Everyone who wants to learn to play guitar, wants to learn as quickly as possible. The reason a lot of us want to learn to play guitar is because we want to play our favourite songs. I remember when I first heard guitar players like Yngwie Malmsteen and Joe Satriani, I thought it would be awesome to play like them! I wanted to play FAST. But… I had to start at the start.
Which a lot of people find very frustrating. So how can we learn as quickly as possible?
1. Be focussed while practising
It is very, very important to keep your brain engaged while you are practising and learning to play guitar. The more focussed you are, the faster you progress. How can you stay focussed while practising? You can:
• Be in quiet place
• Turn your phone off
• Make sure no-one disturbs you
2. Practice environment
To this end, you want to control your environment when learning to play guitar. Keep your practice space neat and tidy. Keep your practising notes and materials organised in a folder, with a contents section so you can find things quickly. You want to keep you guitar out all the time, this makes it much easier to practice. If you keep your guitar under the bed, or in it’s case, just the act of taking it out of its case will put you off from practising. I know this sounds a little bit silly, but having your guitar out makes practising a lot easier!
3. Focus on one thing at a time
When learning guitar, it is easy to quickly become overwhelmed at the amount of things we have to fix. However, the brain can only think about one thing at a time… so that is all you should focus on. Choose on aspect of your guitar playing to focus on, and spend a couple of minutes focussing on that. Then choose another aspect and spend a couple of minutes focussing on that. For example, maybe you have a note in the riff you are playing that is buzzing a lot. For 2 minutes, you could focus on keeping your finger close to the fret. For the next two minutes you could focus on the amount of pressure you are using. For the last two minutes you could focus on Your thumb position on the back of the neck. This way you can systematically fix up your playing one piece at a time.
4. Don’t put off improvising or songwriting until you are “good enough”
Spoiler alert – there is no such thing as being “good enough”. If you want to improvise or write songs on guitar, then you should do so as close as you can to Day 1. Make it easy for yourself – don’t try and burn up and down scales all over the neck, choose a small section of a scale and get comfortable improvising in that. Then choose the next piece of the scale and improvise for a couple of minutes using that. Then combine them and spend a couple of minutes improvising. You get the idea.
In general, when learning to play guitar, we want to break things down into small components, and gradually build them back up again. This is the most effective way to learn.
This is a common problem amongst people who first start to write anything. This is one of the things that cause people to give up or doubt themselves when they are trying to write songs or improvising and things like that. They try to write something and they try it over the chords and it sounds pretty bad.
What I want to say is that this is a common problem, this is not caused by a lack of talent, you don’t have this problem because you are not good enough or anything like that. If you are doubting yourself, stop doing this, this is a problem that is easy to solve.
Or perhaps you are trying to put chords to the lick you have written instead of the other way around. But when you select a chord it may sound good but a lot of the time you pick a chord that sounds bad over the idea. And you have no idea really what makes one chord sound good over ideas or how to write an idea that sounds good over the chords you have each time.
Would you like to be able to do it? First of all:
Here is why your ideas and chords do not work together
You are playing dissonant pitches over the chords, or placing chords that do not have the notes of the lick in there. You are likely doing this because you don’t even realise it. See, this entire problem is caused by a lack of music theory knowledge and possibly lack of fretboard knowledge.
If you do not know what dissonant pitches are- it simply means notes that sound unstable over something, dissonance is unstable sounding. The opposite of this is consonance. This is playing notes that sounds stable and nice over chords.
Should dissonance be avoided at all costs? Yes and no. In the beginning it would be good to avoid dissonance or only have them as passing tones to develop your ear and get creative and make things that sound good right away. But eventually you will want to learn to control dissonance. This is not to be avoided long term because you will be limited if you do this.
A big part of music is the idea of tension and release. If you just have nice sounds, then you will eventually be bored. If all music was just all nice and pleasing music would be very boring as we are attracted to drama and tension. Dissonance is great for expressing certain emotions and achieving certain effects.
However dissonance is not for sounding pleasing and creating things that sounds like it “works.”
You are not controlling the dissonance effectively and have it there without realising it, so it just sounds and will be perceived by listeners as a mistake. This is the problem.
Here is how to fix this:
1) Learn what the consonant pitches are over the chords
2) Find those notes on the guitar and begin and end your ideas on these notes, or if you already have the lick, place chords over the lick that has the notes of the lick inside the chord.
3) You will sound good!
For example if you have a lick in e minor, and it has the notes E, F#, C, B, A. The first note is E and the ending note is A. The next thing to do is to find a chord that has the note E and A. Or you can have only 1 of these notes in the chord and it will still work.
Or if you have a chord progression G, C, D, G. You learn the notes in these chords and begin and end your ideas on any of the notes in the chords. For example for the G chord, the notes are G, B, D. If you are writing an idea over this chord, beginning and ending on G, B or D will be good. Each note has it’s own feeling and emotional quality but either one of these will sound consonant.
About the author: Jake Willmot is one of those guitarists who has to have long hair. He just can’t be a short haired guitar player as all of his favourite guitarists are like that. When he is teaching guitar lessons in Exmouth, Devon he likes to help people not just by giving him stuff but by helping his students solve their problems in their playing to help them play the guitar like a pro.
