Introduction to guitar tapping

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

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

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

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

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

What is economy picking and how do you do it?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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!

How to start alternate picking on guitar

When you progress in your guitar playing and start to play single note lines, you won’t be able to strum these notes so you will need a new approach for your right hand. A lot of people when they first start single note lines pick only downward. I advise against this. Only picking downward will slow you do dramatically. Consider how easily you can walk if you only moved one leg? So this is where alternate picking comes in.

Alternate picking is no different from walking. If you were walking you would first move your right leg, then your left, repeating this over and over again. Picking the guitar is the same. You pick down, and then you pick up and repeat over and over. This may feel difficult at first, but give it time and it will feel as natural as walking.

When you walk up a flight of stairs do you change your walking pattern? No! You still put one foot in front of the other. Each step you take uses the opposite leg.  When you change strings on guitar it is the exact same process as walking up stairs. You still continue to pick down up down up. This is how alternate picking got named. You are constantly alternating between down strokes and up strokes no matter what.

When you first start to practice alternate picking keep your mind focused on it. You may start to slip away from it if you aren’t conscious of it. When a baby first begins to walk it is a major feat for the child. He is concentrating hard on it. The same thing applies to alternate picking. Start slow; be aware of what you are doing. It will become much easier very quickly.

I recommend you practice alternate picking with simple scales such as the chromatic scale. If you do not know the chromatic scale I would suggest you check out my blog post called “Introduction to Guitar Scales – Chromatic Scale”.  The main idea is to focus on your right hand. Most guitarists do not spend nearly enough time practicing their right hand. Do this for a while and you will find it getting easier.

Just like when you walk, you put one foot in front of the other, alternate picking you switch between down strokes and up strokes. Concentrate on it like a baby does when they first walk. This technique really becomes second nature. Just spend a little time working on it, and watch it sink in and become muscle memory. Don’t be stuck in a rut of only picking downward. You have the capability of much more. Now go train for a marathon!

Transitioning from different open chords more smoothly

Music is supposed to be smooth and it is supposed to flow like water. A lot of times when you play open chords on guitar they don’t always sound the smoothest, so how can we add that smoothness to our playing? The concept is rather simple; we eliminate the movement we do. Well how do we do that? Let me explain.

Imagine in a perfect world that we could play all of the chords of a song without moving our fingers. Wouldn’t that be a very smooth song? The reality is that we cannot do that, but we can move as few of fingers as possible. Most chords have a common note of 2 in them. If we hold that common note down while we switch chords our music will flow much easier. So how do we do this?

Lets take the chord progression G | E min | C | D. If we hold down the notes D and G on our open chords the whole time we barely have to move our fingers at all to play these chords. It will sound wonderfully smooth. When we do this the chord it-self will change a bit, it will no longer be a D chord, but it will now be a D sus. Be aware of this, but don’t worry about it too much, because the D sus will still fit over a D chord.                 Here are the diagrams of the chords.

open chords G You will play this like the open G chord in the other blog post, but this time you will add the ring finger to the third fret B string.

open chords E minorYou will hold the 2 highest strings down while you change to the E minor. These notes will be held down the hold time.

open chords CThe C chord is just like the G chord, except on different strings. This is useful especially when switching from G to C. You can’t get much smoother than that.

open chords D

Practice switching between these open chord shapes slowly. You will see you quickly get comfortable with these and they will sound smooth and feel easy to play. You can apply this concept in many areas. The less you move the easier it is to play. Always be on the lookout for ways you can simplify what you are doing. If you can play something with les movement then you just saved yourself some trouble.

Take these chords and apply them to your music. There are many songs that can be played with these open chords. Have fun making music you enjoy. After all, that’s what music is all about. Strum and sing to your heart’s desire. Have fun!

An introduction to guitar chords – open chords

Back when I was in music theory one in college I was asked what a chord was, while they were being serious I replied with a sarcastic explanation “A group of notes that go boom”. However this is a great explanation of what a chord is. A chord is a group of specific notes that are played simultaneously. On the guitar there are many different ways to play guitar chords, but the simplest and typically the first that people learn are open chords.

Open chords on guitar are chords that are low on the guitar neck, typically 3rd fret and below. Open chords also contain open strings. If they do not contain open strings then they are not considered open chords. If you have played guitar before you probably have played an open chord already, because these are very common guitar chords.

