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Back from the Future

A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

For my usual preamble, and as it’s been a while… Allow me a bit of a

ranting session.

So you record a song, then lose all your rights to it. And there are still
people recording on US labels. Have any more doubts about it being for the
money? It seems to me there’s only way to beat the bastards (read: Major
Record Companies), and that’s to release any and all of your recordings on
your own label. If you own the label, you still retain your rights.

Of course, this is going into hearings, but I’m not very optimistic about the
results. Once the big companies are involved, they usually buy the ending
they want.

Remember a few years ago when they were sued for fixing prices? Never
even made it to court.

However, I am happy to report that 28 beautiful states in the US have filed a

suit against the five major labels for price fixing!!!! Canada is proposing to
follow with its own suit. Again, I’m not very optimistic about the results. The
direct results, that is. Hopefully, enough people will hear about this for
something to happen.

Maybe we should all plug into Napster and agree to send $1 per album to
each artist we download files from. Pay the artists direct and bypass the
Record Companies completely. Might keep Metallica happy too.

Anyway, now it’s out of my system, let’s go to this week’s topic.

Looking Back to See Ahead

So we’ve seen a lot of the past in the last two weeks. Songs, music in
general was meant to tell stories. Music was meant to tell stories, but then
something happened. Something that had absolutely nothing to do with
music. It was the Industrial Revolution.
With the Industrial Revolution, it was now possible to make more
complicated, more sophisticated, better-sounding musical instruments.

With these new instruments, the Orchestra was born. Then music took a
sharp left turn. This was the age of Baroque, what we now call “Classical
Music”. Here the words were completely abandoned in favor of the music
itself. For the composer, it was no longer a matter of using words to say
what he meant, but making the feelings clear through the music.

“If you hear a Marching Band, you march. If you hear a Waltz, you dance. If
you hear a Mass, you take communion.

“It is the power of music to carry one into the mental state of the composer.
The listener has no choice, it is like hypnotism.”

These words are from Bernard Rose, writer and director of Immortal
I could not have said it better myself. It also helps to explain why most
people don’t pay attention to the music: They are already hypnotized by pop
culture. Nothing more can get through. I’ve said it before, music is
supposed to be felt, not heard.

Although there were composers who fitted the genre in later years,
Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Wagner, etc, the golden age of Classical music
ended in the last years of Beethoven (he died in 1821). Already, words
were returning as that’s what the people demanded. Beethoven himself
added words to his Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy.
You might take notice, though, that when you hear the Ninth Symphony,
you rarely hear it with the words…

Richness in music, since then, has been cycling. It returned in the early
20th Century with Jazz. Then words were also added to Jazz… There was
Progressive Rock in the 70’s. Some acts like Tangerine Dream, Mike
Oldfield, Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre (no, they do not do New Age)
went the musical way. But all of them have at one time or another, often
frequently, had recourse to lyrics.
The 90’s saw some more remarkable acts like The Smashing Pumpkins,
Pearl Jam and a few others who had recourse to beautiful, complicated
music. Music that was a basis rather than an afterthought.

There was even one French band from Ontario in the 70s who took songs
written as far away as the 13th Century and redid the music to make it
complicated. The results were quite pleasant, although they never made it
out of Canada. Perhaps that was only due to poor marketing.

So, what’s up for the

Obviously, the 3-chord song will last forever. Any fool can write a 3-chord
song. Then again, very few can write a good one. Fewer even can write
something using 12 or more chords. Maybe that’s not the way you wish to
go, but it’s definitely something you should try.

Last week I mentioned that with Storytelling you should keep it simple.
That’s advice that should be heeded every time you try something new.
Start simple, then make it more complicated-once you get the hang of it.
If you’ve never touched a guitar, don’t try to play by learning Hendrix.

If you find that your songs are stale, try adding a new chord somewhere. If,
for example, your verses have 2 chords, then 2 more, then repeat this
pattern before going to the chorus, try 3 chords, then 2, repeat and put an
instrumental section that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the

It might not work, but it may open new doors for you. You may find a totally
unexpected world out there.

The major companies will always employ song designers: people who
formula-write according to specific conventions. And they will always find
new Celine Dions and Brittany Spears’ to sing them, but the public in
general require more than this.
Problem is that when you go to the Labels, they’ll listen to what you have
then tell you what they want. You’re then faced with a choice: do what they
say or don’t call back. There will always be people who will prostitute their
art for a chance at a lucrative contract. Fortunately, these are usually
untalented people to begin with.

As we’ve seen over the past few months, it’s relatively inexpensive to
record an album these days, and the prices are going down. More people
are recording than there ever were. And the numbers are increasing daily.
People record an album, put it on the Net and expect a miracle.

Very few acts have made it via the Independent labels. None have made it
big. Problem is they don’t have the marketing budgets necessary to be

However, these people do influence what happens with the major labels.
Over time, the Majors have to follow the trends. They don’t make the
trends, they just flood the market with it.

Anyway, the important thing is to always be happy with what you write.

Reaching The Limits

ABEL PETNEKI Guitar Lessons Buying a Guitar and Other Equipment, Guitar
Lessons for Beginners

Tried everything but still can’t play that solo no matter how much you
practice? This seems to be a common problem for beginners – let’s try a
different approach. The problem might not be you; it could actually be your

Most guitarists start playing on an inexpensive acoustic for obvious

reasons: you don’t want to invest too much until you see whether you can
really manage to learn playing the guitar. Or you start learning classical
guitar on a nylon-string acoustic. Whichever the case, sooner or later you’ll
face problems, which lie in the instrument itself. Simple, cheap acoustics
have wide, thick necks, short fretboards, the high frets are unreachable,
and extremely high action. (In case you wonder: the action is the distance
between the strings and the fretboard.) These features can render playing
really difficult. And the solution? Well, the possibilities range from some little
DIY (“do it yourself”) to buying a new instrument.

Let’s see…

Wide, thick neck:

This cannot be repaired or adjusted, but read on anyway…

High action:
On most guitars – including acoustics – the action is adjustable at the
instrument’s bridge (where the strings are attached to the body). I won’t go
into details here – consult your favorite guitar shop. Most shop people are
more than happy to do simple repairs like this for a reasonable cost. While
they’re at it, you can also get them to check for other things they might be
able to do to smooth out your instrument. The ultimate goal is to set the
action as low as possible without any irritating fret buzz. This should help

Nylon strings are easy to fret and bend, but most rock/blues/country players
prefer steel strings. Electric guitars always have steel strings, except for the
new “classical/electric” guitars that some manufacturers are producing
lately. Note: you shouldn’t put steel strings on your nylon-string guitar –
chances are that the neck will break because of the added strain. I learned
this the hard way, but that’s another story…:-) Anyway the thing to look for
in our case is lighter gauge (thinner) strings. Thin strings are easier to play
on although they won’t sound as majestic as thick ones. If you don’t have a
clue about your current string gauge, just take the old high e string to the
guitar shop and they will tell you the gauge; buy a lighter set of strings.
Another solution is mixing string sets. Most rhythm guitarists tend to
concentrate on the lower strings (4th, 5th and 6th). One idea would be to
buy two sets of strings one light (or extra light) and one medium (or heavy)
and just use the appropriate three strings of each set. Of course, you can
also buy strings individually or buy special sets optimized for this kind of

Okay, the guitar pick is not part of the instrument, but using an appropriate
pick should help, too. Just experiment with thinner and thicker picks. If you
just strum chords all the time you should go for a flexible one (e.g. 0.50mm
thick). More rigid picks give you more control during the solos.

Buying a new guitar:

Now, you don’t have to literally buy a brand new instrument: just try a
friend’s or an expensive one in the shop. In a few minutes you will get the
feel of the better guitar and how it would affect your playing. Or try an
electric if you never played one – there’s a huge difference. Remember that
as you upgrade your skills you might want to consider upgrading your

Just one last thought: don’t blame the guitar if you don’t practice enough.
But bear in mind that the best guitarists get to play the best guitars available
– it’s not just talent and practicing.

DAN LASLEY Guitar Lessons Sound Engineering Lessons

A few quick topics, based on emails I have received. Many thanks to you
who make me feel so appreciated.

You don’t need to have the very best mics unless you are in the recording
studio. There are many mics in the $50-75 range that are more than fine for
playing live. The only real requirement is to make sure that they are “low
impedance” and “cardiod” (meaning heart-shaped pattern), which means
that they have lower noise, and they don’t pick up sounds from behind (so
you don’t get as much feedback from the monitors). “High impedance” and
“omni-directional” mics should be avoided, as should anything that is
hardwired to a ¼” jack. The 3-wire “XLR” jack is standard on any mic that
isn’t a toy.

(Note: this is not about compressor effects for guitars)
The compressor is probably the most mis-understood and mis-used signal
processor around. A compressor has two main purposes: first, to act as a
limiter to protect the equipment (speakers) from being overloaded, and
second, to reduce the dynamic range of the music so that the soft parts are
not as soft and the loud parts are not as loud. The problem is that
compressors tend to add noise and increase feedback. Don’t
misunderstand, in the hands of an expert, a compressor can do wonderful
things, and save a performance. But unless you really know how to use
one, avoid it altogether.

The way most compressors work is that they reduce the signal as it gets
louder, so if you play twice as loud, it comes out only 50% louder. The
compressor leaves the quieter music alone. The amount of “compression”
is usually adjustable, along with the response times. So if you have a song
that has a 10-to-1 range of dynamics, the compressor might send it out to
the PA with a 3-to-1 range. The good part is that the audience thinks they’re
hearing 10:1, because the vocal strain and guitar distortions have
increased, so the tones are reflective of louder music, even though it’s not
as loud as you think.

My friend Peter is an up and coming “Billy Joel” piano man. He plays a

wonderful Kurzweil electronic sampled keyboard, which has a wonderful
grand piano voice. He plays coffee-houses with a new 200W PA. As with
most musicians, by the third set, he’s gotten a bit louder than when he
started the evening. When he plays ballads, the rich piano tones
compliment his voice, and his adept playing is clear and refined. But when
he starts banging out 8-note power-chords, jumping up and down behind
the keyboard, his Kurzweil responds enthusiastically, and overloads the PA.
This is much to everyone’s surprise, because it didn’t seem so loud a few
minutes before. Here is a perfect case for a compressor. The keyboard is
immune to feedback and is very quiet. The compressor will allow Peter to
turn up enough to hear the delicate passages, but will keep the power parts
from overloading the system. Again, the heavier tones created by the power
chords will give the impression of loudness, even as the compressor keeps
it under control.

The opposite is true of microphones. If you think a vocalist needs a

compressor, teach him or her to do it Sinatra’s way; when you need to sing
louder, pull the mic away from your face a bit. Watch a tape of any of the
“Las Vegas” singers, male or female; they all do it, because it works. Using
a compressor on vocals increases the possibility of feedback, because you
can increase the volume (gain) for softer sounds. Also, the human voice is
so full of dynamics that it is almost impossible to get the timing settings
correct for all cases.

The last use for a compressor is to protect the equipment. Suppose you
have a system that is usually run by different people (say, a house PA with
different engineers, or a school auditorium set up). It can be a good
investment to use a compressor in a “limiter” mode, which will but an
absolute maximum on the power to the speakers, and thus prevent anyone
from blowing them out. The system has to be big enough to do the intended
job, so that the limiter doesn’t kick in under normal usage. In this
arrangement, the compressor’s control may be very audible as it reduces
the gain to protect the system.

In summary; a compressor can solve some very difficult problems, but

consider it your last resort unless you really know how to use it.

Feedback Control Using an

In an earlier column (The Mix Board), I suggested that the “breadloaf” EQ
was best for live performances, where the highest and lowest frequencies
were reduced, and the middle range were set at 0db, or “even”. However,
you can use a graphic EQ to reduce a feedback issue that occurs at one
specific frequency. This usually happens due to a set-up constraint based
on a small stage.
If you think that this may happen, you can use your EQ to “ring-out” the
system – that is to remove the “ringing”, which is the precursor to full
acoustic feedback. Note, this is an annoying process and should never be
done when paying customers are in the room.
With the stage and PA fully setup with the equalizers set to their nominal
values, turn on all the microphones and turn the “front” PA up about
halfway. Now turn up the monitor level until you begin to hear feedback.
Quickly turn it down a little until the feedback stops. Next, starting with the
monitor’s 1KHz EQ slider, move each slider up from the middle until you
hear feedback start. Note which frequencies are the most sensitive (you
move the slider up the least). Let’s say that the 2KHz and 4KHz bands
started feeding back with only a 2dB boost, while all the others don’t start at
less than 6dB. In this case, put all the EQ sliders back to their normal
settings, and reduce the 2KHz and 4KHz sliders by about 4-6dB. If you
have a 3.15KHz slider in between, reduce that one as well. You don’t want
to have adjacent sliders at significantly different levels, as this causes odd
phase distortions.

Now turn up the monitor level again and confirm that you can set it higher
than before without feedback. You should be in good shape.

Two notes: First, your sound shouldn’t suffer too much because the house
PA shouldn’t have to change, and the stage is unusually reflective at those
frequencies anyway. Second, some set-ups have a really nasty resonance,
and there is no reasonable fix. Try and figure out which mic is the most
sensitive, and reposition it with respect to the monitors and the back walls.

Piezo Tweeters
As part of the disco age, and as a result of some technology “advances”,
there is a style of speakers that has one large bass speaker and 2 or more
tiny piezo-electric tweeters. This was great for disco because it allowed a lot
of thump and sizzle with very little in the middle. I previously discussed the
“smile” EQ as a popular setting because it allowed the music to be very
loud, but you could still talk to your date (or the bartender). Piezos are also
very power-efficient and usually rugged.

These speakers are not useful for full-range PA or monitor use. I strongly
recommend that you disconnect the piezos and replace them with a more
standard horn-driver. You may need a new cross-over network as well, but
if the cabinets are well built, it may be more cost effective than replacing the
entire speaker. Your local pro-sound store should be able to help you.
Questions and Answers
A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

This week I’m posting questions I’ve received and answers I’ve given.
Because of the way Hotmail works (yeah Microsoft), I don’t have all the
answers I’ve written to all the questions I’ve sent out (you actually have to
give Hotmail a command so that it keeps the answer). And, at first, I had no
idea this would become a weekly gig. So next week I’ll use other questions
I’ve received and redo the answers.

These are questions that are common enough, so I think they will be useful
for many people.

If you think I’m doing this because I don’t want to spend 2 to 3 hours in front
of my PC writing up a column this week, you’re right. But not for the
reasons you think. Things are happening here at Guitarnoise. Hopefully by
next week you’ll see that I’ve spent most of this week taking care of
business for some new things coming up. If the site isn’t bookmarked, make
sure you do so now! You will be quite surprised with what is coming in the
very near future!

About the questions. Only twice did I not respond to readers. But there were
reasons for this. If you disagree with me, that’s fine, I’ll most likely respond
anyway. If you can’t be diplomatic in your comments, I send your mail to file
13. And please, do not try to impose your religious, political or social views
on me. If I see that no matter what I say you will disagree, I won’t bother.

But any legitimate questions and comments are always welcome. Usually, I
answer the same day, although-things happen-it may be that it will take
several days. The Internet is not a sure thing and mail sometimes gets lost.
If I haven’t responded to you inside a week, first review your wording (in
case that’s the problem), then send it back. But I will get around to it. If you
feel my answer was not clear enough, write back and say so. If my answers
lead to more questions, write back.

Several people have started writing in frequently and that is not a problem
for me. Quite the opposite. If you just want to drop a line and say Hello, I
always appreciate that. So here we go:
Q: I am the main songwriter in my band and we recorded this demo album
of all original songs. Now i have wrote about 30 all together but my band
mates have only heard 20 or so. They say they are “great” and “amazing”
but i am ashamed to listen to the record because i think the songs are so
bad. But even people outside the band say they are reall good. Is it normal
to feel this way? Is there anything i can do to make make my songs worthy
of me?
A: It’s normal that you feel this way. For me it’s because of my voice… I
don’t like to be around when people listen to my songs. Then they come
back and tell me they like my voice and I think they’re lying…
But as for the songs themselves, I’ve written over 100. I started writing 19
years ago (There was a period of 8 years where I hardly wrote at all). That’s
why I know my songs are good. I’ve got something to compare them with.
Well, not all of them, some of them are REALLY bad. And, occasionally, I’ll
play something I think is bad to a few people who really love it.

With time, it’ll be easier for you to see the difference. It’s more of a question
of confidence than anything else. If you recorded them, you must know
there was something good in them. If your band plays, them, even better.

If, however, you have a song that you really don’t like, then keep it to
yourself. That’s OK.

And if you’ve been playing a song for a while and every time you go to play
it, you cringe, then don’t play it. Even if people are asking for it. First and
foremost, it’s about you and what you want to do. The song has to move

Q: Scenario: A songwriter writes lyrics and melody but is not a strong

musician so she gets together with a guitarist, who proposes various chord
changes, instrumental hooks, transitional chord progressions between
sections of the song, etc. Together they hammer out a brilliant arrangement
of the song for live performance and recording. Is the guitarist entitiled to
any co-writing credit or does his contribution merely constitute arranging. Is
such arranging input, (which is essential to bring the song to life) entitled to
any greater reward other than a nice acknowledgment and thanks on the
CD cover? Is there a bright-line rule?
Do you know of any other websites that address such issues? I’ve done this
sort of work for a number of songwriters in original projects throughout the
years. Although my contributions have been highly creative, time-
consuming and invaluable, no one has ever suggested they rise to the level
of protectable or compensable intellectual property.
A: You’re in the gray zone. The next time you do something like this, I
strongly advise that you make the person agree to these terms ahead of
time. And get it in writing.
Unfortunately, some people do not have a conscience…

Q: (The first article: So You Want to Be a Songwriter?) It kind of, let me

know that I’ve been starting at the right places all this time, but I’ve never
took the time to sit down and really Work on it. In other words, I’ve never
written a song. But I sure as h**l want to! The only problem is that I don’t
play anything else but flute and a bit guitar. I take lessons and all but I still
feel…limited. You know, like I don’t have the opportunities to learn and play
with all the musical areas. And sometimes, I get so eager, or so many
ideas, that it blocks me(not just in music, I also do dances and sll sorts of
things!). I feel like it’s to much, and what’s the point, when it’s never going
to be heard?
But what if I’d really pull it off, and make something good?? How do I reach
out with it? Cuz, you know, I’d really like to not just vent my emotions, but
share them too. But where does one start and how does one go further? I
feel almost like I don’t even want to tell someone that I play the guitar and
have a musical interest, cuz everyone I talk to often know much more, and
then me and my ideas would become uninteresting. And it doesn’t help that
I’m a young girl!

I hope you could give me some sort of advice about this… Cuz, I don’t have
to “reach out” to the great masses, and I certainly Not want to become
Brittney 2nd you know… *hehe* But I feel very strongly about music, and I
just Know I can if I’d just, I don’t know, got a little push forward. I feel it in
my bones… But I’m way to scared to really belive in anything of this, so I
guess it felt “realistic” to write to you.

Well, well, I’m not going to dwell in this anymore. But if you have Anything
to say to me about this which you think could be helpful, please do!

A: I understand how you feel. I suggest you read my article on attitude

(Inflating The Ego) on the same website, that might help. Do not think that
people around you know more than you do. They usually just think they
know more than you do. Be yourself.

The first song you write will be the most difficult. But once you’ve written it,
you’ll feel good. And it will be easier to write the next ones. Once you have
a few, you can then record a demo. Record companies don’t care if you’re a
great musician, they have endless lists of musicians who can help you, If
your voice isn’t all that great, they can fix it in the studio (however, even if
you do have a good voice, I’d recommend lessons). What they’re looking
for is good material. So a demo can consist of only guitar and vocals. Then
you send this out to the record companies in your country with a short
biography. Even if they reject it, they will send you a letter explaining what
they liked and didn’t like. Pay attention to it and use that as a basis for your
next demo. Some people have sent in seven demos before they were
signed, so it’s no big deal.

You can also start a band. Again, if you’re not a great guitarist, get
someone who is to help out.

Q: I would be grateful if you can further describe music copyright issues. If I

understand correctly, you seems to describe that even though we applying
quite similar chord progression, each of us will end up with different
compositions anyway.
There’s one case that I know that an original composer had sue another
composer regarding copyrighting his phrase of composition. The original
composer won the case even though the last 8 bars of music come with
only around 80% of similarity.

(i) Can you further describe how can we define what’s called “copy”?

(ii) If everybody try to follow the chord progression as you suggested, can
they be accused of copying the work of each others as the music may
easily come about 80% of similarity?

(iii) How to define copying the work of others as it seems to be hard to avoid
especially in the world of music composition?

A: According to copyright laws, a song consists of three things:

 A chord structure

 A melody

 Lyrics

Hence, you can use the exact same chords, but have a completely different
Intent to copy is also an issue. Coincidences do happen. Having the last 8
bars identical to someone else’s song is no big deal if the rest of the song is
different. It’s happened to me. I wrote an instrumental section for one of my
songs that is based on keyboards. A few months later, I discovered that
Rick Wakeman had used the exact same melody (differing only on the last
note: I go to a low note, he goes to a high note) for a chorus in one of his

I don’t particularly like Wakeman, so if I’d chosen to copy from someone, it

would not have been him. But I chose to keep the instrumental section

It’s a bit of a confused area, there are no absolutes.

The basic point is don’t try to copy someone else’s song.

Q: (…) and I’m from Austria. I just read your “songwriter” columns at Maybe you can help me:
I’m playin’ guitar for about 3,5 years now, about 6-8 months ago i started
writing songs by my own which go into melodic -hard rock/glam/pomp-
hardrock style, e.g. Def Leppard, Magnum, Europe, Bon Jovi etc……..

The first ones I`ve written are pretty cool, if I’d find people to jam with i
could try to arrange them in a good way and make something better outta
them. But the problem is, that over the past winter, november till now, i had
loads of ideas and “just” got 1 full midlle-class song, not bad but also not
really good, on instrumental song without lyrics and thousands of ideas i
probably never use.

When winter started i thought, lots of ideas will come, cause I’m living in a
bigger Skiing area with lots of tourists. But it wasnt like that, even while
snowboarding and snowboard-instructing (which was my job the past
months.), there weren’t any Useful ideas.

Funnily it seems that inspiration’s coming back now i grabbed an old chorus
idea tried to write lyrics 2 days ago, but didnt look at it since then.

I never had lessons, but I’m not sure if I’d take some? I just don’t know how
to go on right now, what can i learn by myself, what not? Do i REALLY need
a teacher or just people to jam with???
A: I used to work with this beautiful Austrian lady… If they all look like her, I
want to move there!
I don’t want to speak against lessons, they have their uses. If you want to
become a better guitarist or a better singer, they are definitely worthwhile.

They won’t, however, make you a better songwriter. Obviously, while you
were snowboarding, your mind was on your job, on enjoyment, probably on
the women. No wonder you didn’t get any ideas. You should view that time
as a “vacation” from songwriting. It did serve its use, though. It allowed you
to acquire more life-experience, observe more people. Someday, some
song, or some part of a song, will come out of all this.

Meanwhile, to develop your songs, playing with others is definitely a good

idea. You can also build yourself a little studio. You don’t have to invest a
lot of money to do so. If you already have a computer, you can go into
digital recording. In one of my next columns (Recording a Demo Part 2), I’ll
explain how to do that.

Just Because You’ve

Got Six Strings…
doesn’t mean you have
to play all six all the
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge

Hey, welcome back to our regularly scheduled programming, and to

something that (I hope) will be more of a lesson than a rambling. Don’t get
me wrong, rambling is important. Without a free and open discussion of
ideas and philosophies, we don’t get the opportunity to grow very much.
And, as I’ve told you many times, I’d rather have a student who questions
things than one who merely takes my word and then moves on. Today
we’re going to look at our “six-string orchestra,” as Harry Chapin once
described his guitar in song, and wonder why we’re compelled to play all six
come hell or high water.

One of the first things that informs a teacher that his or her guitar student
has got an ear of some sort is when the pupil learns to play a D major
chord. Invariably, the fledgling guitarist will strike all six strings in order to
sound the chord and (hopefully) will grimace or show some outward sign
that he or she knows that this sound a bit off, not quite right. The student
may not know the reason why, but this will, of course, be learned.

But you can see from where the confusion comes. Watch any guitarist,
especially the hard rockers. To the eye, it looks as if he or she is flailing
away at the instrument. Unless we are watching someone performing a solo
(and even then), it certainly seems as though all six strings are taking a
beating almost all the time. But that is rarely the case.

This is where (and why) one’s ability to listen and to hear is so important.
And, contrary to what many people may believe, this is a skill that most
people can develop. We’ve talked about this before, when we discussed
how ear training was vital in order how to figure out a song without the use
of TAB (Happy New Ear). If you’d like to take a moment or two to review
that article, please go right ahead, we’ll be here…
All set? Good, then let’s proceed. Explaining why the D chord sounds “not
quite right” is easily explained. We already know, good little theory students
that we are, that the D major chord is made up of the D, F# and A notes
(the root, third and fifth of the D major scale). We also know that by playing
the low E (sixth) string, we are introducing a note that has nothing to do with
the D major chord. Therefore, it should sound amiss to our ears.

“But, David,” you say, “what about when we leave the high E string open?
Didn’t you call it a Dsus2 back in Building Additions (and Suspensions) just
a few months back?”
I’m glad you asked. This actually goes back to something else we touched
upon way back in the beginning of the year. Those of you regular readers
may recall that I often use the phrase “chord voicing” and that we discusse
it a bit in the column Multiple Personality Disorder. Simply put (meaning:
“put in an infuriatingly unhelpful way”), “chord voicing” is how the chord is
“voiced” by your instrument. I know, I’m really getting annoying. Let’s try this
example that we’ve also used before: your guitar is a choir that has six
people. Each string corresponds to one person who sings (or doesn’t sing)
when that particular string is struck (or not struck). Just as a choir has
different voices – soprano, alto, tenor and bass (from high to low) – your
guitar also has different voices – E, B, G, D, A and E. When you play a
chord, you assign each string a note and that is the “voicing” of that chord.
Let’s look at the chords in question:

So, then, playing a D major chord, we “assign” the D notes to the fourth
string (open) and the second string (3rd fret), the F# to the first string (2nd
fret) and the A note to the third string (also 2nd fret). In our Dsus2, we
replace the F# with the E on the first string and all is right with the world.

Or is it? To those of you who are arguing that I haven’t solved the problem
at all, give yourselves a pat on the back. All I’ve actually done is given you a
look at the D chords arranged for four “voices” as if in a choir. But it is a
place to start. Now let’s look at this a little more in depth.

Working From The Bottom

Before we go any further, I want to remind you again that music theory is
based on the conventions of the past. It doesn’t begin to cover everything
because it is so easy to come up with exceptions to the rule. But I also want
to remind you that it will give you plenty of arguments as to why things are
done they way they are. If there are certain tones and intervals that appeal
to you that “traditional” theory says are “disonant,” then more power to you.
All harmony is based on disonance and resolution and, quite frankly, there
are some “disonant” intervals which are, at least to my ears, quite pleasing.
To each his own.

One of the traditional rules in theory is that once you know the make up of a
particular chord, you can play that chord anywhere within the range of one’s
given instrument, provided that you do have all three notes somewhere.
In The Power of Three, I showed you how you could play a C major chord
virtually anywhere up or down the fretboard. The same is true of any chord
you care to name. With the guitar, you have the option of how many voices
you want to use. Technically, you can play a chord with only three strings.
This is a method often used with very young children. Since their hands
sometimes cannot grasp the entire fretboard, they learn chords using just
the first three strings. As they grow they then start to learn the “full” chords,
as opposed to the “partial” chords, although here “full” and “partial” refer
actually to the span of the fretboard and not the actual chord itself.
Yet another tradition of theory dictates that the bass note (the lowest note of
the chord you’re playing) should be the root or the fifth. Again, this is not a
be-all-and-end-all rule, but it is a good suggestion, especially to the
beginning and intermediate guitarist. Let’s listen to our D chord again, but
this time I want you to follow along – play what I’m asking you to listen to.
Don’t just take my word for this (don’t EVER just take my word for
anything!). Okay?

First, let’s play the D with just the first four strings. And let’s do this with
down strokes, shall we? Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Now play it with the
first five strings. Still sounds okay. Different, maybe a little fuller, but still
okay. Now with the open sixth string and – oh my God, what was that??!!
Just kicks you right in the head, doesn’t it? Hey, let’s add our thumb to the
2nd fret of the sixth string to give us our F# in the bass instead of the
dreaded E. That doesn’t sound bad, really. But if we’re honest with
ourselves, the first two versions of the D major chord sound the best.

And let’s note here that this is actually a reason quite a few
guitarists prefer the “drop D” tuning (see On The Tuning
Awry for more details). By tuning the low E down a full step to
D, you give yourself a pretty full bass sound with the D – A – D
of the lowest three strings.
If you think about this, you’ll also understand why some people prefer to
play their C chords with the G note in the bass. Let’s look at the two
“standard” ways of playing this chord:
Again, it really becomes a matter of your preference in sounds. Myself, I
rarely use the low E string on first position chords (even on the A or Am).
But this is mostly because I want those notes for bass-work and not clutter.
And, as I said, there are always going to be exceptions. Later on this fall,
we’ll be covering alternating basslines and other things where we’ll be
deliberately going against what I’ve just told you. And wait ’til you see the
havoc next week brings…

Finesse: Accompaniment
and Implication
But in the meantime, let’s explore this aspect of playing a bit more. And I
guess that means we need the old disclaimer:

These files are the author’s own work and represent his interpretation of the
song. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or research.

There are two types of guitarists who already know quite a bit of the
nuances when it comes to not playing all six strings at once. And,
appropriately (you know how I love a paradox), they tend to inhabit totally
different worlds. These two guitarists are, of course, the “power chorders”
and the “pickers.” As we’ve previously noted (again, in Building Additions
(and Suspensions) as well as Scales Within Scales), the power chord is
simply the root and the fifth and in order to give it as much “ooomph” as
possible, people tend to play them on only three strings: either the third,
fourth and fifth strings or the fourth, fifth and sixth. Even riffs can fall into
this category, as you can hear in Keith Richards’ signature riff of Jumping
Jack Flash:
Or try this one from Money For Nothing courtesy of Mark Knopfler:
But riffs can also be wielded by the acoustic guitarist as well. Here’s a
familar one from Tracy Chapman:

But as much fun as riffs can be, there are also guitarists who use the
instrument to create accompaniments that are incredibly delicate and
intriguingly intricate. It can something very simple, yet very elegant, as here
in the beginning measures of Van Morrison’s Crazy Love. Try it out and

This is a fine example of using the guitar in the manner that a pianist might
accompany a vocalist. The instrument plays the notes of the chords
individually. Your ear actually puts the chords together. I might note hear
that it takes a lot of practice to play like this while singing!
And of course this style of playing can get really involved as well, like in the
introduction to Little Wing by Hendrix. I’m not going to detail this in TAB for
you here, though, because we’re going to be studying this in much more
detail in November or December.
A skilled guitarist or writer can use this “chords by implication” device to
stunning effect. Take Simon and Garfunkel’s version of Scarborough Fair. If
you look it up in a words-and-chords format, chances are very likely you’ll
see something like this:

But if you listen to Paul Simon’s fingerpicking pattern on the recording,

you’ll be wondering (and muttering to yourself) for days on end. What is he
doing? Well, I could tell you for starters that he’s playing with a capo on the
seventh fret and you could say, “Great! Then all I’ll have to do is transpose
the chords to A minor and I’ll be set!” But that’s really not what’s going on
either, is it?

Actually, playing the Em (or Am) chord is precisely what he doesn’t do! No
lie! Instead, he uses this two chord progression in place of the Em chord
(and again, this is with the capo on the 7th fret):
Now that’s pretty wild, isn’t it? In the first line of the song the E minor chords
each have a count of two measures. Simon uses this progression to fill
those two measures and while the E minor chord is never fully voiced, it is
fully implied by both the accompaniment and the melody.

These are the sort of “tricks” that open up whole new dimensions for the
guitarist. Towards the end of the year, once we get a little more theory
under our belts, we’ll be delving into more and more stuff like this. But for
now, if you take anything at all away from this lesson, please let it be the
idea that you can get as much from your guitar with a bit of finesse as you
can by banging it to death. There will be times for that, believe me, but your
guitar will ultimately breathe a bit easier if you utilize both methods. And I
think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much more control you will
gain over your instrument when you develop a lighter touch.

A few quick notes: while Paul’s been away, I’ve served as a designated
“answer man” and I would like to thank all of you who have written for your
patience when I haven’t gotten back to you immediately. For the many
requests for more Songs For Beginners, be assured that more are on the
way. After all, we don’t want to drive our webmaster crazy by giving him a
dozen articles to edit as soon as he gets back…
But Then Again… (or,
Lost My Shape…)
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge

Last week we discussed the importance of learning to finesse your guitar, of

developing the ability to play selected strings and not just strum all willy-
nilly. Today, in typical fashion, we’re going to throw all that out the window
and look at chord shapes that encourage you to flail away on all six strings.
Yeah, I know, when will I make up my mind about anything?

Well, as I’ve been saying all along, the best way to become a well-rounded
guitarist is to be versed in as many styles and techniques as possible. You
are the one who decides what works best for you. And unless you
experiment with different styles and techniques, how on earth are you ever
going to know what works, period?

There’s no end to the benefits of familiarizing yourself with the different

things you and your guitar are capable of doing. And we’ll be going through
a lot of examples today, so I might as well get through the disclaimer right
here at the outset:

These files are the author’s own work and represent his interpretation of the
song. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or research.

The Shapes Of Things

If you were just starting out playing the guitar and knew the basic rudiments
of theory (what notes come where and the intervals that lie between them)
then I would tell you to learn the E major and E minor chords. And I would
tell you to finger them in such a way that leaves your index finger free.
Armed with this knowledge, you can now play with virtually any song you’d
like. You will not, of course, sound just like “off the record,” but you will be
able to play just about all the chords that you hear in most songs.
Impossible? No, and most of you already know this to be true. This is the
basis of barre chords. Suppose you want to play a G minor chord. Start out
with the E minor chord. I would recommend that you use your ring finger on
the second fret of the A string and your pinky on the second fret of the D
string. Okay, we know that G is three half steps higher than E, so we shift
our E minor chord “configuration,” or “shape” if you will, up the neck three
frets. This means that our fingers are now on the fifth fret of the D and A
strings. But, of course, we now need to compensate for the nut of the guitar,
so we press, or barre, our index finger across all the strings at the third fret.
This gives us a full G minor chord. You can do this all up and down the
fretboard. Here’s the breakdown for barre chords using the E shapes, both
major and minor:

And once we’ve made this “discovery,” it’s a simple thing to deduce that
one can also use this barre technique on other chords that we’ve learned.
After the E shapes, the most often used shape is that of the A major and A
But believe it or not, we not interested in barre chords today. What we are
going to discuss is the use of the shapes themselves and how to apply
them in order to create new chord voicings and interesting progressions.
First we’ll look at some specific examples and then we’ll apply what we’ve
learned to improve upon an original song. It sounds like we’ve got a lot on
tap for today, but you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll pick this up.

Drone, Drone On The

The first thing we’ve got to do is agree about something important. As you’ll
soon see (and hear), we’re going to be using a lot of what I call “modified”
chords. This will be the result of our use of open strings. Initially I will
explain, or try to explain, what these chords are but I am sure I will then
lapse into calling it by an abbreviated name. Worse, this name may exist
simply for the duration of a particular example. Please bear with me. Many
of you already know how I tend to prepare you for the worst and then when
we’ve gone over something your reaction tends to be “I wonder what all the
fuss was about.”
All right, then. If there’s any real “trick” to this technique, it lies in knowing
two simple things. First, you have to be aware of the notes on your
fretboard. Second, you have to be able to hear what you’re going to be able
to “get away with” in terms of using your open strings.

Let’s begin, as always, with something very simple. Dave Mason’s Feeling
Alright is a great song with which to start. The whole thing is just two
chords, E and A, each played for one measure. Here are the first two lines:

What I want you to do here is to only use your E shape. When you play the
A, simply slide your E chord up the neck five frets. This is what it should
look like:

You can hear that while this sounds different than playing it “straight,” it still
sounds good. Let’s look at our “A” chord. If we examine the notes being
played, we see from low to high that they are E, E, A, C#, B and E. It’s
actually an A add 9 with the fifth (E) in the bass. That’s not too outrageous
at all.

And before we move on, let me note that we will soon be covering this song
in much greater detail, complete with more modified chords, in “Feelin’
Alright” on the Songs for Beginners page. Be certain to check it out!
The reason this particular chord voicing of A will (almost) always work well
is due to the droning of the E strings. Now don’t ask me about droning.
We’ve covered this at least two or three times in the past. Off the top of my
head (and please, no comments about there being nothing on the top of my
head for years), I don’t even remember where. So do me a favor, if you
need to refresh your mind, just put the word “drone” or “droning” in Guitar
Noise Search Engine and see what comes up, okay?

For the time being, let’s move on and expand upon what we’ve just done.
I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the Who’s I Can See For Miles.
Believe it or not, this is a great song to use this style of playing. Even a
beginner can do it and you’ll sound just as good (if not better) on an
acoustic as on an electric.
Initially we are going to do this songs using only E shapes. But a word of
warning: the song changes key from E to A close to the end (at the lyric “the
Taj Mahal…”), which I have conveniently labelled as “Part II.” Here you will
need to go from using all six string to just the first five. While it is possible to
continue to playing this song with just E shape chords, I think it sounds
better to switch to A shape chords at this point. Those of you who are really
into the theory aspects of things should note that the new chord progression
is done in the same intervals as in the first part of the song.
Now that was fun, wasn’t it?

Stretching Out A Bit

Beyond the E and A shapes, things can get a little strange. But if you keep
your wits about you, it’s still pretty easy to deal with it. Last time out (along
with several other times) we once again touched upon power chords. Well,
if you were to go back to the E and A barre chord charts we created earlier
you would make an interesting discovery. By playing only the 4th, 5th and
6th strings of the E barre chords (please observe that these three notes are
the same whether you use the major or minor chords) or the 3rd, 4th and
5th strings of the A barre chords, you’ve got your basic power chords.
That’s easy enough, no?

Now let’s use our heads. Because of the way the guitar is tuned, it would be
fairly natural (not to mention right on target) to assume that you’re bound to
find a lot of chord shapes centered around chords in the key of E major. As
you’ve already seen in the two examples we’ve examined, the low E string
along with both the high E and the B create not only a natural drone, but
also a nice framework within which to build new chord voicings. Now let’s
combine our knowledge of primary and secondary chords to the mix and
see what we might come up with.
In the key of E major, our primary (I, IV and V) and secondary (II, III and VI)
should look like this:

Agreed? Good. We’ve already used the A and B in I Can See For Miles, so
we’ve covered as far as the primary chords are concerned. How about the
secondaries? Well, if we go waaaay back to the beginning of the article and
look at our E minor shaped bar chords, we can see that in order to play
them on the same strings as our primary chords, we need merely finger the
third (G) string one fret lower than we have been. Do you see this?
The Counting Crows certainly did when they came up with this arrangement
for Angels Of The Silences. We’re only going to annotate the first verse,
since the second and third verses are the same, structure wise. Do feel free
to find the rest of the song via the Guitar Tab pages:

As you might imagine, knowing these various chord shapes can add a lot to
your playing. You can toss in different voicings when you’re playing with
others in order to give a more layered and textured sound to the
proceedings. But it can also help you in other ways. In 1990, I was working
on an original song that was going nowhere fast. It sprang up, believe it or
not, from hearing the bagpipes of a marching band at one of Chicago’s
numerous parades. I really got hung up on the sound and wanted to come
up with something that I might be able to use them in. There’s no need to
mention that I couldn’t play them (still can’t but I’m working on it), didn’t own
any (still don’t but I’m working on it) and had no one among my friends who
might be of use. I just tend to obsess about sounds sometimes…

But with some work and experimentation, I was able to come up with a
guitar part for my “bagpipe song.” And I did this by using these chord
shapes that we’ve been working on. I came up with the following chord

and set to work at it. Initially, I used the same chords that I showed you in
the Counting Crows song. But I really wasn’t happy with the C#m and the B.
So I thought, “Why not use the A shaped power chords?” and it did the trick.
To give the bridge(s) a little variety, I play the A and B chords in E shapes
again. Here is a transcription of the song:
Those of you with good ears will hear that these C#m and B chord voicings
are the same ones that Pearl Jam uses in Nothing Man, although I believe
that they’ve tuned their guitars down a half-step in that now classical Seattle
way of doing things.
A few words and announcements: First off, if you’d like to hear Johnny Still
Believes, A-J Charron has been kind enough to put a number of my songs
up on MP3 format on his site. There are (or will be soon, I’m told) six of my
original songs, all of them very old – five recorded by me on a Tascam four
track back in 1993 and one, Waiting For Nancy that was recorded by
Balance of Power back in 1982 (!) at Soto Sound Studio in Evanston. That’s
NOT me playing guitar on that one. I’m on the piano and organ and Mike
Sexton is the man on the Les Paul. Anne O’Neil is on drums while Roy
Wogelius contributes the stunningly beautiful bass lines. A-J is also being
nice enough to allow me to put up more stuff as it comes about (which
admittedly these days is verrrrrrrrry sloooooooow) (and gee, I wonder what
else could be taking up my time?), maybe even a live digital version of
“…Nancy” that was recorded at the now infamous Riverside Jam 2000 that
was hosted in August by Dan Lasley.
Second: I have a new email @ddress (a term I’ve picked up from the
esteemed Mr. Lasley). You can still reach me at the old one or you can
write to me using my new @ddress at I am trying
to do much more work out of my home now, mostly since I seem to be up
all hours writing these days…As always, please feel free to write in with any
questions, comments, concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in future

Finally: owing to popular demand, I am trying to regularly contribute more to

the Songs for Beginners page as well as put together a few (some much
overdue) projects of my own, so if I am not as great at answering my email
as I’ve been in the past, I wholehearted apologize in advance. Those of you
who have corresponded with me in the past know that I’m (usually) pretty
good about this stuff.
Next time out we’ll cover an interesting musical phenomenon which we
brought to life in this column. See you then.

Until next week…

Pe Name That (Part of
the) Tune
A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

It’s good to be back after a month and a half break. Glad you stayed with us
in the meantime. I was going to do another Q&A, but it’s been called to my
attention that some people don’t really know the exact structure of a song.
So we’ll Q&A next week, this week we’ll look at the structure.

If you confuse a verse and a chorus, it’s not the end of the world. The cops
won’t come knocking at your door, wanting to arrest you. Some people,
those who have a University degree in Music Theory, might turn their noses
at you or shake their heads, but that’s about the worst that can happen.

First of all, everything is convention. It’s art, not law. If we go back in time,
we’ll realize that this all got started at the beginning of the Industrial
Revolution. There is a good reason for that.

Before the invention of the printing press, back in the 17th Century, music
was reserved for a few people, troubadours, minstrels, who went from town
to town as news reporters. They would make up songs recounting exploits
of kings and heroes. At this time, music itself was not really an art, but more
of an accompaniment.

It’s when Guttenberg invented the printing press that everything changed.
Now it was possible to write up the news quickly, print it on paper, and send
it by means of horse-riders to the next cities. In other words, the minstrels
had lost their jobs.

This is when some people finally realized that music could be more than it

Through time, this brought us the Symphony, the Rhapsody and what-not.
Now that more and more people were learning to play music, it was thought
that it should be written down. But how?
Of course, if anyone had bothered to ask the minstrels, Tabs would now be
the standard. On the other hand, how do you use Tabs with a flute?

Singing is the first area where someone came up with a writing form other
than Tab. So it was used as a standard. With a few modifications. The
original way of writing vocal notes used seven lines. Also, if you think about
it, you’ll realize that the way music is written today, it is written in such a
way as to favour the single note; you can’t sing a chord.

Standardization also came about for naming the parts of a song. Originally,
all of this was developed in France and Italy. If you look at sheet music,
you’ll realize that everything has either an Italian or a French name. That’s
why. In song, these names have been translated and are usually used in a
person’s own language.

The Skeleton
The basic parts of the song are: Intro, Verse, Chorus, Instrumental, Bridge
and Outro.

A short musical theme, usually copied from the verse, yet sometimes
something unrelated, which is used to “open” the song. Sometimes it can
consist of a spoken line or sung melody.

This is the second main theme of the song. Lyrically, it is where the details
of the story are given.

The main theme of the song. It will house the hook. Lyrically, it is where you
put the point of the song, it’s reason for existing.

Will be placed after a chorus (but not always), and often before a repetition
of the chorus. It is normally the same music as the verse, but played without
lyrics and with slightly different arrangements.

A sung part (usually) where the music consists of a mixing of the chords
from the verse and from the chorus. Lyrically, it will add something of note
to the story, something that is too important as to be just another detail. The
bridge should come only once in a song. You may argue that even the
Beatles had the occasional bridge that came around more than once, yet it
is still not good practice.
Usually the same music as the chorus, it will be repeated and faded out.
Lyrically, if needed, lyrics will be ad-lib (improvised).

These, of course are not the elements that make up a Rhapsody or

Symphony or an Instrumental piece. These are the elements that make up
a song: Music and lyrics.

Now a song does not have to have all these parts in it. Often you’ll hear
songs that don’t have an Intro, they start with both music and lyrics, directly
into the verse. Some songs, like mantras, have only a chorus, repeating
itself constantly.

Other songs have no chorus, only verses. Others will have two different
verse outlines. These are often, mistakenly, called “pre-Bridge” or “pre-
Chorus.” There is no such thing as a pre-Bridge or a pre-Chorus. This part
is just another verse on a different theme.
Occasionally you’ll find a song that has no Outro; it just ends, just like that.

The bridge is a part which is often missing and that’s fine. If it doesn’t add
anything to the song, there’s no real need to have one.

The instrumental part is also often missing. Or sometimes a song will have
more than one.

As I said, it’s all convention. These are the basic outlines and when you
write your song, you can chose the elements you want to have, the ones
that fit the story you’re telling, or the event you are recounting.
But let’s look at some concrete examples.

I’ll be the roundabout
The words will make you out ‘n’ out
And change the day your way
Call it morning driving thru the sound and in and out the valley
The music dance and sing
They make the children really ring
I’ll spend the day your way
Call it morning driving thru the sound and in and out the valley
In and around the lake
Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there
One mile over we’ll be there and we’ll see you
Ten true summers we’ll be there and laughing too
Twenty four before my love you’ll see I’ll be there with you
I will remember you
Your silhouette will charge the view
Of distance atmosphere
Call it morning driving thru the sound and even in the valley
In and around the lake
Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there
One mile over we’ll be there and we’ll see you
Ten true summers we’ll be there and laughing too
Twenty four before my love you’ll see I’ll be there with you
Along the drifting cloud the eagle searching down on the land
Catching the swirling wind the sailor sees the rim of the land
The eagles dancing wings create as weather spins out of hand
Go closer hold the land feel partly no more than grains of sand
We stand to lose all time a thousand answers by in our hand
Next to your deeper fears we stand
Surrounded by a millions years
I’ll be the round about
The words will make you out ‘n’ out
I’ll be the round about
The words will make you out ‘n’ out
I’ll be the round about
The words will make you out ‘n’ out
And change the day your way
Call it morning driving thru the sound and in and out the valley
In and around the lake
Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there
One mile over we’ll be there and we’ll see you
Ten true summers we’ll be there and laughing too
Twenty four before my love you’ll see I’ll be there with you
If we look at the chorus, the last line is “Twenty four before my love you’ll
see I’ll be there with you”. Twenty four obviously relates to hours. Twenty
four before, or a day earlier than expected, in other words, I’ll be home a
day ahead of schedule.

It’s clear enough that the song is about driving home through the Alps.
When I was three, we were driving through the Swiss Alps. At one point, my
mother told us to look down. In the valley, ringed by mountains, was a lake.
The day was sunny and radiant. The sky was reflected in that lake. It looked
as though the mountains were actually coming out of the sky. It was quite a
view for me to remember it so clearly so many years later.

So, “In and around the lake/Mountains come out of the sky” obviously refers
to the same phenomena. I suspect this was really what inspired the song,
the whole point of it.

The song contains several instrumental parts, a nice intro on acoustic guitar
and lasts about twelve minutes. The outro is a vocal piece, ending, again,
with a little bit on the acoustic guitar. No fade.
Now here’s one that’s a bit different:

Paul McCartney and Wings

Band On The Run
Paul McCartney
Stuck Inside These Four Walls, Sent Inside Forever,
Never Seeing No One Nice Again Like You,
Mama You, Mama You.
Chorus 1:
If I Ever Get Out Of Here,
Thought Of Giving It All Away
To A Registered Charity.
All I Need Is A Pint A Day
If I Ever Get Out Of Here.
Well, The Rain Exploded With A Mighty Crash As We Fell Into
The Sun,
And The First One Said To The Second One There I Hope
You’re Having Fun.
Band On The Run, Band On The Run.
And The Jailer Man And Sailor Sam Were Searching Every One
Chorus 2:
For the band on the run, Band on the run, Band on the run,
Band on the run
Well, The Undertaker Drew A Heavy Sigh Seeing No One Else
Had Come,
And A Bell Was Ringing In The Village Square for the rabbits on
the run.
Band On The Run, Band On The Run.
And The Jailer Man And Sailor Sam, were searching every one
Chorus 2:
For the band on the run, Band on the run, Band on the run,
Band on the run
Well, The Night Was Falling As The Desert World began To
Settle Down.
In The Town They’re Searching For Us Every Where, but We
Never Will Be Found.
Band on the run, Band on the run
And The County Judge, who held a grudge
Will search for evermore
Chorus 2:
For the band on the run, Band on the run, Band on the run,
Band on the run
Now this one is a bit different in the sense that it’s almost two songs: The
first one being the first verse and Chorus 1. The rest being a second song.
But that’s Paul McCartney for you. No one can deny his genius.

Chorus 1, you might say, comes along only once, then why is it a chorus?
Because it is the point, the raison d’être of the first part of the song. If it had
been longer, this part would have come along more than once.

As you can see, there is no bridge. The second part of the song is pretty
straightforward. And you’ll notice that the chorus 2, “For the Band on the
run…” is also contained inside the verses! Now that’s doing things
I hope this has helped clear things up a bit for you. As long as it hasn’t
gotten you more confused…

And thanks to Baldy for his help.


For What It’s Worth –

Buffalo Springfield
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Easy Guitar Songs, Guitar Strumming Lessons

Welcome to another installment of “Songs For Beginners!” Today we’re

going to look at another song that, just like Horse With No Name, is made
up of just two chords. These two chords in question are E and A major. So
without further adieu, let’s take a look at them, shall we?

 First Ten Songs You Should Learn on Guitar
 More easy guitar songs
If you’re truly starting from scratch and have never even tried these (or any)
chords before, please take a minute or two and read The Simplest Song. In
that piece, you’ll see that we use the Em (E minor) chord. The E chord
(which stands for E “major” – it’s a musical convention that we always
assume that a chord is major unless told otherwise) is very similar to the
Em chord. The only difference is that we are now playing the first fret of the
G string instead of leaving it open. This gives us the G# note, which, in
addition to the E and B notes being sounded by the other strings, gives us
the E major chord.
And it’s always good to point out that if you’d like to learn more
about chords and how they are formed, then at some point you
might want to read through our latest series concerning (very)
basic theory. You can find these three articles (The Musical
Genome Project, The Power of Three and Building Additions
(and Suspensions)) via these links or take a visit to the guitar
column page.
For the E chord, you might want to try this fingering to fret the notes:

Now the A chord is another matter. Some guitarists actually have a lot of
trouble with this chord. It looks like it should be easy enough, simply press
the second fret of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings. But that’s exactly where the
problem lies. Most people (and a lot of teachers) will tell you to use this

Personally, I find this very uncomfortable. By some happy accident, I

learned the A chord after the E chord. At the time, I was trying like crazy to
make as few changes with my fingers on the fretboard as possible and I
managed to come up with this:

I just find it easier to get a better sounding A major chord this way. Not only
is it more comfortable for my fingers, but I can switch quickly and easily
back and forth between the A, E and D chords (which are the three most
common chords when playing songs in the key of A major). I should
mention, though, that I know a number of people (mostly guys with big
fingers) who can’t get all three fingers on the second fret no matter what
combination they try. Sometimes they resort to playing the A chord by
barring the second fret (to “barre” means to lay a finger across all the
strings of a fret). In this case, you wouldn’t barre the entire fret, just the first
four strings. But here you have to make certain NOT to play the first string.

The point of all this is to show you that there are different ways to play
chords. Ultimately, you should use whichever fingering gives you the
greatest comfort and ability to switch from one to the next. You may often
find yourself learning to play the same chord with different fingerings
depending upon the context of the chord progression in which it is used.

So here’s our song for today. It’s by the group Buffalo Springfield (and if you
don’t know the group, I’m certain that you may know one or two of its
members. Both Stephen Stills and Neil Young were part of this ’60’s band)
and it’s called For What It’s Worth. This is another moderately paced song
in 4/4 time. Each measure is four beats and you change chords with the
first beat of each measure. In other words, you start with the E for a count
of four and then go to A for a count of four and then back to E for another
count of four and so on. Ready?
Okay, now that we’ve got it, what are we going to do with it? Well, for
starters, this is a good song to use to work on your strumming. And one
aspect of strumming that I’d like to show you today is what I call “percussive
strumming.” First, let’s come up with a simple pattern, shall we?

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“For What It’s Worth” is one of the best examples of sixties sound in pop
music. Commonly labeled a protest song, Stephen Stills actually wrote it
after watching riots break out over nightclub curfews on L.A.’s Sunset Strip.
Stills has said in an interview that the name of the song came about when
he presented it to the record company executive Ahmet Ertegun and said: “I
have this song here, for what it’s worth.”

Because this song only uses two chords, an E and an A, we’ve included it
on the Guitar Noise list The First Ten Songs You Should Learn On Guitar.
As always, take this slow and steady until you feel you’ve got a good handle
on it. Ready? Alright, then. We’re going to concentrate on the second beat.
It’s currently a downstroke, right? What we want to do is replace that
second beat with a percussive stroke. A “percussive” stroke is a way of
getting rhythmic beat out of your guitar without sounding a chord or a note.
There are many ways to do this but we’ll start with just two. The easiest way
to do this is to simply slap your strumming hand across all the strings at
once. You do this with the palm of your hand flat against the strings. You
don’t have to do it very hard, simply hard enough to deaden the strings. You
will note that you actually produce two distinct sounds. Okay, the first might
actually be called a non-sound, since what you’ve done is dampened the
strings and stopped them from ringing. But you also create a “snap” or a
“pop” from your fingers hitting the body of the guitar below the strings (away
from your head). Obviously, how hard you slap the strings will dictate how
much “pop” you get. Please, don’t go slamming your hand against the guitar
and then writing me that you’ve broken the poor thing! Use your head and
experiment a little. You can get different sounds depending on where you
make contact with the guitar. When you feel confident that you can do this,
try incorporating the percussive stroke into your rhythm pattern. Here I’ve
used the symbol to designate the percussive stroke:
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That’s not too hard, is it?

Now while this “slapping” technique works well on acoustic and classical
guitars, I find two problems with it. You can’t really use it on an electric (well
you can, but that’s a whole other matter best covered at some later
point…). Worse, it can be fairly disruptive of the rhythmic pattern, especially
when you get to working on faster songs. What does work very well is what
I call a “heel stroke” (and I should note that these are names that I use
because people ask me “How do you do that thing with your strumming
hand?” I have no idea as to whether or not there are universal names for
these techniques (although I suspect that there must be) and since I picked
them up myself by watching and listening to other people and then
experimenting on my own. I have tried to name them as simply as possible
because, truth be told, I’m not really interested in what they’re called as
much as I’m interested in what they do). This is going to sound more
complicated than it is and I hope that I explain it well enough for you to get
on the first try. If not, please feel free to write me and ask me to re-explain

Essentially, what you want to do is to make a downstroke with your normal

picking motion while dampening the strings with the heel of your hand at the
same time. The “heel” of your hand is the “outer” edge, from the side of
your pinky to the wrist. It is the part of your hand that is in contact with the
paper (even though I was told it shouldn’t be) when you’re writing
something. To hear what this should sound like, place the heel of your hand
against the strings and keep it there while making a downstroke. Even if
you’re fingering a chord at the other end of the fretboard, you’re still only
going to get a percussive sound from the guitar.
Now that you know what it should sound like, try to make the percussive
stroke by doing both the downstroke and the hitting your strings with the
heel of your hand at the same time. The best analogy I can come up with is
that when you bring the heel of your strumming hand down against the
strings, snap your wrist into a downstroke, kind of like as if you were
throwing a frisbee. The dampening action and the striking of the strings
should be almost simultaneous. And yes, I know this is not as easy as it
sounds! But, like (almost) anything, it becomes much easier, almost second
nature in fact, with practice. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Hey! I sound sort
of like Dave Matthews!” then you are indeed on the right track. Let’s go
back to our strumming pattern and now use the “heel stroke” wherever you
see the symbol. remember to take things as slowly as you need to in
order to get the timing right:

If you feel comfortable doing this, then this next step shows you why the
“heel stroke” works so well. In addition to using it on the 2nd beat of each
measure, let’s try it out on the 4th beat as well, shall we?

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You can hear how smoothly this percussive stroke fits in with the rhythmic
pattern. And since it’s essentially a downstroke as well, it makes it a lot
easier to keep your upstrokes in line. This is a technique that is used
constantly by guitarists. Chances are you’ve heard it over and over and just
didn’t know what it was. But now that you do, and now that you know what it
sounds like, you can go back and try it out with other songs that you know.
This is what learning should be about.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson. Next time out (hopefully next week), we’ll
look at another two chord song (also A and E) but we’ll examine ways to
play it on different points on the fretboard. We’ll also go over yet another
strumming technique, this time targeting individual notes as well as chords.
Hope to see you there.
As always, please feel free to write me with any questions, concerns or
comments. You can reach me at my new email @ddress, or you can still reach me at the old one as well. I
realize that it’s hard enough to explain some of this stuff even when you’re
face to face with guitars in hand, so I really want to thank you for the effort
that you obviously put i

More Questions and

A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

Q: Hi (…) I like writing song but I never know what to write about besides
sex and drugs, what do you think I should do, is there some sort of secret to
being a good songwriter? Help me Please.
A: Nothing wrong with sex and drugs… But if you want to write about
something else, the trick is to get really in touch with your emotions. I know,
it’s not supposed to be a guy thing, but it does work.
That’s the basic thing about songwriting. Given time, everyone can write a
song. Not everyone can write a good one, though. The more in touch you
are with your emotions, the better it gets.

Odds are you won’t write a “great” song right away, although it may happen,
but the more you write, the better your songs will get. It’s basically time and

As for the subjects, find out what makes you tick (other than sex and drugs,
that is). If you happen to see something while at work/school, while at
lunch, something on TV, a story a friend tells you that you find funny or
different, use that as the subject for your song.

I give a lot of advice on that in my first column So you want to be a

songwriter? if you haven’t already read it. You’ll also find a list of columns
on the songwriting page.
Q: I loved your article thank you so much. I was wondering I write lots of
lyrics but how do I write music. I play guitar(I am one of those that learned
all the theory and have no clue what to do now). Every time I play the i-iv-v-
progression it sounds the same. What do I do?
I really like U2 Oasis like pop-rock how do I write stuff like that and make it

A: Thanks for writing and for the kind comment.

When it comes to songwriting, it’s a matter of leaving theory a little behind.
Rather than following progressions you’ve learned, it’s more a question of
going with your instincts and feelings.

Start with one chord, strumming it in a particular pattern, or picking it, or

strumming and picking, whatever you feel like at the moment. Listen to it, to
what it’s telling you. Then, from that, go to a second chord which will, to
you, feel right. Then you build on top of that, add more.

You see, theory is a good thing, but writing means that you have to play
according to what YOU feel. Theory is more general and less adaptive.

The theory part will serve in putting the piece on paper and adding other
instruments, etc, but you pretty much have to put most of it behind when

With theory, there are rights and wrongs, with writing, there are none.
Nothing you write can be wrong (no pun intended). It just has to FEEL write
for you.

Here are a couple of exchanges with one girl who had a very sexy name.

Q1: Hi I just read your article on writing songs, it was really good. The thing
is, I don’t have problems writing songs, they just flow out and usually work,
if not I just piece together bits of poetry I have written, mostly garbage, but
whatever. Anyway, my problem is that I am shy, I mean, I have a pretty
good voice and I know it, but I’m so shy that if I have to sing with or in front
of people, I sing rather quietly. I was just wondering if you had any
suggestions for me, like should I just forget about it, or go get singing
lessons, or what! Thanks for listening to my rambling! Write me back if you
have the time.
A1: Thanks for writing in.
I know where you’re coming from, I’m very much the same way.

As far as quitting goes: If this is not something you really want to do, if you
think it’s a waste of time, then why do it?
If, however, it’s something you really want to do, then there are many ways
to go around this.

First, singing lessons: I will never be able to say enough good about singing
lessons. Once you’ve been in there a month, you see improvements
immediately and you start noticing who the professionals are that never
took lessons. Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues has been singing for over
30 years and still makes very basic mistakes. Stuff that you learn about in
lesson #1.

After about 3 months, I’d gained half an octave!!!

So do take lessons, but not by just anyone. Try and find someone who will
build the lessons around your own songs rather than around a rigid

If your teacher is honest, he/she will tell you what you can and can’t do with
your voice.

Singing in front of the teacher every week will also help build up your
confidence. It will then be easier (but never quite easy) to sing in front of

All you really need is self confidence.

Myself, I find it a lot easier to sing in front of 400 people than to sing in front
of 5 or 10 people. Go figure…

But singing in front of a large group creates an extraordinary atmosphere.

Some people say it’s better than sex. I wouldn’t say that because it’s very
different, but it’s something you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a drug in itself.

A few other tips you might be interested in:

If you wear glasses or contacts, don’t wear them when singing in front of
people. If you don’t see them too clearly, you won’t be so self-conscious.
Stevie Nicks has very important eyesight problems. She decided not to
wear her glasses on stage in the days of Fleetwood Mac simply because of
the look. She realized she couldn’t see anyone clearly and it took off some
of the shyness.

I don’t know whether you have any stage experience. If not, when you’re on
stage, the lights are pointing at you, so you can barely see the people in the
crowd. You see heads and that’s all. That greatly helps.

Overall, I’d say try to be less self-conscious. It’s not easy and you may
never be able to do it completely, that’s OK. But every little bit helps.

A lot of artists have little quirks. They will carry a special item with them on
stage. Vanessa Mae has to step into a puddle of water before going on
stage. This sounds like superstition, but in fact it’s just a way of diverting the
attention from their shyness.

Most singers can never get rid of it completely, but they do a combination of
things like that that help.

Myself, I try as much as possible not to sing in front of a small group. I don’t
even mention to them that I’m a singer.

If you’re playing with a band, the first few times you might be shy, but as
you build the relationship with these people, you should gain more
confidence and it should go away. If you don’t play with a band, perhaps
you should do so. It will also help build your confidence.

Look is much more important than a great voice. Celine Dion would be
nowhere if she weighed 200 lbs. Not that the listeners are superficial, but
the people willing to pay you to sing are. So get a personal look (not
something that you see everywhere, remain yourself), but add some
superficiality to it. I’m talking here about your look when you go on stage or
meet with people in the business.

It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth.

Don’t change your name: It will work for you as it sounds very sexy. (I’m not
making a pass at you or trying to harass you, I’m just telling you a simple
fact). It’s psychological, but it will work in your favor.
Q2: Hi A-J, Thanks a lot for writing me back! I appreciate it. I hope with time
I will overcome my shyness. I think I will try out some singing lessons, it
should help me a bit. Thanks again for writing me back. If you have any
more tips for a girl that’s just starting out, please let me know!

