Listening to music a different way can improve your appreciation and knowledge of music

The typical person puts music on while they drive, work out, do homework and any other daily activity. This is fun and you can still get something from music doing this, however you are not going to get the full benefit and enjoyment out of music this way. If you are more conscious about what you are listening to you will notice new stuff about music, and you will enjoy it more. Every musician would benefit from active listening to music.

What is active listening? Active listening is the act of giving undivided attention to music. You are listening for specific details.  This is a style of listening to most people do not naturally do.  Active listening can be approached like you are in a class room. You can take notes, ask questions, and look for specific details. If you have questions about the music you can write them down and try to find an answer. Active listening is a mental exercise like doing push ups.

How do you approach listening to music? Listening to music like this may require you to re-listen to a song a couple of times, but as you become more familiar with this style of listening it will be easier and faster.  First you need to listen to each instrument separately. Try picking a tune and listen once through for the drummer. Hear what he is playing and try to explain his playing in your words. You can write this description down on paper. Next re-listen to the song for the bass player and describe his playing. Do this with every instrument. Practice doing this for 5 – 10 songs. You will start to better hear the specific instruments. Then you can continue to listen to more tunes, this time you can listen to multiple instruments at a time. You can listen for bass and drums together.

If you want to go even deeper in your descriptions of the performer’s playing you can analyze what he is doing with different parts of his instrument. For example, you can analyze a drummers, snare, high hat, bass drum, or ride. Another example would be the pianist. You can analyze what he is doing with his different hands. Another way you can describe the music more in-depth would be to analyze the range (high or low pitch) and thickness (big or small chords) of what the pianist is playing.  The more music you listen to, the easier listening will become and the more you will enjoy it. Listening like this is a great way to learn to appreciate a new style of music and is a great educational tool as well.

Listening to music can be passive or active and if we give our undivided attention to music we are actively listening. Concentrating on each instrument can give us a new insight into music, teach us, and help our appreciation for music. The more music you listen to the more you will get out of it. Music is fun and enjoyable, so sit back and listen to the musicians jam out.

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.

Guitar Picks – Should you use small or big picks?

There are many different companies that make guitar picks, and within these companies there are many styles of picks they make.  Some guitar picks are large and some are small. Which are better to use and why? How do you know what the best choice is for your own playing? These questions will be answered shortly.

Large picks are by far the most common style guitar pick. You find them everywhere; they are even turned into necklaces. These are the typical guitar picks that most people think of when they think of guitar pick. The large guitar picks have an advantage that you can find them lying around, which can cut back on buying new packages as often. The other advantage is that large guitar picks have a lot to hold on to. This could possibly make it less likely to slip as much, but not necessarily. The benefit of having more to grab on to can also be seen as a disadvantage because it is slower because the extra material to hold on to.

Small picks are used very rarely, these are mostly known as jazz picks except not only jazz players can use them. They are compact and make playing simpler because there isn’t so much loose material. The downside to these picks is that they can be dropped easily because they are smaller.  You won’t find these lying around at gigs and any place in stage or around other guitar players, but they have their benefits.

Choosing something like a guitar pick is extremely personal. No guitar teacher, guitar book or guitar blog could ever tell you what is best for you when it comes to guitar picks. I suggest you buy a couple different packages of guitar picks to find out what you like. If you do this, don’t just try them for 30 seconds and say you don’t like it. Stick with each style for a week then reevaluate what you thought of the guitar pick. You may find you like the small pick because of the extra control you have, or you may find that the extra material from the bigger picks works better with your fingers.

There are many benefits to both kinds of guitar picks be it small or large picks. Picking out a guitar pick you like is extremely personal and you should experiment with different sizes and styles to find what works best for you. Give everything a fair chance, you will be use to one thing and changing is hard, but you may find the change is a valuable part of your progress as a guitarist

Using mental imagery to help you practice guitar efficiently

Mental imagery is a powerful tool which can be used to help you practice guitar. Some people claim that it is about the same benefit as actual practice, some say it is better. I am not claiming that it is a magic pill, but it is a tool you can use to add to your practice routine. You can use this while you are sitting at work unable to touch a guitar, while you are lying in bed, or just to give your hands a rest during practice. So how do you do visualization?

First I recommend being in a quiet room. Turning out the lights or putting something over your eyes may help. If you’ve never used visualization before you may want to first start simple and work your way up. Close your eyes for 10 – 30 seconds, and then try to visualize something simple like a banana. If you have used mental imagery before you can skip this part. Just get comfortable looking at the banana. Enlarge it, and spin it around. You can do anything you want with this image. Once you are comfortable with that, try to visualize a guitar. Mess around with the picture of the guitar as well. Enlarging it and moving it around.

