingerpicking beginners since the song’s release.

Redemption Song – Bob Marley

Taking inspiration from Marcus Garvey, Bob stripped away all the rich instrumentation of his reggae roots and reduced this song to simply the acoustic guitar and singing. The song has remained popular both as a protest song and a staple among beginning guitarists.

Sound of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel

This song begins with a simple but haunting guitar hook that is immediately recognizable to fans of the folk-pop duo. Paul Simon’s fingerpicking technique remains a great teacher for beginners of the craft.

Best Rock Guitar Songs

Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin

The song every guitar teacher gets tired of teaching, but still listens to in secret and quiet admiration of its epicness.

Sweet Child o’ Mine – Guns ‘n Roses

Another perfect example of a heavy band whose most famous song is a vulnerable love song. This one somehow manages to maintain its epic rock quality amidst all the intimate lyrics.

Voodoo Child – Jimi Hendrix

This is one of several songs Jimi did that changed rock history. The raw power that he holds together with his indescribable talent made this a piece that captured the imagination of rock guitarists for generations.

I Love Rock ‘n Roll – Joan Jett

A perfect integration of power chords and simple blues licks make this an ideal introduction to rock guitar. It’s also great for getting people to sing with you in a bar!

Sunshine of Your Love – Cream

Another song that is often used to introduce rock guitar to beginners, this song has a soulful punch that continues to draw Clapton fans back to his early days.

Back in Black – AC/DC

Of the tremendous library of ridiculously catchy riffs in the AC/DC canon, this one stands out near the top.

Seven Nation Army – Jack White

Many millenials who didn’t grow up with the early rock records find this song to be the gateway to the rest of the rock experience. Easy to play, easy to love!

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

This is another song that is famous partially because of its poignant lyrics that spoke to the rebellion of a generation. It’s also a perfect song to learn power chords on.

Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple

This song gets a bad rap because so many guitarists know the first hook but not the rest of the song. The rest of the song is certainly worth a listen, though!

Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne

This song has both one of the easiest power chord riffs and one of the hardest guitar solos. It’s a song that fans love to sing and guitarists love to play!

Best Folk Guitar Songs

Sweet Home Chicago – Robert Johnson

This unassuming folk blues song comes to us only from field recordings, but it was incredibly influential on many British rock stars. Johnson’s raw guitar style and troubled lyrics heavily influenced the Stones, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, and others.

The Times They Are a-Changin’ – Bob Dylan

This unapologetic protest song summarized the rebellion of the hippy generation and became a folk standard that is still sung and played to this day.

If I had a Hammer – Peter Paul and Mary

Sung by many folk artists, this metaphorical song served as a rallying cry for social change and remains a campfire favorite.

Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright – Bob Dylan

One of Bob Dylan’s more personal songs, the intricate fingerpicking in this tune lends a unique quality to lyrics about love gone wrong. Have a listen and you’ll quickly find out why this made our list of best guitar songs. 

Alice’s Restaurant – Arlo Guthrie

Many audiences wonder if Arlo made up the verses on the spot. In any case, the 16 bar guitar loop is the jumping-off point for a lengthy political rant that anyone with a sense of humor can enjoy.

Scarborough Fair – Simon and Garfunkel

Based on an English poem, this song is accompanied by Paul Simon’s mysterious fingerpicking and a vocal melody that many remember as a childhood lullaby.

Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell

This song is definitely a foot-stomper! It has had activists singing the charged lyrics since its release – at the height of the environmental movement in 1970.

Mr. Bojangles – Jerry Jeff Walker

This song was written in New Orleans when the composer was arrested and put in a cell with a street dancer. The story has been a favorite among folk artists since its premiere on a radio show in 1968.

Minor Swing – Django Reinhardt

First recorded in 1937 by the Hot House Band, this is one of Django Reinhardt’s most famous tunes. It’s also a standard introduction to gypsy jazz.

Guitar Boogie – Arthur Smith

This song was first released in 1945 and has since been played by many other thumb-picking greats, including Tommy Emmanuel.

Best Classical Guitar Songs

Asturias – Isaac Albeniz

A landmark of the classical repertoire, this piece is more reminiscent of flamenco traditions from Andalucia than the northern Spanish region of Asturias. This is probably because it was given its name by a German publisher after the composer’s death.

La Catedral – Agustin Barrios-Mangore

The masterpiece suite by a South American composer, La Catedral is a musical illustration of a grand building and a service within the building.

E Minor Bouree – J.S. Bach

This piece is a popular selection from the Lute Suite in E minor. It often tricks beginners because it sounds good at a slow speed but it’s meant to be played rather quickly.

Etude in A Minor – Dionisio Aguado

Often the first piece a classical student will ever see, this simple fingerpicking etude is a great introduction to the process and pleasure of classical guitar!

Recuerdos de la Alhambra – Francisco Tárrega

This piece is the most legendary of tremolo classical guitar pieces. Using a technique that involves rapidly plucking a single string, the difficulty of this song is matched only by its profound beauty.

D Minor Chaconne – J.S. Bach

One of the most profound pieces in the classical repertoire, this piece was originally written for violin. It has since been transcribed for pretty much any other instrument that has a virtuoso to play it, and guitar is no exception!

Mazurka Choro – Heitor Villa-Lobos

This prolific Brazilian composer had many great pieces, and this one is the first in a suite called “Suite Popolaire Bresilienne.” Give it a listen and see if you can resist the urge to learn all five movements.