A2: Glad you didn’t prefer the “I quit” route…

Well, something I forgot to mention about the singing lessons: Most
teachers will recommend half hour courses for various reasons, take a full
hour instead, once a week. You’ll be improving not twice as fast, but at least
3 times as fast.

Be ready for rough times ahead. An overnight success simply means that
the public in general, has not heard of the person before. Overnight
successes take 5, 10 years to happen. A long night…

There will be times when you will want to quit. Those will be the times that
will put your determination to the test. If this is what you really want to do,
you have to roll up your sleeves and work twice as hard. It’s not an easy
road, but following your dreams is never easy, but the rewards make it

There are no shortcuts. But the shortest route is by meeting the right people
at the right time. If you’re sitting in the Dentist’s waiting room and you
happen to be sitting beside a talent hunter for Sony, talk to him. If you don’t
have a demo you can send him the same day or within a week, don’t tell
him you can send him one. Tell him you’re working on one and ask how to
proceed once it’s done. Don’t burn your bridges by making promises you
can’t keep: People have long memories in this business.

Musicians you’ll play with can be either assets or they can drag you down.
Work with the right people. Same for agents, press, photographers,
producers, publishers, etc. Work ONLY with people who like what you do
and believe in YOU.

Anybody you work with who has the slightest doubts as to your abilities will
not make the extra efforts to help you.

The opposite is also true: If you’re working with a bass player who’s been
with for 5 years and a record company gets interested in you but want you
to use another bass player: don’t. Don’t let go of those who are assets.
Don’t let go of someone who’s not in the biz, but has been supportive of you
through the years.

If you have trouble writing a song and someone helps you by making an
important contribution, offer him/her a co-writing credit. Put it in writing
immediately, this person is much more susceptible to help you in the future
instead of trying to sue you.

Alcohol and drugs are part of the game. Just be careful of forming a habit,
these could ruin your chances at a career IF you abuse them. Take them or
not is your choice-and your’s alone-but just be careful not to overdue them.

Listen to what others have to say, but don’t necessarily do everything they
suggest: You are the artist, not them!

Take a break, a vacation every once in a while. It does good to stop for a
few days and re-energize. Don’t stop for more than a few days, you run a
high risk of never going back. It’s so much easier to stop.

Don’t be afraid to tell people this is what you want to do. Those who don’t
take you seriously, you leave behind. Those who do, you keep close. But
it’s good to have one or two doubters around. These people help to give
you a bit of a reality check. And you tend to set more goals, just to show
them. Contrarily to most people, I find this attitude can be most productive.

If you haven’t already, read my column on attitude (I won’t have to rewrite it

all here: Inflating The Ego). It’s important to know just how important
attitude is.
Don’t be afraid to approach people and ask them to listen to your material.
If you’re like me, you won’t like to be around when they do, but once you
have a demo, make a lot of copies and distribute them. You should make a
rough demo as soon as you can (even if it’s just voice and guitar) and
distribute that to friends, family, etc (don’t be afraid to ask columnist,
professionals, etc to give it a listen) and get opinions- honest ones. Use
their comments to make a second one. Then a third, etc. This is just good

In October (as Guitar Noise will not be updated in September) I’ll be

publishing an interview with British Progressive Rock band Pendragon.
Doesn’t matter that you’ve never heard of them. Even if you did and don’t
like their music, the interview is worth reading. Especially when they start
talking of how difficult it has been for them. A very inspiring piece!

Do the music you want to do and do it your way. If someone suggests you
take out a guitar track and replace it with a violin track, that’s usually not a
big deal. If someone says you should get rid of the guitars altogether and
replace them with synthesizers and use beat boxes instead of drums, that’s
another thing.

If you don’t like what you’re doing, you’ll never make it.

Well, that’s just off the top of my head. If you have anymore questions
(today, tomorrow, next month, next year…) don’t hesitate to write me, it’s
always a pleasure to lend a hand. If you’d like an opinion, same thing.

Oh, and one last thing, when you go up on stage to pick up your first
Grammy or whatever award, say hi!

Making Jam
DAN LASLEY Guitar Lessons Playing Guitar Live

Making Jam…

… is more like making a stew or gumbo. You get a big pot and add in a
variety of intriguing ingredients, add a little heat, and enjoy!

So here is a recipe for setting up a jam session. As with any recipe, you
need to adjust to suit your own tastes, but this should be a useful guideline.
Also, your first attempt may not be the best. I have been in several jams,
and some are wonderful, and some are not. But if you don’t try…

The Chef
If you’ve ever been around the kitchen with your spouse or your mother,
you know that it is hard to have more than one chef in the kitchen. If you
want to have a jam, you must accept the responsibility of being the head
Chef. That doesn’t mean that you have to do everything, but you make
most of the decisions. Remember that the reason that you are doing this is
that no one else has invited you to play – if you don’t do it, it won’t happen!

The Menu
The Chef gets to decide what goes on the menu. How many musicians do
you want? What kind of music do you want to play? Are you going to keep it
completely free-form or are you going to structure it carefully, or somewhere
in between? You are free to adapt the menu depending on several factors,
but try not to lose track of what you want to accomplish.

The Kitchen
If you have a basic idea for how many musicians and what kind of music
you want to play, the next decision is where to hold the jam. If you want to
get 4 acoustic guitars together to work on intricate harmonies for 60’s folk
songs, you can do it in your living room. If you want to play with 6 hard-
rockers, then you can use a garage or back yard. If you’re crazy like me
and try to mix 9 musicians, including 4 guitars and 2 saxes, then a decent
size hall may be required. (See
Again, the Chef gets to decide. It may cost some money, but it is more than
fair to charge the participants enough to cover your costs.

The Staff
It is very hard to find people who just want to get together and play. Most
people who call themselves musicians are only interested in playing
seriously. Just goofing around for an evening is not their idea of fun, mainly
because they rarely do it and it doesn’t advance their “career”. So where do
you find the musicians? Let’s assume that you and a friend play guitar, and
you want to add a bass, drums, and a sax. One good place is at work. Bring
in your guitar (acoustic!) and start practicing during lunch. You will quickly
discover that there are several other musicians around you, from a wide
variety of departments. You may even find that you can get a mini-jam
going in the cafeteria or conference room.

If that doesn’t net you enough of the right players, try the local music
school. Go in and talk to the owner and explain your situation. My kids have
been going to the Westport Music Center for several years, and I have
gotten to know Steve pretty well. He has hooked me up with other parents,
and he even rented me his large ensemble room (with drum kit and PA) for
a Sunday afternoon jam. Don’t be afraid to use students either. Assuming
they have the basic skills, younger musicians can bring a wonderful
simplicity to your jam. I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t forget the
female musicians!
Alternately, you can post a note at your local guitar store, but most of the
people who post or respond to posts there are serious.

Wherever you post your flyer, be sure to be vague about time and place
until you’ve weeded out the undesirables (using your own criteria). Make
sure you use the correct words to describe the type of music and the
atmosphere that you are looking for. Be sure to note if you have smoking or
drinking restrictions. When they call you, find out how often they are playing
with others. You may find that some haven’t played in a group since they
left their college band – this is good. You should be looking for people who
are eager to get together with like-minded folks.

Pots and Pans

Once you have the place and a rough head count, you’ll need a PA system.
Ask your participants what equipment they can bring to the gig, and figure
out what you’ll need to rent. Again, share the costs among everyone. If you
have the time, try to get the PA set up in advance. If you decide to record it,
you’ll need that gear, plus some extra mics and maybe even an extra mixer.
This could get complicated, and don’t be shy about delegating this chore if
you can. Also, consider having someone be the sound engineer.

The Ingredients
I know I’m stretching the analogy here, but the flavor comes from the music.
Once you have set out a theme for your jam, you should ask each of the
musicians to suggest a few songs that they would like to play. Encourage
them to write out the words and chords for their own selections, and make
enough copies for everyone. If this is the first time that most of these
musicians have gotten together, you should anticipate that you’ll have to go
over each song 2 or 3 times just to get the structure. If you are really trying
to develop the harmonies, you should pick out a small handful of songs and
tell everyone in advance that you’ll all be concentrating on these. The
results of a little bit of careful work can be quite startling. Be sure to include
a few songs that don’t require much work, so you can just have fun and
really “jam”.

Setting the Table

OK, now you’ve done most of the preliminary work – it’s a lot! You’ve found
the musicians, picked a time and place. Now you need to deal with the non-
musical stuff. You and the other musicians have families or significant
others that might like to drop by. Are they welcome or is this a “closed
session”? What about kids? (hint, hire a babysitter) Sometimes it’s fun to
have a box of percussion toys, or a kids keyboard laying around. Or not – if
you’re going to play loud, it’s not a good place for kids. But it’s still a good
idea to offer babysitting so your musicians aren’t distracted. What about

Ambiance (say it with a

French accent!)
This may be the hardest part (at least it is for me). You’ve done all the work,
everything is set up, you’ve got a week to go before the gig, and you’re
nervous as hell. The trick is to realize that it’s out of your hands – what
happens at the jam will be determined by karmic and cosmic influences that
you have no control over. You could be in for a magical night of wondrous
music, or a nightmare of cacophony and ego-clashing. If you’re not relaxed,
the others won’t be either. You’ve done your best, and it’s better than
anyone else’s because no one else has set it up. So doesn’t matter,
because as I said at the top, if you don’t try, you’ll never get to play.

Let’s Eat!
OK, you’ve planned the menu, gathered the ingredients, mixed them
together, stirred gently, and you’re ready to serve! But why is your stomach
in your throat? Everyone is set up and you’ve just made it though a simple
I-IV-V rocker, and it wasn’t too bad. Everyone traded solos, and the vocals
were close to on-key. So all you need to do is let it flow. You have your
song list. Casually suggest the next song and point out the person who is
supposed to lead it. Ask the question “Who goes first?”. Make sure
everyone has the music, etc. Relax and have fun, let the other musicians
take over some of the “leadership”. Take a big risk and put down your guitar
and walk around. Make believe that this is someone else’s jam, and you are
the guest. Don’t try to micro-manage everything. You really only need to
provide some gentle guidance when all the musicians are all going in
different directions.

After you’re all done, and all of the equipment is packed up, make sure
everyone knows that there will be some “cool down” time. Our tradition is to
go out for a midnight meal at a local diner, but you can veg out on the
couch too. This is a good time to recount the stories and to get to know
each other better. Take some casual notes on things you might do better,
but remember that some of the events of the evening are spurious and
spontaneous – they can’t be planned for or prevented.

I hope you get a chance to make your own Jam. It really is worth the effort,
and maybe one of the gang will host the next one.

I’d enjoy hearing from any of you who have hosted or participated in a jam.
I’ll take your suggestions and augment what I’ve written above.

Remember to get out there and play with someone!

Feelin’ Alright – I Got

DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Easy Guitar Songs, Guitar Strumming Lessons

(Quick apology – this is not the column I intended to run this week. So if you
don’t see any inherent connection between this week’s piece and the
(typically) cryptic clues I dangled like participles last week (But Then
Again…), please don’t freak out on me. I’ve had a freaky enough week as it
Pity the poor rhythm guitarist. I mean, who wants to be rhythm guitarist,
right? Hell, not me!

Well, yeah, actually, me. No qualms about it either. Don’t get me wrong, I
love to take a lead every now and then, but I don’t fall into the trap of labels
and expectations.

 Learn to play For What It’s Worth
 More easy guitar songs
What am I talking about? I used to work in personnel. In a personnel
agency, I should say. I was what we call here in the States “a head hunter.”
One of the things that amazed (and, to be frank, amused) me no end was
just how many people disliked their jobs because they weren’t being
“creative.” And it was very, very hard to nail down just exactly what being
“creative” meant. They wanted to work in ad agencies or marketing firms or
what have you. Mind you, sales, which is probably the most creative of
careers, was always out of the question. I currently work in an advertising
agency. Like most big agencies, the actual “creative” work (not to be
confused with the ads or commercials themselves) is done by a handful of
people. The rest of us (and note I’m included in “us”) are basically the
support group.

But this is not to say that we are not ourselves engaged in creative
activities. Far from it. But it is a creativity that is not measured by the same
standards as what we consider “Creative.” Many people make the mistake
of identifying creativity as an end product and not as a process.

In most circumstances, a lead guitarist can rarely do anything without his

(or her) support group. Again, this is not in any way meant to be
disparaging. But think of the great guitarists you know and admire. Now
think of how many times you’ve ever seen (or heard) any of them play solo.
That’s “solo,” as in without any other musicians.

And way too many solos (“leads” this time) are simply riffs and scales
strung together. The only actual thought that goes into them is in deciding in
which key a song is being played and selecting which of the countless
memorized (or pre-programmed) riffs will be used.

But this argument is actually a smoke screen. I want you to think about
what guitarists do. Is a rhythm guitarist any less creative than a lead
guitarist. Or a bass guitarist, for that matter? Ultimately it depends on the
person and not the label that we put on him or her (or ourselves). The
creativity is in what they do. And often the hardest thing involving creativity
is approaching a very simple song that has been played to death.

The steps to being a good guitarist are many and nowhere does it say “hey,
you’ve only been playing for such and such a length of time, so stick to a
simple, straight strumming pattern.” What I want to do today is look at a
song that would be very easy to just write off as just another of these Songs
For Beginners pieces and see what being creative is all about.
This time out, we’ve got yet another two chord song to work on. It’s
called Feelin’ Alright and it was written by Dave Mason back when he was
with the group Traffic. Just like the other two Songs For Beginners I’ve gone
over with you thus far, this has two chords and each chord lasts over the
period of one measure. Since it’s in 4 / 4 time, that’s a count of four beats
for every chord change.And, again, the tempo is moderate:

“Feelin’ Alright” is from the 1968 self-titled album by Traffic. It was written by
Dave Mason while a member of Traffic during their classic line-up of Dave
Mason, Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi. For a lot of people,
the song is known by Joe Cockers version from 1969. The song has also
been covered by Grand Funk Railroad, Isaac Hayes, The Jackson Five,
Three Dog Night, Paul Weller and Freddie King.

What I particularly like about this song is how you can do so many things
with it simply from a rhythm stand point. You can play it straight ahead folk,
using the same strumming patterns we learned in Horse With No Name.
You can also give it a percussive strumming pattern, like we used in For
What It’s Worth or even more of a driving rhythm. A “one and a two and a
three…four and a one…” sort of deal.
But you can also use it to see how easy it is to get a full rhythm just by
picking individual notes, accented by the occasional chord. In order to
demonstrate this, I want to settle on one rhythm patten for the time being.
This is one I like, which somewhat inspired by the Joe Cocker version of
this song. Here I’ve just written out the rhythm as a succession of B notes
because (yet again) I have not figured out how to get this software to do
everything I want it to:

Okay, now I also want to note that I wasn’t being totally upfront with you
earlier. Yes, this song has only two chords but they are not E and A, they
are actually E7 and A7. Here they are (for the time being):

That actually makes for quite a difference in tone, doesn’t it? Funkier,
perhaps? Maybe “bluesy” would be your term of choice.

Anyway, here we go. Since I often have to play on my own without a band, I
tend to look at my rhythm playing as having to compensate for both the
bass player and the lead player being AWOL. Usually I will do this by
trading off a bass part with a lead riff. We’re going to work this very simply
in order for you to get the hang of it here and now.

Since the song has only the two chords and since those chords are E7 and
A7, the bass part can be ridiculously easy. Just use the open E (low E,
naturally) and A strings. Now last spring in the column Tricks of the
Trade we talked for awhile about what I called “the amazing second fret.”
You can really accomplish a lot with the guitar if you know where your notes
are and the real difference between an E and an E7 (or an A and A7) is
simply in the fact that you have one string open instead of playing the
second fret. Bonus points for all of you who want to go and tell me which
note is involved in making either seventh chord!
What I’m going to do now is start out with my “bass” (the open E in measure
one, the open A in measure two) and follow the bass up with a couple
of hammer-ons involving the open “7th” strings. I personally like the sound
of resolving the E7 to an E and then following this up with an A falling into
the A7. This is what that should sound like:
Notice how the natural ringing of the strings keeps the rhythm flowing. You
actually get a lot of flow from one note to the next. We can also punch this
effect up a bit by adding a partial chord on the fourth beat.

Yet another cool thing you can do is change the tone of the rhythm around
simply by changing the voicing of the chord being used. I touched on this
briefly last week by showing you how to use the E shaped chord for both
the E and the A. Here are two other chord voicings that work very well here:

Finally, you can take the chord voicings and combine them with the
hammer-on pattern to get a really cool rhythm. In order to keep in this
groove, I’ve jimmied around with the rhythm just a bit:

You can see I’ve thrown in an additional sixteenth note just before the third
beat (and shortened the length of the previous note accordingly). Your
second hammer-on should fall right on the third beat:

So who says a two chord song has to be boring? Like anything, it all comes
down to what kind of effort (or inspiration, if you prefer) you decide to put
into it. Creativity is whatever you bring to the table. It is what you do with
something and not just something you do.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in future columns. You can
either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email me directly at
Until next week…


Where Did The Guitar Tab Go?

On February 11, 2010 we received a letter from lawyers representing the
NMPA and the MPA instructing us to remove guitar tab and lyrics from this
page. You can read more about their complaint here. Alternatively, you can
still find this complete article with tab and lyrics archived here.
If you would like to comment on this or anything else you have seen on
Guitar Noise, head over to our Facebook pa

Build Your Own Band

Buffet – (or What I Did
on my Summer
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Playing Guitar Live, The Joy of Music

“To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you
are.” – Philip Toshio Sudo Zen Guitar
I got an email a bit back with a question concerning one of my last articles.
It was a good question and I sent off what I hoped was a good response
(and I do intend to use both the question and reply in an upcoming column).
I got a nice thank you for the explanation which included this statement: “I
don’t know why you spend your time working on this site but I appreciate it
and look forward to your next column.”

Now as much I like to think I know “why” I do the things I do, it’s always
great to find that there are more reasons than I could ever hope to
enumerate. It’s strange, but ever since I’ve started writing for Guitar Noise, I
am being constantly showered with friendly reminders. Each day shows me
not only just how important music is to my life and but also how important it
is to be able to share this aspect of my life with friends and strangers alike.

I’ve been playing since 1974, but it wasn’t until my college years, 1975
through 1982 (I was one of many on the then popular “Bluto Blutarski”
plan), that I made the acquaintances and subsequent “friendships for life”
that music often fosters. Dan Lasley and I met in college waaayyyy back
when. He and I’d played together, along with Laura and Anne (both of
whom you’ll meet later) in White Ash and Dan also did sound for Fat Lewy.
Then life, as it will, swept us along its way. He married Laura, moved to Los
Angeles and eventually ended up (with family) in Connecticut.

Almost exactly a year ago, another good friend (and ex-Fat Lewy
bandmate) Kyle got married. The reception was pretty much an all-
afternoon jam with all the different people he’d played with throughout his
life and it was a wonderful time. It was pretty much all I could talk about for
months after the fact.
And one of the persons I wound up talking about this to was Dan. A mutual
friend had emailed us both (and many others) some joke or other sometime
in February or so and, as I was in one of my strong “why haven’t I kept in
touch?” moods, I decided that I’d send him an email of my own. That led to
his responding and my responding and on and on. I made mention of my
newfound writing gig here at Guitar Noise and suggested that he might
want to try his hand at sharing his knowledge. It proved to be a great idea
as he is now the resident Bass for
Beginners and Sound/Engineering columnist. And if you haven’t taken the
time to read any of his articles, please let me recommend them. Even I can
now understand some of this previously mystical engineering stuff.
And, of course, I told him about Kyle’s wedding and the reception jam.

And he, of course, said, “You, know, we could do that!”

And before either of us knew it, we were both swept up in life again, only
this time it was carrying each of us towards each other. I have, literally,
piles of emails. “What about this song?” “Do these dates work for you?” “Do
you think we could talk so-and-so into coming?” Inquiries were sent out.
Hopes were raised, hopes were dashed, other hopes rose to fill in the

It’s perhaps fitting to mention here that I’ve found that I have become
addicted to jams. Yeah, I know that between teaching and practice I play
virtually every day. But there is something very special about playing with
other people. For me it is more important than playing for an audience
(don’t get me wrong, that’s a real rush, too – just a different sort). And when
the people in the jam are good friends, then it can really cook. I’ve taken to
hosting some at my home and I get invited to some local ones and a grand
time is had (hopefully) by all. It’s frightening, but sometimes my life can be
divided into three phases: either I am playing in a jam, remembering and
(over) analyzing the last jam or fully anticipating and/or planning the next

And lots of planning had to go into this one. Fortunately, Dan was handling
the nuts-and-bolts aspects – finding a hall, checking into equipment, even
going so far as to draw up a list of nearby motels! He even gave it an “all-
purpose” name: Riverside Jam. He reasoned that if it became an ongoing
affair, it could easily change locals and, well, there’s always a
river somewhere close by…For close to four months, rarely would a day
pass without some communication between us about the upcoming event.
We’d make a big deal about something, realize that we were making too big
a deal about something else, laugh about how serious/silly we were being,
get serious about not taking something seriously enough.
And one morning I woke up and it was time to get my gear together and
trundle out east to have a great time with my friends.

Dan introduced me to Anne. Exactly when this was, I cannot say. I want to
say 1981 or 1982. Let’s just call it quite a while ago. Anne was one of many
drummers I’d play with in over the course of a few short years (if nothing
else, the movie “This Is Spinal Tap” is truthful in its portrayal of the life span
of any groups’ percussionist), and she certainly was the most memorable.

About two years ago, she too was someone that I took a deep breath and
called out of the blue. I’d gotten her number from a university directory and
called her up one Sunday afternoon. My timing was great; she’d been
spending the day tearing up carpeting in her home so any call was a
welcome break! Yes, she was still in the area and before I knew it I got
invited to visit and play with her friends and I in turn invited them around to
jam with my friends and students. Again I had to wonder how we let people
fall out of our lives. For if there had to be a single word to describe Anne, it
would be infectious. Her enjoyment of life knows no bounds and spills over
everything. When she is in a good mood it is close to impossible for anyone
in her company not be in caught up into the same mood as well.
Anne turned out to be excited about going to the Riverside Jam (now
officially “Riverside Jam 2000,” which did indeed hint at the possibility of
more to come…) because she has relatives in Connecticut. So she planned
to fly out while I planed to hitch a ride to Connecticut, first with a student of
mine (and his wife) and then with a friend who was interested in coming
along and finally with Amtrak (plans do change frequently, you know;
always have contingencies). But, with a little less than a week to go, she
decided to drive out and asked if I’d come along.

I was originally going to leave on Tuesday by train and meet up Wednesday

with friends in Philadelphia who would in turn take me to Princeton. But
Anne wanted to spend more time with her relations so we left on Monday
night after she picked me up and we had a pleasant meal at a nearby
Greek restaurant.

We made terrific time driving out (and back) with not a single traffic snarl
worth speaking of. And I must tell you how positively divine it is to listen to
an Edith Piaf tape while riding the Ohio Turnpike close to midnight. And
then the tape automatically flips to Fats Waller on side B…

A Lead Guitar
Of this particular set of people, Greg and I go back the farthest. I met him in
1976 and we’d played in Balance of Power and other little groups we’d
throw together for whatever occasion might arise. Even though there are
some people I’ve known longer, he and I have been pretty good at keeping
in touch. Like many of my friends and ex-bandmates, he doesn’t play much
anymore and is genuinely happy to get the chance to do so.

Anne and I arrived at his home Tuesday night. After a quick bite for supper,
she left to drive up to visit her relatives and I stayed to make the rest of the
journey on Thursday with Greg. It was wonderful being with him and his
family again. I am lucky in that I know so many people who genuinely make
me feel at home. The time always flies by when I’m with him, whether I’m
running ideas for arrangements by him or he’s showing me the latest
equipment and/or toys that he’s picked up. We got in some playing time and
also stopped in at a few music stores for supplies. I did manage to meet up
with my Philadelphia friends in Princeton for dinner on Wednesday and then
Greg and I headed off to Dan’s Thursday.

After unpacking a few things and having supper, Dan, Greg and I played for
a brief while. Then Greg went off to check in at his hotel (his wife and
daughter were to join him Friday) and I stayed up and caught up with my
host. Even though we’d been emailing each other now for a half a year,
there is still no substitute for being able to see into the eyes of your friends.

The next day, Dan and Greg went over all the sound gear and recording
equipment while I wrote out and arranged charts for our “horn section.” It’d
been longer than I care to talk about since I’d done this sort of thing and
must say that it was a blast. Having two saxophones to deal with (either two
tenors or an alto and a tenor) brought a new dimension to a jam that I’d
long since forgotten. And, in addition to playing the tenor saxophone, Dan’s
son Ben also had recently picked up the flute, so I tried to work that in for a
song or two. Virtually everyone I know these days plays guitars or the
(occasional) keyboard; it’s hard enough to get a bass player sometimes!
Now when I said I “wrote and arranged” charts for the horns, you must
undestand something. All I did was write out the parts that were deemed
“essential” to a song and make sure that they were transposed correctly
according to the instrument. Sometimes these were existing horn parts, like
say in “Get Ready” or “Only The Good Die Young.” Sometimes I might
double a guitar riff (“My City Was Gone”) or even the bass line (“Somebody
To Love”). The purpose was to provide a framework, as opposed to step by
step instructions. After all, I wanted everyone to have the liberty to

Doing the charts also provided me with a reason to not be giving my friends
(both electrical engineers, by the way) the incessant questioning that I am
wont to do when I assist them in such matters. I can lay out cable and set
up stuff with the best of them but if you needed me to explain exactly what I
was doing, forget it. And I was having a much more interesting time talking
with Dan’s kids, Ben and Jacqui anyway. Not to mention serving as a perch
for Pern, the Lasley pet cockatiel.

Laura, Dan’s wife, got home from her hospital shift about noon Friday. She
was supposed to get off around midnight Thursday but a baby had
developed some serious complications and needed ’round the clock care
and observation. Laura told me the child’s name was David and I told her
that he then had two things going for him, his name and the fact that she
was his doctor.

She crashed for the afternoon while I kept at the charts and much too soon
it was time to pack the gear again and to move it all to Toquet Hall, our
venue for the next thirty hours.

A Horn Section And

Another Guitar
Toquet Hall, which Dan had managed to procure for the weekend, normally
serves as a student center for the local high school population. It has the
usual amenities – chess sets, foosball table, pool table, etc. And it has a
huge stage. I hate to say it, but it was easily two to three times larger than
many of the Chicago bars I played at in the early part of the 1980’s.

We unloaded and set up the equipment. Along with the PA gear, Dan also
had managed to finagle a drum set so that Anne didn’t have to drag all her
stuff across country. After performing my assigned tasks (mainly lugging
things around and laying out cables and stands), I met and chatted with
Chris. He was another “infectious” personality, having recently graduated
from high school and having his first semester at Berklee School of Music a
matter of days away. And he certainly could play the saxophone! Not only
that, he had a fairly good grasp of theory to fall back on.

In contrast, Ben hadn’t been playing anywhere near as long but more than
made up for the difference in experience by playing his heart out. And a
fairly good balance was achieved by having Ben solo on pieces he knew
fairly well while Chris took on more of the ad-lib chores.

Anne made her entrance just in time to help setting up the drum kit. And
about this time, Bart showed up with his guitar rig. NOTE: I fully intend to
full this space with a detailed, yet understandable, description of Bart,
guitar/synth/MIDI rig. Bart has promised to help me with this and I am
willing to wait in order to do it justice. I appreciate your patience in this
matter. Onward
So, with all the principals (for this evening) in place and the tweaking of the
PA pretty much finished, we ran out around the corner for some Chinese
food (fabulous Schezwuan style scallops, by the way) and then settled in for
some fun.

Vocals (And
Another Guitar!)
The guitars turned out to have personality quirks all their own. While the
horns (and the keyboards too, as it would turn out) had no qualms about
playing any and everywhere, and while the drums and bass solidly held the
foundation, the four guitarists were much more tentative about staking any
claim to a space. And this was certainly to be expected. Laura, wielding her
new burgundy Strat, laid down the primary rhythm pattern. For my part, I
switched from my Strat to the twelve-string more often than I thought that I
would. Sometimes I would echo Laura’s part and sometimes I’d come up
with a second rhythm pattern, provided I found it sparse enough to not clog
up the song. Bart, with the huge array of effects to choose from, added a lot
of color to the proceedings. On one song he’d be the steel drums, on the
next he might be a Hammond B3 with a Leslie cabinet. He also was a
virtual catalogue of songs. I had a great time bouncing songs off him. Greg
was typically Greg, choosing his spaces well and splashing them with an
appropriately intense spray of notes.
It had been some time since I last heard Laura sing and I must say that I
was impressed. I didn’t remember her having such a strong voice. And it
was eerie how well Laura’s and Anne’s voices blended together. Bart, like
myself, was much happier working the harmonies and although I’m sure
we’ll never be mistaken for any famous (backing) vocalists (when anyone
ever asks me “And what do you want to be one day?” I like to say “A
Pip.”)(what easier job could there be?), we did manage to make a good
show of things.

We played on, our time divided between seriously arranging a song or two
and seriously goofing around. It is frightening how quickly time can pass
when you’re truly enjoying yourself.

We packed up for the evening and went our separate ways. One important
thing that we’d discovered was that the volume level had definitely been too
much for Jacqui, which meant that, in all likelihood, it would prove to be too
harsh for Greg’s daughter Sydney as well. Thoughts would have to go into
making alternate arrangements for them for the next night.

When we arrived back at the Lasley residence, Laura declared she wasn’t
ready to stop the music, so she, Dan and I grabbed our instruments and
played for another hour-and-a-half. Fortunately, I had also brought my
classical guitar with me (it makes a lot less noise when I’m up in the
morning before anyone else and I figure that I might as well get in a little
practice), which provided still another new arrangement to some of our
favorite songs. And as much as I’d been impressed with Laura’s singing
before, I was very much blown away now. Sometimes it does take a little
time to shake out the cobwebs and set your passion free.

Then both Laura and Dan surprised me by starting in on some songs I had
written a loooooong time ago. I know that I’m going to sound overly
sentimental, but I don’t know any other way to describe what I felt. I mean,
any songwriter will tell you how cool it is to write a song or how cooler still it
is to play in front of a rapt audience. I can tell you that. I can also tell you
what it’s like for someone to know your songs well enough to request that
you perform them and then join in singing along. But those feelings totally
pale when compared to the high you get when people like your music so
much that they include in their repertoires. And when you find out they’ve
been teaching your songs to their friends and families…

As I said, just when you think that you know all the reasons why you do
things, better ones pop up. May it ever be so…
I woke up at seven (I can be annoying that way) with some lyric ideas
running through my head. I have a number of songs that are kind of “in
progress” (and yes, I do have to get them on disc somehow in order to get
some of them off to A-J’s songwriting club) (yet another thing on the “to do”
list…) and I managed to nail down a chorus that I’d been toying with for
months. Not only that, I came up with a first verse that had some promise. I
also charted out the chords (after figuring them out) of the song, “Just The
Two Of Us,” which Anne had been keen on doing. To top it off, I got in a
good hour’s practice, so my day was off to a great start. As Groucho Marx
once said, “You’ve got to get up early if you want to get out of bed…”

Saturday morning was spent making final tweaks and tracking down a
babysitter for the girls. Dan and Greg headed in ahead of the rest of us in
order to do a bit more work on the PA and the recording set up.

After picking up some lunch for everyone, Laura, Ben and I made it back to
Toquet Hall and about getting prepared for the afternoon “practice session.”
Anne shortly arrived with Peter, the keyboard player. Like Bart, Peter has
quite a catalog of songs wired into his brain. We toyed with some numbers
that we all knew and then Peter taught us one of his original songs, “Plug
and Play Girl” which proved to be a lot of fun to play, despite being written
in Ab! We also worked on one of mine, “Waiting For Nancy.” Dan had
thought that it might be a good number for Ben to take a turn at a flute solo
and he proved to be right. The flute was an inspired touch.

Bart and I goofed around with some songs – he had a synth setting that
nailed the horn sound used in Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” down
cold, so we set about figuring the song out. Anne had it on tape, so she
wrote out the lyrics. We never got around to doing it as a whole band, but I
learned another song to add to my list!

Pizzas were ordered and picked up late in the afternoon and we took a
dinner break to write up a set list for the evening. Now while Dan and Laura
and I had been tossing songs back and forth across the internet, everyone
else had been content to sit back in ignorance and let things happen. But
when you’ve got a lot of personalities in the mix, perhaps the best (and
fairest) thing to do is what we attempted to do – namely, go around to each
person and have him (or her) pick whatever song she (or he) wanted until
we had a certain number of songs. And, frankly, by this point it was
becoming obvious that we had the personnel to pull off a lot of different
kinds of stuff. It was more a matter of what songs were (relatively well-)
known by a majority of us.

Three times around the horn netted twenty-seven songs ranging from the
obvious jammers (Jumping Jack Flash, Somebody To Love, etc.,) to some
inspired weirdness (Get Ready, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and Pat
Benatar’s True Love). Add a couple of (easily played) numbers to highlight
the singing (Save The Last Dance For Me) and a couple of arrangements
with just a touch of madness (ZZ Top’s Tush done a la Ike and Tina (“we
never do anything nice and…easy…”)Turner) and you should have enough
to keep everyone entertained for the evening!

Ouevos Rancheros
If you should ever find yourself conducting a jam of musicians who’ve not
really played together before, let me offer you this word of advice: always
start with a song that has only two or three chords. Obviously if it’s
something everyone knows, that’s great – but then again, with only two or
three chords, it really won’t matter if everyone knows it or not. Some four-
chord songs like Sympathy For The Devilor Knocking On Heaven’s
Door will work as well. The point is not to start out too complex. And if the
song has a lot of room built-in for extended jamming, then all the better. We
began with Dave Mason’s Feelin’ Alright, which provided ample
opportunities to toss leads around between Chris and Peter and Bart and
Greg while still giving the rest of us a lot of interesting rhythms to work.
The second thing I’ll advise you is to don’t feel like you have to sit in on
every song. Pick at least one, and preferably a couple, where you just get
up and go and have a listen. I put down my guitar when we came
to Moondance and went and grabbed a chair in front of the stage area and
took things in. Aside from immediate family (Greg’s wife) and friends (a
couple of guys Chris knew) and the Toquet Hall staff, there was no
audience. This didn’t really surprise or sadden anyone; we were having too
much fun. I had to laugh when three teenage girls walked up to the door
and then, almost exactly in step like a marching band, pirouetted and
marched off in the other direction. Their “my God, it’s old people!” radar
must have been on.
We played fourteen (fifteen if you include a really jazzy version of My
Favorite Things from The Sound of Music) songs for the first set (as Dan
would write, “we tanked a couple and really nailed some others.”) and took
a brief break Time was marching on, though. We were only three songs into
the second set when Laura noted that it was just about 10:30. As we had to
wrap up by eleven, we played an extended version of Waiting For
Nancy featuring solos from everybody. Ben’s flute was sublime, particularly
as it was coupled with a capella vocals on the final round of choruses. And
Bart surprised the hell out of me by coming up with a marimba effect that
also worked wonderfully. I mean, I’ve been playing the song for close to
twenty years now and I’d never have thought of that! We wrapped up with a
rousing rendition of Secret Agent Man (again, solos dished out all around) (I
even took one!) and called it a night. Almost…
A bit of history: As noted earlier, I’d played with Dan, Laura, Greg and Anne
in various bands and whatnot. And one thing about playing in bar bands in
Chicago, it can be a grueling schedule. Fridays and Saturdays you start
your first set between ten and ten-thirty and you plan to finish when the bar
closes which could be any where from two ’til four the following morning.
Then you pack up, transport all the gear back to your rehearsal space and
then go and get some breakfast. And then you go home and crash unless,
like me at the time, you had a weekend job. Then you hurried home,
changed and went off to work. Necessity dictated that we become experts
on where to eat in the wee hours of the day and that we did. One of our
favorite places was “Lindo Mexico” in Chicago’s Logan Square

Now while Westport, Connecticut boasts no all-night Mexican restaurants,

Laura and Dan had a suitable substitute that proved to meet our needs.
And, it being only midnight as opposed to five in the morning, the place was
pretty lively. Just like when you exercise you have to remember to both
warm up and cool down, so should you follow the same thinking in regards
to jams. Put your guitar (or whatever) away for a while and sit around
somewhere and have a good laugh and enjoy each other’s company as
much as you enjoy each other’s music.

And to make matters absolutely precious, when we arrived back at the

Lasley home shortly before one in the morning, we found that Jacqui and
Sydney had spent their evening constructing an eight-foot long “Good Job!”
banner which hung in the doorway to welcome us back.

Load Out
It’s funny, and I certainly didn’t plan it this way, but I ended up sharing rides
one on one with each of my old friends. Dan and I drove home together
Friday night and Laura and I ended up in her car Saturday. And as we
hadn’t had all that much time together it was good to be able to share things
again. Likewise the next morning, she, Dan and I took a good walk around
their “neighborhood,” talking about nothing and everything.
Laura loaned me a book she’d read titled Zen Guitar. Let me say this: if
you’re looking to become an overnight guitar whiz, this book isn’t for you.
And if you’re seriously trying to delve into the ancient mysteries of zen, you
might find this merely whets your appetite. But if you want a spot-on way as
to how to approach playing the guitar or a philosophy that will get you
through all the initial frustrations, then you might want to check it out.
Our original plan was to have an acoustic beach party to wrap up the event,
but like all plans some flexibility ended up being required. Peter had
volunteered his place for the occasion and so in the early afternoon we all
made it down to his place. It was a drizzly day (well, it had been raining all
weekend!), so we kept the instruments inside. But between too late of a
start, the weather and Anne wanting to get an early start on the trip back
(the idea was to be in Chicago before Monday’s afternoon rush), the
session itself was very short. But we did get to play another of Peter’s tunes
and one of mine and, more importantly, we got to spend some more time
just relaxing and enjoying ourselves. Next time we’ll have a better handle
on how to arrange some of the events.

And there will be a next time.

Back at work, about a week or so later, someone asked me if I’d had a

good time on my vacation and I actually had to ask myself “I went on
vacation? When did this happen?” I was already once again out of my
“remembering the last jam” phase and well into the thinking ’bout the next
one, whenever it may be.

It is truly frightening how fickle one’s mind can be. I can remember the
chords of a song that I haven’t played for over fifteen years but I have to
really think in order to recall the name of an author whose book I’ve been
enjoying the past week. Memory (mine, anyway) is highly selective at best,
and should always be considered highly suspect as well.

Yet in spite of all that, our memories are what provide much of our lives’
strength and hope during the times we’d rather forget fairly quickly. When
we are sad or tired or bored or frustrated or simply wishing to be
somewhere (someone, some time) else, a memory can be counted on to
provide relief, to smooth out the troubles for a moment or two. How we
choose to remember things, and how we use those memories in our lives,
is often an indication of what is truly important to us as individual human
Now, writing about all of this, it doesn’t surprise me that what I remember
most vividly has little or nothing to do with the actual “performance.” I

There are no billboards on the Ohio Turnpike

Thinking that following up Fats Waller and Edith Piaf with old
Robert Palmer and new Paul Simon was an inspired choice
That it takes forever to cross Pennsylvania west to east but can
be done east to west without you even noticing
Wondering why there is so much farmland in Pennsylvania but
only three cows
Coming up with a hysterically amusing version of ZZ Top’s
song La Grange done as a Gregorian chant
Learning the history of Lego’s from a huge poster Ben had
drawn up for a school project
Being asked riddles by Jacqui and Sydney – I thought I knew
the answers but, like just about everything, they too had been
updated for the young. What has four eyes but cannot see,
Watching Dan’s eyes light up with delight when a song was
taking an unexpected yet totally cool change of direction
Listening to Laura’s laughter while Greg told stories of his pet
Getting a brief tour of where Anne grew up
Greg and I belting out Put A Little Birdhouse In Your Soul at the
top of our lungs while driving back to his house from Princeton
(“…and countless screaming Argonauts…”)
As much as we’d like to think otherwise, it’s the little things that will either
delight or haunt us forever. A moment will always be more powerful than an

And jams are meant to be things of the moment. For all their planning and
preparation (or lack of planning and preparation), the actual music is like a
firework display. Some songs will take our breath away, some will simply
occur without much notice at all. And when the grand finale is over and all
that is left is the smoke and sparkling dust hanging in the air, everyone has
their own memory of what happened. Oh yes, we can record the event (or
not record it) and watch and listen to it over and over and over again, but
we all know that this is not really as it happened. Because what really
happened we heard and saw with our hearts, not with our ears and eyes.

Wherever you’ve traveled this past summer, wherever your life may take
you in the future, I hope that you enjoy each moment in and of itself, if for
no other reason than that it will ensure you lots of wonderful memories.

LOGAN L. GABRIEL Guitar Lessons Classical Guitar Lessons

Rasgueados serve two very important purposes. The first being a technical
exercise, the second being a way with which to add rhythmic variety to a
harmonic accompaniment. Rasgueado is a Spanish verb which means to
rake. Let us first discuss the physical aspects of the rasgueado.

To perform this technique let’s first learn to fight our natural tendencies.
Natural tendencies? It is a natural tendency that when you first begin to use
rasgueados that you lead with the i finger. Here’s what I mean. First rest the
thumb of the right hand on the low E string. Next, flick out c ( pinky), a, m,
then, i. Do not worry about hitting all the strings with each finger, the
strumming effect of the rasgueado is more percussive than anything else.
But as you can probably tell it does not feel natural to lead with the c finger.
The i wants to be the one to go first.

This is the basic four stroke rasgueado. It should be done slowly at first in
order for the strokes to begin to feel natural then and only then should the
speed be increased until it becomes lightning fast. This brings me to the
next point. When doing the rasgueado, even at lightning speeds there
should be four distinct strums heard. Try this experiment. Using your two
index fingers like drumsticks as fast as you can tap 4 times on the table. If
you did it right you should have heard four distinct taps not just one. The
same is true with the rasgueado you need to hear those four distinct strums
not just one big one, we are not using a pick.

As you have probably seen by now that there is a very important technical
exercise to be found in the study of rasgueados. The first being right hand
finger independence, this will aid us in the quest for the perfect arpeggios.
The second important technical aspect of the rasgueado is that it trains the
extensors. In my very first article (Rock Guitarist as Classical Guitarist) )(at
least I think it was that one) I discussed that from the time we were born we
have always grasped things, thereby training the flexors, but we have never
had the opportunity to train the flexors. Weak flexors are the reason fast
scales seem to elude us. It’s not the flexing that we have a problem with but
our inability to prepare the finger again to execute the next stroke.
Rasgueados can and do help.
The four stroke rasgueados are not the end to a great technique. There are
three stroke rasguados, two stroke, five stroke, six and seven stroke. There
are even rasgueados that incorporate thumb strokes. Below is a list that
incorporates the easiest rasgueados, practice these and next week we shall
talk about the notation of rasgueados and I will give you some of the more
difficult ones.

Four stroke rasgueado: c, a, m, i

Three stroke: a, m, i
Two stroke: m, i

Music At Mary’s
LEE BUDAR-DANOFF Guitar Lessons Playing Guitar Live, The Other Side

I read the article on Making Jam and thought I’d share what a friend of mine
started last year…
I have a good friend Mary – we both grew up in Hawaii. Mary loves singing,
but does not play any instruments strongly. She has made several friends
who do play instruments (in the Baltimore area), through contra dancing
and folk music. She called me up with this idea -to e-mail everyone she
knows who is the least bit musically inclined, and have a “pot luck jam
session”. Everyone will bring food to her house, and their instruments and
music, and we’d see what we could do! Mary provides name tags and

(I think this all started out with her yearly Christmas caroling in the

Most of the first session revolved around a book called Rise Up Singing –
with chords and lyrics, but no melody lines. We have been working on
setting up binders of music with chords, lyrics, and melody lines. The idea is
that the food is in one room of her house, and the instruments are in
another. People come, set up, and talk and eat. Then we get down to music
– a LOT! We have a variety of instruments -3 hammered dulcimers, a fiddle,
a cello, a clarinet, 3-5 guitars, 2 recorders, an alto recorder, something that
sounds like a kazoo/recorder, a bodhran, bells, large African drums of some
sort, a piano (not played much), a penny whistle, but some of these are
played by the same person, and some people just bring their voice! Of
course, not everyone comes all the time, so there is a variety of instruments
each time, and people come and go from early to late evening. Also,
sometimes people play for a while, drop out for a snack, then drop back in
(after washing their hands!).
This is an amazing experience that everyone should at least try. We learn
so much from each other. People take turns finding songs to do, and it is up
to you if you join in or not. Sometimes we find a song in more than one
source, and we need to change the key, based on our melody instruments
or singing abilities. We have people of all abilities, from barely able to play
to professionals. I play guitar, recorder, penny whistle, and bodhran, but
none extremely well – however, I have definitely expanded my abilities –
speed, reading and learning chord-only music, and techniques, as well as
new chords. My husband went from struggling to join in on his hammered
dulcimer to picking up the melodies quickly, playing around the melodies,
and learning and playing chords much better than before. It is never perfect
(the time I left my newly-purchased music stands at home, the time I arrived
late because I had just spent three hours choosing a new guitar – my first
electric-acoustic – a Yamaha CPX series – drool!) but it is always FUN!!!
Now we need a bigger place… and we don’t get to meet as often as we’d
like, as the local area dance schedule conflicts – but we are trying the 3rd
Saturday of the month…

Repetition Repetition
Repetition Repetition
A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

As we’ve learned in the past, a chorus is usually a part that repeats.

Although this is good, lyrically, it can become annoying. When someone
doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Case in point, I’ve no idea who does this song, but I hear it every day whilst
in my car, usually more than once:
This is the story of a girl
Who cried a river and drowned the whole world
And though she looks so sad in photographs
I absolutely lover her
When she smiles
Not that the song itself is so bad, but it’s this chorus that is. Of itself, it
works. The song starts off like this. This method, although not very
common, is usually associated with Storytelling.

You start off by explaining the point of the song. OK. Problem is, this comes
back after every verse. At the end, it comes back three times in a row.
That’s overkill.

I don’t want to place the blame on anyone. This might be the songwriter’s
fault. Perhaps he liked this theme and decided to repeat it ad nauseam. On
the other hand, maybe he just lacked inspiration or didn’t feel like working
too hard and decided to make a simple song.

On the other hand, maybe he wrote it and played it for his girlfriend and she
suggested that he repeat it ad nauseam.

Then again, maybe it was the producer’s fault. If it was, I don’t want him
producing any of my material. Also, it may have been the record company’s
fault. A guy who was an accountant last week was suddenly promoted to
creative director and his favorite song is “Da-da-da”.
For whatever the reason, the song’s title should be Ad Nauseam.

To lead-in to the song with this chorus is not a bad thing. To repeat it like
this is. What they should’ve done is write a second chorus, which would
have been repeated throughout the song except at the end, where it could
have gone:

This was the story of a girl…

If you intend at some point to write a song in this style, try to keep in mind
that once you’ve introduced the subject, there’s no need to keep
reintroducing the subject.

And a chorus, any chorus, played three times in a row is always annoying.
Compare this to another song currently on the radio by a band called

Now I know how far you’ll go

To be the latest freak show
American psycho
This chorus is repeated throughout the song, but only once every time. It
doesn’t last forever either. Three lines, then off to something else. It doesn’t
kill the song.

The point about repetition is that you shouldn’t repeat the repetition.

To repeat something we’ve learned earlier, the chorus is the point of the
song. Not the introduction as the first song in our example. To make sense,
that chorus should have been an intro verse at the beginning of the song.
Not a chorus.
In our second example, the chorus is the point of the song, not the
introduction to the subject.

Sustained Tones:
At least it s

An Animated
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge, Music Theory for

By David Hodge and Abel Petneki

Hi and welcome aboard. You know, I used to think that writing a good
introduction for this article would be easy. But it’s not. Maybe that’s why our
esteemed Guitar Columnist, David Hodge, let me write it. Oh, I almost
forgot to introduce myself: my name is Abel Petneki, and this week’s article
is going to be about “sustained tones” (until we manage to find a better term
for this…). I can almost hear you murmuring “What’s this guy talking
about?” Well, to make a long story short, a while ago I e-mailed David about
a phenomenon found in many of the songs of the British band Oasis. After
a few e-mails, we decided that even the 5689 miles between Chicago and
Budapest couldn’t stop us from writing an article together. Anyway, the
Oasis songs may sound pretty simple, but there’s something strange going
on there: the chords seem to remain the same and change at the same
time. Sounds interesting, huh? Okay…brief summary: check. On to you,
David, then…

Thanks, Abel. Three columns ago (But Then Again…), we examined a

technique in which we used only three or four strings in order to form
a chord while leaving, in those particular examples, the outer strings
(E, B and E) free to resonate to their hearts’ desire. I have called this
effect a “drone” or “droning.” Which it is. But this is a very simple
explanation and I think that it’s time we explored a little more of the
theory behind this and see what is actually going on. Of course, this
means we need to use our official disclaimer:
These files are the author’s own work and represents his interpretation of
the song. It is intended solely for private study, scholarship or research.

Okay, now that we’ve got that taken care of, it’s time we took a closer
I agree, David. But before we get really technical, let’s see an other
example for “droning”. There’s a song called The Masterplan by Oasis. It’s
a slow ballad — at least it begins that way. We’ll take a look at the intro,
which is played on acoustic guitar and goes like this:
Bet you couldn’t name these chords! :-) The only thing I can tell that they
are somewhere near A minor, and they have a lot of tension. Then there’s
that descending bassline to further complicate matters. So I dialled 1-800-
HODGE for help…

In this chord sequence, Abel has correctly pointed out two things.
First is the “tension” you can feel in the chord voicing itself. Playing
the 5th fret on the G string sounds the C note, and you are also
playing the open B string for all it’s worth. These notes are a half-step
apart (or a minor second if you prefer) and that is about as dissonant
as you can get. Any interval of a second, major or minor, tends to
catch our attention in a very big way. But it is an odd dissonance in
that there is a promise of resolution, of bringing the tension to an end
at some point. Technically speaking, this chord is an Am. Here the
function of the open strings serves to provide an interesting chord
voicing, which in turn provides enough dissonance and tension to be
dramatic yet not unpleasant to the ear.
The second thing that Abel noted is that there is indeed a descending
bassline, here being played out on the D string. This movement, while
creating even more dissonance, actually distracts from the B and C
dissonance by drawing your attention to the notes that are in motion.
In fact, if you have a copy of the song you can hear the acoustic
guitar’s descending bassline doubled first by the bass and then by the
orchestral accompaniment. These two factors of the chord voicing,
with its inherent dissonance, along with the descending bassline, (not
to mention the droning of the A and both E strings) combine to make
the introduction to “The Masterplan” compelling. It really draws you
into the song whether you want to be or not.
I’d like to point out as well that I have heard (and seen) people play
this using the fifth fret of the B string instead of playing it open. In
essence, they are simply doubling the high E string, and that’s
perfectly okay. But personally, I ‘ll take the dramatic effect of the open
B string any day.
Oh, in case you’re interested, there is a technical name for this type of
dissonance created by a descending bassline (as well as by other
similar things). It’s called an appoggiatura and it’s something that
we’ll be discussing in the very near future when we look again at
I’m not sure if Noel Gallagher had all this in mind while writing the song.
Maybe he should visit Guitar Noise to learn about the essence of his own

For the next song, we’re going to leave “droning” and see another
technique, which we’ll call “sustained tones” for now. Please don’t confuse
“sustained” with “suspended.” Yes, there are suspended chords – “sus” for
short – in the examples we’re going to use, but it’s not that. Rather, it is the
sustaining of certain notes throughout the chord progression or melody.
Confused? Well, Talk Tonight (again by Oasis) is a good example for this –
and more!
Try to keep an eye (or ear) on any notes that do not change through the
whole verse. Another thing to look out for is all the tension the C9 chord has
– you’ll definitely notice it the minute you play the song.

As Abel stated, a sustained tone is one note being held (often

continually) while the harmony or chord pattern around it changes.
This may not seem all that different than a “drone,” but it does differ
in a significant way. Usually a drone is a “given,” a product of the
instrument itself, usually owing to its construction (like a bagpipe) or
to its tuning (like a zither or, for that matter, your guitar). A sustained
tone is one that is chosen by the musician or writer, purely for its
effect. In this song, it is the D note (3rd fret on the B string) that is the
sustained tone. By playing this note over the various chord changes,
we both create and then resolve disonant intervals. Here, the interval
in question is, again, a second, but this time it is a major second, the
full step between the D and the E (open E string). It is very interesting
to listen as the tension actually gets “edgier” with each successive
chord. We are finally freed from all this dissonance by the G. The C9
has the most tension because it contains four notes that are,
technically speaking, back to back to back to back – those being the
Bb, C, D and E. Fortunately, though, the C is on the 3rd fret of the A
string and thus some much needed separation is provided between
the C and D. Otherwise it would be quite a muddle! The C add 9 is
almost a welcome relief, even though it’s almost as bad.
Speaking of muddle, you may have noticed that both songs we mentioned
are played on an acoustic. If you’d use a lot of distortion, the open strings
would make one big pile of noise out of the song. The same applies
to Wonderwall. Although…Oasis played this song using slight distortion in
August when I saw them playing live here in Budapest. They were really
good (and really loud), as always. But let’s get back to our regular program
here. Wonderwall is a love song written by Noel for his future wife. I think
that’s pretty romantic. But why call it Wonderwall? Is that a word? Well,
Noel’s favorite Beatle, John Lennon reportedly used it instead of
“wonderful” – like “that’s just wonderwall!” And “Wonderwall Music” was the
title of Harrison’s first solo album as well. So it’s a Beatles reference; Oasis
songs tend to have a lot of those. That’s for some background info, now
let’s get down to business…

This is yet another example of the use of sustained tones. But instead
of one note, this time it is two notes, the G and D, which are sustained
over the underlying chords. Usually this term is used to describe an
aspect of the melody (and again, more on this in the very near future)
but for now it will suit our purpose. This chart will help out a bit:
If you examine this chart closely, you can see how the G and D notes
(played on the 3rd fret of the first and second strings) are notes
needed to form each of the chords in the pattern, albeit they have
different functions in each. The D, for instance, is the seventh in the
Em7, the fifth in the G, the root of the Dsus4 and the fourth in the
A7sus4. By giving it (and the G note) such prominent placement in
these chord voicings, you cannot help but focus your attention on
It might also interesting to point out that some of these chords also
contain a third note which is also held over through the next chord.
The B in the Em7 and the A in the D, for instance. Even though the
changes between the successive chords are very subtle (note-wise),
you can hear how radical some of the changes are.
I’m sure that most of you are familiar with other songs that use this
technique of sustained tones. Here are two more examples in the key
of G (and we should note here that Wonderwall is actually played in
the key of A because they use a capo on the second fret…):
As I mentioned, these particular examples use the same sustained
tones (the G and D notes) as used in Wonderwall. There are, of
course, examples of this using different notes (on different strings)
which will will be looking at in the upcoming weeks. The important
thing to glean from all this is that the ability to see individual notes as
parts of several chords can be a great aid to writing music, whether
you are trying to come up with a melody or a chord progression.
It’s also a good way of spicing up your songs – you can get away with the
simplest chord progression by putting some thought to it. Using sustained
notes also makes the chord changes sound smoother by having strings
which resonate continuously.

By the way, if you want to track down any of the Oasis songs to hear them
for yourself (and Abel and I both agree that you really should; Noel
Gallagher is a fine example for songwriters to study), then you should
know that The Masterplan and Talk Tonight can be found on The
Masterplan (1997), and Wonderwall on (What’s The Story) Morning
Glory? (1995).
Well, that’s about it for this week. I hope all of you enjoyed this co-
presentation. Next week, it’s going to be just David again (it is his column,
after all!). Keep strumming!

coustic Slide Guitar –

Technique and tips
RICK PAYNE Guitar Lessons Blues Guitar Lessons, Slide Guitar Lessons for

What do I use for a slide?

There have been many objects used to achieve the slide sound. Knives,
bottle necks, tubes of all kinds of metals and glass, spark plug sockets,
lighters, stone, marble, plastic… anything! At sometime or other I’ve used
them all but to keep things simple and effective, I use a real bottle neck or
metal tube, cut long enough to be slightly longer than the pinkie.

Glass or metal?
Glass is great for smooth, long sustain – Paris Texas type stuff. The heavier
glass the better. Avoid manufactured glass slides as they tend to lack
sustain and brightness – use real bottle glass. Ry Cooder is said to use a
Fighting Cock Kentucky Bourbon bottle!

Metal is good for more attack, especially electric. Experiment with heavy or
light metal – both produce different sounds. Think Muddy Waters, light.
Lowell George( Little Feat ) heavy.

For both glass and metal, think:

Heavy – better for sustain, more accuracy, good for long slow notes
Light – Thin sound, but faster, harder to keep accurate, less volume and

Which finger?
This is a personal choice, as with most aspects of slide playing. Many well
known players have used different combinations. I’ve always found the slide
best suited to the pinkie. This allows me more opportunity to finger chords,
and play regular fretted notes as well as play the slide. Anyway, if it’s good
enough for Robert Johnson or Ry Cooder it’s good enough for me.

How do I stop all that

scratching and buzzing?
Sometimes the extraneous noises can be used to great effect – listen to
Blind Willie Johnson. For the purpose of improving technique, try and play
cleanly and smoothly. Lose all those noises by dampening the strings
behind the slide. When you release the fingers behind the slide – notice the

Action and set-up

Use a guitar set-up with a slightly higher action, so there is less chance of
the slide banging against the frets. It helps to minimise those extraneous
noises we talked about earlier. However, if the action is too high, it will be
harder to finger the chords when needed.

A personal choice again, but I believe the best sound is achieved by using
the thickest you can manage – at least a 0013 on the top. Bob Brozman
once told me that he used a 0017 on his National – now, there’s a real slide
man for you!
What about guitars?
Acoustic or electric, who cares. I like the rootsy flavor of an acoustic for
instant feel. My favorites are small bodied acoustics and resonators. I love
all those junk shop guitars with bowed necks and impossible actions. Check
them out. Slide players can pick up some real winners. In fact all the
exercises in the Acoustic Guitar Workshop’s slide course were recorded
with an old, small body Hofner, that I found in Denmark for 20 pounds.

For electric players, the fenders have great natural sustain. Check out that
early Ry Cooder sound. With added compression, like the old purple
pecker, or rack effects, the slide sounds great. On his later albums, Ry used
the pick up from an old lap steel, for that real slide sound and phenomenal
sustain. The trick is don’t be afraid to experiment.

Vibrato – the soul of slide

This is a crucial aspect of slide playing.

There are two main reasons for this:

1. Think of the slide ( bottleneck, or whatever you decide to use ) as a

moving fret which by careful handling will maintain the pitch of the note you
are trying to play. If you are new to slide playing you will fast realise how
difficult this is. Vibrato with the slide means you play a compromise
between an in and out of tune note – somewhere in the middle is the
correct pitch. To keep good pitch, keep the slide at right angles to the fret at
all times.

A violinist uses the same effect on the fretboard ( fretless of course ) to

maintain steady pitch. Witness the intense movement of the fingers as they
ensure the right notes are achieved.

This is especially so for the slide, when reaching the end of a phrase or riff;
the final note sounds dull or sharp or flat unless vibrato is used. There are
many different styles of vibrato. Listen to the intense movement of the slide
on Blind Willie Johnson’s Dark Was The Night, or the almost non existent
vibrato on Tampa Red’s Denver Blues. This leads me to my next main
2. Vibrato gives your slide playing a personal touch which can reflect the
intensity of your mood or your feeling for the blues. Once you feel
comfortable with the slide, experiment with different amounts of vibrato –
light or heavy. Listen to as many players as you can and gauge the amount
used which distinguishes their playing.

The slide can be held tight against a finger to produce a very controlled
movement or loose for a more carefree result.

Careful though, as they tend to fly off your finger!

I’ve noticed that some players use lack of vibrato to produce quarter tones,
which are carefully placed, and give an eerie effect against the proper
pitched note. Once again, listen to Blind Willie Johnson or Ry Cooder
( Vigilante Man is a good example ) to hear these notes. More about these
mysterious quarter tones elsewhere in the Acoustic Guitar Workshop slide

The Little Things

DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Buying a Guitar and Other Equipment

(NOTE: To get the full effect of this introduction, you need to imagine that
you’re hearing one of those larger-than-life voices. It can be laden with
effects, like those voice-overs for commercials for monster truck rallies (or
Guitar Center or Sam Ash, for that matter), or it can be a booming yet
natural voice which seems to have borrowed from God, much like an old-
fashioned evangelist or a carnival barker. And we will not be spending our
time today discussing whether all these voices are essentially the same

Friends of Guitarists! Families of Guitarists! Don’t you hate the holiday

seasons? You want to buy your loved one something special that he or she
will appreciate but you’re afraid of buying the “wrong” thing. So, come
Christmas morning, your beloved Guitar Player unwraps the present only to
find, yet again, that he or she will indeed having plenty of socks to keep his
or her feet warm this winter!!
That’s enough silliness, I think. With all due apologies to R.L. Burnside, it
can really get bad, you know.

 Guitar Buying FAQ
 Gifts for Guitarists
 More on buying a guitar
Last year I wrote a piece for the holidays entitled, On Gifts and Giving, in
which I tried to explain a bit about how I felt about music being a gift that
should be continually given. At the time, it led to a lot of interesting (and
occasionally lengthy) conversations among some of my friends who don’t
play any instrument. And I was actually quite surprised at the unexpected
direction those conversions took.
You should know something: most of my friends and I share a fundamental
belief when it comes to giving someone a gift, whether it be for the holidays,
one’s birthday or simply “just because.” A gift should convey several
messages – that you care about a person, that you want to share in that
person’s life and interests and also that you want that person to share in
yours as well. A gift, ideally, tells not only a story of the receiver, but of the
giver as well.

But many of my non-musician friends, I found, were very uncomfortable

giving someone a gift of music (other than a CD, but sometimes even then)
to someone. The main reason for this was the fear of buying “the wrong
thing,” something the other person would not want. I’ve talked with other
people about this as well and discovered that this fear is more common
than I would ever have realized.

So, as a bit of a “public service,” if you will, I’d like to offer some shopping
guidelines for musicians and non-musicians alike. Just in time for the
holidays, too. You’d think that I might have planned it this way on purpose
or something…

First off, let me ease your mind a bit – I will not tell you to buy someone a
guitar! You should never do this unless you’re getting someone his or her
first guitar (and only knowing full well that this gift will undoubtedly be
replaced or, better yet, passed on somewhere down the road).

Also, I will tell you that if your intended recipient is someone of a, oh, how to
put it politely? “singular” mindset – you know, only listens to one type of
music, has to have everything just so (whether music or life), is leery of
changes in his or her life – then don’t even bother. Nothing will please this
sort of person and it has absolutely nothing to do with you or your gift,
regardless of how he or she may make you feel about it. This is strictly a
personality thing; you could give this person a million dollar guitar and he
will fixate on the fact that it doesn’t come with the strings he “always” uses.

Fortunately for you, the majority of true musicians have a wonderful sense
of curiosity and the need to experiment. This is why you should never really
worry about getting the “wrong” thing. There are no wrong things!

