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Posts Tagged ‘learn guitar’

bwb
I’ve been on this blues thing lately with my music; not going all out with the blues, but definitely having a huge blues influence on the music I write. But one thing that I was sure of was that I didn’t want to just learn blues licks – the same licks practically everyone plays. I suppose you could say I want to play with a blues style, and I’ve been searching far and wide to learn the blues. In my search to learn the blues, I’ve come across several instructional series and video tutorials, but many focus on playing blues licks, without really getting into learning or more importantly, acquiring a vocabulary to express the blues. Technique I can learn, but really what I want to acquire is an intellectual “sense” for what works in a particular phrase, if you catch my drift, then learn technique as a secondary thing.

I know, a bit confusing, and I’m having a hard time articulating what I’m after, so I supposed the best way to explain it is that I want to intellectualize my playing, then practice the hell out of what I learn. The only problem with this approach is that once I’ve mentioned that to teachers or others, they jump right into modal theory. Sure, that’s really useful, but in many ways, it’s also really abstract. Enter Chuck D’Aloia, who has come up with a wonderful series called “Blues with Brains.”

Blues with Brains is a two volume set. I’ve only gotten through half of the first volume so far, but what I’ve learned in just this short amount of time has really made me leap light years ahead in how I approach doing solos. I’ve always played by feel, and have fallen back a lot on the minor blues scale – mainly because it’s easy. But after I wrote my last song, I realized that while it sounds pretty good, and I have some interesting ideas, there was part of me that knew I could do so much more with it.

And by pure chance, I happened to read a thread on a popular guitar forum where this dude was demonstrating his new MIM Strat. His technique was absolutely flawless, and his presentation and tone were simply to die for! So I clicked on one of the links in his signature, and came to this site: Chuck D’Aloia Music. I read through the explanation, and saw that he also did Skype lessons, so I immediately contacted him about taking his lessons. In my email I explained about how I felt I could do more with my music and attached my latest song. He replied back several days later with exactly what I was thinking that ideas and tone were good, BUT rather than jump into lessons, I’d get a lot more out of his Blues With Brains series. It would be stuff that I could learn at my leisure, and once I digested the material, then we could explore the Skype lessons.

How cool was that? Rather than taking the higher money route, he just pushed his video series. So I downloaded both volumes for $40. When I got home that evening, I launched the first volume, and within the FIRST FIVE MINUTES, Chuck had effectively changed the way I looked at playing solos! That’s all it took! Obviously, I’ve had to apply and practice those concepts as I don’t have the fingering down completely, but the mere fact that I was able to attain a sense of what to do in a relatively short amount of time was just amazing to me!

Chuck’s approach is simple. He plays over a chord progression first. Then he takes apart the progression, and discusses and demonstrates what is possible to do at that particular point. The cool thing is that he also intersperses modal theory into the explanation, but doesn’t make the central to the discussion. It’s like, “Here are the notes you can play, and here’s what you can do with these notes…” It’s a very straight-forward approach, and while I realize I have a lot of practicing to do, I’ve gotten more out of the 40 minutes I’ve spent so far in these lessons than I have poring over books of scales and modes. The most important thing that I’ve gotten out of these lessons is that Chuck doesn’t teach licks. What he teaches is possibilities. He leaves it up to the student to express themselves! That is EXACTLY what I have been after all these years!

Without a doubt, I’m a total believer in Chuck’s series! If you want to learn the blues, and not just blues licks, and you want to really understand what you’re playing, you owe it to yourself to get this series. You will not be disappointed in the slightest!

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I normally don’t write about instructional sites, mainly because they’re a dime a dozen, and most follow the same model of discussing theory, and providing scale diagrams that accompany the theory. Not that these aren’t helpful, but I tend to be the type of player that learns more effectively by actual example. So it was fortuitous that I happened upon a discussion on a forum about guitar lessons. Someone asked a question about guitar lessons online, and to a person, the respondents all replied that the original poster should go to: Mark Wein Guitar Lessons (http://www.markweinguitarlessons.com).

