The One Thing That Makes Music Great

Have you ever wondered if there was one thing that tied all great music together? Maybe you thought that if there was only one concept you could understand about music that would make you a great musician. Well I am here to tell you that there is something that ties all great music. All styles of music contain this element. All great artists have this technique down. You can easily learn this and apply it to your own music and see great results.

All music contains the element of energy. Its kind of like spunk or excitement. All great artists deliver their music with a sort of energy that makes us connect to them. The musicians that lack this element are usually brushed off as not being very good. Would you want to listen to an hours worth of music by an artist that sounds like melting ice cream? NO!

Try this exercise. Sit down with music that you enjoy and listen to each musician individually. Listen to the singer. Do they sound like they have energy? Spunk? Excitement? Do they move you? Do this to the drummer, guitarist, bassist and anyone else.

This is a simple thing, but it is extremely important. This doesn’t mean you should neglect learning more knowledge and techniques, but everything you know will sound ten times better if it contains energy. Give it a shot!


Guitar Sound | Adjusting your guitar

Welcome back for another post on creating a good sound on your instrument.  If you would like to review the post on adjusting your amp click HERE.

One of the first things every guitarist learns is the parts of the guitar and what their function is. These parts are not always just for holdings your instrument together, but their function dictates what your instrument sounds like. We should discuss a few simple guidelines for getting the most out of your guitar.

  1. Learn how to control your tone knobs. These knobs will drastically change the way your guitar sounds. It can suck the life out of your instrument, or it can give your instrument the life that it needs. The best place to start is by turning your tone knobs completely open. This means as bright as it can be. This is the default starting point. Depending on your style, you might decide to turn your tone knobs back just a hair to take the edge off of your tone. This will give you a softer tone, darker, and less spunk. This is usually preferred for jazz. There is really no practical reason to turn your tone knob completely dark. This will sound muddy and suck the life out of your instrument.
  2. Proper use of your volume knob can really improve your sound. Once again a default starting point is to turn your volume knob completely open. This means as loud as it gets. Some exceptions to this include trying to match the volume of the band you are playing with quickly. Also you may be in a situation where you want to turn off the gain slightly, lowering your volume knob will slightly clean your sound.
  3. Experiment with Picking location. If you pick your guitar close to the bridge it will sound bright. If you pick your guitar close to the neck it will sound full and dark. Experiment with your guitar so that you can adjust your sound according to your needs. It may shock you to find out how much difference it makes.
  4. String brand and strength can make a huge difference. Usually the higher the string, the darker it sounds. The lighter the string, the brighter it sounds. The company you buy also makes a difference. This may take some experimentation to find out which sound works best for you. A general guide line with strings is that you get what you pay for. This doesn’t mean you need to buy the most expensive, but the more expensive strings usually last longer and sound better.

The goal is to have a well rounded, good sound. If you have never heard this advice before, you might just need to follow some of this advice blindly. It takes some time to build your ear so that you can hear what sounds good and what doesn’t sound good. If you follow these guidelines you will have a decent sound to work with.


Guitar Sound | Adjusting your amp

Hello fellow guitarists,

Recently I have been doing a lot of masterclasses for schools and I have come across a general weakness for beginning and intermediate level guitarists. Within literally one second I can tell how good someone is based on their sound. Every time a guitarist plugs in their instrument, they should adjust their sound. First I will present to you the problem I run into most often, and then I will give you three pieces of advice on adjusting your amp before you play. There will be multiple posts about adjusting your  guitar sound so I suggest you read those as well.

The Problem:

I walk into a band rehearsal and I hear the guitar sound tingy, unfull, not inspired, barely heard, and just a weak sound.

The Fix:

  1. Adjust all your EQ to 5, then adjust as needed. Once you plug in all your equipment, you should take a look at your guitar amp. Look for the knobs that say EQ or Equalization and turn then all to the half way point. This will probably not be the perfect mix, but it will give you a good place to start. From here you can adjust your EQ as needed to perfect your sound. It is way too common for guitarists to either neglect EQ, or to turn the highs up more than needed and the bass down more than needed.
  2. Pay Attention to gain levels and effects on your amp. A guitarist’s sound should be meaningful and intentional, however this is often neglected among newer musicians. While you do your sound check you should check your gain to make sure it is not overly distorted or overly clean depending on the situation you are playing in. A lot of guitar amps come with built in effects, DO NOT let this slip your attention. You don’t want to be in a situation where your guitar sounds all funky and you don’t know how to fix it. It is better to turn off all effects until you know exactly what you want and how much of it to use.
  3. Fix your volume. It is always better to be told to turn up than to turn down, but you shouldn’t want to be told either. Pay attention to your volume. Each situation you play in will require a different amount of volume from you, knowing how much will come with experience. However the rule of thumb is be heard, but not too loud. If you are playing with a band, you can try to blend in with them.