But you do have to know something about the guitarist you are buying for.
Does he or she own more than one guitar? Acoustic? Electric? Classical?
More than one of a couple of kinds? Does he or she perform a lot or is your
guitarist more likely to be found at home writing and recording music? If
you’ve got a performer, you must have seen a show or two. Does he or she
stand or sit while playing? What styles of music do they play, aspire to
play? What music does your friend listen to on his/her own time?
You may not know this, but there are a lot of things that
guitarists always need, but rarely purchase, usually because they are
obsessing over their next “big” buy. Guitar players go through stuff that
needs to be replaced fairly often.
Strings and picks come immediately to mind. Anyone who doesn’t need
strings never plays. And unless your guitarist is a classical player or one of
the “fingers only” school of style (or one of my friends who still has the
same picks he bought twenty years ago!), he or she will always need picks.

“But there are so many different kinds of strings and picks,” you might say.
“Which one do I choose?”

Well, not to give away any big secrets or anything, but unless you’re buying
for one of those aforementioned personality types, anything will do. On my
last birthday, a friend of mine got me a brand of guitar strings I’d never even
seen before. They turned out to be the best I’d played in a long time. I was
truly amazed.

And even if it’s not “the brand I always use,” hey, a person is always
breaking string and you can never have enough spares in any gauge. The
same goes for picks. Personally, I’m always trying out new types simply for
the joy of a new sound.
If you’ve got a regular performer on your hands, a “pick holder,” which is a
device that allows you to have an array of picks at your disposal (no pun
intended) right there on the mike stand is always a nice idea. And it is much
classier looking than two-sided tape.

Speaking of stands, a guitarist can never have too many of those, either.
Guitar stands, I’m talking of here. Or music stands, for that matter. On the
day I finally have more guitar stands than guitars, then I will be able to offer
stands to my guests who have not brought (or do not have) one of their

Same goes for guitar straps. You wouldn’t think that these would wear out
as quickly as they do sometimes. And this is an item that is easily
“personalized.” Think of it in the same terms as buying a tie. It can make a
great statement.

Other “little things” that guitarists often need include guitar polish and cloths
(usually sold in kits but available separately), power cords (connect the
guitar to the amp or whatever) (and nowadays people have so many effects
that they can’t have enough cords, either) and capos. Yes, capos do wear
out. Most people never give this a second thought, but it is good to replace
them, especially if you use them a lot, every few years. You should
definitely know what type of guitar your friend plays if you intend to
purchase one. The easiest way is to simply ask – “Hey, what’s that thing
do?” and listen (again) to the explanation while making mental notes about
the capo’s size and style.

If your guitarist is either just starting out, or simply doesn’t have one, I would
recommend getting him or her a tuner. Or a metronome (especially a
metronome). Or both (someone must make one that does both, surely?).
There are all sorts and you don’t have to spend a fortune on these items. A
pitch pipe will not only work as well as an $80.00 tuner, it has no battery to

If you live with an electric guitarist, then a nice gift for both of you would be
a “headphone amp.” This does exactly what you think it does – instead of
plugging into an amp, the guitarist plugs the headphones into the guitar and
voila, a personal amplifier. No longer will you have to ask him or her to “turn
it down” while you’re on the phone! I will warn you that this can lead to all
sorts of other problems but again, that’s more to do with the guitarist than
the gift itself!
Conversely, if you know an acoustic guitarist who plays with a lot of other
guitarists, then a nice pick-up is another thoughtful and relatively
inexpensive gift.

If you want to get something to help stimulate an interest in a different

direction, a slide is a great choice.

As you might imagine, my two favorite gifts are books and “toys.” By “toys,”
I mean an instrument that I might not ever get for myself but is nonetheless
a lot of fun to play. And I really shouldn’t call them “toys” because this is not
to say that I don’t take them seriously. Au contraire! It can be something as
simple as a little percussion piece. A coworker gave me an “egg” for our
Christmas grab bag last year. It’s a piece of wood that is, big surprise,
shaped like an egg. It’s been hollowed out and filled with something so that
you can shake it like a maracas. For me it’s great because it’s small enough
to palm when I play so I can go from guitar to percussion-back up and back
to guitar in an instant. Harmonicas, kazoos, little drums or tambourines,
there is no end to the things you can find. In fact, my friends and I have this
unspoken pact that we tend to pick up interesting percussion items on any
of our travels.

And books are always great. If you shop around at any guitar store you are
bound to see something that your guitarist can benefit from, whether it is an
all-purpose “owner’s manual type thing (American Guitars: An Illustrated
History by Tom Wheeler and The Guitar Handbookby Ralph Denyer being
two good examples) or one of the many that exemplifies a particular style or
examines an artist or album. And it doesn’t have to be an album or an artist
that your guitar player likes, it could easily be one that you like. After all, he
or she should be happy to play something especially for you.

Writing Emotions
A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

A question in the Guitar Forums prompted me to write this week’s column.

What is the most emotional song you know? I answered. Others did too. All
the answers were different. So, what is emotion?
The point is that no matter what emotions you write about, and no matter
how you write about them, there are no two people who will respond the
same way.
What touches me may not necessarily touch you. And vice versa. So how
do you write something very emotional under these circumstances?

First, and as I mentioned a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) (So You
Want to Be a Songwriter?), music is made to be felt, not heard. If you can’t
understand this or work with this, you might as well start writing for Celine
Dion, you’ll never write an honest song.
What emotions drive you? And how do you represent them?

This is where you have to work backwards.

As an artist, it is difficult to be in touch with your emotions. That’s why you

are an artist. Your art is not only the delivery system, it is also mechanism
through which you touch your emotions.
First, take your guitar, keyboard, bass, whatever instrument you play or, if
you play more than one, which ever instrument you feel like composing with
at the moment. Listen to your instincts. Then play around with it. Try chords,
variations of chords, successions of notes, different rhythm patterns. Stop
when something strikes you. Play it again.
And again. And again. Get comfortable with it, listen to your emotions, see
what’s being stirred within you.

Most likely, you’ll end up with a verse. Yes, a verse. One would think it
would be the chorus, but in most instances, that first pattern will be the
verse. Why? Because at that moment you are not completely in touch with
the emotion itself and what it represents. Instead, you are only in touch with
a stirring of the emotion. A sensation, if you will.

It’s only as you work more on it that you will become more familiar, more in
touch with the emotion itself. That’s when you will be able to write the
chorus. That’s when a pattern for it will become obvious. That’s when the
song will develop even more.

The next step will be the lyrics. Of course, record companies enjoy
simplicity. If I were nasty (but you know I’m not…), I could expand on what
this says about a lot of record company executives… (Luckily, some do
know what they’re doing.) However, unless you’re writing that song that will
get you the recording contract, in which case, emotions are quite useless
(Going Against The Grain), I would highly recommend that you ignore that
and carry a dictionary around. Try and find a colorful language that will
express the emotions of the music. “Baby I love you”, doesn’t really say
much. We all, at one time or another in our lives, say those words without
meaning them. “You are graceful under shattered lights, bathed upon the
moonlit shore” makes the situation all that more personal.
The next step is a bit more complicated. Performing and singing it. If you
are performing it, it becomes easy to feel those emotions again; they’re
yours. It’s the other musicians you have to be worried about. In order for
them to adequately play it, they must feel it as you do. If someone other
than yourself sings it, they must be able to transmit the words they way you
hear them in your mind.
This is when you become a Public Relations Agent. This is where you have
to reveal some secret part of yourself and explain the emotions behind the
words and the music. This is where you must get them to understand the
importance of the song.

If you are a solo performer, and some of you might not like what I’m about
to say, when choosing musicians to perform emotional pieces, look for the
ones who have less technique, they tend to play more with their hearts.

I won’t go into a guitarist debate on this one, but a clear example of this is
Rick Wakeman, ex of Yes. On an album called Steinway to Heaven, ten
rock keyboardists play solo classical pieces. Wakeman chose what is in my
opinion, perhaps the most beautiful musical piece ever composed,
Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique. Wakeman makes no mistakes and his
technique is absolutely perfect. Yet you can feel no emotions through it. I’ve
another version of this piece from another pianist. The technique has its
occasional flaws. Some notes are louder or slightly longer than others. But
it is so much more beautiful than Wakeman’s version. You feel the
emotions clearly through it.
Another bit which may help you. Learn another instrument. You don’t need
to become good at it, you just need to be comfortable enough with it to

As I said, when it’s time to write, you may now choose from more than a
single instrument. Although I firmly believe that the guitar is the most
versatile, most beautifully melodic instrument, sometimes another
instrument will render the emotions in a better light.
Origins of the
Pentatonic and
Relevance to the Blues
RICK PAYNE Guitar Lessons Blues Guitar Lessons, Guitar History

Hi, and welcome to my workshop session Pentatonic To The Blues. Funny

title you might think, but all in the good cause of the blues.
Like many guitarists, I was always confused as to what Pentatonic this and
Pentatonic that meant. Guitar books varied in their interpretation of blues
scales and Pentatonic, and still do. Most of us get through in the end by
using our ears and not the grey stuff in between.

Improvisation of any kind, either sung or played, has always tended to be

modal. That is to say, a few notes are selected from a scale and used at
random or through repetition, to create a desired effect. This is especially
so in western music where the diatonic scales we are used to, tend to be
too weighted down with notes, (twelve if we consider the sharps and flats).

Simple, memorable tunes can be found by taking just a few of these notes.
If you think of the start of Three Blind Mice, you’ll see what I mean. This
tune comprises of a basic modal phrase using the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
elements of the scale, and soon becomes familiar when repeated a few

Take five
The pentatonic scale is a way of using this modal system and has become
the most popular. So, what is a pentatonic scale? As the name suggests it
is five of something, that is, five notes selected from the diatonic scale. The
five notes are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd , 5th, and 6th. In the “Pentatonic To The
Blues” course (available at, we see
how these five notes have translated into the blues, as we work through the
various examples, but at this point it is worth mentioning a few points in
connection with the birth of the blues.
Simple folk songs that formed the basis of the many work songs and later
the blues, had melodies derived from the pentatonic scale. The pentatonic
scale is not unique to western musical tradition. Similar scales exist in parts
of Africa, and it is fair to assume they would have arrived with the slaves
well before the birth of the blues. These pentatonic notes were somehow
stressed into what we call blue notes.

Because of the attitudes and indifference to the birth of the Afro-American

culture, it was many years before anyone cared to study the development of
the blues note.

Here are a few theories on how the blues note actually came about:

1. The blues note developed because slaves were too exhausted to sing
the simple pentatonic phrases of the work songs in complete tune.

2. Certain notes changed due to cultural differences and natural


3. The blues note was just a minor or sad feel, and was bound to happen
due to appalling conditions.

4. The African pentatonic scales, already consisted of these blues notes

and they just became integrated into the work songs.

The last point is probably the most likely origin of the blue note.
Musicologists have shown, that in certain African tribes, the pentatonic
scale is used to sing simple work songs, but differing to the European
pentatonic by the lowering of the 3rd and 5th notes of the scale. The sound
would have been eerie when mixed with the work songs and hollers of the
deep south. It was not necessarily associated with the emotion of the blues
as we know it, and could mean happy as well as sad.

Whatever happened, the sound became embedded in the unique Afro-

American culture, and along with the many other social and economic
factors, gave birth to the blues.

This article is taken from a course entitled Pentatonic To The Blues, one of
the in-depth acoustic guitar courses you get when you subscribe to The
Acoustic Guitar Workshop.
History and Origin of
the Slide Guitar in the
RICK PAYNE Guitar Lessons Blues Guitar Lessons, Guitar History, Slide Guitar
Lessons for Beginners

There have been many claims to the origin of the slide guitar. Its haunting
sound can be heard across the whole spectrum of musical styles, through
blues, rock, country, Hawaiian and even jazz. A sound so haunting, that as
fans of Robert Johnson might believe, was born from the devil himself.
However, there are a few more ‘earthly signposts’ that musicologists have
followed, to try and pin down the birth of the slide sound.

Throughout the world musicians have created sounds by dragging objects

across stringed instruments, for either effect or as an integral part of its
sound. An example of this was discovered in W.Africa in the form of a
musical bow. Still used today, this one stringed instrument was attached to
a gourd resonator and held to the abdomen, while the player plucked the
string and used a bone or metal to vary the pitch.

Investigators into the popular form of slide playing associated with the
blues, determined that this was probably why a more contemporary version
of the bow called the Jitterbug came to be used by the Negro musicians
around the southern states of America at the turn of the century. With the
influx of slaves, years before, came a rich culture of music, and although
the slaves were bereft of possessions, a musical bow would be a simple
instrument to make. The Jitterbug, like the bow, had one string, but this time
simply attached to the floor or side of a shack. When plucked, an object
would be dragged along the string to accompany simple songs. The sound,
which could wail and moan like the human voice, became an ideal backing
to the early blues and perhaps forerunner to the guitar’s role in the slide
But why the guitar?
In the early part of the 20th century, the guitar was becoming increasingly
popular, as a cheaper alternative to the piano. Along with the banjo, it was
more portable and could be ordered by catalog in the many rural
backwaters. It is a safe bet to say, that knives, bones and glass, would have
been used on the guitar as an extension to the Jitterbug. The guitar became
more widely used with the slide, after a young Hawaiian guitarist called
Joseph Kekeku made a recording using this style. It was a flashy, eerie kind
of tune, that became popular in the U.S, and gave the already established
Negro style more impetus.

The Hawaiian influence on slide playing cannot be overlooked. The speed

at which the music spread into the American culture at the turn of the
century was evident in the increased production of guitars and lap steels.
All the main makers were turning them out: National, Rickenbacker and
Gibson. In fact, the Hawaiian style lap steel, far out sold Spanish style
guitars. Since the early Kekeku recordings, the use of the slide began to
seep into all styles of music, from the early blues, right into the mountain
Hillbilly music of early folk and country.

The Hawaiians have always laid claim to the invention of the slide guitar,
but it is fairer to say, that it was a development rather than an invention.
Anyway, the young J.K could easily have got the idea by listening to an
American Negro sailor, whose ship had docked in Honolulu!

Whatever the worldly origins of the slide guitar, this form of playing is best
known for it’s partnership with the blues. The slide playing of Robert
Johnson, Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, to name a few, has reached
almost classical status. It is a style that has captivated, amazed and baffled
guitarists of all kinds, and to my mind has become the most enchanting.

About the author:

Changing Bad Habits

JAMIE ANDREAS Guitar Lessons Practice Tips for Guitar
I want to address an issue that seems to keep coming up for people who
are familiar with my work, and beginning to use my methods. People are
reading my essays, and it seems a new awareness is beginning to dawn for
them, which is good, that’s the whole point. But for many people, it is a very
disconcerting experience. I have gotten letters from people who have read
some things I have written, and become afraid to practice! They are so
aware of, and on their guard against, excess muscle tension, and the
devastating effects for the developing player, they are afraid to touch a

They start to feel like that song by Al Yankovich, Everything You Know Is
Wrong. They realize that even though they may have been playing for 25
years, there are certain really fundamental things they have never known,
and if they did know them from the beginning, everything would have gone
differently for them in their growth as guitarists.
Well, that IS the truth. That is the message I am always trying to get across.
I am always trying to convey to people that if you have tried to learn the
guitar and failed, it is not you, it is the approach to it all that is at fault. If you
are stuck at a certain level of development, it is not you, it is your approach
that is keeping you there. Change the approach, and you will create
different results. I know this is a fact, because I do it every day, for myself,
and for others.

Knowing the fact that the approach you use to learn the guitar is THE key-
determining factor in your success or failure to actually learn, these three
conclusions follow:

1. Playing the guitar well is NOT reserved for just some special people. It is
available and possible for everyone.

2. You are never too old to learn to play the guitar well. 40, 50, 60, 70, 80,
you are still young in guitar playing years. In fact, as soon as you touch
the guitar in the right spirit, you will begin to become younger.

3. You can undo bad habits you have learned along the way. You can
begin the process of undoing bad habits right away, when you begin to
acquire the correct understandings, and use the approaches based on

So, even though it is a shock to find out that you have had a bad or
insufficient approach for years, you must get over that shock right away. In
fact, get used to it, it’s only the beginning! Get used to feeling like an idiot,
get used to feeling like a beginner. Staying with that feeling positions you in
the best possible way for being able to see what YOUR obstacles to growth
really are. As soon as you think you are “complete” in some way as a
guitarist, you will be unable to see your own weak spots.

Now that we have the proper attitude in focus, let’s talk about how to go
about “managing” the process of changing bad playing habits. How do we
actually conduct ourselves, and our practicing and playing? As I have said,
some people become paralyzed, afraid to play, afraid of undoing work done
in practice sessions by what they do when they play. And for those who
play professionally, it is of course, absolutely necessary that they continue
to play, even if they are doing “remedial” work on their technique.

People ask, “should I stop playing everything I am used to playing, until I

get rid of all my bad habits”? Well, if you have a lot more discipline than I
have, go ahead and do that! If you can stand not making music for months,
go ahead, but I don’t recommend it.

An extreme example of this would be to entirely stop playing any of our

usual music, where all the bad habits show themselves, and buckle down to
things like the Foundation Exercises in my book, or the ones I have written
about in my essays. You could work on those for months and months until
you felt you had overcome your bad habits, and then go back to playing
music. I’d have to love self-punishment a whole lot more than I do (which is
not at all!) to take that route. I need fun and enjoyment in my life on a daily
basis, so I can’t go with that one!

Take the Middle Path

I prefer to be wise like the Buddha, and take the Middle Path. This is the
one I have chosen, and I will describe it for you.

First, if you are using my book, begin to do all the Foundation Exercises,
because they will start to undo the foundation of ALL your bad habits. Do
them every day for perhaps ten minutes. If you are not using my book, get
all you can from my essays, and apply those approaches, experiment with
them, and elaborate upon them, and adapt them to new situations.

Second, after coming to an awareness of the existence of a “bad habit”,

develop an understanding of HOW it got there. What WEREN’T you doing
that allowed that situation to develop. Of course, it always reduces down to
something you weren’t aware of that you should have been paying attention
to, been more INTENSE about during your practice.

Third, absolutely spend a good amount of time in practicing REVERSING

that habit. Practice in a new way, where you make sure you DO what you
weren’t doing before. Analyze the essence of that bad habit, extract it from
it’s musical context, and perhaps make up “auxiliary exercises” based on
the essence of it. Use all the practice techniques that I teach to effectively
begin this process of reversal.

Fourth, make sure the reversal of the habit is actually beginning to take
place. This means we make sure that our practice is effective. If it’s not, go
back to steps One and Two and Three!

Fifth, take up one of your usual pieces of music where that habit has been
showing itself by producing UNWANTED RESULTS, and we begin to
practice IT in the same careful way that you did the exercises you were
using to change the essence of the bad habit.

As weeks and months go by, your old “bad habit” will begin to weaken, it
will change. It will be replaced by the new finger action you are training into
the fingers. The important point to realize is that the new habit WILL take
over, if you are doing the proper proportion of CORRECT PRACTICE on
the bad habit. Merely playing the music where the bad habit displays itself
will not disturb the changes you are building into the fingers by your
powerful, correct practice. As time goes by, the new habit will begin to show
itself IN your playing, and become stronger and stronger.

For instance, the process may go like this:

I notice I have trouble with a fast scale passage in a piece I am playing.

I notice a particular note starts disappearing when I reach a certain speed.

The note is being missed.

I notice the finger responsible for playing that note is the third finger. It is not
getting to the note because it is going up in the air in reaction to the second
finger being used right before it in that particular scale passage. In other
words, it is tensing in reaction to the movement of it’s neighboring finger,
and I have not been paying attention to it. I realize this is a bad habit that
pervades my playing, a third finger that tenses up in reaction to the use of
the second finger.

Now I know I have to work on something very fundamental. I have to work

on the behavior of my third finger, and change the way it reacts to it’s
neighbor being used, the second finger. If I can get down to the matter with
that degree of specificity, that degree of clarity and focus, I am in a position
to cause major Vertical Growth. If I can change the way that finger is
behaving in that situation, I will see many playing problems I am having in
other pieces of music begin to “melt”, and eventually disappear.

I must find a way of practicing that movement that DOES NOT ALLOW the
bad action to occur. Principled Players know that means using Posing, No
Tempo Practice, and the Basic Practice Approach, all done with the proper
intense focus.

Here is a simpler scenario for beginning players. Perhaps you suffer from
the common complaint of not being able to change chords smoothly so you
can sing that old favorite of yours without feeling like a new driver learning
to drive a stick shift (go, stall, go, stall, etc.)

Well, that is very simple. You are simply suffering from shoulder tension
while making the moves (also, tension in the muscles of the upper back and
chest, they all move the arm). Because of this, you must address the
fundamental aspects mentioned before. You cannot control your fingers, or
even train them, because control is being choked off higher up, in the larger

Now, the challenge will be to be able to use the practice approaches that
CAN actually change something like that. Users of The Principlesknow that
this means Posing, and No Tempo practice, and the use of The Basic
Practice Approach. Again, unfortunately, too often I meet readers of my
book who are NOT really using these practice approaches. They bought the
tool, but they don’t use it! Those that do, see the results.
Copyright Jamie Andreas, Guitar Principles. Don’t miss the article Changing
Bad Habits (Part 2).

Singing In A New Year

DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge, Singing and
Playing Guitar

“Everyone is musical,” they said. “Music is a part of our earthly assignment.

If you don’t sing because you don’t think you can sing, that does not
diminish the singer within you. You simply do not honor your talent.”
– from the book Mutant Message from Forever by Marlo Morgan
Some recent questions via both email and the Guitar Forums (IMPORTANT
ASIDE: please take the time to check out the new Forum pages!!! Paul has
(yet again) done a great job of reformatting the Forum into various pertinent
topics of discussion. Of course, it’s all for naught unless we take advantage
of it!) were probably steering me to this particular topic, but I think what
really iced it was a discussion I had a few weeks ago with one of my
We’d been talking about setting out some goals for the upcoming year (and
yes, I try to do that with my students). He expressed a real interest in
working out arrangements – meaning that he wanted to come up with new
and interesting ways to use the guitar sort of like a piano, more as an
accompaniment for his voice than strictly as a rhythm instrument. He does
have a good voice, by the way. That always helps.

I don’t. Oh, it’s not a terrible voice by any means. I can hold a tune. But, as
I’ve said before (and as you’ll be able to judge for yourself if A-J ever gets
my tapes online!), it has been best described as “an acquired taste.” I can
live with that.

But one thing that my student was interested in pointing out was that I have
tailored my playing to work with my voice, often using the guitar to almost
disguise its shortcomings and also to strengthen it in places.You can, in
effect, learn to arrange your playing in order to help your singing.

Today we’ll examine this technique as well as take on those always scary
“playing and singing at the same time” jitters. What I hope to do is to help
each of you who feels ill at ease about your singing find a starting point, a
place where you can be comfortable and learn to be honest about what you
can and can’t do. Singing requires, in many respects, the same sort of
attitude we bring to the guitar. The more realistic we are in our approach,
the better our chances of being happy with our performances. Not everyone
has a great voice, but just about everyone has the ability to develop a
passable one.

And, before I forget…

These files are the author’s own work and represent his interpretation of
these songs. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or

Walking And Chewing

Many people starting out are, frankly, so freaked at trying to remember
everything they can about playing that they don’t believe it’s possible to sing
and play the guitar at the same time. It can be daunting.

And then there’s that little matter of rhythm…

Needless to say (and why does it always seem needless to say, “needless
to say?”), there are a lot of ways to tackle learning to sing and strum at the
same time. Some people concentrate on the strumming rhythm and let the
singing fall where it may, others concentrate on the singing and hope that
the guitar falls close enough into line so as not to be a distraction. Both of
these ways, by the way, could be taken as stylistic quirks.

But if you want to do your best at both, you’re going to have to work at it.
And, as always, it’s easiest to start out as simply as possible and gradually
take on more and more complex patterns as your skills improve. I find that
the earlier and the easier you begin concentrating on this the better.

Some of you may, in fact, find this ridiculously easy. That’s okay. Let’s pick
a simple song with a very simple melody, preferably something in straight
quarter notes, half notes and whole notes. The idea is that we are going to
strum the rhythm of the melody so that there will be no difference between
the rhythm we are strumming and the rhythm of the melody line. This is
probably the easiest example of this I know:
As always, start out as slowly as you have to in order to keep a steady
rhythm (yes, you might want to use a metronome to check). Since this is
fairly easy, though, you’ll probably be ready to take the next step relatively
quickly. This is where you start “filling in” the missing beats. First try using a
strumming pattern of steady eighth notes and then you might want to vary
things a little bit:
Another beginning step is to take a song with a melody you have absolutely
down pat (and one where the melody line contains rhythms markedly
different than what you’d strum) and, essentially, do the opposite of what
we were just doing. Strum a steady beat of quarter notes (just on the first,
second and fourth beats if it’s a fast song) while you sing. Even though
these songs have just gone out of season, they are good ones to work with,
again because you can do the melody in your sleep.
Again, and I know that I am really beating this into the ground here, these
may seem like incredibly easy examples, but that is precisely the point. If
this is not something that comes naturally to you (and it doesn’t for a lot of
people), and if it something that you want to develop, then you have to start
out as simply as possible. Otherwise you are in for a world of frustration. It
is hardly worth it.

Clues And Cues

The guitarist as singer/songwriter is a powerful image, one that transcends
cultures as well as history. We think of wandering minstrels spellbinding the
gathered crowds as they pass on their tales of love, of loss and redemption,
of valor of epic proportion.

But, truth be told, few of our guitar heroes, male or female, are phenomenal
singers. They do, however, manage to intelligently write and arrange music
in accordance to the various strengths and nuances of their particular
voices. And so can you.
Right off the bat, though, you have to resolve to be up front and honest with
yourself. This cuts both ways – you have to accept and live within your
limitations and you have to learn to appreciate the good things (and yes,
everyone has some!) about your given voice.

And this might be a good time to point out something that might not be
obvious – if possible, you should record yourself singing something. It can
be on a cheap cassette deck or even the message tape on your answering
machine! The reason for this is very simple – you should know what you
actually sound like, not what you think you sound like. When we first hear
our own voices, it tends to be something of a shock. That is because even
though we hear ourselves all the time, what we hear is not what the outside
world is hearing. And if you think there is a discrepancy in your speaking
voice, wait ’til you hear yourself singing!

Once you’ve gotten used to (or gotten over!) what you sound like, then you
should try to figure a few other things out. And yes, again, making use of a
recorder of some sort would be a good idea. First, you need to figure out
the “range” of your voice. A “range” is exactly what you probably think it is –
the various notes you are capable of singing from the lowest note to the
highest. And we’re talking about singing comfortably, about hitting notes
cleanly and accurately, not about the notes that you can get by scrunching
yourself all up in your best Joe Cocker impression. Most people have
ranges from one to two octaves, usually one solid octave (say C to C) and a
few notes on either side.

Having found your range, you should take the additional step of exploring
the various qualities of your voice within that range. Is it stronger on the
higher notes or the lower ones? Perhaps “stronger” is the wrong word
because some people’s voices take on a, I don’t know, let’s call it a “quality”
at certain points of their range. It’s this “quality” that gives some singers a
distinctive trademark.

Knowing where your range is and where your voice is strongest also gives
you the ability to arrange a song accordingly. I have a higher (but not as
high as I think) range than a lot of the singers I admire and I find myself
often having to play their songs with my capo on the second or third fret of
my guitar in order to accommodate my voice.

But one of the most useful things you can do to help yourself out is to
arrange your playing to give yourself musical cues at various points of a
song. Usually this means no more than picking out a note here and there in
order to help your maintain your tone. This is especially beneficial either
during songs where you want the melodies to be very precise or if you are
uncertain of your ability to sing the intervals between the notes with any
semblance of finesse. Let’s go back to Twinkle, Twinkle to see this in

I will admit that this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is simply to prove a

point. When you get good at this you can “hide” your cues within your
strumming. You’ll also note that you have to know where your notes are on
the fret board in order to do this; you also need to know various chord
voicings and when not to play all six strings at once. Yes, I know that this is
a sneaky way to get you to realise that there’s something to learning a bit of
theory after all…
Here I’ve charted out the first line of Neil Young’s Like A Hurricane, which is
again a simple way to illustrate how this technique can provide you with
enough notes (in this case the entire melody line) to sing with more
confidence. Later this spring, when we go into arrangements in a little more
depth, we’ll see some more subtle ways of using this method of leaving
yourself melodic clues.

Of course, having gone through all of this, let’s not overlook the obvious: if
you ever have the chance to take voice lessons of any kind, whether it be a
private tutor or some words of advice from the leader of your church choir
or school’s chorus. Or any of your friends that seriously studies singing.
Never, ever, pass up the opportunity to learn from someone who has
And even more obvious, this is something that has to be worked on.
Practice and patience are key, but so, as I’ve said, is honesty. Not everyone
has a great (or even a good) voice, but as long as you have a realistic idea
of what you can and can’t do, you should be able to get by. More
importantly, you’ll be able to provide smart accompaniment with which to
accommodate your singing.

As we’ve said on numerous occasions, you should never feel as though you
have to be a clone of each and every song you do. You should feel free to
take some liberties with the timing of a song’s melody, especially if it is
giving you waaay too hard of a time. But do remember, someone else
created this and when ever you perform another person’s song you should
try to do it in honor of having the opportunity to share in what it means to
you. Yes, I’m certain that that sounds absolutely corny, but it is nonetheless
true. Do the best with what you can. Even if it means simply joining in on
the chorus, adding one single line of harmony or even doing no more then
chiming in on the “ooo ooo’s” during “Sympathy For The Devil,” give it
everything you’ve got.

When hundreds of people are singing, it’s never out of tune.

I’d especially like to thank Jimmy Hudson and the person who goes by the
name of “Picker” on the forum pages for their input concerning this week’s

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in a future column. You can
either drop off a note at any of the newly revamped Forum pages or email
me directly at
Until next week…

Before You Accuse Me
– The Blues – Part 1:
Structure and Shuffle
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons 12 bar blues, Blues Guitar Lessons, Easy Guitar

Today we’ll be branching out into three chord songs in a big way. We’ll do
this by learning a standard blues song, Before You Accuse Me, written by
E. McDaniel, known to the world as Bo Diddley. But we’re also going to be
examining the theory behind what is known as “Twelve Bar Blues” so, in
essence, you will be able to play almost any blues song (in any key) when
we’re finished with these next few lessons. That sounds promising, no? So,
even though I can hear you groaning, “Man, he can’t even write a “Song For
Beginner” in one part…” please take heart. In the course of three (relatively)
short and painless lessons, you will have, literally, dozens of songs at your
disposal, not to mention some good technique and a good start on leads
and fills. I promise to not even mention the old saying about teaching
someone to fish…
 The Blues – Part 2
 The Blues – Part 3
 More easy guitar songs
Once you start playing the guitar – learning the chords, figuring out how to
strum, you now, the usual things- you also start learning music theory.
“Learning” is perhaps not the right word. The theory is there all around you,
but whether or not you decide to explore it and examine it and do anything
with it tends to be a personal matter. For the most part, many guitarists do
know theory, they simply do not know how to explain what they know. And
yes, I guess that’s just a polite way of saying that they don’t know that they
know it!

So let me say that this might be a good time for us to brush up on some
basic music theory. If you haven’t already (or recently) done so, let me
suggest that you read an old article or two – either Theory Without Tears or
both The Musical Genome Project and The Power of Threebefore we start
this lesson, if for no other reason than to get us all on the same page
concerning terms.

Building The Blues

All set? Okay, believe it or not, we now have to learn a few more basic
terms, specifically the bar (not to be confused with a barre chord)
or measure.
As I’m sure you’re all aware of, music is counted of in terms of beats. In
order to (a) create a universally understood language and (b) make it much
easier to write out, musical notation and TAB, too, are written in such a way
to divide the music into bars or measures. These are indicated by a vertical
line running through the staff (in notation) or TAB lines.

Most people are probably familiar with “Before You Accuse Me” because
of Eric Clapton’s electrifying renditions on Journeymanand Unplugged. It’s
actually a Bo Diddley song from 1957 which appeared on his first album.
Bo Diddley was born in Mississippi in 1928 and moved to Chicago with his
family as a child. He started out as a classical violinist, and after seeing
John Lee Hooker live in the early fifties was inspired to take up guitar as his
main instrument. His first single in 1955 was a two-sided hit, with “Bo
Diddley” on the A-side and “I’m A Man” on the B-side. His unconventional
alchemy of blues, R&B and rock n’ roll set the template for major acts that
followed; Buddy Holly, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and The Yardbirds
are among his most passionate disciples.

The vast majority of music that we know is written in terms of four beats per
measure. Yes, this is not an absolute, but in the case of the blues, you can
pretty much count on it (no pun intended).

Some of you may also recall from other articles that I written that many
songs tend to be written in terms of “phrases,” a phrase either being a line
of lyric or a chord progression. Standard blues songs are written in three
phrases of four measures each, which is what we call, appropriately
enough, “twelve bar blues.” And you may not know it, but more than 80% of
the blues falls into this category. And most of the rest are simple variations.
And you also may not know it, but twelve bar blues follows a distinctive
pattern. Or falls into one of two patterns, I should say. We’re going to start
out thinking in pure theory terms and then carry that theory into specific

Pick a key, any major key. Your standard blues song will consist of only
three chords in that particualr key: the “I” (which ever key you picked), the
IV and the V. Let’s look at the two typical twelve bar blues patterns:
Take a minute and go over this. Let’s just look at the first pattern. You strum
whatever chord you’re starting with (this is almost without fail the “key” in
which you’re playing) and continue that for four measures (four separate
counts of four). Then comes the IV chord, whatever that may be, for two
measures, followed by two more measures of I. Then you have one
measure each of V and IV and wind the whole thing up with two final
measures of I. Nothing to it, right?

This is one of the many reasons why you can never scoff about knowing a
little bit of theory. And is this case, a little theory goes an awfully long way.
Think of all the chords that you know and try to think about how they apply
to one another. If it helps, write yourself out a little chart like this (and I trust
you’re capable of filling in the keys like Eb or F# by on your own…):

Now, you’re pretty much all set! If someone say’s “Let’s play Pride and
Joy in E, using the first blues pattern, well, you wouldn’t even need me to
write it out for you! But I will, just this once (and only the first verse). And, as
an added bonus, I will add the measure count in parentheses:

Learning To Shuffle
Learning any blues song also provides you a chance to work on two
important facets of playing – timing and what I call finesse. By finesse, I
mean the ability to play just certain strings on your guitar and not bang
away at all six strings at once (and if you’d like to read more about this,
check out last fall’s column Just Because You Have Six Strings…).
The blues rhythm is usually referred to as a shuffle. To understand exactly
how it’s done, you should familiarize yourself somewhat with timing. If you
read music at all, I’m certain that you’re acquainted with the following

Blues is more often than not played in 4 / 4 timing, which is when every
measure (or bar) has four beats and each quarter note is one beat. The
blues shuffle rhythm is based on triplets, but the middle note of each set is
left out, leaving you with the following pattern:

Often times if you are reading this in a book, the author will write it out as a
pair of eighth notes and have a remark somewhere on the page that a pair
of eighth notes equals one of these triplet sets we’ve just spelled out
(it is much easier than writing it out over and over (and over and over)
Okay, that’s the rhythm, let’s get down to the actual notes themselves.
Because we are just starting out, we are going to stick with the most basic
shuffle for the time being. Next two times out we’ll look at a few of the more
complicated variations. One thing at a time, okay?

Shuffling consists of playing a pattern of two pairs of simultaneous notes.

The lower note is always the root (or I) of the chord you are playing. The
higher note alternates between the V and VI of the chord. So, for example,
if we were doing a blues shuffle on an E or an A chord, it would sound like

Audio Player


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Download MP3
Nowhere near as complicated as you might have thought it would be, is it?
Alright, then, let’s move on to our feature presentation. First off, let me
mention that Before You Accuse Me is a twelve bar blues (big surprise
there), but this follows the second chord pattern – the one where the
second measure is the IV of the progression. Then let me also mention that
while most people (even Eric Clapton on his Unplugged CD) play this in E, I
play it in A. Why? Well, for starters, it’s not in my vocal range when done in
E. This is one good reason to know your vocal abilities, as we discuss in
this week’s guitar column (Singing In A New Year). The second reason is a
bit more crafty and we will delve more into that next time out. So without
further ado, let’s shuffle off:
Audio Player


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Download MP3
As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,
concerns or even a song, riff or lead you’d like to see covered in a future
“Songs For Beginners” article. You can either drop off a note at the Guitar
Forums or email me directly at
Until next week…


Putting Things
Together –
Workshop 1
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge, Music Theory for
Guitar, Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

So, how often has this happened to you? You’ve come up with a good
chord progression and you’re all set to write a terrific song (or a lead for a
song) but, for whatever reason, you’re just stuck. You can’t even begin to
find a place to start.
Or, conversely, you’ve got a melody but you’re unhappy with the chords
you’ve got. Not that they are necessarily bad, you’d just like to jazz it up a
bit. Do something a little different.
Seriously, I cannot tell you how many emails or forum discussion threads I
have seen that pretty much boil down to one of these two scenarios. And, of
course, it’s not a subject that can be answered with a simple “just do this.”
Well, it can, but you should always be highly suspicious of anyone who
gives you such an answer. Even if it’s me…

So, over the next few months (every two to three weeks), we’re going to be
examining how melodies and chords work together. And when I say
“melodies,” I mean “leads” as well. After all, very often a lead is simply the
guitar playing a melody of sorts. I’ve called these columns “workbooks”
because not only will we look at specific examples from all kinds of songs,
we’ll have exercises to try out original ideas as well. In fact, your input will
pretty much determine whether or not we should make this a more or less
permanent feature, much as the Easy Songs For Beginners page has
Two things before we start: First, you might want to read (or reread) my
earlier column Christmas in June, which gives a very basic introduction to
melody. Second (like you have to guess):
These files are the author’s own work and represent his interpretation of
these songs. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or

Okay, three things. Please let me once again explain that when we discuss
things in terms of music theory, we primarily deal with the “rule” rather than
the “exception.” You will find that what we discover will cover a lot of ground
and help to make a lot of sense out of why certain chord progressions or
shapes of melodies “work,” why they make sense to our ears. But do
remember that there will always be exceptions. Think of this as a guide
rather than as an authority.

Chickens And Eggs

As you might expect, especially as A-J or I have probably said so a few
hundred times, different people approach music from different angles. And
perhaps this is nowhere more evident than in songwriting.

I think it’s safe to say that, when writing a song, many people (myself
included) first come up with a chord progression and then proceed to work
from there. Or as Paul Simon once said, “I pick a key and start to play.” And
actually, we’re going to start out even more simply than that; we’re going to
just strum a single chord. Pick a chord, any one chord. I don’t care what it
is. Have you got it? Good. Now choose a tempo and strum your chord.

And now, while strumming your chord, close your eyes and sing.

“Sing what?” you ask (and you’re probably also thinking, “Oh God!
There was some devious reason for him to discuss singing and playing last
week! (Singing In A New Year) We should have known…”). Doesn’t matter
at this point. “La, la ,la” is perfectly fine. Come up with a melodic phrase,
nothing more than two to four measures long, depending on your tempo of
choice. The other important thing is to give your melody a bit of movement.
Don’t just hang onto the same note for eternity. The first chord I picked was
A minor. Here’s what I’ve just come up with (and I’ve included the single
note TAB in case you need it):

As you can see (and hear), this melody simply dances around the notes of
an A minor chord (A, C, and E) with a few other notes (B, G and D) thrown
in for good measure. One of the reasons I included a TAB for this is so that
some of you will make the connection that there’s not much difference
between my melody and a slightly jazzed up Am picking pattern.
Sometimes this is all it takes.

You can construct a melody with a relatively small range of notes, like this:
All this melodic phrase consists of is the upper voice of a blues/rock shuffle
– 5, 6 and (flatted) 7 of the C major chord (and if you’re not sure what a
shuffle is, then please check out the either Dan Lasley’s latest article
(Playing Along) or the latest Easy Songs For Beginners piece, Before You
Accuse Me) . That’s hardly a stretch for anyone’s voice.
If you’re more daring, try giving yourself a melody with a bit more of a
range. Take a look at this phrase from McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby:

An important thing to glean from these last two examples is that, when it
comes to melodies, you are never restricted to using only the notes in your
given key. The Bb in the Beach Boys’ Do It Again as well as the C#
in Eleanor Rigby are not part of the scales in their key signatures, but fit in
just fine with the melody line. In fact, try it yourself using a regular B or C in
the respective songs and see just how weird it sounds. It’s not that you
can’t use the B or C, (both are in fact used in each song in question), it’s
just that in this particular phrase, it sounds out of place.

Time And Place

Once you’ve tried single chord melody phrases for a while, the next logical
step is to attempt to construct a melody (or better yet just a single phrase)
over a chord progression. As always, start out fairly simply and gradually
work your way up to more complex patterns. In regards to the chord
progression, that is. Feel free to make your melodic phrase as simple or
complex as your heart desires.

Consider that we already know that many, many, many, many songs are
comprised of I, IV and V, in some order. Here are some examples of some
phrases using similar, and occasionally identical, progressions:
You see that even though each pair of songs use the same chord
progressions (although I have taken liberty in two places with the original
key – Peter Pumpkinhead, for instance, I believe is in the key of A, but the
progression is still I, IV) the melodies are markedly different. Some use long
drawn-out notes; others jump all over the place and some very neatly rise
and fall from one point to the next. This is why, even though there are a
limited number of chord progressions, there can be so many different
songs. Different people sing in different styles and have different ranges
and vocal nuances and quite often songs will refect just that.
But don’t just take my word for it – let’s put it to the test. I’ve complied some
chord progressions that are (and have been) fairly commonly used in
songwriting. I’ve also taken the liberty to put them in certain guitar-friendly
keys. Your task, should you decide to be so bold, is to come up with a
melodic phrase (or two or three) for each one. Your own phrase. If you
come up with a copy of a song you know, then you have to throw it back
into the waters of your mind and start fishing all over again. If you’re happy
with your results, then please by all means, send me a copy. If you don’t
have a notation software, then simply write it out:

Progresion 1:
1st measure: G (quarter note), quarter rest, B (half note)
2nd measure: C (three eighth notes),
I will write you to make certain I’ve got it right. Promise. Okay, here they
Again, please feel free to try out some of these. You will find it to be a good
step towards developing your songwriting skills. And, believe it or not, your
playing as well. You can choose whether or not to send them to me. In two
or three weeks, we’ll do another “workshop,” this time starting with the
melody and working out a progression and I’ll also not only show you where
these particuar examples came from, but also share some of the melodies
that you came up with. It should be an interesting and enlightening time.
Next week we’ll talk about what Paul Simon said about “picking a key.” And
we’ll also touch upon some great sources to find and study complexly
stunning yet memorable melodies.

Once again I do need to drop a thank you to everyone who has written in
the past month or so. Owing to all the year end projects at my “real job,” I’ve
been a bit behind in both answering email and churning out these columns
(not to mention the Songs For Beginners page). Your patience has been
much appreciated and I hope that things have finally settled down for a
while at least. As always, please feel free to write in with any questions,
comments, concerns or a topic you’d like to see covered in a future column
here at Guitar Noise. You can either drop off a note at the
appropriate Guitar Forums page or email me directly at
Until next week…
Changing Bad Habits
Part 2
JAMIE ANDREAS Guitar Lessons Practice Tips for Guitar

Understanding and
Allowing the Step by Step
You must understand that your ability to effectively change bad habits is
going to depend completely upon how deeply and truly you understand the
fundamental mechanics of the process of playing the guitar, and the
process of “practicing” the guitar, meaning the actual process of how we
teach the mind and body new things. If you do not have a sufficiently deep
understanding of these things, you will not be able to change bad habits.

I hope you realize the importance of what I just said! I suggest you read it
over a few times, and think about it. I suggest you take some serious time
right now, and in the next days and weeks to size yourself up, and answer
this question “Do I feel like I have a sufficient understanding of the
mechanics of playing the guitar so that I know how to practice in a way that
will “change bad habits”, which means “solve problems” which really means
“fix bad things about my playing”.

And the reason I am saying this is because so many people write to me and
ask me the simple, basic question “how do I change this bad habit of
mine”? Or, they may be asking the question in reverse. They may ask a
question like “how can I play faster”, which is really saying “how can I get rid
of the elements of my present playing technique (a bad habit) that are
preventing me from playing as fast as other people play”, so it is really the
same question.
So my point is this: if you do not have sufficient understanding of how things
work, of what really happens when you sit down to practice, then you will
not be able to change bad habits. So if this is the case, there is no answer
to such a question. The answer to this question, for a person without the
sufficient understanding is “you can’t change that bad habit”.

Then, of course, the real answer, the necessary next step, is to go and GET
that understanding, and learn how to do the kind of practice that is based
on that understanding. THEN, we can talk.

So, the real answer to the question is ” the way you get to be able to
change bad habits is by understanding how you got them in the first place”.
If you can understand that Muscle Memory put that bad habit there, while
you were busy spending hours practicing with your shoulder tense, or your
wrist and hand tensed up, then you will see that Muscle Memory will also
change, or rather, allow you to REPLACE the bad habit with a new, and
better one. If, that is, you know how to summon the mental focus necessary
to make that happen, if you know how to become aware of, and stay aware
of, what you were not aware of before.

Now understand this. It is often extremely difficult for me to get results from
a person sitting in front of me, to get them to REALLY have this mental
intensity, pay that much attention, and keep doing that in their daily practice
at home. It can be extremely difficult to get someone to REALLY be aware
of what they are actually doing when they play, even what they actually
sound like! And I have no hope of getting results with someone if I cannot
move them to that level of intensity.

That is why I am always so happy when someone writes and tells me of

progress they are making using my methods. It proves to me that people
CAN be moved to that intensity long-distance, as it were.

But I am going through all this to really drive a point home to all the people
with one of the “how can I change bad habits” type questions. You can’t,
unless the level of your understanding of all aspects of the process is
sufficiently deep! So make sure it is, and continue to deepen it. The way to
do that is to educate yourself, by reading my writings, and any other
sources you discover that are out there, and also to constantly THINK for
yourself, experiment, observe, draw conclusions, and re-experiment in your
It just happens ( the devil
made me do it) !!!
There is a statement that students will often exclaim, and it is a big tip-off
that they DO NOT HAVE the sufficiently deep understanding that I am
referring to. That statement is, when referring to some bad behavior a finger
may be exhibiting, “I can’t help it, it just happens by itself”.

This statement shows that the person is the unfortunate victim of the
dynamics of the practice process, such as Muscle Memory, instead of being
the master of those dynamics, so that Muscle Memory is put to work for us,
instead of against us. The person who has the necessary understanding
MAKES the right thing happen because they can do two things: they can
summon the strong Intention and Attention (mental focus) necessary to
make the correct thing happen, and they can have the stillness of mind and
body required to do real No Tempo Practice and Posing, which will erase
old muscle memory and replace it with new, improved muscle memory.

A strong mental focus, and the stillness of mind and body I am talking
about, make your practice sufficiently deep, sufficiently powerful to change
bad habits, or in fact, acquire good ones. I call this “the bottom of your
practice”. If the bottom of your practice is not deep enough, your practice
will have no effect. Essentially, most of what I do with students is simply to
deepen the bottom of their practice for them, and try to get them to be able
to keep it that deep for themselves.

So, if you have that “it just happens” feeling, well, now you know what it
really means, and what to do about it.

Take Things In The Proper

Once you have begun to get this deep understanding, you will be able to
take certain aspects of playing the guitar in their proper order. You are not
going to address the issue of how your hands and fingers function until you
have addressed the issue of something more fundamental, like how you sit
with the instrument, and how aware you are of your body in general while
playing. If you don’t know that the way you are sitting and positioning your
arms is forcing you to tense muscles needed to play, you will always be
working with a handicap that limits your progress. Unfortunately, I have
found this to be the case MOST of the time with players.

The remedy here is to CONSTANTLY EXAMINE the fundamentals of your

playing. Your sitting, hand positions, finger action, pick action, etc. Observe,
think, analyze, experiment, repeat the process in every practice session.

Once your understanding of the mechanics of playing and practicing are

sufficiently deep to allow you to see things in the right order of importance,
and you have addressed the necessary fundamentals, begin to get specific
about the other elements of playing technique. Whatever level of player you
are, begin to get a clear focus on your weak areas, and BE SPECIFIC!

Always Set The Proper

Next Goal
Once you are able to get this specific, see into the heart of some flaw in
your technique, and are able to approach it in a fundamental and effective
manner, it is now just a matter of continuing that process, and setting one
goal after another.

When you work on a fundamental, such as the one described above, you
make it a project that may last anywhere from a month, to several months,
or even a year. You hammer at that aspect of your technique relentlessly.
You do whatever exercises you know that will help, if properly practiced.
You make up exercises that will help, if properly practiced. You use the
actual passage that gave rise to the whole “investigation”. You take note of
and measure your progress and results.

Once you see that bad habit begin to weaken, and new habits come
through in your playing, you ask yourself, “ok, what is the next worst thing
about my playing, what is the next fundamental aspect of playing that is
underlying various trouble spots in my repertoire”. Find it, and go after it.
Get and Keep the Correct
The final point I want to make in considering the subject of changing bad
habits, which is another way of saying creating Vertical Growth as players,
is the adoption and full acceptance of the CORRECT ATTITUDE of
someone desiring to achieve their full potential. And that is the attitude of
ABSOLUTE OPENNESS about yourself, about you as a guitar player, and
about the endless possibilities of things you have yet to learn. Here are the
attributes of someone who has this correct attitude:

They don’t get upset when they discover some major flaw in their playing,
they become curious and interested.

They don’t feel sorry for themselves when they begin to clearly see the
source of some problem in playing, and realize that it could have been
avoided if someone pointed it out, or they had noticed it themselves (that
tensed up shoulder they have been playing with for years). They are
thankful that they finally see it, and resolve to set about integrating the new
awareness into all their playing, right away. They are in fact, happy, every
time they begin to become aware of how wrong they have been about some
aspect of their playing and practicing approach.

Whenever I have one of my “wow, what an idiot I’ve been” moments, I am

always very happy. Now I know I am on the verge of becoming an even
better player than I am now. How could that upset me.

And this is something all of you can say at such times. Make sure you do.
Make sure you keep the feeling of excitement and gratitude if you read
something, by me or someone else, and it makes you realize that you have
been missing something in your understanding and approach to the guitar.
Do not get whinny and negative because something has come along to
upset the nice opinion you have managed to create and maintain about
yourself as a guitarist!

And make sure you maintain that attitude of excitement, discovery and
gratitude every day on your path of development as a guitarist, musician
and artist. It is an endless journey, and those who have gone farthest know
that best.
Copyright Jamie Andreas, Guitar Principles. Don’t miss the article Changing
Bad Habits (Part 1).

The Other Side

LAURA LASLEY Guitar Lessons The Other Side

Have you ever noticed that most of the people playing and talking about
playing guitar are guys? Most of the authors (ok, all of the other authors) on
this website are guys. Many of the artists talked about are guys. Not to say
that guys aren’t great guitar players, writers and composers. But what about
the Other Side?

So I thought I’d start the kick off for all you gals (what is the PC term
anyway? Girls, women, femmes?) out there.

For any female out there who’s considered playing, writing or performing:
Just Do It. That old Nike ad works for much more than sports. There is a
fascination with guitar playing that goes beyond gender. My own experience
has long been one of interest and enchantment, but I never thought I could
play one of those lovely instruments until many years after I’d been in and
around bands.

I grew up in a household where all you heard was either easy listening or
classical. We never had the radio on (thereby missing out on some great
stuff in the 60’s) and I don’t think we had much more than a tiny turntable
until I went to college. I discovered popular music at friends houses (I
confess, I liked the Carpenters. And Carole King.)
It was in college that I discovered Rock. It helped that my boyfriend was a
bass player, and many of his friends played. I got recruited to sing, engineer
and wrap cable when necessary. My 15 years of classical piano did
absolutely nothing to teach me chord theory. Hanging around these guys, I
started to pick up phrases like: “this one’s just a 1-4-5”, “what key is it in?”,
and “let’s do this one reggae”. It’s like learning football, or other
“exclusively” guy sports. If you hang around something long enough and
absorb the lingo, suddenly you understand.

For years though, I settled into being the vocalist. I even took some voice
lessons from a very funny teacher who assigned me a workbook of 24
Italian arias, which he nicknamed “Two Dozen Dago Ditties”. I was diligent
for a few months, but discovered that good sound engineering and a
monitor that works can solve a lot of problems. I found that I had a decent
voice, and more importantly, I love to sing. Anything and everything. I found
inspiration in all kinds of music, including some originals by the prolific
David Hodge (see his guitar columns for continued inspiration). I even
played some of it on keyboards (hey, all that $$ learning to read music
shouldn’t go to waste). Never in a zillion years did I think I could play that
music, like, you know, on a guitar…
Of course, college and medical school years do end and real life jobs took
over. No more free hours to noodle alone or jam with a band. Kids followed,
more job stress, and before you know it, those dreams of playing guitar are
on the back burner. I still loved music; I went to concerts, bought CD’s and
sang loudly in the car, but with no real thought of playing it myself.

Then one day, my husband (the aforementioned boyfriend who plays bass)
bought me a guitar. He took me to a great music store near where we lived,
and said, pick out whatever you like. I decided to start with an acoustic, as
I’d heard that if you mastered that, electric is a piece of cake. I found the
most expensive guitar in the “starter’s” room, a lovely burgundy red 6-string
Guild. It sounded good just strumming it without making a chord. I figured it
would look good and make me sound good, even if all I did was strum an E
over and over again. I took a few lessons, was fascinated by the sounds
that came out of the guitar and vowed to play forever. You know the story.
Reality was that between job, kids, exercise, life etc. I never found time to
practice. The Guild stayed in its case.

A move, a job change, and an attitude change later, I found my guitar

again. By this time, both my kids were taking music lessons. I thought that if
Mom took some lessons and practiced, it would set an example for them. I
found a wonderful guitar teacher, at the same school where my children
attended, and away we went. I fell in love with the guitar all over again. This
time, I set reasonable goals. I didn’t have to fly through licks, I just wanted
to be able to play a few chords and sing along. My teacher patiently walked
me through songs that I loved, and gradually, I’ve worked my way to
actually learning different strums and finding my own rhythm. I’ve found that
you can play and sing at the same time (Hodge wrote a wonderful column
about this – Singing In A New Year). My new toy is a red Fender
Stratocaster, a milestone birthday gift from my wondrous husband. I’ve
played in jams; first at the music school, encouraged by my teacher and
then with local friends, and then with college friends. Oh yes, that bass
player from college still plays with me when no one else can. When I’m
frustrated by the guitar (it does happen), I can always fall back on vocals.
Like everything else in life, you have to work at it, but the work can be fun.
So yes, Virginia, there are female guitar players, both casual and proficient.
A few favorite guitarists are Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt,
The Bangles, Chrissie Hynde, Nancy Wilson, Tina Weymoth (must be
more, just can’t think whom!). We range anywhere from Maria Von Trapp,
with the acoustic, sing along with the kids stuff, to serious hard rock. I’ll
admit, the jazz artists are fewer (Rory Block, anyone?), but still present.
Don’t think of guitar as a male sport; it’s for anyone with a love of music.
So pick up the guitar, any guitar, and just play.

n.b. This column is the first in a series dedicated to the female musician.
We hope to have several contributors and some interesting interviews. We
will have our own forum in the future.

Home On Your Range

– Theory/Songwriting
Workshop 2
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge, Music Theory for
Guitar, Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

“I pick a key and start playing…”

Let’s think about this for a minute. Okay, that’s long enough.

I should have said, “Let’s consider this statement from a songwriter’s point
of view.” Whether or not you realize it, you yourself may be one of your
biggest obstacles when it comes to songwriting. Think about how you go
about writing – especially if you’re like me and happen to be one of those
“let’s strum around and see what comes up” sort of folks. Well, chances are
you pick up your guitar and the first chord you play will be an E, A, C, D or
G. Unless, of course, you happen to be in a mad, sad or bad frame of mind
and then you pound out an Em or an Am.

And then you start singing, humming, whistling along and before you know
it you’ve got something that sounds pretty much like many of the things that
you’ve already written. Or something that someone else has written.
Part of this is due to habit. We invariably fall into patterns. Playing the
guitar, after all, is in a sense simply a series of patterns: chord
progressions, rhythms for strumming or even how and when we use our
fingers to pick the strings. With time, these habits become deeply ingrained.
Now add to that the fact that (most of) our voices fall into a limited range to
begin with and you may get an insight as to why it can be hard to
consistently write interesting new material. Or even come up with a lead
that doesn’t sound like it came out of the “Riffs ‘R’ Us” catalogue…

But take heart! You may not realize it, but you also have factory installed
safeguards that can aid you in keeping those creative juices flowing. All it
takes is using that marvelous brain of yours. That, and a little theory.

Today we’ll look at how you can restore some creativity to your melodies
and we’ll also look at a sadly forgotten source which should amaze you no
end. Life should always be this simple!

Finding Your Borders

In Singing In A New Year, we talked about how important it was to
realistically evaluate your vocal capabilities. This is especially true when it
comes to songwriting, or specifically, to writing melodies.
But before we get any further, let me also point out that this is also true
when you are writing something for someone else to sing. Even if you are
lucky enough to be writing for some vocalist who has a three and a half
octave range, please remember this: the best melodies (“best” meaning
“most memorable”) are ones that anyone can sing. This is how you can tell
that what you’ve written is “catchy,” when you hear someone else humming
or singing or whistling your melody.
Okay, then. Finding one’s range is truly not that difficult thing to do. Sing a
note. Any note. What note is it? Well, one way of finding out is to try to
match it to a note on your guitar. But instead of this turning into a snipe
hunt, let’s reverse our logic. Play an open D or G string and see if you can
sing that note. If you’re male, chances are likely that you can. Ladies, you
might want to try your open E (1st) string or better yet, the G on the third
fret of that string. Got it? Good (And by the way, this is much easier to do
with a keyboard if you happen to have one laying around).
Now once you have your starting note, simply go in one direction, note by
note, until you cannot accurately hit the next note. Then go in the other
direction. Most people’s ranges are within two octaves. Remember, this is
not a contest, it is an attempt to get some accurate data, so don’t “pad” your
stats. It won’t help you in the long run and for our purposes, you’ll see that it
will become an incredibly moot point. For the sake of an example, here’s
my vocal range; You will first notice that I have compared it with the notes
covered by the first four frets on the strings of my guitar. You will also see
that I have taken the liberty of giving myself some important footnotes:

A bit high for a guy, but I’ve lived with that all my life (and as much as I keep
waiting for my voice to change, I doubt very much that it’s going to happen
at the age of forty-three). You can see that if I trim out all the “in my
dreams” stuff, as well as the fringes of both sets of “can hit but not
confident,” I’m left with a pretty typical range. For the sake of clarity, I am
just going to write out those notes in the key of C major:

This is kind of funny, because, having done this, it’s easy to figure out why
I’m very comforatble with songs in the key of C (or A minor). Just about
everything is going to fall somewhere within my range. I’ve got a full octave
(from C to shining C…)(just couldn’t resist that one, sorry) plus a little
cushion on either side.

When I start a writing the melody of a song in the key of C, the chances are
very likely that I will start on a note of the C major chord, that is, either C, E,
or G. Now obviously, starting and ending on C would give my melody the
greatest sense of tonality in that key, but with my range, starting on the high
C leaves me little choice but to have a downward melody. Beginning a song
on the low C pretty much dictates that I’m going to have a rising one. E and
especially G, as you can see (again, sorry – I’m really in a punchy mood for
some reason!), give me plenty of play on both sides. Anyway you look at it,
I’ve got a fairly good amount of space to create a melody.

But I can’t write (or play) every song in the key of C, can I?

Framing And Filtering

I’m a big fan of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and no, you haven’t
been mystically transported into another article on a non-guitar related
website. Part of my enchantment with their films (and many many other
silent movies) is directly related to my fascination with music, specifically
the pop song as an art form.

You see, it is impossible not to be creative when you have no rules or

boundaries with which to contend. But when you are working within a
specific framework, whether it be a pop song or a watercolor painting or a
haiku, this is when your creativity often has to work overtime. To be able to
make something new, something unique and yours, and to make it still fit
within a specific framework, well, needless to say, this takes some doing.

Do me a favor and take a look at the two ranges that I already printed up.
First my full range and then my “C major range.” Look at what I’ve done.
I’ve actually taken one limited range and limited it even further! Is this

Not entirely. You’ve already seen in the examples we used last time, that
we are fully capable of using notes from “outside” of the given scale should
they happen to suit our progression. I could, for instance, create a chord
progression and an accompanying melody like this:

and it would work fine. And for those of you wondering where this “came
from,” I simply made it up. Just now. In this case, the chord progression
came first (because I knew I wanted to bring in as many “non C major”
factors as possible) and the progression pretty much dictated the melody
(again, the purpose of the melody was to bring in a number of notes from
outside my C major scale).

(And for those of you wondering just how to write this out, theory-wise, well,
it’s simpler than you might think: I, V of VI, VI, V of II, II, V of V, V)

But the point that I’m trying to make here is that you can constantly be
giving yourself new frameworks in which to work by simply taking your capo
and changing the key in which you’re working. Say I put my capo on the
fifth fret and then try this same piece. Even though I am playing the same
“chords,” by using the capo this progression is now in the key of F and you
can see that I dramatically altered where it fits into my range:

You can see that I’ve put this in the “red zone” of my range and the chances
are pretty good that it’s going to sound dreadful when I sing it. But I’ve really
grown to like this chord progression so I’m going to first look at my range
again, only this time I’m going to filter it for the key of F:

Can you see how radically different this is from my C range? Probably not,
since the notes are virtually the same (Bb now in stead of B being the only
change). But where in the key of C I had a full octave from root to root, I do
not have that luxury here in F. My strongest range is actually between the
fifths of this key (from C to C again). And this will effect my melody making
process in no small way.

Let’s try to come up with another melody for this particular progression. One
that I can sing. And since I still find myself in a “waltzing” mood, I’m going to
try to keep the general feel of the piece the same. You, of course can feel
free to play around with it as you see fit. Again, I want to tell you that I am
doing this on the fly, simply strumming and singing nonsense syllables and
this one is a first take as well:

Notice some of the small differences between these melodies. In the key of
C, I started out on the low C and had nowhere to go but up. Here in F
(starting on the higher C this time), I have play in both directions and my
melody has many more curves to its shape.

Now, we could go on and do yet another example, say in the key of A or Ab

where my range would be strongest between the thirds, but I’m hoping that
you have gotten the gist of this. Just because your range is limited, that in
no way limits what you might be able to do when it comes to composing a
melody. Try not to think in terms of limitations but rather in terms of focus
and framing and you will surprise yourself with what you can come up with.
This is why I sincerely try to write each successive song I do in a different
key from the last. Even if I don’t write in each of the twelve keys, I have
many more chances of variety in eight than I do with just three. There’s a lot
of territory to explore out there.

“Those Who Cannot

Remember The Past…
…are doomed to repeat it,” or something like that, no? Well, as good or as
poor a philosophy that this may be regarding world history, remembering
the past is possibly the most important thing a songwriter can do. You have
at your disposal such a vast catalogue of melodies and chord progressions
and ideas that it can be positively overwhelming at times. But strangely
enough, most people close their minds to much of this, simply because a lot
of older songs are “not their style of music.”
My father played saxophone for small groups (three to five musicians) that
played for weddings and various formal functions. Because of the age of
the people involved, I heard a lot of music that was written in the 30’s, 40’s
and 50’s. And I will still find myself humming a melody or two at the oddest
times. And what melodies they are! If you’ve never taken the time to listen
to “Deep Purple” (the song, not the group – although I like them, too) or
“Old Cape Cod” or even something that should be familiar to everyone like
“As Time Goes By,” do yourself a favor. Don’t just write off something
because it doesn’t fit the image you’re molding yourself into.