In this lesson I am going to show you the most common open chords. Practice these slowly. Spend the time you need to learn them well. This is your basis for much more knowledge in the future. The good news is that if you work on these chords you will learn them relatively fast. Let’s dive into it, shall we?

open chords GThis is the Open G Chord. On the Low E string play the G note with your middle finger. On the A string play the B note with your first (index) finger. On the high E string play the G note with your ring finger. Strum all the strings.

open chords CThis is the Open C Chord. Do not strum the low E string. Place your ring finger on the third fret of the A string. Put your middle finger on the second fret on the D string. And your first (index) finger on the first fret B string.

open chords DThis is the open D chord. Do not strum the low E string and the A string. Place your first (index) finger on the second fret G string, ring finger third fret B string and middle finger second fret high E string.

open chords E This is the open E chord. There are 2 ways to play this and you should become comfortable with both. The first way to finger this is to place your middle finger second fret on the A string, ring finger second fret D string, and first (index) finger first fret G string. This is good to use in open position.  The second way to finger this chord is to place your ring finger second fret A string, pinky second fret D string and middle finger first fret G-string. Getting comfortable with this fingering will make barre chords easier. You can strum all the strings.

open chords E minorThis is the open E minor chord. finger this chord the same way as the E above except leave off the first fret on the G string.

open chords AThis is the open A chord. Just like the E chord there are 3 ways to finger this. The first approach which I never use, but a lot of books suggest is the classical approach. You place first (index) finger second fret D string, middle finger second fret G string and ring finger second fret B string. I find the second and third approach easier and they are both similar. You can barre your first (index) finger or ring finger across all 3 strings. the ring finger is best for barre chords in the future.

Experiment with the different fingerings for the different shapes. I suggest you become familiar with as many different options as possible. It pays off to be flexible on guitar. With these chords you can play millions of songs. A lot of acoustic guitar players rely on these chords primarily because of the open sound they have is full. If the songs are in a different key then they put on a capo. Find some of your favorite songs and start learning them and playing them with these chords to help you get them under your fingers. These chords are a foundation to a whole world of knowledge.

Open chords are a valuable thing to know. They are just a group of notes played simultaneously with open strings that are typically played low on the fret board. Spend the time to learn these shapes and learn to strum some of your favorite songs with these shapes. In the end you will be glad you did. All guitar players that are past the beginning stages of playing know these chords, they are so vital that it would be almost impossible to progress without knowing them.

How to use a metronome to get the most out of guitar practice

Metronomes are a useful tool when you practice guitar. They can be used to measure progress on a certain piece of music, they can help your technique, and most of all they help you play in time. This tool will help make the long journey to learning guitar easier.  Metronomes can also be a fun and challenging tool. The first step to using a metronome is having one at your disposal. There is a metronome on GitGuitar. Click on the word Metronome to be directed to the page. There are many other places you can get a metronome from, but there are 2 easy places to get them. First you can search a search engine for an online metronome. This is the cheapest and most reliable because it won’t break. The second option is to go to a music store and buy a metronome.

You may be asking when you should use a metronome. The answer is almost anywhere. I suggest that when you practice guitar scales you play them with a metronome. This will measure your progress in speed. You don’t want to try to play fast, but you will notice that you can play guitar scales faster and easier as you gradually push up the tempo. Another example of when you should use a metronome is when you practice an etude.  This is to make sure you are playing everything in time. You can also use a metronome when you are learning a new song. There are so many places to use a metronome and I am sure you will find many uses for a metronome during your guitar practice.

How do you use a metronome while you practice guitar? The simplest way is to have the metronome click on all the beats. For this post I will assume the music is in 4/4 time. So you will have the metronome click 4 times per measure. If you want to make it more challenging you can start eliminating some beats. You can play with the click on beats 2 and 4, or 1 and 3. Another way to have fun with the metronome is to put the click on beat 1 only. This is challenging because you have to stay in perfect time while you count 2 3 4 in your head. Once you are comfortable with the click on only beat 1, try putting the click on only beat 2, then beat 3, then beat 4. These exercises are fun and challenging.

As you can see, a metronome is a useful tool to aid your learning. It can also be fun and can keep you on your toes if you like a challenge. For such a cheap tool (or free if you use it online) there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to get some benefit from the metronome.  Whether you use it for 5 minutes a day, or 30 minutes a day, you will get the benefit from it. Best wishes with you and your new Best friend, the metronome.

How to play guitar scales with proper fingerings

Out of all the incorrect ways to play guitar, improper fingerings is probably one of the most common bad habits we create. This is because the correct way to play doesn’t come naturally at first. When you approach a new scale or lick it is important that you play it with correct fingerings. This will help you learn faster and it won’t hinder you in your future studies. Correct fingering is closely related to positions on guitar. Let’s take a look at the definition of guitar position.

A guitar position is determined by the fret number your first finger is on. If you lay your first finger on the fifth fret then you are in 5th position. This is important because when you correctly finger a scale you should have one finger per fret. So if your first finger is on the 5th fret, your middle finger will be on the 6th fret so on. There are a few exceptions to this.