Next is when the learning begins. This is a very personal experience so you can do what feels best to you. You can visualize the guitar neck from the front of the top, however you feel best. Once you do this try to visualize the scale or chord you are working on. If you want to see yourself playing it, that is fine, or if you want to watch someone else play it doesn’t matter. Spend about 10 minutes with your eyes closed concentrated the whole time on that 1 thing. It can be kind of fun too. Try adding this to your practice routine, it’s not a magic pill, but it can help.

This can also be a valuable tool for other things in life other than making music. Stage fright or if you are scared about an interview coming up, whatever your fears may be this can settle your nerves. Let’s use stages fright for example, you are freaking out because there are 10 people watching you play marry had a little lamb. How can you prevent this? It is easy. You spend a little time visualizing yourself actually performing it before you do it. Studies show that people who visualize have the same effect as actually doing it. So if you visualize yourself being a success, then you will be more confident the next time.

This is another handy tool to use in your practice and preparation. It is not a magic pill, but it is something that is easily used in times when you cannot use your guitar. Mental imagery can be used to settle your stage fright or anything other fears, because it is the same as actually doing it. Take this knowledge and use it to the best benefit you can find.

What are altered chords?

In your Jazz career you will hear people talking about altered chords and on your jazz charts you may see G alt. What does this mean? Altered chords are not that hard to grasp, and are an important concept to know about. Any Chord can be altered, but the most common is the dominant chord. For this article we will use dominant 7 chords as the example. In this article you will learn what an altered chord is and how it is made.

The simplest definition of an altered chord is any chord that has chord tones altered. Another way to think of an altered chord is a note in the chord that has been raised or lowered in the scale that correlates to that chord. The notes in a dominant 13 chord are 1, 3, 5, b7, 9, 11, 13. This chord is not altered. When you change one of the chord tones you now have an altered chord. If you take the term “altered” and change it to “changed” or “edited” you will get the idea. This chord is changed or edited to be different from its original form.  The changed version of that chord is known as the altered chord.

The more theoretical definition of an altered dominant chord is a chord with a lowered or raised fifth or a lowered or raised 9th. These alterations can be written in different ways. You may see a #11, but this is a b5. You can see a b13, but this is a raised 5th. The 9th and the 5ths are responsible for creating the tensions. Typically tensions are creating on the upper structures of chords. Very rarely do you see anything written or played b2. The difference between a 9th and a 2nd is not the note, but how the note correlates to the root. If there is an octave between the 2 notes it is called a 9th. If it is a whole or half step away from the root it is a second. The octave between the root and the alterations will make the altered note sound better and clash less.

Altered chords which are used a lot in jazz, primarily over the dominant chord are really fun chords. Altered chords are chords that the tones have been changed. The notes that are typically changed in an altered chord are the 5ths and 9ths. You may see these written differently but they 5ths and 9ths are the notes responsible for alterations. Alterations typically appear in the upper structures of chords and are primarily put in dominant chords.  Most chords can be altered; however the most common is dominant chords. This makes the dominant chord one of the most interesting chords in music.

All you need to know about music theory intervals part 2

Previously on part 1 we discuss what music theory intervals are and some different types of intervals used in music. Review that post if you have not yet read it. Today we will define the distances that make up different intervals. We will also discuss how many intervals you have and how to count higher than an octave.

Intervals are counted by numbers. However, when we consider intervals we need to remember that each number has 3 notes in that group. For example: a half step is a second. A whole step is a second and a 3 half steps is a second. The difference between these is that a half step is a flat 2. The whole step is a 2 and the 3 half steps is a #2. What makes this confusing is that a #2 is the same note as a b3. They sound the exact same pitch. The #2 and b3 are called enharmonic minors. For example say we are in G and we play a #2 the note is A#, if we play a b3 the note is Bb. These are the exact same notes with a different name.

You can count numbers up to 2 octaves high. Once you get more than an octave you do not recount the numbers 1, 3, 5 or 7. However, the 2 becomes a 9, 4 becomes 11 and 6 becomes 13. Most of the time you see a flat or sharp 2 you call it a flat or sharp nine. Same thing goes with a sharp 4 is a sharp 11 and flat 6 is flat 13. This is called the rule of 7. If it is a 2, 4 and 6 you add seven to it to get an octave higher.