Melodies are infectious. There is a good reason that musicians use the term
“standard” to describe what is considered a classic song, regardless of what
era in which it was written. Not only is it a “standard” song to be included in
one repertoire, it also is a “standard” by which we measure quality and

So the next time you’re in an elevator or a mall or a supermarket, don’t just

roll your eyes at the music. Listen to the melody and try to understand what
it has (or doesn’t have) that makes it work.

There are a lot of songs that I don’t like. But I will be the first to tell you that
just because a song does nothing to me that does not mean it is not well-
written and perhaps likely to become a new standard.
Don’t ever let yourself get caught in a “label” game. Let me challenge you to
find something worthwhile in each and every song you hear – I don’t care if
it’s rock, metal, rap, country, pop, Native American Indian, Indian, Northern
African, salsa, blues, synthopop, and please stop me before I belabor the

Do yourself a favor – just as being a good guitarist involves listening as

much as playing, being a good songwriter also requires that you listen to as
much as you possibly can. It’s only when you open yourself up to inspiration
that you find no end to your own creative possibilities.

If you think about it, there is little that hasn’t been done songwriting-wise.
You’ve only got so many notes, so many chords. What hasn’t been said?

But the missing element will always be you. You have not been heard from.
And you have a take on things that no one else does. Hey, if you write a
stale love song (and get in line, there’s lots of them out there, mine
included!), at least it’s your stale love song and you never know who is
going to take it to heart. But unless you write it, no one ever will.
The most exciting stuff that is being done (regardless of where and when it
is/was done) is the music that combines the best of the past in a new form,
a form that you have molded and stamped with your vision.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in a future column. You can
either drop off a note at any of the newly revamped Guitar Forums or email
me directly at
Until next week…


Roll Over Beethoven –

The Blues – Part 2:
Shuffle and Fretboard
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons 12 bar blues, Blues Guitar Lessons, Easy Guitar

All right, then, last time out we learned the standard patterns of twelve bar
blues as well as the typical blues shuffle rhythm. Today we’ll take both of
these ingredients, toss in a bit of theory and when we’re done you’ll be able
to play an amazing number of straight ahead rock and roll songs. All sorts,
from Chuck Berry to the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin to Bruce
Springsteen and more performers than I could possibly list in a simple
introductory paragraph. And if we got into all the “slight variations,” our list
of songs would soon pirate all of your available memory and then you
wouldn’t be able to write to me and complain about it.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
Location, Location,
Last time we learned Before You Accuse Me, and in the process we
learned how to do a “blues shuffle.” And we learned this in the key of A.
Now, most of the books I have ever seen tend to start people out in the key
of E, but as I hinted, there is a method to my madness.
We also learned the standard form of “twelve bar blues” songs and how it
all revolves around the I, IV and V chords of whatever key in which you
chose to play. Are we all set with the form? Good. Now let’s look at the
three shuffles used in the key of A.

 The Blues – Part 1
 The Blues – Part 3
 Chuck Berry – Music Biography
 More easy guitar songs
Now, if you remember, we defined the shuffle as being the root note of the
chord in conjunction with the fifth and sixth note of that same chord. And,
looking at these three shuffles, we have exactly that. The A chord shuffle is
the A note along with the E (fifth) and the F# (sixth). Likewise the D shuffle
consists of the D note being played with the A and B notes and the E
shuffle being played with the B and the C#. And you might also notice that
the root note is always the lower note of the two being played.

Alright then, let’s try to make an intuitive leap. Suppose we had a twelve bar
blues song in the key of C. Well, we could probably figure out that the
easiest C note to use would be on the third fret of the A string. We might
also decide that, even though we could play the G and A (the fifth and sixth
of C, right?) on the G string, we’d prefer to stick to the shape we’ve grown
to know and love and play our C shuffle (or “I” shuffle) like this:

(And a quick note here: this is going to hurt if you’re not used to stretching
your fingers. Use your index finger to anchor the bass note, your ring finger
on the fifth and your pinky on the sixth. But if you just keep trying it for a few
minutes each time you pick up your guitar you’ll be surprised how quickly
you work your way through it.) (This is actually one of those rare times
when learning on an electric might be easier – but hang in there!)

Using the same bit of logic, we can figure out our IV and V (F and G chords)
shuffles, can we not? Sure, we can:

The lesson I’m trying to get across to you here is this: anytime you start a
twelve bar blues shuffle with the bass note of the I chord on the A string (on
whichever appropriate fret), the IV will always be immediately above it (on
the D string) and the V will be immediately below. Word of honor. Pick a
key. How about blues in Eb? Here you go:
This works, of course, because of the way the guitar is tuned. Think about
it. Your D note (on the open D string) will always be tuned a fourth higher
than the A note and the E note below the A is always going to be the fifth.
So as long as you stay on the same frets and keep the “I” of your
progression on the A string, this will always hold true.

Now, if you’re still with me, we’ll go and take a quick look at the key of E.
Since we already know the chords involved will be E (I), A (IV) and B (V),
and since we also know the shuffles for the E and A chords (from our “blues
in A” pieces, such as “Before You Accuse Me,” if nothing else), all we have
to do is find our B shuffle. Most books, however, will not teach you a B
shuffle; they will instead encourage you to use a B7 chord instead. And this
is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Done this way, the last four measures
of a twelve bar blues song in E would look like this:

The reasoning behind learning it this is actually very kind hearted. The B
major is a relatively difficult chord for beginners while the B7 is definitely do-
able, especially if one is swithcing from an E chord.
But since the shuffle does not rely on the full chord, merely two notes, and
since we are up to that challenge, let’s again use our brains a little. We
already know that going from A to B (from IV to V) is a full step – the
equivalent of two frets. So why don’t we simply shift our A chord shuffle up
two frets? Piece of cake, right? So here are the shuffles we would use for
“blues in E:”

And now, once again, I want you to think about this. If I could teach you any
one thing about playing the guitar it would be this: virtually anything you
learn concerning a technique or a style or a riff or a chord progression can,
with the slightest amount of thought, be applied to another song, style, or
whatever. So we look at this and hopefully you see the pattern. If we play
twelve bar blues (I, IV, V) where the bass note of I is on the low E (6th)
string, then IV will always be directly above it on the A string and to get to V
will require us to simply slide IV up two frets. So, instead of playing our A
shuffle as we did earlier, it is now possible to play it this way:

And as silly as this is going to sound, you are now ready to rock…
From Blues To Rock
Most early rock and roll songs were derived straight from traditional blues
progressions. Many songs today still are. Chuck Berry was one of the best
known pioneers in this area and many of his songs went on to inspire the
great British rockers of the early sixties. We’re going to learn his
classic, Roll Over Beethoven, done in the key of C. I’ve charted this out
using (again) the same basic shuffle that we’ve been using the last two
sessions (and don’t worry, we’ll soon enough be learning harder ones)(one
thing at a time, you know – I already feel like I give you all too much to
digest at once!) but I want you to notice the important difference between
blues and early rock. Our rhythm has changed! Instead of a laid back
shuffle based on a triplet, we have a hard driving shuffle powered by
straight eighth notes:

Of course, the first thing that you’ll figure out is that it’s really easy to play
this rhythm very fast! But do me a favor, okay? Make certain you keep the
timing steady. You speed will come before you’re ready for it, trust me.
Okay, are you set? Then let’s go!

And Don’t Forget The

“Easy Way…”
“Roll Over Beethoven” is one of Chuck Berry’s most famous songs. It
captures the mood of young people in the 1950s who weren’t satisfied by a
lot of music on the radio, which often excluded rock n’ roll under the
assumption that it was only a momentary fad. In 1963, The Beatles
recorded a version for their album “With The Beatles.” George Harrison
provided the vocals and lead guitar, a little unusual for them considering
John Lennon normally sang the Chuck Berry covers.

If you’ve got smallish hands like me, this style of shuffling if going to take a
little bit of time before you get your fingers to stretch the way you want them
to. There’s no real way (aside from knowing a good surgeon, I guess) of
developing your hands outside of just doing it. But don’t overdo! And
remember that you’ve got lots of ways to play in this style without killing
your hands. You’ve got your brain. First off, it’s good to realize that the frets
are spaced closer together as you get higher up the fretboard. So whenever
you can play up there, as we did with this song, then go for it.

But also remember your friend the capo. If you can master the shuffle in A,
or the one in E (using the B7 instead of the B shuffle), your capo will enable
you to play songs in this style in whatever key you want. Check it out
yourself if you don’t believe me. Put your capo on the third fret and play this
song with the shuffle fingering (but the straight eighth note rock rhythm) that
we used last time out with Before You Accuse Me. And if that’s not enough
to get you to open your eyes, now try playing Roll Over Beethoven using
the E shuffle chords and fingering we figured out earlier (substituting the B7
for the B) but have your capo on the eighth fret. As I’ve been telling you all
along, your brain, working together with a little theory, can help you to
overcome a lot when it comes to playing the guitar.
Next time out we’ll go back to the blues once more. As I mentioned, we’ll
expand our shuffle a bit and we’ll also have some fun by throwing in some
simple “call and response” fills derived from simple blues scales.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or even a song, riff or lead you’d like to see covered in a future
“Songs For Beginners” article. You can either drop off a note at the Guitar
Forums page or email me directly at
Until next week…

Common Sensei – (or,
The Myth of the Self-
Taught Guitarist)
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge, The Joy of Music

“Music can teach you everything you need to know.”

– Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar
One day when I have absolutely nothing better to do, I would like to sit and
ponder why it seems that certain questions seem to come in waves. For no
apparent reason, seventy to eighty percent of the questions over a given
time period will relate to a specific topic. Take this week’s column as an
example. Since maybe mid-December, I have gotten a lot of emails asking
about “the best way to learn.” Is it having a teacher? A certain book? A
website that’s miles ahead of another website?

While those of you who’ve been loyal readers will know that my philosophy
is usually “learn whatever you can from whatever source you are able to get
your hands on,” there is, without doubt, more and more information
available to the guitarist with each passing day. I, myself, am even dabbling
in the idea of writing a book for the beginning guitarist (“dabbling” is the
wrong word – it will get written. Published, though, is another matter…) to
add to this eternally growing pile.

But exactly how you, the average beginning guitarist (or returning,
advancing, whatever your situation may be), manages to sort through all of
this “pile” may seem such an impossible task that you may just give up
before you start. And I really wouldn’t blame you. What I’d like to do with
you today is to look at many of your guitar instruction possibilities and to
help you get a handle on what may or may not work for you. And just so
that today’s column will not be totally paradox free, I will also show you
how, if you are of the right frame of mind, can get all of it to work for you.

Think about this: What, exactly, does the term “self-taught” mean? Anyone,
including me, who tells you that he or she is a self-taught guitarist is living a
bit of a delusion. In all fairness, this is not intentional – we simply do not
know how to better explain how we learned the instrument. But it is very
safe to say that our learning how to play the guitar (or about music, for that
matter) was not the individual accomplishment that “self-taught” literally
describes, that is one without any outside source at all. Someone or
something taught us how to tune the thing, how putting notes together in
certain ways produced chords, all sorts of things like that.

You see, “self-taught” is usually short hand for “I learned without the formal
use of a teacher, but I had a lot of help. From books, from friends, (and
these days) from the internet. From watching and listening and then being
able to put two and two together myself.” So if you only learn one thing from
today, let it be this: Everyone got help of some kind in order to get to
whatever level of playing ability he or she currently enjoys. And in order to
reach whatever that next stage of development may be, more help is going
to be needed.

What You Know And

What You Need To Know
If you’ve read any of my previous columns, you’ll know what I’m going to
say next. Before you can get anywhere, it’s usually a good idea to have an
idea, any idea no matter how vague, as to where you want to go. This
advice is the same whether you are a pure beginner or whether you have
been playing for decades and want to up the ante a little bit.
And you also have to have a really good idea as to where you currently are.
What do you already know? Do you have any previous musical
background? Have you learned another instrument, even if it was clarinet
waaaaaaayyyy back in the third grade? Can you read music? If not, would
you like to be able to? What sort of music do you listen to? Why do you
want to play the guitar? What kinds of music would you like to be able to
play on the guitar? Do you have more interest in learning how to play on
your own or do you want to be able to sit in with other musicians as well?
Are you more concerned with your own enjoyment or do you want to make
a career out of this (and these things are not mutually exclusive)? Which
guitarists’ styles/sounds/songs most interest you? If you could play any one
song or solo right here and now what would that be?

Before I agree to take on a new student, I insist that we talk over many of
these questions. I truly don’t expect my prospective pupil to have a lot of
answers, but I do hope that he or she has a few clues.
Please understand that these questions are not meant to be intimidating or
to show you huge holes in your thought processes or anything like that.
They are to get you thinking.

More than anything else, how you decide to proceed from this point is going
to be a matter of your own personality. If you are first able to be honest with
yourself about what you really want to do, then you should be able to start
to take those steps that will get you closer to where you want to be.

And with so many available means of obtaining information, you’re bound to

run into two distinct dangers: being overwhelmed or being paralyzed. Either
you go scurrying around from one source to the next and never end up
actually doing or learning anything or else you are spending so much time
analyzing what you want to do that, again, you wind up not doing anything.
So yeah, I guess you could also add that you could become paralyzed
because you’ve been overwhelmed.

One last thing that you really have to realize is that this will be a series of
both steps and leaps. Some people pick up some things quickly while
others do not. And what exact things those are also vary from person to
person. If you go into learning the guitar in full blown “all-American-
everything-is-a-competition” mode, then you might as well hang it up now.
You will not be happy. There will always be someone better than you are.
Often much much much much better. If that sort of thing bugs you, then in
all likelihood you will have a very difficult time enjoying either music or the
actual process of learning. You may think that is a bit strong, but believe
me, it is true.

Take A Good Look Around

Seriously, I do mean that. If you are reading this column in the first place
that means that you are on this website. You are at Guitar Noise
at, right? Therefore, you are also one of the few
people on this planet who is well enough off to have computer access. Oh, I
know you might not consider yourself that way, but if you are capable of
placing yourself outside of the center of the universe for even the briefest
moment, you should have no trouble at all seeing this.
But, in all fairness, as students we do tend to focus pretty much on our own
needs and desires. You’ll even note that all of the questions that I asked
earlier were all pretty self involved. Yes, I hate to tell you, but this is another
paradox and one that you do have to come to grips with. Teaching yourself
actually requires you surrendering yourself to the mercy of the rest of the
world until you are able to get your bearings, until you know enough to be
able to stand upon your own two feet.

Paul and I have recently done a minor, yet important upgrade to these
guitar column pages. If you go to the index, you will now find a Site
Map which breaks down each and every article that I have written by
subject matter. The whole purpose of this is to give you a place to start.
Some kind of steps that you can take. And if you search around this site,
you will find all sorts of help – anything from beginners’ chord charts to
complex jazz theory. But you have to be the one who initiates the search.
And, again, as long as you have even the faintest idea of what to look for,
there’s so much here to help you.
But again, you see, we come to that point where you have to have a clue. If
you are indeed a pure beginner (albeit one who does have a guitar), then
the first thing you’ll want to do is know how to tune it. We have a page for
that. Learning where the notes are on a guitar? That’s here. too. Chords?
Piece of cake. Selection of lessons and/or songs with which to start? Guess
what? That’s all on this website. And more than that, you’ll also find links to
all sorts of other websites offering lessons and advice and virtually anything
that the guitarist could possibly want.

But you do have to look for it. Or write to me and I will look it up in the
search engine (that’s how I find it!) and send you back the appropriate
@ddress. All I am saying is that if you have a bit of patience and are not
one who is easily overwhelmed by sorting through information, then the
internet will certainly give you a lot of good material to get you started on
your way.

But it does have it’s problems. The main one being that even though it gives
the impression of being an interactive media, that is truly not the case.
There will be lag time between questions and answers. There will be site
crashes and audio files, when they do exist, may be incompatible with your
computer or just not work for some reason or other.

More importantly, you will have to become smart about your choices very
quickly. What does that mean? Well, think about it. Anyone with access to a
computer can write on the internet. And think about what it is like when you
want some advice and you go “˜round and ask everybody. Is it all good? Do
you take everything to heart? I don’t know about you, but I have read some
things online (not just concerning guitars or music theory) that have made
me laugh so hard at their inaccuracies that I would cry. As good a tool as
the internet is, it is vital that you back up your learning with some other

See Hear
My first guitar teacher was a book, specifically The Songs of Paul Simon. It
wasn’t even a “guitar” book because way back then (shortly after we
switched from stone to paper), music books were pretty much all meant to
be piano books with guitar chord diagrams thrown in for good measure (no
pun intended). Once I learned how to form the chords I could play them in
the appropriate places in the course of a song.
Now I had already learned to read music and knew enough about theory to
figure out how to transpose (playing a song in Eb, for instance, in the key of
D instead – much easier, take my word for it). The one thing the book
couldn’t teach me was some of the playing tricks and techniques that Paul
Simon used when he played. So while I could play the song, I certainly did
not sound like he did on the records (big plastic round things we used to
use to listen to music), but again, I have never been concerned about
copying any player note by note.

Books nowadays are as numerous and as diverse as websites. You want to

learn the blues? I could go to or and find
fifty of them without working up a sweat. Or a video. Or a book that had a
CD or cassette in order to give me audio confirmation of what I was
How do I know where to start? Which one is going to work for me?

Now please understand, I don’t mean for this to sound as vague or as silly
as it’s going to sound: I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter much which
one I pick first because any and all of them will teach me something.

Again, think about this. All beginners books are going to teach the same
things – what the notes are, where to find them on the guitar, how to form
chords, maybe throw in a song or two that they either wrote themselves or
is part of the public domain (avoiding copyright costs, you see). All scales
books are going to contain scales and, if you’re lucky, maybe an
explanation or two as to how to figure out a scale yourself. Books of “Great
Rock Riffs” will be just that. “Eric Clapton for Guitarists” will be very much a
book of Eric Clapton‘s solos tabbed out for the guitarist.
Say you wanted to buy a car. Or a guitar for that matter. Or a box of
breakfast cereal. They are all essentially the same (four wheels and an
engine, a block of wood with six strings, sugar and grain or grains). Which
one you pick and buy is usually more a matter of your own desires than of
the object itself.

I have shelves full of music books. This is how I got them (discounting any
that were given as gifts): I walked into a music store and briefly looked
through them. If what I saw interested me enough, then I bought it. If, upon
getting it home and going through it, I found that I had bought something a
bit beyond my capabilities, then I was delighted because then I would be
indeed learning something. Notice that I said hard and not simple. I have
never bought a book that was too simple because it’s pretty easy to see
when I’m looking through it whether or not I already know the material.
What was important was whether or not I got a taste of the writer’s itinerary.
This is easily done by checking the table of contents or by looking at the
lessons/exercises at various points in the book.

I do not own one book that has not taught me something. The only two
downsides to any book, once again, are that you (a) do have to make some
choices and to make the most of those choices and (b) you are again
involved in a one sided conversation. There is plenty of giving and taking
but it is all one way.

Some books contain CDs. Sometimes I think this is precisely why they (the
CDs) were invented in the first place. Some people find them indispensable
and some find them to be a hindrance. In general, and this is merely my
opinion, I think that they tend to be more helpful for people on either end of
the spectrum, and not for long for the majority of beginners. Intermediate
and advanced guitarists will probably enjoy those CDs that are mixed so
that you can basically create your own solos over a prearranged backing

Videos, like CDs, are usually limited in both appeal and usefulness. More
often than not, they can only focus on a specific small area of a specific
genre and that’s great if that is the only thing in which you happen to be

But this does not mean in any way that they won’t do you any world of
good. Sometimes you simply hit it off with a particular source. If someone
hands you a video, CD or book, you should never turn it down. If you pick
up one idea or one technique that was not already part of your repertoire,
then it was certainly a worthwhile investment of your time.

Human beings come in more varieties than do books, CDs and videos. And,
just to make things even more interesting, they are capable of being
different every moment of every day (imagine a book having new chapters
(or arranged in a new order) each time you opened the cover!). In addition
to the knowledge they possess, teachers, like books, will have styles and
individual manners of presenting that knowledge to their students.

Over on the Guitar Forum, there was an interesting discussion concerning

whether or not guitar teachers were “certified.” You owe it to yourself to
read the question and the answers from Jimmy Hudson and Dan Lasley:
Q: Could someone let me know if there is a certification for guitar
instructors, and if not how would you go about finding a qualified
A (Jimmy Hudson): As far as guitar teacher certification, no they do not
exist, personally I think they should under federal law because there are a
lot of people teaching guitar that probably should not be. Now there is a
national music teacher certification and each individual state has a teacher
certification, however most guitar teachers are not members. A lot of it is
because of cost, and honestly the only reason why you would want teacher
certification is so you can teach in schools. The best way to find quality
teachers is interviewing them, ask them if they have a music degree, if they
teach full time, if they at least studied at a college. I have found that jazz
and classical teachers are usually the best to learn from. You can also
check, and have a list of teachers in your area and be able
to read their resume. If they are serious teachers, that means they have put
in some serious time learning and they are still learning. I learn something
new everyday. Sometimes they don’t even have to have a degree – they
might have the equivalent in work and or learning experiences. For
instance, say John Doe does not have a degree, but he studied under Allan
Holdsworth for ten years, that would be a knowledgeable teacher. If you do
sign up with someone and the first question they ask is what song do you
want to learn, that should be a serious red flag. Studying music is not about
learning a whole bunch of songs. It is about learning the language of music
so you can not only teach yourself songs, but also write your own songs in
a way that makes sense.
A (Dan Lasley): In addition to Jimmy’s excellent points, I would suggest
that references are good. Ask for permission to talk to a couple of the
teacher’s students to get a feel for the teacher’s style and attitude. We’ve
been lucky with our local private music school. The owner has an excellent
perspective, and he has several teachers to choose form, so he can match
your goals with a teachers skills and approach. If you have such a school
near you, it might be worth checking out. Also, they tend to be a little
cheaper per hour, cuz you go to them.
Quite a lot to keep in mind, huh? Well, let me also add my two cents worth
to this discussion. And “discussion” is the key word here. You have to be
able to enjoy a dialog with your teacher. Anyone can talk a good game but it
is important that both teacher and student alike have to be able to listen.

This may sound funny, but your guitar teacher does not have to be the best
player or the smartest theorist (otherwise there would only be one or two
teachers in the world, right?). The important thing is that he or she is able to
challenge and to motivate you. As the two of you journey along the paths of
music, you have to trust your teacher to choose the routes according to
your abilities, to point out the dangers and wonders along the way.

One common thread among all these: the good ones – teachers, books,
websites, videos and CDs – will stay with you all your life. You will hear
their influence each and every time you pick up the guitar.

Another great idea for the neophyte is to take a session or two of group
beginner’s lessons. Many places, such as community colleges or adult
learning centers or even music stores offer beginners lessons. Usually they
run once a week for three to ten weeks (six seems to be the average) and
you tend to get a good grasp of the very basics – chords, hand position,
posture, strumming. With a good grasp of this knowledge it is then possible
to get an idea as to where and how you want to progress. Since these
classes are done in (relatively) small groups, It’s also a great way to meet
and network with other people that you might have a chance to play with

Learning By Doing
If I look back at all of the stuff that I’ve learned about the guitar, it might be
safe to use the following generalization: my theory came from books and
my technique came from people. This is not entirely true, but it is pretty
My playing skills improved each and every time I met and played with
another musician; I usually learned at least one thing from just about every
guitarist I’ve had the pleasure of jamming with.

But as much as I’d like to think that this is everyone’s experience, I know
that it isn’t the case. You have to be in a receptive frame of mind in order to
learn and, far too often, people come to play with the attitude of a hired gun
– I’m going to show you my best stuff, hope that it’s enough and then walk
back out. The thing is, even when you find yourself with someone of this
nature, you can still do a lot of learning. Simply being able to watch
someone else’s hand on the neck of the guitar or to listen to the strumming
patterns and techniques he or she uses can prove invaluable. Using your
eyes as well as your ears can help solve some of the guitar’s mysteries.

Integration and The

Importance Of Tunnel
If there is any one thing a “self-taught” guitarist has to have, it is a sense of
how to make sense out of all of this. How does one look out over all this
craziness and figure out how to play the guitar?

The first and most essential discipline is to develop a focus. You cannot
learn everything at once, so it is up to you to narrow things down to a
manageable level. If you are just starting out, then the things to work on are
the very basics – chords, general theory, strumming. From there you can
work on learning more chords (and also different chord voicings), finger-
picking, maybe a walking bass line or two.

These steps will work regardless of your level of expertise. Last fall, for
example, I bought a hollow-body electric guitar and decided that it was high
time that I stopped being afraid of playing jazz. Having made this decision, I
went out to several of my usual music store haunts and, after two weeks of
thumbing through various books, tapes, CDs and videos, I bought three.
The first is a beginner’s guide to jazz (full of chords and scales), then
there’s an intermediate book of riffs (which for some reason are called
“licks” in jazz), and finally a book/CD of standard jazz solos. The solos are
written out in the book as lessons (in both notation and TAB) and the CD is
mixed so that the solo is in one channel and the “accompaniment” is in the
other. I flip from one source to the other seeing how it all fits together. In a
perfect world, my next step would be to sign on with a teacher. Maybe by
the summer…

And two other things that I do in order to learn: I go out to the jazz clubs and
pay a lot of attention to what the guitarist is doing and I ask all sorts of
questions of my friends that play jazz guitar. None of them live close
enough to play with but, boy, the next time one is in town, look out!

The bottom line is that, with so many choices, literally at your fingertips, you
have to take responsibility for where you go and what you do. There really
are no wrong choices since you can always drop a book, CD or even a
teacher and take up with another. Get all the info you can, gather all the
advice you can from all the sources at your disposal.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in future columns. You can
either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email me directly at
Until next week…


Why should I learn to

read music?
JAMIE ANDREAS Guitar Lessons Reading Music for Guitar

There is a lot of confused thinking out there when it comes to the subject of
reading music, especially being a guitar player and reading music.

I want to examine what some of this confused thinking is, and how people
get this confused thinking into their heads, and why it stays there.Why do
some people think they shouldn’t learn to read music, when they should?
Why do some people think they should, when they shouldn’t (at least not
right away)?

Every Strength is a
Potential Weakness
Some people are very “natural” guitar players, they learn to play by
watching and listening to other players. And that is fine, in fact, that is great.
The ability to just watch someone do something like play the guitar, and
somehow “learn” how to do it yourself, is a great ability. However, every
strength can also be a weakness, and that is true here.

Often, the person who is able to learn this way starts to get an “attitude”
about the more formal aspects of learning music and the guitar, things like
taking lessons, or learning to read music. They begin to form certain belief
systems about the subject. And these belief systems can be dangerous,
because they prevent the person holding them from growing and
developing as they otherwise could.

Even if you are a “natural” guitar player, there will come the day when you
will run up against certain musical concepts which you will be locked out of
understanding because you don’t know how to read music. Learning how to
read music is one way to increase your chances of being the best musician
you can be.

Let’s examine some of the reasons why a person might adopt a belief
system that says “it is a bad thing to learn to read music, at least for me”.

I’m a Genius, and God

Whispers Directly in My
Unfortunately, most people have an ego, an “idea” or “image” of who they
are, and whatever that image is, it carries along with it certain limitations.
Whatever our particular image is, it also becomes our act. We have to live
up to it. We have to keep a mental list of all the things that support our act,
and also a list of the things we have to avoid because they don’t fit our act.
In some professions, keeping up your image is essential to survival. Politics
is one, probably the first “I must, at all costs maintain my image and my act”
profession. Being an entertainer/artist is probably second.

So, it is very common, especially in the beginning stages of being a

musician, to decide to play the “I am a natural genius who just picked up a
guitar and played like Jimi Hendrix” routine. The musician playing this role
has decided they are the “romantic, inspired artist”. This is the image of the
artist who gets his inspiration from some divine source. He or she likes to
believe (and likes others to believe), that God, or perhaps one of his angels,
whispers directly in their ear, and they best not tamper with the process. If
they interfere with the process by getting some “education”, then, God
might get mad, and stop whispering in their ear. God will stop directly
inspiring them with all those great musical ideas and they will just be
another jerk playing the guitar.

Underneath this feeling is the feeling that they are, in fact, just another jerk
playing the guitar. That is why this particular routine is common with
beginners, because most of us do feel like we are just another jerk playing
the guitar when we first begin to play. And we usually have a little outside
help in the matter, in the form of parents or “special friends”, ready to tell us
to get real when we dare disclose our secret dreams of actually being
professional guitar players.

It is very important to grow past this little game. If you do decide to make
this image a part of your professional career (as many artists do) you must
at least stop believing your own hype. If you don’t, you will not move
yourself into contact with the resources and situations that exist to help you
grow and develop. Beethoven comes to mind. There was never a musician
who was more “divinely inspired” than Beethoven. Music flowed into him
and as it came out when he played, people were left sobbing with intense
emotion, or moved to feelings of awe. When he was young, he would tell
people, “I never listen to other composers music, it would interfere with my
originality”. He would say that, but he was full of “you know what”, and he
knew it. He was really busy studying with all the greatest composers and
music theory teachers of his day. So he was not only listening to their
music, he was studying it note by note. But he was smart. He knew he had
a good thing going with all these people worshiping him. He was young,
and knew he had to struggle to build a career as an artist, so he would use
this image of the “divinely inspired artist” to his advantage, and help foster
and maintain it in people’s minds. But he wasn’t dumb enough to believe it
himself, or let it get in the way of the development of his creative powers.

Another artist, and a supremely great one, who typified this attitude was
Louie Armstrong. When asked if he read music, he said “not enough to hurt
my playing”. I believe he was being a bit tongue in cheek here, and
probably also was promoting the “look, I’m just a genius” image, but there is
some truth to what he was trying to get across.

He was trying to get across the fact that reading music, like reading words,
does not give you talent. Being able to read doesn’t mean you will actually
have something to say, and when you are a musician, having something to
say (in a musical sense) is what it is all about. However, if you have talent,
if you have something to say, learning to read music will not make you less
of a musician, but more of a musician.

Having Talent/Nurturing
If you are an artist, if you feel you want to be a guitarist, then, you would
really be much better off eliminating the word “talent” from your vocabulary.
You should not even be concerned with whether you have any or not. You
should only be concerned with how much you love music and the guitar.
You should only be concerned with how much you need to do it. Whether
you have talent or not is for other people to waste their time wondering

When you stay focused on your love for what you are doing, the path of
your development will become clear to you. If you love blues guitar, if you
want to play like Jimi or Stevie Ray, and that is all you want to do, then it
will become clear to you over time that learning to read music is not high on
the list of priorities. Playing constantly with other people who play that style
is high on the list. Learning and copying the solos of a hundred other
players is high on the list. Of course, along the way, maybe you WILL feel
the desire to learn to read.
When I was starting out, my friends would show me blues scales and licks. I
wasn’t much interested in just learning finger patterns, I wanted to
understand in a mental way, what I was doing. I wanted to know the note
names and so forth. That was just my personality. I didn’t know then that a
few years later I would be captivated by the classical guitar, which is a style
that absolutely requires note reading and musical understanding in a
technical sense, in order to develop. I was just following my nature. So,
being in touch with yourself, your true nature and needs for musical
statement, is the first thing. But don’t interfere with that awareness by
clinging to some dumb “self-image” that says you “shouldn’t” read music.

Should YOU learn to read

What I say now should be understood and used in the context of what I
have already said. There are many players for whom this question never
even comes up. They know already, intuitively, the right answer to this
question as it applies to them. But many people do have questions about
this issue, so I will try to provide the clarity they need.

IN GENERAL, everyone can only benefit by learning to read music. Believe

me, if you DO have talent, if you have something to say as an artist, you are
not going to lose it by developing your mental understanding of the
“theoretical” aspect of music. The only people who will lose their artistic
ability by education in music are the ones who didn’t have any artistic ability
to begin with.

If you DON’T have much natural ability for music, or much experience in
playing music, then learning to read can open up a whole world of
understanding for you. It can give you the keys to understand the
“mysteries of music”. I love to teach students to read, because then I can
teach them music theory. In fact, for the guitar student, learning to read is
like an insurance policy against future confusion. So many guitar students,
as time goes by, start bumping up against concepts that they can’t
understand, and it is a source of great frustration for them, because
understanding these concepts is the doorway to new and more
sophisticated playing abilities.
I often get questions from students (other peoples students) like “can you
explain secondary dominants”, or “how do I use a harmonic minor scale in
improvising”. Unfortunately, I can’t answer these people. They don’t realize
that in order to understand the answer, a knowledge of music theory is
required. And in order to learn music theory, you must know how to read
music. In other words, I have to use a particular language to answer these
questions, and they don’t know the language. So we can’t communicate.
They are stuck with their question.

It’s like trying to learn grammar without being able to read words. You may
be able to get some understanding if you find a creative teacher, but you
will never achieve a complete or satisfying understanding of grammar in the
way you would if you could read.

So, in general, I always recommend learning to read music.

Who Should Learn to Read

Specifically speaking, the following are the types of people who definitely
should learn to read music.

 Anyone who really wants to.

 Anyone planning on someday having a complete and sophisticated

understanding of music and music theory.

 Anyone planning on a career in music, unless it will be a career as a

rock/blues musician, or folk musician. Even then, of course, it won’t hurt,
it is just not as necessary.

 Anyone who wants to play the classical guitar.

Who shouldn’t Learn to

Read Music
 Anyone who really doesn’t want to.

 Anyone who is planning on being only a blues/rock musician or a folk

 Most people who are just starting to learn to play the guitar.

When to Begin to Read

There is a common belief that students should learn to read music right
from the beginning. I don’t think so. I rarely do that with students. Usually, it
is just a way of throwing water on a fire that is just beginning to burn. With
guitar, it is very easy to teach music in the beginning without learning how
to read. By doing so, the student is connected right away to music in an
emotional way, and it is the emotional aspect of playing music that made
them begin lessons.

Learning to read music is a very complex, mental affair, dealing with many
abstract concepts. Doing it in the beginning is kind of like reading your
girlfriend an essay on the philosophy of love on your first date, instead of
just being romantic with a box of candy and flowers.

So I believe in fanning that fire first. I find a song they love that has easy
chords, I teach them how to practice, and we’re off and running. After a few
months, I bring the subject of reading music up, and by then there is no
problem in doing so. Also, by then they are more able to understand why it
is important.

Teaching children to learn to read is very tricky, and requires great skill. It is
often done badly. Suppose, for instance, that you are trying to teach a third
grader to read, and you have to teach the concept of dotted notes. In order
to understand dotted notes, you have to understand fractions, you have to
understand the concept of “one half of something”. They most likely DON’T
understand that. So, you have to be a math teacher for a bit. It can take six
months to really have a 10-year-old understand this one musical concept.

In fact, I believe many adults who have had trouble learning to read music
are the victims of bad teaching. There are often a lot of unexplained, and
under-explained vital concepts along the way, which are the real culprits,
not a lack of ability to “get it”.

And finally, it should be understood that learning to read music can be a

long process, in the same way that learning to read words can be. It takes
enough work, over a long enough period of time. You can learn to read
enough to go slowly through music, as you can learn to read slowly, or you
can become a “speed reader” and read music you haven’t’ seen and still
play it up to performance level.

Whether or not to learn to read, and how far to take it is up to you. But it is
certainly a subject you should make an informed choice about, based on
careful consideration.

Copyright Jamie Andreas, Guitar Principles.

Finding The Right

DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge, Songwriting
Lessons for Beginners

It occurs to me (and now might be a great time to let you know that I do
have an official motto (borrowed from Calvin and Hobbes): “Dave –
Gradually he catches on!”•) that all this talk and exploration of melodies
might be a moot point if you have nothing to say. Meaning no lyrics to
match your musical ideas. Some words to sing along with your melody
might be very nice indeed.
Before we go any further, let me advise you of a few things: First off, if you
haven’t done so, you might want to read some of A-J Charron’s articles on
the Songwriter’s Page concerning this subject (not to mention those of
mine!), as well as look over some of the latest threads over on the Guitar
Forums (or even create a few new ones yourself). I know that a lot of
people may not agree with me, but I have always found that the more ideas
and angles I manage to get a handle on, the more I am able to think about
and the more I think about things, the more (and better) I tend to write.
If you think about why you listen to a songwriter, often to the point of getting
all his/her/their work (or even simply listen to the same CD or even the
same song over and over and over again), it is because you identify with
this artist. You have a bond with this person who wrote these lyrics. You
can’t wait to hear what the artist comes up with next.
Believe it or not, the same thing applies to you. There will be people who
will want to hear about anything you have to say, simply owing to their
interest in listening to your unique spin on things.

So let’s get out there and write! Right? Well, maybe some questions first,

Why? (Finding Your

One of my friends tells me that writing is often like breathing. It’s part of
what keeps you alive. When she’s not writing she’s thinking
about what she’d be writing if she was.
I’ve often felt this. I write songs for many reasons but perhaps I could also
argue that I write because I don’t know how to live without writing. Lyric
writing, like writing melodies, is a marvelous craft. You want to match the
tonal quality of the music and you need to have words precise enough to
convey what you want to say in a relatively small amount of time. It’s like
taking all of the words in whichever language you use and squeezing them
through a filter until just the pure essence of your ideas and emotions

Think about songs you love – more often than not something moves you
because the words are something that you have often, if not always,
thought or felt but could not find the way to express. No pun intended, but it
strikes a chord deep inside of you. It’s as if someone managed to put your
own emotions into words.

There is certainly no shortage of things to feel strongly about. And you’re

ahead of the game if you’ve already said to yourself “this is probably why
there are so many love songs in the world.”• Indeed.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, too – I find that writing music
often helps me to put a lot of things in my life into perspective. Traumatic
things become easier to deal with, sadness becomes beauty. The world
becomes a place of wonder again.
So think about it? Why do you want to write a song? Usually when you can
come up with an answer to this question, you will in all likelihood also

What? (Finding Your Line)

Just where do these lyrical ideas come from anyway and how is it that
some people can put them together effortlessly while others (myself
included) have to literally wrestle onto the page?

Putting money, fame and fortune (with all the trappings, clothes cars (more
guitars!!!) and that ever important “Behind the Music”• appearance) aside
for a moment, the “why”• to writing is usually the simple fact that something
has struck you as being important enough to write about. It can be a feeling,
an emotion or reaction (or even the absence of an emotion or reaction)
brought on by a specific incident or situation. Love, as we’ve noted, is
always right up there at the top of most lists. Go figure, huh?

But all sorts of things can move you. Personally speaking, I am always
taking and making note of things that occur to me in the normal course of
day to day life. A simple everyday observation might become the basis of a
song. Remember everything starts with just a line or even a word.

Okay, now you’re saying, “Dave, I get this – but it doesn’t help. There are,
as you’ve pointed out (in that wonderful way you have with words) already
tons of love songs. For that matter, there are already more song lyrics
dealing with every conceivable topic that one could pick. I want mine to be
different. Where do I start?”•

Well I’ve got some news for you – you’re right about this. The only thing that
is going to make your song “different”• is going to be the
fact that you wrote it, that these lyrics represent your particular take on
things concerning life, love and the pursuit of whatever it is you enjoy
Example: when I moved to Chicago (shortly after that meteor strike that
wiped out the dinosaurs), my new roommate, himself a native, gave me a
rundown on the local climate, “We have three seasons – July, August and
Winter.”• I thought that this was a great joke, that is until a few months later
when I found out it wasn’t a joke. One evening in the middle of October a
cold front moved in and sat down and didn’t leave for months. And as I was
walking back to my place that night I thought, yes indeed, winter comes
early here. And that thought was immediately followed by another – “that
would make a great line for a song!”• So when I got back to my (warm)
room, I wrote it down and then promptly forgot about it until the following

But the point is that, whether I knew it or not, I had planted a seed that
would (years later, actually) grow into a song. Lyrics often grow out of stray
lines plucked from out of the mundane as well as the extraordinary. A very
important thing to remember, though, is that not each and every line has to
be a work of art – we’ll come back to this in a moment.

As I mentioned, A-J has writing some very interesting pieces on lyrics. This
would be an appropriate place to mention his column À la Bowie in which
he discusses the old “pull a rabbit out of a hat”• routine. A lot of people like
this style of writing. It kind of goes without saying that if someone tells you
he or she is a songwriter, then that person has a warehouse of lines waiting
to be fitted with a melody.
Speaking of which, you can also kind of come up with lines in reverse. As
I’ve said on many other occasions, I’m one of those people who, as a rule,
tends to sum up with the music first and the words second. Not always, but
usually. So then I start strumming my chords or playing my riff while singing
something (almost anything really) off the top of my head. And occasionally
I will come up with something that really and truly fits the mood and feel of
this song-in-progress. That is as long as I remember to write it down!

Once I have a line, or at least an idea of what I want to write about, I usually
find I am ready to move onto the next question:

Who? (Finding Your

It strikes me as hilarious that people who would consider it extremely
gauche to assume an actor wasn’t acting (Anthony Hopkins, to my
knowledge, rarely eats people) have absolutely no problem with giving
writers each and every trait associated with their creations. Think of the
sheer idiocy behind the backlash concerning Randy Newman’s “Short
People”• (remembering that, in all probability, these were the same people
who’d sing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” at the top of their lungs…).
But this does point out that the “who,”• the narrator/singer of your song is
just as important as the “what”• that the song is about. Sometimes even
more so. I don’t know how many of you might remember this but in the early
eighties a Soviet fighter shot down a South Korean passenger jet. I became
obsessed with writing about this but was faced with one very big obstacle.
And please feel free to laugh about how petty this is – I really didn’t want
our band’s lead singer introducing my song as “This is our statement on the
recent tragedy of the Korean people”• or some such similar grandstanding
statement. So I had to come up with some way of writing about it without
even remotely referring to the incident itself.

So I had to ask myself, “Who is singing this song? Who would be the most
effective narrator?”• and eventually settled on what proved, for me, to be
the best possibly choice: a family member or loved one who was simply
waiting to meet someone from that ill-fated flight:

When You Come Home

– Hodge
I bought you flowers
Put them on the kitchen table
Thought you’d like some flowers when you come home
It’s been two hundred and sixty nine days without your smile
I’m going to tell you I miss you when you come home
Sitting at the airport
Dying to see your face again
It’s like waiting for the end of everything
Sitting at the airport
Dying to hear your voice again
It’s like waiting for the end of everything
I’ve been reading the papers
They’re having some war somewhere
And riots somewhere else
I never seem to care when you come home
I’ve been talking to strangers
You never know who’s following you
Or who you might bang into when you come home
Sitting at the airport
Dying to see your face again
It’s like waiting for the end of everything
Sitting at the airport
Dying to hear your voice again
It’s like waiting for the end of everything
I made you dinner
Now it’s cold
I’m going to tell you I love you when you come home
Sitting at the airport
Dying to see your face again
It’s like waiting for the end of everything
Sitting at the airport
Dying to hear your voice again
It’s like waiting for the end of everything
As you can see, choosing the appropriate narrator (and this does include
yourself, by the way) can make your life as a songwriter a little easier. While
I have never been in this situation myself, I have been left waiting for people
who never showed up and I could draw on this experience and the
emotions that came with it in order to write about this particular incident.
And this is the real key to songwriting – do what you can to make it real.
Even if you choose to write about something that is completely foreign to
you, do so from a point that you can understand. As long as you have a
handle on your narrator, why he/she is singing this song, the sorts of words
and phrases that he or she might be likely to use, you bring the truth of
emotions to your song. Remember that you don’t always have to write
about a situation that you have personally experienced, but you should
have a real empathy with the emotions (or even the lack of emotions)

How? (Finding Your

Song’s Path)
Not only do songwriters ply their craft in various ways, you will note that
often those ways will vary from song to song. I just showed you a song lyric
I wrote from an idea coupled with an ideal narrator. But what about if you
just have a single line and no idea of how to proceed?

Let’s go back to that earlier line, “winter comes early here.”• As I

mentioned, this haunted me for years before I managed to come up with
something that worked within the frame of a song. And, truth be told, I used
it for that very tired “boy meets girl boy loses girl”• story line that was old
way before the invention of musical instruments.

But again, truth be told, what hasn’t been done eighteen million times
already? The object is, as we’ve noted, to put your particular spin on things
out there for the world to hear. What I’ve tried to do here is to give you a
step by step thought process in order to try to (a) take some of the mystery
(and hopefully fear) out of the whole process and (b) give you a few
pointers in the “little things”• you can do to help develop your own lyrical

In thinking about the line “winter comes early here,”• I realized that,
besides (obviously) referring to the weather, that this phrase could apply to
relationships and hearts as well and this is what sent me off on writing the
typical story. I had my line. I decided to use a thinly veiled version of myself
as a narrator. Now all I had to do is fill in the rest.

A few important things to note here – first (and this is something that my
English teachers in high school would tell me over and over and over
again), when writing something, it is much more effective to “show”•
something rather than to “tell”• it. The more you simply report the facts and
allow your listener to draw his/her own conclusions, the more that listener
becomes an active participant in the song. Now, as you’ll see, you can
make all kinds of editorial slants in your reporting of the story. After all, an
unbiased narrator is as rare as an uncompromising politician, no? Trust the
intelligence of your audience. More times than not, they may point out
things to you that you may not have realized.

Second, you should never, never ever write with the expectation that each
and every line is going to be a thing of art. You are going for an overall
feeling. Songs, by their nature (hell, anything really), are meant to be taken
as whole complete things. Yes, you will invariably have a favorite line or
two, but it is the entire sensation that should stay with you. But again, just to
be a complete pain, let me tell you that by carefully choosing words, even
your “throwaway”• lines will contribute immensely to the finished product.

Finally, stay true to the narration. I know we’ve covered this but it does bear
repeating. The easiest way to reach out beyond yourself and your
experiences is to get so far inside of what you do know that you can explain
it as easily as breathing.
Winter Comes So Early Here
– Hodge
I was singing for my supper in a local café
Prolonging my existence one more night
She came in seeking shelter from the early April rain
Sat down at the table on my right
And somehow we got around to talking
And we laughed “˜till we were pretty close to tears
Talking “˜bout the weather and the things that might have been
How winter comes so early here
Chapter one – boy meets girl. One of my friends who loves this song was
kind enough to point out to me that anyone capable of writing that second
line so casually would probably doom any relationship. Note the repetition
of the weather themes early on and the general tone of sadness. Even
laughter has “tears.”•

Well I got myself a job down at the bar where she was working
Some nights we’d end up at her place and some at mine
And I wrote some silly songs of love and other long lost causes
They were so dumb but I was young and I didn’t mind
And I’d tell her, “Hey lady, I’m in love with you.”•
And she’d laugh and say, “Aren’t you a dear?
Do you think that this will make our summer longer?
No, winter comes so early here.”•
Chapter two – boy loves girl. Even though it is a fun relationship, the fact
that the narrator lumps love in with “other long lost causes”•
pretty much gives you an idea of where this is headed. Personally, I find
actual conversations much more enlightening and entertaining than merely
saying “I loved her and she loved me.”• To each his own.
Though I could brush away her tears I couldn’t begin to touch
her sadness
Anymore than I could understand my own
In the end the strain just drained the little hope we’d left
between us
And I found her pencilled message by the phone
Said “It’s a shame we didn’t meet each other years ago
Before we learned of all the hurt and hate and fear
As it is our hearts found autumn way too fast
And winter comes so early here.”•
Chapter three – boy loses girl. My early songs are very wordy. This is why
I’d always try to find someway to slip in an internal rhyme or alliteration
whenever possible. “Pencilled message”• is precisely the way that this
narrator would write something the rest of us would call a “note.”•

Now I look out of my window but I only see my face

And through that face I view this world we share
The windy city streets still wear their sullen old facades
Of twisted concrete, shattered glass and wooden stairs
And I watch in wonder as my mind
Makes moments of the memories of years
All that I remember is I never saw her leave
And winter comes so early here.
Epilogue – picking up the pieces. This is actually the image that got me
(finally) writing the song. Looking out a window in December and seeing my
reflection and the rest of the city and thinking how often I forget that I’m
always looking “through”• myself in order to see the rest of the world. And
just to show you that I pepper everything with puns, “stares”• can replace
“stairs” in order to complete the “city with a face” image.
So, why’d she leave? Was it him? Was it her? I don’t think that this even
matters to our narrator. It was something as inevitable as the passing of the

When (Finding Your Time)

The hardest thing for most people to realize is that, sometimes, writing
takes time. Patience, whether regarding your writing or your playing, will
always be your greatest ally.

But having said that, I will tell you that you have to write, write, write in order
to become a songwriter. Practice is important here as well. I try to take time
out every week to do nothing but write out ideas. Sometimes things work.
Most times they don’t. But you never know.

If you ever get bored, give yourself this challenge – write a love song. A
happy, joyous love song. And do it without using the word “love”•
even once. This is nowhere near as easy as you might think. Speaking for
me, it has to be exceptional for me to be happy with something like this.
That is why I found myself utterly delighted one morning last August when I
was able to come up with the following chorus:
Welcome Home
– Hodge
It’s hard not to believe in heaven
When I’m watching you sleep
When your eyes can drive away the deepest darkness that I
It’s easy to believe in angels
When that’s the company you keep
When everything is singing “Welcome home
Welcome home”•
And even though, as of this writing, I have scrapped more verses than I can
count, I know that the rest of the words for this are somewhere inside of me.
I’ll find them yet.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in future columns. You can
either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email me directly at

Turning Notes Into

Stone – A Basic Guide
To Transposing
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge

Before I go any further, I’d like to give a tip of the hat to Laura Lasley for the
suggestion that led to this week’s column. And if you haven’t taken the time
to visit the Other Side, our latest addition to our ever-growing departments
here at Guitar Noise, let me suggest that you do so. And don’t forget to
check out the Guitar Forums as well. If nothing else, you might find some
very interesting and talented guitarists to add to your “must listen to” lists.
If you ever decide to play music with musicians other than guitarists (and
bass players don’t count!)(sorry, Dan), you will very quickly run into a
situation where one of you knows a particular song in one key while the
other knows it in another. This will occur a lot if you hang out with pianists
and horn players.

The guitar has a natural disinclination towards keys that contain flats. But a
lot of keyboard music is in Bb, Eb and Ab. Unless you’re incredibly adept at
barre chords (and some people really do enjoy this sort of thing), knowing
how to transpose a song will prove to be an invaluable skill. And not only is
it easy to learn, it’s actually a lot of fun when you get the hang of it.

So grab a capo, reread my second column (The Underappreciated Art of

Using A Capo) if you’re so inclined and let’s go rewrite some songs. Of
course, you realize that this means we need to bring back one of our old
These files are the author’s own work and represents his interpretation of
these songs. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or

Bet you were wondering if he’d ever show his face around here again, huh?

“To transpose” according to my dictionary means “to change the key of.”
There are many reasons to do this, but the major one is to make things
easier for you. You may not know it, but each time you use a capo on your
guitar, you are transposing the key of that particular song. What I’d like to
do today is to show you what you are doing, to make you aware of the
process involved so you may be able to figure it out yourself. We’ll do this in
our usual way – taking an easy example and then tackling something a bit

First off, though, we need to (big surprise here) think about something,
namely which keys do we feel most comfortable playing? The guitar, as
we’ve noted on numerous occasions, readily lends itself to the keys of C, G,
D, A, E and B, as well as their respective relative minor keys. Speaking
strictly for myself, there are times when I could do without the A, E and B.
Why? Well, let’s look at the chords associated with each of these keys.
Here is a chart of their primary (I, IV, V) and secondary (II, III, VI) chords:
Again, I don’t know about you, but the prospect of meeting up with a
number of C# or G# minors does not really thrill me all that much. I am very
comfortable in the keys of C and G and D. Now you may think that this is a
simplistic way of looking at things but this is precisely the point. Yes, you
should learn to play all these chords (each and every chord, for that matter)
but not knowing them or not playing them well should not keep you from the
enjoyment of playing a song.

The actual act of transposing is as easy as do, re, mi. A more appropriate
analogy might be the putting together of a “code,” like the ones we would do
as school children in order to keep our secret messages secret. Did I lose
you on that one?

Well, let’s back up to our definition of transposing. According to my

dictionary, the first meaning of “transpose” is “to change the place or order
of by putting each in the place of the other.” Now even though that sounds a
bit convoluted, let me show you just how easily we can turn the act of
transposing a song from mysterious to practically mundane…

Nowhere Man
I just picked a songbook off a shelf on my bookcase. It turns out to be 50 by
Lennon and McCartney. No, don’t ask me how old this book is. I look in the
table of contents and see that Nowhere Man is one of the songs that I can
learn how to play and I get very excited because I really like that song a lot
and I flip to the appropriate page and my heart does a nosedive. The damn
song is in Eb! Here’s the chord charts through the first bridge:
Okay I know what I don’t want to play. How do I figure out what I do want to

Well, I want to point out some things first. This is part of my own personal
thought process and may not mean much to you at this point, but I think
going over this now will be helpful. Whenever possible, try to transpose
down to a lower key. This will make sense to you after we’ve done an
example or two. And don’t forget to write things down. Yes, you will
eventually find yourself able to do this in your head, but it is important to
take things step by step when you are learning something. You are bound
to make mistakes the first couple of times you try this, but I can guarantee
you that if you don’t write it out you will make more than you would
So the first thing we do is figure out where we are. If I were to write out the
primary and secondary chords in the key of Eb Major, this is what I’d get:

Now if I think to myself, “What is the closest key going down from Eb in
which I feel comfortable playing?” the answer will be D. It’s simply a half
step down from Eb. Okay, so immediately below my listing of Eb Major
chords, I will write out my D Major chords, like so:
You can do this process in one of two ways – you can simply write out the
primary and secondary chords because you already know what they are or
you can look at your Eb chords and then lower it a half step. Either method
is fine and I only bring it up so that you make yourself aware of exactly what
you’re doing.

All of you have no doubt as to what I am going to do next, right?

Remembering my “secret code” definition – “to change the place or order of
by putting each in the place of the other” – I will simply do just that.
Wherever I see an Eb in the music, I will put a D in its place. A replaces Bb,
G is substituted for Ab and so on. Here’s what our song looks like now:

And I bet you’re now wondering what all the fuss was about…

It Makes No Difference
Now here is the reason that I suggested you transpose down – suppose
you want to play this song with a keyboard player. All you have to do is put
your capo on the first fret and voila! You are now both playing in Eb. That is
all that it takes. Since you have transposed the song down a half step, you
simply use your capo to raise the chords up that same half step. You are
playing your D Major chords but what you hear are Eb Major chords. Pretty
freaky, huh?

And even though most of the keys that you encounter do seem to offer you
the instant satisfaction of simply transposing them down a half step (Bb
becomes A, Ab becomes G, F becomes E, etc.,), it is still important to think
things through. You may find that the key you’ve transposed the song into is
no better than the one you’ve left behind!

It Makes No Difference, written by Robbie Robertson and performed by the

Band, is a good example. It is a wonderfully soulful ballad that can be a
showcase for a solo performer as well as an ensemble piece. Here’s the
(first) chorus:

It is written in Bb and my first inclination was to transpose it down to A and

then play it with my capo on the second fret. But I was not at all happy with
the results. I wanted to be able to play around with the bass lines a bit, give
them a kind of gospel feel and I can’t really do that in A (my hands have a
hard time reaching the fourth frets on the fourth and fifth strings). In G,
though, I have no trouble at all with this. So I set about re-transposing the
song into the key of G. Here are the chord transpositions for all three keys:

“Hey!! Wait a minute, David,” you’re saying. “There’s a C7 in this song and
that is NOT one of the chords in the Bb chord chart!”
I’m glad you caught that. This is why I told you about writing things out.
When you are transposing the only thing that you are transposing is the
root. Whatever follows the root of the chord, whether it be an “m,” “7,”
“sus4,” “dim9add15” or whatever, will always be part of the new transposed
root. Since Am is the key of G equivalent for Cm in this case, you can trust
your logic and know that A7 will be the substitute for the original C7. Take a
Transposing to this key also provided me with a bonus. I could play many of
the chords with variations that used the notes on the third fret of the first two
strings as sustained tones (much like in Wonderwall by Oasis, which we
discussed in last fall’s column, Sustained Tones– you can find these chord
fingerings there is you so desire):

And it goes without saying that playing this in G means I should put my
capo on the third fret.

The Wreck Of The

Edmund Fitzgerald/Losing
My Religion
Sometimes you will find yourself transposing a song for reasons other than
putting into an easier key to play. Often it can be a matter of chord voicing,
of the sounds you want to hear from your guitar. Gordon Lightfoot’s The
Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald, for example is written in C, which is one
of those keys I’m very comfortable playing. The chord progression for any
given line (and I’ve picked a line from the middle of the song – right now my
brain is a little fried I guess) is:
This, converted to A (capo on the third fret) will become:

Being able to play this with a lot of open strings in the bass gives the song
more resonance in the lower tones and contributes greatly to the overall
feel of the song.

Sometimes you want to bring out the midrange or the higher end of a song.
Transposition will help you with this as well. Last week, one of my students
told me that he had found the TAB for REM’s Losing My Religion but was
unhappy with the way it sounded. So we looked at the chords:

The trouble here is that we are used to hearing this song with the mandolin
that stands out so strongly in the mix. So after talking out the various
options open to use we settled on transposing the song to Em and putting a
capo on the fifth fret in order to get this:

These chord voicings sound much closer to the original recording and make
the song sound better to the solo guitarist trying to play it by his or herself.
Of course, if you had two guitarists, each of you could play it (one in A
minor and one in E minor) and give it a lot of depth.

The bottom line is that knowing how to transpose will create all sorts of
opportunities for you as a guitarist. Songs that you might have avoided
because of hard-to-play key signatures will now be yours to enjoy. Likewise
with songs out of your vocal range. Or you can use your newly found ability
to come up with some interesting arrangements.

I try to encourage my students to try their hand at transposing, particularly

relatively easy songs. At the very least it allows them to use theory in a
practical way that they can appreciate. If you happen to be fortunate to play
with other musicians on a regular basis, I would suggest that you
incorporate this technique into these sessions. Transposition is a simply
way to inject new life into your playing.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in future columns. You can
either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email me directly at
Until next week…


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Since joining Guitar Noise in 1999, David has written over a thousand
articles, lessons, interviews and reviews here. He also serves as the site's
Managing Editor, supervising all content in addition to the continued writing
of his own lessons and articles. And if that wasn't enough to keep him busy,
David is also the author of seven instructional books, the most recent
being Idiot’s Guide: Guitar Theory.

Featured on Guitar Noise

1. Angela Zaragoza March 18th, 2012 @ 6:12 pm
Thanks for making it simple to understand! I have a question… I often see 2
guitarists playing together, one is using a capo on and one isn’t. It sounds
really nice together, but they appear to be playing different chords, or at
least different chord shapes. Can you explain this?


o David Hodge March 18th, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

Hi Angela and thanks for writing.
If you see two guitarists playing together and one is using a capo
while the other isn’t, the one who is using the capo is tranposing
the song into a different key and then using the capo to raise his
chord shapes back into the original key.

For instance, say you and some friends wanted to play a song that
had just the chords A, D and E in it. Usually these three chords
would mean that the song would be in the key of A and we’ll
assume that for the sake of this example.

One of you would play the song in the original key of A with the
three chords – A, D and E.

Another friend could play the song in the key of G (the original A
would now be G, the original D would now be C and the original E
would now be D) but would need to place a capo on the second
fret to raise the chords up to match the key of A.

Another friend could play the song in the key of D (the original A
would now be D, the original D would now be G and the original E
would now be A) but would need to place a capo on the seventh
fret to raise the chords up to match the key of A.

And still another friend could play the song in the key of C (the
original A would now be C, the original D would now be F and the
original E would now be G) but would need to place a capo way up
on the ninth fret to raise the chords up to match the key of A.

So you would have four guitarists playing different chord shapes

but because of the capo placement, they would still all be playing
in the same key, namely A.

I hope this helps. Playing with transposing and using capos can be
confusing when one is just getting acquainted with the idea, so
please feel free to write anytime with further questions.

I look forward to chatting with you again.

 Julia February 15th, 2014 @ 7:04 am
Thank you for laying these often confusing rules out
simply. Only thought that might clear up mystery up is to
use the word shape after the word chord. Because
learning guitar chords can be demystified by realizing the
shapes reoccur up the neck. Example. We can capo on
9th frett, play a D shape chord and its chord shape family,
but we are in the key of B. Think shape.

 David Hodge February 15th, 2014 @ 7:13 am

Hi Julia

And thank you for your kind words on the article. Thinking
in terms of shape can certainly be helpful, but usually only
when playing guitar. Being able to think in terms of just the
notes and chords themselves will help you with
transposing regardless of instrument, which is important if
you’re a guitarist trying to work with a saxophone player.

Many musicians try to visualize notes and chords in terms

of their specific instruments, which is perfectly good and
normal to do. But if you can get yourself to take one small
extra step and think simply in terms of notes, you’ll be able
to take your music skills even farther.

Looking forward to chatting with you again.


2. Dina May 3rd, 2012 @ 5:15 am

I have a question, i want to play the chords Dm, Bb, C major, Am, and F
major and G in the 3rd fret with easier chords. now the above chords are
easy, its just that i have to move alot and very fast and i cant do that without
capo so i need to be on a fret thats near the strings. i dont know if you get
what i mean.

help ?

o David Hodge May 3rd, 2012 @ 8:22 am

Hello Dina

I’m not sure I totally understand what you’re asking. When you say
you “want to play the chords Dm, Bb, C major, Am, and F major
and G in the 3rd fret with easier chords” do you mean that you’re
already playing those chords but with a capo on the third fret?

If that’s the case, then there’s a very simple answer. Place your
capo on the first fret and use the following chords:
Em instead of Dm C instead Bb D instead of C Bm instead of
Am G instead of F A instead of G

If you’re having trouble with the Bm either use the “easy version”
(xx0432) or use Bm7 (x20202) as substitutes.

I hope this helps. Please post again or email me directly if you

have further questions.


 Aapka Shubhchintak September 27th, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

I guess you wanted to say >>> If that’s the case, then
there’s a very simple answer. Place your capo on the first
fret* (CORRECTION: “capo on the second fret”) and use
the following chords:

Em instead of Dm C instead Bb …

thnx… nice article

3. Melissa May 21st, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

Hello :-)

I am confused when I see guitar tab say for example, place capo on 3rd fret
and play chords Am Dm C B7 E…without the capo my Am chord fingering
would be X02210?? With a capo on the 3rd fret does that now become
X35543 ?? But that is no longer an Am chord is it? I’m just beginning on
guitar, but I know some theory and piano. So, I apologize for my ignorance
in advance. ;-)
Kindly, Melissa

o David Hodge May 21st, 2012 @ 2:02 pm


You’re absolutely right about the Am chord not being an Am chord

any longer. Because you’ve got a capo on the third fret, you’ve
raised the entire chord up three half-steps so it’s now a Cm even
though you’re using the same Am shape that you would in open

This sort of confusion is normal. I covered it in an old blog post

called “Doublespeak,” which I’m reprinting here:

So you put a capo on your guitar, say the third fret, and
you start playing a song using a D chord. What are you

Most guitarists will say “D.” And that’s the start of a lot of
confusion. In reality, when we place the capo on the
third fret (as in this example) we raise all of our chords
up a step and a half. So your D chord is actually now F.
If you don’t believe me, place your capo on the third fret
and check the open D string against your tuner.

Now it goes without saying that we do already know this.

Or kind of know it. Somewhere in those brains of ours
wheels are clicking and our ears are also telling us that
this D chord doesn’t sound like D. But when we think
about the actual chord we’re playing, our fingers and
brains are saying “D” and not “F.” It might be even better
to say that our fingers and brains are on autopilot and
not thinking or saying anything.