You see someone playing the guitar and you want to be able to do that. Who doesn’t? It looks fun and cool.
Learning how to play guitar is probably one of the things most people would like to do. But not everyone attempts it.
Then there are some that try to learn but do not get very far and quit. Others make it further but get stuck and don’t know how to move forward.
How can you be the one who makes it through and learns how to play the guitar successfully and become a good guitar player?
1. You Need A Strong Desire To Learn
Of course you need a desire to learn to play the guitar in order to achieve that end. That’s absolutely the essential starting point. However a desire is not enough.
The key word in this case is strong. Most people in the world probably have a desire to learn to play the guitar. And probably want to be able to play it well.
However, not many people attain that level. Why? That’s because it is not a very strong desire for those people. It’s more like a wish. Something they would like to do. Someday.
Don’t fall into that trap. A strong desire to learn guitar is something that will help you overcome the frustrations that will come. It will help you carve out the time each night to practice.
Without a strong desire you simply will not commit to the long-term process required to learn to play the guitar.
You can cultivate this by seeing yourself playing the guitar as often as you can. See yourself successful already.
2. You Must Have Perseverance To Overcome Obstacles
Once you have the strong desire you need to learn to stick with it. Learning how to play the guitar is not the easiest thing to do in the world. If it were everyone would do it.
There are physical limitations to overcome. There are mental barriers to climb over. You have to commit your time, energy and money to accomplish all of this too.
So when things go south at some point, and they usually do, you need to be prepared to stick with it. You need to push through and not give up.
That may require you to go into maintenance mode or slow down your progress at some point as you learn, but you need to do everything you can to keep moving and not stop learning, playing and practicing. Do not give up.
Perseverance goes hand in hand with desire of course. Without a strong desire you will not likely persevere. However just because you do have a strong desire does not mean you won’t quit at some point.
I have many students come to me that have a strong desire to learn the guitar who quit when they were younger. Then, 20 years later, they are finally getting back into it.
They always regret stopping because they can see very quickly how much further they would be now had they simply kept going, even if it was minimal.
Even if you can only carve out 5 or 10 minutes on busy days, it is much better to do this than doing nothing. It will help you keep the habit going.
3. Without Consistent Discipline You Will Not Get Very Far
One of the biggest culprits that sidetrack people and make it much more difficult to learn to play the guitar successfully is a lack of discipline and consistency. For most it makes it impossible to be honest.
If you do not have the discipline to consistently practice every day, it will be very difficult to learn and progress quickly enough for you to maintain the proper motivation to keep going.
For one thing callouses will not develop properly which cause you to press harder to make a decent sound. That means more strain on muscles on tendons too.
This leads fatigue and the possibility of injury. But it also means your ability to form chords and change them regresses every day you do not practice them.
It’s like taking one step forward by practicing today, then taking 2 steps back by missing 2 days and so on.
If you have the desire and the perseverance already, you should be able to carve out a daily practice time. It does not have to be a huge block of time either.
In actual fact it is perfectly fine and sometimes better for people starting out to break their practice times into smaller chunks.
And if you have a crazy day you can probably squeeze in at least a small session to maintain your callouses and muscle strength as mentioned in the previous section.
This is critically important on a mental level because as you discipline yourself to practice daily you see more progress, you enjoy the process more and are more likely to continue until you reach your goals.
4. Confidence Is Imperative
Confidence is needed in different areas when it comes to learning to play the guitar. The first and most important is for you to believe you can do it. Many beginner guitar players struggle with this and you may relate.
This confidence is difficult to get at first if you try to learn on your own because things do not always go well and seem harder than you expected. So the doubts quickly creep in and can overcome your initial confidence.
I assure you however that unless you have severe physical limitations you can successfully learn to play the guitar. Give yourself a chance.
The next level of confidence is in the method of learning you are using. A lot of methods come with big promises including many teachers who are available in your area.
You start eager and trusting that not only does this method work but that it will work for you. But soon after you begin you start to feel this is not for you or that you are not able to learn.
It is hard and overwhelming. It seems like you overestimated your ability. So your confidence in the method dissipates.
This is where you may mistakenly start blaming yourself for the lack of success. Maybe you don’t have what it takes, maybe you are not meant for it, etc. It’s probably not you; the method you chose likely does not work for you.
The secret to overcoming this and being confident in your ability to learn to play every step of the way is to know the right things for you to be learning.
But how do you get this? How do you know what you should learn at every stage? You don’t. That’s why most methods out there do not work for you because they do not know you or take you into consideration. They just give you stuff they think you should learn.
What you need instead is someone that will look at where you are and then get you where you want to be and personalize to you!
5. The Key For You Is to Find A Good Teacher
This is one of the most important keys for you to successfully learn to play the guitar. Why? Because a good teacher will help develop and foster all of the other key elements already mentioned above.
Of course you have to have the initial desire to learn but a good teacher will help increase this desire by creating a plan for you that builds from one success to another.
And when you are successful it’s pretty easy to believe you can accomplish something and persevere. But if you do get stuck, a good teacher will know it and they will know how to help you push through too.
