So, you want to change how you play guitar

You decide to put on a backing track and play to a fun song. You realize that everything you play is boring, and you know you can do better. You start thinking about what is wrong with you. The good news is, nothing is wrong with you. It is just how you hear your musical lines at the moment. If you want to change how you play guitar, you need to change how you hear music.

Our mind is what controls every single aspect of our lives. It regulates our sleep, it tells us when we are hungry, it determines our favorite movies and it tells us what we want to sound like. Our brain is powerful, and the first step to changing any aspect of our lives is to change our brain. You may be wondering how to change how we think. It is easy, read on to find out.

Human being’s are creatures of habit. We create habits because of things that we do over and over again, they become ingrained in our mind so it seems like it is second nature to us.  Our past makes up a huge portion of who we are. Things we did when we were 5 will affect us for the rest of our lives. We cannot change our past, but each day our past becomes larger. What we do today will become the past. So we can change who we become, by changing what we do today.

All philosophy put aside, if we want to change how we play guitar we need to listen to music that we want to sound like. As mentioned above, we need to do this many times, repeat it over and over. This music needs to be installed in us as if we are a computer. This is how we change how we play. You will always have pieces from music you played in the past, but you will start to evolve with time into the player you want to become.

Start working hard today, because today is our past. Today we say “Should I do this or should I do that”. Take this phrase and translate it into our past. “I should have done this instead of that”.

Everything starts with the blues form

Are you a blues guitarist? Are you a rock guitarist? Are you a jazz guitarist? Are you a country guitarist? Are you a bluegrass guitarist? Are you a folk guitarist? All of these styles have a form in common. The Blues. The blues form is the most universal changes in music. It is simple and the best place any guitarist could start with. In this lesson you will learn what the blues form is, how to create it and how it works.

HISTORY:

You may or may not have heard that the blues was created in the late 1800s from slaves. It was highly influenced by things like spirituals, work songs and chants. The real meaning of the blues, however, comes from the purpose of it. It was intended to sing about serious life topics. Bad relationships, bad work, harsh life styles were common topics of blues. There are some songs that are happier, but of a serious matter. One of the ways slaves were allowed to express themselves was through music. So blues was an important part of society.

 

Lyrics and Melodies:

Lyrics and melodies of the blues form were often extremely simple.  These were created in an AAB style. What this means is that you sing something like “this is the blues” then you repeated it. Then you sing “The days keep going, they don’t die off”. Here is an example of what a blues melody looks like.

 

This is the blues

This is the blues

The days keep going, they don’t die off

 

Here is an example in a song by Albert Collins:

Because of how the lyrics are made, the melody is in the same form. It repeats then changes.

 

The Chord Progression:

In the blues form there are 3 chords used.  All of them are dominant chords. The blues form is 12 bars long. Here is the chord progression.

I7    |        |         |      |

IV7  |        |I7     |      |

V7   |IV7  |I7      |      |

 

All you need to do is fill in the chord progression above in the key you are in then you will have the blues form in that key. You can listen to the example above and hear this chord progression.

 

Alterations:

There are always exceptions to everything. Especially in jazz, there are all kinds of alterations to this progression. Jazz treats this form as “goal posts” in a way. They will hit these chords, but add extra chords between them or substitute other chords in their place. To view a whole lesson on this click here.

 

In other styles like rock or country you may see similar chord progressions that are slightly changed. The most common thing you will see is changing the order of these chords. For example:

I7 |     |IV7    |      |

V7 |    | IV7   |      |

I7   |    |V7     |      |

 

You may also see chords added to this sometimes. Also in rock you will move more away from the all dominants toward the harmonized scale. So the fourth degree would be a major 7th, not flatted 7th. To learn about harmonizing the major scale click here.

 

Hope you enjoyed this lesson. Feel free to leave comments and share your opinions or ask your questions.

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.

Discover why it is so important to tune your guitar before you practice.

Beginning guitarists tend to not tune their guitars every time they practice guitar. They assume that it is still in tune or they just don’t feel like bothering with it. However this can diminish your progress as a guitarist. By playing a guitar that is out of tune, you are teaching your ear to hear the wrong thing. You will also make the guitar more enjoyable if you keep it in tune. If you want to get the full benefit out of your guitar practice session then you might want to consider tuning your guitar more often.

Tuning your guitar before your practice is important because at this stage of your learning, you are creating connections between your different senses. Your ears, fingers, and eyes are all learning the guitar. If you get use to the guitar sounding out of tune, then you will take longer to overcome that. It is like creating a bad habit, except it is a habit you cannot control with your brain. Your ears will know that interval or note or chord to sound different from it is supposed to. To prevent this, you should tune your guitar so you can properly let your ears adjust to the proper sound.