Intrigued, I went there, and was totally blown away by what Mark Wein offers: Free instructional videos that not only cover theory, but provide instruction on practical applications of the theory. Take, for instance, the following video on the minor blues progression and some variations:

While Mark mentions some theory in the video, it’s mostly about interesting ways to “liven up” the minor blues chord progression. Now that’s useful!

After I viewed several of the videos, I decided to give Mark a call and just chat with him about his vision for the site. Here’s a transcript of the interview:

GuitarGear: So Mark, tell me about the site… Why would you just give away great lessons like these?

Mark: I wanted to differentiate my site from other instructional sites that simply offer text-based discussions of theory and give you a few diagrams of scales. Frankly, the videos draw in a lot of business for us. But as far as the videos are concerned, I didn’t want to just show the information, I wanted to provide the “why” behind the instruction. It’s all about communicating these ideas; teaching them in an easy way for students to understand and adopt in their playing.

GuitarGear: So what would say your overall philosophy is with respect to teaching?

Mark: There’s a real concentration on really teaching the guitar and more importantly, making music. I found that it students progress a lot faster when they have a context. Sure, I can teach mechanics, but to me, it’s more important to teach students to play music.

GuitarGear: Mark, I have to tell you that it’s refreshing to hear that. I work with a lot of young people who join my Church band, and some of these kids are incredibly talented, being able to cop their favorite guitarists’ licks like there’s no tomorrow. But ask them to strum some simple, funky blues progression, and they flail hopelessly.

Mark: Right. That’s my point exactly. Lots of people know technique, but are they really playing music? Probably not.

GuitarGear: Let’s move on… Can you tell me a bit about your history? How did you start with guitar?

Mark: It’s actually kind of a funny story. Like a lot of kids I got together with a few guys to start a band. I had been around music all my life, so it was only natural that I’d do the band thing. Anyway, I wanted to play drums, but one of the guys already played. So I couldn’t do that. I did bass for awhile, but another guy did that. You really don’t want me singing, so I basically got stuck with guitar. When I got older, I went to a local community college to study music theory and performance, then I got accepted to USC – unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend, so I started working in a couple of bands, produced some stuff, and did teaching as well. Anyway, I decided to put a real focus on teaching, which I loved anyway.

GuitarGear: So you’ve had this business for awhile…

Mark: Actually, we’re celebrating our fifth anniversary this year. But it was my wife who was really behind me opening up a school, and since we’ve opened, we’re up to ten teachers, teaching all sorts of styles. Plus we have a performance program so bands and musicians can learn performance.

GuitarGear: Very cool…

Mark: We also offer online lessons…

GuitarGear: Really? Now you’re talking. That’s exactly what I’m looking for! And since we share similar philosophies about guitar playing, I’m going to set up some lessons in the near future…

At that point, the interview kind of ended, because we got into a discussion about what I was after, and how I could take lessons and stuff, then of course, we got into the obligatory discussion about gear. Here’s a brief synopsis of what Mark plays:

Guitars

Suhr Classic
Suhr Classic T
Les Paul Standard (cream-colored – nice)

Amps

’66 Bassman
Silvertone 1484
Peavey Pentone

Tons of pedals…

It was great talking gear with Mark. He’s a true believer in using lower-wattage amps so you can take advantage of the power tube grind. He shared a story with me that had me chuckling where he played a gig on this HUGE Van Halen-size stage and only had a 22 Watt amp. People laughed, but the sound guys loved him. And that’s a great story because unlike the bad old days when sound reinforcement wasn’t nearly as good as it is now, you had to have multiple stacks to get your sound out. But nowadays, you have great PA gear, so it’s just a matter of getting a stage volume that you can hear, and let the PA handle the rest. That makes a lot of sense, and Mark’s sensible approach to guitar is what has given him success so far.

Rock on, Mark!

For more information, go to http://www.markweinguitarlessons.com

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audrey_hypnosis

I recently read a press release on Harmony Central where this company, Hypnobusters, has just released a self-hypnosis audio to improve your guitar playing. I snickered at first because when the word “hypnosis” is mentioned, my gut reaction is, “Yeah, right… just some more of that New Age crap…” But then again, over the years, I’ve developed meditation techniques to help focus and quiet my consciousness to develop and extend my “chi” (for those martial artists out there), and even so far as performing self-healing. In a way, those meditation techniques are a form of self-hypnosis. And if I’ve used self-hypnosis to accomplish different things, why not apply it to guitar playing?

