4 tips to buying a guitar for the future gear head

You are new to guitar and you are searching for the best guitar for you. What guitar could possibly make the journey of learning guitar easier and more pleasant? Sure you could just buy the guitar that some sales person tries to persuade you to buy, but being aware of what you want in a guitar will make you happier with your guitar choice later on in life. So what are these 4 tips to making the right decision when you are buying a guitar?

  1.  Pick a guitar with a good size body.

Many people automatically want to buy an acoustic guitar because that’s what their friends play. There are different kinds of acoustic guitar bodies. Some are big and some are small. Some around round and some are box-shaped. You may want an electric guitar. Some electric guitars are much heavier than others. Write down what kind of guitar body you want. Your options are big or small, heavy or light weight, box-shaped or round. Now when you talk to the sales person they might have a better idea of how to help you.

2.   Pick the right size guitar neck. 

As with guitar bodies, some guitar necks are wider than others. Some guitar necks have a flat fret board while others have a slightly round fret board. If you have smaller hands you may find a guitar with a smaller neck feels better. Also women may find electric guitars easier to hold because they are typically smaller and require less strength to play the note.

3.   Pick the guitar with a sound that you like. 

This may require some listening on your part before you go buying a guitar. Listen to a guitar player you like and see if they have a dark sound of a bright sound. This isn’t controlled completely by the guitar, but you can pick options that will help you get the guitar sound you want. If you like the darker sound you may wish to pick a guitar with hum buckers. If you like the brighter sound you may wish to buy a guitar with single coil pick-ups. I am not going to explain the difference between the 2 types of pick-ups in this post, but I will in later posts. If you can’t tell how dark of a sound the player you want to sound like has, find the style of music you like. For example, country guitar typically has a brighter guitar sound than jazz.

4.   Brand names are not necessary for your first guitar.

When you are buying your first guitar you do not need to spend the extra money to buy a brand name guitar. Once you progress in your playing you will notice a need for a better guitar and by that point you will know exactly what you want in a guitar with more detail than you get from this post. Many good guitar companies own cheap companies that sell beginner guitars. For example Gibson owns Epiphone, so instead of spending the extra couple hundred dollars for a Gibson, buy a cheaper Epiphone.  Off brands are perfectly fine to start learning on.

Now that you are well on your way to being a fully certified gear head, you can go out looking for your first guitar and know what to look for. With this information you can tell the sales person what you want and they can assist you in finding the product that fits your description the best. Remember, this is about buying a guitar to fits your needs for learning the guitar. Later on you can go buy a better guitar. Share your thoughts below.

Guitar Scales – Melodic minor modes and their shapes

The modes of Melodic minor are very similar to the modes of the major scale. The only difference between the modes of the major and the modes of the melodic minor scale is the 3rd. Both scales contain exactly the same notes, except the melodic minor has a lowered third. Each of these scales are their own identity, but for this lesson I am going to teach them how they relate to one key across the neck.

This scale is not used much in musical genres other than jazz and classical. There are differences between the melodic minor scale in jazz and the melodic minor scale in classical. For this lesson I am going to show you the jazz melodic minor scale. The difference is in classical music the melodic minor scale ascends with the melodic minor scale and descends with the natural minor scale. In jazz the melodic minor scale is the ascending part. They exclude the descending switch. The guitar Scales you will learn in this lesson are the jazz melodic minor. Let’s dive in and learn these.

guitar scales

This is the Melodic Minor Mode

guitar scales

This is the Dorian b2 Mode.

guitar scales

This is the Lydian Augmented Mode.

guitar scales

This is the Lydian Dominant Mode.

guitar scales

This is the Mixolydian b6 Mode.

guitar scales

This is the Semilocrian Mode.

guitar scales

This is the Superlocrian Mode.

As you can see there are some stretches in the fingerings. I suggest you finger those with the first (index) finger, middle finger and pinky. This is the easiest stretching. If you use your ring finger you will have a huge stretch between your ring and pinky fingers. Most people find stretching their first and middle fingers the easiest way to play those stretches.

Transpose these melodic minor scale shapes to all 12 keys. Make sure you know them well before you move on. These guitar scales are known as the jazz melodic minor scales, because they ascend and descend the same way. A great way to become familiar with these scales is to make up licks with them, play around with them and start using them in your playing. Below are all of these scales listed in order for your convenience in learning. Try to memorize their name with the shape; this will make further learning easier.

Melodic minor, Dorian b2, Phrygian dominant, Lydian dominant, mixolydian b6, semilocrian and superlocrian

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.

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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.

Should guitarists consider getting university education online?

If you are a guitarist and are considering getting a music degree online, you should know that there are challenges and benefits to this. There are many good university education online programs. Will these online music education degrees give you the benefits that you desire from your music education? What other benefits will you get from the music training? What will you be missing out on by studying guitar online? Should you study online or shouldn’t you?

First, as with any music education you will receive, it can only take you so far. You will ultimately get out of it what you put in to it. Studying online will bring benefits, but it will require more self-discipline to keep going. You will certainly learn the knowledge of the topic you are studying, but you are still missing out by not having a teacher there with you. A lot of online music education degrees are now adding video to their lessons to make up for this loss. You should be able to have all the benefits of watching a lecture. You should still have the book and writing from a teacher as well to assist you in the right direction.