A well tuned guitar is going to sound better and be more enjoyable to play. When you have fun playing the guitar you will like spending time with it. If you play with an out of tune guitar you are stripping some of the joy that might come with practicing. Who wants to learning to play on a guitar that is out of tune? When you have fun practicing your guitar, you will fall in love with the instrument. When you fall in love with the instrument you will greatly improve your skill. So make learning guitar more fun by having an in tune guitar.

There are many reasons to tune your guitar while you are practicing guitar. You want to train your ear to hear the correct sound. Your senses are learning from the very beginning. Not only are you learning the guitar, but every moment with the guitar should be something you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy guitar, then learn to do something else. Falling in love with guitar is one of the greatest things someone could experience, and tuning your guitar can assist the process of falling in love with it.

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

What are power chords and how do you play them?

 

Such a simple chord, but it is extremely useful. The power chord is a chord that fits best in the rock or metal style of playing. They are useful for comping especially with a band. When you play with a band, there are other people there that you shouldn’t step on. If you play too many notes you will likely step on someone else. Power chords are created to avoid this.  How do you play a power chord?

A power chord is a 2 note chord. It is made of the root note and the fifth. Because of this, the chord has no tonality. It can be major or minor, but it cannot be diminished of augmented. Any time you see a minor chord or a major chord these power chords will fit perfectly over them.  Remember the third of the chord is what determines if it is a major or minor chord. Power chords omit the third so it can be easily played over both.

A power chord can be played on any 2 string set, low or high. Some work better for some styles than others, and some work better in a band situation than others. Learn power chords on all the strings, but what you decide to use comes down to personal style and experience. Remember, if you are playing with a band you will be playing with a bass. Power chords on low strings may clash with the bass player. Experiment and find what works with you and your style of playing.

Earlier we stated that power chords are made of tones 1 and 5. When you find voicing that you can use with the root and fifth note then experiment with voicing’s where the fifth is the lower note. This way you will be playing 5 and 1. They are the same notes, but this gives you more options to use when you are comping with a band. Also one other thing you can do with power chords is add the root on top on the power chord. This would be root, fifth, root. This will fill out your chord a little more.

Now you know what power chords are, and how they are used. They have no tonality, meaning they can be either major or minor chords. These chords are best used with a band, so use them and experiment to find your own style. Below are a couple of diagrams, but not all, of some power chords you can use. Find all of them and memorize them so that when the time comes you play with a band, you will be ready.

power chords shape 1

A power chord with the Root and fifth. The root is on the A string.

power chords

A power chord with the Root on the G string.

power chords adding the root on top

A typical power chord with the root on the D string, except we added the root again on the B string to fill out the chord a bit more.

power chords shape with the 5th on the bottom note

A power chord with the fifth as the lower note. The root is on the high E string.

Alternate picking technique exercise for guitar to improve your guitar playing

Every guitar player wants to play faster and cleaner. One problem people seem to have with picking is skipping strings. With a little work this wouldn’t be much of a problem. Here you will learn an exercise you can do to help your alternate picking so that you can alternate pick easier while jumping strings. If you do this exercise for a warm up or just spend a couple of minutes a day on it you will find that your picking will improve. So how do we do this exercise?

Pick a scale, it can be any scale. You could do this with a new scale you are learning or something you already know. Let’s say you choose to chromatic scale.  Start it on the 5 fret of the low E string and play it one octave to the 7th fret of the D string, now play it backwards. The next step to this is to play the high E string between every note. This way you will be playing the low E string jumping to the high E string and the high E string jumping to the A string. This is the first thing to practice with this exercise. In essence you are picking low, high, low, high. There is a warning to the players who may be a little more advanced. Do not use hybrid picking doing this. This is an alternate picking exercise. Once you feel comfortable with this exercise there are some things you can do to raise the difficulty.

The first thing you can do to add difficulty and challenge to the exercise is to add the B string. Say you are picking a note on the low E string, you would pick like this: low E string, high E string, B string, high E string, low E string. The Second thing you can do is the same as the adding the B string except you skip to the G string and back to the high E string.  A Third thing you can do is double pick the low note you are playing. After a while doing this exercise you will probably be able to come up with challenging exercises that you can work on using the same basic principle.

Remember, this is an alternate picking exercise. Don’t use hybrid picking (fingers). Force yourself to strictly alternate down up down up with your pick. If you do not, this exercise is useless. This exercise may seem very hard if you’re new to alternate picking. Practice does make perfect, so spend some time working on it every day and you will get the hang of it.

This exercise is great if you want to be able to skip strings easier with alternate picking. Just like in alternate picking you go down up down up, in this exercise you go low high. This makes a good warm-up, and you will see improvement if you do it every day. This is strictly an alternate picking exercise, so don’t mix other picking styles in. That would defeat the purpose.