Not everyone is disciplined in his or her life and a good teacher will know this. They will find ways to help you progress in class and at home based on how disciplined you are or aren’t. They will have different strategies to help you.
Finally, confidence is what you need more than anything else. If you do not believe you can achieve your goal to learn to play the guitar, if you do not believe the method or the teacher can get you the result you desire, you will not do it. Period.
A good guitar teacher will guide you every step of the way. They will know what the right things are for you to learn and the right order for you to learn them in. This way you avoid most if not all of the problems and frustrations that come with learning to play the guitar. You will experience success every step of the way and this will boost your confidence continuously.
You Can Learn To Play The Guitar
Learning to play the guitar can be difficult. It does take time. If you have the 5 key elements of desire, perseverance, discipline, confidence and a good teacher, you will be a lot more likely to succeed.
You may think that you lack in some of the areas above. Most of us do. That’s why the most important of the 5 keys is to find a good teacher.
When you find a really good teacher that is properly trained on how to teach the guitar they will help you find or cultivate your weak areas. They will inspire you and show you the way you need to go. They will literally hold your hand and walk you all the way to the result you want.
So go out there and start looking for the right teacher and you will be successful! You will learn how to play the guitar!
About The Author:
Maurice Richard is a professional guitar teacher that operates out of the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He has been a member of an elite guitar teaching mentorship program since 2007 and has taught many people how to learn to play the guitar. Visit his website now to find out how you can learn to apply the five elements you need to learn to play guitar.
A Beginner’s Guide to How to Play an F Chord on Guitar
A lot of guitar students struggle playing an F chord. I’ve had a ton of method books (cringe!) that always want to teach students the key of C first. While I thnk this is cruel and unusual, eventually you won’t be able to avoid this chord.
Everyone struggles with this pesky chord in the beginning. I know that I certainly did. Many of my students do, too. So instead of getting mad and yelling about it, try a few of these things that I do with my students.
Sooner rather than later, your going to need that F though. So here’s a few things that I do to ease the learning curve for my students:
1. Make sure you can play a half-decent C chord first. If you can’t, you really need get that chord down!
2. Stop reading internet articles and find a teacher
3. Let me remind you that everyone struggles with this chord when they first learned it. It’s going to be tricky and that there’s nothing wrong with you or your fingers (probably).
4. Make sure your guitar isn’t damaged. If you have a teacher, which you really should, have him/her look your instrument over.
5. Take your C chord and “squeeze” the fingers together together to make a 3-string F or an Fmaj7 with the open high E. NO BARRE!
6. If you got it without the last note, add the barre (you probably don’t got it yet. It’s ok!)
7. Move the chord shape up to the fretboard, somewhere around the 9th to 12th fret region depending on the size of their hand. There’s less tension on the guitar up here, and the frets are spaced closer together.
8. Check the position of your palm. Most beginning students grab the neck, which will flatten the fingers resulting in muted strings. I check to see that the part of the hand where the fingers connect to the palm is ABOVE the neck, not pulled behind it.
9. Break the 5-note chord (x33211) into 3 different chunks: x332xxx or xx321x or xxx211. Any one of these is a fully functioning F chord. You can use one or the other until you are able to play the fuller version. Rotate through the 3 versions of this chord in your practice.
10. When doing the barre, I have my students roll a little bit onto the side of the index finger- using more of the bone than the flesh.
11. If you aren’t making much progress after daily practice for 2 weeks, consider changing to a lighter gauge strings.
12. Take a break from it. If you find your blood pressure rising, remember guitar is supposed to be fun. So play another song or work a different skill for a few minutes.
These are few things that I do to make the F chord more palatable for beginner’s fingers. If it wasn’t clear already, you need to have a trained and experienced guitar teacher that can help you overcome these issues! Reading articles about how to get better at guitar is no substitute for sitting in a room with someone that already knows what to look for. Happy playing everyone!
You should have a plan for what it is you are practicing. At the start of the week, plan out what it is you want to be focusing on for your different practice sessions each day. Get a notebook or a diary, plan them out and keep it next to your guitar, so that when you pick up your guitar each day, you know what it is you should be working on.
You can take this one step further and also organize the materials that you need to practice (books, sheets, print outs etc), so that when it comes to practicing, you can grab the materials for that day’s practice and get started.
Now that you have your plan, you want to make sure that when you sit down to practice, you know which piece of your plan is going to be implemented and achieved…
Mistake 2 – Not having an objective
Your practice sessions should have a purpose and you need to be clear on that purpose. When you sit down to practice you should know the outcome that you are working towards for that session. Are you working on memorizing a few more bars of the song you are working on? Are you wanting to speed up your chord changes from A to E? Are you wanting to eliminate the string noise you get when practicing sweep picking a certain arpeggio? Be clear on what it is you are working to achieve. Which brings us nicely to the next common mistake…
How are you going to put your strategy together?
Now that we’ve looked at the differences between playing and practicing, let’s take a look at some different elements of putting together a strategy that need to be considered:
Mistake 3 – Not having the right practice materials
Now that you know what it is that you want to work on, you need to know how to work on it. For example, let’s say you want to work on your sweep picking. If you put “sweep picking exercises” into Google, you will get 1000s and 1000s of results. How do you know which one to work on? Not all exercises are made equally! Having the correct exercises for what you want to achieve will help you progress much, much faster.