If you look at the picture above you will see someone playing a trumpet. We can learn about our sound by observing other instruments. Trumpet doesn’t have the ability to adjust EQ, It doesn’t have the ability to turn a knob and be softer. The musician that plays the trumpet has a fairly even EQ, and has to pay attention to how loud and soft he is. We should be like him. We should pay attention to having a balanced EQ and paying attention to our volume. A trumpet performer cannot ignore his sound, and we should not either.


Quick Tip – Staring at your fretboard

One thing almost every guitarist does at some point in their career is become attached to staring at their fretboard while they play. This is bad stage presence, but it is easy to fix. Sometimes, especially when playing something hard, it is necessary to look, but do not make it a habit. Here is a quick tip to fix your habit of staring at your fretboard.

TIP – Go into a dark room, the darker the better. You should not be able to see anything. This may work best at night in a dark room, or a room without windows. You could even consider putting a bandana over your eyes. Whatever you do, make vision impossible.

Once you have limited your vision start practicing guitar. Practice things you already know. Practice playing scales and chords without vision. You may find that you keep hitting wrong notes, but that is alright. Listen to what you play, if it sounds wrong, keep trying. Eventually you will become comfortable with the feeling and you will be able to perform these tasks without looking at the guitar. This may take some time, but keep being persistent.

Once you are able to play without looking at the guitar, it boils down to noticing when you start to stare. Keep an eye out on your behavior once you start playing. When you recognize yourself looking when you do not need to, stop it. After awhile it will become normal and subconscious.

Good luck, and sign up for the mailing list to get more lessons.

Quick Tip For Building A Guitar Solo

A guitar solo is like building a house.

A guitar solo is like building a house.

Every good guitar solo has an outline. This outline could be done in many different ways, but this outline is fundamental to building a good solo. Building a good solo is like building a house. Lets take a look at the quick tip for building a guitar solo.

  1. Foundation. The first thing you need to do in your guitar solo is to create a foundation. This can be done using motives, or using a lot of space.
  2. Frame. This is where you start to build the shape of the solo. You can start to build the solo up using more notes or embellishing the motive you used in step 1.
  3. Walls. This is where your solo is actually in place. Listeners know what you are trying to say. They will comprehend your approach to the solo.
  4. The roof. this is the apex of the solo. You will play the fastest or most embellished part here. You can accomplish this by playing the highest note of the solo here.
  5. Furniture. This is where you bring the listener into comfort again. Bring the solo back down a little bit from the apex. You can still play cool ideas, or may revert back to a previous motif.

There are many ways to follow this outline, but you will notice that every great improviser knows this outline. This outline is usually for longer solos, sometimes a guitar solo is too short to use this outline. This can be used in any genre that you play. Best of luck, and sign up for the email list.

Quick tips for guitar speed




Are you trying to build up your speed? Here are 3 quick Tips to teach you how to quickly improve.


  • Stay relaxed. This is one of the most important things to gain speed. If you watch the Olympics and you see a sprinter running, are they flexing every muscle as they run? Bulging neck muscles do not provide the ability to run faster. The guitar is the same way. Stay loose and be relaxed. Over time, the fastest guitarists are the most relaxed.
  • Minimize movement. The more you move the slower you become. Keep your fingers close to the strings, keep your pick close to the strings. I often watch people play acoustic guitar, but while they strum their whole arm is swinging away using the full length of the arm. If you watch a professional guitarist however, you will notice that they barely move. The exception to this is to provide entertainment.
  • Utilize efficient picking habits. The hand that causes most difficulty in building speed is the pick hand. This can be improved by using a different picking style. Many guitarists learn how to alternate pick, and this is great, but there are other techniques that should not be avoided. Each picking style is useful and brings a slightly different sound. Some picking styles are also faster than others.

Use these tips and you will start to notice an increase in speed. If these are not already familiar to you, it may feel strange at first. Keep at it, this uncomfortable feeling means you are learning something new. Good luck and join the mailing list for more lessons!

Music History Study Sheet

History pic

When learning about music history, ask yourself these questions. This is not a complete list, it is meant to give you an idea how you can make history come to life. Some of these questions may seem irrelevant, but the goal is to be able to picture the person’s life. The more you understand, the more you realize that they were a real person, and you can imagine them talking to people. Try to complete this list for every musician you learn about.