Intervals are all over in music. They make up chords and scales and lead us to our knowledge about music. Intervals are distances described by numbers. Each number has a sharp and flat possibility. You can count intervals up past an octave. If you take a number and add 7 to it you get the octave higher. Usually only 2, 4 and 6 are talked about an octave higher. This allows you to mention chord extensions and melody notes with more than an octave between the 2 notes. Memorize that 2 becomes 9, 4 becomes 11 and 6 becomes 13. This will be very beneficial to your music education and understanding of music and music theory.

All you need to know about music theory intervals.

In music theory, there is a concept called intervals. This term is used a lot and is very important to understand if you wish to learn music well. Intervals are the foundation for western music (music that we know of in America). All chords, melodies, scale, and everything else that is used in music is based on intervals. Without intervals there wouldn’t be music as we know it today. So in this article I am going to explain what intervals are and a little bit about the different types of intervals.

So what exactly is an interval? It is the distance between 2 notes. For example if you are on a basketball court and you run from one hoop to the other, that is an interval. An interval is a distance between 2 objects.  When you have 2 notes in music they create an interval. The notes are the object that creates the distance. There are many types of intervals. Let’s take a look at some of the different types and learn about them.

There will be some new vocabulary you should learn to understand the different types of intervals. The first thing you should consider about intervals is the distance between the 2 notes. Some intervals have very small distances, this is called small intervals. If the distance is long between the 2 intervals the word is wide intervals. There is definite definition of small or wide intervals, but typically seconds and thirds are considered small, Fourths and more are considered wide.

Another consideration when it comes to intervals is the sound of the 2 notes. Does it sound good or does it sound bad? When you hear 2 notes played together or one after the other you will hear that the note resonates well and seems relaxing. The good sounding intervals are called consonant. The bad sounding intervals which clash and sound harsh are called dissonant intervals. Examples of dissonant intervals are the raised fourth and the upper seventh.

Intervals are a very important concept to understand in music. All Scales, arpeggios, guitar licks and melodies are based on intervals. In this lesson you learned what intervals are and about different types of intervals. You have small and wide intervals depending how the distance between the notes and you have consonant and dissonant intervals depending on their sound. Next lesson we will learn how to tell what the interval distance is. Discuss below!

Examples of slap guitar

  1. Fundamentals of slap guitar
  2. Moving forward with slap guitar
  3. adding plucks to your slap guitar technique
  4. Examples of slap guitar


In this Lesson I will show you some videos of slap guitar. You can see how guitar greats use this technique and you can imitate them. Most music is learned by repeating what others before you have done so here are some tutorial videos and performance videos that include slapping.

These 3 videos sum up the basics of slap guitar. Watch these videos and understand what is going on and get the sound into your head. It is a fun technique to play with and to practice. It also sounds very cool! Happy Slapping!

Adding plucks to your slap guitar technique

So we just talked about slapping guitar in a triplet feel. If you add 1 extra note you can get a 16th note feel going and this is where things get cool. A 16th note feel is going to be faster and sound more complex, but it’s really not that much harder to execute. In this lesson you will learn the basics of plucking strings, why you should pluck your strings and plucking patterns.

Plucking guitar strings is pretty self-explanatory. You take your index (first) finger, middle finger and ring finger and you pluck the string to get that harsh pluck sound. To make this technique easier for you while you are using your thumb to slap I suggest you keep your fingers curled under your hand a little bit. Keep them loose because a tense hand is hard to work with.

Plucking strings are an ornamentation to slap guitar. The note choices are not hugely important. You should pick notes that are part of the key, but the specific notes are not really a big deal. It is just to add flavor to your playing. I suggest when you first start plucking you worry about 1 note. The root would work well in the beginning. That way you won’t get bogged down thinking about notes you should pluck and you can concentrate on proper slapping technique.

I am going to show you a simple plucking pattern you can use that uses slapping and plucking. Before I had you doing the triplet slap pattern where you hit the open E on each beat and you slapped your left hand on the string then slapped a muted thumb on the strings again in a triplet feel. You will do this again except after the muted thumb slap you will add a pluck with your fingers. You will need to play this as 16th notes or else you won’t be able to get all the hits in and slap the next beat on time.  Practice this slowly and work up speed gradually.

You have now learned all the basics of slap guitar. There are more things you can do to add more interest to your guitar slapping, but you now know what you need to know to slap guitar like a real slapper. You can add plucking to your slap guitar to add flavor to your playing. The notes you choose are not extremely important as long as they are in the key. Make sure you practice with proper technique and you will see great improvement over time.