Prelude from the E Major Lute Suite – J.S. Bach

One of the most famous and uplifting pieces in classical repertoire, this piece falls under the fingers almost serendipitously and fills a room of any size with the warmest musical bath you can imagine.

Study in B Minor Opus 35 no 22 – Fernando Sor

A gem of the beginner’s classical guitar repertoire, this is a piece that teachers often introduce to their students. Give it a listen and you’ll see why it’s so unforgettable!

Romanza – Anonymous

“Romanza” is another charming piece frequently learned by beginners. The gentle repetition of fingerpicking over the beautiful Spanish melody make this a favorite for both players and audiences.

Best Electric Guitar Songs

Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Mournful and rich in feeling, this guitar riff is great for getting early picking techniques going. It’s also an excellent choice when you want to play something recognizable to a lot of guitar fans.

Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

This is a favorite of music lovers and musicians alike! It includes a rhythm riff that’s not too difficult, along with some solo passages that will give any player a run for their money.

Gravity – John Mayer

John said he was particularly proud of this song because he felt he could apply the lyrics to any situation he found himself in. The soulful guitar work captured the interest of many electric guitarists, both aspiring and established.

La Grange – ZZ Top

This band had a knack for writing hooks, and Billy Biggons had a knack for playing crazy blues solos. Both are reasons “La Grange” made it on our list of the best guitar songs of all time!

Freebird – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Anyone who has played in a band has probably heard more audience members scream “Freebird” than any other song in history. Most people actually request it as a joke!

While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles

The fact that the lyrics of this song refer to a guitar is almost accidental among its deep reflective nature. Maybe it’s a factor in the song’s popularity with so many guitarists.

Eruption – Eddie Van Halen

“Eruption” ripped open the gates to progressive guitar playing. The song still stands as a staple for aspiring electric guitar virtuosos to master.

Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry

This pioneering piece opened up the sound of early rock to wider audiences. It’s another favorite song for electric guitarists to learn.

Pride and Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughan

This song can be difficult to learn at first because of its muting techniques, but it brings along the full power of the Texas Blues to anyone who masters it!

Layla – Eric Clapton

“Layla” is revered for both its powerful lyrics and its captivating virtuosic guitar hook. Clapton fans expect to hear it at every concert.

Now that you’ve seen our list of the best guitar songs of all time, what would you add? Let us know in a comment below!

These are the songs that inspired most kids to pick up an axe in the first place. If you’re interested in learning the guitar, this list will give you some easy songs to start with as well as some masterpieces to aspire to.

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women in music

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

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

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

1. Madonna

“Material girl”? More like “Mom-terial girl”! Did you know that Madonna is a mother of four? Her oldest daughter, Lourdes, will be turning 22 this year. Can you imagine having Madonna as a mom? It must be at least a little trippy; one minute she’s singing, “Gimme All Your Love”, and then the next minute, she’s asking you to clean your room.

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

2. Patty Smyth

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

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

3. Gwen Stefani

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

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

4. Kim Gordon

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

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

5. Beyonce

Beyonce’s daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, was in the spotlight from the time she was born. And last year, the world waited for her twins to arrive like a kid waits for gifts on Christmas. But aside from being a rockstar and a mom, Beyonce still finds time to volunteer with the Make A Wish Foundation and from most accounts, appears to be a kind and humble person. And those are totally qualities that make any mom rock!

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

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6 Famous Guitarists Who Hit The Big Time (Despite The Obstacles)

What I’ve Learned From 7 Famous Guitarists Who Almost Gave Up

6 Famous Guitarists Who Hit The Big Time (Despite The Obstacles)

“Making it” as a musician isn’t always easy — but it’s also not impossible! In this guest post, Ged Richardson from Zinginstruments shares what he’s learned from seven famous guitarists who overcame the odds… 


Tired of getting knocked back? Feeling like your time as a world-famous guitarist will never come? Downright depressed about trying to make it in the music industry?

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Yup. I know the feeling. It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

But here’s the thing: what you’re feeling is completely normal.

In fact, some of the best, most talented musicians experienced the very same feeling as you.

Don’t believe me? Here are seven examples of how persistence and dogged determinism helped make the world’s greatest guitarists and musicians.

1. Elvis Presley

If I told you the King, yes no other than Elvis Presley, was given his marching orders before his career took off, you’d think I was kidding right? No, I’m serious!

Elvis was told by the concert hall manager in the Grand Ole Opry (a famous venue in Nashville) in no uncertain terms “You ain’t going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck.”

Looking back, that concert hall manager couldn’t have been more wrong. Someone needs to eat several King-size portions of humble pie.

2. Noel Gallagher

Before songwriter and guitarist Noel Gallagher shot to fame in the 1990s with his band Oasis, he endured a lifetime’s worth of setbacks. He battled through family strife, expulsion from school, and dead-end jobs — but he persevered with his music, writing three of his most popular songs (including “Live Forever”) in what he referred to as the ‘The Hit Hut’ (which was in fact a storehouse at the company he was working for at the time!).

Did success come quickly thereafter? Not at all. He auditioned as a singer for the popular indie band Inspiral Carpets and was promptly rejected. Instead, they gave him a job on the tour crew for two years. Tour crew! Now look where he is — filling arenas around the globe. Some achievement, I would say.

3. Django Reinhardt

In 1920s France, a bright new star was stunning audiences in the Parisian music halls with his virtuoso guitar playing. He was called Django Reinhardt.

At the tender age of 18, Django got his first major gig with English band leader Jack Hylton, quite an accomplishment for an uneducated Romani Gypsy. But tragedy struck soon after. A fire broke out in his caravan and he was badly injured. He injured his left hand, paralyzing all but two fingers on his fretting hand.