Mistake 4 – Doing the right exercises… in the wrong order
The order in which you practice things is vital to the rate at which you progress. Having the right materials but practicing them in the wrong order will set you back nearly as much as doing the wrong things in the first place. Order matters!
Mistake 5 – Having the right materials, in the right order, and practicing them the wrong way
The way that you practice is very important to the result that you get. The way a lot of people approach practicing is to play something a few times and then wonder if they are done and what to do next. For example, should you play that chord for 5 minutes then move on to the next exercise… or should you play it for 2 minutes, then play it somewhere else on the neck for 2 minutes, and then spend 1 minute practicing playing that chord and changing to a chord you already know. Or is there another way that would be better? It’s hard to create a general approach here, but try to think about the context of the exercise in your general guitar playing and what will be involved.
How are you going to practice?
Mistake 6 – Not memorizing the exercise that you are working on
Memorise it. Unless you have highly advanced sight reading skills, you will need to memorise the exercise that you are working on. When you are practicing an exercise that you are reading, you are giving your brain an extra process that it has to do in addition to playing the exercise. This takes focus away from what your hands are doing, and can also disrupt playing through the exercise if you have to take your eyes away from your hands, look at the page, look back at your hands, etc. So by memorizing the exercise, you can put your whole focus on playing the exercise.
Are you struggling with your current guitar playing? Do you have the feeling that you are not getting better, although you practice on a regular basis? Here are 3 common reasons why your guitar playing progress is poor.
1. No System That Makes Progress Visible
Have you ever had the experience in your youth, that friends of your parents were visiting and said something like “Wow, you have grown up”. Those comments were very annoying on the one hand and not really understandable on the other. Why is that? Let me try to explain that to you. When we look in a mirror every day over a long period of time, our physical changes from one day to the next are so small, that we do not notice them. If acquaintances drop by only once or twice a year, the changes are much more obvious to them than to yourself because of their different reference points. That is exactly what happens to your guitar playing after some time. We often do not realize how much better we have become over time, because of our distorted perspective. Most of the time we can roughly remember how badly we played at the beginning, but that’s about it. So what is the problem with all of that? Well, as long as everything is smooth and we are still making some progress, there is not really a problem at all. Problems only occur, if we are stuck. Once we realize that we are not making any progress, it is harder and harder to stay motivated and after some time, most of us are getting frustrated. I realized over time, that the real problem is NOT necessarily that you are not getting better at all. It is simply not obvious enough to yourself how much better you have gotten. In order to get rid of that, I am going to show you 2 simple tricks, how you can make your progress more visible and maintain your motivation over a long time.
1. Keep a Training Book
The advantage of a training book is that it will show you immediately how much you have practiced a specific topic per day, week or month, and how well you have mastered these exercises. It is very simple to record your progress with the help of a metronome. A metronome not only helps you to tack your maximum guitar speed, it also makes it possible for you to register the accuracy of your playing. The difference between those two elements is critical and should not be mistaken:Your maximum guitar speed is the speed that allows you to play a certain lick or exercise cleanly once or twice. Your accuracy is the maximum speed you can play the identical lick or exercise at least six times in a row without making any mistakes. Be aware that it is absolutely normal, that your accuracy is always below your maximum speed. The more you practice, the lower the discrepancy is going to be. Now take a metronome and set it to a comfortable tempo at which you want to practice a specific lick or exercise (e.g. A minor pentatonic scale). Take your training book and write down your maximum guitar speed and your maximum tempo for accuracy. If you practice on a regular basis and keep your training book updated, you are going to realize that you are able to gradually increase the tempo of the metronome. Think about it like an athlete in the gym who is able to gradually put on more weights on the bench. Keeping your training book has two advantages for you. First, you are able to see exactly where your strengths and weaknesses are, and secondly it helps you to make your practice much more efficient by not guessing what the right metronome speed was the last time you practiced.
2. Video Record Yourself While Practicing
Recording yourself during your practice routine is going to make it even more obvious to you, how much progress you have made over time. The next time you practice record yourself and save the recording on your computer. Try to record yourself every six weeks and watch your old videos after that. You are going to be surprised at how much you have improved over that period without even realizing it.
2. Lack of Motivation
If we are not motivated enough to follow through on something, nothing is going to happen. We already discussed some small practical tips on how you can increase your motivation in the last paragraph. Another important tip, most people underestimate is that you have to start setting yourself goals. Why is that so important? If we do not have clear goals in our mind, it is really difficult to see the real meaning beind our actions. Once we get stuck, we subconsciously often ask ourselves “Why am I doing this anyway?”It may sound trivial, but if you start setting long and short term goals for yourself it is going to be much easier to keep yourself in a good state and stay on track once you are having a hard time. I highly encourage you to start and define short and longterm goals by writing them down on paper, so that you can review them daily. Maybe you would like to write your own songs? Jam with friends? Or play in a band? It is very important that you define both long term goals (such as playing in a band) and short term goals (like being able to play “Song XY”). This is critical because the short term goals are giving you little victories along the way and keep you motivated to stay on track with your long term goals. Make sure to check your short term goals regularly and reconsider, if they are still in line with your long term goals.It does not matter what your musical goals are. Start to write them down and they are going to help you stay motivated.