The mind is a very powerful tool. And if you have the ability to quiet your consciousness, and filter out the hustle and bustle of your waking mind, you’ll find that you can much more clearly analyze different subjects or help steer yourself towards accomplishing many things. It’s not hocus-pocus. It’s pure focus.

For instance, have you ever been playing guitar at a gig or in the studio, and you close your eyes because you’re so in tune with the song that what you’re doing is just pure expression? While you’re in that “groove,” nothing else exists. It’s just you and your axe reverberating with the song. That, my friends, is a form of self-hypnosis. That’s happened to me many times in my studio, and when I listen to the printed track, I’m sometimes in total disbelief that I actually played what I played! I’m not really all that good of a soloist, so I suppose any clean take is a good take. 🙂

In any case, I went to the HypnoBusters site, and found their guitar improvement page. The audio session only costs $9.95, so I said, “What the hell? I’ll give it a whirl. Besides, I could use a little mind quieting time.” And really, that’s what it’s all about – quieting your mind, and allowing yourself to explore the limits of your playing. I’ve often found that the limits of my skills on guitar aren’t merely technical – there is definitely that – but also because my conscious mind often tells me “You can’t do that.” It’s like an inherent fear. But as I break through those boundaries, I find that my actual limits are much further than what my conscious mind tells me.

I’ll give this audio a try, and report back. I’m not sure that it’ll make me a better player – that’s purely up to me. But one thing I know about things like this: They help you give yourself the permission to improve.

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Pick up one of the major guitar mags, and you might think that to be considered a “good” guitar player nowadays you have to be able to shred it up playing 64th notes up and down the fretboard non-stop. I know, that’s a bit of an exagerration, but the major mags’ focus on shred disenfranchises a very large sector of the guitar-playing population that either can’t play that fast, has no interest in that kind of music, or want to focus on other things rather than speed – like musicality and expressiveness.

Hands-down, Jeff Beck has earned the right to be called a Guitar God. No one sounds like him, and while many people have been able to glean certain Jeff Beck techniques, and can get somewhat close to what he can do with a guitar, duplicating his style of playing is next to impossible. But I’m not here to talk about technique. I’m here to talk about the whole musical package that Jeff Beck delivers in his guitar playing. It’s pure magic. He’s not fast by any stretch of the imagination, but his ability to communicate with his audience through his playing is unrivaled.

Sound like a bunch of hyperbole? Just watch the video below. But don’t just observe what he’s doing with his left hand, which really isn’t all that difficult. Look at what he’s doing with his right hand, manipulating the tremolo bar and volume and tone knobs to achieve different voicings. That’s the magic in the performance of the song! No one does it as well!

Let me be absolutely clear here: The things that Jeff Beck does with his right hand while playing aren’t just parlor tricks to show off. They’re done to ellicit specific responses from his guitar, and make it sing like no one else can. To me, being a good guitar player isn’t just about technique; it’s about getting your message across. As Albert King once said (and I’m paraphrasing Steven Segal here), “The challenge [speaking in reference to the blues, but can be applied to any style of music] is to get your message across in as few notes as possible.” Sometimes that takes a bunch of notes; more often than not though, you can say the same thing with just a few, but express them in a such a way to make your point.

I’m of the school of thought that playing music is having a conversation with your audience. The best conversationalists do it with an economy of language, fully conscious not only of their glossary of terms, but the expression and inflection that goes along with communicating.

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yodaAh, Padawan. Come to receive the wisdom of the ages, you have I see. Into the realms of guitar playing greatness delve deep do you wish; to play among the stars of guitar such as Vai, Satriani, Johnson and others of that ilk. Good for you! Welcome you with open arms, do I. Now dispensed with the pleasantries have we Padawan, it is time to let you down…

  1. There is no magic wand I can wave to make you great
  2. Wish all you want, and you’ll never become a guitar god.
  3. Meditate on the virtues of truly great guitarists – It will do you no good.

Now that sufficiently crushed your dreams of guitar greatness have I, tell you I will the secret to achieving your place among the titans:

There are no shortcuts!!!