For many this would be the end of their playing career. But not for Django, who worked out a way to play the guitar using his two working fingers. He went on to create a whole new genre of his own with Stéphane Grappelli, known as ‘Gypsy Jazz,’ and the rest is history, as they say.

4. Paul McCartney

Songwriter and bassist Paul McCartney is the picture of charisma and confidence on stage when you see that old footage of the Beatles. But looks can be deceiving.

Sir Paul was prone to bouts of stage fright, often rendering him useless in front of screaming fans. Interviewed by the NME in 2009, he said: “So I remember being on the steps of Wembley Town Hall, literally getting ill with nerves, and thinking, ‘I’ve got to give this business up, this is no good.’” If he can play through the nerves, so can you.

5. Pat Martino

This jazz musician is one of the most revered and famous guitarists in the industry. Was it all a ride in the park for him? Far from it. Pat Martino was already established as a heavyweight guitar player, but at the age of 36 he suffered a brain aneurysm that put him out of action. And that’s putting it mildly. Surgery resulted in amnesia and loss of his ability to play guitar. Quite a setback for a guitarist.

With dogged determination he managed to relearn the instrument, while battling what he called ‘near-suicidal’ levels of sorrow. In 2004, Martino was named Guitar Player of the Year in Downbeat Magazine’s Readers’ Poll. Some turn-around, don’t you think?

6. Bob Dylan

In the late 1960s, folk-singing troubadour Bob Dylan was pretty untouchable — influencing the Beatles, among others. Or so he thought. When he toured the UK in 1966 playing a new electric sound, it quickly became apparent that his audience hated the new sound! Bob and his band were jeered and heckled throughout the shows, culminating in one resentful fan shouting ‘Judas.’

Did he succumb to the pressure and go back to playing folk guitar? Heck no. He powered through, ignored the naysayers and invented a new form of electric folk-based pop. We wouldn’t have classics such as “Like a Rolling Stone” if he’d given up.

7. Seasick Steve

The American blues guitarist Seasick Steve didn’t have it easy on his route to stardom either. Leaving home at the age of 13 to avoid abuse at the hands of his stepfather, he lived as a hobo for many years, catching rides by hopping on freight trains as he sought work as a farm laborer.

His rise to stardom didn’t come quickly or easily, but he persisted and eventually established himself as one of today’s best blues guitarists. He attributes much of his unlikely success to his cheap and weather-beaten guitar, “The Trance Wonder.” But I think it was more a case of a spoonful of talent and a whole lot of hard work, persistence, and determination.


So there you have it — seven cases of success against all odds. It’s both humbling and motivating to learn that these famous guitarists were knocked back in some way, but crucially overcame their obstacles to come up on top.

The lesson here? Frustration and adversity can help you — if you use it to fire you up. Never give up. If you want it badly enough, you can make it happen!

Classical guitarist Andres Segovia famously said: “The day I stop playing guitar will be the day after my death.” Now there’s perseverance!


Ged Richardson is an avid guitarist and blogger who writes about how to improve your guitar playing at Zinginstruments

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Gamification in Education: It’s Time Education Leveled Up [Infographic]

Explore the exciting world of education through gamification. See how and why it works on kids and adults for improved retention, knowledge, and more in this guest post from our friends at JoyTunes…

How many students have been scolded by parents to put their video game away and get their homework done?

It’s been a common household quarrel for decades, but kids across the globe are finally celebrating the new data that supports gamification as a means of advanced education and learning.

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Check out how it’s being applied to students young and old who are learning to play the piano for the first time.

Gamification: What it is & Why it Works

Gamification is the process of utilizing gaming elements outside the standard gaming model to present an idea or achieve a goal. In the field of education, gamification is currently being used to help students learn better.

Jane McGonigal enlightens the world to the benefits of education through gamification in her TED Talk here:

In short, gamification techniques allow students to relate to the material and learning process in a whole new way, a way that is more engaging, interactive, attractive, and quite frankly, fun.

Kids and adults can tackle issues from new angles, relate to the assignment more personally, visualize the problem at hand, organize and compartmentalize tasks, and achieve success based on motivating factors that speak to the individual.

This is Your Brain, This is Your Brain on Gamification

Here are a few facts about gamification that might clue you into the popularity, efficacy, and power of this under-utilized educational tool:

  • By 2015, the gamification industry is projected to exceed $2 billion dollars, while the projected rates are meant to reach $5.5 billion by 2018.
  • Close to 80% of students unilaterally stated that a more game-like atmosphere would increase productivity.
  • 89% of people polled liked the point system for upping their engagement during an eLearning app session. People enjoy the charge that comes from scoring points, out ranking others, and being able to measure their accomplishments with concrete numbers.
  • Skill-based knowledge assessments increased 14%, factual knowledge went up 11%, and retention was even improved by 9% for adults who used eLearning tools with gamification.
  • Of course, not all gamification methods work as well as others. Some less popular techniques for getting the job done (or in this case the lesson learned) included receiving virtual gifts, being part of a story, and avatars.

Gamification in Education

Music Gamified

Learning to play the piano or any instrument is a challenge, no doubt. But mastering this beautiful art is easier, more manageable, and a lot more fun when you combine the strengths and incentives implied by gamification to your music lessons.

Innovative music apps, like JoyTunes, use gamification to help kids and adults learn to play an instrument faster. The principles are simple:

  • Games make learning more fun: The piano lesson is taught in the form of a game.
  • We all like earning points: Points are gained when scales are performed properly.
  • Games require repetition: Repetition makes for good music incorporation and learning. Hence, games equal excellent musical training grounds.