When was the artist born?

What country did they live in?

Were their parents musicians?

What Instrument do they play?

Who did they study from?

What was their main source of income from?

What Ethnicity are they?

Is their voice high or low?

Do they have any diseases?

Are there any interesting side stories about them?

Who were their friends?

Were they known as being nice?

What were their most famous compositions?

If you had a conversation with them, what would they tell you?

Did they have any children?

Were they married?

What did their house look like?

What kind of clothing did they have?

What form of transportation did they use?

Did they ever accomplish anything outside of music?

Do they have any famous quotes?

What were their hobbies?

How did they die?

When did they die?

Are they well known today?


Feel free to add additional questions to this. The more questions you ask, the more you will remember. Print this sheet out and try it for yourself. Try to answer each question. Use books, internet, teachers or any other resource you can find. Have fun!

The Easiest Way to understand music theory

Written Music

Written Music

Music theory is usually one of the most difficult topics for people to learn. Today you will understand the easiest way to break down music theory to understand it the best way. It is easier than you think! There are only 4 categories in music theory. The first step is to identify which of these categories the theory you are learning belongs to.


  • Terminology

This might be the most difficult thing new musicians get confused by in theory. There are so many new words, many of which are not even English. If you identify what you are learning is a new word, it applies to this category. Terminology is used in all the following categories as well.


  • Chord theory

This category includes anything with more than 1 note played at a time.


  • Note Theory

This means anything that uses 1 note at a time.


  • Rhythm

This does not involve notes at all, but this is the study of time. Music takes place over a period of time. Rhythm is the study of how time is manipulated with patterns.


Each category can be explored to very deep levels, but it does not need to be confusing. Understanding how things work is not rocket science. People often make this more complicated than it needs to be.

The Easiest Way to Learn a New Song

Song Book

Song Book

Before anyone can learn to play the chords or melody to a song, they will need to know how the song goes. Unfortunately this is not the fastest thing to teach, but it definitely is not boring. Learning how a song goes is a skill that every musician will need to know. Professionals use this skill just as much as anyone else. So how can you learn this skill?

First let’s define what learning a song means. It is necessary to be able to hear the song internally before you will successfully be able to play it. It will be impossible to memorize a melody on the guitar if you don’t know how it goes. Try this test to see if you know a song: Sing the song out loud. Did you do it? Is there a part you couldn’t remember? Don’t worry about the words, just the sounds. If you need to learn a song better here is how you do it.

  • Pick a song you want to learn.
  • Listen to the song a lot. The more you listen to the song the better.
  • Sing or hum along with the music. I have found this to be the most important part to quickly ingrain a melody into your memory.
  • Repeat part 2 and 3 a lot. The harder the music you are trying to learn, the more you will need to do this. If you are a beginner learning Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you may not need to listen to it as much as a professional learning a difficult jazz transcription.


This is simple, and fun. You will learn more songs and you will be able to apply them to your instrument. Keep in mind that an instrument is an extension of your voice. If you cannot sing it, you cannot play it. Keep in mind, I did not say sing well!

The Easiest Way to learn Melodies

Do you want to learn more about guitar than open chords? The next step is to start learning some melodies. There are many different ways to learn melodies. I am going to give you two ways to learn melodies quickly.

  • Pick a song that you know well. The better you know the song, the easier you will learn a melody. The better you know the song, the longer you will remember it. This Is the most basic foundation to learn any song. Tomorrows post will be about learning a new song better.
  • Go on YouTube and look up a lesson for the song you are learning. You can look up “How to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on guitar”. There is pretty much a lesson for every song you will ever want to play in your entire career. This is an easy way to learn, because you can visually see someone’s hand and they tell you what they are playing.
  • Memorize the melody. This is the most important part of learning guitar. Everything you work on should make its way to your memory.
  • Practice it over and over. The more you practice it, the better you get at playing it. The more you repeat it, the better you will remember it years from now.


Here is the second approach to learning a melody. This approach is a little bit harder to learn at first, but will make learning faster in the future. This approach will also make it easier to reference a melody you once knew, but forgot.

  • Pick a song that you know well. This is for the same reason mentioned above.
  • Print off guitar tab for the song you want to learn. This is for two reasons. First: It is there for you to easily access while you are learning it. Second: Store it in a 3 ring binder with a paper protector so that you can keep it for years. You can see your progress and it will be a easy reference if you forget it.
  • Memorize the melody. This is for the same reason mentioned above.
  • Practice it over and over. This is for the same reason mentioned above.

As you see, the two approaches are very similar. These are both easy to do, and it will be fun. Enjoy!