The first exception is when you switch positions during a scale. Certain scales require you to slide down a fret to play them correctly. You are still playing with 1 finger per fret, but you changed the set of fingerings to fit the new position.  The scale could also require a slide up to a new position. This does not change the rule of one note per fret, it just changes the position you are in.

The second exception to this is when a scale requires a stretch that cannot be handled with sliding to a new position. You may alter your fingerings to be able to play these scales because they cannot be played one finger per fret. The fingerings for these are not important until you are more advanced, but this exception does exist. Now let’s take a look at what people do that is incorrect.

The most common incorrect finger I have seen is when a person refuses to use their pinky. Yeah, I know the pinky is the weakest finger. This is not a good habit to create and should be avoided and fixed. Another problem I have come across is when people play with one finger. They slide that finger around. Don’t waste the energy. This is bad, it slows you down and you waste 3 fingers. Maximum efficiency is what we are aiming for.

On the topic of maximum efficiency I would like to mention that while you practice scales you should be conscious of how far you take your fingers off the strings. The closer you keep your fingers to the strings the smoother you will play, and it will help with speed greatly. Try this exercise: put your palm of your hand on your leg. Tap your leg starting with your pinky rolling your other fingers in order one at a time. First keep your fingers close to your leg and tap as fast as you can. Then I want you to lift your fingers as high as you can and try to tap as fast as you can. Which one is faster and easier? Paying attention to how close you keep your fingers is an important part of playing guitar.

We have covered the basics to correctly finger guitar scales. You keep your fingers one finger per fret unless it is one of the exceptions and keep your fingers close to the strings. These may not come naturally, but be patient and it will get easier to the point where you don’t have to think about it anymore. Practice smart!

How to learn guitar scales more in depth than 2 octave shapes

If you want to truly know the fret board you will need to do more than just memorize 1 shape of a scale. Learning as many ways as possible to play a scale is very beneficial. This does not mean that you have to master each approach to playing scales, however understanding the different approaches and memorizing them would never hurt. So what is the next step to learning scales once you know the 2 octave shapes? It is very simple. Learn one octave shapes.

guitar scales

Color coded diagram of one octave major scales starting on different G notes all over the fret board.

The magic about one octave scales is that the pattern repeats on every note on different strings. Keep in mind you need to shift up a fret on the B string. One octave scales is a great way to visualize the fret board. As long as you can find the root note you know where the right scale is. In this lesson I am going to use the major scale, but you can use this approach with all scales. There are 2 ways to play a major scale in 1 octave.  The first way is to play starting with the second finger; the second way is to start with the fourth finger. When you combine these 2 one octave shapes you cover the whole fret board. Take a look at these diagrams.

These shapes are color coded so you can see how each shape is repeated over the different strings. Once again don’t forget to shift on the B string.  Now let’s look at the other one octave major scale shape.

guitar scales

one octave major scale starting on fourth finger using G as the root note.

When you combine the 2 different diagrams you get a whole range of scale notes on the fret board. This is a great way to improve your knowledge of a scale you already know. Don’t just learn these shapes. Apply the same principle to all the modes in the major scale. Apply them to the harmonic and melodic minor scales as well. This is not the end all be all of guitar scales, but it is a valuable tool to use to help you visualize the guitar neck better. It will make you more comfortable in different part of the neck as well.

As with everything in life, don’t rush to learn it. It is better to know a few things well than to know a bunch of things poorly. Learning all these approaches to using scales is like how you eat an elephant. You take one bite at a time.   You may have also heard that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Be patient and good luck with the new knowledge!

Guitar Scales – Modes Shapes

In this Post I am going to show you the patterns for the major modes. If you have not read the post called “Introduction to guitar scales – modes” I recommend you read that first. I put all the fingerings on each diagram so you can see how you finger it. I put an R on each diagram as well which indicates the Root of the key. All these scale patterns are based off of the G major Scale.

When you memorize these scale patterns I suggest you then transpose them to every key. Become very familiar with these scales in all 12 keys. Let’s get started and jump into it.

guitar scales

This is the Root position major scale, also called the Ionian Mode. You start this with the second finger.

guitar scales

This is the Dorian Mode.

guitar scales

This is the Phrygian Mode.

guitar scales

This is the Lydian Mode.

guitar scales

This is the mixolydian Mode.

guitar scales

This is the Aeolian Mode, Also known as natural minor.

guitar scales

This is the Locrian Mode.

By the time you place all these shapes you should be an octave higher playing the first scale again. Do not worry about memorizing each scale shape in 1 day. Learn the major scale First, once you have that memorized then memorize the Dorian. Keep reviewing these scales even if you have them memorized already. These scales need to become second nature to you.

Keep in mind. Guitar makes shapes easy to move. For you to play in A-major just move these scale shapes up a whole step. That is what makes guitar unique from many other instruments. These patterns will never change, but the position you play them in will. Good luck!