Pretty smart, huh?

Give it a Try!

The infographic above tells the long story of gamification at a glance. The extent of this processing is yet to be discovered, but one thing can be said of gamification for sure: those who tap into this innovative method for teaching, learning, and training are guaranteed to see extraordinary results.

And those that don’t…well, they’ll just be left in the dark.

Guest Post Author: Mya Achidov
This is a guest post from JoyTunes. Mya Achidov is the Blog Editor-in-Chief at JoyTunes, a company that develops award-winning apps to teach you how to play music.

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9 New Years Resolutions That Will Boost Your Music Career in 2016

9 New Years Resolutions That Will Boost Your Music Career in 2016

A new year brings exciting possibilities, especially if you want to become a rockstar! Whether you’re a singer, instrumentalist, or any type of musical performer, you’ll benefit tremendously from the following tips. Multi-platinum selling composer and producer Nick G. will guide you through nine tips to help you reach your stardom…

I’m a Rockstar

My neighbor introduces me as a rockstar and that makes me feel pretty darn good. It’s like complete validation for all of the years I’ve had in the music business… or is it? If I were really a rockstar, I would need no introduction, right?

So that begs the question: What is a “real” rockstar and what is the actual criteria involved in becoming one? So, before I continue with this article we have to settle on the definition of a rockstar. I’ve obviously given this a lot of thought…

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Yes, I’ve had my glimpses at the spotlight and have made mistakes that separated me from it. I watched mournfully as fans disappeared because I zigged when I should have zagged in my music career. I frantically looked to restore success in the wrong places and I only found a lack of authenticity.

What’s a Rockstar?

When I think “rockstar,” I think of the chosen few — the front runners; the front of stage musicians and performers; the people in the spotlight; the people who are on camera, ready to rock-and-roll ALL of the time!

But it doesn’t stop there. A real “rockstar” is also prolific. They write and perform meaningful music and play their instruments like they were born jammin’. They walk and talk with great humility and also understand they hold an important role in society – they can influence large groups of people with what they say and do.

Ok, now we’re getting to a concrete definition!

Are YOU a Future Rockstar?

Are you one of the chosen few that make it to the top? Are you ready to take on the work, the hardship, the responsibility, and unavoidable agony of separation when it occurs?

If so, here are nine new years resolutions that will give your music career a boost in 2016!


1) Set Your Groundwork

Read my article “15 Things You Must Do to Make it in the Music Business.” Here, you’ll find some of the essential “must do’s” before you embark upon your amazing journey. That article is perfect for setting your groundwork!


2) Be Authentic

This is incredibly important and it requires foresight. What does authentic mean? I believe that when a person sets out to create something larger than themselves, it requires unrestrained creativity.

Imagine yourself 10 years into the future looking back on all your music. What do you see? Do you envision a history of music you created that’s meaningful, despite it’s popularity? One you are proud of and that you can stand behind?

Or is it music that simply copied the big hits but never became one? If so, I think that can be a painful reality. Your discography should represent individuality that resonates with the audience and sets you apart. It’s a much more rewarding and authentic path to take, and one your future rockstar self will thank!


3) Take the Path of Least Resistance

I remember being 16 – rocking out on the drums in my mum and dad’s garage playing to Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Back then it seemed so simple: wake up, practice hard, put on your famous pants and become a rockstar!

It didn’t work out that way.

I realized pretty fast that there were a million kids just like me — all doing the same thing, trying to get the same gigs, and listening to the same music. It was daunting. So instead, I put down the drum sticks (some of the time) and studied what most successful rockstars had done before me.

I studied the music business. I studied who was selling music and who was selling it the best. I read a bunch of music business books and I learned how to produce my own music. After several years of doing this, I was a well-oiled, young, aspiring rockstar who knew way more than the other young, aspiring rockstars around me.

I had an advantage – I had taken the path of least resistance!


4) Learn and Practice Objectivity

Now pay really good attention! This could be one of the most important tools in the belt of a successful rockstar. Have you ever wondered how you may sound or appear to fans?

Have you ever taken a step back from your music, your wardrobe, etc., and tried to view yourself with a different set of ears and eyes? Is that even possible?!

I think so, and I believe it’s one of the most important secret weapons a rockstar has. It requires separation from the intricate details of your music and career. It requires seeing yourself from an outside perspective, as if you were one of your fans.

Here’s the Trick

I rubbed shoulders with some pretty seasoned players in the beginning that taught me a few great ways to start learning objectivity. Here’s the best trick I was taught: make a mix tape of your favorite rockstars, those who you think you sound like. Then throw your music in the middle of the set. Play this mix tape everywhere and take note of how you feel when your music comes on. Does it hold up? Does it vibe against the others?

Do this with everything; this applies to your brand and all that you do.

One of the most common mistakes emerging rockstars make is distancing themselves from the pack, creating a bubble where their music and brand is never weighed against the commercial marketplace. This is a safe place to exist; no criteria, no comparison, no competition, and no objectivity…

Here’s the key takeaway from this point: always compare. Take notes, create better mixes, and make more relevant choices so that you can rise to massive rockstar status. Be brave – you can do it!


5) Don’t Be Too Freaky

This one is kind of under the category of objectivity. There’s a fine line between a cool rockstar and a freaky-deaky rockstar. How can you tell the difference? It’s simple: the music must take precedence and the wardrobe and show theatrics must follow later (in a natural and unforced way). It should never be the other way around.

