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.

Rhythmic Variation makes solos interesting

One of the most fundamental ways you can improve your soloing once you figure out what notes you can play is to use a wide variety of rhythms in your solo.  Just because this is fundamental does not mean this is easy beginner stuff. Some of the most challenging things in music are the rhythms. So what makes up rhythmic variety?

There are many different rhythmic groups, using rhythmic variation simply means to switch between these to create an interesting sound.  When this is done well, your solo will sound more interesting and less like rambling. Lets discuss the different rhythmic units so we can know what the possibilities are to use in our solo.

 

Silence:

Silence is music too. The musical term for silence is rest. Whenever you use silence in your solo lines you will cause rhythmic variation. Experiment with using silence, putting it in different places. Sometimes Silence says more than noise.

 

Swing, or not to swing:

What is the definition of Swing? This is a question that will give you 100 different answers if you ask 100 different people. The most universal definition of swing is a Dotted 8th note 16th note feel.  Have you ever heard great big band songs from back in the day? In The Mood is a good example of swing. It has a bouncing feel. Now, don’t be fooled, Swing can be used in any style. Its origin is in the 1930s swing era of jazz, but country, blues, rock, bluegrass and any other style you can think of uses it as well. It can create a cool rhythmic feel. Try it.

 

Note Length:

There are many different lengths of notes that you can use. Here is a list of note values in music:

Whole note

Half Note

Quarter Note

8th note

16th note

32nd note (mostly used in slow songs, otherwise it is too fast)

 

Triplet note values:

All the note values above also have triplets. If you are playing a long 8th note line in jazz, throw in triplets for interest. One note value by itself will get boring. Triplets can sound extremely awesome.

 

Don’t be boxed in by note values:

There are no rules against holding a note longer than a whole note. There are no names for these rhythmic values, but they exist.  Also there is no law against going out of time and coming back into time. (Be very careful with that option, but it can be done)

 

This wraps up the main ways to add variation. Experiment with mixing all of these together and see what you can come up with. A great way to practice this is to pick one note and try to make an interesting solo with it. Listen to a lot of musicians solo and see how they use variation in their rhythm. Listen a lot, you can even transcribe rhythms by themselves, or sing the rhythms as they play. Have fun going out there and making interesting music.

Use Motive Development to Set Your Playing Apart From Others

You may be wondering what a motif is, and if you are keep reading. A motive, also known as motif, is simply a connected melody. The best way to explain this is by comparing music to language. When you are playing a melody or solo you are in essence telling a story. A motive is building the story and keeping the same theme. Take this story for example:  I bought bubble gum. Clouds are very dark. Then They danced.” This type of story is not connected and leaves people with nothing to hang on to. A good story has a theme. A good solo has a motif.

Giving listeners something to grab onto is something that can set the average garage guitarist apart from the experienced pro. Take for example the song “You are so beautiful”, The words are “you are so beautiful to me” over and over except for a small amount. These lyrics are simple, but the listener can hold on to it and sing with it. The most catchy melodies are repetitive.  Applying this concept in your playing can bring clarity and coherence to your playing to make you sound much better than you really are. All you need to do is find a simple melody you like and expand upon it.

What makes a good motif?  A motif can be any very simple lick. You can pick a nursery rhyme or make your own 3 or 4 note riff. Once you have this as your basis and you introduced it at the beginning of your solo, you can expand upon it. Adding more notes, sequencing, rhythmic variation are all things you can use to expand upon your motif.  I should clarify that the motif should not be long. It should be short and used as a guideline for building your melodies. Also I should make it clear that you can deviate from your motif whenever you want and however you want. The motif is just a great tool to connect your solo and make it sound logical and easy to grasp to the audience.

When should you use motif development? Is this for certain styles? Motif development can be used anytime and any style. If you are playing a style such as country where you may have a 4 – 8 measure solo motive development is great. Many great solos in country are based off of a theme.  An example of this is “kiss a girl” by Keith Urban. If you are playing more of the instrumental style such as jazz or progressive rock this technique is great because it can expand your ideas much further. We guitarist only have a limited amount of licks and we need a way to keep them fresh. Motif development is great for this. An example in jazz of motif development is Sonny Rollins “St. Thomas” on the record “Sonny Rollins”.

This is a fun technique you can use and it will be your best friend if you work with it. It is the easiest way to make your solo sound logical and make it interesting to listen to.  Have fun experimenting with motif development and have fun becoming a story-teller. Feel free to share your opinions below.

Repeat a note to get more mileage in your guitar solo.