This is part of the accepted “doublespeak” of the

guitarist when it comes to using a capo. We’ll
acknowledge that using a capo changes the simple
chords we play but we continue to call the chords by
their open position names. When you think about it, it’s
interesting because we don’t do the same thing with
barre chords as we move our index finger around the
neck like an instantly adjustable capo.

And all this discussion might also be a big yawn, but not
acknowledging the doublespeak is usually what makes
us second guess all the time when using the capo. We
know what we do but haven’t taken the time to
understand what it is that’s exactly happening. And that
understanding is key to help us make using the capo

Now, this isn’t to say that you want to start thinking of

the new chords and keys each time you use the capo.
That’s like expecting some shredding lead guitarist to
name off every note in a lightning-fast lick. It’s just not
going to happen. We learn patterns, whether those
patterns are scales or chord shapes, and we use them
without thought once we know where to start, once we
have a reference point. And what is a capo if not a
reference point?

So begin to acknowledge, if not embrace, the

doublespeak. When someone says, “This song is just G,
C and D with the capo on the fourth fret,” somewhere in
the back recesses of your mind you should be thinking,
“Okay, that’s really B, E and F#” and then go back to
talking about the chords as if nothing’s changed. Doing
this will help you when you’re trying to change a song in
a difficult key, because you’ll be starting to recognize the
“real” chords as well as the “capo position” chords. And
it will also start you on a path where you’ll be thinking
about chord progressions in terms of scale degrees.
When someone is writing out a chord chart or a tablature that uses
a capo, it’s almost automatic that whatever is written is relative to
the placement of the capo. So the Am, Dm, C, B7, E in your
example becomes Cm, Fm, Eb, D7 and G when you play them
with a capo on the third fret. But usually in the tablature it will still
be Am, Dm, etc., because the chords are written with the capo
placement as a given.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to post again with any further


Until next week…

Not Just Another Pretty

LAURA LASLEY Guitar Lessons The Other Side

“Is it too much to demand, I want a full house and a rock and roll band…” –
Passionate Kisses (Mary Chapin Carpenter singing a Lucinda Williams
I know I’ve espoused the joys of playing the guitar for yourself. Practicing
alone often works well so that no one else has to suffer with you as you get
the sound you want coming from your guitar. However, playing with others
adds a dimension to your music, and actually frees you to find new ways to
express yourself in the community of musicians. One way to do this is to get
involved in music jams with others. There are some great links on this site
to music jams that discuss everything from “how to” to all about specific
jams. You could even post, as others have, your own jam on our jam forum,
or set one up with others in your area, using our forums as a springboard.
Of course the best of all possible options is to play in a band. Now I know
there are stereotypes out there about girls in bands. We’re either fluff (just a
pretty face/voice, not a serious musician, as some might regard Christina
Aguilera or Britney Spears, not to mention The Spice Girls) or prima donnas
(just a witch on wheels). Now, don’t get me wrong, I think there’s nothing
wrong with being eye candy (can anyone say Ricky Martin??). But wearing
hot clothes and having a sexy attitude are completely compatible with being
serious musicians. If you’ve got it, flaunt it! And if you don’t quite have it,
use the oldest trick in the book, male or female. Emphasize your best
I’ll admit that the lack of testosterone has led me to take a back seat in
bands before. I was tentative, didn’t want to get in the way, and didn’t want
to be a bother. But I’ve found that once you prove yourself, you’ll become
an essential member to the band. When I started out, I joined a band
because a) my boyfriend was in one and b) I could sing. Sigh. Yes, these
are rather “traditional” reasons. I was only 18 at the time, though, so going
with the flow was important to me. It still is, but I’ve learned to relax in my
own skin.

The best part about participating in a band is that it’s an opportunity to learn
many kinds of music. I find that different people interpret the same song in
so many different ways. When playing or practicing by myself, I’ve found my
own interpretations of songs. Playing just like the album (umm, ok, CD) has
certainly been a goal of mine. But I’ve also found that playing the song with
my own flair is equally satisfying. I used to think it was cheating to play the
short cuts that you’ve found or heard, but I realize now that it’s part of the
creative process. After all, Chopin sounds different if I play it than if Artur
Rubenstein plays it. Or for those of you without classical piano background,
the blues sound differently when Clapton or B.B. King plays, than when I
play. Once I get over the fact that I’d love to sound like Rubenstein,
Clapton, or King, I realize that sounding like Laura isn’t so bad.

When you get a lot of people together to play regularly, you can call
yourself a band, and you’ll find that the creativity that comes from several
enthused musicians can be exhilarating. In those late teen years with my
first band we’d get quite silly with the music. Sometimes we’d do a
traditional rocker in a reggae style. A certain prolific Guitar Noise author
(hello, David!) was notorious for absolutely hysterical song parodies. He’d
just change a couple of words and sing them to the unsuspecting members
of the band either during practice or a live gig! It was great for laughs and
for letting everyone become comfortable with the music. When I’m
completely relaxed (and full out giggles is a great unmedicated way to be
relaxed), I was able to express myself fully. And when you feel safe and
comfortable, you’ll find that you don’t feel stupid making suggestions.
Occasionally people will actually heed those suggestions and tell you that
you’ve got a great idea!

Taking action to share in the workload of a band earns respect as well. I’ve
wrapped many cables and learned to set up and use sound boards. When I
first started hanging around bands, I asked the sound engineer how to set
up the board figuring that I could write notes to myself. Actually, after the
discussion I had the engineer write out the complex set of notes. It saved
him a lot of work in the end, as I then knew how to set up, tear down, and
run the sound board. As the vocalist, I found that I had a good ear for a
balanced mix (not too much lead guitar or bass or drums. You know
those guys are always turning up their amps!) Plus then I learned more
about how to be a band member, which is great knowledge if you find
yourself in a room with other novices.
Having sung with David Hodge in college and then again at a Jam last
August I was quite flattered to read in his column on the Jam : “It had been
some time since I last heard Laura sing and I must say that I was
impressed. I didn’t remember her having such a strong voice. … (we went
back to the house for an impromptu acoustic jam) And as much as I’d been
impressed with Laura’s singing before, I was very much blown away now.
Sometimes it does take a little time to shake out the cobwebs and set your
passion free.” Wow. I was not only moved by those comments, but I was
also motivated to develop my guitar playing as strongly as I’d developed my
voice. I joke that it’s taken me 10 or 20 years to perfect my musical skills.
As I’ve said before, a lot of life intervened in the interim. Plus, it’s always a
work in process. But it’s worth waiting 20 years for a compliment like that! It
is important to remember is that the only time table out there is the one you
set. If you keep working on your music, you will see results.
One of the concerns that women have about being in a band is that guys
won’t like girl guitarists. One way to solve that is to be in an all girl group.
However, I’ve always been one to tackle those invisible gender lines with
abandon, from singing “male” songs (The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar is
one saliciously sexist example) without changing the lyrics, to working in a
male dominated profession. I can’t answer for all the male/female
relationships here (that’s not just another column, I think that’s a PhD
course) but what I’ve always found is that curiosity gets the cat in laps she
wouldn’t normally land in. Most people are flattered and happy to share
when you ask them serious questions about what they do and how they do
it. And when people share their questions and answers, both sides end up
learning things. (Hmm, I’m sure there’s a joke here about the Other Side,
but I can’t quite figure it. I’ll leave that to the reader’s imagination.) That is,
in large part, what Guitar Noise is all about.
Don’t forget that you don’t need to be invited to a jam or to join a band to
experience the joy of playing with others. You can find and invite other
musicans to gather and play. There’s a marvelous group of
writers who plan to play guitar
when they gather for their next writing convention. For inspiration on
jamming and a place to post, see our Jam page and Jam forum. I’ve also
been in many jams and bands where I’m among the junior members,
musically speaking. I’ve learned a lot from listening and playing with more
experienced musicians; we’re back to the “if you ask, they will share”
concept. You can be bold and be the person that invites everyone to the
musical feast. I think you will find that even the most experienced musician
will get something out of it.
So go out there and play and remember, you’re not just another pretty face!

n.b. This column continues in a series dedicated to the female musician.

We now have our own page in the guitar forums. As always, I would love
suggestions on topics you would like to see covered. Please email me and
tell me your story. I enjoy hearing each and every one.

Why should I take

guitar lessons?
JAMIE ANDREAS Guitar Lessons How to Teach Guitar, Tips on Learning to Play

Having spent my life making a large part of my living giving guitar lessons,
you might suspect me of having a biased view of this subject! Let me
assure you at the outset that I do not. Even though there may be a small
part of me somewhere that does think that everyone should take guitar
lessons, (whether they plan to actually play the guitar or not!), just to keep
me in business, I always keep that part under control, and never let it sway
my judgment!

So don’t worry, you’re in safe hands here. In fact, there have been times in
my teaching career that I have actually told a student not to take lessons
anymore, or to go to another teacher. So I don’t make any blanket
statements about taking guitar lessons. The way that lessons, or the
process of educating yourself as a musician, fit into your life will be a
decision you make based on your unique circumstances, and your unique

One general statement I will make is that for beginners, lessons are
ALWAYS a good idea. This doesn’t mean that you should make no efforts
to perhaps teach yourself, using books, videos and the Internet. But along
with all of that, especially in the beginning, and especially if you have no
previous experience with music, you should seek out a teacher.

If you are teaching yourself, and coming along well, then lessons will
increase your progress, usually greatly increase your progress. I started by
teaching myself for about three months. I was learning and could play lots
of songs, and was teaching myself to read notes from a method book. But
when I started lessons, I really started to make progress, simply because of
the guidance of someone who knew the route to take a lot better then I did.
Also, and most importantly, a great number of misunderstandings and
wrong steps were corrected by someone who had two things I didn’t have:
knowledge and experience.

Re-Inventing the Wheel

Let’s get a few things straight right at the beginning. Let’s really look at this
question “should I take guitar lessons”. I have to tell you, whenever I hear a
beginning player ask that question it makes me laugh. It’s like a five-year-
old saying they want to be a doctor or lawyer when they grow up, and
asking if it would be a good idea if they went to elementary school! The
mere asking of the question shows how much the person asking doesn’t
have a clue about what they are getting into, and how best to get into it.

When I hear this question, I think “why on earth would it ever be a bad idea
to learn a very complicated subject from someone who knows a whole lot
more that you do, and has years of experience with the subject.” Why on
earth would it ever be a bad idea, before beginning a journey to an
unknown place, to ask for help from a guide, who has traveled the route
many times? The very fact that someone is asking the question shows they
don’t understand how the whole process of the development of talent

They don’t understand, for instance, that playing the guitar is a very
sophisticated mental/physical process. Like many activities, such as various
sports (tennis, golf, basketball) it has evolved over many years, and
continues to evolve, becoming increasingly complex, and new standards of
excellence being set all the time. Would anyone seriously ask the question
“would it be a good idea for me to go to baseball camp”, or would it be a
good idea to take tennis lessons with a tennis pro”, or “I’d like to improve
my golf game, do you think I should take lessons with Tiger Woods”. We all
know the answer would be “Duh!!?!!”
Yet, when it comes to learning the guitar, people somehow think that
perhaps it might be a good idea if they shut themselves up in a room and
spent their time re-inventing the wheel!

Why do so many people adopt this attitude as they begin guitar (and many
people do, bear with me if you are not one of them)? Here are the reasons:

Ignorance: Plain ignorance about the entire subject of education, that is, of
learning anything. They don’t understand that ALL resources, such as
books, videos, watching players, talking to players, as well as sitting with
players who make a regular habit of transferring their knowledge and
abilities to others (teachers) should be used if at all possible, ESPECIALLY
in the beginning.
Intimidation: They imagine they would be just plain embarrassed fumbling
around with something new and looking and feeling like an idiot in front of a
Illusion: they look around and see people who just “pick it up” on their own
(or at least say they do!). They don’t understand that some people have
“natural talent”, which is the tendency to do the right thing, but that even
those people would go much further with lessons, and may very possibly
never get as far as someone with less talent who does take lessons.
Sometimes people see other people who just “pick it up” and say “I should
be able to do that”, and doggedly keep trying to learn on their own, even
though nothing is happening, they aren’t learning! Just like men who won’t
stop and ask for directions, it begins to become an ego thing, and leads to
the in-ability to recognize that we need help, and to put ourselves in the
vulnerable position of asking for it.
Ego: They want to feel like they HAVE re-invented the wheel. This one
especially gets people who do have talent, and can get relatively far on their
own. They really like the idea of being able to brag to people that they are
“self-taught”. The psychology of this one is very similar to the syndrome I
expounded in my essay Why Should I Learn to Read Music.
Money: Well, we can’t argue with this one! Sometimes people just don’t
have the bucks for lessons. Personally, at one point in my life I worked 20
hours a week in a factory for minimum wage and spent it all on my lesson
with a top teacher in New York City. I put off having a car and used to
hitchhike to get around so I wouldn’t have to support a vehicle. We all
decide the price we will pay for what we want.
So, if you are one of those people with a bad attitude about taking lessons,
decide which of the above reasons applies to you, and whether you want to
deal with it or not.
You, The Teacher
It is very important to realize that even if you are not taking lessons you
already have a teacher. YOU! Understand that especially if you are not
going to someone else for guidance that leaves YOU in charge of your own
growth, and responsible for your progress. It leaves YOU as the ONLY
teacher on the scene. And you better make sure this teacher is a good one!
You better make sure this teacher is honestly working their best to make
sure the student is learning how to play, and play well, and building the
foundation for continuous growth.

The job of the teacher is two-fold: to present new material to the student
and to make sure the student is actually learning it. If you are your own
teacher, these jobs fall to you. Just like buying yourself a book to present
yourself with new material, buying yourself some lessons is fulfilling the
same teaching function.

And besides, if you are your own teacher, and doing a good job, sooner or
later you will arrive at the conclusion that it would be a good idea to get
some assistance from someone who has already given some, or many,
years to playing the guitar and being a musician.

True, you never know if you are going to find a great, or even good teacher,
at least right away. However, a teacher would have to be pretty lousy to not
be of SOME benefit, at least for a while. You can always leave and look for
another, and knowing WHEN to leave a teacher is an art in itself!

No One is Self Taught,

Everyone is Self Taught!
The fact is, in one sense none of us are “self-taught”, and in another sense,
we are all “self-taught”.

None of us are self-taught, really. We are all influenced by what we see and
hear around us, whether we are aware of it or not. A baby learns to walk by
watching others walk. It doesn’t take “walking lessons”, but without
watching others it would never learn to walk, (or talk, for that matter). So,
the baby doesn’t take lessons, but would they be justified in going around
when they’re about 10, bragging to their friends “Yeah, walkin’, taught

I don’t think so.

Segovia went through his very long life telling people he was “self-taught”. It
was great PR, and the press loves that kind of stuff. He liked to give the
impression that he started the classical guitar from scratch. Of course, he
did add immeasurably to the domain and reach of the classical guitar, but
only by thoroughly learning what came before him. There is a great picture
of him sitting at the knee of Miguel Llobet, (the main student of Francisco
Tarrega, who was the greatest guitarist of the 19th century, right before
Segovia began his career.) Segovia is watching intently as Llobet plays,
and you better believe he is absorbing every detail of what and how it is
being done. He is “taking a lesson”.

If you play electric guitar, or folk guitar, or any style for that matter, one of
the best things you can do is watch (and listen to, of course) other players.
If your inner teacher is functioning, you will pick up something every time.
You may not know it, it might just appear, show itself in some way, the next
time you play.

The great players are doing this all the time. They were doing it when they
first picked up a guitar. They MADE everything be their teacher, whatever
happened to come their way, other players, recordings, and teachers. This
kind of aggressive attitude is essential, and this kind of aggressive attitude
would never even ask the question “should I take lessons”. It knows the
answer would be, “Yes, if you can”.

The real teacher is the “inner teacher” we all have inside of us. If that
teacher is not on the job, no learning gets done, no matter who is standing
in front of us playing the role of teacher. That is the sense in which,
ultimately, we are all “self-taught”.

It is this “inner teacher” that recognizes and makes use of all the “outer
teachers”: people, books, etc.. So, in the sense that we will, and must, be
absorbing knowledge and influences from what is around us, none of us is
Lessons at different times,
and for different styles
I have said lessons are always a good idea in the beginning. As you move
along, there may be times when it is best to stop lessons, at least for a
while. Sometimes, we simply need to be alone with our playing and our
development for a while in order to reach new ground, the place that is right
for us to grow into.

Especially for players of improvised styles, where the activity of playing with
others is so essential to the growth process, this can become an important
consideration. And often the student doesn’t recognize this. There have
been many times when I had a student who was happily spending all his
time learning scales and doing exercises, but couldn’t jam a simple blues
solo with another player! If someone like this tells me they have aspirations
of being in a band, I will tell them “stop lessons and join a band! It is more
important for your development to play with other people with what you
already know, than it is to stay in lessons and learn more scales or

And this leads to the understanding that the need for lessons is not only
different at different stages of our growth, but it is also different depending
on the style we wish to play. As time goes on, lessons are less important for
the blues/rock player. Actual playing experience is more important. The
same is true for the folk player. Only when Vertical Growth is desired are
lessons necessary. A great blues player becomes great because they are
steeped in the language of blues, and speak it all the time as they converse
with other players. You cannot become a great blues or rock player by
staying in your room or taking lessons for the rest of you life.

If you are going to pursue the classical guitar, you’d better get some
lessons right away, and work hard to make sure it is with the best teacher
possible. Also, you should expect to be in lessons for at least ten years, if
not the rest of your life, depending on how professional and developed you
desire to be.

Summing up, understand that even if you are not taking “formal” lessons,
you still have a teacher, and that teacher is you, and you have the same
responsibility that your teacher would have if you WERE going to formal
lessons: you must make sure the student is learning, and if not, you must
do something about it.

If you are taking “formal lessons” understand that even though there is
someone sitting there who has the title “teacher”, YOU are really the
teacher, you are really the one who decides whether anything is really
going to be learned, and who actually does the learning. You are going to
decide how effective the lessons really are by how well you apply yourself.

If you are in lessons and not learning, than your “inner teacher” must tell
you it is time to leave, and time to begin the active search for another
teacher. Many people don’t do this, and that is why they can be in lessons
for a long time, and not be learning.

Teaching and learning are in reality two sides of the same coin. You cannot
become a great teacher unless you have already been a great student.
Realize that you must play both roles in the process of your own growth as
a guitarist.

Copyright Jamie Andreas, Guitar Principles.

A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

First, I’d like to apologize to my regular readers for my fairly long absence.
Lately, many things have been happening and have taken me away from
my post. Hopefully, this won’t happen again.

I mentioned a while back that most songwriters tend to write their songs in
an “unplugged” style. I tend to do this myself, most of the time. The
harmony I incorporate with the voice, through the lyrics.

Then comes the time to arrange it.

Usually, this is fairly straightforward. You’ve written the song, and while
you’ve been writing it and playing it and hearing it inside your head. You
usually know how it’s supposed to sound.
Yet, every once in a while, you get that one song which doesn’t behave like
the rest.

You should try different things. Changing the tempo. Playing the rhythm
with a keyboard instead of a guitar. Changing the strumming pattern.
Taking out a verse, adding a bridge. Putting a verse where a chorus should

But what if the structure is perfect the way it is?

About sixteen years ago, I wrote this fairly simple song. Two chords in the
chorus and two more in the verses. Quite simple, actually. But it sounds
good and it has the potential of becoming a hit. But I’ve never performed
the song. Why? I could never figure out a proper arrangement for it.

In my mind, this was a fairly upbeat song. Fast tempo, lots of riffs and
distorted guitar. The whole band playing along and having fun. Problem is,
it didn’t work. I never got it to sound right.

I tried to record it seven times, using seven different arrangements and

none of them worked.

A few weeks ago, I was discussing this with a guitarist who used to play
with some of the big names, here in Québec. This is one song that I want to
record for my next demo, but I have to make it work. He asked me to play it.
I did. He listened. He borrowed my guitar and started finger-picking it. Very
slowly. I sang along.

To my surprise, it worked! It was so simple! Yet I’d never thought of it…

Which is why I want to talk about working with others for arrangements. I
don’t mean that you should turn over all of your songs to others so that they
may arrange them, but you should play those more difficult songs to others
to get their input.

Some people are very good at this. Actually, there are some people who’s
jobs it is to arrange songs. That’s all they do.
You see, some songwriters always get stuck at the “unplugged” part. They
have no idea how to arrange their songs. If that’s your case, then that’s OK.
It doesn’t mean you won’t make it. It just means that you’ll need someone
else to arrange all of your songs for you.

But if you can’t find a particular arrangement for a song, it might be a good
idea to try and enlist someone else’s aid. As I said, some people’s jobs are
to arrange songs, it’s what they are good at. Some people have a knack for
it. If you know someone like that, I suggest you stick close to them.

Of course, some people will ask for money. Others may ask for a co-writing
credit. Normally, you shouldn’t share the credit with someone unless they
make a major contribution. You may want to try and only share the
composing credit and not the lyrical one. Remember our arrangements?
50% for lyrics and 50% for music. Offer them to share the music credit and
they end up with 25% of the total credit instead of 50%. And your name
should come first. They can’t arrange without your music, can they?

Where Do I Go From
A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

That’s a common enough question among songwriters. What do you do

with your songs?
There are three avenues you can take. Today, we’ll be looking at the first
two. The third deserves a spot of its own.

Avenue one is the most obvious, and the one that makes the most sense.
Yet, it can be the most difficult. This one consists of singing them yourself,
or having them sung by someone in a band you are leading.

Now, for a lot of people, this avenue is one they haven’t looked at for
various reasons. The most common is: ‘I can’t sing’. Almost everyone can
sing. Yet, not everyone has a nice voice. But that never stopped Bob Dylan.
Probably the worst voice in music (worse even than Tom Petty’s). And what
about Neil Young? If you look hard enough, you can come up with
countless examples. Even today. Ever heard the guy from Semisonic?

Another common reason is people think they’re bad musicians. So what?

I’m sure they’re a little better now, but I saw U2 about 15 years ago (The
Unforgettable Fire tour) and, believe me, none of them could play their
instruments. How about Pink Floyd? Only one good musician (David
Gilmour), yet the music is great.
So, perhaps all you need is a bit of courage and self-confidence. If you
choose this way, then you have to decide whether you’ll be going with a
band, a back-up band or entirely solo. You have to manage yourself or get
someone you have complete confidence in and manage for you.

There are, of course, very valid reasons for not singing your songs yourself.
Perhaps you simply have no interest in a career as a singer. And that’s OK.

So what do you do?

The second avenue is to find someone who will sing your songs.
Unfortunately, this one also requires a lot of work. Actually, they all do.

It means going around clubs and festivals (partying and drinking) and
finding a voice. Well, a bit more than that, the person also needs to have a
presence and a look.

What you are looking for is a singer who performs no original material
because she/he doesn’t write songs. Then you approach this person and
offer your songs. Of course, this doesn’t happen over the initial ‘Hello, my
name is”, but you get the idea.

If your songs are not exactly in the style as what this singer does, it’s not
really important. You need to steer your songs toward this person and this
person toward your songs. Sort of meet in the middle.

Now, the best way to insure success is to continue to involve yourself in this
person’s career, essentially manage their career. Yes, more work.

In my mind, this is most likely the most difficult route of all.

I realize we aren’t going into too much detail at this time, but I’m trying to
answer a lot of questions without going over the subject for several months.

Next week: the third avenue: The music world’s best kept secret.

Another Approach
LEE BUDAR-DANOFF Guitar Lessons The Other Side

Do you feel shy about playing the guitar? At a recent guitarists’ night out at
a local music store, you could count the number of females on one hand,
and that included a mom and a clerk. There were guys all over, checking
out new instruments, plugging into bunches of amps, playing on stage… in
general showing no fear of trying new things – no embarrassment. As one
of the few females, I felt almost self-conscious standing there, admiring the
shining electric guitars and wanting to reach out and touch one. I started
thinking – do girls take a different approach to playing guitar once they
finally decide they want to? Does it hold us back from “going for it”? I
decided to survey some girls to find out their approach to playing guitar.

Age does not seem to be a factor in playing guitar – one girl surveyed
expressed interest when she was only 2 years old. Parents were supportive
in the selection of an instrument, and often helped the girls get their first
guitar. However, only one expressed the interest to play professionally – by
forming a band. Most just considered the guitar a hobby, for leisure, and not
serious. Most guys I spoke with talked about playing in bands. While it is
perfectly ok to want to play for fun (I do!), why did so few girls even think of
the possibility of playing not just for fun, but as a career?

Perhaps this can be connected to their role models for playing. When asked
if there were any guitarists they tried to emulate, most said no, and the rest
brought up male players: Mark Knopfler, Kirk Hammet, and Fieldy from
Korn. In addition, when asked what inspired them to play guitar, most of the
answers included their brothers, father, or grandfather – not a female in the
bunch. Does the lack of female role models hold back some potential
female guitarists? One approach girls might consider taking would be to
actively look for and identify some female players whose music they like. I
really enjoy the Celtic/folk player Al Petteway, but soon discovered that his
wife Amy White was a wonderful player too. During an intermission at a cd
release concert, I said to heck with being shy and went right up to the stage
to ask her some questions about her guitars and playing. What inspiration –
even though we got home late, all I wanted to do was get out my guitar and
play – and I did!

Girls don’t appear limited in their choice of guitar or music. The girls
surveyed all said they play acoustic guitar, but half also play electric, and a
few said they play bass. The selection of music interests ranged all over –
from country to heavy metal, pop to alternative to rock. However, when
asked about their favorite musicians and groups, the only female name that
came up was Faith Hill. Are there no female musicians or groups that
appeal to girls desiring to play guitar? Where are the Bangles, or Heart, for
this generation? Is it the Indigo Girls? If the Bangles could be inspired by
the Beatles to achieve success, what is to stop anyone from getting
inspiration and creating their own image and style. But will they? There is a
new movie coming out based on a comic magazine girl band – Josie and
the Pussycats. It will be interesting to see how successful the movie is, and
if it inspires a new group of girls to play guitar. Perhaps a “safe” method to
start with is a search of the Internet. (There are links to women’s pages on
this site). Doing something actively will get you farther down the road to
playing than just thinking about it.

The girls surveyed had a variety of methods for learning to play guitar –
videos, classes at school or with a tutor. None of them mentioned using a
guitar book, although there is a wide variety of books available. The most
commonly mentioned method was to learn from a friend or family member.
The girls did not express any confidence in their abilities when asked what
they could play. They were all young – ages 12 to 20. Their years of
experience ranged from just started to about 5 years of playing. The girls
said they could play basic chords and power chords, although barre chords
were problematic due to “small hands”. Only one said she could fingerpick.
Most expressed the ability to play simple songs or parts of songs. One did
say she could play Freebird! None of the girls seemed confident in their
playing – as if they had nothing to boost their self-esteem. They may not
feel that is due to being female, but they might. My husband (for whom I
bought a bass this Valentine’s Day) has been bugging me to learn “From
the Beginning” by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I had to get past a BIG crisis
in confidence, but I got help – the tab, the cd, my teacher, and WOW – I’m
doing it!
It is possible that many instructors are used to teaching boys who want to
play single note leads on electric guitars, and they may not help girls be
open about what they want to play. Some instructors may forget that girls
also have other uniquely “female” issues – like holding a guitar with breasts
(yes, you need to experiment a little to get comfortable with holding your
guitar, or work to find one that “fits”!), and remembering to trim fingernails…
You may want to play like Dolly Parton, who keeps LONG nails, but maybe
you don’t. Perhaps the most important thing to do is tell your instructor what
music you like, and bring music to your lessons – if you don’t have sheet
music or can’t find lyrics and tab on-line, take in a tape or cd. The instructor
can then figure out how to help you play what you prefer. If your teacher
wants to stick to a set of books or is resistant to helping you learn what you
like, don’t hesitate to get another instructor. Check the yellow pages, ask
someone who loves their teacher, visit music stores for teachers or some
recommendations, check the Internet – there is someone out there who will
fit your needs if you spend the time to look.

Another thing that might help girls is to play more with other people (see
Laura Lasley’s article Not Just Another Pretty Face). When asked if they
played by themselves or with friends, all of them said they play by
themselves. Only a couple said that they play with family or friends, and
none on a regular basis. One thing I have found that increases ability and
confidence more than anything is to play regularly with others. You will
either learn from them, or be able to teach someone else. Interaction
usually results in improvements in many areas of playing, with a resulting
increase in confidence.
Some advice from the girls on playing the guitar:

“Get a personal tutor, or help from a friend.”

“Normally girls can express themselves (well), therefore playing guitar

would actually come more naturally… Also, have patience. Music does not
always come very easily.”

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t play.”

“Play to music.”

“Take it one note at a time.”

“Get an instructor, video, or try to learn by teaching yourself!”

“Guys play a lot, and every guitar player I’ve met, with the exception of one,
loves to teach. You can also learn on your own. Don’t be afraid to
All the girls expressed similar sentiments as to why they love playing: it
makes them happy or feel good, it helps them express themselves, gives
them energy, relieves stress, lets out frustration, and helps them “make a
beautiful sound”. One girl said that playing is a challenge, but she loves to
play by ear, and it was neat to play a song heard on the radio or at a
concert. In addition, they all supported the idea of girls playing guitar. They
agreed that girls can and should do anything they want, that being a girl
does not interfere with their competency in any area.

If you are having trouble playing, sit down and identify what may be holding
you back, then figure out ways to resolve those issues. Sites like this can
help you in many ways. I was playing on a classical guitar that my
grandfather built – but was frustrated with my lack of progress. By talking to
others and reading articles, I decided I needed to find another guitar to
learn on. I took a lot of time, played many guitars, and finally found THE
ONE for me – my first electric acoustic (a Yamaha). I spent 3 hours with it
at the store (I fight shyness too) before finally taking the plunge. I was late
to a music jam, but it was worth it. It is difficult to walk by this guitar without
stopping to play – it inspires me! I’ve made other changes – I pick my own
music, changed my strings (to Elixirs), switched to a lighter pick (and a boy I
teach had me put masking tape on it where I grip it – now it does not slip
from my fingers!), learned travis picking, got a stool for my left foot… you
get the idea. I also started going to music stores more often, and I play with
anything I want, forcing timidness away. After a while, it felt good. Don’t be
afraid to take another approach – and fight any fears you may have. If this
is what you want, just do it.

Changing Chords –
Having a little trouble
with those easy
JAMIE ANDREAS Guitar Lessons Guitar Lessons for Beginners, Learn About Guitar

Many people begin to play the guitar by learning a few chord changes to
their favorite song. In fact, I learned this way. There are many things to be
aware of while doing this. There are things to know and do that can make it
easier, and guarantee you will have success. There are also many things
that can go wrong, and guarantee trouble.

You should first understand that often the term “simple chords” is very
misleading. Most “simple chords” for guitar require quite complex
movements of the fingers, in order for them to get into the final “form” of the
chord. In the following essay, I am going to analyze one of the most
common chord changes, and one of the most misunderstood in terms of it’s
actual difficulty. I am referring to the chords G and C.

Let’s look at this chord change from the viewpoint of the ideas outlined in ”
The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar”. And I am also going to use a
real life example of a student of mine named Kathy. You will see many
things in her story that will be true for you also, and the principles will apply
to all chord changes, not just G and C.

Kathy’s Situation
When Kathy came for lessons with me, she had already been trying to learn
the guitar for about 2 years, with a few different teachers, and with no
success. She could struggle her way into a few chords, but watching her try
to change them fast enough to do a song was an exercise in agony, for me
and for her. Her case is a good example of how bad things can get when
there is no understanding of the mechanics of playing and practicing, right
from the beginning.

First of all, I needed to make her aware of how tensed up her left shoulder
was as soon as she began to raise her left hand to the neck. This made her
whole arm tense, right down to the fingers. As she tried to get in to the first
chord, the fingers tensed up even more, and started leaning and pressing
against one another, instead of having the proper space between them.

This tension of the fingers immediately began to cause a reaction in the rest
of the arm, tensing up the large muscles of the arm and shoulder. All of this
created a great feeling of discomfort, that Kathy had assumed is “just the
way it feels to do a G chord.”

How To Avoid “Lockup”

This is a situation that happens all the time to beginners, and even to
advanced players to varying degrees. I call this buildup of tension as the
arm is raised and the fingers about to move lockup. That is, the fingers,
hand and arm “lockup” with tension, and usually the unfortunate player
continues to try to get them in position by working through the tension,
trying to make the fingers perform while they are “locked up”.

The thing to do is stop, go back into the position you were coming from, and
begin to move very slowly, examining the fingers closely as soon as they
release the first chord, and focus on staying relaxed from the shoulder
down to the fingers, and staying that way as the fingers move to their new

Now, you have to look at the whole situation the hand is in. For Kathy, her
thumb was wrapped around the neck in such a way that there was no
space between her hand and the guitar, so her fingers had a difficult time,
not being free and relaxed, or having the room to move. By the time she got
in to the G chord, she was holding on to it for dear life! Not exactly in a
position to easily change to the C chord, which is even harder.

Then, as she began to pry her fingers off the G chord and go for the C, she
did what many people do, she led with the strong finger, the first finger, that
is, and smashed it down on it’s note, on the second string, first fret. Now,
she was holding on to that for dear life, with the whole arm, from finger tip to
shoulder, knotted up with tension.

Next came the attempt to get fingers 2 and 3 into position, which was very
difficult for her to do, and me to watch, as those poor, stressed out fingers
did their best to do her will. By the time she got them in to position,
somewhat, they weren’t standing straight enough to allow the adjacent
strings to ring clearly, one of the difficulties of the C chord.

So the net result of all this effort was the inability to change chords
smoothly, and the inability to get the notes of the C chord out clearly once
she got there.
My Solution for Kathy
Here are the steps I used to undo the knots of tension that Kathy had
unknowingly created and allowed, that were preventing her from performing
actions on the guitar which anyone should be able to do, if they approach
them properly.

1. I explained the concepts of muscle memory, and how disastrous muscle

tension is, and how difficult it can be to become aware of it.

2. I explained the practice tools outlined in my book, Posing, and No

Tempo Practice, used for becoming aware of, and eliminating, excessive
muscle tension.

3. I explained how to bring the left hand to the neck, with the fingers in a
relaxed curl as she approached the strings.

4. I had her begin practice of Left Hand Exercise #1, using Posing, No
Tempo Practice, and the Basic Practice Approach.

5. As a few weeks went by, she developed the ability to have relaxed
fingers come to the neck and strings, and also to have them stretch out
from one another in a relaxed way, while the arm and shoulder stayed
relatively relaxed.

6. Then we applied this way of moving to the chord changes, G to C. She

learned how to keep everything relaxed, and how to keep a good space
between the hand and the guitar as the hand turned, as it must in going
from a G to a C.

7. I had her place the 2nd finger down lightly on the 4th string, for the C
chord first, not the first finger. As she placed the 3rd finger next, she
kept the hand out, and the 1st finger poised over the 2nd string, first fret.

8. Finally, she placed the first finger down, still keeping it curled, and going
down on the tip, but with the fingertip leaning slightly toward the
headstock, and the hand still out, so that there was enough space
between the hand and the guitar at the index finger that you could stick
your finger in between the hand and guitar.

9. I had her stop and Pose at random times, when the tension would build,
so she could learn to be relaxed in these positions.

10. After repeated No Tempo Practice of this, we began to work up speed

using the Basic Practice Approach. And she started to be able to do it
faster and faster. Now, I am happy to say, she is playing many songs
well, using these and other chords.

I really believe that without this approach, she would never have unlocked
the tensions that were preventing her from being able to do these chord
changes. This approach will work for anybody, and any chords. Try it, with
these chords, or any other changes that give you trouble, or that you would
like to improve.

All of the above can be seen as an illustration of the first two Principles of
Correct Practice, stated in my essay, “The Secret of Speed”. I will now add
the 3rd Principle of Correct Practice:

Principle of Correct
Practice #3:
“The fingers are energized by Attention, and moved by Intention.”

I will elaborate on this later, but you should read and re-read the previous
essays in light of these 3 Principles stated so far, and your understanding of
them will increase, and so will recognition of their relevance to your own
playing situation. And so will their usefulness. That is, by thinking about
these things, when you practice, your practice will be more powerful,
resulting in faster progress.

Copyright Jamie Andreas, Guitar Principles.

Best-Kept Secret
A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

Following the last column, this week we’ll be looking at our last option of
what to do with your songs. This option applies to both performers and non-
performers alike.

The best-kept secret in the music business is The Publisher.

Most of you have heard of the publisher. On every CD booklet, you’ll find
something like “all songs published by ASCAP” or something similar. What
exactly does the publisher do?
Many years ago, before the invention of recorded music, the Publisher
printed songs, much like a book publisher does and made them available to
the public. If, for example, Beethoven wanted an orchestra to play one of
his symphonies, it had to be published first.

Nowadays, they essentially are responsible for making the songs public.
What they are always looking for are songs. Salable songs. Their main
business is buying songs and reselling them to recording “artists”. For
example, if Celine Dion is looking for songs for a new album, she’ll go to a
publisher and see what material is available.

Often, though, the artists won’t buy the songs, but borrow them. That costs
nothing, yet the publisher is the one who collects all royalties. That is
because the publisher owns the copyrights. Let’s backtrack a bit… You
write a song, you own the copyrights. You want the song published by
someone else, you sell it. Selling it means selling the copyrights.

Hence, you sold a song for $25,000 to a publisher. It became a huge hit
and all the royalties amount to $750,000. The publisher makes a profit of

Then why go to a publisher? Because he has access to more resources

than you’ll ever have. These people have better relationships with folks in
the industry than anybody else. They have to: they provide the songs.

In our example, if you hadn’t accepted the 25K, you might never have sold
the song.

A publisher, especially early on in your career, can be a godsend. It doesn’t

matter that you may lose profit if you sell your songs, in the end, you’ll still
be making good money. You see, publishers tend to be logical people. If
they like your songs and think that they can sell them, they need you to
continue writing them. How can you write songs if you’re working eight
hours a day? You still can, but not as many as if it were what you spent
most of your time on.
If a publisher likes your songs enough to do business with you, he’ll make
sure your bills are paid. Even if it takes five years, he’ll be paying all the bills
and you’ll be writing songs full time.

Also, you don’t need to sell a publisher your songs. You can enter some
sort of deal with them where they’ll take a percentage of the royalties.
Everything is negotiable.

What is more difficult is finding these people. They don’t go around with
signs on them saying who they are. And very few advertise.

The Internet is one place for looking. You may come up with a few. Other
places are guidebooks. Most countries/states/provinces will have a sort of
guidebook called, more or less, “Who Does What“. These should contain
contact addresses for music publishers. Call first, some of them are not in
the song business at all, but instead collect old material that’s now in the
Public Domain.
As we’ve mentioned before on this site, presentation counts a lot. As for the
recordings, with a publisher, always try to be as minimal as possible. If you
can, a simple guitar and voice is perfect. They don’t care for your
arrangements. They can take a country song and turn it into a dance song.
So don’t try to impress them with arrangements… You won’t.

And don’t despair if a Publisher doesn’t like your songs, they’re not always
right. Bach, when he started composing, tried to sell his music to
publishers. He was ridiculed. He was told he had no talent. He never again
tried to sell his music. After he died, his brother discovered the more than
3,000 pieces of music he had written. Not one published. And nobody had
known that he composed… Today, only Beethoven outsells him. And not by
much. To give you an idea, Beethoven would have to stop selling altogether
and Celine Dion would have to double her sales, for over a hundred years,
before she even came close to selling what he’s sold.

Minor Progress
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge, Music Theory for

Songs written in minor keys can be sad, mysterious, ominous even. To the
listener, they deliver an incredible variety of emotional ranges.
And to the fledgling songwriter, as well as the experienced music theorist,
songs in minor keys can cause no end of emotional impact as well, usually
frustration and bewilderment. But hopefully today we can dispel some of the
mysteries and anxieties that surround these wondrous sounding songs.

Up ’til now, whenever we’ve been looking at melodies and chord

progressions, for the most part I’ve stuck to working in major keys. This has
been mostly owing to the fact that I wanted to get those of you with little
background in theory some kind of footing before veering off into the
uncharted territories of minor keys. Before we get too much further you
might want to take a quick look at two past columns, Scales Within
Scales and The Power of Three. There is information in both of these
pieces that will serve as a foundation on which we can build a study of
minor chord progressions without freaking ourselves out too much.
And let’s get this out of the way, too, shall we?

These files are the author’s own work and represents his interpretation of
these songs. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or

Preparing Your Palette

The first fun thing about minor keys is that you have three scales with which
to work. Let’s use the key of A minor as an example. Here are the three
minor scales in that key:
Now in order to come up with our chords for this key, we simply build triads
upon each of the notes of our A minor scale. But you see how this is going
to be, shall we say, interesting? Because each of our A minor scales
provides us with different sets of chords with which to work, we have three
“chord groups” at our disposal:
“So, David,” you’re saying, “we see how we come up with these chords.
How do we choose which ones we want?” That, my friends, is the sheer
beauty of working with minor keys. Any and all of these (plus others, as
we’ll (eventually) see) are fair game.

Making Resolutions
One thing we have to remember, though, is that chord progressions should
have a purpose. Well-constructed songs have a good sense of tonality, that
feeling of “home” that we discussed last summer in Five To One.
(And I guess that this is as good a place as any to mention that you might
also want to review Five To One as well as its companion piece, You Say
You Want A Resolution.)
Musically speaking, fewer things nail down the tonality of a song as the V to
I “authentic” cadence. Songs in minor keys actually give us an additional
cadence, VII to I, that also helps us to establish our sense of home. Try out
these chord sequences, done with chords taken from our “natural minor”
And now again with the V chord taken from the harmonic (or melodic)
minor, while the VII is still from the natural minor:

As you can hear, resolving to your “home” key from either V or VII works
very well. You probably know lots of songs that use either (or even both) of
these resolutions. Two Talking Heads numbers are, in fact, perfect two-
chord examples of either transition:
You can hear how easily both these chord patterns slip in and out and back
into the home key. There is a lot to be said for simplicity sometimes.

Here is another song that uses the I to V to I progression. But this time the
V is from the natural minor chord group. Listen to how the changes seem
subtler. Even though you do get a good feeling of “home,” the overall sense
of tonality is somehow more elusive:
A favorite progression for songwriters of songs in minor keys is a straight
descent from I to VI and back again. Here are a couple of examples:

Another progression you will often encounter extends this descent from I all
the way to V. The start of Greensleeves (the same music as the Christmas
carol What Child is This) is a good example with which I am sure many of
you are familiar. Here are a couple of interesting variations on this idea:
You can see (and hear)(that is, if you’re playing along…) how the chords
in Like A Hurricane go right “down the ladder,” from I to VII to VI to V. But
Young opts to use the V from the natural minor chord grouping and you can
just hear and feel that resolving to Am from Em is just not as dramatic as it
is from G. It is the shift from the natural V to the natural VII that provides
this song with its punch.
In our second example, we descend from I to VI (and I’m sure by now
you’ve all caught on to the fact that this is almost always traditionally done
within the natural minor chord grouping) and then go to III (also in the
natural minor group) before grabbing the V from the harmonic/melodic

Going Fourth
As a rule, and please, please, please remember that there are often as
many “exceptions” as “rules,” when writing in a minor key, the V will usually
come from the harmonic or melodic minor chord groups. The III, VI and VII
are most likely to come from the natural minor chord group. There are quite
a few songs that use both of the possible V’s and we will look into this a bit
next time out.

It is the IV in minor-keyed songs that tends to provide most of the interest.

Listen to the difference in tone between these two songs, even though they
are both in A minor (yes, I transposed the first one to make it easier!) and
both use a I – IV – I – IV progression:

Songs that use the IV from the melodic minor chord group usually have a
very dynamic, edgy feel to them. Think of songs like Somebody To
Love or Another Brick in the Wall (part 2). Part of this is owing to the fact
that even though we have already accepted the home key as whatever
minor we happen to find ourselves (A minor in the case of this Moody Blues
song, The Story In Your Eyes), we’re kind of half waiting for the song to
change key on us.
One final note for today – if you are writing a song in a minor key, take the
time to experiment. Listen for the changes between chords and feel free to
go from one minor chord grouping to the next. Use chords from all three, as
this song does:
See how it takes the III (the C chord) and VI (F) from the natural, the V from
the harmonic (and/or melodic) and the IV from the melodic. Pretty cool,

I hope that this has been helpful, even though we’re just scratched the
surface. You’ll hopefully find that much of this will be useful next time out
when we’ll look at modulation and key changes.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in future columns. You can
either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email me directly at
Until next week…


LAURA LASLEY Guitar Lessons Buying a Guitar and Other Equipment, The Other

“We are living in a material world, and I am a Material Girl” –

Madonna: Material Girl
“Oh girls just want to have fun” – Cyndi Lauper: Girls Just Want to Have
Imagine my delight when the faculty of this esteemed Online Guitar
College, in an effort to coordinate our teaching, decided to try “themes of
the month” and then picked Shopping for July!! Well, OK, it wasn’t exactly
shopping, per se, but it was about how to buy guitars, or equipment or other
stuff. To me, that’s Shopping! And as a red blooded American Female, I
Love to Shop! I know, I know, that’s such a typically feminine response. But
hey, this is the Other Side. I don’t want to completely stereotype girls; I
know plenty of women who hate to shop. But I’m not one of them. And one
thing that I’ve found in guitar lovers from beginner to expert is a love of
buying anything and everything to do with their passion! If you’re looking for
good advice on how to shop for guitars or equipment, be sure to check out
the other shopping for guitar articles.
I find that shopping for a guitar is much like shopping for anything else. The
available information can be overwhelming, especially on the internet.
There are a million web sites about every kind of guitar and every style. I
have a few simple shopping rules that I like to follow which apply to
clothing, TV’s, cameras, cars, houses and yes, guitars and guitar

Do I really need a new

outfit, or am I just
completely taken in by the
picture of the model
wearing the outfit?
First, decide what you want the item for. This is a good step into deciding if
you really need it. Obviously a budding guitar player without a guitar has a
good reason to buy one. Of course, if you already have several, then figure
out if a new guitar is going to add some dimension to your playing. Ask
yourself if you really will play it before you commit your hard-earned dollars.
Then do the research on the guitar. Check web sites, talk to friends, talk to
musicians. Decide how much of a budget you have and do your best to
stick to it. Remember, the guitar only needs to be new to you. It doesn’t
have to be a brand new one. Used instruments can work very nicely.

Hmm, should I get a short

dress or long?
Many of us have been asked what kind of guitar to start with, acoustic or
electric? The conventional wisdom is that acoustic is somewhat harder to
play, so if you start with that, you’ll be able to play anything. However, you
will then have to figure out how to amplify the sound if you do end up
playing with anyone else (especially brass players; they are loud!). My first
guitar was an acoustic and an electric ended up in my lap as a birthday
present when it became obvious that I was serious about playing. There are
acoustic-electric guitars on the market as well. These can work well for

The most important thing you have to do, though, when looking for a new
guitar, is try them on. Just like a good outfit, you have to try it on, make sure
it is comfortable and it never hurts if it looks good. I went to the local music
store (OK, it was a rather large store, the East Coast Music Mall) I walked
into their acoustic room and being someone who’d never strummed a
guitar, I basically picked one that looked and sounded good to me. As I’d
mentioned in the first Other Side article (The Other Side), even if I
strummed just one note, it sounded and looked great! As I got used to
playing it more and more, the big dreadnaught size became somewhat of a
challenge to play. I’m a rather, um, vertically challenged person, and my
hands are not the largest. Let’s just say my glove size is small. However I
can hit an octave and 1 on the piano, so I knew my dexterity would be
alright. I’ve since gone back to the acoustic room to try and find a guitar that
fits better, and while I have found a few, I’ve yet to find one that I like better
than my first. Playing the electric, with the skinnier body, has been fun to
learn as well. I can do different things with that guitar than I can with the
A neat website that takes into account the smaller female shape, especially
for girls, is . They advertise for younger girls, but this
40-something girl wouldn’t mind one…

Earrings, or maybe a belt

to match…
And let’s not forget to accessorize! A good-looking guitar strap, an
adjustable one, is invaluable in making the playing experience a more
pleasant and comfortable one. The joy in buying one is that you can find
one that shows your style. I’ve a plain red leather one to go with my beloved
deep red Guild and I’ve one with geckos (or iguanas?) in reds and blacks to
go with my Red Fender Strat. I like lizards!

A barrette, or some kind of

hair thing…
There are also many kinds of picks to choose from. A friend of mine who is
a mean lead guitar player prefers the fat picks over the paper thin kind. He
feels it gives him better control. I’m still at the stage where anything that
reduces blisters on the right hand from strumming is a good thing. I showed
up at a rehearsal for a gig one night with no picks. Since I was playing with
a lot of brass musicians, a bass player (who doesn’t use picks) and only
one other guitarist (who uses those finger picks (picks that are fitted to each
finger instead of the ones you hold)) I had no one to borrow from. As it was
my turn to bring the take out for dinner that night, I turned a plastic knife
(the blade part) into a pick. It worked surprisingly well.

Shoes, gotta have shoes that

work with the outfit!
Speaking of accessories, amplifiers are a necessity if you have an electric
guitar and a treat if you have an acoustic. There are little ones and big ones
and opinions on each. I’ve a small one, portable by car, but awkward for
planes. There are little ones that pack well for flight as well, if you plan to be
a traveling minstrel. Of course, if you have an acoustic and an amp, you
now need a pickup. I have a terrific Seymour Duncan that I bought online
via Sam Ash Music ( that fits nicely and relatively
unobtrusively into my Guild. Now when I play with those loud lead guitar
types, I can actually be heard strumming. Amazing what technology can do
for us.

Can’t forget a matching

Tuners are another item that I feel are a good accessory. While it is
important to learn how to tune your guitar by ear, it’s essential to tune
correctly if you want to play with others and sound like you’re playing the
same song. Chromatic tuners are more reliable than quartz tuners.
Chromatic tuners are also helpful for alternate tuners. They may be a bit
more expensive than quartz, but are worth it in the long run.
The outfit that looks killer
on one person just doesn’t
work on another.
Again, you can shop online or in person for one, depending on what’s
easier. Our webmaster (and college dean) often puts links on our Home
page. The web makes comparison shopping for accessories so easy, and
you can supplement that with an experienced musician’s opinion. But
remember that opinions are exactly that. Do the research and then come up
with your own opinion before you spend your hard earned (or begged)
cash. Majority opinion is helpful, but ultimately it’s your guitar and gear.
Lest you think this is an incredibly sexist article, let me point out that while
women are often known for their flair in dressing, or in accessorizing, no
one has more flair than a lead guitar player. That is, after all, What They
Do, musically speaking. So you can’t tell me that the fun in shopping for this
stuff is just for girls; it’s for everyone who loves guitars. So get on out there
and shop ’til you drop!!

n.b. This column continues in a series dedicated to the female musician. As

always, I would love suggestions on topics you would like to see covered.
Please email me and tell me your story. I enjoy hearing each and every
one. Shopping stories are always welcome!

– (or, Everything in
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge, Music Theory for
This may be hard to believe, but we’ve actually had a little bit of a theme
running through our last three columns. And yes, I know it’s kind of hard to
keep track of something like that when the columns have been a bit spread
out over the past couple of months. Sorry.

Be that as it may, let’s pick up that thread again. First we started out with
transposing (Turning Notes Into Stone) and then the last time out we
examined how chord progressions were formed in minor keys (Minor
Progress). Today I want to introduce you to the subject of modulation. But
first a word:
These files are the author’s own work and represents his interpretation of
these songs. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or

Okay, then. Let’s read a bit from Walter Piston’s Harmony:

Part of our conception of tonality is the notion that a tonal piece
is “in” a particular key, implying that the particular key defines
just one tonic (root) for the piece. Nevertheless, composers in
the common-practice era seem to have agreed that it was
aesthetically undesirable for a piece of music to remain in only
one key, unless it was quite short. Compositions of any
substantial length invariably include tones from outside the
underlying diatonic scale and at least one change of key,
meaning the adoption of a different tonal center to which all the
other tones are related. The process involved in changing from
one tonal center to another is called modulation. Modulation
represents the dynamic state of tonality. The word implies that
there is a key in which a piece of music begins, a different key
into which it progresses, and a process of getting there.
Whew! That’s a bit of information, huh? What’s it all mean? Well, put in
simplest terms, it means that it used to be considered very boring if a song
stayed in the same key. And before you go thinking, “Oh yeah, but that was
only in classical music, you know, the big orchestra productions…” please
realize that this was true of all sorts of “pop” music as well. If you look
through songs from the 1600’s, 1700’s and 1800’s (even the “exercises” for
students!) are rife with key changes within a song.
Modulation is a great song writing tool and, more importantly, a key subject
to grasp if you want to know more about how music is put together. And,
fortunately, there are lots of examples of modulation in recent
pop/rock/whatever music as well, which we can use to explore this

But before we go dissecting some songs, let’s do two quick things. First
let’s ponder this bit of information, also from Piston’s Harmony:
There are three stages in the process of bringing about a
modulation. First of all, a tonality must be already clear to the
hearer. Second, the music at some point must change its tonal
center. Third, the hearer is made aware of the change and the
new tonal center is confirmed.

That wasn’t too difficult to understand, was it? Okay, now I’d also like you to
review two columns I wrote last summer called Five To Oneand You Say
You Want A Resolution… because we will be using a lot of things today that
come from what we learned back then.

Bumping It Up A Step
The first time that most of us become aware that a song can indeed change
key is when we’re hit over the head with it. Nothing subtle, just bang! and
“Hey! Something’s changed the music Did they speed up the record or

Moving a song up a half or a whole step can create a jarring, dramatic

effect. Think about the Who’s song My Generation. The group is pounding
away, there’s this terrific bass solo and just when you think that it can’t get
any wilder, they go and move the whole thing up a step for the final verse!
No warning or anything! Rick Neilsen does the same thing twice in Cheap
Trick’s Surrender.
But an interesting thing to note is that the change of key does not have to
last the duration of a song. Citing Pete Townsend once more, let’s look
at Won’t Get Fooled Again. The song pretty much establishes itself in the
key of A for the first two verses and choruses (stage one if you’re keeping
score…) and then without warning it steps up to the key of B for the bridge:
And stays there for the guitar solo before coming back to the key of A again
for the rest of the song. And bonus points to those of you who are thinking
that the “BAE” progression is just the “AGD” progression transposed up a
whole step. That’s why we go over these things! And repeating a
progression in the transposed key is a sure fire way to achieve the third
stage – letting the listener become aware that there is a new tonal center.
Another song that does this is Bruce Springsteen’s I’m A Rocker. In the
middle of the songs there is an organ solo and for whatever reason, the
song changes keys up a whole step just for the duration of that solo. When
the last verse comes “˜round again, everything is back where it was.
Changing keys like this can even be more mysterious when it is done
without fanfare. That is, when is is a “normal’ part of the song in stead of a
solo or a new section, like a bridge. The choruses of (Nothing But)
Flowers by the Talking Heads go right from the key of G to the key of A and
then right back again without you even having a moment to catch your
Sometimes, though, songs can be a little sneakier about changing keys.
This is often done through the use of what we call a “pivot chord.” Back to
the book:

The second stage of the modulation involves the choice of a

chord which will serve as a tonal vantage point for both keys. In
other words, it will be a chord common to both keys, which we
will call the pivot chord…
In (Nothing But) Flowers the D at the end of the chorus (the one with the
“***” after it) is our pivot chord. It serves as the IV in the key of A and also
as the V in the key of G and gives us a smooth transition back to the
original key. It’s much less jarring than the shift up to A in the first place,
isn’t it?
A QUICK NOTE: Most of the examples that we have used up to this point
have, for all intents and purposes, NOT used pivot chords to make their
modulations. Oh yes, we could argue this point until doomsday if you wish,
but I just don’t want you thinking that a pivot chord is something you HAVE
to have. But, as you will see and hear, it does make for very intriguing

Let’s look at this song by Roxy Music:

Here you see that the verse starts out the song in the key of C. It’s your
standard I – VI – IV – V progression in fact. From there it shifts from IV to V
(F to G) a couple of times. Nothing out of the ordinary at all. But then as the
verse comes to a close and the chorus starts up and before you realize it
you are back in your I – VI – IV – V progression but the key has changed!
How did this happen? Were we sleeping?

The key here is the G chord. While it is the V in the key of C, it is also the IV
in the key of D. In the last line of the verse (“you’re dressed to kill…”) the G
chord gets a little more dynamic play which sets up the switch from C to D.
Hence it is here at this particular moment that it becomes our pivot chord,
which I have again designated with the “***” symbol.

Generals And Majors And

(Relative) Minors
If you’ve taken the time to read (or reread) last summer’s articles, then you
are already familiar with the examples posed by Comfortably Numb as well
as One Headlight. Modulations between a major key and its relative minor
(or vice versa) are quite common in all kinds of music and can help make a
song much more interesting to its listeners. And it’s fairly easy to do since
any major and its relative minor share all kinds of chords that can be used
as pivots.
But because of something that we learned in our last column, Minor
Progress, you can creat even more dramatic things happen through the use
of pivots chords. Let’s take another look at this song, shall we?

Here is a very wild sounding, yet totally sensible change of key at the
chorus brought on by the fact that the E chord is the V in both A minor and
A major. Simplicity itself, no?
Sometimes a pivot chord does not have to be a part of the actual key of the
song as long as it has been used and it has become “familiar” to the
listener. The old Motown tune “Get Ready” uses a chord progression of D –
G – F in its verses, firmly establishing itself in the key of D to our ears (part
of this is owing to the repetition of G to A in the intro!). But then look what
happens in the choruses:
This is why I mentioned earlier that you can’t live and die by pivot chords (or
any other “rules” of music theory, for that matter). The key changes in this
song sounds seamlessly beautiful and yes there are reasons why it works,
but isn’t it enough that it does work?

Studying The Masters

In songwriting, as in virtually anything you want to get good at – be it guitar
playing, painting, cooking or just being a decent human being – you can
learn a lot from the past. You can go back into the Dark Ages if you like or
even the Not-Quite-So-Dark-Ages of the recent past. Two gifted songwriters
to study would be Ray Davies of the Kinks and John Lennon. The earliest
Kinks songs, such as You Really Got Me and All Day and All of the
Night take a simple guitar riff and transpose it all over the fretboard in order
to come up with songs whose changes of key are breathtaking.
And I’d like to leave you this lesson with a gift from John Lennon. He truly
had a talent for setting up your expectations of a song and then spinning it
all topsy-turvy in the simplest of ways. Here is the first verse of Happy
Christmas (War Is Over). Note how Lennon sets up a progression (I – II – V
– I) first in the key of A and then repeats the progression but this time
transposed to the key of D. This was (and is) a very standard thing for
songwriters to do in that it mimics the structure of twelve bar blues. But then
instead of going to E (which would be the fifth) or returning to A, he starts
the chorus with a G chord making us wonder if we’re now in another key.
But no, he’s decided to totally commit to the key of D, going so far as to set
up a IV – V cadence right at the start of the chorus. Okay, John, D it is.
We’ll even end the chorus in a plagal cadence (G to D) to cement things
down. Or do we? Because he then simply tosses out (almost like an
afterthought, really) an E chord after the D to set up IV – V – I in the key of
A just in time for the verse again. It’s all so simple and disarming but I
guess that’s the point, isn’t it?

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in future columns. You can
either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email me directly at
It’s good to be back! Until next week…

Finding Your Rhythm
LAURA LASLEY Guitar Lessons The Other Side

“You check out Guitar George he knows all the chords, Mind you he’s
strictly rhythm he doesn’t want to make it cry or sing” Sultans of Swing, Dire
I love Mark Knopfler’s description of a rhythm guitarist. It’s everything I set
out to be when I picked up my first guitar, my beloved dark red Guild. I
wanted to learn chords so that I could accompany myself while singing
whatever song was my favorite of the moment. I’d taken piano for many
years and could accompany some songs, but I secretly had hoped to pick
up the guitar at some point in my life. It’s just another string instrument,

Well as you all know, “picking up” the guitar is easier said than done. I
diligently learned folk chords, practiced them again and again, often in the
form of songs I love. I graduated to barre chords and took pride that I have
strong hands that could master these chords. My hands aren’t the biggest,
so I felt that barres were an accomplishment. I was blessed with a great
guitar teacher who taught me chords and theory. He supplemented the drier
part of the lessons with the question, “now, what song would you like to
learn?” I would pull out a CD from my guitar bag, and we’d go through it
together, with him furiously scribbling in my blank music staff book. It’s
amazing to watch him break down a song into simpler parts.

I was excited to learn songs that my family enjoyed. My husband, the

aforementioned bass player, enjoys all kinds of rock and Motown; for him, I
learned Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love (which I’d been belting out
for years, but now I could play AND belt it out). My son was more interested
in jazz; for him, I learned a simple blues progression. At the time, my
daughter loved Jewel; for her, I learned a couple of tunes from Jewel’s first
album. A fascinating journey into alternate tuning was commenced, as one
of my daughter’s favorite songs was Near You Always. After struggling with
the intricate chords, my awesome guitar teacher had an epiphany. It
became a simple song if you tuned the guitar in D! So I learned to tune the
guitar in D and then back again, without snapping my high E string. I was
pretty proud of that accomplishment. The song has some picking involved,
but I never really thought of it as learning a major riff.
Since I was decidedly more interested in learning the chords of songs that I
wanted to sing, it was a couple of years into my lessons before I ventured
into learning any riffs. I learned some tab, so that I could play some lyrical
riffs, but essentially I saw myself as a basic chord player, a strummer, an
accompanist to my singing. When I played in a jam, I was only interested in
rhythm and chords, never fancier than that. I was becoming a veritable
“Guitar George” as Knopfler described. Even my timing got better, as I
played more, both by myself and with others.

Then one day, we decided to play Get Ready, by the Temptations as part of
a set for a gig at my son’s middle school. We had some great student
talent: clarinet, tenor and alto sax, trumpet, trombone, two super lead
singers. I sang lead on a different tune, and we had one of the student’s
fathers playing acoustic. My hubby was on bass, and there I was with the
Strat, because it’s so portable. All of the brass players had learned their
charts for Get Ready and some had come up with some great solo
improvisational pieces. Even my youngest (at age 9) had learned a riff on
her clarinet for that particular song. I had the Strat, so my husband showed
me how to play the main riff. It wasn’t particularly difficult, in fact, it was
much easier than the barre chords I’d been banging out. Just like some of
our other faculty, I’ll show you how easy it can be:
When time came to rehearse with everyone, I decided to go ahead and try
the lead riff. Well, it sounded great and fit in so well with everyone else’s
bits that I went ahead and riffed away for the actual performance. I had
such a good time learning and playing that riff, that I was impatiently waiting
for the solo opportunity on stage. The realization of “Hey! I can be a lead
guitarist!” was a startling one.

Of course, I’ve played with, and heard so many amazing lead guitar players
that I do despair of ever sounding as polished as they are. But every
mountain climbed began with a thought and the desire to achieve that
particular summit. I know that there is a lot of natural and raw talent out
there, but with some hard work, I can make my guitar “cry and sing”.

And in the meantime, I’m content just to have found my rhythm.

n.b. This column continues in a series dedicated to the female musician.

We have our own section in the guitar forums. As always, I would love
suggestions on topics you would like to see covered. Please email me and
tell me your story. I enjoy hearing each and every one.
Some Musings On
Online Instrument
Buying – (or Sittin’ On
The Dock Of ‘eBay)
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Buying a Guitar and Other Equipment, Guitar
Columns by David Hodge

I have a terrible secret. I think I’ve become addicted to eBay. Mind you, not
on actually bidding and buying things (although I have), but rather on simply
browsing. But this really shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve always enjoyed window-

Consider: as you all know, I am a left handed guitar player. What does that
mean, exactly? Well, for starters, it means that should you (assuming you
are right handed) and I walk into a music store together, you will have the
opportunity to play hundreds of guitars while I may be lucky to try out three
or four. That’s a total of three or four. Acoustic, electrics, basses, you name
it. Seems a little sad, n’est-ce pas?