Not only will you receive new knowledge about something, but if you study online this makes it possible to take a class from a school you may not have been able to before. For example, you can take an online music class from Berklee. If you study music online you may also be able to find schools that are more affordable than schools near you. These are just a few extra benefits to studying music online that people normally don’t think of.

Because you are online, you will be missing out on that one on one time with a private music instructor. This leaves up the capability of learning something wrong or creating bad habits. You could always hire a private teacher outside of school to help you along the way. Another down side is, depending on the teacher some do not participate at all with their class. So getting questions answered is hard. If you took classes on campus you would be able to see the teacher before and after class to ask questions.

If you have the chance to get your music degree with on campus classes that would be the best option. However there are many musicians out there who cannot do this. You may be touring, you may have a job and don’t have the time to go to classes. This is the great thing about online educational degree is that you can do it whenever you want. You should analyze your situation and see if you can do on campus classes. If not online educational degree will be beneficial as well.

These are just a few things to keep in mind when you consider getting a college education in music online. You should be able to learn the same material you would otherwise, but it may be a bit more challenging in some areas. If there is a program you have in mind that is online by all means give it a try. You may like it more than you initially thought you would.

Should you get a music degree in college?

Many people consider music as a possibility in school, but are they really doing themselves a favor? Some people would do great getting a music degree, some would not. So how do you know if a music degree is your thing? There are no definite criteria that say you are music major material, but there are a few things you can do to check. So are you music major material?

How dedicated to music are you? If you can see yourself doing something else for a living, then don’t do music. Music is such a challenging profession to make a living in. If you would be happy doing something else then do it. If you are someone who can’t live without music, you might be able to make it. If you can’t even see yourself doing anything other than music you are on the right track. If you are that type where music is your life then the next category should follow.

How dedicated to music are you? Many professional musicians have a time in their lives where they practice 6+ hours a day, and yes, if you’re going to study music in college you most likely want to be some kind of music professional. That includes school band teachers. If you don’t want to work in music don’t study it. Most professional musicians spend a long period of their lives practicing more than 2 hours a day. As a music major you will be expected to practice a lot. Of course some schools have higher standards than others. When you aren’t practicing you will be busy studying music stuff such as conducting or music history. If you don’t mind putting in the work consider taking a music theory class over the summer.

Music theory seems to be the class that most people have the hardest time with. Take a music theory class over the summer; see if you do well at it. Do you like it? How well are you doing at it? If you find that you do well at it, and it is interesting to you that is great because now you have a head start for when you go to college. You will have to pass a test at the end of your sophomore year to prove you know enough to remain music major. Any help you get is good.

Another thing to consider when you think about getting a music degree is how good you are at your specialty. Some programs require more skill than others. For example a performance major will have to have more skill on their instrument than a music history major. Do study in music most likely you will have to pass an audition, and depending on the school it may be very hard to pass or too easy to pass. Are you willing to put in the work to audition? Are you good enough to beat other good players who are also auditioning? If you are looking at going to a school that will let anyone in because they are the only school that will accept you, then you may want to find a different degree.

These are just a few suggestions to help you figure out if you should study music in college or not. Ultimately, you will find out if you’re ready or not when you’re in the program. Even then some people still don’t realize it. One final suggestion is to ask your private teacher if they think you should. I wish you the best of luck in your long journey of becoming music major.

Five things that will help you learn to play guitar

If you are looking into learning guitar, there are five things you can use to help you get the most out of it.  The more of these ways you use the easier and faster you will be able to improve. This is not a magic pill though; you will get out of it what you put into it. So let’s go through the five things that will help you learn to play guitar.

First is finding a good private teacher. A person who is there one on one with you can be of great value. You can show you the direction you need to go and make sure you are not creating bad habits. Music teachers are a great way to learn to play guitar because they have been there in the shoes of the student before. They have worked hard to overcome the same problems you will face. A good teacher will allow you to progress in your studies easier and probably faster than without one.

Second is to use books. Books are a great supplemental to learning. You cannot learn everything from a book, but they will help make you a well-rounded studied musician. Once you advance enough in your playing you will find books that are more specific toward just 1 technique. Books are there to help you fill gaps in your playing. They are just an overall good thing to use to supplement your learning. These cannot replace other things though. Something similar to books which are also helpful are instructional DVDs. Some are better than others, but these are helpful too.

Third is using the internet. When you come across something new in your private lessons or in a book you can use the internet to dig deeper. You can use blogs or videos sites to help you learn more about something. Beware you may come across some bad information on the internet, if you suspect this you can ask your teacher about it. You might come across different perspectives on a subject; this is a good thing because you will be alert to different thought processes. You may even learn something about the topic that you never knew before. The internet can be a great place to augment learning guitar.

Fourth is transcribing. I put this on here because a lot of people do not do this, but it is one of the most important things you can do to learn guitar fast. Of course this isn’t going to make you the next Wes Montgomery in a week, but this is a very useful learning tool.  You will learn about theory and train your ear. Transcribing teaches you things that cannot be taught.

Last but not least is gig. Get out there and play live in front of people. You learn so much by playing with other musicians and being in front of an audience. Experience is one of those things that separate the boys from the men. Go share your talent and give someone a reason to enjoy music.

All of these are good tips to learn to play guitar. Keep in mind; you will get out of it what you put into it. You cannot take 1 of these suggestions and become a great guitarist; you should take several of these. On the other hand, you do not need to use every single one of these. If you find that you learn better one way than another than work with what helps you the most. Take these basic steps and have fun learning guitar!