Start learning triads on guitar part 2

We left off on the first triad lesson with learning triads on the 3 highest strings. Let’s move a string set lower and learn triads on these strings. Take your time to learn all these shapes. There is no need to rush through this material. All these shapes are useful as long as you know where the root in the chord is. So make sure you learn that while you learn the chord shapes. Let’s jump in and learn these shapes on new strings.

guitar triads

Your root of this guitar triad is on the D string. Place your ring finger D string, middle finger G string, first (index) finger B string.

guitar triads

The root of this guitar triad is on the B string. Place your ring finger on the D string, first (index) finger G string, Middle finger B string.

guitar triads

the root of this guitar triad is on the G string. Barre this chord with 1 finger.

 

 

Something to note on for these triad chord shapes. Only play the notes given. Do not play any open strings. These are not open chords. Playing open strings will most likely result in a bad sounding chord.  Any time you see a red X on these diagrams for triads that means do not play those strings. Only the strings with circles above them should play played. Let’s take a look at the minor triads now

guitar triads

The root of this guitar triad is on D string. Place your ring finger on D string and hit both of the other notes with your first (index) finger.

guitar triads

The root of this guitar triad is on the B string. Place your middle finger on the D string, first(index) finger on the G string and ring finger on the B string.

 

guitar triads

The root of this guitar triad is on the G string. Place your middle finger on the D string, ring finger on the G string and first (index) finger on the B string.

 

For now these are the majority of guitar triad shapes that you will need to know.  There are many uses for triads, comping in a band is just one solution.  Using them in a chord melody is another. Whatever your goal on guitar may be, learning these chord shapes will assist you. They are good for all styles of music and all levels of players.

Once you are comfortable with the information given thus far, I would suggest you learn what each note is in relation to the chord. Which note is the 3rd in each of the chord shapes? What is the Root? Learning this will help you learn your instrument better and will provide a basis for building your own chords later on in your career. Only do these after you have learned all the shapes and know which is the root in the chord. Practice them playing them with your favorite song with a CD.  Here are the diagrams for the next set of strings. I am going to provide the major triads and you can just lower the 3rd one note to play the minor triad.

guitar triads

The root of this guitar triad is on the D string. Place your middle finger on the A string, Ring finger on the D string and first (index) finger on the G string.

guitar triads

The root of this guitar triad is on the A string. Place your pinky finger on the A string, ring finger D string and first (index) finger on the G string.

 

guitar triads

The root of this guitar triad is on the G string. Place your ring finger on the A string and hold both other notes with your first (index) finger.

 

To make these minor triads just lower the third one half step. This concludes all the common triads used. From here you can learn more advanced chords and keep adding on to your bucket of knowledge. Don’t forget these triad shapes. They are old friends and will always be there to help you. As simple as they are they have many uses.

Start learning triads on guitar part 1

Triads are the simplest form of a full chord. A full chord consist of tones 1, 3 and 5. Triads are 3 note chords that use these 3 tones. These are valuable for comping with a band, creating chord melodies or helping you see arpeggios. So this is something you should get under your fingers and be familiar with.  In this lesson I will teach you major and minor triads on the top 3 strings. Once you memorize and feel comfortable with triads on the 3 highest strings you can then go on to learn triads on different strings. Let’s explain the different between minor and major triads real quick then we will jump in and learn the shapes for these chords.

Triads are based off of the major scale. The major triad is made of tones 1, 3 and 5. This means that the root of the major scale, third note and fifth note of the major scale combined make up the major triad. When you lower the third 1 half step it becomes a minor third. A minor triad is made of 1, minor third and the fifth. So keep in mind that when you change from a minor triad to a major triad there is only 1 note different. The third note of the major scale is the only difference between minor and major. Let’s jump in and learn these triad shapes.

guitar triads

The root of this guitar triad is on the high E string. Place your middle finger on the G string and bar your first (index) finger across the 2 highest strings.

guitar triads

The root of this guitar triad is on the B string. Play this like your open D chord.

guitar triads

The root of this guitar triad is on the G string. place your middle finger on the G string, ring finger on the B string and first (index) finger on the E string.

When you memorize these scales, make sure you know which note is the root. If a chord symbol pops up, you need to know where to play these chords at. The root is located in the exact same spot on the minor triads as they are on the major triads. Compare how these look on diagram and on your fingers. You will see that minor and major triads are only 1 note different from each other. As mentioned earlier, the third is the determining factor for making it minor or major.

guitar triads

The root of this minor guitar triad is on the high E string. Lay your first (index) finger flat to barre them all.

guitar triads

The root of this minor guitar triad is on the B string. Place you middle finger on the G string. Place your ring finger on the B string and your first (index) finger on the high E string.

guitar triads

The root of this minor guitar triad is on the G string. Place your ring finger on the G string, middle finger on the B string and first (index) finger on the high E string.

Triads are valuable basic chords which only contain the tones 1, 3 and 5. They are very similar, besides 1 note changes from minor to major. Once you have these chord shapes memorized and you feel comfortable with them you can move on to the next lesson on triads. In the next lesson you will learn shapes on different strings and more about the triad. If you are ready for the next lesson please continue here.