Now consider: I log onto my computer and get on the eBay page titled
“Musical Instruments.” I type the words “left handed” into the search field
and hit enter and what to my wondering eyes should appear but no less
than 60 – 120 left handed guitars!

Even for someone such as myself, who much prefers dealing with a real
person, and preferably a real local person that I can come to with questions
and problems, the lure of the Internet is a siren’s call. And I cannot even
begin to imagine what it must be like to someone who is thinking about
getting his or her first guitar. Let’s put it this way – if the internet had been
around when I first started playing I might be able to have all my guitars
paid off before the year 2036. “Might” being the operative word.
So what I’d like to do is offer up some observations and advice to those of
you who are thinking about exploring the idea of getting your next guitar
online. As always, please remember that these are my own opinions (right!!
like someone else would take credit for them!) based upon my own
experiences and those of the people who have been kind enough to share
their experiences with me. There will always be better stories and there will
be worse ones.

And, truly needless to say, most of this is pure common sense. But you
never know when you might say the one thing that strikes a chord (no pun
intended) with the one person out of the hundreds of thousands that visit
Guitar Noise each month. And I guess that could be a good or a bad thing,

Learning The Rules

All websites have “house rules.” In general, I have always found that it’s a
good idea to sit back and watch for a while and try to understand what
exactly is going on. In the simplest terms, sellers come to eBay to try to find
someone that will buy their wares. Buyers come to either try to buy (or not
buy) something. When an item is listed on eBay, the seller determines the
starting price, whether or not there will be a “reserve” price (or a “buy it
now” option) and how long the auction will last.

On eBay, as on most sites, you have to register if you want to take part.
Registering is free (but not on all sites, be certain before you register!) and
takes but a moment. If you want to ask the buyer a question before you bid
on an item, you will need to register. You will also get to look at all the legal
stuff, which may or may not interest you, but is certainly important. And, you
will have access to all sorts of FAQs pages, which will help you a lot more
than I can!

A “reserve price” means that the buyer has the option of not selling his or
her item if the bidding does not at least match the reserve price. This
guarantees that the buyer will make at least as much money as he or she
feels entitled to.

Say I decide to sell my Yamaha acoustic guitar. I know that it’s not going
bring in a lot of cash (especially since I’m going to be honest about the
gashes in it!) but, hey, it’s MY guitar and who wouldn’t want a guitar once
owned by the dumpy bald guy who writes for Guitar Noise? It’s a rare
collector’s piece (aren’t they all?)! So I set a reserve price on it of, say, fifty
dollars and start the bidding ten. Why? Because of a lot of reasons, which
we’ll explore in a moment. I don’t have to say what my reserve price is and I
choose not to.

Now Paul sees that my guitar is up on eBay and puts a bid of $10.00 on it.
eBay registers his bid and puts it up on my page along with the notation that
the “reserve is not yet met.” This lets Paul and whoever else that may be
watching the action to know that I’d like to make more on my guitar. A-J
outbids Paul and then Dan outbids A-J and before I know it the going price
on my guitar has climbed to $47.00. Now should the auction end at that
price, I have some choices. I could just sell the guitar to the high bidder or
decide to put it up again. But now that I realize I may not get my $50.00, I
might decide to either lower the reserve or give up on the idea of selling it at

Or I may decide to let whatever happen, happen and offer my prized guitar
up for auction with “no reserve.” This means that whoever has the highest
bid wins. And what do you know? Because everyone realizes I’m definitely
parting with my Yamaha, they end up pushing the price up to a final bid of
$53.25. I’ll take it.

And here’s the cynical realist in me coming through – I wouldn’t put it past
some people to be putting things out on eBay with impossibly high reserves
simply to see what they might be able to get on the open market.
Remember, skepticism can be healthy. But also remember, most people
are not really interested in playing a game of hidden agendas. It takes way
too much energy. And if you go into a situation solely for the sake of looking
for one, you will find it. After all, that’s why you’re there, no?

But I could have avoided the whole reserve price question by putting up a
“buy it now” option on my item. This means that if you open up the bidding
at my price, I will take it off auction and sell it directly to you. If the bidding
starts below my “buy it now” price, though, then I retract my “buy it now”
offer and things go on as normal.

Bidding on eBay is done by what is known as “proxy” bidding. When you

register your bid, you are actually registering the high limit of your bid. Say
that you see my guitar is up for sale and you’d like to bid on it. You see that
Paul has a bid on it of $15.00 and you figure maybe you can pick it up for
$20.00. So you put $20.00 down as your bid and hit the enter key and low
and behold you are now the high bidder but your bid is $15.50! What
This is proxy bidding at work. eBay raises the bid in certain increments
(depending on how high things have gotten, I expect) and since, for the
sake of an example, your bid is higher than Paul’s proxy bid, it has only
raised your bid so that it is one predetermined increment higher than Paul’s.
Should you win the auction at this point, you would only pay $15.50, not

But suppose Paul’s proxy bid was higher than $15.00. Let’s say it was
$18.00. Well, when you put in your bid for $20.00, your bid would still be
higher than Paul’s but eBay would show that the bidding had risen to
$18.50 with your bid as the high one to beat. Now if Paul’s proxy bid had
been, say $25.00, then eBay would inform you that your bid was not high
enough to claim the high bid. Not only that, it would also show that Paul’s
bid was now $20.50. Now you could continue to bid, if for no other reason
than to find out what (approximately) Paul’s proxy is or you could simply
retire from the field.

One other thing to note here is that if you have outbid someone, eBay has
automatically sent an email informing the last high bidder that he or she is
no longer first on the list. Likewise, should someone outbid your proxy, you
will get a notification fairly quickly.

If your bid is the highest when the auction is over, then you will be informed
by eBay that you have indeed won and will be given instructions as to how
to best proceed to claim your prize.

Faith And Sweat

Okay, you know the rules. But now comes the really hard part. No lie. You
have to know exactly what you’re biding on. And this is where everything
about buying over the internet becomes, more than anything else, a matter
of faith and detective work.
Again, I can only iterate that my experiences, and I’ve only had a few, have
been very positive. But I know people who can testify to the opposite.
Buying anything over the internet will be perceived as somewhat of a risk
until such time it becomes more and more the norm. But you could also
argue that that’s when it will be even riper for fraud…
Most auction places have managed to allay the fears of sellers by providing
forums where you can find out about your seller. You get to read comments
from people who have purchased from a particular seller before. Anyone
can also read comments about your history as a buyer as well.

But there are a lot of other things to consider. Ultimately, and obviously, the
product you are hoping to buy has to be a big priority. Remember that your
seller may not know a lot about guitars. He or she may (honestly) think it is
one model and not know that it is another. Or may not know that the neck is
warped. If someone is selling something that he or she picked up at a
garage sale thinking that he or she could make a fast buck or two.

Like it or not, the onus of figuring out what you’re bidding on is up to you.
This is one good reason why I highly discourage people from picking up
their first guitar online through an auction. Your first guitar is way too
important an investment to leave to chance. Unless a very knowledgeable
friend is helping you, I’ve really got to tell you to reconsider your stance.

If you’re set on buying online, then you have to do yourself a favor and
become an expert on guitars as quickly as possible. Read up on reviews
(remembering, of course, that most reviews are going to be positive if for no
other reason than no one wants to admit he made a bad purchase) and try
to track pricing. Just because an item has no reserve price doesn’t mean
that it is a bargain. For instance, I saw an item that intrigued me and I
thought the asking price was reasonable until I saw that I could actually buy
it for less money direct from the factory. And then I saw that the same make
and model guitar was selling for even less at one of my local shops!
Something being sold on eBay (or anywhere) is not a guarantee that you
will be getting a good deal.

Feel free to ask the seller any and all questions that are important to you.
Sometimes getting to know the person better will help you with the deal as
well. Anything you can do to make things more personal (usually) helps a

Remember that a “guitar” is just that. Cases are often extra. And don’t
forget to figure in the shipping and insurance to your costs. Instruments are
bulky and not the easiest thing to move from one part of the country (or
hemisphere) to another.
Set Your Limits
I find that it really helps to watch the ebb and flow of auctions for a bit
before jumping in. It’s kind of like a preseason, if you will. Unless, of course,
there is some bargain that is just too good to pass up. Pick a couple of
items that you might be interested in, go through the motions of the auction
(on paper only!) and see what happens. Do a lot of people bid on it? Does
the price shoot up a lot in the last day? Is there an identical item being
offered by the same seller? Sometimes people acquire a shipment of items
and simply unload them one by one. Again, the more you know what’s
going on , the easier it is to plan.
And perhaps the most important thing to plan on is how much you intend to
spend. Budgeting is vital. Set yourself a limit (and, if you’re like me, a
fallback limit) and stick to it. Again, I cannot tell you how many people have
told me how they get so caught up in things that they end up paying much
more for something than they could have gotten it regularly. And, worse, the
next week they see someone else get the same thing, or something close
enough to be considered the same for considerably less.

Like the music store, eBay can be a valuable source. But like anything, it
should never become your only source. It is a great way to find bargains
that you might not be able to find because of you being in one part of the
country while a great guitar is being sold in another part of the country.

And you can make some interesting contacts, too, that may prove helpful
somewhere down the road. In some ways, not buying things can still lead to
getting good deals.

Next time out, we’ll look at a very sadly overlooked aspect of buying gear –
word of mouth.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in future columns. You can
either drop off a note at the Guitar Noise Forums or email me directly at
Until next week…

What to Look for In An
Acoustic Guitar
A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Buying a Guitar and Other Equipment

A guitar must be made of dried wood. If the wood hasn’t lost it’s moisture
when the guitar is made, it will eventually end up crooked. And I’m not
talking 1 millimeter here.

In the old days, they would let the wood dry up for three years before
starting to carve it. Nowadays, most Luthiers use a technique called kiln-
dry. This consists is placing the wood in huge vats filled with chemicals that
treat the wood in three weeks.
Purists will tell you this method is no good, but you shouldn’t be able to see
the difference.

Now let’s look at the various parts of the instrument you wish to purchase.

See Larger Image

The Bridge Unit

This is probably the most important part of the guitar. Most people, and
many guitarists among them, tend to believe that the way the sound is
produced from an acoustic is that the vibration of the strings is sent into the
soundhole, amplified inside the sound chamber and sent out again through
the soundhole.
Part of this myth is due to the fact that removable pick-ups for acoustic
guitars are placed inside the soundhole. If you’re going to use a pick-up like
this on an acoustic, you might as well use an electric as the sound will be
just about the same.
Now this is not the way an acoustic works at all. If it were, you couldn’t get
any sound out of a violin or a cello-or many guitars, for that matter-as the
soundholes are “f” shaped on the sides of the strings.

What actually happens is that the vibration is picked up by the bridge (not
the whole unit, but the part where the strings touch) and is transmitted,
through the bridge unit, into the sound chamber. The vibration is then
amplified using the chamber arrangement, bounced through the struts
(usually fan-shaped for classicals and box-shaped for acoustics), then
pushed out from the soundhole.

Thus, the importance of having a good bridge unit. This should be the first
thing you look at, even before taking the guitar off the rack.

In an attempt to save money, many manufacturers will use plastic for the
bridge. If this is so, on the guitar you’re looking at, don’t even pick it up.
Plastic will never give you a satisfying sound. And, due to the tension
produced by the strings (the lower “E” string produces around 62lb of
tension with light gauge strings), the strings will bite into the plastic unit and
produced grooves, eventually making the whole unit worthless.
The bridge unit, on acoustic (electric’s are a whole different story) should be
made out of wood. Specifically, Ebony. Ebony is a very dense, solid wood,
but very rare and expensive. Other alternatives which are just about equally
as good are Rosewood and Ash.

The white piece, the bridge itself, should also be made of a dense wood.
Here, though, many alternatives will do and are usually to the
manufacturer’s preference.

The whole unit is then firmly glued on to the top of the guitar, the

A variety of woods can be used to produce the body. Often these are due to
manufacturer’s preferences, but quite often to economics. You’ll
occasionally see plywood being used. If that’s the case, a simple rule
applies: don’t touch! A guitar is a precision instrument which must be made
out of top-quality products.

Also, the front piece and the back piece should be made of two different
kinds of wood. You’re looking for a denser piece for the back and a lighter
one for the front. Maple will often be used for the front piece.

Each panel is made from two different pieces of wood which are mirror
images of each other. You should check this point. Just look at the grain of
the wood starting at the middle and see if both sides (top and bottom) are
mirror images of each other. If they’re not, then you’re looking at shoddy
craftsmanship. Also, there shouldn’t be any knots in the wood. Sometimes
you’ll find them, this indicates that the manufacturer is using a cheaper
quality of wood.

The sides should be made from a third kind of wood. Again, different
manufacturers will have different opinions on which particular woods to use.
What it comes down to, at this point, is what you like.

An interesting concept I’ve seen, particularly from Yamaha, is to have a

body that is unvarnished. The sound will not be extraordinary at first, but it
will get better over time. The idea is that the wood is reshaped over time,
according to the way you play and the specific sounds you produce.

I’ve never owned one myself because I can’t see myself playing this thing
for two years waiting for the sound to improve. But I’ve known people who
have owned these types of guitars and swear by them.

The rosette, the decorated part that runs around the soundhole serves
partly to reinforce the sides of the soundhole. Not much is needed and it
shouldn’t be an issue. Mostly, though it serves to decorate the guitar. This
is a tradition that started off with instruments other than the guitar,
thousands of years ago. It’s decorative, so you like it or you don’t.

End Blocks
As the sides of the guitar are made from two different pieces of wood (the
end result being that it’s much more solid than if it were made from a single
piece), these must be joined. Just putting them together and gluing them to
the front and back of the guitar is not good enough, the whole thing would
fall apart.

There is always an end block at the back of the guitar. You don’t even have
to look for it. Again, this should be made of a dense wood. Where some
manufacturers will attempt to save money is to not use one at the front.
They figure that since the neck joins there, it should hold the whole thing
together. Think again.
By holding the guitar with the neck pointing to the ground, you should be
able to see whether or not an end block exists at the front. If you’re still not
sure, loosen the string and place your hand into the soundhole and feel
around, delicately. A good guitar is precision made so you don’t want break
anything. Also, make sure your hands are clean so as not to leave any
residue in the sound chamber.

If the salesperson tells you not to do that, then give them back the guitar
and go somewhere else. You’re about to spend several hundred dollars on
an instrument that will last you decades. You’re allowed to know what
you’re buying and to not get taken for a ride.
The Neck
On an acoustic, a neck must be glued on the body. If there is no end block
at the front of the guitar, that usually means that the neck is assembled on
to the body at the same time as the body is assembled. This might be
quicker for the manufacturer, but is not to your advantage.

The body should be assembled separately and the glue should be left to dry
for several months before the neck is installed.

Like on an electric, a variety of woods can be used on the neck. The neck
should be in two parts: the neck itself and the fingerboard. Sometimes the
headstock is a separate piece which is glued on; this shouldn’t effect the
sound or quality in any way.

The fingerboard is usually made out of varnished Maple or Rosewood.

Some people prefer Maple, others Rosewood. Essentially, Maple is
cheaper, but will give you a fingerboard which will last forever. The
Rosewood will change over time. If you feel the Rosewood fingerboard of a
guitar that’s 15 to 20 years old (or more), you’ll notice the wood isn’t quite
even anymore. Constant pressure on it, with your particular style of playing,
will change it’s form and make it more suitable for yourself. But sometimes
this will result in a fingerboard that’s too crooked and must be replaced after
10 year or more.

Finally, the butt of the neck (the part that goes down and joins with the
body), should go all the way down to the back for stronger support.

In Conclusion
All in all, when looking to buy an instrument which will last you most of your
life, you should take the time to make sure you’re buying something good
and something that you will enjoy in the long run.

Don’t get taken in by salespeople who don’t know what they’re talking
about. If you’re not comfortable with the instrument straight-away, don’t buy
it. Always remember this when you walk into a store: they want to sell, you
don’t have to buy.
Bookends – Simon and
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Easy Guitar Songs, Finger Picking

Last time out we learned some basic fingerpicking with House of the Rising
Sun. Today we’re going to do something that is both a little easier and also
a little harder with an old Paul Simon song called Bookends. You can find it
on the album by the same name or also in many of the Simon and
Garfunkel “Greatest Hits” packages and/or boxed sets. It’s a very simple
song to learn and it will help us to develop some more coordination in our
fingerstyle play. Specifically, it will serve to teach us to use two fingers on
two different strings at the same time. Really. And just to keep things even
more interesting we’ll get to look at time signature changes within songs as
well as what I call “planning ahead” in regards to finger placement.
These files are the author’s own work and represents his interpretation of
this song. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or

Structurally, Bookends is very simple. And if you don’t believe me, do down
to the end of the article and follow along as we walk through it. The main
body of the song is just fourteen measures long. It is played once through
as an instrumental introduction and then once again with a vocal line that
pretty much follows the guitar voicing. It is then played only halfway through
with an abbreviated ending for the outro.
There are two elements to Bookends on which we will concentrate. The first
will be the forming and the fingering of the notes. Secondly will be the
timing and our dealing with two different time signatures.

The song is in the key of C and, progression-wise, alternates from Dm or
Dm7 to C. And if you look carefully, you will see that eight of the fourteen
measures look like this:
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In case you are interested, and you really should be because knowing this
will help you immensely as you learn more and more songs, these notes
are simple intervals of a third that have been inverted. That is, the “root”
note is on the top and the third is being played in harmony underneath.
Some people (even classical guitar players) opt to call this interval a “sixth”
and that’s okay, too (even though it is opening a whole ‘nother can of
worms!). The main thing is to recognize how it sounds. It is an easy
harmony to create while doing fingerstyle guitarwork and you will be seeing
it a lot in some of the upcoming lessons both here and on the new “Songs
For Intermediates” page. If you’re not sure of what I mean by intervals and
thirds, do both of us a favor and go read my column The Musical Genome
Projectand The Power of Three. Then take a look at this:

These voicings of thirds and/or sixths crop up all over the place in
fingerstyle and classical music. This is why it is good to become adept at
picking out how they sound. Rest assured we shall be seeing them again.
Okay, back to the song. We have two important things to discuss here.
First, how to play it with our strumming hand? My advice in this matter
would be to always play the lower tone with your thumb, even if it is on the
G string. On the higher notes, try to alternate using your fingers if possible.
When I’m not concentrating on doing it, I actually find myself playing it like

But if you find yourself using only two fingers, whether the ring and middle
or the middle and index, that’s okay, too. Just being able to play the two
strings, the two separate notes, cleanly and at the same time is such a big
step for a novice guitarist. So don’t give yourself too much grief if it takes a
little effort. I know some guitarists who have been playing for years and
while they do sound good, something as fundamental as this still eludes

And what about that hand on the fretboard? Well, if I may, let me interject a
quick note. It never hurts to be looking ahead and thinking about things.
This is one of the reasons that we are spending so much time with this one
measure. Yes, it is painstaking, step by step work, but it’s also pretty much
how your brain goes about doing it. Now, your brain is probably much more
entertaining and therefore covers up better that you are indeed learning
As always start with the simplest thing. Of our three pairs of notes, the
obvious choice of “easiest” goes to the middle set. They are, after all, an
open E string and an open G string. The final pair also uses those same
two strings so I can simply put my fingers on the appropriate notes. Using
my index finger (“i”) on the first fret of the E for the F note and my middle
finger (“m”) on the second fret of the G string for the A note feels pretty

And now here is where we make a little bit of a strategic leap. I notice that
the first pair of notes are on two different strings than the last two pairs. So I
figure, “Hey, maybe there’s a way to not have to move these fingers so that
I won’t have to do all that much moving around.” And since my index and
middle fingers are already committed to the last pair of notes, I realize that
this first pair has to fall to my ring finger (“r”) and pinkie (“a”). So if I put my
ring finger on the third fret of the D string (the low F note) and my pinkie on
the third fret of the B string (the D note) and then keep them there in place,
like this:

I can play all three pairs in one position. In other words – I don’t have to
move my hand all over the fretboard. This is an example of how planning
ahead can simplify your playing and eliminate headaches.

To further simplify matters, four of the remaining six measures are played
by striking the appropriate strings while fretting a C major chord. Again, I
would advise using your thumb on the bass and whichever finger (or
(hopefully) fingers) is comfortable. Here are the three variations (not
counting the final measure, which is simply the first two note pairings of the
third one) you will encounter in Bookends:

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The two measures we haven’t yet dealt with are actually one measure that
gets repeated twice in the main body of the song (measure 6 and measure
13). In essence, it’s just a variation of Dm or Dm7:
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The easiest way to play it, though, is to think of it as a Fmaj7 chord. Place
your fingers as follows:

As you can see, the F note on the third fret of the D string remains constant.
A pedal point, if you will. Meanwhile the melody goes from the D (third fret,
B string) to the C (second fret, B string) and the A (second fret, G string).
You can hopefully see why I told you to use the fingering for an Fmaj7
chord. This makes for a minimum amount of “messing around.” Again, this
is nothing more than planning ahead.

Let me first say that this will at first be confusing. But I’m pretty sure I can
walk you through it. First, lets remember (or learn for the first time) the time
value of notes. Here are the basic symbols to know:
You may also want to take a quick look at House Of The Rising Sun at this
point to review what we discussed concerning time
signatures. Bookends flips from 3/8 to 4/4 time and back again. I am going
to try to explain this in as painless a manner as possible. It’s not going to be
as theory oriented as it will be math oriented and I apologize in advance for
all the purists I am undoubtedly going to offend.
I’ve always found things easier when I work out a common denominator. I
tend to count out eighth notes in terms of “ands.” A measure of 4/4 would
be “one and two and three and four and.” Now if I am muttering this mantra
to myself at a steady tempo, it is easy for me to switch from 4/4 to 8/8,
where the eighth note is counted as one. All I have to do is count “one two
three four five six seven eight” at the same speed as I would with the
“ands.” If I am counting my eighth notes at the same speed, then this will
work. So if I were using a metronome, I would start by using one click as an
eighth note. In 3/8 time, three clicks would be one measure. In 4/4 time,
eight clicks would equal one measure because there would be eight eighth
notes to a measure. Do you follow this? Here, “one and two” in 4/4 would
be said at the same exact pace as “one two three” would be spoken in 3/8.
Let’s take a look at it in notation from the song:
Remember to write it out if you have to. Sometimes (most times) that is the
best way to learn. Putting something difficult out on paper allows you to
take it apart and to see how it works. And this probably is one of the hardest
concepts we’ve attempted on these pages.

In the outro, I added one final “flair,” if you will. If you go back to the very
first measure we looked at, you’ll see that this is pretty much the same

This triplet has to replace one beat, so it has to be pretty quick (and that’s
why you should start slowly at first!). What we’re going to do is a quick
hammer on and pick off with the open E and G strings. Strike them once,
then hammer on your fingers onto the F and A notes and then pull them of
again. Try to pull them slightly down when you take them off. This will help
sound the next set of open string notes. With practice, you will be able to do
this triplet of notes with just one pluck of the strumming hand.
Okay, I think we’re ready. As always, remember to take your time.
Bookends is a great song on which to practice the smooth flow of notes. It
should have a graceful, flowing quality to it.

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As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,
concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in future columns. You can
either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email me directly at
Until next lesson…


This Lesson’s MP3s were recorded by Alan Green

Looking and Listening

LEE BUDAR-DANOFF Guitar Lessons Buying a Guitar and Other Equipment, The
Other Side

Do looks matter?

In a world with anorexic supermodels and guys with “six-pack” abs flashed
before us, the answer might be “Yes, duh!…” Or the answer might be “it all
depends”. Depends on what, you ask? That woman on the cover of the
fashion magazine might have a great personality, or one to rival a dead fish.
The buff guy in the gym might be able to amaze you with his knowledge of
history, or might be more interested in his biceps measurement. In reality,
many of us realize that looks are not everything, but they DO matter,
sometimes. We like looking.

When selecting a guitar, the most obvious advice will be to select one with
the sound you like best. But on walking into the mega guitar store, you are
confronted with hundreds of guitars, and sound is not the thing that makes
you takdee one off the rack to try. Face it – you probably won’t pick up a
guitar that does not interest you in some aesthetic fashion, unless you are
super-experienced and know what is in the packaging. This should not
make you feel bad – you are not shallow for selecting something to try
based on looks, although hopefully it will not limit your final choice of guitar.

There are many things that will make you walk up to the first guitar to try.
Maybe you are only looking at acoustics, or electrics. Perhaps you
researched brands on line, so you know about Gibsons or Martins, but have
never heard of Takamines. You wanted to try an Ibanez but the store has
Epiphones. Your friend plays a Fender Stratocaster, and claims that is THE
way to go… Maybe you have a budget you must stick to, so you won’t even
touch a guitar out of that range. You may look at the wall o’ guitars, and
have no clue where to start, even though you have read many articles and
thought yourself well prepared. Finally, though, you will see a guitar that just
looks good (it’s RED!), and you want to try it.

Go ahead! There is nothing wrong with taking down and trying the
expensive candy apple red Strat, or the blue quilted maple top Gibson, or
the light natural wood Yamaha bass, just because they are attractive.
Maybe the prettiest guitar (in your eye) is also the most expensive one
there, and you can’t afford it – so what??? There is nothing against trying it
– you may fall in love, or you may discover that the packaging is a disguise
for something that sounds miserable. There is little chance that you will
convince yourself to buy a guitar that looks good but sounds bad. Guitar
manufacturers do build for looks too – they take great care in the
appearance, knowing that they are building for different audiences – what
appeals to a 15-year old grunge rocker may not appeal to a 35-year old
classic rocker, or maybe it will!

I was at a local chain music store, and spent time observing a father-
daughter pair shopping for a guitar for the daughter. She appeared to be 8-
10 years in age. There were no daisy guitars there! At one point, she spent
quite a bit of time dragging around a purple electric guitar (I forget the
brand). They had been trying out guitars – plugging in and everything. I got
distracted for a little while. The next thing I knew, she had a different guitar,
in BLACK, clutched in her small hands. I overheard her tell her dad that it
SOUNDED better than the purple one! They walked out with the black one
– I don’t know what they knew or did about amps, or if they knew how to
change the sound, but she had made her decision.

When I was having difficulty playing a guitar my grandfather built (classical),

I decided I needed a guitar that fit me better. I knew I wanted a steel-string
acoustic guitar – something I could take around and play for others to sing
along. I needed a neck/fingerboard that was not too wide for my short
fingers. I was looking for something with a rich mellow sound, not twangy or
sharp, yet not built so large that I could not reach my arms around it. The
action needed to be lower than grandpa’s guitar. I had a stretchable budget.
I did research, read articles, and went to several stores. I just could not find
the one guitar for me, and kept walking out.

I realized that I had other things to think about. There are a variety of tone
woods, which helped me understand the different sounds I got out of a
variety of guitars. I was interested in Koa, but had heard that it did not
produce a good sound. I soon learned otherwise. Amy White has a Koa
Takamine (I had never before been impressed with a Takamine) that
sounded wonderful! I could not always identify the wood of guitars I tried,
however, and Koa was rare and expensive. So, I would just keep listening
first, and learning about the woods as I went.

I did notice something disturbing (to me) about the guitars I pulled from the
racks. I kept being drawn to blue guitars (my favorite color), though I was
cautioned against “fad” colors that I might be tired of in a few years. I did
not realize how much “looks” were going to affect my choice of guitars to
try. The guitars with bright colors were often acoustic/ electric, an option I
had not considered but was now thinking about. It seemed that would
expand my options for playing, if I could find one that was loud enough

Finally, we ended up at that same large local chain where the young girl
had been. We walked into the acoustic room and bam! – a guitar that
practically called to me. I am from Hawaii, so when I saw the
electric/acoustic Yamaha that was royal blue (burst), with gold hardware,
mother-of-pearl dolphins on the fingerboard, and palm trees carved from
different woods around the sound hole, well, I was hooked, and scared. You
don’t choose a guitar on looks, I told myself. Plus, I did not know much
about Yamaha guitars, and it cost more than I had expected to spend. I did
not even pick it up. I dutifully went through many other “appropriate” name
guitars. I tried guitars from different makers, in different price ranges, and
even had other people play them so I could discern differences.

Finally, I could not resist – I kept going back to look at the beautiful blue
guitar. With an apologetic look at my husband, I took it down. The body was
not as large as a straight acoustic – I could hold it and play it comfortably
without constantly readjusting it against my body. The neck was fairly
slender, and the action felt perfect, making my fingerings more fluid.

There were some additional features that demonstrated how much thought
Yamaha had put into this guitar. All the bindings and joinings looked smooth
and tight – turns out it was a handcrafted guitar, and very well built. The
input jack was at the bottom of the guitar, where you attach a strap, instead
of in a separate place. Also, you don’t need to go through the soundhole to
change the battery – it is directly accessible outside the guitar, to the left of
the neck – very convenient.

And sound? The Yamaha sounded really good, to me. Each note was clear,
the overall sound fairly rich with good lows and fairly bright but not brassy
highs. It was not quite as loud as an acoustic, but close enough, whether I
strummed or tried fingerpicking. Then I plugged in to some acoustic amps –
and fell in love – it sounded amazing with chorus! I learned that the pick-
ups, L.R. Baggs, were actually a combination of a piezo and mic, which
could be adjusted to whatever blend you wanted, providing additional sound

I was afraid I was not being objective (like this process could be!). I had
others play it (they also liked it), asked questions about it, and kept asking
my poor husband what he thought. He said the key phrase “it’s what YOU
think that matters!” I was afraid to buy it because maybe I let outer beauty
blind me to sound. After 3 hours, and having given myself a stomachache,
we bought it. As it turns out, while I was drawn to the guitar for its looks, it
also met my requirements (except price), had some extras that enhanced
its overall playability, and sounded great! It was overall an excellent choice
– I have no regrets. Laura Lasley of OLGC also told me that looks first drew
her to a guitar: “I definitely picked my red Guild for looks, and discovered
the great sound after it caught my eye. Flash is good in a guitar.”
As to why I put myself through “guilt” due to my guitar’s looks, I can only
say was due to a misplaced belief that looks should not influence my
choice. Well, looks did influence my choice, but I let sound confirm it. So
don’t feel guilty when you try the “pretty” guitars – there may be a good
reason why they are calling to you with a visual siren’s song!

Where To Find Great

A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Buying a Guitar and Other Equipment

“The pawn shop is a musician’s best friend.” I’ve heard that phrase many
times before. The worst part of it is, it’s true. Many musicians end up
pawning old instruments and old equipment there. They get out of the game
or they simply change their instruments or equipment for something newer.
This is where you can profit from their losses.

A few years ago I found this beautiful B.C. Rich L.A. Series guitar in a pawn
shop. What I didn’t know at the time is that, technically, this guitar was not
sold here in Canada. In reality, at least two of them were sold in a particular
store (for people in Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto: Steve’s). I remembered
seeing two of them, of which I now own one, in the Ottawa store. I didn’t
remember the price tag, but knew it was somewhat above $1,000 Canadian
(around $750 US: it’s made in the US).

The sales tag asked $450. I knew that for that price they had no idea of
what they had. I tested this notion. I didn’t just say “OK, here you go, thank
you very much”, I negotiated. I asked them for their best price. They looked
in the catalogue and couldn’t find it. Obviously, it’s a limited edition, made in
86. The year was early 1999. So they asked me to make an offer. This is
something you must remember, don’t seem too anxious. I offered $400, no
taxes and a case to put it in. Take it or leave it. Of course, they also had a
nice NJ Series at $900. Not quite the L.A. Series, but a nice guitar,

So the girl at the counter (very cute) said OK. What I didn’t mention was
that while they were looking at the catalogue, another customer, some
young kid who happened to see it from behind, asked “is that a B.C. Rich?”
After I said “yes”, he asked how much they were asking. When I told him
how much, he started blabbing about how much of steal it was. I ended it
up telling him to shut the %$&* up. Never let them know you know what
you’re talking about.

I brought it to a shop to get the bridge adjusted (it’s a Floyd Rose). And the
neck was off by about 1/16 of an inch. The guy tried to dissuade me from
getting it adjusted, but I knew just how much I could get out of a B.C. Rich.
He told me it would take a week. It took him just a day. The rest of the time
was just to have it in the showroom where someone offered $1000 cash to
leave with it.

I had it appraised for insurance purposes. I can’t speak for other countries,
but check out your insurance policy. Here, all musical instruments (including
amps, cables, pedals, etc) are covered for a maximum of $2,500. Buy the
extra insurance, it’s worth it if something happens. It came up to $2,300.
You see, guitars, good guitars that is, don’t lose value. Before they are 20
years old, they keep up with the times, they adjust to the market value of an
equivalent model (if there is anything equivalent available. If not, figure
several hundred dollars above the best model). After 20 years, they
become vintage models: You fix the price.

Basically, in the case of guitars and basses, look for something that is made
in the US, Canada or Europe. Many smaller companies, such as Godin and
Fernandes are popping up. They don’t seem impressive to look at, but they
rate up there with the best. Certain Japanese models will also be top
quality. However, these are pretty much limited to anything Ibanez make
and most Yamahas. Although Yamaha have been losing in quality as far as
acoustics are concerned.

As far as Fenders are concerned, don’t forget that Leo Fender (the guy who
founded the company) left it in the early seventies. When he came back,
about 10 years later, he didn’t like what he saw so he left again.

A great guitar, made in Mexico will not be worth even half of the price of its
US-made counterpart.

Most pawn shop owners wouldn’t know a great guitar if it hit them in the
face. They think that only Gibson and Martin make good guitars. Don’t
forget that!
As far as amplifiers are concerned, though, pawn shops are not really the
place to go. Most people wouldn’t sell anything more than a practice amp
there. The main reason being that a pawn shop won’t know what to do with
an amp.

For those, ask around. Look at places that rent practice rooms for bands.
My band uses one of these rooms. Much less trouble. We don’t have to
carry around our amps and the drummer doesn’t even have to carry around
his drum set: They already have one set up. Where I practice, they also
supply the Montreal Jazz festival. Which means that every year they have a
few Roland Jazz Chorus amps to let go for cheap. I love the Jazz Chorus
120 as it’s a combo tube and chip. Also, it’s basically two 60-watt amps with
a speaker each that work in synch. My B.C. Rich was mainly designed as a
Heavy Metal guitar, the amp was designed as a Jazz amp. Mixing the two
gives you an awesome sound. Well, I love it anyway.

If you can get a place like this for amps, do it, you’ll get the best deal
anywhere. Always remember that musical instruments are made to last. If
you don’t beat them, they’ll go on for years and years. No need to dish out
the big bucks for something brand new.

The Importance of
Knowing Different
RYAN SPENCER Guitar Lessons Music Genres and Styles

Today we will talk about something that not many new guitarists take the
time to learn (no, its not theory). It’s genres. If you don’t know what a genre
is it simply means a classification of a certain type of music such as blues.
Now, when I started playing the guitar I mostly liked to play metal, but after
meeting friends and other musicians I learned how important it was to learn
the different genres.
There are many reasons to learn different genres. One is to learn the theory
behind it and another is to simply learn the genre for musical knowledge.
Hey, as the saying goes “knowledge is power”. But how do you learn
different genres, and at the same there are for reasons I believe there are
many ways to learn different genres.

These are the steps I use to learn about a new genre:

1. Listen to a bit of the music

2. Check a site or ask a friend to teach you about it

3. Learn how to play it

4. Learn the tricks and tips behind it

5. Learn a couple of songs

Many of these work and you can find out other things to do as well. When
you learn different music and (maybe) when you travel around someone
may ask you “hey can you play such and such” you can play it for him. But
just in case you don’t you can write it down and search for it. You don’t
have to like all the genres you listen to but at least respect them for what
they can teach you. Whenever you learn a new genre don’t say, “I am
learning such and such” but instead say “I am absorbing a new form of

As an example, Let’s say you are a beginning guitarist and you hear about
the blues. Now you can go out to a music store or some sites and so forth
and you find, and I suggest this too, a “best of” type of CD. In this case let’s
make it John Lee Hooker and maybe even Muddy Waters. Check a site like
this one. Or, if it’s a much more unknown type of genre (that is, it’s unknown
to you by its theory and how to play it), then ask some friends who listen
and play it all the time. Study everything about the genre, the theory, the
history, even the sub-genres (we’ll talk about those later). As for the tricks
used behind blues that is a simple thing to answer. It uses some of the most
common types of tricks such as bends and slides and the tips they use
behind the tricks would be to use them more emotionally. Now going back
to the CD’s we got at the music store lets say we decide to learn Boom
Boom by John Lee Hooker and Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Waters.
What Made (that genre)
Well that’s a big question to ask. what genre made what genre. To give a
starting point in history the Spanish invented what we consider the modern
guitar and so came classical and flamenco. But if you’re asking about what
made a lot of the genres we have today, I would have to say I would the
blues is the foundation of a lot of the genres we know. Blues made many
forms of music (not all but a lot). So if you ever had to learn a single genre I
would go with blues as a good starting point. Blues contains a major
amount of the tricks used by today’s guitarists as well as a good deal of
theory. But my suggestion is to learn anything and everything you can.

Distinguishing, Variations,
Most genres have branches in which many “sub-genres” are formed by
combining different theories. In blues there are forms of “sub-genres”, in
this case country blues or folk blues, acoustic blues, Chicago blues, Delta
blues, Texas blues, etc. These are all blues but they have different flavors.
Taj Mahal is more of a country/folk blues person while guys like

Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker (even though they experimented with
different forms of blues) played a form of Delta blues. Jimi Hendrix too was
a blues guy but he managed to combine blues with so many different other
styles. In making his music, he influenced many others as well.

Tips And Tricks (and other

genres to check out)
Look at all the old stuff, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and so
forth. And whenever you’re jamming with other guitarists ask them what
they listen to and check it out. Also check out who are their role models. To
wrap up, the major thing is that in order to be a versatile guitarist you must
be stretch you knowledge. Learn as many genres as you can. Then learn to
incorporate them into your own style of playing.

A Brief History of the

A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Guitar History

In many history books, even some that are highly rated, you will read that
the guitar was invented by the classical-era Greeks. This is due to a simple
mistake. The Greeks had an instrument which they called a Kithara. As this
was a stringed instrument and that the name resembles closely that of the
guitar, historians tend to assume that this was a guitar. The Kithara was in
fact a type of lyra or harp, nothing to do with the guitar. Also, if you look at
ancient Egyptian paintings, you will see many musical instruments which
could easily be mistaken for a guitar. Even by those of us who have been
playing the instrument for twenty years.

The fact is that, quite often, in these ancient paintings, the instruments in
question were used as religious objects and were not even played. Through
rigorous study, it becomes obvious that the guitar is not an ancient musical

Closer to us in time, most of us will think of the lute as a direct ancestor to

the guitar. This is indeed correct. Think of it as the “father” of the guitar. The
lute, this instrument favored by troubadours of the dark ages and the
renaissance, more closely resembles a modern bass than a guitar. Usually,
it had four strings which would be plucked. One could not strum a lute.

The body of the lute was oval and the back was rounded, sort of like an
Ovation guitar. The result of this was that the lute was not a loud
instrument. Hence, it could not be played in any kind of band setting.

Now, to get from the lute to the guitar, many elements are missing. One of
these is the treble strings. Another the pinched waist. Finally, the flat back
of the instrument.
In comes the vihuela. Think of it as the “mother” of the guitar. This
instrument was developed in Spain in the 15th century. The vihuela has a
slightly pinched waist, a smaller body than the lute and treble strings, in
pairs, called courses, which were made to be strummed.

It’s about a hundred years later, some time during the 16th century that
someone (nobody will ever know who) had the idea of mixing the two
instruments together. Making the body more like that of the vihuela, but
sized closer to that of the lute. The neck was closer to that of the vihuela.
Finally, both bass and treble strings were added to the instrument.

The first examples of this instrument are very crude. Some very beautiful
models were made by violin maker Stradivarius. But the instrument was still
far from being as complex as its modern counterpart.

It’s toward the end of the eighteenth century that we can start talking about
the modern guitar. This was a time when the US were electing their first
president, Britain was in the throes of the first industrial revolution and
Napoleon seized power in France.

I’ve often heard how Art achieves its greatest moments when civilization is
in the midst of conflict or pressure. Just look at the Rock and Roll revolution
during the cold war. One could find many examples of this sort. I don’t know
whether any studies have actually ever been done, but I’d certainly be
interested in reading one.

At any rate, it’s at this moment that the modern guitar makes its first
appearance. It’s unclear whether this was in France or in Italy. But here was
an instrument very similar to the ones we see today, with six strings.

This is when the machine head was invented and so the old wooden peg
box, used to hold the strings and tune them was discarded. It’s also at this
time that guitar makers started carving the heads of guitars. Although they
usually aren’t carved nowadays, makers still leave their mark on the
headstock. A very old tradition.

In the late 18th century, José Pagés and Josef Benedid started adding fan-
shaped struts inside the body of the guitar in order to amplify the sound.
This method was picked up by other guitar makers, such as François
Lacôte in Paris. It’s also at this point that the “floating arm technique” came
about. Previously, one rested the little finger of the right hand on the sound
board. This was a technique which had been handed down from lute

But the finishing touches, involving volume and tone, were added by
Antonio de Torres Jurado. He increased the size of the body, increased the
distance between the bridge and the nut and improved on the fan shape of
the struts. The result being that finally a guitar could be played with an
orchestra. Previously, the sound of the guitar would be completely buried by
that of the other instruments. However, that still did not make it a popular

Well, popular with the masses, just not with the “serious” musical
community. During the 1950’s, Julian Bream (only one of the greatest
names related to the classical guitar) was threatened with expulsion from
the music college for playing his guitar on the premises.
The first college level guitar course in the UK was given by John Williams
(apart from his classical work, Williams has played for such people as Sky
(the original Sky, not the pop outfit from a few years ago), Kate Bush, David
Bowie, and many, many others). This course was given, for the first time, in
1965. Hence, and contrary to popular belief, not many of the older guitar
heroes are classically trained.

The guitar, being such an easy instrument to learn (not play well, but at
least learn a few basic chords and songs), became very popular within the
masses. Especially in South America where it immediately became a hit. In
Europe and North America, though, it was snobbed at. Even today, there
are very few concertos written for the guitar, as it is still snobbed at by many
people in the classical community.

The 20th century has seen most of the instrument’s improvements. First,
the old cat gut strings were replaced by metal and nylon strings. Then, the
classical (or Spanish) guitar was modified to make the acoustic guitar in an
attempt to have an even louder sounding instrument.

Many attempts to electrify the instrument were made, primarily by Martin.

Here came the invention of the pick-up.

The pick up is generally a coil of fine copper wire wound around a bar
magnet. This generates a magnetic field. Once the strings move into this
field, they generate pulses of electrical energy which are transmitted to the

The first amps came out toward the end of the 1930’s. However, the main
improvements were made by Leo Fender. The first electric guitars were
hollow bodied models. Although these look fantastic and sound great, they
are quite inconvenient on stage where the sound coming from the amps
tend to make the instrument vibrate and thus create feedback. If you ever
have a chance to see B.B. King live, notice that he stuffs the inside of
Lucille with a towel to diminish the vibration.

Enter Les Paul. His first electric hard-body guitar was basically a log (it was
even called “the log”) with a neck and two double-coil pick-ups set into it.
He gave it its distinctive look in order to make it more attractive, then sold
the idea to Gibson. And they still make it.
Leo Fender was another innovator in the milieu. Coming up with the
Telecaster for country music, then later with the Stratocaster. Note that Leo
Fender sold the company in 1965 as he was convinced he had little time to
live. He sold the company to CBS for $13 million dollars. He came back
during the seventies and left again as he didn’t agree with the quality of the
work being done by the company. Eventually they were bought out by a
Japanese company who created the Squire series with much less than
impressive results.

Another innovation of Leo Fender is the bass. He invented this instrument

for live bands. Because of the electric guitar, bass notes, played on a
contrabass could not be heard live. Fender thought of creating a bass
based on a guitar. The first model was the Fender Precision Bass.

Another strange guitar that was produced in the 1930’s is the Dobro. The
first one was made in 1926 by National. This looks like an acoustic guitar,
except that the body is made of aluminium. At the back of the front panel
are resonator plates (hence, this type of guitar is also known as
“resonator”). A Dobro doesn’t need to be plugged in to sound loud. The
aluminium body produces a sound which is quite distinctive.

Since then, many experiments have been tried. Mainly in an attempt at

getting more sustain or because of the scarcity of certain woods, various
materials have been tried. Acrylic being one of them. Although it looks
fantastic and does wonder to sustain, it can do weird things toward the tone
of the instrument.

In an attempt to come up with a material that would be lighter, yet denser

than wood, Steinberger invented graphite. Many professional guitarists
swear by it.

Go visit guitar manufacturer’s websites, or just visit a guitar store and you’ll
see strange things. Such as two solid wood plates, front and back,
sandwiching a cork body. All in all, and by the looks of things, the
instrument’s progression is far from over.
I Shot the Sheriff –
Bob Marley
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Easy Guitar Songs, Music Genres and Styles

Sometimes I look at these “Easy Songs for Beginners” and I have to

wonder if I’m going to get tarred and feathered. Oh, it’s not that they are
hard (they aren’t) or that even the theory involved is too difficult (I truly hope
it hasn’t been), but I just hope that everyone is having fun with them. And is
patient with me. You may have noticed I have this tendency to try to cram a
lot into these lessons. It’s not always easy explaining some of the things
we’ve covered purely with words and diagrams and I am not always certain
I’ve gotten things across in the best possible way. But you can always write
me for more details. Ah well, enough digression…

August is musical genres month here at Guitar Noise and I have to admit
that my picking this topic was a sneaky way to slip some lessons into the
mix. Today’s song is Bob Marley‘s I Shot The Sheriff, which will not only
serve as a delightful introduction to reggae rhythms, but I’ve also managed
to get very sneaky and throw in some transposing as well.
Before we go on, you might also want to read this little bit on Reggae Style
on Guitar. It contains a bit of history on the genre as well as some ideas on
rhythm that we will expand upon later.

Step 1 – Chords
Let’s look at the chords and transposition first, shall we? On the CD that I
am using (“Legend”), this song is in the key of G minor. How do I know
that? Well, if you’ve read some of my past columns, particular the trio
on ear training, you’d know that I sat down with my guitar and the CD and
played around until I got the chord progression. In terms of song
structure, Sheriff can be broken down into two parts: the chorus (the “I shot
the sheriff” part) and the intervening verses, which tell the story. There is
also a little instrumental riff which separates the two, but we will come back
to that later (good lord! More things to learn!!)
The chorus has two alternating chords, Gm and Cm, and goes like this:
The verses have the following chord progression (the number of beats is in

Now I don’t know about you, but this does not at all look like an “Easy Song
For Beginners!” But take heart! You have all read my column on
transposing called Turning Notes Into Stone (and if you haven’t now’s your
chance to sneak out and do so! Don’t worry, we’ll wait right here for you…),
so you’re all whizzes at the art of transposing.
Ready to make this a bit easier? Alright, then, since I have no intention of
playing this as nothing but barre chords, I have to come up with another key
in which to play it. To me, there are two obvious choices – A minor and E
minor. As you’ve read, I prefer use a key lower in pitch whenever possible
so that, with the aid of my trusty capo, I can still play along with the CD. So I
opt for E minor. E is one and a half steps down from G, so all my other
chords are going to have to be one and a half steps down as well. Let’s
figure it out:

Now that looks a lot easier, doesn’t it? And if I put my capo on the third fret
(that’s one and a half steps, remember?), then I am playing in G minor
again. So here are the chords we’re going to use:

Let me point out that there are a lot of ways to play the Bm chord (yes, not
to mention every chord!). For this song, I prefer to use this voicing and we’ll
look at the reasons for this shortly. But first, let’s get our rhythm down.
Step 2 – Rhythm
Having made the chords user-friendly, let’s see what we can do about the
rhythm. Like all the things we’ve been doing, we’ll start out fairly simply and
then get a bit more complicated as we feel the confidence to do so.

Playing a reggae rhythm guitar involves playing on the offbeat. Just what
does that mean? Well, let’s say we have a song in 4 / 4 time (and, thinking
about it, I can’t remember ever playing a reggae song that wasn’t in 4 / 4
time), you would count it out like so:

Nothing could be simpler, right? This is how we count the beat of any song,
at least any song done in 4 /4 time. But we already know from our past
lessons that we can subdivide this into eighth notes or into triplets:

Here you see that we have notes in between the “beats,” between the
actual number count if you will. This is the “offbeat.” To get the reggae
rhythm, we will strum our guitar only on the offbeat, that is we will strum on
the “and” or the “and a” parts of the measure.

And let’s take a moment here to talk about tone. Reggae guitar tends to
have a very clipped sound (or “chunky,” as the good book tells us). There
are several ways to get this effect. The easiest way is to use an upstroke
when you strum. When I play reggae in an all upstroke style on my guitar, I
will actually slap my palm on top of the strings after the upstroke. This
accentuates the pause that takes place on the beat. When I do use
downstrokes, I find I get good control of the tone by resting my palm directly
on the strings when I stroke. This is particularly useful in a triplet rhythm.

Upstrokes also bring out the higher strings, or the treble part, of the guitar
and most reggae guitar has a nice treble tone to it. This is also another
reason I like to use the capo to position my chord voicings higher up on the
neck, thus bringing more treble into the chords.

If you’re using an electric guitar, try to keep your tone as clean as possible.
Avoid effects such as distortion. Even chorus or echo can really clutter
things up a lot, so try to listen carefully to what you’re doing. Reggae should
have lots of breathing space.

And don’t think you can’t play reggae on your acoustic guitar. The
percussive sounds you can get from strumming an acoustic are wonderful
for this style of music.

Before you even get going on the rhythm, take some time to experiment
with the sound that you want. You really should do this for any song you
work on. The tone you achieve with your guitar, with or without an amp and
effects, will be a big factor in how your rhythm sounds.

Okay, having said that, let’s give the rhythm a shot. Let’s start out simply
with the eighth notes. Remember to take it as slowly as you need in order to
do it right. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be amazed at how fast you can
go. All right then, we’ll use the Em chord, one upstroke on each offbeat.
If you want to see if you’re doing this correctly, try counting the beat aloud
while you strum. Seriously. When you count the beat (just the “one, two,
three, four” – don’t say the “ands”) you shouldn’t be playing at all when you
speak. Once you feel that you’ve got a handle on this, do it again using only
downstrokes. Remember to keep them short and clipped. Then mix it up –
try both upstrokes and downstrokes. See what you like, where and how you
get a sound that you like.

When you feel comfortable play the rhythm in eighth notes, then you can
give the triplets a try. There are lots of ways to approach this. Personally, I
tend to do a downstroke (D) followed by an immediate upstroke (U), like

Okay, you’ve got both of those rhythms down cold, right? Now comes the
fun part – mixing them together. Up ’til now we’ve been doing this with only
one chord but you’ll see that these exercises will get you going on changing
chords as well. Again (always), start out as slowly as necessary. Don’t
move on to the next line of the exercise until you feel that you’ve mastered
the one you’re on:
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That’s a lot of fun, isn’t it? That last exercise pattern, by the way, is the
pattern I usually use to play I Shot The Sheriff. Okay, one more step to go
and we’re ready!

Step 3 – Bass and Fill

You’re actually ready to go on and play the song right now if you’d like. The
purpose of this section is to give you some added pizzazz should you want

If you’re playing solo, reggae can be very disorienting. There is no bass to

root your rhythm. But in learning to play the way we have, you can see that
are spaces in which to fill in the bass. Do you see them? The rests that we
don’t play provide a natural place for it. In other words, we will play a bass
note on the beat while playing the rhythm on the offbeat. I told you I can
be sneaky sometimes…
Using an alternating bassline, as we did in Margaritaville, will work very well
in the chorus section of the song:
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Now take your time with this. And don’t get frustrated if it takes you a
number of attempts to get it right. After all, you’ve just learned how to do the
rhythm and I’ll be more than willing to bet that you haven’t even thought
about the alternating bassline since we saw it last. If it helps, revert to doing
a straight eighth note pattern until you feel you’ve got it down.

The verses are a little trickier, and now you’ll see why I wanted to use this
particular voicing of the Bm chord. What we’re actually doing is a “Bm/D.”
When you see a chord with a “/” in it, it is normally understood that the
actually chord is in front of the “/.” The note behind it is supposed to be your
bass note, or the lowest note in the chord. Since we are going from C to Bm
to Em, and since the D note is part of the Bm chord, I have decided to do a
straight ascending scale from C to E. Then I revert back to an alternating
bass pattern on the Em:

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But here’s something interesting – when I do the alternating bassline on the
Em, the last voiced bass note is a B which naturally leads us back to the C.
Almost as if someone had planned it that way.

Another way of going about playing these rhythms, believe it or not is in

fingerstyle. Using your thumb to play the bass parts while employing your
three fingers to pluck the first three strings for the accompanying chords
gives you a great sound and excellent control over the rhythmic pattern. If
you’re into this sort of thing, go back over the last two examples (the chorus
and the verses) using this technique. Your thumb will play the bass notes
(downturned stems) and use your ring finger (1st (high E) string), middle
finger (2nd (B) string) and index finger (3rd (G) finger) to pluck out the

Okay, one last thing. At the end of each verse, there is a riff that is played
by pretty much all the instruments in unison. You’ll see that I’ve TABbed it
out right after the first verse. Having the guitar with the capo on the third fret
certainly helped to make things easier, didn’t’it? Well then, you’re ready to
go and play!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little excursion into reggae. Next time out we’re
going to learn an old Dylan song. But before you start groaning, let me add
that it’s my way of teaching you the basics of slide guitar…

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or songs (and/or riffs and solos) you’d like to see discussed in
future pieces. You can either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email
me directly at
Until next lesson…


A Brief History of
Progressive Rock
A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Music Genres and Styles

Prog Rock is a musical genre that almost lives in its own universe. If you
ask two people to define the style, you’re likely to get two very different
answers. But everybody agrees on who’s Prog and who’s not.

Essentially, the genre draws on many other styles of music: Classical

(mostly Symphonies and Baroque) and Jazz. As well as a touch of Folk. It
is marked by these long songs which were usually limited to the amount of
space on a side of a vinyl album. Although ELP’s Karn Evil 9 begins on side
one and uses all of side two. Also, in many cases, the songs will start in one
direction and end with something completely unrelated.
It often involves changes in time signatures and has been marked by some
of the greatest musicians in the business: Steve Hackett, Steve Howe,
Steve Morse, Andy Summers, Keith Emerson, Patrick Moraz, John
Wetton, Tony Levin, Chris Squire, Carl Palmer, Chester Thompson and too
many more to mention here.

Back in the 1960’s, everybody was looking for the new style of music.
Innovations in instruments, gear and recording techniques were coming in
leaps and bounds. New directions were tried with more or less success.
Eventually, though, almost every time, the Beatles were the ones who came
up with a new sound, showing that they were well ahead of the game. Until
1969, that is.

Prog Rock finds its sources in the latter half of the 60’s. In 1966, the Moody
Blues came out with their third album, the first with Justin Hayward (1) and
John Lodge, entitled “Days of Future Passed”, the first Pop or Rock album
to be recorded in stereo and the first one to make use of a full orchestra. A
very memorable album indeed, spawning two of their greatest hits, “Nights
in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon“. “Nights” was a number one hit
when it came out. It was re-released in 1971 on a compilation album and it
once again climbed to number one. It was also re-released in the 80s after
being featured in a film. It once again climbed to the number one spot…
Although this was still pop, it was a pioneer of the genre. In more ways than

In the late 60’s, Prog giants were born: Pink Floyd, Yes and Genesis. They
were all part of this new movement, along with bands like Procul Harem,
Tangerine Dream and Van Der Graaf Generator. Though Floyd were doing
what was called Psychedelic or “Acid Rock”, Genesis’ first album (From
Genesis to Revelation) was an album, although it was a far cry from what
other pop bands were doing at the time. Yes’ first try was a great album, but
which borrowed a little from everyone and everything.

King Crimson
In 69, an obscure, unsigned band called the Gods (which, in a certain form,
eventually became Uriah Heep) were having their regular personnel
problems. The guitarist and singer, Greg Lake, left and formed a band with
an old school friend by the name of Robert Fripp. To the lineup were added
a couple of musicians from Fripp’s former band, Giles, Giles and Fripp: Ian
MacDonald on wind instruments and keyboards and Peter Giles on drums.

Fripp figured the band didn’t need two guitarists, so Lake obliged by picking
up the bass. They shopped around their demo which was immediately
picked up by the Moody Blues who had their own label, Threshold.
Furthermore, for the recording of the first album, the Moodies lent them
their producer, Tony Visconti.

After the first day of recording, Visconti walked out. He couldn’t make heads
or tails of what this band was trying to do. Lake stepped in to the producer’s
shoes (2) and the sessions went on.
The final product was called “In the Court of the Crimson King”. The band
was named after that song: King Crimson. And it took an unsuspecting
world by storm.

It was a major seller everywhere. It was so shockingly different from

anything else that was being done at the time. It took other bands, like Yes
and Genesis, a couple more albums before they could claim to be in the
same league.

Prog Rock was born!

But Crimson faced a lot of problems, mainly in their lineup. These guys had
given so much of themselves on this album that it was causing personnel
dissensions. While they were touring North America with Keith Emerson
and the Nice, who were on their farewell tour, the band decided to split up
after the tour.

MacDonald and Giles wanted to go their own way, while Lake and Fripp
wanted to improve on what they’d done. Another factor that came into the
picture was Keith Emerson who’d gotten to know Lake during the tour.

Lake eventually left and formed the first supergroup (3) of the 1970’s,
Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Originally the band was supposed to feature
Mitch Mitchell of Jimi Hendrix fame on drums and Hendrix himself was
supposed to audition, although he died a couple of weeks before it was to
Crimson continued reappearing through different lineups and still exist
today. The only common member being Robert Fripp. Over the years, the
band has counted such people as John Wetton, Bill Bruford, Tony Levin,
and Adrian Belew (4).

In the early seventies, Pink Floyd had refined their style, thanks mostly to
David Gilmour. They could now be counted in the Prog family. Yes, with the
acquisition of guitarist Steve Howe (who had originally agreed to form a
band with Keith Emerson) and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, produced The
Yes Album, followed by the glorious Fragile.
Genesis’ second album, Trespass, one of their best, can be considered a
Prog album, although in a folkier way and with an innocent roughness to it
which gives it all its charm. With the arrival of Steve Hackett on guitar,
replacing an ailing Anthony Phillips and Phil Collins on drums (the bands
fourth drummer), they refined their style with Nursery Crime.
The genre was so popular that entire record labels were being built around
it. Chrysalis was put together specifically for Prog acts. ELP started
Manticore and, with this label, discovered the legendary Italian band PFM
(Premiata Forneira Marconi). Atlantic concentrated their efforts of Prog.
New bands were arising everywhere.

Although the style is typically British, it was picked up around the world.
Bands like Styx and Kansas in the US and Harmonium, Rush and FM in

Instrumental Works
In 1972, Virgin records was started. The label wished to enter the scene
with a bang. Meanwhile, multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, at 18, was
looking for a label who would back up his project of a revolutionary album
where he would play no less than twenty-two instruments. Virgin loved the
idea and signed him right away. Tubular Bells was released. It did get some
success, but it’s only two years later when someone on the set of the
film The Exorcist played this to Director William Friedkin that it would get its
great push. Friedkin loved the music and thought it would be perfect with
his film.
And so did most of the world. Tubular Bells has sold over 20 million copies
world-wide. But Oldfield was not the only one to play instrumental Prog.
Before him had been Tangerine Dream. Through various lineups, always
with Edgar Froese at the helm, TaDream have been through various
phases and have experimented with just about everything. And they’re still
going strong today.
In 1976, the son of musician Maurice Jarre, famous for his numerous
soundtracks, came of with his own brand of synthesizer-driven Prog. Jean
Michel Jarre’s first album, Oxygen quickly rose through the charts.

John Williams (not the American guy who did the Jaws and Star
Wars soundtracks, rather the Australian Classical guitarist) put together his
own band. Williams was the first person to teach Classical guitar in a British
college. But he also played for Kate Bush and various other Rock artists.
He picked up other musicians such as Francis Monkman (Roxy Music) and
put together Sky. Their second album, a double one and the first to be
released in North America, mixing Classical and Rock was a huge success.
Their version of Bach’s “Toccata” can still be heard today.
What’s interesting about these instrumentalists is that they don’t need to
advertise their new albums. The don’t play very much on the radio (not
today, that is), yet every release sells millions of copies.

These people, with others such as Vangelis, were the pioneers of another
style of music: New Age. Yet their own music, usually found in the New Age
section of record stores is, in reality, Progressive Rock. It just sells more if
you put them in the New Age sections.

The Family Tree

As bands split-up, members joined other bands. It would be next to
impossible to draw a chart of who has played with who (5). John Wetton, for
example, has played with King Crimson, UK and Asia, among others. Bill
Bruford has played with Yes, King Crimson and UK. Steve Howe has
played with Yes and Asia. John Wetton played with Steve Hackett and Ian
MacDonald. Hackett has played with Genesis and they had Bill Bruford
doing the drums a few times. He also played with GTR with Steve Howe.
Ian MacDonald has played with King Crimson. And on and on and on ¼
As this was mostly a complex style of music, it didn’t please everybody.
Especially musicians who didn’t have the same talent as the Proggers.

The End of an Era

The style started to lose ground during the late seventies. This was due,
mainly, to the arrival of Punk and Disco. Also due to the fact that, as much
as these guys had given in the first half of the decade, they couldn’t go on
forever. By the 80’s the style was all but dead to the general public.
There were, of course, exceptions. Jethro Tull were still making albums with
moderate success. Marillion, a new band at the time, were on the rise. Then
came Asia.

In 1982, supergroup Asia, consisting of John Wetton (King Crimson, Uriah

Heep, Roxy Music) on bass and vocals, Steve Howe (Yes) on guitar, Geoff
Downes (Yes) on keyboards and Carl Palmer (ELP) on drums, took the
world by storm. Their first hit, Heat of the Moment has become a classic.
Everybody was singing that song. They made so much money they had to
spend the next year outside of the UK for tax purposes. At the time, theirs
was the biggest selling debut album in history.
The band’s history is rather chaotic. They still exist today, yet only Geoff
Downes remains of the original lineup. Then it seemed all was over.

Except that through all of this, Pink Floyd consistently released major
albums. They are the greatest exception in the genre.

Nevertheless, the style still survived in some form or other. Grunge is a
great example. Although it’s a spinoff of what Neil Young was doing, it’s the
addition of Prog structures that made the style what it is. Other bands, such
as the Smashing Pumpkins who claimed to be “Alternative” were
nevertheless nothing but commercial Prog. Everybody loves Tori Amos.
And she is extremely talented. But Kate Bush came before her.
Behind the scenes, a lot has been happening. There are bands who have
been making careers of Prog while no one was looking. Often referred to as
“neo-prog” they are nevertheless in the same leagues as the classic acts.

Independent labels, such as Magna Carta, Galileo, Inside Out and

Windstorm, specialize in Prog rock. In fact, there are more Prog acts out
today than their were back in the seventies. Bands such as Pendragon, the
Flower Kings and Spock’s Beard manage to make a decent living.

Others struggle more, but everyone struggles at some point in every genre.
Most struggle all their lives.

The Second Coming

And the genre is selling, all things told, a lot of records. Although concerts
are now mostly confined to nightclubs, there are still a lot of them
happening. And it’s all more organized today than it was back then.

Tori Amos is huge, as are Radiohead. All the style needs is for artists like
these to admit they’re doing Progressive Rock.

