Discover How You Can Get a Great Guitar Tone

This lesson is for everyone in the whole universe that plays guitar. Most of the sound you get from playing guitar is from the hands, not from your gear. If you wish you had a better sound on the guitar than you might want to reconsider a few aspects of your guitar playing to improve your sound. How does this work and what can you do to change your sound? I will show you what you need to know about improving your guitar tone.

Your picking hand is very influential on your guitar tone. This is where you control the volume, brightness or your sound and the harshness. The very first step to creating the guitar sound that you really like is getting the right type of pick. Harder picks will have a harsher sound than a flimsy guitar pick. Different guitar pick materials will have different sounds. You may find experimenting with different guitar picks is a good start to changing your guitar tone. Try different materials, sizes and thickness. Keep in mind that guitar picks should feel comfortable.

After you have a good sounding pick you should concentrate on where you pluck the string and how hard you pluck it. Different positions on the string will create different sounds. Typically closer to the bridge has more of a brighter twang sound and closer to the neck has a darker full sound. Try plucking the string in different sections and you will find that your guitar will start to sound different than it has before. Also keep in mind that you should feel comfortable playing the guitar.  The harder you pluck the string the louder your sound will be. If you want a louder guitar sound then plucking harder may be what you want. Slight differences in how hard you pluck will make a difference. Do not pluck your strings hard enough to break them.

Finally for the picking hand you should experiment with how you hold the guitar pick. Different angles of the guitar pick will create different guitar tones. You can tilt the pick upward or downward. You can also turn the pick to face the bridge or the neck. Experiment with the angle of the pick. You may also want to experiment with the strength that you hold the pick. If you hold the pick tightly there will be less give for the pick and it will sound different than if you lightly hold on to it. You may also want to experiment with the position of the pick between your fingers. There are so many ways to experiment with the guitar pick. Keep in mind that finger style guitar will sound completely different from a guitar pick.

The picking hand on the guitar generates a great amount of the tone you receive on the guitar. Your guitar tone will change depending on your pick and the placement of your pick. Minor adjustments can make the biggest differences in your guitar tone. Experiment with different approaches; however remember that you should always feel comfortable with the guitar. If you find a position that is just very awkward then you may want to find a new position to hold your pick. Share your thoughts below

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.

4 reasons guitarists should do study etudes

Most guitarists cringe at the idea of working on etudes. The thought of reading music on guitar is scary to many guitarists who cannot read music. Guitarists should work on study etudes because there are many benefits. In this lesson I am going to explain 4 reasons a guitarist would benefit from studying etudes.

  1. You will improve your reading.

Spending time with your eyes in music will help your reading. With better reading skills you will have a better chance at studying music in college, getting better gigs, help you jazz standards faster and easier and make you a more educated musician. You do not need to be a great reader, but it definitely helps your playing to understand the written page.  You will start to learn how the written page is made and it won’t seem so scary to read music.

2. Working on etudes will improve your technical ability.

Study etudes are designed to work on a specific technique. One etude is supposed to help your trills and the next might be made to help you skip strings. Practicing etudes will help you become more comfortable with your instrument. You will come across patterns that you cannot play until you practice them. As you advance in your ability you will be practicing etudes that utilize the entire guitar neck. This will help you learn all the positions on guitar well. Guitar etudes are a great tool to help you improve your technical ability.

3. Working on an etude will help you understand how music works.

Working on etudes will force you to learn different rhythms and arpeggios. You will start to see how music works from a whole new perspective. You can use your new-found reading abilities to help your music theory knowledge. Overall you will find that working on an etude will open up a new world of understanding.

4. Working on etudes will speed up memorization of jazz standards.

Working with the written page will make memorizing music faster and easier. Etudes are a great way to improve your ability to comprehend music faster. If you are in a situation where you need to memorize a tune, you will find that learning it from the written page will be faster. This is a valuable skill for serious musicians. You never know when you may get a call to play a jazz gig with a couple of songs that you don’t have memorized.

There are more benefits from working on study etudes, but these 4 are a great place to start to show that there is a benefit from it. Work on an etude and you will see your ability growing. Working on an etude can also be a fun way to practice. Spend the time with etudes and you will see that reading music on guitar isn’t as bad as you thought it would be. Stick to it, nothing worth doing is easy. Share your thoughts below.

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.

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.

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.