3. No Professional Teacher
Why exactly do all top athletes of the world have coaches? Because they have to fully focus themselves on the training and simply do not have the time and the knowledge to do the things a good coach does. Even if a lot of top athletes have the theoretical knowledge, most of them do not know how to use that knowledge in the most effective way. A good coach also sees mistakes that the athlete is not aware of. You might say now: „Well I know what my mistakes are, I do not need a coach to tell me what I am doing wrong“. Yes that might be right, realizing a mistake is not very hard to do. We all recognise when something is going wrong. The difference is that a good coach is not only seeing the mistake, he is also aware of the root that causes this error. After recognizing a mistake he is able to analyze quickly and come up with a good strategy to eleminate it straight away. That is why it is so crucial to have a competent coach that guides you through the process of becoming a great guitar player. The benefit is that you will be able to concentrate yourself more on playing your instrument and improve much faster at the same time. Great, right?I can not emphasise enough, how incredibly important it is to learn the fundamentals right at the beginning. We often neglect those basics at the start and tolerate minor mistakes. Those mistakes will gradually get worse and prevent our progress in the long run. After nurturing those bad habits over a long period of time it is going to take a lot of time and energy to fix them in the future.For that reason it is very important to have a professional coach on your side right from the beginning, who prevents you from acquiring bad habits and a wrong technique.
About the Author:
Matthias Hornstein is the founder of Gitarrenunterricht FFB, a guitarschool located in Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany. If you live in Fürstenfeldbruck, Emmering or Eichenau, contact him at www.gitarrenunterricht-ffb.de and schedule your free introductory lesson.
This month I wanted to take some time to explore the fundamentals of Blues. I’d venture a guess that as a guitar player you’re either already playing some blues or have been told that you should. This article is not intended to be highly technical, but rather serve as an introduction to learning blues guitar.
Whether you love the blues or are indifferent toward them, let’s first discuss why you should learn the style.
1. The songs generally follow a pre-established pattern
2. To play a solo, you don’t even need to know a complete scale
3. It’s a great training ground for musical expression and phrasing
4. It’s fun and most other musicians can improv in the genre
5. If you’re learning an American song written the last 100 years, your song probably borrows concepts from the blues
6. If you make a few adjustments to the “rules” you get other genres like Hard Rock and Jazz
Traditional blues songs are typically based on 12 measures of music called a chorus – This may be confusing to those that come from the rock/pop genres, where the “chorus” is the catchy part of a song that is repeated. In basic blues form, there aren’t really different sections of the song. One cycle through the 12 measures is a chorus: so in the first chorus, the band may introduce the melody of the tune; in the second chorus a vocalist may sing about his dissatisfaction with the current state of his affairs; then the 3rd chorus may be a guitar solo. Welcome to 12-Bar Blues!
These 12 measures are further broken down into three 4-measure phrases. That’s sounds pretty good right? Instead of memorizing 12 things, you can memorize 4 things three times. Now, what if I told you that the blues traditionally only uses 3 chords? You’d probably say, “Wow that’s pretty simple.” But wait, it gets easier… Blues form also tells you what chords to play and when to play them!
Before I fully lay out the blues progression, I will need you to think just a little. You will need to be able to count to 7 AND know a little bit about major scales. So here’s the process. Pick a major scale that you already know. I randomly selected D Major. Now I’ll write my scale out:
D E F# G A B C#
Then I assign a number to each letter:
D E F# G A B C#
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Great! At this point, I will take a small detour to point out that in music we refer to chords with Roman numerals and notes/letters with Arabic numbers. Therefore, a IV refers to a G major chord, where a 7 would refer to single note C#.
For basic 12-Bar Blues, the only chords we are going to use are the I, IV and V (D G and A). You are now ready to learn the 12 Bar Blues Progression:
That’s it! So Blues in the key of D is 4 measures on a D chord, 2 measures on a G chord, back to D for 2 measures, A for one measure, G for one measure, the D for 2 measures. The very last measure will often have a turnaround, which is a musical term for “fluff that we stick at the end of a pattern to make it sound fancy.” Put another way, measures 11 and 12 are the same chord as the beginning, and you repeat back to the beginning there are 6 D chords in a row. A turnaround breaks up all of those D chords.
The last thing I want to do with the chords is make them a little more blues-y. We will do that by turning all of the chords (I,IV,V) into dominant seventh chords. A dominantseventh chord simply adds an extra note to your major chord. The note you will add in to the chord is 2 frets back from your chord’s root. That last sentence looks more complicated than it is…. The D7 is simply a D chord PLUS the note that is 2 frets before D, which is… C. The G7 adds in an F, and the A7 adds in a Bb. Now our blues form looks like this:
Now that you understand what to do, let me teach you how to do it in a way that makes sense on guitar. We are going to learn 2 forms of the dominant seventh chord that are movable. Here is the 6th string form followed by the 5th string form. The triangle tells you that the note under that finger will name the chord.