Ever see those people on stage that hide behind crazy stuff? Like being half naked, wearing odd costumes, wearing makeup to the point of it being a mask, juggling while singing, or having monkeys as their stage dancers?

That’s what I mean by being too freaky.

If you’re an insane talent that’s shining beyond all the theatrics, well, fine – you’re awesome. But really, just try to be yourself and keep the antics to a restrained level of cool, letting the music speak first.


6) Know What the Major Labels Want

They want rockstars! Did you know that when Madonna was first discovered she answered the question, “So what do you want?” with, “I want to rule the world!”

Good answer! That kind of audacity and confidence was apparently good enough… back then.

Let’s fast forward to today’s reality. In today’s industry, by the time a big label is looking at you, chances are you have already done plenty of ground work; you have lots of fans coming to your shows, a bunch of prolific recorded material, and you’re signing reams of autographs! You’re in pre-rockstar cruise mode.

My point here is to know that the big labels want the “rockstar” already made. They don’t want to do the ground work. So don’t put all your eggs in the major label basket. Just rule the world one fan at a time and focus on the stepping stones. It’s a better use of your energy and you won’t sign it all away too soon.


7) Learn the Business of Music

It’s important that the rockstar in you knows how to play the game. Is it really just about your music and the fans? If so, let’s all start a music revolution and cut out the middlemen!

Oh yeah, that’s been done before and it totally screwed up the music business… we’re still recovering, actually.

So why can’t rockstars just record their own music, play on street corners or in wickedly cool grungy venues, and reach millions of fans?! There’s a remote chance you eventually can, but there’s an infinitely better chance you can’t.

How to Play the Game

This could also fall under the “Choose the Path of Least Resistance” category. All I’m saying here is don’t be the kind of emerging rockstar I receive LinkedIn messages from everyday saying, “Hey, my music is amazing. I’m broke and I’m looking for a break – can you help me out?”

There’s a much better way to play this game.

Be a part of the music business community, hire project managers, public relation specialists, radio promoters, etc. that all fall under the category of “services rendered.” Just because you pay someone in the music business to do something for you doesn’t mean you’re being ripped off!

The rest of the business world does this every day, and successfully, I might add. You’ll be shocked at who you’ll find yourself rubbing shoulders with if you participate in hiring great music services. Just be careful and do proper research on who you’re working with.


8) Know Your Limits (Stay Clean)

What more can I say about this one? It’s pretty straight up. Fans want to live vicariously through their favorite rockstars, having a life they dream of but actually really don’t want to pursue.

It’s true…

It’s a hard life with tons of traveling and heartbreak, not to mention the late hours and crazy schedules that lead to substance abuse and eventual collapse. I don’t know of anyone who can sustain a hazy state of awareness for too long.

If you want to rule the world, you must always remain sharp and on your toes! Practice discipline, it’s an amazing human trait that we all have and it’s one that can be nurtured, if you so choose. Rockstars are definitely high on the list of those who must practice discipline.

If you want to be completely scared to death of substance abuse, then read Nikki Sixx’s “Heroin Diaries” – that’ll set you straight.


9) Buy Some Skinny Pants

All rockstars should have a pair. It’s as simple as that!

There you have it – nine tips that will help skyrocket your musical career. Now that you’ve read this article, what are you waiting for? Go practice these tips and be the best rockstar you can be!


What will you do to further your music career in 2016? Share your musical new years resolutions in the comments below!

Post Author: Nick G.
Nick G. teaches audio engineering, songwriting, and music composition in Chicago, IL. Nick is a multi-platinum selling composer and producer.  Learn more about Nick here!

Photo by Totof Babel

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How To Improve Your Guitar Tone Without Buying New Gear

[alt] How To Improve Your Guitar Tone Without New Gear

Want better guitar tone without spending hundreds of dollars on new gear? Guitar teacher Ben M. shares how you can use the settings already on your electric guitar to drastically improve your sound…

When it comes to the electric guitar, players can be relentlessly dedicated to achieving the perfect guitar tone.

Guitar tone (also called guitar sound) is most simply defined as the sound your guitar produces. Guitar tone can be compared to a painting; it is a masterpiece that results from blending different colors together.

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In this case your colors are bass, treble, mids, your amplifier, and any effects a guitarist may use.

Guitarists pride themselves on their tone because it is what sets them apart as an artist and gives them their own unique sound.

But don’t be fooled by this brief definition, guitar players can spend countless hours, days, and even weeks carefully sculpting their ideal tone.

However, the good news is that guitar tone is in fact 100% personal and every player, no matter how experienced, has the ability to dial in great guitar tone without spending a fortune on fancy gear (though it is important to have the essentials).

This article focuses on simple ways to improve your tone by simply using all the built-in features your electric guitar already has.

First Steps to Improve Your Guitar Tone

guitar tone controls

When beginning to work on improving your tone it is important to ask yourself a few basic questions:
– What aspects of my current tone do I like?
– What aspects do I dislike? (too dark, too bright, etc)
– Based on my playing style and genre, what aspects of my playing do I want to highlight in my tone (for example: sparkling chords, thick power chords, or clear solo bends)

After analyzing what you’ve discovered, set a goal. Maybe you are trying to imitate your favorite guitar idol’s tone or want to focus on creating your own sound.

Regardless of what your goal is, an important thing to keep in mind (especially for beginners) is to always start with what you have.

How to Use Your Guitar Tone Settings

electric guitar tone settings guitar knobs

While many players may rush to their local music store and walk out with a handful of effects pedals or even a new amp, most players tend to forget one of the most basic aspects of their guitar’s anatomy; the pickup selector switch and the tone and volume control knobs.

