Learn the Parts of the Guitar Starting With the Guitar Body

guitar body

A picture of the parts of the guitar body

Knowing the parts of the guitar will help you chat with other guitarists and help you know how to communicate about certain things. Learning about the parts on the body of the guitar will allow you to understand more about the guitar. In this lesson we will discuss the parts of the guitar’s body and I suggest you memorize the names of these parts and a little about their function.

The guitar is held on to the player by guitar straps. Guitar straps are held onto the guitar by using Strap Buttons. Strap Buttons are on the ends of the guitar and that is where the guitar strap connects.  The guitar cable connects to the output jack. This is where the sound is transferred from the guitar to the amp. Output jacks are sometimes in different locations depending on the guitar, but on a typical strat model it will be in the location on the picture.

Pickups are the thing responsible for picking up the strings vibrations. Because of this, they are always found under the strings between the bridge and the neck. Pickups give their signal to the output jack. The bridge is responsible for holding the strings on the guitar. It can also do cool things like whammy bar stuff. The Bridge is always found at the end of the guitar body right above the output jack.

Most guitars have volume knobs and tone knobs. The volume knob controls how loud your guitar is. Wild guess how it got its title? The tone knobs control the darkness of the guitar. Another similar switch on the guitar is the pickup selector. This is what determines which pickup is being used. Pickup selectors vary with different types of guitars.

The cutaways are where your hands fit. Some acoustic guitars do not have cutaways. All electric guitars do. When both sides have cutaways they are called double cutaways. Picks ups are there to protect the guitar from picks, but they also have a second purpose. They hold wires inside the guitar. Not all guitars have pickgaurds.

Learning the names and purpose of the parts on the guitar you will be able to communicate with other guitarists about the guitar. You will use this terminology almost every day as a guitarist. Spend the time to learn about the guitar and its parts and you will be glad you did.  You can now understand what other guitar players are talking about when they use these terms.

Learn The Parts Of The Guitar Starting With The Guitar Neck

A diagram of a guitar neck that shows the parts of a guitar.

A diagram of a guitar neck that shows the parts of a guitar.

The guitar can be separated in to 2 main parts. In this lesson we are going to discuss the parts of the guitar that are on the guitar neck. There are more parts of the guitar neck than those that are mentioned here, but this is all you need to know to get started. I suggest you memorize the names of the parts and try to remember some of the facts about them. You will be using this terminology the rest of your guitar career.

The guitar neck is the longer skinny part of the guitar. This is the section of the guitar that is responsible for the notes you play. On the guitar neck section the top part where the strings are is called the fret board. The fret board is where the frets are. Give a wild guess how it got its name? These guitar frets are what give the guitar its pitch. Every time you hit that note (if your guitar is in tune) it will play the same note.  If you are interested in learning about how to guitar changes pitch then click here. (To come soon) When you look at a guitar you will notice either dots or designs on the fret board. This is called inlays. These are sometimes used to help the guitarist locate their position on the fret board, or just to look fancy. Sometimes they glow in the dark and some even come with lights!

The very lowest part of the neck is a little plastic piece. This is kind of like a fancy fret that ends the neck. This piece is called the nut. After the nut you have the head of the guitar which holds a lot of mechanisms to make the guitar work. The guitar head is responsible for holding tuning knobs. Tuning knobs are what you use to hold strings onto your guitar and to keep them in tune. This is also called tuning machines and tuning pegs. Another thing that is past the nut is a string tree. Not all guitars have these. Their main function is to angle the strings to hold them into place. They hardly affect the tone of the guitar.

The guitar neck is full of gadgets and parts that are useful to the guitarist. Know what these are and what they are used for and you will be much more familiar with your guitar. You will use these terms in your whole career as a guitarist, even if you aren’t a professional you will use these terms. This is a good beginning list of the parts on the guitar neck and from here you can expand your knowledge with more in-depth knowledge of the guitar.

Guitar exercise that will help your guitar stretching

Are you trying to play a chord that you just can’t quite reach? Does stretching up 5 frets while playing a scale feel awkward to you? There are exercises that can help you build up your flexibility on the guitar. There are many different exercises to help with flexibility, but in this lesson I am going to show you one that I like to use. With this exercise you will find those hard to play chords get easier.

Before we begin I want to warn you against pushing yourself too hard. You want to get a stretch, and when you are done with this your fingers may be a bit tired. What you do not want is pain. If you stretch too hard you should stop to prevent injury. Just like stretching any other part of your body, you should not push yourself too far. You may not be able to complete this exercise at first, but with some patience you will be able to. The First step is to put your fingers in the starting position.

guitar exercise position 1.

Guitar exercise shape 1 with the pinky on the D string.

 

guitar exercise position 2

Guitar exercise shape 2 with the pinky on the high E string.

There are 2 of these positions you can start in. The concept works the same way in both, and I suggest you practice both positions for the best results. In both positions the pinky will start on the 12th fret. In position 1 the pinky is on the D string, in position 2 the pinky is on the high E string. Now that you are in the starting position and ready to stretch let me explain how this works.

Hold all the notes down and strum them 1 by 1 to make sure they are not muffled. Move your first (index) finger down 1 fret and strum the strings again. If all the strings are played perfectly you can move your middle finger down 1 fret. The middle finger and index finger are now sitting next to each other. Make sure every note is played and not muffled. If all the strings in the shape are played you can now move your third finger down a fret. Repeat the strumming process. Finally you move your pinky down one fret and you will be in the exact same position that you started in.