Lastly, I will show you how to map out your guitar to play I-IV-V progressions with the least possible amount of mental calculations.
Start on ANY fret of the low E string. This is where you will build your ONE chord. Now move up to the same fret on the next string, this is where you will build your FOUR chord. Last, move up 2 frets from your FOUR chord to build your FIVE chord. Remember, you will have to use different chord shapes when you change strings.
Here’s another way to get the I-IV-V on your guitar:
In this example, you’d start on any fret of the 5th string and build you ONE chord. The FIVE chord will be found on the same fret as the one chord, except on the low 6th string. The FOUR chord is 2 frets down from the five chord.
Either of these options of I-IV-V movement on guitar will work. I would not recommend combining both movements into the same song just yet. Choose one or the other for now. Notice that Movement 1 will use this shape only once:
… while movement 2 uses it twice. You can make you selection based on whichever chord shape you like better.
Lastly, please don’t be another self-taught guitar player. There’s enough of those in the world already. Give me a call and I will train you how to be the best possible guitarist in a very short period of time!
Hello Guitarists and Future Guitarists of Lancaster, PA!
I wanted to take a moment this month to point out some mistakes that I’ve seen many of my students make over the years. I’ve heard countless beginners say to me that they’ve been told to play acoustic first and work up to electric. This is bad advice. Read on and you’ll see why!
Very often students get the wrong type of guitar for their goals. They can be attracted by low prices, convenient sale from a friend, or straight up incorrect information. Here are the 3 main categories that guitars will come in:
Steel String Acoustic
Nylon String Classical
Steel String Acoustic
Steel String Acoustic guitars are, when considering quality and playability, dollar-for-dollar the most expensive. They are also the hardest to learn how to play. Starting here first then moving to an electric is like trying to first lift 200 lbs before you can lift 100 lbs. Yeah, a few people have done it this way, but you’re more likely to wind up frustrated/injured and quit.
Why are acoustics more expensive?
Since the overall sound is coming from the instrument alone, higher quality wood and craftsmanship are required to make it sound full and vibrant. While yes, you can get an acoustic guitar for $150 dollars, an electric guitar in that same price range is likely to be of higher quality. Acoustics are also much more fragile susceptible to damage from changes in temperate and humidity.
Why are acoustics harder to play?
The volume of the instrument relies on the vibration of the strings and the top of the instrument. To get a louder, richer sound, thicker strings are required. A thicker guitar string, when tuned, will be at a higher tension. Higher tension translates directly to more difficulty holding the note down with the fingertips.
Why should I get a steel string acoustic?
If, after demoing all 3 guitar types, you prefer the overall sound of the acoustic, then get it! If it is your goal to strum some chords and a have a portable instrument, then it may be worth it to you to work through a harder learning curve. If your favorite music is acoustic guitar music, then obviously you’re holding the right guitar. Ultimately, you should buy the instrument that you are motivated to play!
Nylon String Classical
Nylon guitars are the cheapest investment and generally easier to play than steel string acoustics. Nylon guitars are easy to spot because they generally don’t have a pick guard (the black plastic comma shaped thing below the sound hole) and have “plastic” strings. These are often confused as toys, but are not! In the right hands, a nylon classical guitar can sound like an orchestra.
Why are nylons easier to play?
Because the strings are made out of nylon, they are under far less tension when tuned to pitch. Less tension greatly enhances playability, especially for the uncalloused fingers of a beginner. It is worth noting that the neck is wider on a classical guitar, which can cause problems for very small hands. Also, traditional nylon guitars don’t have fretmarkers (the dots on the side of the neck that help you keep track of what note you’re playing), though this is easily rectified with $1’s worth of painter’s tape.
Why are they so cheap?
Since the string tension is much lower, ultimately the guitar requires far less bracing. Which translates to less labor. Additionally, the instrument is typically made out of less expensive woods.
Why get a classical?
The best reason to get a classical is because you want to play complex music with your fingers (rather than a pick). While classical music is often played on these guitars, there is also flamenco music as well as contemporary songs arranged for fingerstyle guitar. Nylon guitars are great for adults that aren’t sure if they can physically play and don’t want to invest a lot of money up front.
Electric guitars are the most versatile and easiest to play. While less affordable than a nylon guitar, you can get a decent beginner electric guitar AND an amp for $300 or under.
Why are electrics versatile?
Because the sound isn’t coming directly from your guitar (there’s an amp between the guitar and your ears), AND because we live in the modern age of digital gadgetry, the are infinite possibilities of sound. There are countless add-ons the you can buy (i.e. pedals) to change the sound of your instrument.
Are they really easier to play?
Yup! Remember what I said about string tension and playability? Since the volume doesn’t come from the guitar itself, the strings can be lighter. Also, electric guitars allow for many adjustments in playability that acoustic guitars simply can’t do.
Are they really cheaper?
Yes! The sound ultimately comes from the metal string vibrating over a magnetic pickup (the things that sit under the strings) so wood, structure, bracing, etc. are far less of a concern. Which means less labor and cheaper parts… lucky you!
