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 tips for guitar speed

 

guitar

guitar

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!

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!

The Easiest way to memorize open guitar strings

Howdy! Are you brand new to guitar? Are you a guitar teacher looking for the easiest way to teach beginning guitar ideas? Read over this blog post and check out some of the other posts in this series. Here are 3 tips to memorize the names of the strings on the guitar. If you follow these 3 tips you will memorize them quickly, and never forget them.

 

  • Memorize pneumonics.
  1. Easter bunny goes dancing at Easter (From high sounding string to low sounding string)
  2. Eat All Day Get Big Easy (From Low sounding string to high sounding string)
  3. Eat Apples Daily Grow Big Ears (From Low sounding string to high sounding string)
  4. Even Average Dogs Get Bones Eventually (From Low sounding string to high sounding string)
  5. Eleven Angry Donuts greet big Elephants (From Low sounding string to high sounding string)
  6. Elves Ate Dirt getting better ebooks (From Low sounding string to high sounding string)
  7. Elvis bit grannies dog after epilepsy (From high sounding string to low sounding string)

Make up your own as well. It does not need to be good, it can be crazy. To make this process faster, try running around your house screaming the pneumonic you choose to memorize. This will activate your adrenaline which will improve your memory and recall.

This is the easiest way to memorize open guitar strings. Try it, I promise you will see dramatic improvement quickly.

The Easiest Way to Master Open Chords

Guitar Chord

Guitar Chord

Students often wonder what the best way to learn open chords fast is. They may try many different methods, but often they miss the easiest and most enjoyable way. It is very easy and simple to do. If you apply this concept you will be learning and having fun at the same time. I will separate this into 5 categories to make it as simple as possible.

  • Pick a song you enjoy. Make sure the song is enjoyable, it can be any genre and any speed. It can be a new song or an old song. The more enjoyable the song is, the better you will learn.
  • Print off the chord chart. This is an important part of the process. Using electronics to read your music will make this more difficult. I encourage you to either use a music stand, or set it up in a way that is easy to read while holding your guitar.
  • Print off an open chord reference sheet. This will be important for many reasons including refreshing your memory, and learning new open chords when you do not know the correct fingering. Keep this near you when you practice in case you need to reference it.
  • Play it by yourself, and play it with a recording. Play it by yourself and enjoy it. You can sing the song, but you don’t have to. Just have fun and make some noise playing your favorite song. Playing by yourself is great, but also play it with the recording. Playing it with the recording will push your playing to the next level. It is also a lot of fun!
  • Memorize the song. You should eventually memorize the song you are learning to play. At first, it is fine to use music. You goal should be to know the song well enough to play without the reference. This will allow you to memorize the chords better, it will also allow you to play songs for your friends!

I want to give you one additional piece of advice that will give you a sense of improvement. It will also be a way to quickly reference the song in the future if you forget it.

  • Every song you finish memorizing, put it in a 3 ring binder with a sheet protector. This will protect the music for future reference. If you every have a chance to play in front of people it will be a quick and easy reference guide that you can use.

This is the easiest way to master open chords. You will see improvement quickly if you do this every day. You will have a lot of fun, and you will learn quickly. Isn’t that what music is all about?

The secret to gaining skill

Recently I have been learning how to draw. I signed up for a class in drawing and I have come a long way in my skill since I first started. Taking this class opened up my eyes to something that I already knew, but put it in a new perspective. Repetition.

For each object we learn how to draw we spend approximately 3 – 6 hours drawing the same item over and over again. The first few times are rough, but then it gets faster and more accurate. Eventually hidden details start to show themselves. We have learned a minimal amount of techniques, but my skill has greatly improved. The trick is to pick something that I can not draw, but practice it over and over again.

This approach to learning was how I also learned music. I would learn a new chord and practice it over and over again. In college I use to turn this into a game. I would play an etude at a specific tempo and each time I played it perfectly I would put a mark on a piece of paper. I would try to play it perfectly 100 times.

Every skill we learn, we perfect it by doing it many times. This is the trick to gaining skill. Do not be afraid of wasting time by practicing something a lot. It is better to master a few techniques than to barely use a bunch. Put it this way. If you focus on 1 thing for an hour a day each week. You will become very good at that one thing. You will be very good at 52 things by the end of the year. 52 things is more than enough to play well.

How To Play Guitar

Have you been trying to learn guitar? Maybe you just bought one? Trying to understand guitar can be confusing, especially with all those blog posts out there to choose lessons from. I am here to present to you the most basic explanation for playing guitar. With this formula you will sound exactly how you want.

Are you ready for this?

 

Formula: play the right notes at the right time.

OK, stop screaming and waving your arms. Let me elaborate.

1: In order to play the right notes you need to be able to play a note. A lot of exercises are created to enhance your hand coordination. Getting both hands working together is a very important step.

2: Learn what the right notes are. This is accomplished by studying chords and scales. Chords and scales are what make up songs, so these allow you to play and understand songs.

3: Our whole universe has a rhythm to it. I want you to sound like a train, but vary the speed and distance  of each chooka. Sometimes put a gap of 10 seconds in there. Do you sound like a train? No! You sound like a lunatic. Music is the exact same way. This rhythm is the final part to the formula.

For those who like math here is a mathematical formula.

Hand coordination + notes + rhythm = guitar playing

This formula will simplify learning. You will understand why you are practicing certain exercises. Hopefully you now have an idea of what you need to practice.

 

Best wishes.

Guitar Techniques that Prevents Injury

I spend a lot of time watching musicians play music. Because I’m a guitar player, I tend to watch other guitar players more closely. I watch videos online, I see live performances, I teach, and play with other musicians. I have noticed a few things that guitar player’s do that will eventually hurt them. It is not uncommon to have wrist, back, shoulder, or neck problems because of the guitar. Here are a few techniques that prevent injury.

  • Use proper posture.

Wrist: It is important to keep your wrist straight. I have seen a lot of guitarists and bassists with bent wrists. This is a common reason for wrist pain and fixing this will protect you from creating wrist problems. Sometimes you may need to bend your wrist a little bit, but what causes the problem is having a bent wrist for an extended period of time. Keep this from becoming a habit.

Back: Sit straight when you play. Sometimes it is tempting to slouch, but this can cause back pain. When you are standing make sure you are not leaning forward, this can cause back pain as well.

  • Stretch

Stretching your hands, arms and shoulders are a great routine to get into before you play. This can prevent injury as well as help you reach really stretchy chords. Before a gig it can feel good to do a whole body stretching routine.

  • Don’t overplay

A common reason for injury is over playing. I suggest that you make it a habit to take breaks during your practice session. If you feel any pain while playing you should stop immediately and rest. It is better to lose 5 minutes of practice than to deal with an injury for the next 2 months.

  • Overall Health

It is important to be healthy. Work out and eat well and your body will resist injury better. You guitar may not feel as heavy; you won’t get tired throughout the gig as much. Overall health can also make you mentally sharper which will help you play better.

Try these tips and you will be much less likely to get injured while playing guitar. All of these solutions are fairly simple and are easy to incorporate into your playing routine. Just start trying it and see how it works for you.

Notice: If you are already experiencing pain, although these techniques may help alleviate the pain I do suggest you visit your doctor for any necessary treatment.