How this works is that as you move down the fret board, the frets get wider. This will create more tension in your fingers which causes the stretching. By the time you get all the way down you will be struggling to make the stretch. It is even harder when you play it on a classical guitar which has even wider frets. So don’t worry, there is always a challenge. The hardest part of this stretch for most people is the stretching between the middle and ring fingers. Make sure you play these notes clearly, especially between these fingers.

This stretching exercise will make your fingers more flexible so that playing stretchy chords or scales that require a stretch you will be prepared and capable of executing them. This also makes a great guitar warm-up. Guitar stretching is important so your fingers are not limited in their abilities. I have attached a video below of me playing this exercise so you can see it being played. I apologize for the poor lighting.

 

 

2 handed tapping like Steve Vai

Steve vai has a unique style of guitar tapping. In this lesson you will learn an approach that Steve Vai uses to do 2 handed tapping. This is an advanced 2 handed tapping lesson, if you have not yet mastered the basics of 2 handed tapping, check out the link here. In this lesson you are going to learn the approach Steve Vai uses. Doing this you will learn how to use 2 fingers on your right hand to tap. You will also learn some of what he does with his left hand. Of course, this will not cover everything that Steve vai does when he taps, but this will provide you with a foundation of what he does. Let’s jump in to it.

Steve Vai uses 2 notes per string shapes with his left hand. He makes a box with his left and taps using this shape. There are many possibilities of box shapes that you could play. Steve Vai doesn’t stick to one of these shapes for a long time. You can hear that when he taps he isn’t repeating an idea. He is constantly moving through these shapes. If you want to learn to tap more like Steve Vai learn as many shapes as you can come up with. Learn them well though; you will progress faster if you learn a few things well rather than a bunch of things poorly. Here are a few example shapes he uses with his left hand.

2 handed tapping left hand boxes

There are 3 left hand boxes here. The blue box, the red box and the box with the “/”. Make your own shapes similar to these to use with this 2 handed tapping technique.

With his right hand Steve Vai uses 1 note per string shapes. Of course these shapes are constantly changing in Steve Vai’s playing as well. So come up with your own shapes for your right hand as well. Here are some example shapes Steve Vai uses for his right hand.

2 handed tapping right hand shapes

These are shapes you can use with the right hand to tap while 2 handed tapping. The purple note belongs to both shapes.

The hard part about the right hand is getting the correct tapping. This will be challenging with just 1 finger, so Steve uses 2 fingers. He uses the middle finger and the Ring finger. To be able to play like this you must pull your fingers downward. Use your ring finger on the high E string, and on the B string and G string use your middle finger. Switching string with this technique will be covered in a future blog post.

When you play these shapes you need to play them in the correct order. Tap first on the right hand, pull off to the note highest on the string, pull off and to the lower note on the string. You will be playing these shapes as if they are descending scales. You play the E string first, then B string, then G string in that order.

2 handed tapping like Steve Vai is a fun thing to do, but it can be tricky. He uses 2 fingers on his right hand and he uses shapes on his left hand. These shapes used by both hands are always changing; this is what gives his tapping that constantly flowing sound. Work on this slowly and get it clean and smooth. You will soon be sounding like Steve Vai. To continue to part 2 of this article click here. Discuss below!

For an example of the tapping technique taught above view this video below. Start the video at 6:00 and end it at 6:54.

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.

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.

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.

Playing across bar lines – Implying odd time signatures in 4/4

Most musicians when playing in 4/4 consider each measure a connect unit. When you play like this it is very easy to differentiate between each beat and each measure. This is the norm because this is what most people is familiar hearing, and this is how they are taught. There is a whole world of possibilities waiting to be explored if you learn to play outside of the common time signature. If you learn to imply an odd time signature over 4/4 you can easily add a little extra spice to your playing.

When you imply an odd time signature you are still playing 100% in time, you are just disguising your rhythm so it seems like the song changed. With this approach, the rhythm you choose will take some amount of time to cycle around and return where it started. The way to do this is to pick an odd number. The easiest numbers to play are 5 and 7. For this lesson I will use 5, if you are interested in taking this further, you can apply this principle to 3, 7, 9 or any odd number.

To explain how this works I will use common counting for the 16th note, but I will explain an easier way to count for this principle. Count in 16th notes, here is a diagram to show you the 16th notes.

This shows how to count 16th notes so that you can learn to imply odd time signatures

Take a piece of paper and write this out. Then on every 5th count put an X over it. It will then look like this.

counting odd time signatures

When you play this it will go over each bar line. This will cycle around and eventually come back to where it started. So how do we count this? You need to feel the 16th note beat then count 1 2 3 4 skip a beat 1 2 3 4 skip a beat. Make sure you really feel the 16th note rhythm. After you work on this for awhile you will start to memorize it and it won’t seem as hard. Just like everything else start slow and work up.

How do you incorporate this in to your playing? Well this concept is used a lot in djent metal and they use it for rhythm. You can come up with complex rhythms that are single note rhythms that repeat, or you can use a simple power chord with this rhythm. Another possible use for this concept is soloing. Why not throw this concept into a solo for a couple measures to add a little freshness to your playing. If this concept is something that lends itself to your style of playing, then you will find a use for it. If not then you are at least aware that this exist.

Playing over the bar line is a great way to spice up your playing. Implying odd time signatures with 16th notes will sure change the sound. There are many uses, experiment to find something that fits you style. Have fun with this new bit of knowledge!