Every guitar player wants to fly all around the fret board hitting a bazillion notes. This is cool, but this will get very boring. Most of the amazing guitar solos you hear have fast lines in them, but they sound very fast because they are mixed in well with melodic ideas and concepts that bring in the listener. The whole idea behind creating an awesome guitar solo revolves around the listener. Always ask yourself: if I was listening to this would I like it? Listening to blazing lines all the time will get mundane.

One way you can create a phrase in your guitar solo that allows the listener to catch up with you is to hang on to 1 note for a moment. You may find that play a quarter note triplets using only the G note gives that sound that brings you back to earth. You can vary the rhythm in any way you find that you like. Playing quarter notes of 8th notes with 1 note might sound good to you. You can also vary the length you hold on to the note. Some people hold on to one note longer than others. Use your ear to find what really works well. Your ear won’t lead you wrong.

Another way that this idea can be applied is using a technique called pedal tones. In a pedal tone you have a tone that is repeated while other notes change. For example you play the note G, then you play D, then G, then A, then G. Sometimes pedal tones can be a repeated 2 notes. There is an unlimited amount of things you can do with pedal tones. This is a busier version of the first idea suggested. You have the repeated note; you just add more color to it by adding extra notes.

You don’t want to rely on just one of these techniques. Use them both. The more options you have available to you, the better you will sound in different situations. Each technique is equally valuable, and you may grow to like one more than the other. However, learning to use both will give you more options. Some styles may sound better with pedal tones and another may sound better with just 1 repeated note.

Playing a lot of notes and playing fast is fun, but the listener won’t grasp your story line if you never slow down and lay it out in simple terms. Adding repeated notes can help the listener grasp what you are saying and help them understand it more. Making music accessible is one factor that makes an average musician different from the great musician.  You can repeat one note by itself or repeat notes within a phrase by playing pedal tones. Both will add interest and make it easy to grasp.

Introduction to Sweep Picking On Guitar

You have probably come across this term before in your musical career. It is a popular technique because many rock musicians tend to use this technique. This technique can be used in any style of music; however sweep picking is emphasized more in rock guitar than any other style. In this article you will discover what sweep picking is and what it is not, and you will learn how you can start doing it for yourself.

Sweep picking is a technique that was created to play arpeggios with the most speed and least amount of work on the picking hand. This is accomplished by playing 1 note per string arpeggios and picking in the same direction. Say you are playing an ascending arpeggio, you will pick downward on the low E string, downward on the A string, downward on the D string etc.

Be careful not to strum your guitar. You are not strumming, you are picking the guitar. Sometimes when you see someone doing it fast it may look as if they are strumming, but they are not. Practice just the right hand picking for now, but after you pick each string rest the pick on the string next to it. You will continue to rest the pick on the string lower than the one you just plucked, but you will gradually gain speed.

The best way to start sweeping is to start simple with 3 strings. Learn to sweep these ascending and descending in pitch. Work on ascending and descending separately until you are comfortable. Before long you will find that these are easy and you will then want to combine ascending and descending. Start slow and push yourself faster slowly because the slower you play the more likely you will create good habits. If you play fast and sloppy you will continue to play fast and sloppy. Here are some shapes you should practice sweeping.

Sweep Picking Shapes

The numbers are labeled to show which note should be played first. The colors indicate the different shapes. You will need to hammer on to number 4 and pull off from number 4 while you are sweep picking these.

Notice these shapes are all triads with an extra note hammered on. You can practice sweeping with any triad you want on any set of strings, but for now I suggest you start on the highest strings. These shapes are the foundation for progressing in sweep picking. Spend the time to learn these well and you will thank yourself for it later. Sweep picking is designed to get the most speed with the least amount of work. To start learning sweet picking it is best to start slow with 3 notes per string ascending then descending and finally combining the two. Once you are comfortable with these you can move on to adding extra strings and creating more interesting ideas.

Introduction to guitar tapping part 2

By now you know the very basics of guitar tapping. I suggest you read the introduction to guitar tapping before moving on to this lesson. This post continues on exactly where the first post left off. In this lesson you will learn how to move your hands during 2 handed tapping and incorporating more notes in your left hand. Let’s dive in and get to the meat of it.

You are now playing one note of each hand. The next step is to add a second note on your left hand. Also keep in mind that you should be considering what notes belong to that key while practicing. Just picking random notes isn’t going to sound good. How you incorporate a second note in the left hand is by adding a hammer on. So you tapping with your right hand pull off to the first finger of your left hand and hammer on the third finger of your left hand, complete this with another tap. I will give a tab example to show you what this looks like.

guitar tapping

A guitar tapping lick in the key of G. Tap on the 7th fret, pull off to your first (index) finger on the third fret and hammer on your ring finger on the 5th fret.

After you are comfortable with adding the second note to your left hand you can add a third note. All you need to do is hammer on with your new finger and you note have 3 notes in your left hand. Typically when you hammer on 3 notes they are stretched out. Experiment and see what you can come up with.

