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.

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.

How to tune your guitar by ear

When you play guitar, it is important to stay in tune because you’re training your ear to hear different intervals. There are many more ways to tune a guitar other than using a tuner. Your ear is a valuable tool that can allow you to tune your guitar. In this lesson we are going to focus on 2 different ways you can tune your guitar by ear and then we are going to discuss how you can use this knowledge to get maximum benefit from your tuner.

The first way you can tune your guitar without a tuner is by using a piano. As you can see, this approach can be very limiting already. Pianos do not grow on trees, but it is worth talking about because most guitarists will need to tune to a piano sometime in their musical lifetime. So how do you tune to a piano? There are 2 ways. The easiest way to tune to a piano is by tuning each string to the piano note. Below is a diagram of the notes on piano and how they relate to each guitar string. This approach works, however a lot of pianos are not tuned often enough and because of this your strings will be unequally tuned. In other words, your guitar will not be in tune with itself. This brings us to the second way to tune by a piano. If you want your guitar to play in tune with itself the best way to do this is to tune the low E string to the piano. Once you do that you can tune the rest of your guitar using the approach below.

Tuning notes

Tuning notes on a piano.

If you can tune your Low E string to the correct pitch this approach will make sure your whole guitar is in tune. However, if your guitar is not tuned to the exact pitch, you can still make your guitar play in tune with itself, it will just be out of tune with a band. So this approach is still good if you are playing alone. How you do this is on the low E string you play the 5th fret and then you pluck the A string. These 2 notes are the same pitch. So using your ear you should adjust the A string to play at the same pitch (note) as the E string 5th fret.  Now that your A string is in tune you can play the 5th fret of the A string and play the open D string and tune the D string to match the A string 5th fret. This process continues. The only difference is tuning the B string. You will need to play the 4th fret G string and open B string.

Using both of these approaches with a piano or without will take some time getting use to. It will help train your each as well. One little tip to make sure your strings are in tune is listening for waves. If you hear a waving clashing noise while you play the 2 notes together then it is not in tune. Another benefit from learning to tune by ear is when you use an electronic tuner you can check to make sure it really is in tune. Depending on the tuner you use, some are better than others, but it is always a good idea to check to make sure it sounds right by ear.

There are many ways to tune. Using your ear to tune is a good idea because you can train your ear and make sure your guitar really is in tune.  You can use a piano to tune, a tuner, or if there is nothing available you can use the guitar by itself to tune. You might not be in tune with a band without a tuner or piano, but you can still play and sound good-by yourself.

What is string bending and how do you do it?

String bending is a technique on guitar that makes the pitch goes higher.  Depending on how much you bend the string it can get up a half step, whole step or anything in between. This technique is a very useful and very common technique. It can give you options to play things that you couldn’t play without bending. There are some things you should know before you start string bending.

To bend on a string you push the string up or down. How do you know when to push up or down though? A general rule would be on the 3 highest strings push up and on the 3 lowest strings pull down. However you may find that you bend on the D string easier upward. The whole purpose of this is so you do not push the string off of the fret board.

Bending strings can be hard to do, so to make it easier you can use your other fingers to give you more strength. If you are bending up with your ring finger, you should put your middle and index fingers on the string behind your ring finger. This will make bending the string much easier than it was before. There are times when you cannot do this. For example if you are bending with your index finger you cannot use other fingers for more strength.

When you first start with bending it will seem hard. This technique will get much easier and more fun to use. You may need to work on it for a few days straight just to get the jest of how it works. It is almost impossible to improve without knowing this technique. So you will thank yourself for spending the time to master it. Make sure when you bend strings that you are putting enough pressure on the string so the note comes out. This may require a little strength in the hands, but you will gain this after some practice.

Bending strings is a very common and extremely useful technique that should be mastered. It will take time to learn it, but it can be fun to use. When you are bending strings you should push to 3 highest strings up and the 3 lowest strings down. If bending seems hard you can use any extra fingers to give you extra strength to bend more. The only time you can’t use other fingers to help you bend is the first (index) finger. Practice this technique for a while and get the hang of it. Happy Bending!

Discover How You Can Get a Great Guitar Tone

This lesson is for everyone in the whole universe that plays guitar. Most of the sound you get from playing guitar is from the hands, not from your gear. If you wish you had a better sound on the guitar than you might want to reconsider a few aspects of your guitar playing to improve your sound. How does this work and what can you do to change your sound? I will show you what you need to know about improving your guitar tone.

Your picking hand is very influential on your guitar tone. This is where you control the volume, brightness or your sound and the harshness. The very first step to creating the guitar sound that you really like is getting the right type of pick. Harder picks will have a harsher sound than a flimsy guitar pick. Different guitar pick materials will have different sounds. You may find experimenting with different guitar picks is a good start to changing your guitar tone. Try different materials, sizes and thickness. Keep in mind that guitar picks should feel comfortable.

After you have a good sounding pick you should concentrate on where you pluck the string and how hard you pluck it. Different positions on the string will create different sounds. Typically closer to the bridge has more of a brighter twang sound and closer to the neck has a darker full sound. Try plucking the string in different sections and you will find that your guitar will start to sound different than it has before. Also keep in mind that you should feel comfortable playing the guitar.  The harder you pluck the string the louder your sound will be. If you want a louder guitar sound then plucking harder may be what you want. Slight differences in how hard you pluck will make a difference. Do not pluck your strings hard enough to break them.

Finally for the picking hand you should experiment with how you hold the guitar pick. Different angles of the guitar pick will create different guitar tones. You can tilt the pick upward or downward. You can also turn the pick to face the bridge or the neck. Experiment with the angle of the pick. You may also want to experiment with the strength that you hold the pick. If you hold the pick tightly there will be less give for the pick and it will sound different than if you lightly hold on to it. You may also want to experiment with the position of the pick between your fingers. There are so many ways to experiment with the guitar pick. Keep in mind that finger style guitar will sound completely different from a guitar pick.

The picking hand on the guitar generates a great amount of the tone you receive on the guitar. Your guitar tone will change depending on your pick and the placement of your pick. Minor adjustments can make the biggest differences in your guitar tone. Experiment with different approaches; however remember that you should always feel comfortable with the guitar. If you find a position that is just very awkward then you may want to find a new position to hold your pick. Share your thoughts below