When to choose an electric?
If you’re a beginner and don’t have a strong preference for an acoustic guitar, I highly recommend that you buy an electric guitar as your first instrument. If you like rock, classical, pop, electronic, blues, jazz, etc… you can do it all on this instrument.
For parents, this is a problem that you will immediately notice when your child pulls a cool looking guitar off the wall and almost falls over because it’s bigger then they are. This is not a definitive guide, but is a good start:
Age 5-8: Half Size or “Mini” (80-100 cm)
Age 8-12: 3/4 Size (100-125 cm)
Age 12+: Full Size (125+ cm)
Steel String Acoustic
Age 5-11: 3/4 Size (100-120 cm)
Age 11-14: Small Body (120-165 cm)
Age 15+: Full Size (165+ cm)
Nylon String Classical
Age 5-8: Half Size (100-120 cm)
Age 8-12: 3/4 Size (120-165 cm)
Age 12+: Full Size (165+ cm)
Always check to make sure the instrument is in good condition. If you at least know how to play a single note, make sure you play each and every note on all 6 strings. Each note should have it’s own different sound. If it buzzes, sounds the same as the last note, or doesn’t make a sound at all, PASS!!! If you don’t know how to play, ask the sales person to do this for you.
Check the stress points on the instrument. Common places for separation are: underneath the nut, by the headstock; where the neck meets the top (near the sound hole); where the neck connects to the body (look under the neck, this is called the heel); and where the bridge (the part that holds the strings to the body) meets the top of the instrument.
Look down the neck to check for warping. The strings are a string line, so look down the guitar (as if you were aiming a rifle) and compare the neck’s shape to the straight line of the strings. There shouldn’t be any dips or twists.
Make sure all 6 tuning machines work in both directions. If you aren’t sure how to do this, as your salesperson.
That’s a GSO!
Often, parent’s buy their first instrument at a toy store or a department store. This thinking makes sense from a “let’s see if they play it before I sink a ton of money into a guitar” point of view. However, these things aren’t guitars. They are guitar shaped objects (GSO’s). They are hard to play and sound like cardboard. Your child is going to struggle to sound good on this GSO and will become frustrated quicker than normal. GSO’s are more likely to hold exotic houseplants than be played for any meaningful period of time.
To the adult beginner, it can be tempting to throw all kinds of money at your new hobby. While I am all in favor of this, I suggest you skimp on a few things and save the extra cash for the guitar lessons that you’re going to need.
Brand Names- Having a long-standing history of manufacturing, customer service, and warranty, a recognizable name-brand can be a great purchase. Keep in mind that the moment that brand’s logo gets stamped on the guitar, the price automatically goes up. Reputable brands like Fender, Gibson, Music Man, PRS, Martin, etc. make more affordable versions. Consider getting a Fender Squier (I have one, no shame there!) or an Epiphone (instead of a Gibson), or a Sigma (instead of a Martin). These lower-end models are manufactured similarly, though don’t have some higher end components. Yes you will be sacrificing some sound quality, but let’s be honest- as a beginner you are going to be buzzing notes and cutting them short anyway.
Bells and Whistles- Don’t be surprised when a salesperson tries to sell you something you don’t need.
You need a guitar. You don’t need a music instrumentation system. If “it’s like 3 guitars AND a piano in one!” you’re better off buying a different guitar.
You need a case. You don’t need a case lined with crushed velvet and has a built in hydrometer.
You need picks. You don’t need a ton of pickup selectors and a coil tapping system on your first guitar.
You need a guitar stand. You can’t practice the guitar in it’s case. It doesn’t have to have a steel re-enforced self-leveling system.
You need a tuner. You don’t need an automated tuning system that tunes the guitar for you.
You need an amp (if electric). You don’t need a 50 watt megalith nor something with 35 different built-in effects and GPS.
You need a cable (if electric). Gold plated cables are for celebrities to endorse. They do the same job as the $15 version.
You need a guitar teacher. You do not need a chord dictionary or method book designed to keep you confused.
On a side note: Kids love whammy bars. Kids also lose whammy bars. Few players actually use them. Even fewer players actually use them well. The presence/absence of a whammy bar should not guide your decision in any way!
Here’s a checklist to keep you on target:
I am in a MUSIC store (Menchey Music on Manheim Pike, Guitar Center in the Manor Shopping Center, Ken’s Music in Lititz), not a toy store
Played a Nylon Guitar
Played a Steel String Acoustic Guitar
Played an Electric Guitar
I LOVE the sound of the _________ guitar (fill in one from above) and will buy this type!
OR I LOVE them all equally, so I’ll take Eric’s advice and buy an electric.