How can you improve your right hand? You can start to move it around on the neck. Say you start tapping on the 7th fret. Next time you tap you can tap then 8th fret. Then you can tap the 10th fret. Keep your tapping in the key signature for now, but you can move the note to any note in the key of G. One of the great things about this technique is that it lets you hit some very wide intervals easily. So don’t be afraid to move your fingers up the neck as far as you want.

guitar tapping with a moving right hand

The same guitar tapping lick except you are moving your tapping hand around.

Take your time going through this material. Learning a few things well can take you a longer distance than learning a lot poorly. Now that you have the basics down you can start jumping into more advanced tapping techniques. You can start moving your left hand, and switching strings. There is a whole world of guitar tapping available to those who want it. Practice hard, but most importantly enjoy it.

Introduction to guitar tapping

Undoubtedly you have come across guitar tapping before. It is a pretty well-known technique especially in rock music, and it is fun to learn and play. In this lesson you will learn the basics of guitar tapping. Don’t get too freaked out, it isn’t that hard. After this lesson you will understand the basics of guitar tapping, and with a little practice you should be able to start incorporating it into your own playing. When we consider guitar tapping, most people think of the right hand part. In actuality there are 2 equal parts in guitar tapping. There is the right hand and the left hand. I am going to first going to explain how to use the right hand, and then I will explain how to use the left hand.

The easiest part of guitar tapping is the right hand. All you are doing is hammering on and pulling off. For this lesson I am going to assume you are using a pick. All you need to do with your right hand is tap your middle finger down on a note. Do this a few times to see how hard you need to press to make the note sound. Don’t do it too hard, this will slow you down and possibly start to hurt. Just do it hard enough to make noise. When you are comfortable with this you can either pull off upward or downward. I suggest you do it downward, because this will allow for more advanced tapping later on. This is all your right hand does is tap on and pull off.

What is so important about your left hand while tapping? This is easy, it takes 2 to tango. Your left hand is in control of the notes you play when your right hand pulls off. At first for a beginner to two-handed tapping I suggest you play 1 note at a time on the left hand. So what you are basically doing is tap, note, tap, note. Later on you will advance this to more difficult techniques, but for starting out this will take you far.

Combining the 2 hands in 2 handed tapping is a matter of coordination. This is true no matter how advanced you get. Once you get your hands moving in harmony with each other, your tapping will start to flow. Another thing to mention about the 2 hands is that both of them can move. They don’t have to start on 1 note. However for a beginner the less you move both hands the easier it is to play. Keep that in mind.

The very basics of guitar tapping are not hard, and it can be fun to play. If you play rock guitar this is an important skill to know how to use. All your right hand does is tap on with the middle finger and pull off. I suggest you pull off downward. Once you get your 2 hands moving in harmony together it will start to sound fluid and better. If you want to continue to part 2 of this click here.

What is economy picking and how do you do it?

 

Over the years players have always tried to make their playing easier. Getting the biggest bang for their buck was in mind. They came up with this idea of combining alternate picking and sweet picking. This allowed them to gain speed, control and still have that rough picking sound that you don’t get with legato playing or hybrid picking. For some players this is their primary picking style, for others it is just another tool is their tool kit. Either way, it is good to know what economy picking is and how it works.

Typically when people use economy picking it is over 3-note per string scales. This is because of the picking pattern required for it to work. The picking pattern is down, up, down, down, up, down, down for ascending, and when you are descending you have up, down, up, up, down, up, up, down. The ascending and descending patterns are the same except they are reversed.  When you have the 2 down strokes or 2 up strokes is when you switch strings. This is how economy picking is similar to sweep picking.

A good exercise to do when you first start practicing economy picking is to do it without any notes at all. Concentrate 100% on the right hand. You can add notes later, but concentrating just on the right hand will make the process faster. I also suggest that when you first start out, practice switching from 2 strings. When you get comfortable using economy picking switching between 2 strings add the 3rd. gradually build up to all 6 strings. It won’t take as long as you would think.

Once you get a good grip on the basic economy picking 3 notes per string there are some altered patterns you can learn that can give you some really cool new ideas. Some players like Frank Gambale and Derryl Gabel use a lot of economy picking in their playing. This technique is not the end all be all of guitar by any means, but it is a useful thing to know.

Economy picking is a technique that is a mixture between alternate picking and sweep picking and allows for more speed than alternate picking. Economy picking is set up so that when you switch strings you continue in the same direction you were already going. Hence you do 2 down strokes or up strokes at the same time while switching strings. Practice this on 2 strings and slowly build up to all 6 strings. This is another fun technique that you can use to enjoy your music, which is what music is all about.