With all the attention which is gradually being drawn to it, it is in the process
of become a major style again. Sony and other Major labels have started
signing Prog acts…

1. Hayward had tried to audition for The Animals, but arrived too late. Eric
Burden suggested that he try for The Moody Blues.
2. Although the album production is credited to the whole band, it was Lake
who actually produced it.
3. A supergroup is a band formed by people who have all been in
successful bands or have had successful solo careers. U2 is not, and never
will be a supergroup. The Firm were.
4. King Crimson Chart
5. Family Tree Chart

GAS Powered
STEFAN LEONHARDT Guitar Lessons Buying a Guitar and Other Equipment, Guitar
Amplifiers and Effects

Most of us guitarists suffer from an affliction called GAS – Gear

Acquisition Syndrome. That means we are buying gear nearly
compulsively – more and more often than we really need. I am definitely no
exception here. We often spend more time shopping and searching for gear
than playing guitar – it’s like an addiction: difficult to stop and expensive
(though I have not yet discovered negative effects on my health, but my
wife tells me “one more guitar and …”).
What do we basically need to play guitar? One guitar, one amp, a guitar
cord, and a pick.
Now when I look around my house – and I’m pretty sure I’m not the
exception – I see a lot more than that. Do I really need all the gear I have?
How do I justify buying even more?

I can think of a number of reasons for this behavior.

1. I sound bad, I suck! Remedy? A new amp/guitar/effect will help me get

the sound I’m hearing in my head!

2. I want to sound like Santana, so I’ll buy a PRS Santana, a Mesa Boogie
amp, a Fender amp and a couple of effects. One year later, my Santana
days are over and now Steve Vai is my hero. That means, I’ll get an
Ibanez Universe guitar, the Carvin Steve Vai amp and an Eventine

3. I want to be as versatile and flexible as I can, I want a huge variety of

different sounds because I play/enjoy a lot of different styles, play in a
Top 40 band, or I’m a studio musician. Thus, I need a Telecaster and a
Fender Twin for playing country, a Les Paul and a Marshall for rock and
a Gibson ES335 and a Roland Jazz chorus for jazz.

4. I just like guitars and gear – I collect them.

I don’t know about you, but #s 3 and 4 definitely apply to me and I had a
time when # 1 was also an important reason. Maybe there are some points
above where you nodded your head and said “Yes, I can relate to that, I
had the same experience” and maybe you shook your head after some
points and thought “This is stupid.”

Here are some of my thoughts concerning these points:

A good guitar player still sounds good even with a crappy guitar and a
cheap amp. A number of years ago, I went to a guitar workshop and as I
had to go by train, I took a cheap Squier Strat with me. All the people at the
workshop plugged their guitars into Marshall combos. The guy in charge of
the workshop was a Canadian studio musician – sorry I forgot his name.

To make the story short: he made a point of playing every guitar that people
brought to the workshop and he sounded great with each one, even playing
my cheap Squier I always had thought unable to produce a great sound
(this was the last in a row of experiences that cured me from thinking along
the lines of #1). He did this to show exactly that: the sound is first and
foremost in your hands, not in the gear.
So … if you think you sound bad, do some self-evaluation before you run
out and buy new gear. Get the opinion of other people, have a friend play
through your gear. Is it really a new amp you need or more practice (no
doubt, new gear can motivate one to practice more …)?

Of course, a good amp and guitar supports the player, but the basics are in
one’s hands.

I’d go as far and say that 80 to 90 % of a player’s sound comes basically

from his hands and not the gear he’s using. Case in point, a couple of years
ago, Eddie Van Halen and Ted Nugent met backstage. Both were
interested in the other’s gear and so they switched guitars and amps. Eddie
took Ted’s Gibson semi-acoustic and Ted plugged Eddie’s Kramer Strat
into Eddie’s Marshall. Both were surprised that Eddie still sounded like
Eddie and Ted still like Ted – of course there was a small difference to their
usual sound but everybody could tell who was who.

It boils down to the fact that you can buy the same gear your hero uses and
still not sound like him or her. If you don’t play similar licks and phrases, the
same gear won’t help you. Furthermore, you might copy the sound, but you
can’t copy tone. Tone is the sum of the equipment, the licks and phrases
and the playing technique of the player (his vibrato, the way he bends,
slides, picks, where he picks, with how much strength and so on).
Another thought is – do you really want to copy somebody else? Sound like
somebody else? Or would you rather be you?

So when somebody asks me, how he can sound like Nirvana, I of course
can ramble on about the equipment Cobain used, but would it help? Could
you afford all the stuff Kurt had (or Steve Vai has)? Is your technique the
same as Kurt’s? Chances are, you won’t sound like him.

I can give you some advice on what to buy to sound close to a famous
guitarist, maybe even without spending thousands, but keep the above in

Ok, if the gear is only a small part of the sound, why then do some players
change guitars so often? Why do studio musicians come to some jobs with
a whole van filled with gear?
Their basic tone is the same, no matter the gear. But of course, different
gear provides some variations in the sound of an artist (the 10 to 20%
missing from above) – for obvious and not so obvious reasons.

Listen to Cream and Eric Clapton. He plays Gibson guitars (sometimes an

SG, sometimes an ES335). Then listen to a 70s recording of Clapton or
Derek and the Dominos, a Fender Stratocaster is used here. You can still
tell it’s Clapton, but the sound is (slightly) different.

The blues can be played with a Stratocaster (SRV), a Telecaster (Albert

Collins), a Gibson Les Paul (Gary Moore), a Gibson semi-acoustic (BB
King) or any other guitar, but the sound will be different.

On the other hand, there is certain gear that lends itself better to certain
styles – a Marshall amp has a lot of “bite” and is ideal for rock, but because
of this “bite”, it’s not very suitable for jazz.

But don’t forget to experiment. The most unlikely combination of gear

(people tell you “You can’t play country on a Les Paul, you won’t sound
country”) might be exactly YOUR sound, a sound that distinguishes you
from the masses.

Players also experiment and find that they are more comfortable with a
certain guitar when playing a certain style. This brings us to another point.

Different gear might make you feel different. You might feel more
comfortable with a certain amp/guitar, you might feel more “country” and
unconsciously use more typical country phrases when playing a Telecaster
as your subconscious associates this instrument with country. It affects your
playing and the way you sound.

Another aspect is the discussion solid state amps vs tube amps. Solid state
amps have come a long way and there are some good enough that
the listener would be hard pressed to notice the difference to a tube amp.
But those amps feel different for the player, they don’t respond as well as
tube amps (more on this in a later column).
So, different guitars and amps might mean more difference to the player in
a certain situation (“Guitar XY feels better when I play the blues, but guitar
Z feels better for rock” – or as Laura and Lee would say: “The Blue guitar
sounds better for Blues, and the Red guitar is better for Rock’) than to the
listener, who might not even perceive a big change in your sound/playing.
Therefore, #3 might be a valid point. Just ask yourself if you really need all
the stuff you have or plan to buy in order to get all the variety you need.

What can I say concerning #4 – there’s no hope for a cure. If one likes
collecting gear, how can you argue against that? He even admits that he
doesn’t need it all.

Ok, that’s it for this time – I guess next time I’ll ramble a bit about effects
generally before starting to write about the different effects and what they
do. And I plan to write about how to choose the right amp for you … hmm,
don’t know yet, maybe you will tell me. I hope you give me some feedback,
and if you want to comment on what I wrote or argue some points, please
feel free to do so.


Stefan has been playing guitar on and off for about 20 years, with 10 years
of teaching privately and one year in the professional program of the
“Future Music School” in Aschaffenburg, Germany. When playing guitar
Stefan usually plays a lot of blues and blues-influenced (classic) rock, but
when writing songs, he ends up writing rock and even pop songs.

Babylon – David Gray

DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Intermediate Guitar Songs

Welcome to the first installment of “Songs for Intermediates.” What we’re

(hopefully) going to do one these pages is to take the next logical step in
moving from being a strict beginner to being a well-rounded guitarist. This
will eventually cover a lot of different topics. And, if you’ve read any of
the Easy Songs For Beginners pieces, you already know that I prefer to
teach lessons by using specific songs as examples. I have always found
songs to be a lot more enjoyable than exercises.
Okay, then. Today we’ll be examining the song Babylon by David Gray.
Some of you might think that this is going to be fairly easy and perhaps
even wonder why I choose to open the Intermediates’ pages with
something that is essential a pop song with four chords (D, G, Em and A).
One of the things I tend to stress is that most guitarists and would-be
guitarists occasionally (I love ironic understatement) think that their fingers
are most important things in the world. Speed and accuracy are all that
matters. Makes them sound like a bunch of data entry operators, doesn’t it?
But, as we’ve discussed in many previous columns, not everyone is gifted
with the same amount of dexterity. Does this mean that those of us who are
“nimbly challenged” should give up on trying to play?
I have said this before, too – I am not the world’s greatest guitarist. That
doesn’t bother me in the least. It also doesn’t bother me that there are
guitarists out there (many who are younger and have (much) more hair!)
who can run rings around me. Playing is not and should never be a

If you want to play fast, there is but one course of study – endless repetition
of drills involving scales and riffs. Now, don’t think that I don’t think that this
is important. The only way to get good is to practice. But in addition to
practicing with your fingers, don’t forget that your brain needs practice, too.
Getting your mind to think creatively when it comes to music will always
bring you much more satisfaction than just playing a part by rote. Coming
up with something on your own and learning to use what you came up with
in other songs somewhere down the road will bring you no end of
enjoyment. You will never find yourself bored with your playing if you learn
how to use your brain.

Keeping that in mind, as well as giving a nod to this month’s theme of

musical genres, let’s talk a little about pop music in general and David
Gray’s Babylon in particular. I know many people who turn up their noses at
the term “pop music,” but let me fill you in on a little secret – each and every
one of them has a pop song in their heart. No lie. Whether or not you will
ever get them to admit that there is this one song (God knows what it might
be – I have this one friend who swears she only likes and listens to jazz but
you can almost always catch her singing Karma Chameleon to herself)
running around in their head is a moot point. Trust me, it is there.
Pop songs are catchy. And they cross all genres, becoming, as Ryan
Spencer so aptly put it, a subgenre of sorts. In our lifetime, songs of my
youth have become “classic rock” or “dusties” or “old souls.” I made that last
term up but I think it’s very appropriate. Pop songs that my parents listened
to are now considered “lite” jazz but that is definitely not what they were
when they ruled the airwaves.

When I started learning the guitar in the mid-seventies, I learned each and
every song I could, whether I liked it or not. Why? Because if I heard it on
the radio, then I knew that somebody liked it and if I got a chance to play it
then I could be fairly certain that someone would take the time to listen to
me play. This really hasn’t changed. When I play out these days, as rare as
that might be, my audience will end up hearing songs from the forties
through the year 2001. The more songs I know, the more often I get to play.
The more styles I know, the more musicians I can sit in with. It is really that
simple. If you want to get asked to play a lot, whether as a solo performer or
with groups that want more musicians, than learn everything you can. The
challenge comes in taking someone else’s song and making it uniquely

To do this, you need to learn to use your brain as well as your hands.

Just what do I mean by that? Well, let’s look at Babylon with an eye for
working it into a song for the solo guitarist (either singing or with a vocalist,
obviously). Now you may say, “Hey! All I’ve got to do is download the
chords and strum. What’s so hard about that?”

True enough. If you were to find the TAB, this is probably what you would

And there you have it. Very straight forward and nothing to it, right?

Unless you want to get into the song itself. Being a pop song, Babylon is full
of hooks, catchy bits of music and words that do precisely what the word
says. They reel you in. Some of it is in the song itself (the melody and
lyrics) and some is in the arrangement – the little guitar trill, the synthesized
strings that serve as a rhythm section, among other things. The question is,
how do you as a solo performer take this song and play it so that fans of the
songs are happy because they recognize it and you are happy as well,
because you’ve claimed it as your own?
When I listen to Babylon, the first thing that draws me in is the little trill that
the guitar does. Having listened to and played music for ages, I can readily
identify it as a major seventh going up to the root and then back. Now don’t
read that and get discouraged. I’ve been playing a while, remember… But
seriously, when you learn something for one song, even if you learned it
ages ago, you give yourself a music vocabulary. Whether or not you choose
to take advantage of it is an entirely different matter. In this case, I am
reminded of “Make It With You” by Bread. It also starts with the same kind
of trill. The easiest way to do this is to start with a Dmaj7 chord (barring the
first three strings on the second fret) and then doing a quick hammer-on
and pull-off on the D note, which is the third fret on the B string. This is how
it goes:

Do you hear how distinctive that sounds? File it away in your head because
you will hear it over and over again.

Another thing I notice about this song is that there are a lot of words.
Really. This means that I would like to keep my guitar part on the simple
side, after all, if I’m going to be singing this and playing it at the same time, I
don’t want to get so complicated that I don’t know what I’m doing!
But the trill hook in Babylon is not the same as this one. For starters, the
high E string isn’t sounded at all. But it does have a little bit of a lead-in, that
is a few notes come first to set the stage for the trill. Kind of like this:

I like the way that this fills out the measure with relatively few notes. This is
the kind of sound that I am looking for to play this song. I also figure that the
more ringing open strings I have, the easier it is to create the illusion that
there’s more going on than what I’m actually playing. Sometimes it pays to
be a bit sneaky. Since I’m essentially dealing with two measures (one in D
and one in G), and since the D measure is pretty much taken up by the trill
hook, I play around and find this nifty phrase:

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Now, where exactly did this come from? Well, I could bore you with all sorts
of theory and details, but it mostly came from my trying to follow along in
the style of the song.

The G in the bass came from G being the next chord. The open D and B
strings are also part of the G chord. The A note (second fret on the G string)
is a sustained tone from the Dmaj7 in the first measure and I like the jazzy
feel it gives to the phrase. The open high E string gives me the best of both
worlds; it provides me yet another open ringing string as well as adding to
the mysterious and moody tone. I decide I’m so happy with it that I make a
mental note to play the Dmaj7 with an open E string as well so that in case I
hit it by accident it will sound like part of the progression. So putting the two
together, this is now my pattern for the verses (shown here as the first

Take a moment and compare what we’ve just done to simply strumming the
chords that we took from the TAB page. If you want to, go and use Dmaj7s
and G6add9s. I’m still willing to bet that you’ll prefer this arrangement we’ve
come up with to a straight rhythmic strumming of chords. More important is
that it’s as much fun to play as it is to listen to. This is what arrangement is
all about. Making something fun and challenging for both performer and
audience at the same time.

Okay, before we move on to the chorus, let’s discuss the strumming of this
song. I’ve tabbed this out so that you can play it with or without a pick,
whichever your preference. I’ve performed it both ways and find myself
partial to fingerstyle. Especially when playing the chorus. I use a kind of
Jose Feliciano approach – I use my thumb to pluck the bass note while
using my ring, middle and index fingers to pluck the first three strings at the
same time. In addition, I keep my hand close to the strings so that I can
slap my fingers back onto the strings, just hard enough to effectively
deaden them for a moment before I pluck them all again. If you practice this
a few times, you can hear why I name this after Jose – it sounds like his
(and yes, a lot of other people’s) rhythm style. The slaps (palm mutes,
percussive strokes, whatever you want to call them) are designated by the
“x” symbols in our chart:

If you’ve read last week’s Easy Song For Beginners, I Shot The Sheriff,
you’ll recognize that we are playing the last three (non-muted) chords of
each measure on the offbeat. Take your time with this. Going from the “and”
of the fourth beat straight into the first beat of the next measure takes a bit
of practice. Now I don’t play this throughout the chorus (although I could
very easily and you might want to try it out that way first). This is just to give
you a feel for what I am doing rhythm-wise.
What I play is actually a series of hammer-ons and pull-offs, the odd
suspended note here and there using this rhythm as a base. Since the
chorus has a lot of spaces in the melody line, I feel free to put more
ornamentation in the accompaniment. These are, as I said mostly simple
hammer-ons and pull-offs that are based on the fingerings of the four
chords of the chorus (D, A, Em and G).

But there are three “tricks,” if you will that I want to take the time to show
you. The first is what I call an “A7 turnaround.” This turnaround is is another
example of the use of inverted thirds that we used in the “Easy Songs For
Beginners” piece, Bookends. And don’t worry, I’ll be doing a column on it
sometime in September so we’ll have a chance to explore it in depth. For
right now, though, here’s what I’m talking about:

The beauty of this is that you can choose to use the entire turnaround or
just parts of it. Sometimes, for example, I will use the first chord (step 1), go
to the second (step 2) and then go back to the first again. In essence, I am
creating an A7sus2sus4 and then going back to the A7. Again, all this does
is bring more interest to both the listener and performer.

The second thing I do is to give the G chord, in it’s only appearance in the
chorus, a bit of a fanfare. First I use a G chord with the D note on the B
string (third fret). I play a very deliberate downstroke on the first beat, letting
all the string ring out. But then I start an upstroke, pulling off my fingers on
the first two strings as I come back. It gives a nice cascading effect that
breaks up the sound of the rhythm without actually breaking up the rhythm
at all (you can see that it’s still all in eighth notes):

Finally, on the last bit of the chorus, I start in an another A7 turnaround but
then end it with a second measure of A major. In order to continue my
upward spiral of notes, I use an A major chord that some of you may not be
familiar with even though it’s really not that different from a first position

Believe it or not, I picked up this from classical guitar. Simply barre the first
four strings of the second fret (being sure to leave the A string open for your
bass note) and get the hogh A on the fifth fret of the first string with your
pinky. Pete Townsend uses this fingering to play the A chord quite often,
the only thing is that he uses his pinky to play the fifth fret of both the E and
B strings in order to give him the A5 sound (no third).

Okay, then, let’s do a full chorus here:

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Please note that while I may start a measure on one chord, technically, that
chord will often change as a result of my added notes. This is particularly
true of the Em, which I often turn into an Em7 in order to get a nice voicing
of the D note (3rd fret on the B string) that will resolve to the C# note (2nd
fret on the B string) of the A7 chord.

Well, you can pretty much take it from here. The only thing that I’ll add is
that I tend to follow the second version of Babylon found on David
Gray’s White Ladder CD. I can’t believe how many people don’t know that
the song not only has a third verse, but it’s the most important part of the
song, story-wise! Anyway, I put a two measure of Em break between the
first and second verses. Usually I let the mood dictate what I decide to play
in this space. Sometimes I just let a singe chord ring out and tap on the
body of the guitar to count out the time. But quite often I will throw in some
harmonics or something like this:
Here then is the whole song. I must tell you that I may indeed have some of
the words wrong as I am going by memory and anyone who knows me
knows that it’s not what it used to be! Feel free to use the various things we
worked out today but also try out some variations of your own.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed our initial Intermediates’ lesson and I hope that
you remember that it’s just as important to practice using your head as you
do your fingers and hands.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or songs (and/or riffs and solos) you’d like to see discussed in
future pieces. You can either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email
me directly at
Until next lesson…


Breaking The Law

STEFAN LEONHARDT Guitar Lessons Guitar Amplifiers and Effects

Ok, you have a gig next weekend. Your band has enough songs, you and
your bandmates have your parts down and rehearsals are sounding great.
You’re confident that you’ll pull it off without a sweat, nothing can stop you.
Nothing? Nothing except a phenomenon called Murphy’s Law.

In case you don’t know your law: Murphy’s Law says that if something can
go wrong, it will go wrong and it will go wrong in a way that it has the worst
possible effects. The more electronics and gear are involved, the greater
the chance of something not functioning. Granted, this is quite pessimistic,
but nonetheless, chances are that at any gig some minor things can and will
go wrong: A string can break (nice when it happens on a Floyd Rose
equipped guitar in mid-solo), a cable might stop working or a battery is flat.
The possibilities are endless. The audience won’t mind as long as the show
can go on and it is entertained. And fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to
prepare for Murphy’s law to make sure that you can keep going. Some
preparation also can reduce the stress potential of a gig tremendously and
help you concentrate on your music.

For a start, make sure all your equipment is in good working condition. That
means that you check the batteries in the tuner and in the stomp boxes you
use and in doubt replace them before the gig. If necessary, put on new
strings – on all the guitars you’re going to use. Don’t just replace one or two
strings, put on a complete new set. This will give a more balanced sound
than four old and two new strings.
It is a matter of taste when to change strings. It depends how long and often
you play, how much you sweat and how clean your hands are before you
pick up the instrument. There are other factors, too. For example, I don’t
like the feeling of completely new strings so I put them on before the last
rehearsal to “break them in”. Stretch new strings to make sure they stay in
tune and check the intonation. Don’t forget to take a look at your chords
and amp, too.
Your band should agree on a set list before the gig and stick to it – no
discussions on stage about which song to play now. Also choose a couple
of encore songs. If you’re using a lot of different sounds and effects (a
programmable multi-effect unit for example), take a long look at that list and
program your sounds so that you have only a minimal amount of switching
to do on stage and there is no unnecessary delay between songs.
Furthermore, write the program number(s) you use next to the song on the
set list – stage fright can make you even forget the name of your mother-in-
law. Searching for the right program number and sound on stage will not
amuse the audience.

I hope your guitar case or gig bag has plenty of room for those things that
might save you when Murphy’s Law puts its head through the door at your

Here’s my list:

 spare strings, preferably two complete sets and maybe one or two extra
high e-strings

 all the tools you need to change strings and set up your guitar (adjust

 screwdrivers, allen wrenches, a string winder, a string cutter …

 a good tuner, preferably one with a needle and lighted display

 spare batteries: at least one for the tuner, if you use stomp box effects
with batteries a couple more – oh, and make sure before the gig that the
spare batteries still have power left (Jeff Beck used nearly empty
batteries in his distortion boxes to get a certain sound, but I doubt that
the majority of your audience would like it today)

 spare cables: if you plug straight into the amp, one is enough, if you
have more cables in your setup (for example because you use the effect
loop of your amp), two or three
 if you have a tube amp, some replacement tubes

 some extra fuses for your amp

 a torchlight – ever tried to replace an amp fuse on a dark stage?

 duct tape: if you use a lot of effects or have a lot of cables lying around
the stage, tape them down so nobody trips over them and pulls them out
by accident

 a knife: cutting duct tape without one is difficult at best

 pen and paper: there’s always something to write down, maybe even
your phone number for the record company exec who saw your gig

 a multiple adaptor

Do I take all those things with me? To be honest, no I don’t and here’s why:
When I play a gig, I take at least two guitars with me for sound variations.
That means, I probably can get by with less spare strings – changing
guitars in mid-set is also faster than replacing a string. Ever since the day
my tube amp stopped working in mid-gig, I’ve brought a solid state
replacement amp to every gig. Yes, it’s more to carry, but it also saves time
(no need to replace tubes or a fuse in the middle of your gig). Thus, I get by
without replacement tubes or extra fuses.

Remember: Even if you are fine and have no problems, your second guitar
player or the bassist might be less well-prepared and then one of your extra
instrument cords might come in handy.

Preparing for a gig does not start or end with the gear, nor with rehearsing
your set list until you can play it in your sleep. If you’re interested, there’s a
very interesting article on (under articles) called
“Preparing for the gig” that deals a bit with time-management before the gig.
And there’s also the field of getting ready for the gig mentally, but that’s for
maybe another t

A Celtic Air
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Celtic Guitar Lessons, Guitar Columns by David
Hodge, Guitar Song Arrangements, Music Genres and Styles

Sometimes I have this tendency to get “literal.” And the danger in this is that
I often come across as sarcastic. Without meaning to be, you must
understand. Few of you have spoken with me or heard my voice before,
which is probably a good thing (the old joke is that, at forty-four, I should
stop thinking that my voice is going to change anytime soon), but the
trouble is that even my closest friends have a hard time discerning between
my “normal” voice and my “sarcastic” one. See if you can:

“Hi. This is my normal voice.”

“Hi. This is my sarcastic voice.”

Pretty wild, huh? I bring this up, as I said, because I do have this literal side
to me. When someone writes to me asking how to achieve a “authentic”
blues sound, for example, I am very likely to say get the cheapest beat up
acoustic you can get your hands on and forget about any kind of
amplification or effects, unless you happen to have a glass slide. This is
simply because, to me, “authentic” blues is the sound you hear when you
listen to Robert Johnson, not Robert Cray. Now don’t get me wrong, I love
what we’ll call, for lack of a better term, “electric blues.” It’s just that I have a
hard time willfully ignoring history.

And I bring all this up because today we’re going to discuss Celtic music.
You see, if you think about it, traditional Celtic music is way older than the
guitar. Really really, way, way older. So when someone is talking about
playing Celtic style on the guitar, what exactly is that person talking about?
Simply put, one is actually talking about playing the guitar in a way which
makes your mind think of things Celtic. The guitar playing reminds you of
other instruments that you would associate with Celtic tunes.
Before we get too much further, let’s take the time to dispel a few myths.
Misconceptions more than myths, really. Contrary to what you might think,
there is no such thing as a “Celtic scale” or “Celtic notes,” any more than
there are scales or notes used exclusively by any genre. Think about this.
There are only so many notes and so many ways in which they can be
played. Nowadays, we pretentiously toss around terms like “blues scales”
and the like without realizing that they’ve been around for a long, long time.

Certain scales and modes do, however, evoke various styles of music. A
harmonic minor scale sounds Arabic to Western ears, mainly because of
the use of the step-and-a-half interval between the sixth and seventh. We
associate this with exotic near-eastern sounds. Likewise, a diminished
scale sounds jazzy, if for no other reason than the only time we’ve probably
heard it in our lives was while listening to jazz.
It’s how notes are played that is important. When we think of Celtic music,
we tend to think of pipes (bagpipes or Irish fifes), harps, fiddles and voices.
We also think a lot of drones. Drones, as we’ve discussed in past columns
(On The Tuning Awry, But Then Again… and Sustained Tones), are a note
or notes that are continually played and/or sustained while the rest of the
song does what it does.
Think about the instruments we’ve mentioned. Fifes and pipes tend to be
played with a lot of trills. Fiddles, having no frets, don’t always sound spot-
on as far as tonality. Harps sound very resonant, which makes sense since
one is essentially playing what we would call “open strings” on the guitar.
And voices cover all this territory and more.

Putting On Your Disguise

Whether we realize it or not, the guitar has a distinct and identifiable sound
to us simply because our expectations of its sound are based upon or past
dealings with it. But we are suseptable to having those expectations
challenged. Think about this. The classical guitar sounds strange to people
who have only heard steel string guitars all their lives. Yet because it is
tuned the same, it also sounds familiar. Something seemingly small, like
playing the guitar with a slide or even using a coin as a pick, can create
sounds that we do not normally associate with our instrument.

So you see, it is possible to change your guitar’s “appearance,” if you will.

Or to do what Richard Thompson calls “disguising your guitar.” We want the
people hearing us play to have Celtic thoughts, to be magically transported
to far off Celtic lands. Our music should evoke thoughts and feelings that
trigger this in our audience.

The easiest thing that we can do is to provide the droning sounds of the
pipes. In Celtic music, drones tend to be in intervals of fifths. So you could
play a lot of power chords, which are nothing but fifths, but that, at least to
me. still sounds distinctly like a guitar.

If you tune your low E (or sixth) string down one whole step to D (and yes,
you should be able to do this simply using your tuner – just set it for “D”
when you tune that string as well as your normal D (fourth) string), you have
now created the interval of a fifth between your fifth and sixth strings. Drop
D tuning is great for creating an instant droning effect. Play your lowest
three strings and listen to how they ring out. Now play a full D chord
(remembering that you can now play that sixth string!) and hear how much
bottom you’ve given your guitar. Very cool, huh?

Now, if I know how to play different forms of the D chord on first three
strings, I can come up with all sorts of things. Here’s the first part of the
melody from a traditional Scottish tune, “The Campbells Are Coming,” done
with a minimum of finger movement:

Further tinkering with your guitar’s tuning can lead to other interesting
effects. Since we’re already in drop D, I’m going to also lower the first and
second strings down one whole step and get what we call DADGAD, or D
modal tuning. Again, you should be able to do this using a conventional
tuner. You see, a tuner doesn’t differentiate between octaves (which, when
you think about it , is why you can use a guitar tuner on a bass guitar), so
as long as you are tuning to notes that are used in standard tuning (E, A, D,
G, B, E) you will be okay.
DADGAD tuning provides you with a lot of ringing notes from the open
strings (the harp effect) and also the potential for lots of droning notes.
Another added bonus you might discover is that it’s easier to bend strings
since there isn’t as much tension on them. This provides you with nice
vibrato, which helps the guitar to mimic fiddles and voices.

The use of flourishes, such as vibrato (and hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides

and bends (which you can all read about in Tricks of the Trade) as well),
also aids in disguising your guitar and creating an air of Celtic song. These
flourishes show up in often show up in musical notation as grace notes:

Simply speaking, a grace note is like an accident. It doesn’t really have a

“timing” to it, like other notes do, because you have to get from that note to
your “real” note is quickly as humanly possible. We’ll discuss this in more
detail in a little bit.
First, though, I’ve taken the liberty of “creating” a Celtic piece for you as an
exercise. Yes, I made this up, but please don’t be too impressed. People,
especially those who write those guitar books with the CDs in them, do this
all the time. One comes up with an “original” song in order to get around
copyrights but the “song” (technically speaking, it’s an exercise) always
sounds suspiciously like something else. But, like it as not, this is how you
learn styles. And this is actually what you do when you play with your
friends. Someone knows a song and teaches it to you, but it may not be
exactly the way it is on th recording. You pick it up and when you pass it
along, the same thing happens.

Anyway, here it is. Give it a try:

Like anything we’ve done, take it slowly. Take it piece by piece, measure by
measure if you have to. It starts out with two measures of the drone in order
to give you a feel for it and then adds the melody on the first three strings.
In measure three, where the melody starts, you see that I begin with a
hammer-on the D note on the second string, followed by the D note of the
open first string:

This gives the illusion of a “breathing” instrument, like a fife or a voice,

which doesn’t always hit the same note accurately. This is a great
technique to use in Celtic style playing. Likewise the various slides make
you feel that you have to “find” the note instead of it simply being there.

And speaking of slides, let’s get back to that grace note business. We
encounter the first of many of them here in measure four:

The way you play this, timing-wise, is to strike the string (finger on the fith
fret) and slide up to the seventh fret at the same time. You want the first
beat to fall (in this case) on the A note, but the reality is that the G is going
to take up the fraction of a breath before you hit the A. This can take some
practice but it is well worth it to have yet another wonderful skill to have at
your beck and call.

Measure five, the first measure of the second line, contains another
interesting effect:

In some Celtic music, it is hard to tell whether an instrument is playing the

natural seventh of a scale or a flatted seventh. Often, especially again with
a fife or a fiddle, it sounds kind of halfway between. A quick quarter-tone
bend on the C note (which is the flatted seventh in a D major scale)
provides us with the same tone. Quarter-tone bends are tricky, because you
want to bend the string enough so that it is no longer, in this case, a C note
but not so much that you end up with a C# (the same note as the fourth fret
of this string). This trick is used a lot in lead playing of all genres, but is
especially well suited to Celtic style.

The last measure combines both of these techniques:

Can you hear how you hit the D note three consecutive times, yet each time
in a different way which provides a singular sound? It’s these types of
subtleties that often differentiate one genre from another.

If you’re really interested in this style of playing, I would suggest two things:
one, listen to a lot of Celtic music. And I mean old traditional stuff that
doesn’t have any guitars as well as the “new” music that does. Hear the
sounds, feel the music you are trying to evoke. Two, read all you can.
Again, don’t limit your sources strictly to guitar-oriented material. And again,
having said that, I would like to strongly recommend something extremely
guitar oriented. It’s a “Guitar Listen & Learn” books with CD that is put out
by Homespun Tapes (distributed by Hal Leonard) called “Richard
Thompson Teaches Traditional Guitar Instrumentals.” There are pieces in
there for guitarists of all ranges and you will find Richard Thompson covers
a great many of the topics that we have in today’s column. One of the
things he says on the CD about the style and the feel with which music is
played is what often determines the “kind” of music you get (“…the feel is
the music…”), pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject. And, oh
yes, you also get to listen to him play which is always a delight.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or songs (and/or riffs and solos) you’d like to see discussed in
future pieces. You can either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email
me directly at
Until next lesson…

Beginning the Quest
for Tone Part 1 – How
To Buy A Guitar Amp
JEREMY LEDFORD Guitar Lessons Buying a Guitar and Other Equipment, Guitar
Amplifiers and Effects

You go into the store and buy it right? Yes, it could be that simple. But,
without proper information, one could end up making a very costly mistake
(trust me , I have). So, we will delve into the world of tone and the steps to
making a more informed buying decision.

Because that’s what you’re looking to find – the right tone. Tone is the
combination of your guitar, your amp, and your fingers. The amp is crucial
because it provides the means for self expression.

This is the first installment of two articles that will try to help you choose an
amplifier. I will focus on beginning players today and intermediate players in
the next installment. First, what style of music do you play? There aren’t as
many amp choices as for guitars, but they are more or less designed for
specific groups of players and/or genres of music. This doesn’t mean one
amp won’t do most things in the world of tone, but they usually shine in only
a few areas. Last, but definitely not least, PRICE!! Some of us can go out a
buy whatever our hearts desire, but for the majority of us, price plays a
major role in the search for tone.

Although I know you want to, as a beginning guitar player, you don’t need to
go out and buy that massive Mesa or Marshall stack or even a 2×12 combo
amp. Start with something basic. A small practice amp with an 8″, 10″, or
12″ speaker should be sufficient. Channel switching is very nice to have.
Channel switching allows you to go from dirty to clean with push of a button
on the front panel or with a switch on the floor. Reverb, as well as chorus, is
a nice option to have. (Don’t hold your breath for chorus, though.) These
features make playing much more fun.
I wouldn’t spend more than $300 on an entry-level amp, and that figure
should probably end up somewhere between $100 and $200. I don’t
recommend buying below $100 dollars. I don’t think they sound all that
good. At the sub-$300 price level, pro tone hasn’t entered the building, and
tubes are hard to find (there are a few, but we won’t go into that here).
Decent noise can be had, though. For most tones, the entry level amps of
the major manufacturers are great buys. I would stay away from tube amps,
because they tend to show more mistakes. This can be very frustrating
when just starting out. All that is needed is an amplifier that sounds
relatively decent and will keep you playing.

As a beginning guitar player, you don’t have to play in the store. Have the
sales guy take a particular amplifier through its paces. Listen closely to the
amplifier. Is the sound clear? If applicable, how does the reverb sound?
Lush and warm or “Boingy”? We want as close to lush and warm as
possible. Channel switching? Does it pop when changing the channels?
What kind of range do the knobs produce? A large margin of frequency
cutting is what we want here, for the purpose of getting as many sounds as
possible. (Cheaper amps only have passive tone controls, i.e , they only cut
frequencies. The more expensive amplifiers can sometimes have active
tone controls, i.e., cutting and boosting of frequencies is possible. The
Peavey 5150 II is like this.) Remember that the sales dude has most likely
been playing with all these amps for 4 hours a day for several years, and he
may sound a lot better than you do, but he also knows the amps.

If you do feel up to playing in the store, we need to define some of the

terms that you will find labeled on the amplifiers and what some of the jacks
on the front do. (Some of the amps in the higher end of this category may
have jacks/controls on the back, too.) On the front the amplifier, you will find
one or two 1/4″ input jacks labeled input. With two jacks, they are either
labeled high and low or 0db and -6db. The high/0db input is for guitars with
passive pickups, and the low/-6db is for guitars with active pickups, which
have a higher output signal compared to passive pickups. The one, lower
input is padded to help control input distortion, which can sound pretty bad.
I have found that the only difference is in volume with transistor amps, but
your experiences may differ.

Next are the controls. The number of controls can vary from one to about
twelve, and more have been seen. Generally, you will find a volume control,
a bass control, a middle control, and a high control. These are pretty
explanatory. Sometimes, the volume control will be labeled post gain. On
amps with channel switching, a pre gain control is usually present. This
controls the amount of dirt or distortion. If you are lucky enough to get an
amplifier that has reverb, there will be a control to adjust the amount of
“echo” that you hear, from none to full saturation. With amps that have more
than this minimum number of controls and channel switching, a separate
set of tone controls are usually added for the clean channel, so that you
don’t have to use the same settings on your clean channel that you use for
your distortion channel. With chorus, the controls are rate and depth. Rate
is the speed of the effect and depth is the amount of the effect you hear.

For power, ten to thirty watts is all that is really needed. Anything more, and
hearing loss (what? what did you say?), parents, siblings, and neighbors
become a problem. If the amp does have channel switching, I strongly
recommend purchasing the footswitch that goes with it. You will thank me.
Specific manufacturers to look at are Peavey, Fender, Marshall, Randall,
and Waller (this is a new manufacturer that puts out some great sounding
amplifiers). If you do have the budget to get an effects box along with the
amp, I don’t recommend getting a distortion pedal. Let the amp do the work.
Besides, noise problems will usually pop up, especially with transistor

In closing, choosing a starter amplifier is more about getting a decent sound

that will keep you playing than stroking your ego or looking good in front of
your friends with the latest and greatest amplifier on the market. Imitating
the tone of your favorite guitar player isn’t necessary, and can even be
foolish. If you spend alot of money and don’t keep with it, you have bought
your self a very expensive door stop. Remember, purchase what you want
and listen to your ears!!!


Thinking: What a
JAMIE ANDREAS Guitar Lessons Practice Tips for Guitar

I was very fortunate when I was growing up, because my father worked for
one of the greatest companies a person could work for, especially at that
time (1950’s, 60’s). He worked for IBM. IBM was founded by a very great
and visionary individual named Thomas Watson. Mr. Watson didn’t just
start a company, he created and controlled an entire culture, an entire
philosophy of life, which he carefully taught to all his employees.

The cornerstone of his philosophy was embodied in one word. This word
was hanging on every wall in the IBM office, and, along with boxes of
punchcards, this word was in my house all the time, because it was the title
of the official IBM magazine that came to our house.

The word is THINK. Thomas Watson realized that “most of the trouble
people get into begins with the phrase “I didn’t think before I acted”. It is a
major step forward in our growth when we realize this truth. The next major
step is when we become aware of how little thinking we actually do,
especially at the times we need it most, which is when we have “problems”,
a word which Principled Players immediately translate into “challenges”.

I got a real insight into this one time when I couldn’t find my wallet, (an
almost daily occurrence, because I’m usually “thinking” about something
else!). I caught myself mindlessly roaming around the room, looking in all
the same places I had already looked, over and over as if it were going to
magically materialize! It gave me the feeling of “doing something”, and
allowed me to avoid the hard work of sitting down and thinking where I
might have left it. But it didn’t give me my wallet! In the same way, guitar
players will mindlessly repeat the same ineffective actions over and over
again, as if the notes are going to somehow magically appear! We will do
anything but put that guitar down a second and really think about what we
are doing, and why it isn’t working, and what we can do about it.

I have experienced, literally, struggling with some passage of music for

years, and one day solving it because I put the guitar down, started thinking
about everything I was doing (fingerings, arm./hand/finger positions, etc),
and began to “think of”, or “create”, new possibilities to experiment with.
And because of doing that “thinking process”, I would often “solve” those
problems on the spot, or get pointed in the right direction.

If we are really honest and insightful, we may realize that, in fact, we

NEVER think! We just mindlessly adopt the ideas and attitudes of what is
around us, and we never actually examine, inspect, juggle, calculate these
ideas and attitudes with our minds, or, just as important, “feel” these ideas
and attitudes with our emotions (intuition), If we are equally honest,
observant and insightful about ourselves as guitar players, we will likewise
see that when confronted with problems, with things we are having trouble
doing on the guitar, we don’t actually THINK. Instead we mindlessly DO
what we have already been doing, even though it is producing no result. We
keep doing the same fingering or picking, we keep approaching it with the
same hand position. We don’t stop, re-examine, observe, draw conclusions,
plan a new approach, and then observe and draw conclusions again.

To be a guitar player who considers continual growth to be the cornerstone

of their day to day activities, practicing and playing, is to be a person who is
going to be constantly confronted by one thing: PROBLEMS! Practicing is
nothing but the confrontation of problems, one after another. If you are one
of the gazillions of players who are NOT experiencing improvement in your
playing, then please realize that you do not know how to solve problems.
Don’t be depressed! Be like me. I love finding out what a jerk I am, because
then I can start getting better!

When it comes to my growth as a player, I have always been more

interested in how a great player practices, than in how they play. When I
watch them play, I am seeing the result of their practice. But I want to know
how they GOT that result. So I want to know how they PRACTICE.

And when I want to understand how they practice, I look for one thing: how
do they THINK about what they are doing? How do they think about this
thing called “playing the guitar”? Whenever I discover something about how
a great player THINKS, I immediately start experimenting with thinking that
way, and understanding where that way of thinking is coming from. I
recommend it to all of you.

I can remember various times when I would hear or read a comment from a
great player, and that comment would give me great insight into how that
person THINKS, the ATTITUDES that he or she uses to look at the world
through. I would then follow that thought process, I would adopt that “view
point”, and look at things in the same way. That would lead to new
discoveries. I would “see” things they had seen, because I was using the
same thought process, looking out from the same “point of view”.

Some examples: I read of Pepe Romero advising a student who was having
trouble with shifts to “focus mentally on the muscles that make the shift”.
Now, this said worlds about how a great player, known for his great
technique, thinks about the technical aspect of playing the guitar. I
immediately began to study anatomy, and think along the same lines. The
results were incredible.

I read of Carlos Santana talking about how when he plays, it’s only good if it
makes him cry. This said so much about the state of emotional intensity and
involvement that a great player experiences internally while playing. It
means there is no room for mediocrity in the emotional content of our
music, and our relationship. It means that WE must be moved by our own
playing, or composing, or no one else will!

Julian Bream has talked about getting the correct “flow” and “feeling” into
his arpeggios. This told me that this great player works very much from a
kinesthetic sense of the connection between how his body feels while
playing, and the sound that he hears. It also said that he achieves his
musical goal while playing by an intense focus on the desired outcome.

So, I recommend to you that you become very interested in how great
players THINK (and feel) about what they do. What and how a great player
thinks about what they do determines what they do. And what they do, day
by day, determines what they become. That is true for all of us. For non-
players, simply enjoying a great players playing is enough. But for us
players, we need to dig deeper than that.

Many, and I may even say most, guitar students do not really, truly, and
constantly THINK when they practice. They are more like a fighter in the
ring who keeps swinging blindly, with his head down, so he doesn’t even
see what is going on around him. He’s blindly hoping he will be effective
and successful, but most of the time, he’s in for a bruising! How do we get
to be “thinking guitar students”?

Thinking is a “turning of the wheels” mentally. However, you must make

sure the wheels have some “grist” to churn while they are turning! In other
words, a large part of the thinking process is the taking in of new
information, so that it can be processed, combined and re-configured with
existing knowledge, and thereby lead to new insights and discoveries.
There are two ways of taking in new information: the people we meet, and
the books we read. Make sure you make full use of these resources as they
are available to you. Not all of us get to hang around great players, but all of
us have access to books written by and about great musicians, and great
people in general. You should ALWAYS be taking in new information,
processing it, and using it. Understand that READING and THINKING are
intimately connected. The person who wants to grow to their full potential
READS, and also makes sure they find and recognize who and what is
most worth reading!

In my teaching, I have one central overarching goal: teach the student how
to teach themselves, and that means teaching them how to think. That is
why my book deals with the “Principles” of practice. A “principle” is an
“avenue of thought”. When we have a problem to solve, we need to look at
that problem from the viewpoint of the appropriate Principle, and let our
thinking process be guided by that principle, and see where it leads. This is
walking down the “avenue of thought”.

One of the Principles of Practice says “if a mistake is being made in playing,
it is always because the finger needed to play the note is not relaxed and
ready in the right position BEFORE it is required to move to the note”. This
is an “avenue of thought” I often walk down when I have a problem. By
contemplating this principle, I am led to discover the answer to my problem,
or at least a part of the answer.

The “answer” to our problem is contained within the problem itself. Thinking
is the process by which we truly define, and then penetrate the problem,
and bring it into focus, so that the answer, which often appears as a new
direction to move in, begins to materialize. The Principles we use to guide
our actions will determine where we travel, and how well and how far.

Copyright Jamie Andreas, Guitar Principles.

Rehearse and Rehash

DAN LASLEY Guitar Lessons Practice Tips for Guitar, Sound Engineering Lessons

Some recent emails have given me the idea to review the importance of
rehearsing as a band, and how to get the most from your practice time.
Remember that these are general suggestions, you will have to adapt them
to your own band’s abilities and temperament.

As I’ve told the kids on my soccer teams for many years, the way you
practice is the way you play. So let’s review some ways to improve your

Before you even start, you should have a pretty clear idea of what you need
to work on at this rehearsal. It is a waste of everyone’s time if no one knows
what songs you are going to learn. You don’t need a long list; if you can
learn two songs, and put time into three more that you already know, that’s
a pretty good practice session. As discussed below, it can take some time
to work through a new song, so don’t try to do too much in one session.

Occasionally, just before a gig, you may want to do a “dress rehearsal”,

where you have the set-list, and you play through it without stopping. There
should be a minimum of discussion between songs (“that works”, “let’s do it
a bit slower next time”), but don’t play anything twice.

Depending on the personality of your band, someone may have to be “the

boss”. Other groups can get by with a consensus decision at the start of
practice. Sometimes it works well to discuss the plan for the next rehearsal
at the end of this one. Figure out what works best for you and try to stick
with it. This is the “work” part of playing in a band.

The next important item is to remember that you are “rehearsing” the song.
This means that you don’t have it down perfect yet, and you need to make
adjustments. You should decide how you want to play each song. Do you
want to sound “just like the album”, or perhaps change the style a little (or a
lot)? Does the album have parts that are hard to replicate live? After you
have made these stylistic choices, you need to focus on three things:
structure, harmonies, and dynamics.

A note about volume: you should never rehearse at volume levels that
make your ears ring. You should always be able to hear the vocalists
clearly, and they shouldn’t have to strain to be heard. If the lead guitar or
drummer (or whomever) want to play loud, wait until after rehearsal is over.
Loud wastes time and patience.
Setting Up to Practice
First, everyone should be able to hear each other pretty well. Most of us
have limited space to practice in, so you have to use all the tricks you can
to keep it sane. Everyone should be in a circle facing in toward each other.
Remember to get the guitar amps off the floor (except the bass). They
should be at least waist high, and shoulder height is best. Put them on a
chair, or on top of the bass amp.

If possible, group all of the singers together on one half of your circle, and
put your monitor speakers on the opposite side, with non-singers standing
near the monitors. Again, the monitors should be shoulder high.

In this picture, the drummer is in the upper right, and I have assumed that
she sings. In the upper left is the bass amp (green) with one of the guitar
amps (orange) on top. The other guitar amp is along the left wall, and the
keyboard amp is along the bottom wall. The blue diamonds are the monitor
speakers. The crosses are the musicians, and I have assumed that the 3 on
the right side sing (mikes in yellow). One of these will also play guitar, but
it’s better to have his amp on the left wall with the others. Obviously, you
need to rearrange this to suit your own personnel, but the idea is that the
singers all go on one side, and the amps and monitors go on the other side.
There are 3 important places to focus on for structure: the intro, the outro,
and the breaks. The verses and chorus will usually take care of themselves
because the words and melodies tend to hold everything together.

For the intro, it is often easiest for one musician to start each song, with the
others joining in at the appropriate time. It is harder, but more impressive, if
you can begin a song from a cold start.

For the outro, is the ending sharp or sustained? Remember that you can’t
(well, it’s difficult) do a “fade out”. If the ending is sustained, who keys the
punch-out? It’s important that you all end together.

For the breaks and solos, you should work carefully on the transitions. How
do you get from the last chorus into the solos? Is the solo of fixed length, or
can it be extended? In one of my bands, we had a very “self-aware” lead
guitarist. We had several songs that could have extended solos, and so we
agreed that Mikey could play as long as he wanted, but he had to tell us
when he wanted to get out. It took some practice, but eventually we were
able to wait for Mikey to nod his head, and then the band would work the
transition from the solo-verse into the chorus, and Mikey had prepared a
flourish to complete his solo as we exited – it sounded like we knew what
we were doing, but in reality we were ad-libbing.

You should always do your structure work at low volume, because you are
not looking for tone, you are building the song’s foundation.

One of the things that helps turn a good band into a memorable band is the
ability to harmonize. And harmonies require practice. Unfortunately,
practicing harmonies can be boring for the non-singers, so many bands
never do it. It may be a good idea to give some of the non-singers the
afternoon off. As always, this type of work should be done at low volume so
you can think and hear. Usually, the song can be driven by just a rhythm
guitar, while everyone sings their parts. There are some songs where
harmonies are not on the original, but your vocalists can find a place for
them. (Laura throws in a one-line harmony in James Brown’s I Got You –
“and I Fee-eee-eeelll”, right behind the male vocalist, it sounds great!).
After you’ve worked out the harmonies for a few songs, bring the rest of the
band back together and practice with everyone. This is your opportunity to
take the harmonies to the next level, by having the instruments work with
the harmonies. If you have a keyboardist, he can choose voicings that are
complimentary to the vocals. The bass player can often adjust the
transitions to match the vocals as well (see Playing Along, and the guitars
can add their bit as well. It is possible that this can get too busy, but it can
be really exciting too.
One important part of working with harmonies is that once you’ve found
your part, you have to stick to it, as everyone else is depending on you to
do what you did last time. Be careful about ad-libbing during group

One classic sign of a newly formed band is that they haven’t worked out
any dynamics. Dynamics are the variation in volume and enthusiasm in
different parts of a song. The simplest method is to play softly during the
verse and loud during the chorus – many songs are done that way. But
there are more subtle ways to do this as well. For example, the drummer
can add a rapid hi-hat riff during the final verse, which can change the
energy of the song without changing the volume at all. Or the lead guitar
can run a series of scales behind the vocals which could add some interest
to a boring passage.

The goal of adding dynamics is to keep the audience interested in what you
are playing, without changing the song enough to annoy them. It is a subtle
way to show off your talents without being obnoxious.

Dynamics should be practiced at or near full stage volume – which doesn’t

mean loud enough to fill a stadium, but loud enough that the drummer can
play normally.

And, of course, adding dynamics to any song requires practice.

Gigs as Practice
In the old days, our band had to know 60 songs of what is now called
“classic rock”. We played 4 sets of 15 3-minute songs from 10pm to 2am.
Other than mixing up the ballads and up-tempo songs, we also worked on
some songs that were not quite ready to go. Usually we would open each
set with 2 or 3 strong songs, and then we’d sneak in one that still needed
work. By forcing ourselves to play before we were ready, it made us focus
harder on the song; this was no time to be lazy. Many times, we would play
the song better than ever. Occasionally we would bomb, and someone
would make a self-deprecating comment to the audience. But most often,
the added energy you get when playing live brings out the best in
everyone’s abilities.

So don’t over practice a song. Work out the structure, harmony, and
dynamics, and then put it on your set list and go play it.

After your gig, it’s a good idea to get together and review the good and not-
so-good points. As a bass player, I’ve been known to say “I really liked your
lead guitar in that song, can you keep it that way so I can write a counter-
point to it?” You should try to remember other key points from your gig, and
then make them the first item of business for the next rehearsal.

I hope this helps you use your rehearsal time more efficiently, so you can
get out there and play in the bars and clubs – we want to hear you!

o You Genre Dance? –

(or, “Playing An Old
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge, Guitar Song
Arrangements, Music Genres and Styles
Have we been confusing you no end these past two months with our genre
theme? I certainly hope so. At the very least I hope that it is making you
think. It is human nature, I suppose, that makes us believe that placing
something into a nicely labeled cubbyhole will makes all life easier. After all,
if we can clearly define and delineate something, then we can pride
ourselves with putting everything into its proper place.

But, again, of course, we would never apply this same procedure to

ourselves. We have depth, we have complexity (did I say “complexity?”
How rude of me! My heartfelt apologies – the word should obviously be
plural!). We transcend any single label that one might happen to tag us
with, don’t we?
Genres fascinate me even more as a songwriter than they intrigue me as a
music theorist. Often, when I was just starting out playing and writing with a
band, we’d say, “We need a Neil Young type of song…” and someone in
the group would proceed to write a song in the style of one of the artists or
bands whose songs we covered. But there were other times when I would
come to the group with a song that I’d written with one specific style in
mind, say a slow moody Neil Young number, in mind only to leave the
practice with a supercharged Elvis Costello type of song!

Sometimes we’d find ourselves changing the style of a song (our own as
well as covers) depending upon the audience we were expecting. We had a
lot of fun coming up with unexpected things, like a ska version of Get Off Of
My Cloud or a bossa nova rendition of Message In A Bottle. Truth be told,
though, sometimes these inspired arrangements were the result of pure
boredom, which was, in turn, the result of us playing something the same
way over and over and over and over and over again. And, truth be told
again, sometimes these experiments with covers led to writing some
incredibly wonderful original songs.
Knowing the little nuances of different musical genres can help you in a lot
of ways. Perhaps the most important, though not always obvious, thing it
can do is to make you flexible. The more styles you can play, the more
music you can play. You’d think that this would be a fairly simple thing to
understand, but you know the old saying, “Common sense isn’t…”

Today, I’d like to take one song and run it through hoops, if you will –
something that, when I first wrote to Dan Lasley about this idea, he laughed
and called it my “circle of genres.” Oh, yes, let’s get this out of the way…
These files are the author’s own work and represents his interpretation of
these songs. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or

The song in question is Stand By Me. I don’t know if you’re more familiar
with the Ben E. King version or John Lennon’s remake on his Rock And
Roll album, but it really doesn’t matter. I picked it specifically for the
purposes of this column because (a) it’s very easy to play and (b) I imagine
that everyone knows it. The thing will be to open your minds to all the
interesting things that you might do with this song (better stop me now
before I get to the “think of the song as a bit of clay that you are shaping
into a new form…” routine!).
As I said, this is an easy song to play; the chord progression is just a simple
I – VI – IV – V – I pattern which repeats itself throughout the verses and
choruses. I usually play this in the key of G, so let’s look at the first verse
and chorus, shall we?

Nothing to it, right? Okay, then, let’s play!

This is a moderate song in 4 / 4 time. The G and the Em are each two
measures of four beats (total of eight beats for both chords). This is
followed by one measure (four beats) each of C and D before ending on
two more measures of G. Then the whole process starts up once again.

Okay, brief side trip: One of the band’s I was in had an immediate upcoming
gig when we learned that our lead singer had been confined to bed rest (it’s
a long story…). With only two days in which to put together enough material
to cover for her absence, we spent our practices thinking of every single
easy song we knew, trying them out. When we came up with one that we
were happy with, then we quickly tried to see if there was some way to put
a different spin on it so that we didn’t sound like we were just throwing
things together! Now, if you listen to either of the aforementioned recordings
of this song, especially Lennon’s, you will note the heavy emphasis on the
offbeat. This made me think that we should try Stand By Me as a reggae
song. So we slowed it down marginally and played around with the offbeat
a bit (just like I showed you in the I Shot The Sheriff lesson):

Can you hear the different feel of the song even though this is fairly subtle
change? Well, one thing that you will find perhaps not so subtle is how
changing the rhythm affects your singing. When the beat is altered, even
slightly (and especially if you are both playing and singing), you find
yourself changing your vocal to fit the style of the new rhythm. It truly can’t
be helped. And it is often to the betterment of your arrangement.

It turned out that, while we like the reggae version, we needed something a
little faster because we’d found ourselves with too many mid-tempo range
songs. So we (naturally) went overboard by playing it in a very fast ska
beat. Because we were really speeding along, the easiest way to play it
was by strictly doing single upstrokes on the offbeats. Our bassist pretty
much laid the foundation for this one by playing on the beat while the
rhythm guitar provided the syncopation, like this:
Notice that we played this with barre chords in order to give it a more trebly
sound. This is also something that you have to take into consideration when
you play different styles.

Along with tempo and chord voicing, another thing to think about is which
effect or effects to use. If you wanted to play Stand By Me in a punk or
metal or grunge style, you could easily do it with one guitar playing a long
sustained power chord while the second guitar played straight eighth notes.
Here are two possible arrangements:
The trick here is to let one guitar ring out while the second provides the
drive. You could easily let the bass player do this as well by playing in the
same tempo as the second guitarist. In these examples, Variation 1 should
be very fast. Variation 2 is more of an up-tempo ballad. For both, Guitar
One could just as easily play long, slow, ringing arpeggios instead of one
sustained chord. I think you’ll find that you can do a lot of interesting things
with the interplay of two guitars.
And we could always go the pretty route. Let’s alter the timing a bit, slow it
down a lot and play in triplets. But instead of having to write out all those
triplets, I simply put us into 12/8 time. Think of it as “one and a two and a
three and a four and a…” if it helps (it helps me!). Now play long rolling
arpeggios and listen:
Sounds like one of those 1950’s heartbreak songs where the young hero
goes off and runs his car off a cliff, doesn’t it? I put the lyrics in this example
because sometimes when you change the timing a bit drastically it helps to
think about where you’re going to put the melody! There have been
occasions when I’ve come up with a great rhythm arrangement and then
realized I’d need someone else to sing it!

But suppose you like your pop songs a little more stylish? Let’s add an
open high E string to the mix (which will, of course, alter our chords a wee
bit), pick it cleanly and throw in a bit of chorus and hey! You’re Andy
Summers of the Police:
Playing this with a lot of palm muting (and be sure to read Ryan’s piece on
this – Palm Muting) adds a lot of texture to it. One thing that I especially like
about this is the Dadd2add4, which is simply your C typical major chord
played two frets higher. I also thought that going from the D to Em for a
measure before returning to the G added to the Every Breath You
Take feel.
Of course, now that you’re picking the song a little more, you might want to
try something folky:
Or throw in some fast fills based on sevenths and you’ve got country:
Now I know what you’re thinking. And as a rhythm guitarist, I can’t help but
wonder along with you: “What would Keith Richards do?” My guess would
be something along these lines:
Shades of Jumpin’ Jack Flash, no? Here I not only throw in a display of my
love of harmonics, but I also borrowed a standard blues/rock turnaround
(the Bb to C at the end) in order to give us a bit of an “oomph!”
Well, we’ve gotten kind of far from the simple song we started out with,
haven’t we? Imagine the fun I’ve had sitting around playing the same thing
over and over again and yet never playing it the same way twice. I had
originally figured that this would be more than enough examples but I kept
coming up with more! And two of them were too interesting to leave out.
Here’s a jazzy version:
Okay, “jazz for beginners” perhaps! This is nowhere near as difficult as you
might think it is. Give it a try and see.

If you’ve read my recent column on the stylings of Celtic music (A Celtic

Air), you’ll know I had a guitar already set up in D modal tuning (DADGAD
to those of you ornery people who have acronyms for everything) (that’s
OPWHAFE, by the way). So, I figured why not do a Celtic version as well.
Remember to put your capo on the fifth fret so that we’re actually in G
modal tuning!
Look at that! Without batting an eye, we’ve come up with ten different ways
to play the same song. A song, I might add, that in its original form is still
pretty cool. Can you do this with every song? Yes, and more. Should you?
Well, that’s very much up to you. There will always be those who feel that
you should always strive to be a carbon copy as well as those who live to
come up with arrangements that are, to put it nicely, challenging.

Sometimes your interpretation of a song will be a reflection of a genre, of

the music you’re familiar with, of the music you like to play, of the music
you’re experimenting with. But more often than not it will be a reflection of

I hope you’ve had fun with this. We’ll definitely be visiting different genres
from time to time in both the guitar columns and song lessons, examining
the particulars and exploring the similarities and differences that set them

But never let your lack of familiarity keep you from trying something out.
One of the best ways to learn a lot about something is to attempt to copy it.
To make a great copy, you have to know what makes it work. I think one of
the greatest gifts of music is the joy of creation. And that includes re-
creation, if you will. Taking something wonderful and making it even more
intense, more personal, more whimsical. There is so, so, so, so, so much
out there to learn and play that one can only dream to take in the merest
fraction of it during one’s lifetime.

So go out there and make some music, okay? Make it yours and then share
it with someone and make it all of ours.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or topics you’d like to see covered in future columns. You can
either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email me directly at
Until next time…


Your Very Own

Rosetta Stone – A
Guide To Reading
Musical Notation –
Part One
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge, Guitar Lessons for
Absolute Beginners, Guitar Lessons for Beginners, Guitar Lessons Tab, How to Read
Standard Notation

One of the things that many people write to ask is “in which order should my
past columns be read?” And I have to answer that I don’t really know! When
I started writing for Guitar Noise, I was given pretty much free rein about
what to write. Most of my topics came, and still come, from you, our
readers. I had no preset lesson plan, if you will.

Now, close to two years later, I am desperately scrambling around trying to

fill in as many of the gaps in my teachings as possible. This is going to take
time and I don’t want to detract from the other fun lessons that are
progressing even as we speak. So from time to time I hope to put out a
column such as this one. Maybe Paul will even put it on it’s own page!
Something with a clever, catchy title, like “Things David Really Should Have
Written About Earlier If Only The Poor Sod Had Half A Brain…”

Today I’d like to give you a quick guide to reading music notation. This is
something that many of you have asked for. It is also something that any
and every serious musician needs. If you’re wondering whether or not you
should bother to learn to read music, take the time to read Jamie Andreas’
excellent article Why Should I Learn To Read Music? that we put online last
What I’ve put together here for you is not a definitive guide. Rather, it is a
basic starter kit, kind of like those phrase books you see tourists carrying
around when they are unsure of the language but at least want to give it a
try. It certainly is better than arrogantly expecting everyone to speak your
language! With today’s column and some practice (sigh.
Yes, everything does require practice, does it not?), you will be able to
navigate through my lessons at least! You’ll also be taking the first steps in
learning what is perhaps the only “universal” written language this planet

Setting Up Shop
One of the coolest things about knowing how to read music is that there is a
lot that you can know about a song without even giving it more than a
passing glance. Like the eternal question, “What key is it in?” But first things

Just as in reading any writing language, we have to learn the alphabet as

well as the various “punctuation” marks. Fortunately, the alphabet part is
very easy, because there are only seven letters. And each letter, as I’m
guessing you are aware, is the name of a note:

This is the order they go in. Once you reach “G,” we go back to “A” and
repeat the whole thing over again. This doesn’t change! As far as
sequential order goes (this is in naming the notes in order, obviously not in
playing a song) the note “C” will never be immediately followed by anything
over than “D” and so on. You don’t have to worry about anyone ever telling
you otherwise.

In music notation, notes are designated by symbols, which will typically look
like one of the following:

We will come back to these in Part Two. Right now, however, we need to
learn something else. How exactly do we know which note is, for instance,
a “A” note? And to which “A” note on the guitar does notation note this
correspond? Well, in notation, our notes are displayed upon what is called a
“staff.” This is a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces between each
line. Don’t laugh, the spaces are important. It is where these notes are
positioned in the staff, on which line or space they occupy, which
determines what note you play. And here’s the beauty of it – the position
will always be the same. If you want the note sounded by the open B string,
for example, it will always occupy the place on the staff. Once you know
where it is you will always know where it is.
But (and there always is a catch, isn’t there?) first you have to know which
type of staff you are dealing with. You can identify a staff by a symbol that
sits along its far left-hand edge. This is called a clef. And while there are
numerous types of clef, only two appear primarily in the music we deal with,
the treble clef and the bass clef. Here’s what they look like:

Now if you’re thinking to yourself, “I can see that the treble clef kind of looks
like a stylized “G,” but why do they call the bass clef an “F clef?” you’ve
almost got it right. This won’t be the most scientific explanation (like mine
ever are, right?), but it will definitely work as a memory device. Look closely
at the treble clef. Notice in particular the second line from the bottom. You
may not pick this up with a passing glance, but the line that makes up the
clef itself intersects that second horizontal line from the bottom four times; it
crosses it more times than it does any other line in the staff. So guess what
note occupies that line?

