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Posts Tagged ‘learn guitar’

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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There’s a new site called “I Perform 3D.” Check it out! It’s a trip! http://www.iperform3d.com/.

Don’t know if I’d join, but I’ve never seen anything quite like it! 🙂 Here’s a video:

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modesfig2

Note: This isn’t going to be an instructional piece… just a sharing piece… mostly…

I’ve been playing guitar for over 35 years, but it hasn’t been until the last couple of years – actually the last few months – that I’ve really started focusing on scales and modal theory. Chord theory I had down cold, but I really didn’t focus on the scales part of the equation. I figured that if I could get some lead patterns and tricks down, I’d be in pretty good shape; and for awhile, that worked just fine.

But then I realized that in many of my recordings, I was using the same patterns and tricks, albeit in different keys and in different combinations, but the same stuff nonetheless. This prompted me to rethink how I approached playing solos, so I started out by learning major and minor scale patterns. I got a couple of books to help me along, and I proceeded to practice them.

But in the back of my mind was this idea of modes. I’d heard them bandied about for years, and pretty much ignored them partially out of the thought that as a rhythm player, they weren’t too important; though that really masked an innate fear that modes were WAY beyond my ability to grasp. But during this past weekend’s study/practice session, I realized that modes are not difficult at all! The names of the modes just scared the livin’ crap out of me! 🙂

Think about it: The mode names are all in Greek: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. From my previous life as a bio-sciences major, terminology in Greek or Latin would evoke feelings of anxiety similar to, “Oh shit! More frickin’ terms to memorize just to regurgitate later on.” 🙂 Such was the case when faced with modes.

I now feel a little foolish about my anxiety with modes. Once you understand what they represent, they’re totally easy to play!

Here’s my explanation in a nutshell, just in case you too have the same anxiety about modes as I did:

  1. Modes are simply starting points within the scale of a particular key.
  2. For instance, if you’re playing in the key of C and want to play in the Mixolydian mode, you’d start and end on the 5th degree of the C scale which is G.
  3. Now don’t get confused here: You don’t play a G scale. You merely start at G, and play the notes of the C scale, so: G A B C D E F G

So what’s the big deal? Lots of players don’t give a whit about this stuff. For me as a teacher, this stuff is pretty important. But from a player’s standpoint, it gives you a much deeper understanding of the fretboard, and also, playing in a mode gives you a different tonal center to play from, which actually has an effect on how a solo sounds and feels.

I found that a great example of this is to play the Lydian mode. The Lydian mode starts on the 4th degree of a scale. Going back to the C scale, this means that the Lydian will be F. If you’re familiar with chord theory, a chord with an added 4th is notated as Csus4. The sound of this particular chord connotes a feeling that the chord must be resolved – it’s not something you’d finish with; you’d typically use a “sus4” chord before either the major root chord or minor root chord. In our case of a C chord, we’d do something like: Csus4 – C. In playing in the Lydian mode, you’ll evoke a sense that you have to resolve your scale somehow. After all, starting and ending on the 4th creates a feeling that your phrase is unfinished. The point of all this is that where you start will have a huge effect on the general coloring of what you’re playing.

Note that this discussion only brushes the surface of modal theory. For a much deeper discussion, check out Guitar Noise or this excellent article that I found on Modes of the Major Scale.

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teachwombat-banner

One of GuitarGear.org’s readers recently plugged his guitar instructional site, Teach Wombat, in one of my articles about moving into a new chapter of my guitar life. I normally don’t like random product plugs, but being a teacher, I’m always looking for teaching aids and resources, so I checked out the site, and it definitely showed promise. A little later after Ken left his comment, like a good businessman, he offered to let me review his material, so I did, and all I have to say is, “WOW!” This stuff is GREAT! Ken’s primary product, the Guitar Teacher’s Toolkit includes over 100 professionally produced handouts covering the C-A-G-E-D system and scalar modes, plus a bunch of other awesome diagrams.

As a new guitar teacher, producing my own handouts has been a very laborious and tedious task, but with the Guitar Teacher’s Toolkit, I’ve got pretty much everything I need for teaching. It even comes with blank neck diagrams for ad hoc instruction!

But I wouldn’t limit this just to teachers. Players of all levels and skill will find lots of value from the diagrams and can use them as quick references. Hey! For $12.00, you can’t miss! So do yourself a big favor and go to TeachWombat.com today and buy Ken’s Guitar Teacher’s Toolkit!

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