Below is a quick breakdown of an electric guitar’s tone settings:

Pickup Selector Switch
Selects which pickup is active on your guitar. Most guitars have three switch positions; some guitars like Fender Stratocasters have five.

Bridge Pickup (farthest down): bright, sparkling sound, lots of treble

Middle Position: warm and shimmery sound, high mids

Neck Pickup (farthest up): full and rounded sound, more bass

Volume Control

Controls the master volume of your guitar, or the amount of signal that will come out of your amplifier.

Tone Control

Controls the brightness or darkness of your guitar’s sound by adding or reducing the amount of bass/treble in the signal.
Bass = darker tone with lots of low end.
Treble = brighter tone with lots of high end and sparkle.

How to Adjust Your Guitar Knobs for Better Guitar Tone

guitar tone knobs les paul

Now that we have established the basics, let’s focus on learning how to use the guitar knobs.

Players of all levels continue to leave their controls dialed up to 10 all the time, restricting them from loads of undiscovered tone possibilities. To make a comparison, that’s like buying a sports car and only driving it only in first gear.

A simple concept that can really help develop a guitar player’s control over their tone is getting into the habit of setting your tones with the volume and tone controls below their maximum levels.

When you dial in your tone with the knobs at 10, you have limited adjustment options. Only being able to turn down the knobs will typically make your sound muddy.

By giving the controls room to expand, you have an array of possibilities if your tone needs adjusting. Below are common ways to use your guitar controls and bring up your guitar playing IQ.

Guitar Knob Techniques

guitar knob techniques

Basic Boost:

The volume knob can act as a boost which can take your guitar from clean sounds for rhythm playing to dirty overdrive tones for soloing. When playing a song keep your volume knob at 6 or 7 when playing chords or verse parts and when it’s time to deliver a rockin’ solo roll up the volume to 10 and you will not only hear a boost of gain (overdrive) but also a volume lift over any other instruments in the song.

Signal Clean Up:

Perhaps your tone is too distorted and you want to reduce the harshness and clean up the signal without changing your amp/effects settings. Simply roll off the volume knob on your guitar a bit and the signal will clean up rather effectively.

Buzz Killer:

How many players have cringed at the level of buzz coming out of your amp? Guitar buzz is commonly caused by poor grounding in your guitar’s electronics and usually requires repairing. But as a quick fix, turning down the volume knob until the hum is quelled can make your guitar sound more pleasing to the ear.

Set Polisher:

If you are in a band, always turn the volume knob down while on stage in between songs to avoid buzz. This makes your set seem much more polished and professional.

Volume Sweller:

A more advanced technique with the volume knob is called swelling. Play a chord or note with the volume knob off and gently roll it back (many players use their pinky on the side of the knob) to let the sound pass through again. Experiment rolling up the knob fast or slow and see what happens. This takes practice but can produce awesome sounds when used while playing.

Guitar Tone Control Techniques

Tone Warmer:

Keeping the tone knob around 9 or 10 is best for warm tones like Led Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix type sounds. This means the guitar signal has lots of treble making the high ends of the signal sparkle.

Tone Darkening:

Roll back the tone knob for darker sounding tones like Sunshine of Your Love by Cream or the wholesome solo tone from American Woman by The Guess Who. This setting brings out the bass or low end in the signal.

Onboard Wah-Wah:

A more advanced tip with tone control is using the tone knob as an onboard wah-wah effect.

In essence a wah-wah pedal is just a giant tone control adding treble when pressed down and adding bass when pulled back. You can emulate this effect by playing a chord or note and twisting the tone control rapidly, or slowly, from its maximum level to minimum level (much like volume swelling.)

This requires practice and technique but you can get great wah-wah sounds without buying the pedal itself.


After reading this article, hopefully you can understand why improving your guitar tone is vital to developing as a player and that there are endless sonic possibilities at your disposal already.

Experiment with some of the techniques from this article and find what kind of sounds are most pleasing to your ear. Mastering a guitar’s controls, like playing the guitar itself, takes time so be persistent.

Having a solid understanding of the most basic tone tools will not only boost your guitar playing IQ, but also push you in the direction of guitar tone paradise.

Do you have any guitar tone questions? Join the conversation in the comments below!

Post Author: Ben M.
Ben M. is a student at Saint Joseph’s University and has nearly 10 years of guitar playing experience. He specializes in beginner and intermediate guitar playing, blues guitar, and guitar repair. Learn more about Ben here!

Photo by Tiago Cunha

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Guitarist Wanted: Life as a Musician for Hire

Guitar Gigs Life as a hired gun

Your days of bedroom jam sessions are over — it’s time to start your music career and hit the road! In this article, traveling musician and guitar teacher Nick K. discusses his experience with guitar gigs and gives you tips on how to make them successful…


I’m what they call a “hired gun.” That’s a cool title for what’s otherwise referred to as a traveling performer or musician for hire. I’ve done a lot of touring with a great group called The Three Degrees.

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They had worldwide smash hits in the 70s, such as “When Will I See You Again,” and “Dirty ol’ Man.” They formed out of the Philadelphia music scene in the 1960s and were on the same label as famous artists such as Patti Labelle and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

As a group, they’ve been together for a long time and know exactly how their music should sound. Therefore, it’s my job as a hired gun to deliver exactly what they want, but at the same time, try to add some of my own flair and style into the mix.

Where to Find Guitar Gigs

The first step in landing your next big gig is knowing where to look.