Bwah-hahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

Okay, enough of the Yoda talk… 🙂

To be completely serious, if you want to be a great guitarist, there is no other way to get to greatness without dedication and focus. Simply put, you have to practice – a lot! You can learn all the theory in the world, you can take all the A/V classes out there. All of these things are absolutely helpful. But until you apply the things that you learn and master the techniques, you’ll never get there.

Playing guitar, or any instrument for that matter, isn’t something that you can be good at simply by intellectualizing being good. It takes practice – every day – to develop the skills to play well. I look on my own experience with playing guitar. Yeah, I’ve been playing for over 35 years, but I’ve only reached a certain level of proficiency in the last five years when I decided that I wanted to change the direction of my music, which was almost entirely acoustic, to include more electric guitar.

The experience in the last five years has been both rewarding and painful. When I was starting out, it was so frustrating because I could hear in my head what I wanted out of my guitars, but I didn’t have the technique. So I put my head down, so to speak, and started playing and practicing everyday, seven days a week. I’d even bring a couple of guitars and an amp on vacation! I try to play at least a half-hour each day. It’s not necessarily just straight practice of scales, and different techniques, I also spend a lot of time exploring how to express music that comes into my head.

I’m still learning. I feel I have so much further to travel, but I have also come a long way compared to where I was five years ago. Back then, all I knew were chords and playing chords in alternate tunings. I could fingerpick pretty well, and do a lot of stuff with an acoustic guitar – that’s all great, and I don’t want to discount what I could do on acoustic, but my abilities on the electric guitar, especially with doing improv, were sorely lacking. But from constant practice, I can do at least a basic lead in pretty much any key. That’s the reward; having the satisfaction of knowing I’ve made a lot of progress.

I originally got the inspiration for this article from a blog entry I read at GuitarVibe. It really got me thinking about what I’ve accomplished over the past few years, and moreover, how I got to where I am. Like with anything in life, learning is often fraught with moments of despair and discouragement, but it also has its times of complete satisfaction and reward.

So go practice, young Padawan, and may the Force be with you!

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JamVOX Front View

JamVOX Front View

JamVOX User Interface

JamVOX User Interface

Even though I have some patterns and scales that I practice, I usually end up jamming to jam tracks that I either write myself or download. But I also like to jam to music from popular bands. The only problem with this is that the guitar parts are already printed, and it’s tough to jam over recorded stuff.

But VOX has just come out with the JamVOX, a jam and practice tool consisting of softare and a mini practice amp to play along with any MP3. The software apparently extracts the guitar part from any MP3, and you can rip away! I don’t think this is the first of its kind, but compared to the solutions I’ve seen in the past, this looks like it is the most well-integrated software/hardware solution to date. I’m definitely going to check it out as soon as I can! Here are the features from the VOX site!

  • Revolutionary new GXT (Guitar XTracktion) function lets you cancel or extract the guitar part of an existing song.
  • 19 famous guitar amps and 54 effect units ranging from vintage to modern are provided as software.
  • Easy-to-use “drag and drop” interface enables guitarists to create their “dream guitar rig” without any advanced knowledge of amps or effects. Sound famous fast!
  • A music player feature with convenient functions for jam sessions or practice.
  • Import music files to jam along with from your favorite CDs, music library or MP3 player.
  • A dedicated USB monitor speaker is included, and there’s no need for complex wiring or specialized knowledge of computer music.
  • Two guitar play-along CDs containing 28 famous rock classics.

Check out a few videos:

After watching the videos, I’m REALLY stoked about JamVOX!!! And at $249.00, it’s a great deal!!! Can’t wait to give it a whirl!

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Ran across this site today called SpeedPicking.com that actually looks pretty interesting. In their words:

The Speed Picking Workshop is for any Guitarist looking to vastly improve their Speed, Accuracy and Coordination using an alternate picking technique. The online workshop allows you to develop this technique using a measured and methodical approach. This method promises fast, solid and measurable results for the guitarist that demands real progress and has the determination and patience to achieve their goals.

Wonder if you could get the same stuff from a book… Check it out at: http://www.speedpicking.com

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