Played several guitars and liked these Brands and Models:____________ $____
I’ve checked my priorities and eliminated extra features I won’t use
I’ve considered a similar model from cheaper brand
I’ve narrowed my selection down two:____________ $____
I checked (or had the sales associate check) that:
The neck isn’t cracked by the headstock
The heel is still attached to the body
The bridge is still attached to the top
The neck is still attached to the body
Every single fret on all 6 strings has it’s own unique sound
Looked down the neck and checked for twists/warping
All 6 tuning machines turned in both directions and slightly changed the sound of the string
I enjoy holding this instrument
I will play THIS guitar every day
I’ve checked online (MusiciansFriend.com or SweetWater.com) and found the price to be reasonable
I’ve asked the sales person what add-ons (s)he is willing to throw in if I buy today and didn’t accept “none” as an answer
I did NOT buy frivolous extras
I DID buy:
Foot Rest (optional)
I scheduled a free introductory guitar lesson at www.quarterbendguitar.com
I’ve asked my guitar teacher, Eric, to meet me at the music store to look over the instrument before I buy it
Hopefully this brief essay gives you the confidence you need to be an informed consumer. There are a ton of great places to buy a good guitar in Lancaster, PA, and I’d be more than happy to help you find the best guitar for you. Make sure it’s fun to play! At the beginner stage, playability is WAY more important than sound quality.
Lastly, please don’t be another self-taught guitar player. There’s enough of those in the world already. Give me a call and I will train you how to be the best possible guitarist in a very short period of time!
This week, I was asked, “What’s the deal with the minor keys?” Well here’s the deal, Skippy!
The notes of a scale make up what I lovingly call the “Pitch Family,” or the KEY. Take your major scale formula (Root-whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half) to get your Pitch Family. These notes are all related, and work well together.
Apply the Major Scale formula to F:
F – G – A – Bb – C – D– E – F
Now take the 6th note and you have your relative minor.
All of these notes belong to the same “Family” of notes. When you keep the notes in this order (F to F), think of them as the cheerful, peppy, big sister. This is your major scale.
Play it, you’ll your what I mean: F – G – A – Bb – C – D – E – F
F Major in 1st Position
Arranging these same notes in alphabetical order from D to D is like the moody, gothic, little brother. So this is the D minor scale: D – E – F – G – A – Bb – C – D.
We call D the relative minor to F major essentially because it has all of the same family members as F.
A Shortcut to Find the Relative Minor
Count backward 3 half steps from your root. Both methods will get the same result. But thinking in terms of the vi (minor six) chord is the preferred method for those that are new to this concept. You really should understand WHY things are before you go cutting corners. Putting in an extra few minutes to “show your work” and think through the process will get you all of the information you need about all of the notes in the key.
How to Use This Shortcut
Maybe you’re sitting in with a band or jamming with a friend. (S)he says, “I’ve got this new ditty in F#m, wanna jam on it?”
If you know your minor scales, you’re fine. And of course, there’s always the beloved Pentatonic Scale. But let’s assume you only know the major scale and are tired of the pentatonic scale.
1. Reverse-engineer the short cut: F# is the minor, so count forward 3 half-steps (or frets) and you land on the Relative Major: A.
2. Play an A major scale: Root- Whole Step- Whole Step- Half Step- Whole Step- Whole Step- Whole Step- Half Step
You’ have now found the correct pitch family. If you’re using your ear to improv (and not your eyes/shapes) you won’t need any more info than this! If you need a few extra pointers, focus on the F# AKA the sixth note of the scale AKA the note that is 3 frets behind A.
On a side note, D Major to D minor would be considered parallel.
D Major = D E F# G A B C#
D minor= D E F G A Bb C
Same starting note, different Pitch Family.
D Major = D E F# G A B C#
B minor= B C# D E F# G A
Different starting note, same Pitch Family.
So to conclude, can you find the relative minor of E Major?
If we were to call this note the i (minor one), what would the V (five) chord be?
I was recently discussing the Grateful Dead song “Althea” with one of my guitar students. This isn’t my go-to genre, but I like it and appreciate the artistry. I had mentioned to him that a big part of what made Jerry Garcia such a great guitarist (actually in this case it was Trey Anastasio covering Jerry) was that his phrasing was so clear. This student asked me later via email what I meant by “phrasing” and this was my response.
Phrases are musical sentences. They are brief statements that can be tied together. So think of the musical equivalent of the following statements, and ask yourself which one(s) suits your taste best:
Dog blue is food soon.
The dog is hungry.
The hungry dog is also blue.
That dog is probably not sad, just hungry.
There is a dog I know. This dog is complicated. Sometimes she looks sad, but she is usually just hungry.
There is a dog. There’s a dog. There’s a dog over there. It’s not a cat. It’s a dog.
It is my hypothesis, that at present time, canus lupus (also known in this case as Sophie), is not experiencing negative affectations of the mental faculties; she is in fact deprived of her most basic need and thusly is displaying specious symptomology.
There isn’t really a wrong choice. That’s where your guitar style comes in. Some players try to cram a ton of notes into a short period of time. Number 6 is how most intermediate guitarists do that: they wind up playing a lot of notes but never really say much. Number 7 is where most advanced guitarists are or want to be. Number 4 or 5 is where advanced guitarists go after they realize that number 7 bores the average listener.
Lastly, what makes great guitar phrasing is context. None of the above “phrases” about the dog make any sense if it’s dropped into the middle of conversation about how to parallel park in New York City.
Being clear in your phrasing means making simple melodic and/or rhythmic ideas and building on them in a way that is clear to the listener and compliments the accompaniment.