You can find guitarist wanted ads in your local classifieds or on Craigslist, or on websites like Gigsalad and GigMasters.

How to Get Gigs for Guitarists

When you respond to that musician’s wanted ad, be sure to put your best foot forward. If you’re sending an email, include video of yourself performing live as well as a resume listing your past gigs and other musical accomplishments.

You should also ask the band which songs they would like you to learn for your audition, and then really learn them! This shows that you’re a team player with the dedication and commitment a gig like this requires.

Playing With a Group

You may play a musical passage exactly as you’ve heard it on record, but until you start playing with the group, you don’t know if that’s exactly what they want. For example, I was playing a guitar riff and the band members told me they wanted it to be “less choppy,” meaning that they wanted it smoother and with less complicated rhythms.

As a hired musician, it’s your job to make sure you interpret the artist’s requests accurately and come up with a suitable alternative part. Therefore, creativity is an important and essential element when being used as a hired gun.

It’s never your place to question their authority, simply because it’s not your band. Therefore, you must do as they request and do a good job of it.

Letting go of your ego is essential when playing for someone. If you don’t like authority, or someone telling you what to play, then this guitar gig is probably not for you.

If you approach things with the right attitude, it’s one of the most fun and rewarding experiences you’ll ever have.

Musical Terminology for Hired Guns

Understanding musical terminology is an essential part of being a hired musician. Here are some terms that are frequently used:

Anticipated syncopated rhythm.

A rhythmical accent played together as a band.

Repeat markers
The markers that indicate the start and end section of a loop.

1st and 2nd time ending
Inside the repeated section, there are subsections that vary depending on whether you are playing the 1st time round or the 2nd.

Musical phrase played in unison as a band.

The last section of a song indicated on the sheet music by a coda sign.

When the music comes back in after being finished.


Understanding these terms makes it easier for the musicians to communicate with each other and be on the same wavelength.

A lack of understanding will slow down the whole band. It’s impractical to do this, so learning the lingo is really an essential part of being a good gigging musician.

Learning the Music

A certain amount of detective work may be necessary when learning the songs.

When I toured with The Three Degrees, I ended up learning 3 versions of every song. I was sent the original MP3’s of the songs, along with live versions that are often in different keys than the originals and may even have a different feel or different guitar parts.

I had to learn an approximation of both of these versions so that I’d be well-equipped during rehearsals to play whatever they requested of me. However, a certain amount of personal taste may be required in determining the appropriate parts.

During our first rehearsal (and there was only one), things were changed around. Ultimately, the final version may turn out to be different from both the live and studio versions — always be prepared for change.

guitarist wanted guitar gigs pull quote

How to Choose a Guitar

Your choice of guitar is also more important than you may think. It wouldn’t be a good idea to show up to a gig with The Three Degrees with an Ibanez Jem, for example.

For this gig, I chose more traditional guitars that I love – my Stratocaster and Telecaster.

These guitars not only fit appropriately in terms of sound, but also in terms of look. If you’re going to get into the professional realm, it’s good to have some classic guitars that can fit into many different genres.

The Strat, for example, can be used in funk, pop, rock, soul, blues, country, and even jazz. It isn’t totally necessary to have tons of guitars, but it’s nice to have some of the main classic guitar types.

I always take more than one guitar with me on tour in case a string snaps on stage. That way I can quickly change guitars without having to spend time changing strings on stage, which is too time consuming in a live situation. It’s also good to carry extras of everything in your guitar gig bag.

Being On Time

The last piece of advice I can give is extremely important — always be on time!

Remember, if you’re not early, you’re late.

Make sure you get to the sound check early to set up any amps or pedals and to also get your guitar in tune. If there’s something wrong with your amp, you’ll have time to get it fixed before the singers get there.

Selecting the right amp initially will reduce any errors you may encounter later.

I always say that it’s better to be two hours early than two hours late! Also, dress well, polish your shoes, and iron your shirt – oh, and don’t forget to shower! With all of this in mind, you should be all set for a glittering music career.


Post Author: Nick K.
Nick K. teaches guitar, acoustic guitar, and music theory in Pasadena, CA. He’s been playing guitar for over 20 years and has taught at some of the topmost music schools in London and New York City. Learn more about Nick here!

Photo by Gary Knight

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13 Cheap and Easy DIY Halloween Costumes That Rock

DIY Halloween Costumes

So, what are you going to be for Halloween this year?

Not sure yet? You’re not alone.

To help you find the perfect costume this year, we put together 13 cheap and easy rockstar DIYs. Rockstars always turn heads wherever they go, and with one of these rockin’ costumes you’re sure to do the same.

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Let’s get this party started!

DIY Rockstar Halloween Costumes

Solo Artists

These are great easy DIY Halloween costumes you can wear all on your own or with a backing band.

1. Paul Stanley

Mastering the facepaint is key to getting the KISS frontman’s iconic look. Once you have your face right, you’ll be instantly recognizable.

Pair your perfectly painted face with black clothes for an easy look, or for a twist add a striped shirt and a beret – voilà, French KISS.

2. Bruce Springsteen

It’s easy to be the boss for Halloween. All you need to get this look is blue jeans, a white t-shirt, and a red bandana.

Break the ice with a cutie at the party by inviting them to dance on stage with you, just like Bruce’s “Dancing in the Dark” video.

3. Madonna

Making a DIY Madonna costume couldn’t be simpler. Head to your local thrift store and pick up a short 80s style dress, lace gloves, and lots of bracelets and pearls.

For an added bonus, carry a microphone (or make one out of a paper towel roll).

4. 90s Grunge Look

Depending on your lifestyle, this look might not be much of a stretch. But if you tend to be more polished and dressy, the grunge look could be a great change of pace for you.

Channel your favorite alt rock stars of the 90s with oversized shirts and jeans, and of course lots of flannel.

5. Joan Jett

Be one of the baddest women in rock and roll this Halloween with this simple, classic look. Pair tight jeans with a leather jacket, add a lot of attitude, and you’ve got this DIY Halloween costume down.

Carry a guitar with you, and you’re sure to be a runaway hit at the Halloween party.

6. 80s Glam Rocker

Big hair and tight pants are what this costume is all about. Tease your hair or find a wig at the Halloween store, and don’t forget to wear lots of eyeliner.

Wear an old loose tank top or cut up a t-shirt to get this glam look on a budget.

7. Stevie Nicks

Stevie’s signature style includes scarves, hats, and anything long and flowing. Wear your hair long and wavy and unleash your inner mystical wild child.

If you have an old witch costume with a long skirt, you might even be able to repurpose it into a Stevie Nicks look.

Dynamic Duos

These DIY couples costumes are sure to make a splash. Pair up with your partner or a good friend and get to work!

8. Justin and Britney

Bring some early 2000s nostalgia to the party and make a grand entrance with your partner in Justin and Britney inspired head-to-toe denim.

9. Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”

Sick of homies dissing your girl? Show the world that you don’t care what they say about you anyway with this easy DIY Halloween couples costume.

All you need to do is pull together a couple of squeaky clean preppy outfits. One of you will need glasses like Buddy Holly, and for the other flipped hair like Mary Tyler Moore.

10. Hall and Oates

Make your Halloween dreams come true with this easy DIY costume perfect for a fun-loving twosome. Head to a thrift store for 80s-style blazers and feather your hair.

To make it a little more obvious, you can write “Hall” and “Oates” on your t-shirts.

11. Taylor Swift’s 1989 Vs. Ryan Adams’ 1989

Got bad blood? Bring your rivalry out on Halloween with this timely costume.

Get the polaroid look of the album cover by cutting frames out of large pieces of cardboard, and be ready to sing songs from 1989 all night long!

12. David Bowie and David Bowie

Did someone say David Bowie? From Ziggy Stardust to Jareth the Goblin King, David Bowie has had more iconic looks than you can shake a spandex jumpsuit at.

Celebrate Halloween in style with your best friend or partner by dressing as some of David Bowie’s different looks throughout the years.

13. John and Yoko

Dress as the original iconic rock and roll couple and make a statement this year. All you need is long hair, white clothing, and love.

Or you can ditch the costumes and stay in bed for peace!


So, what will you be? Tell us your favorite costume idea in the comments below!


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11 Annoying Things People Say to Female Guitarists

Female guitarists rock just as hard, if not harder than some men, yet the things people say to us sound like they’re straight from the 1950s!

Ladies, women, and girls, here are 11 of the most annoying things I’ve heard in my years of playing guitar. Maybe a few will sound familiar to you too?

1. Is that for your boyfriend?

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Why do some people find it so unbelievable that you’re carrying your own gear or shopping at Guitar Center for yourself?

2. You’re pretty good for a girl.

Would you tell another musician he’s pretty good for a man? Nope. Please stop saying this.

3. Are you the singer?

Because that’s the only thing you think women are capable of? Please go back to rock and roll history and study Lita Ford, Joan Jett, Kaki King, Nancy Wilson, or any of the other hundreds of women who have made their mark in music with an ax in hand.

4. Oh, you’re IN the band!

If you’ve ever had trouble being allowed in to a venue for your own show, you know just how annoying this one can be. This is doubly annoying when someone assumes you’re a groupie.

5. You should show off your body more and be sexier.

Because when I asked for feedback on my performance, I really wanted to hear about how I looked. Even young girls aren’t immune from this misguided advice. Please stop making female performers feel like their sex appeal matters more than their music. It’s just sad.

6. You only got that gig because you’re hot.

Like a meaner, more petty version of the last comment, this implies that any attention or success you enjoy as a musician is all thanks to your looks. Luckily, people will mostly say this one behind your back, so you only need to roll your eyes when you hear this through the grapevine. Then you can get back to crushing it.

7. Do you want to be in a band? We’re looking for a chick bass player.

Why would you want to work with someone who’s already objectifying you before they’ve heard you play a single note?

8. Let me explain your gear to you.

I just haul it around, set it up, play it, own it, and love it. So sure, please tell me all about my amp.

9. Wow, are you going to play that?

Nope, I just carry a guitar around for fun.

10. Chick guitarists are hot! Do you want to jam sometime?

Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, they don’t really mean “jam”.

11. I don’t usually like chick music, but you were actually pretty good.

For the love of music everywhere, please stop acting as if music made by women is in its own single genre. There are women who shred and women who croon, women who get down and funky and women who play smooth, sweet jazz.

The sooner people can stop treating female musicians as novelties and start hearing us for the talents we possess, the sooner we all can enjoy a more equal and exciting music scene.

Now it’s your turn. Ladies, what really grinds your gears? Share the most annoying thing someone has said to you about playing the guitar in the comments below!

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Quiz: Which Epic Guitar Solo Are You?

quiz which epic guitar solo are youIf you were one of the best guitar solos of all time, which one would you be? Take the quiz and find out!

Interested in learning how to play guitar? Try this one trick to make your guitar solos pop!

Were you surprised by your result, or was it just right? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

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