Yes, it is the G note. This G corresponds to your open G string. It always is

and was and will be that note (okay, there is an “unless” and we’ll come to
that in a moment). Going back to the bass clef, can you see that the second
line from the top is surrounded by those dots? Yes, that is where the F note
will be on that staff. This particular F, by the way, corresponds to the first
fret on your low E string.

So just how do we read these notes? Well, If we know that G is the second
line from the bottom of the treble clef, then we know that the next note, the
one that will occupy the space between the second and third lines, will be
A, since A immediately follows G. The third line would therefore be the B
note and so on. Going in the other direction, and using the same logic, F
would occupy the first space from the bottom and E would be the note on
the bottom line. Let’s take a look at all the notes in what we’ll call the “main
body” of the staff:

Some of you probably might still remember the mnemonic phrases that you
were taught in grade school. Reading up from the bottom, the notes which
occupy the lines are E,G,B,D,F – “Every Good Boy Deserves Favor.” Or
“Fudge,” if you prefer. When you read the notes of the spaces upward from
the bottom, you get F, A, C, E, which is easy enough to remember on its

And before you put two and two together and start thinking that you have to
be able to read both staffs, relax. This music stuff’s been around for ages
and no matter what anyone tells you, people have always opted for doing
things the easy way whenever possible. It’s not just a modern phenomenon.
Guitar music is (again, almost) always written solely in the treble clef. What
happens is that lines and spaces get added above and below the staff and
you continue to read them as if they were part of the treble clef. Here are
the notes above and below the staff.

You can see that the low E will more often than not be the lowest note you’ll
encounter in sheet music for the guitar (although, believe it or not, there are
songs dated as far back as sixteenth century written specifically for drop D
tuning!). When a musical passage starts going way above the E on the
twelfth fret of the first string, you will often run into this symbol:

This indicates that the notes should be played one octave higher than the
notation. You’ll see this a lot if you’re reading notation of leads.
Oh, and just to throw my two cents in, learning how to read the bass clef
isn’t a bad idea…

Accidentals Will Happen

In this lesson, I also want to point out some other things that you will find
when you look at a staff of music. At the beginning of each piece of music,
the staff will be followed by two important pieces of information – the key
signature and the time signature. And just so you know, I moved the time
signature waaaay out into the staff so that I could label it easier. Normally,
it’s right after the key signature.

Today, let’s look at the key signature, shall we? You may not know this, but
sheet music is often much more helpful than TABS in ways that benefit the
player who is not concerned with playing things note per note. The key
signature is the number of sharps or flats (or the lack thereof) that appear
immediately after the clef. This will, much more often than not, tell you what
key a song is in. Notice I said sharps orflats, not both. We’ll come back to
this in a moment.
Earlier, when I wrote out the seven letters of the musical “alphabet,” you
were probably wondering if I’d left something out. Technically speaking, no,
because I only intended to write out the letters of notes. That did note mean
that I was writing out all the notes. If you’ve read any of my beginner’s
theory pieces (Theory Without Tears or The Musical Genome Project) you
are well aware that there are more than seven notes. There are actually
twelve. Some are designated by just a letter, while others are a letter and a
symbol like this – # – or this – b. The “#” means “sharp” or “one half step
above the note of the letter. C#, for example, is a half step above C. A “b” is
a flat sign, meaning that we have moved a half step down from the note of
the letter. Eb is a half step below E. And let’s note here that this does
indeed mean that some notes actually share the same name. “Ab” and “G#”
are, for our purposes, the same note. Here’s a handy chart:
In musical notation, the symbols for flats and sharps are
called accidentals. There is also an accidental for “natural” meaning that
the note should be the straight letter value, neither flat nor sharp. I can’t do
it on the keyboard, so let me show you what these look like on the staff:

Why on earth would you even need a “natural” symbol? Well, that should
become clear momentarily. Suppose you were writing out a song in the key
of E, a fairly common key for guitar music. There are four sharps in the E
major scale. See for yourself:

E F# G# A B C# D# E
Now remember what I told you about people wanting to do things the easy
way. Would you want to have to put a sharp notation every time you wrote
one of these four notes? Of course not. What you would do is write out your
sharps ahead of time, at the very beginning of the piece. This is like a big
billboard saying, “Hey! Whenever you see an F, it’s supposed to be an F#,
okay?” This is what the key signature does. So, how do you know what key
a song is in? Well, you may not believe this, but there are rules! These rules
are dictated by the formation of the major scale. Here’s a run down:
The real beauty of this, as in so much of what we’ve been talking about, is
that these symbols are constants. If you see a song with only one flat in it, it
is going to be Bb. There are no keys that just have an Eb in them. But
suppose you were writing a song in G and you wanted to write out a G7
chord. A G7 chord is composed of G, B, D and F. Not F#. This is where a
“natural” accidental will be used. It will momentarily negate the sharp in the
key signature. Yes, only momentarily. How long? Well, that’s something
we’ll take up in Part Two, which will deal with timing and measures.

What about minor keys, you ask? Well, remember that every minor key is
the relative minor of a major key. So if you know what the key signature of
the major key is, you will also know what the relative minor is. If, for
example, you see that the key signature has two sharps, then you can be
almost one hundred percent certain that the song is in either D major or B

Before we go, though, let me leave you a parting gift. Here is the notation
(along with the TAB) for the first five frets of each of the guitar’s six strings.
You will see how notation takes the lower and higher notes into account as
well as see how the guitar gives you several places to play the same note
(the open G string, for instance, is the same note as the fifth fret on the D
string). For the sake of not driving myself crazy, I have mixed up the flats
and sharps. In guitar music you are more likely to run into Bb and Eb than
you are A# and D#. Likewise, F#, C#, and G# are much more common than
their flatted twins. Here you go:
Do me a favor. Sometime between now and reading the next lesson, take a
moment and look at some sheet music. Test yourself by picking out some
notes and identifying them. Also test yourself by checking out the key
signatures at the beginning of the piece (or seeing whether or not it
changes sometime during the song!). Reading music is like reading
anything. The more you do it the easier it becomes. You’re never too old or
too young to learn a second (third or fourth) language.

Until next time…

Tuning A Floyd Rose –
(or other similar
floating bridge)
A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Guitar Tuning

When I started playing the guitar, my second electric was a Hondo Flying V.
Beautiful guitar, but on the cheap side. It had a floating bridge and was my
first experience with such a thing. Of course, it didn’t have the locking nut at
the top, which meant that every three or four times I’d use it, it would go out
of tune. And even if I didn’t use it, the whole thing would still have to be
retuned every half hour or so. Annoying. But I still loved that guitar.

When I bought my B.C. Rich, it came equipped with a Floyd Rose bridge. A
whole different kind of animal. Of course, the Floyd Rose, or any of the
more expensive floating bridges, has a locking nut at the top of the guitar to
keep the whole thing tuned.

The advantage of this is that no matter how much you use your tremolo, it
still stays in tune. On average, I need to tune the B.C. Rich once every five
days or so. This is due only to the fact that the strings extend through use.
Then, when I retune it, I only need to use the fine tuning keys. Once I lock
the nut, I don’t have to unlock it until it’s time to change strings.

But how do you tune it? When I bought the guitar, I tried and tried and
couldn’t get the damn thing to work. I ended up putting a few wooden
blocks inside the bridge unit to keep it from moving and not using the
locking the nut. Which meant I had to tune the guitar several times a day.

I asked a supposed expert who fixed guitars. He told me to use wooden

block to keep the unit from moving, to tune the guitar, lock the nut and take
off the wooden blocks. Then he said it would go out of tune the first time I
used it. Seemed complicated. I’m sure glad I didn’t ask him to do any work
on the guitar. If you ever hear this kind of advice, place both hands on your
ears and… run like hell!
Once you know how, you realize it’s a very simple process. I’ll start off by
explaining how to do it from scratch, but if you take good care of your guitar,
you won’t need to go through all these steps the next time.

You should know first of all that you can’t use just any strings with a floating
bridge. I particularly like Ernie Ball Slinky strings. They allow you to do all
sorts of effects and they just have a good feel to them. Unfortunately,
they’re no good with a floating bridge. Because of their elasticity, they can’t
keep the bridge in position. Therefore, use these strings only on guitars with
fixed bridges.

Also of note, if you change brands, you normally won’t have to reset the
whole bridge, but if you change gauges (for example, go from ultra-light
strings to light), you will have to reset the whole thing. This is because the
different gauges place a different strain on the bridge unit. As the bridge
must be parallel to the body of the guitar, going from ultra-light to light
strings will mean less tension and the unit’s springs will have too much
slack in them. Something to consider.

Resetting the Unit (time: 1

to 2 hours, depending on
First things first, as you’ll be playing around the body of the guitar and so as
not to harm the finish or get stuck on some of the hardware, remove all
jewellery from hands and wrists: watches, rings, bracelets.

Tune the guitar with the old strings still on. Once this is done, look sideways
at the bridge. It’s supposed to be parallel to the body of the guitar. If it’s
leaning forward, then the springs aren’t tight enough. If it’s leaning
backwards, the springs are too tight.
Screwing the Springs
If the springs are too loose, start by loosening your strings so as not to
break them when you add tension. If you’ve never done this or if your
changing string gauge, unscrew the plastic plate at the back of the guitar
which is behind the bridge. It should normally be a rather big, rectangular
plate. Notice how many springs are there. There should be two to four. The
less springs, the more flexibility. Mine has only two and I don’t need to
apply much pressure on the bridge to get it moving. It’s great to cure you of
the bad habit of resting your hand on the bridge.
Start by looking at the springs. They will be connected to a bar and it’s this
bar that screws into the body of the guitar. This bar should be completely
parallel to the side of the hole. Both springs must have the same tension in
them. If not, start by loosening the one that’s screwed in tightest until it’s

Remember that even if the unit is made of steel, it’s still delicate. Tighten (or
loosen) the strings gently. Quarter turns only! Tighten (or loosen) one
screw a quarter turn, then do the same to the other. Tighten (or loosen) until
the tremolo unit is parallel to the body. Then, retune the guitar using, again,
the tuning pegs. Recheck the bridge. Again, if it’s not parallel to the body,
readjust the springs. Continue doing this until the guitar is tuned and the
bridge is parallel to the body of the guitar.

Changing the Strings

Now is the time to change the strings. If you do so before adjusting the
bridge, you’ll have to spend many hours going by trial and error trying to
adjust the bridge. And you’ll most likely break a string or two. Unlock the
nut. You do not need to completely remove each block. At the bridge:
loosen all the fine tuning screws. Once you’re ready to use these, you won’t
need to loosen these screws, only tighten them. So loosen them all the

Completely at the back of the bridge and parallel to the body of the guitar,
will be six (or seven if your guitar has seven strings) long screws which
require an Allen wrench to loosen and tighten. Before you touch these,
loosen the strings using the tuning pegs as you would normally do. Then,
using the right sized Allen wrench, unscrew the long screws. These will
move little plates which will free the ends of the strings. Take note that you
should change strings one at a time or else you’ll end up placing too
much strain on the unit and the strings when restringing.
Notice the end of the string which was blocked this way. It does not have a
ball at the end, nor is it the end of the string that you can cut off. What you
do is you take your new string and, using some cutters, cut off the ball end
before the place where the wire around the ball end starts twining with the

Use this cut-off end to place into the bridge block and tighten the screw. Be
careful. Although the screw must be tightly in place don’t over-tighten it.
These screws are, of course, replaceable, but no use wearing them out for
no reason. And if you strip the inside of it, you’ll find it’s not too pleasant to
remove it with a pair of pliers without harming the finish of the guitar. As
with any other piece of the guitar, if it’s an expensive guitar which you
intend to bring to the vintage stage, keep any parts you’ve replaced, you’ll
need all the original parts, even if they’re worn for reselling it to a collector.

Regular Tuning
This is what you’ll need to do the next times. Unless you change string
gauges, you shouldn’t have to readjust the bridge springs.

Once the guitar is perfectly tuned, lock the nut at the end of the neck. If you
strum the strings, you’ll notice that it’s now untuned. Don’t worry, this is
normal. Retune it, using the fine-tuning pins located on the bridge. The
small E string is the one which will need the most tuning. Always tune
starting with the smallest string and work your way up. Once you’ve finished
go back and retune the first, second, etc. The first time you do this, you’ll
probably have to tune it about five times. This is normal. Once all the strings
are tuned, you’re ready to play. The first couple of days, you’ll have to tune
it several times, this is just because the strings are new and they’re

By the time the fine-tuning screws are all the way in, don’t bother retuning
from the pegs, it’ll more than likely be time to change the strings.
If Not For You – Bob
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Easy Guitar Songs, Guitar Strumming Lessons

One of the many challenges facing the beginner is one which I call
“systems overload.” You listen to a guitarist – any guitarist, it doesn’t matter
if it’s Jimmy Page or Jimmy the kid who lives two blocks away and has only
been playing for a year and a half – and all you can think is, “There’s no
way I’m ever going to play that good! What am I going to do?” For some
reason, while we are able to be in awe of anyone else who so much as
touches a guitar (and often at the drop of a hat), we often fail to appreciate
what we ourselves have learned. Most of the time, we do not realize what
we have learned!
 Bob Dylan – Music Biography
 Learn to play Tangled Up in Blue
 More easy guitar songs
Sometimes it’s a good idea to think about what we already know and to play
around with that knowledge to see where else it can take us. Many people
who have been playing guitar for a while simply do not realize that they
already have a lot of important information available to them. They are
obsessed with finding the “next step,” the one that will magically allow them
to sound just like the pros. And being fixated on some mystical unseen
point, they just do not take the time (and effort) to understand that many of
the “next steps” are literally at their fingertips right now. It’s the old “you
don’t have to go any further than your own back yard” thing again.

Let’s look at an example of what I’m talking about. Here is Bob Dylan’s If
Not For You. In and of itself, it is a very easy song. You won’t find any tricky
chords and if you already know the song you’ll be able to breeze through
this on the first take and then wonder why I’d make a lesson of it at all.
These files are the author’s own work and represents his interpretation of
this song. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or

This is yet another moderately paced song in 4 / 4 time. And, for those of
you with metronomes at home, when I say, “moderately paced,” I mean
about 110 beats per minute. To me, and please understand this is in no
way scientific, 80 to 100 is slow, 100 to 120 is moderate and anything over
120 is fast. Yes, there actually are tempo settings complete with fancy
names and if you’d like, one day I’ll expound upon that. But for now, let’s
just say 110 and get on with the lesson.

If you’ve never heard this song before, part of its hook is the distinctive
rhythmic pattern that is punctuated by the chord progression used in the
first three lines of any given verse.

I play this rhythm in the following fashion:

Here, for those of you who may have either not read or (gasp!) forgotten
from the For What It’s Worth lesson, a “*” sign indicates a palm mute or a
percussive stroke. It is a downstroke played while lightly resting the palm of
your hand on the strings close to the bridge. You can hear the heavy
emphasis on the third and fourth beats of the first measure while the G
changes to D and then to C. Again, if you’re familiar with the song you’ll
know that this rhythm works as a “call and response” type of thing to the
lyrics. You sing a line, you pound out the rhythm, you sing the next line.
Once you have this rhythm down, the song is pretty much, as I said, a
breeze. Here’s the whole thing:

During the bridge, I tend to switch to an arpeggiated chord pattern, mainly

to bring some variety to the song. Something like this will work:

Okay, now on to the fun stuff. When I am certain that my student knows this
song, I will then give her or him a slide and say, “okay, now you’re going to
play this song using this instead of your fingers to make the chords.” If
you’ve never seen a slide before, it is a hollow cylinder, usually made of
metal or glass. You put this on a finger (and we’ll argue about which one
later) of the hand you use to fret the guitar and slide it along the neck in
order to produce notes.

So where on the neck do you put the slide? Well, this may seem a bit of a
puzzle, but please believe me, you have the knowledge you need to figure
this out. It’s simply that you may not have thought things out in this manner

First, let’s look at the logistics involved in using a slide. Playing one note at
a time seems easy enough, you just place the slide where you’d place your
finger and there’s the note. Putting it on the third fret of the first string would
give you a G, for instance

“If Not For You” is the opening track on Bob Dylan’s 1970 album New
Morning. Dylan first performed the song live with George Harrison at the
Concert for Bangladesh in New York in 1971. Harrison covered the song on
his solo album All Things Must Pass in 1970 with the help of Ringo Starr
and Billy Preston.
A couple of tips and some words in general: Even though the theory behind
using a slide is simple, actually playing with one takes some time and
practice. Since it sits above the strings and the fretboard, it’s almost a good
idea to think of yourself as not even having any frets. The slide negates the
frets and will be sharper or flatter than you might think depending upon
where you place it. This is why it takes practice. When you “fret” a note or
notes with the slide, you want to be almost on top of the fret instead of
behind the fret, as you would be with just your fingers. Be sure to hold the
slide so that it is parallel to the frets. That’s perpendicular to the neck. If you
fret at an angle, then your notes will be sharper or flatter in accordance to
the slant of your slide.

I play with the slide on my ring finger. This way I can use my index and
middle fingers to lightly press the strings behind the slide and damped any
“excess” noise. If you’re so inclined, a lot of people place their guitars on
their laps (face up, naturally) and use the slide on the index finger. This is
actually a good way to see exactly what you’re doing!

What about playing a chord? Well, let’s think this out. Any basic chord, as
we’ve learned from reading our columns on theory, is three notes, usually
the root, third and fifth. This is certainly true of major and minor chords and
that is what we’re concerning ourselves with today. In order for us to play a
either a major or a minor chord with the slide, we need those notes to be on
the same fret so that the slide can play them all at once. Do you see the
logic in this? Good. So now let’s think about the chords we know. Do any of
the many chords that you’ve learned so far have three notes on the same

Let’s start with the major chords. If you’ve thought about this, most of you
will answer that the A major chord fits this description. I would also like to
point out to you that the G major chord does as well. Let’s look:

When we play an A major chord in the first position, we place our fingers on
the second fret of the B, G and D strings. Now, on a G major chord, we do
not put a finger on any of those strings, they are all played as open strings.
But they are still played! Do you see the logic in this? And it makes perfect
sense because A is a whole step (or two frets) up from G. So, using this
logic, we can see that we can play any major chord we want to simply by
fretting these three strings up and down the neck. Here are the positions
from the open strings all the way to the twelfth fret:
So now we can play the almost all of the verses of If Not For You with the
slide. And all of the bridge as well. What about that Am? Once again, let’s
think this through and, this time, remember what I told you about the G
major chord. Are there any minor chords that you know how to play where
the three notes of the chord are on the same fret?
I bet it didn’t take you long to come up with Em as an example, right? Okay,
this is the most important part of today’s lesson: If you barre the first three
strings of any fret, you will have the minor chord whose root note is
on the first string. Really. Here they are:

Want a B minor chord? Well, B is the note on the seventh fret of the first
string, right? So barre the first three strings on the seventh fret and voila!
Bm at your service. Another useful thing that you might want to know is that
if you include the fourth string in your barre as well, you have just made the
seventh of your minor chord. So, again using the seventh fret as an
Now you might want to take a look at your major chords again and realize
that all of the root notes of those chords are on the G string. This is another
important piece of information to squirrel away in your brain. Why? Let’s
suppose you are playing a song (without a slide) and the song calls for a
Dadd9. The standard way to play it would be in one of these two forms:

But we know, from reading Building Additions, that this chord consists of a
D major chord with the E note added on. We also know that we can make a
D major chord by fretting the B, G and D string of the seventh fret (because
that’s where the D note is on the G string), we can now play this chord like

I did this in two ways because the seventh fret of the D string is the A note
and since we also could use the open A string, I figured, “why not?” You get
a slightly different sound depending on the voicing you decide to use. I like
them both.
How about an Fmaj7? We know that this is an F major chord with the E
note added as well. So find out where the F note is on the G string and give
it a shot:

Anyway, back to our song (which is probably miffed at being left behind
while we’ve been learning all these fun things). I always think it’s a good
idea for beginners to use a slide in order to help learn about where notes
and chords are on neck. But I also think that it is easier for a beginner to
play with a slide while someone plays the “regular” chords without a slide.
This way it doesn’t sound so, shall we say? weird. When you’re used to full
chords using all or almost all the strings, you might wonder if you’re playing
it right when you’re only using three strings at a time. So either teach one of
your friends this song or make a recording of it on a cassette and then play
along with yourself on the slide.

It’s often a good idea to slide up into your note or chords. This is indicated
in the notation and TAB with a “/” sign. “\” is obviously a slide in the other
direction. For this song, I usually fingerpick in order to have a little more
control over my notes. I use my thumb on the D string, index finger on the G
string and the middle finger on the B string. Obviously, I shift up a string
when I hit the Am chord. But you can just as easily use a pick if you’re more
comfortable with that. Okay, here we go:

One last note: You really can’t do this on a classical, or nylon string, guitar.
There just isn’t any resonance. But if you have an old guitar with high action
that you don’t play anymore, a slide is great for that. So if you ever thought
about getting rid of a guitar because it’s turned into a cheese slicer, you
might want to consider keeping it around just to practice your slide work on.
We’ll be doing some more slide lessons next year (time is flying, no?) but if
you’re interested, one of the pieces I wrote last summer includes slide work.
It’s called Applied Scienceand it essentially teaches you how to play the
intro leads and slide solo for the Pink Floyd song Wish You Were
Here using one guitar (instead of the guitar and dobro that is used on the
recording). It’s a fun lesson and a great song.
And while I hope you had fun with this, I also hope that you remember that
figuring out the basics of using a slide wasn’t all that hard at all. We already
knew the things that we needed to know concerning how to find the major
and minor chords. It was simply a matter of realizing what we knew and
then applying that knowledge to the task.

As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,

concerns or songs (and/or riffs and solos) you’d like to see discussed in
future pieces. You can either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email
me directly at
Until next lesson…


Palm Muting
RYAN SPENCER Guitar Lessons Rhythm and Lead Guitar Technique

Today we will talk about a crucial technique used in metal and many other
genres (such as rapcore, rock, etc.) Palm muting is simply resting your
palm (gently, meaning light pressure but with decent force) upon the bridge
part of the strings, add in some distortion and voila! instant chunkiness. You
see, in metal palm muting adds the great effect of dampening the notes
(making them almost sound lower without ruining the pitch, also making
them sound “flat” for other tastes) and cutting the sustain down. Now, since
your palm is resting near the higher pitch tone of the strings it’s a good idea
to have your pickup selected to the bridge pickup. This will pick up the area
around your palm than the flabby strings in the neck position, though I’m not
saying to not mess around with tonality, that’s how you get more sounds!
As a tip though, do not move your hand too forward or you will lose the
clear note and come to a dead sounding string. The trick is to try to keep
your palm directly on the area where the strings go into the bridge.

Palm muting also, aside from chunkiness, adds a nice percussive sound to
metal, rock, and believe it or not, blues. Blues used palm muting and still
does (yes it does work with a clean channel on your amp or on your
acoustic.) They use palm muting to get a bassier sound. Let’s say we palm
mute a classic
blues riff.
PM = palm mute (all that is underlined)

But off of blues, let’s get to the real important stuff, HEAVY METAL!

Strumming is an important factor. In most palm muting you want to strum
down because you’re usually strumming only the three notes in the power
chord. Sometimes, on some songs that is, you can strum up and down but
will get to that later, another reason not to strum up and down is that one, it
can change the pitch; and two, it can become harder to strum with. As an
example for down strumming let’s try Black Sabbath’s Paranoid.
(Hint: every time you hit your foot down strum two notes, you can go slow if
you want to. On E5 (the seventh fret power chord for beginners) is
strummed 16 times and D5 (the 5th fret power chord) is strummed 8 times.
I’ll supply you with the beat)

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
While in other cases such Rammsteins song “du hast” there is a small little
rhythm with the E5 (the open fret power chord) with an up and down
rhythm. I’ll also point out when to strum up and down.

D = Strum Down
U = Strum up
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
PM__________ ______________

Other Uses
There are also some other uses for palm muting such as single notes. I will
go over an excerpt from a rapcore song by Rage against the machine
called “bombtrack”.
Another is a fade out technique. Simply strum and bring down the edge of
your hand causing the sustain to “fade out”. Remember to bring and push
down on the strings slowly. The slower you push the slower you’ll fade. This
works great at the end of a song. You can always come up with your own
uses or tricks for palm muting as well.

Performance: The
Concert for New York
– Madison Square
Garden, October 20,
LAURA LASLEY Guitar Lessons Playing Guitar Live, The Other Side

As I sat down to edit the piece I’m working on for the current Guitar Noise
series on Performance, I realized that I really wanted to be writing about
The Concert For New York at Madison Square Garden, broadcast on VH-1
on Sat Oct 20, 2001. I was so moved by that entire performance. It
embodied many of the reasons that live music and performance are
powerful forms of expression. Musical artists have a long history of doing
benefit concerts for causes that matter to them. This performance was
amazing because of the numbers of accomplished artists participating as
well as the historical context of the concert. People who were lucky enough
to attend talk about the concert for days afterward. Local NY DJ’s are still
commenting on what a great show it was.
For those of you who didn’t have an opportunity to view it, the Concert was
a collection of amazing rock performers: David Bowie, Sheryl Crow, Macy
Gray, Goo Goo Dolls, Five for Fighting, Elton John, Billy Joel, Backstreet
Boys, Destiny’s Child, James Taylor, Eric Clapton, The Who, Mick Jagger
and Keith Richards, Melissa Etheridge, Bon Jovi, The Edge and Bono and
Paul McCartney, among others. They were introduced by various
celebrities, including former President Bill Clinton, his wife Senator Hilary
Clinton, Harrison Ford, Susan Sarandon, Billy Crystal, John Cusak, Natalie
Portman, Richard Gere, Gwyneth Paltrow and many others in order to raise
money to help those affected by the World Trade Center attacks. There
were also short films by Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Martin Scorcese, Jerry
Seinfeld, Edward Burns, Kevin Smith and others that were broadcast on
large video screens. At one point, New York sports celebrities were
introduced in support of the event, with their jerseys to be autographed and

The biggest celebrities were the rescue workers: firefighters, police officers
and emergency personnel. They were introduced on stage and many of
them spoke of colleagues and loved ones lost on Sept 11. The rescue
workers, in turn, got to introduce many of the acts on stage. For people
used to quietly doing their often-difficult job, these heroes stepped up on
stage and delivered their words in a genuine heartfelt manner. There were
moments reminiscent of the turbulent rebellious 60’s as one firefighter
spoke his mind to the audience.

What was so impressive about this show, besides the all star line up, was
the joyous, sometimes defiant, sometimes reverent attitude of all the
performers. This was classic rock, with all the great moments and snafu’s
that live performance brings. To get that many acts on and off the stage,
complete with film clips, was impressive.

David Bowie started the night of with his version of Paul Simon’s America.
He then launched into a rocking version of Heroes, dedicated to the brave
men and women who rose to the occasion on September 11th. Music is a
time-honored way of expressing great feeling, and the feeling was quite
evident in his rendition.
There was an awful moment when Melissa Etheridge’s mike cut out during
the middle of Come To My Window. That is, it would have been an awful
moment, but the stage crew managed to stretch it to an awful 5 minutes (an
eternity in live performance). Melissa proved to be the trouper we know she
is (she’s the subject of another Other Side article – Alive And Alone) and
played aggressively on her Ovation while signaling to the sound engineer at
the same time. The crowd was marvelous and sang along to her guitar, and
when she was finally handed a working mike, she was able to pick right
back up and finish her song. For her next song, she realized that her guitar
was out of tune, and in a very calm and confident manner, requested a new
one from the stage crew. When she had the appropriate instrument, to
quote my favorite NY DJ, she “rocked the roof off of MSG” with her acoustic
version of Springsteen’s Born to Run. The audience went wild, singing
along with each word.
For me, one of the songs that evokes the feelings of the events during and
after Sept 11 is James Taylor’s Fire and Rain. It’s always been a favorite of
mine to play. To hear James Taylor sing it so beautifully and clearly was
marvelous. His voice hasn’t changed at all over the years. You could close
your eyes and imagine being in the 70’s, listening to him in concert then. To
be able to give such feeling and beautiful acoustic guitar playing after so
many years of playing the same music is inspiring. The evocative
poignancy of music was truly evident in that moment.
Possibly the most heartfelt moment was when The Who took the stage.
They were looking like, as my 9 y/o put it, “old guys” but they sure rocked.
They were a bit shaky at first when playing Who Are You. They gained
momentum with Baba O’Riley and Behind Blue Eyes, then became sublime
with Won’t Get Fooled Again. Daltry and Townshend were singing in perfect
harmony, and Townshend’s windmilling and blisteringly hot guitar solo were
fantastic. “Pick up your guitar and play” indeed! The joy of their music was
evident in the honest gritty performance.
Paul McCartney was wonderful as well. He was one of the driving forces
behind the concert. With The Who performing, and Mick and Keith together
as well, I half expected Ringo and George to show up, with Lennon forever
in the spirit of New York City. McCartney played some wonderful tunes of
his own and then gathered all of the performers, including some rescue
workers, to come on stage to sing Let It Be and Freedom, a new song he
wrote on Sept 12. He asked Eric Clapton to solo twice in each song. During
the first of each pair of solos, Clapton played a nice riff, polished but not
special. Then with the second solo of the song, the inimitable Clapton
pulled the most amazing improvisations out of his guitar. It’s a comfort to
know that even the most accomplished guitarist out there needs a measure
or two to figure out how best to phrase his or her music.
The wonder of performance, whether Rock or Folk or Hip Hop music, is that
music celebrates our feelings, whether rebellious or sad or exultant. It then
unites and heals us in a heady way. Anger was an oft-repeated sentiment,
as it has been many times in rock’s history. But equally expressed was the
belief in a free society and the freedom to live and enjoy music and life. The
music, in concert with comedy, film and genuine spoken expression of
emotion, became a vibrant celebration of life.

For all those touched personally by the tragedy of 9/11, I extend my

heartfelt sympathy. For those grieving and yet determined to live life to the
fullest, as urged by many leaders, this was a glorious moment of rock. Now
that’s a freedom worth fighting for.

n.b. This column continues in a series dedicated to the female musician. As

always, I would love suggestions on topics you would like to see covered.
Please email me and tell me your story. I enjoy hearing each and every

Blackbird – The
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Intermediate Guitar Songs

In Bookends, one of the Easy Songs for Beginners lessons we had this past
summer, we explored the fingerstyle guitar technique of playing two notes
at the same time. Today we’re going to start with that concept and then kind
of warp it around a bit. The song is Blackbird by Paul McCartney (but being
a Beatle at the time, it is officially a “Lennon/McCartney” piece). Not only is
this a good “showing-off” song for the solo guitarist, it is also a great
exercise for stretching one’s fingers. No lie!
 The Beatles – Music Biography
 Learn to play Yesterday
 More easy guitar songs
Let me add something here while I’m thinking about it. Those of you who
have suffered through (or continue to suffer through) my Easy Songs For
Beginners will have heard this before and, unfortunately, it bears
repeating. Not one of my lessons is meant to be an exact transcription
of the original recording. As the above disclaimer clearly states, this is
intended as a teaching tool. You may not know it, but I don’t simply choose
a song for the sake of you learning a song. Think of them as fables, if you
will. It is my intentions that you get what I call a “lesson” out of a particular
song. Hopefully it will be a lesson that you will then be able to take with you
and put to use in other songs that you play. I am not in the least concerned
about having the same arrangements, chords, riffs and other things that you
might hear on the CD or record or tape.
One of the reasons that I bring this up is that it’s been ages since I’ve heard
the original recording of this song. I am truly uncertain if the intro is correct
or if the interlude between the verses is spot on. Also, every time
I have heard Blackbird over the course of the last five or so years, it has
been either at a jam or in a coffee house style of performance. There are a
lot of ways of playing and arranging this song. This is simply my
Enough with the silly things, let’s move on to the important stuff. If you
haven’t read my piece on Bookends, I highly advice that you do so, even if
you are not familiar with that particular song. Blackbird, like Bookends,
involves the use of playing two strings at once as well as a healthy dose of
time signature changes. Good to be up on those things, you know.
I teach Blackbird to my students with three particular goals in mind: (1) to
understand the concept of what is called a pedal point; (2) to give them
confidence in moving around the fretboard and (3) to give them a fun way to
work on stretching out their fingers. Now, there are lots of other lessons to
be gained from this particular song, so please don’t feel that you can’t do
more with it. Like any true lesson, the effort and understanding that you put
into it will ultimately dictate what you learn.
For purposes that will (hopefully) become clear later on, I’m going to give
you a transcription of the song to start out with. Then we will go over it piece
by piece and work through the hard bits. I should also point out to you that
this first transcription is what I consider a “starter kit.” It is stripped down –
the picking pattern is as simple as can be (straight, even eighth notes) in
order to get you to concentrate on the hardest part first, that being the
fingering on the neck. Once we’ve gotten this down, we’ll then go back and
tinker with the fingerpicking pattern. Here we go:

Okay, first things first. Having looked at the lesson, you might notice two
items of interest. First off, I didn’t put in any chords. Secondly, every other
note is the open G string. Not surprisingly, these two things are intertwined.
The repeated use of the G note is what is known in classical music as
a pedal point. We’ve gone over this before in a few of my guitar columns. It
serves as a drone or anchor, if you will, a constant around which the other
two notes dance, forming, in dramatic fashion, new chords with each new
position. If you want to give yourself a good work out in chord theory, chart
out each of the “chords” (the two notes played simultaneously along with
the G).
Originally appearing on The Beatles White Album, “Blackbird” was recorded
by Paul McCartney in London on 11 June 1968. McCartney played a Martin
D 28 acoustic guitar, supplied the vocals and foot tapping. The track also
includes overdubs of a blackbird singing. In interviews and concerts
McCartney has said the song was written in response to the Civil Rights
Since this song is in the key of G (how did I know that? There’s only one
sharp (F#) in the key signature! Read Your Very Own Rosetta Stoneif
you’re interested in learning more on how to read music.) and since the
pedal point is the G note, we call this a tonic pedal. The two most common
tones to use for a pedal point are the root (tonic) of your key and the fifth
Another thing you should pick up on if you’re looking carefully at the music
is that everything is pretty much done on three strings. Besides the open G
string, the higher part of the accompaniment is always on the B string while
the bass, except in the first and a few other measures, is on the A string. I
find the easiest way to pick this, as far as your strumming hand is
concerned, is to use your thumb on A and E (fifth and sixth) strings, your
middle finger on the B string and your index finger on the G string, like this:

Take some time to get used to playing in this pattern. Often a beginning or
intermediate guitarist will rush right into things and then get frustrated
because it doesn’t sound right. You can usually avoid this by allow yourself
(and your fingers!) to develop a sense of what you want to do. Even
accomplished musicians feel better about a song when they have a chance
to get the lay of the land, if you will.

The first measure is a key one because it permits you to set up your fretting
fingers for the oncoming madness of marching up and down the neck. I’m
going to do you a favor and suggest you use these fingers when forming
the first three chords (and please note that I’m ignoring the open G pedal
point here):
The reason for using your index finger (“i”) and pinky (“a”) for the third chord
will become readily apparent in a moment, but first I want to take a moment
for one of those “asides” you’ve come to expect from me whenever we’ve
stumbled across something particularly interesting. This little “climb” from G
to C in the bass, with the accompanying harmony on the B string can be
(and is) used in so many songs that it’s very important to take note of it
now. Usually it will lead from a G chord to a C chord or vice versa:

Technically, these are thirds. The G in the bass has the B (its third) in the
harmony, albeit it an octave higher than the normal interval of the third.
Some people call them “tenths” and this is yet another one of those music
theory arguments that tend to freak people out so we’re going to let it slide
(no pun intended) for now. The guitar, in standard tuning, is particularly
partial to the intervals of thirds and knowing how and when to use them can
add a whole new dimension to your playing.

Back to Blackbird: when playing the first measure, try to keep your fingers
on the strings once you get to the third set of notes (the index finger on the
second fret of the A string and the pinky on the third fret of the B string).
You really don’t want to remove your fingers from these strings until pretty
close to the end of the verse. Slide them from this position to the tenth and
twelfth frets of their respective strings for the next measure. Then slide
them back down the neck to the third and fifth frets at the start of the third
Here’s where the fun begins. The third measure is the hardest part of the
song and if you can get through it, I promise you the rest of it will be a

Slide your index finger from the third fret to the fourth fret of the A string. At
the same time, slide your pinky from the fifth fret to the eighth fret of the B
string. This is quite a stretch. Many people have written me asking if I know
of any “exercises” which aid in stretching out the fingers – this is certainly
one way to do so. And I have to tell you that when I first tried to learn this
(on a twelve string!) I could not do it. It took weeks of going through the
motions over and over again before I was happy with it. But it can be done.
If you try and try and decide you need an easier way, though, don’t panic!
I’ve got one, and we’ll get to it towards the end of the lesson.

But in the meantime, here’s a couple of tips: make certain that you are not
gripping the neck with your thumb. You should almost always never do that
anyway. The neck of the guitar should simply be resting along the inside tip
of your thumb, allowing the thumb to slide along almost parallel to the index
finger as it moves up and down along the frets. If you’d like to do an
amazing experiment just to prove you don’t need your thumb, try this: barre
any fret of the guitar with your index finger. Do it without laying your thumb
on the neck! Most of my students find that they can indeed barre chords
when they’ve taken the thumb out of the equation. And the people I know
who can already barre chords usually find that they get a better tone along
all six strings.

Also, it helps if you are sitting and holding the guitar in more of a “classical”
position (if you’re right handed, the guitar is on your left knee). Many people
use their knees as “wrist rests” and there is no way you can ever get the
mobility you need if your arm is not free. A good indication that you’re okay
is that your fretting hand is at about the same height as your shoulder.

After you’ve made this stretch, you “collapse” the fingers – sliding them
toward each other so that your index finger is now on the fifth fret and the
pinkie on the seventh. Then one more big stretch to the sixth and tenth frets
before coming to a bit of a breather with your fingers on the seventh and
eighth frets for the duration of the next measure. But since you’re higher up
on the neck this stretch should seem a bit easier than the first one!

Of course, now that you’ve climbed this high, you have to get back down
again, no? But you needn’t worry; it’s not that hard:

In measure 7 (“…you were only waiting…”), I finally get to use my other

fingers, as well as the open A string. For these two chords, and the chord in
measure 8, I use the following fingerings:
Okay, are you with me so far? Between the first and second verses, there is
an interlude that simply goes up and down within the first five frets of the
neck. Compared to what we’ve done earlier, this should be a snap:

After repeating the verse we jump right onto the bridge, which consists
primarily of the same fingerings (plus a few new ones) in a different pattern.
You’ll note that the first and third measures of the bridge are the same while
the end of it is the same as the end of the verse:

Well, almost the same. It starts out just like the end of the verse and then
goes into the beginning two measures. At the very end of the bridge, I like
to hit the D note (tenth fret on the sixth (low E) string with my middle finger
and then slide down to the G note on the third fret which starts the next part
of the song. I often use this as part of the introduction as well.
Two more topics to cover and we’re out of here. First off, I promised I’d
show you an alternate way to finger the “big stretch” parts. I try to be a man
of my word:

One of the reasons I don’t like this is that you get different tones when you
switch to using the first string and back again. Yes, they are the same notes
but they still have different tonal qualities. It’s almost like there are two
different instruments playing. But that’s just me. Either way works perfectly

Finally, I’d like to give you a fuller picking pattern. This is not the same one
McCartney uses, which involves flicking out the index finger like a classical
guitarist and muting strings like a fiend. But it is a good pattern and will
sound perfectly fine, trust me. Whenever you find yourself staying on the
same chord for more than a single beat, try this:
As always, take your time with this. It’s not all that much different from your
other pattern, you are simply adding the open D string (played with your
thumb) to the mix and syncopating the notes a little. Again, once you get
your fingers used to the pattern, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to do.
All right, then. Here’s the finished product:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed working on this song. Blackbird is a great piece
to use to sharpen your fretboard and fingerpicking skills. Plus, you’ll dazzle
your friends with your abilities! And that’s always a good thing.
As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,
concerns or songs (and/or riffs and solos) you’d like to see discussed in
future pieces. You can either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email
me directly at
Until next lesson…


The True Teacher

JAMIE ANDREAS Guitar Lessons How to Teach Guitar

I am now going to write about something for which I feel the utmost
passion. If I could only get across one message, and for some reason
wasn’t allowed to say anything else, this is what I would want to say. I want
to tell you what I have learned about The True Teacher, and what True
Teaching is.

The reason this message is so important, is because a widespread

understanding of it would lead to a radical change in the experience and
development of the aspiring guitarist, and because it would lead to a radical
change in the experience of how so many of us are “taught”. And if by some
reason you disagree with me at the end of the discussion, and that is
certainly your right, you won’t be able to invalidate my conviction that my
own experience and development as a guitarist and musician would have
benefited immensely from having these things understood and practiced by
the many people who served as my teachers. And I want to make clear that
some of these were understood and practiced by some of my teachers, and
I was eternally grateful when they were, and damaged when they weren’t.

First, let’s talk about the True Goal of the Teacher. It is empowerment.
Empowerment of the student. The True Teachers utmost desire is to aid,
guide, and do whatever it takes to bring the student to their place of
happiness and fulfillment as a musician and guitarist. The student may not
have a clear idea of what this place is, and certainly not where it is. The
teacher may not know either, but he knows more than the student, and he
must help the student feel their way if necessary. The True Teacher knows
that if this person is destined to be a musician, (which is another way of
saying if they really want it bad enough), then their place of happiness and
fulfillment does exist, and can be found. And the true teacher resolves to do
whatever it takes to make that come about.

For the guitar student, empowerment means the Confidence and Certainty
that you have the Understanding and Knowledge you need to fulfill any
desires you may have now, or will have later, concerning playing the guitar.
For me, it meant knowing that I can do anything I want on the guitar, and if I
can’t, I find out how, and by Correct Practicing, learn to do whatever it was I

As I began to have this feeling of confidence and empowerment, it was a

wonderful thing. And for so long, I didn’t have this feeling. And needing to
play the Classical Guitar, it was particularly necessary to feel equal to the
challenges. Classical guitar is one of the more difficult styles, you know.

The urgent need, the necessity to have the student become “powerful”, and
“get it”, every step of the way, is the hallmark of the True Teacher. The
need to see results, progress, happiness and fulfillment on the part of the
student, makes this kind of teacher try one way, then another, then another,
no matter how long it takes or how creative or unorthodox he or she must

Teaching the Way You

Were Taught
I contend most teachers begin by teaching the way they were taught. They
begin using some approach that perhaps worked for them. Often it only
worked partially, and there are still a lot of gaps in the teachers own
Understanding and Knowledge. (The True Teacher is also the Good
Student, always learning and expanding, and being open). But guess what!
Once you start teaching lots of people, that one approach is NOT going to
work for a lot of your students.
When I was 17, I had been playing for three or four years, and studied
Classical Guitar for only one year, but the place where I took lessons
thought I was good enough to start teaching there. It was a little Community
Music School that had a lot of fine teachers, and I was extremely grateful
that I had found a “real” classical guitarist there, who corrected so many of
the harmful things I had done trying to teach myself classical. (I had no
choice, since it was very difficult to even find a classical teacher back then).
He equipped me, that is empowered me as best he could, but we both
knew when he had reached his limits, and when I would have only
continued to make, what I called in my first essay, Horizontal Growth, not a
true raising of my level as a guitarist and musician, or Vertical Growth.

So in this condition, I started to teach there. Believe me, in that little fish
pond, everybody thought I was a pretty big fish. The average person
thought I played pretty well, impressive in fact, because the average person
is impressed if you can play anything that sounds “classical”. Thank God I
knew better!

When I started teaching, forget it! I couldn’t get results from most people.
Later on I would understand why. I would understand that I had a fair
amount of what is called “natural talent”, and I also practiced all the time. So
I learned real fast. I quickly learned how to make a decent showing with
some rather complicated pieces in the classical repertoire, but many of my
students were struggling with the simplest things, and I couldn’t get them to
“get it”, to play at least somewhat like I could. I was also, in my ignorance
often giving students pieces that were far beyond them, that would do them
harm to try to play, because they would be acquiring many bad habits in
trying to cope with the technical demands of these pieces. I would also see
later on that this was and is a common occurrence.

It was so frustrating, I felt like a thief taking their money, so I quit my

teaching gig. ( I don’t recommend this. I’d often wished later I didn’t, but I
tend to be impulsive sometimes). When I went back to teaching a few years
later, it was with a renewed sense of commitment to always searching for
the answer for every student I encountered, to always figure out what it was
this person wanted, and what they needed to get it. It is because of this
constant orientation that I developed “The Principles of Correct Practice for
Guitar”, those fundamentals of playing and practicing that are always true,
no matter what style or what level of player you are. These are the things
good players are doing, whether they know it or not. And most of these
things are things they are doing when they practice, not when they play.
But I digress. I just thought it would be helpful to describe myself in the
position of being The Bad Teacher, really The Ignorant Teacher. If I would
have let it continue I would have become “The Lazy Teacher”. I have met
some of those. They could also be called the “Hey I don’t care THAT much,
after all, I can play, if you can’t it must be your fault, and anyway I’m getting
paid either way, Teacher”.

I was once talking to a fellow teacher, and he said “God forbid I should be
judged by my students”. I thought, “God forbid anyone who really wants to
play and is willing to work should ever be your student”. I mean, how else
SHOULD a teacher be judged? By how well THEY play? No, that’s how we
should judge them as players. Teaching is a whole different thing.

Understand this. You can be a great player and a lousy teacher. Often,
great players are lousy teachers. Segovia is an example. Just listen to John
Williams or many other of his “students” describe his teaching. It was how
Chopin taught. ” Do it like this, like I do”. If your were supremely talented,
you could come up with something acceptable. If not, you got the boot!
Guess which one happened most often. Great players often don’t know why
they’re great. Always try to find one that does, or is interested in finding out,
and communicating it to you. And then notice whether they ARE
communicating it you. Are you making Vertical or Horizontal Growth?

I have a rule in teaching

If the student is not learning, it’s my fault. Assuming the student has desire,
and is doing what I am telling them, if they are not making real progress,
then I’m not telling them the right thing to do. Or I’m not telling them
anything to do! So I need to pay attention, and keep trying new things, or
put it in a different order, or whatever, until something WORKS for them. My
last essay was on Aggressive Practicing, you could call this Aggressive
Teaching. I guess that is why I’m writing this now, because if you are not
being taught this way, you are being short changed in your training to DO
Aggressive Practicing, and you should know this.

Also understand, no teacher is perfect. Being a True Teacher is not a state

you attain, it is a PROCESS you engage in. A Good Student tries to help
the teacher be true by always letting them know when they don’t “get”
something. Always keep asking questions when you don’t understand
something, unless your teacher wisely lets you know you cannot have full
understanding of something, but you can have enough to use it, and allow
your understanding to grow. It is often this way. But you must never feel like
you are totally CONFUSED, that is, feel CLUELESS. You must feel like you
have some kind of handle on something. Keep asking questions till you do.

Beware of teachers who get irritated when you don’t get something. That is
a warning sign. You are making them feel inadequate. And they want to put
the blame on you! (Unless you are not paying attention and trying your
hardest, in which case, you should be blamed). They don’t want to examine
their approach. Have you ever seen the situation where someone is trying
to talk to someone else, and then discovers that that person doesn’t
understand English, or whatever language they are speaking? The first
thing they do, and it’s kind of natural, is start talking louder, even shouting
at them. As if that would make them understand! How many times did I
have a teacher who wasn’t paying enough attention to notice I had no idea
what they were talking about! I used to have a voice teacher shout at me all
the time “Space, give me space”. I was clueless. My head is on backwards
when it comes to singing. I need it broken down to the molecular level. I
think I made him mad. I’m sure it worked with lots of people. Not me.

The True Teacher is always concerned with what the student is hearing, not
what they, the teacher, are saying. Often, for whatever reason, even though
the student is listening, he or she isn’t “hearing” anything.

Let me close by saying this. True Teaching is Love. For guitarists, it is

intense love of the guitar and intense desire to share that love with
someone who desires it also. And what is Love? It’s simple, to love means
to “be with”. That’s all. The True Teacher loves the student, and loves the
desire in the student that is the same as his own desire. The True Teacher
is always trying to be inside, or “with” the student, knowing what they are
thinking, feeling, and how they are experiencing this process of “learning
the guitar”.

I have to Teach, it’s the

only way I can learn!
And for teachers, here is the most important and wonderful fact. When you
engage the process of True Teaching, and are truly “with” the student, your
own insight and growth will be accelerated! You will come to an awareness
and understanding of your own areas of confusion, and you will be shown
the light by your honest attempts to show it to someone else. And again, I
have found this to be true as a teacher of guitar, and as a parent, which is
another name for “Teacher”.

In the movie The Crow, (starring the son of the great Master Bruce Lee) the
main character says something I have always remembered. He is talking to
a drug addict mother who is abusing her child. He says “Mother is the name
of God on the lips of children”. He is trying to make her see her real
responsibility and position. To the child, the Parent IS God. The parent can,
and will create a wonderful empowered being, or a partially or completely
crippled person. I know this from personal experience as both a parent and
a child.
I am also a student and a teacher. When it comes to music, “Teacher is the
name of God on the lips of the student”. The teacher has the power,
especially in the beginning. The True Teachers job is to strive to transfer
and share that power with the student. The True Teachers fondest desire
should be that the deserving student takes everything, uses it, and
surpasses the Teacher. Let us all be the best we can be.

For more information, and to get answers to your questions, visit my site.

Loup Garou
STEFAN LEONHARDT Guitar Lessons Guitar Amplifiers and Effects

Most amps today have more sockets than just “input”. Chances are, your
amp also has two labeled “send” and “return” – the Effects Loop. What’s it
good for other than a feature that might give the salesman more to talk


The signal that “travels” through your amplifier normally takes the following
route: Input – Preamp with EQ section (generally responsible for sound and
– if you want – overdrive) – Power amp (generally responsible for volume,
although with tube power amps the sound is also shaped).
All well and good, the problem is that some effects (modulating effects like
chorus or delay effects like delay and reverb) work and sound better if
they come after any distortion or gain that is applied to your guitar
signal. For example, it would not sound too good if you put the reverb
before the overdrive. Why is that so? In short, you want a reverb on your
overdriven signal, not an overdriven reverb.
There are some basic rules that “govern” where to put effects in the signal
chain (I’ll add more specific information in later articles when talking about
the specific effects):
1. If the effect modulates the signal, put it after any preamps or
overdrive/distortion boxes.

2. If the effect boosts the signal, put it before overdrive (a compressor for

3. There are no rules! Break them, experiment!

Now without the effect loop, all you can do is put your effect boxes between
your guitar and the input of the amp. If you use an overdrive/distortion box
for your sound and not the amp’s “hot” channel, all is well as long as you
remember to have the overdrive/distortion among the first effects your
signal travels through, in most cases before effects like chorus, delay,
reverb, flanger etc (see text above).

But if you use your amp’s overdrive channel, you get the problems
described above (the effect box with the delay now comes before the
overdrive). This is where the effect loop comes in. The guitar signal comes
from your amp’s preamp and through “send” goes into those effects that
should be put behind any overdrive. The signal comes back into your amp
through the “return” socket. There are little switches inside these sockets
that make sure the signal goes to the right place, depending on whether a
cable is plugged in or not. Therefore, you should have all the stomp boxes
that should come before overdrive between your guitar and the amp’s input
and all the boxes that should come after overdrive after your amp’s preamp
in the effect loop.

“Ok, but I’ve got a multi-efx unit – what can I do now?” (Please note that in
my eyes, something like a POD is just a sort of multi-efx: different effects –
overdrive being an effect – and a way to save the parameters and sounds)?

If you want to use your amp only to amplify the great sounds you’ve
programmed into your multi, you don’t want the signal to pass the amp’s
preamp because the preamp EQ section will color that sound. You want the
signal to go straight to the power amp. So the signal path is: guitar – multi
efx input – multi efx output – amp “return”. Remember to switch off the
multi-efx’s “speaker simulation” – you don’t need it, your amp has a guitar
speaker, so why emulate one in addition?

If you want to use your amp’s sound, things get more complicated.

 a) easy way of doing it: Use your amp’s clean and overdrive sounds and
the multi-efx only to provide the effects that should come after
overdrive/distortion. Put the multi into the effect loop.

 b) But I want the full monty: I want to use the overdrive sounds of my
amp and my multi and the effects of my multi-efx that usually come
before overdrive (compressor for example)! Gulp … just hope your multi-
efx has an effect loop, too. The signal path then is: guitar – multi – efx
input – multi efx “send” (the signal has now passed the effects that
should come before gain and the multi’s overdrive section) – amp input
– amp “send” (the signal has now passed the gain section of the amp) –
multi-efx “return” – multi-efx output (the signal has now passed the
effects that belong after the gain stage) – amp’s “return” – the signal
now “reaches” the power amp.

Try it, but remember to turn the volume down before you switch
everything on – you might have to adjust quite a bit of controls to make it
work (the volume and gain controls of your multi’s effects, the input
sensitivity of the multi …)
Some amps have a series others a parallel effect loop. With a series effect
loop, the guitar signal (=your sound) comes from the preamp of your amp,
“leaves” your amp through the send jack, runs through the inserted effect
and comes back through the return jack. 100% of your signal goes
through the effect. Many people have found that their sound suffers (great
tube amps and – perhaps cheaper – digital effects => maybe loss of
The solution was the parallel loop: with the control, you control how much
of your original signal leaves the amp and passes through the effect. The
“remaining” signal stays in your amp, preserving much of your sound, and is
“joined” again by the signal coming back from the effect, now with effects on
it. So you can mix the dry (without effect) and the wet (with effects) signals,
but keep in mind that you won’t hear much of the effects if you only put a
tiny part of your signal through the effect box. The effects in the loop should
be set so that they let out no original signal but 100% effect signal. You
decide with the parallel effect knob how much effect you want.
Hope you’re still with me next time when we start talking about the
individual effects.
Riders On The Storm –
The Doors
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons 12 bar blues, Easy Guitar Songs

One of the joys of teaching guitar is the look of amazement on a student’s

face when he or she is playing a song and everything starts to click. The
chords, the riffs, the fingering, the timing – it’s all there and no one is
probably more pleased than the pupil. Time and time again we will start on
a lesson which at first seems very difficult and then, almost by magic, it all
falls into place.

This is particularly gratifying for me when it happens on a song that most

people, let alone just guitarists, would not think of teaching as a “guitar”
song. To me, music is music and if it has notes, then you can play it on any
instrument you like. This is not to say that the new “interpretation” of a song
is going to be a work of art – far from it. But more often than not, if you pass
up a song simply because you don’t think of it as a guitar song, you might
be missing out on a chance to play something very interesting. The worst
thing that can happen is that you might learn a thing or two. Perish the
thought, no?

Today we’re going to discuss and demonstrate some concepts in theory

that (some of) you might consider too “advanced” for a beginner. Perhaps
we should discuss that as well. To me, a beginner is not only about learning
things. And there are, as you well know, a lot of things to learn. It is also
about getting acquainted with new ideas. One has to start someplace, even
if you are merely introducing yourselves to concepts that you will study in
earnest further along. I found it very interesting that some people found the
introduction to slide guitar in If Not For You to be “a bit beyond the scope of
a beginner” while no one voiced any such sentiments concerning the
alternating bass line in Margaritaville or the concept of twelve bar blues, not
to mention the blues shuffle, in Before You Accuse Me. Go figure.
Speaking of which, you might want to review all of those before tackling this
lesson’s song. Yes, I know, sneaky, sneaky. But we are at the point that
you should be able to see that we’re building upon the concepts we’ve
learned from earlier lessons. Perhaps I should tell you to look over Feelin’
Alright and Three Marlenas as well, since both alternate chord voicings and
passing chords (like the A7sus4 in the latter song) pop up later on in this
lesson, too. Is there no end to the madness?
So what are we learning today? Let me offer up to you Riders On The
Storm, by the Doors, originally released on the album L.A. Woman.Believe
it or not, this is a blues song. At least in terms of song structure. Really. It
consists of four verses (the fourth verse is a repeat of the first), and each
one is twelve measures in length. Here are the chords for the first and the
lyrics for the other two:

To be helpful, I’ve written this out so that each line is two measures long.
Now, we remember from our earlier lesson that a normal twelve bar blues
follows this pattern:

Okay, now let’s compare this to the pattern in Riders:

Here you’ll see that we’re fine up to measure nine. Instead of going V to IV
(which would be Bm to Am in the key of E minor), we go VII to VI, which is
D to C. But think about this: D major is the relative major of B minor while
Am is the relative minor to C major. All we did was to substitute the relative
major chords of the V and IV. This is a very basic form of what many guitar
books call “chord substitution” or “progression embellishment” or some
other incredibly pompous sounding phrase designed to make you think “all
this fancy stuff is beyond me!” It is simply the songwriter’s choice and in this
case it livens up a song that would otherwise sound a lot like The Thrill Is
The focus of our lesson today is chord substitution. What we’re going to do
is to take each of the four measure sets of our twelve bar blues pattern and
come up with a more interesting way to play them. Perhaps a better way to
think of this is that we are going to forgo our usual routine of strumming
such and such a chord for so many beats or measures and instead play a
riff. But instead of the riff being made up of single notes, it’s made up of

Reshuffling The Deck

Or better yet, think of it as a shuffle made up of chords.

First, let’s concentrate on the Em sections, which only makes sense since
it’s two thirds (eight of the twelve measures) of any given verse! Listening to
the original recording of this song, the primary instrument, that is, the one
our ears tend to focus upon, is the electric piano. After a bit of an
introductory solo, the keyboard settles down into playing a blues shuffle.
But it’s obviously not the typical blues shuffle we learned earlier. Just to
review quickly, a typically standard blues shuffle involves playing the root
note and the fifth and then alternating the fifth with the sixth. In the key of E,
we’d be doing this:

We should note here that even though this song is in E minor, we appear to
be using the sixth from the major scale. Now, you could look at this as using
the melodic minor scale, but then you’ll be giving yourself a real headache
when we get to the next step. Let’s just say that the conventional thing to do
with a shuffle is to go from the fifth up one whole step to the six. Try using a
C natural in this example (third fret on the A string instead of the fourth) and
see how weird it sounds.

Here, though, the shuffle is going beyond the sixth note of the scale. In fact
it ascends to the seventh before coming back down. And, again, convention
dictates that this is a flatted (or dominant) seventh. Here are two ways of
playing this shuffle:

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But if you listen very carefully to the electric piano, you’ll hear something
even more interesting. Along with the lead note of the shuffle, the note a
third below is also being played. Here is a rough approximation of the
keyboard’s shuffle, just so you can hear it yourself:

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This is what is known as a chordal shuffle or a harmony
shuffle (again with the fancy names!). Coming up with a guitar part to
mimic this is really no sweat. Hey! Let’s do a bunch of them. But before we
do that, let’s talk about it for a moment. A little planning can go a long way.
First, how about we examine the notes involved in this chordal shuffle?
Since the second and fourth chords are the same we need only look at the
first three:

The first chord is a straight E minor triad. The second chord is an A major
chord! How about that? The third chord could be a lot of things but for now
we’ll think of it as an Em7, which would be E, G, B and D. Except here, in
this voicing, there is no third. I do plan to use it in the full chord, though. Are
we cool with that? If so, then let’s give it a try, shall we?
Now this sounds more like we’d like it to sound, but I still think it can be
better. So what I’m going to do is to play around a little bit and see if I can’t
find some different chords or chord voicings that will both jazz things up a
bit and flow a little smoother. And it’s funny that I used the word “jazz,” but
that’s the way my brain works sometimes. The first thing that I think of when
I think of jazz is third upon third, triads stacked to the sky. If you’ve read my
piece Building Additions and Suspensions you probably know where I’m
going with this. I think another look at our chordal shuffle chords is in order:

You can see that by adding an additional third to both the A and the Em7,
I’ve come up with an A7 and an Em9. I really like the way the A7 sounds in
the progression. Trying out different voicings of Em9, I come up with what is
essentially an Am chord shoved up two frets. The cool thing about this is
that I can either dampen or not play the A string or I can play it and call my
new chord an Em11! It helps to have a fallback for those times when I hit
the wrong string by accident. Here, then, are the chords and voicings I have
chosen to use for my “Em shuffle” in Riders On The Storm:

Now that I have my progression, I need to have a strumming or picking

pattern to play as well. Here are a bunch of them, ranging in tone and
complexity. You will notice that they employ a variety of techniques that
we’ve used in past lessons.

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Shuffle #1 is a relatively straightforward strumming pattern, the sort that any
rhythm guitarist should have in his or her repertoire. It involves the use of
“anticipation,” that is the chord change actually occurs a half beat before the
beat. We’ve discussed this before both here and in Dan Lasley’s Bass For
Beginners pages. It also uses a percussive stroke or full palm muting on the
second and fourth beats. I would try using these strokes for this:

Also, I do tend to strum all six strings on the Em9 here so, yes, you can call
it an Em11 if you’d like.

I do tend to fingerpick more often than not and shuffles #2 and 3 reflect this
stylistic quirk. As usual, I use my thumb to cover the the fourth, fifth and
sixth (D, A and E) strings while plucking the first, second and third strings in
an upstroke motion with my ring, middle and index fingers respectively.
These two shuffles may at first glance seem to be very similar, but you can
hear quite a difference when you play them. Number three is a fairly close
approximation of the electronic piano of the original recording while the
second shuffle has a more laid-back feel to it. Using an alternating bassline
during the inital Em chord provides a nice transition to the A7

The fourth shuffle can be played with a pick or your fingers or even a
combination of the two. I like to do a sweeping downstroke on the full
chords and then get the next three notes on the upstroke. We run into the
anticipation technique again on the A7 chords and I also took the liberty of
tossing in a quick fill, based on some simple pull-offs on the second fret,
just to spice things up a bit more.

None of these should give you any real problems if you take them nice and
slowly to start. You don’t even have to use these particular examples. Like
everything I show you, they are simply meant to be guides for you to use in
exploring what your guitar has to offer:

So, wherever you see a line of “Em” in this song, feel free to use one of
these two measure shuffles instead. If you’re playing with a group of people
let me advise that you pick one and stick with it. Consistency in rhythm is
more important than showing off.

Breaking Things Up
On to the line of A minor! Once again looking to the electric piano on the
recording for inspiration, we can hear a “shuffle-ish” procession of chords.
What is going on here is that the keyboard is progressing from the Am back
up to the Em and using all the triads in between, (Am, Bm, C, and D) on its
way up to the root. And while this sounds very dramatic, listen to how much
more interesting we can make it by keeping an A note in the bass (with our
open A string):

Okay, now I know that some of you are saying, “Wait a minute! The
B(add4)/A is the same exact fingering as the Em9 we use in the Em shuffle.
What’s going on?”

Well, you’re absolutely right about that. This is part of the wonder and
frustration of chords. More often than not, what we call a chord is a function
of what the chord is doing in a song. During the Em shuffle, we are
establishing the Em modality. Here we are doing an ascension of chords
from A to E, so thinking of it in terms of B makes much more sense. This
may not seem like such a big deal to you, but it can be. Imagine that
someone tells you that you’re playing blues in F so the I, IV, V chords are F,
A# and C. Most musicians would say F, Bb and C. Both answers are
correct but the second one will keep your fellow players from thinking that
you’ve just had a nasty head injury or something.

I like to also emulate the rhythmic pattern here in this part of the song,
accenting the eighth notes on the first and third beats. Here are two ways of
doing it:

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So, again, start out by playing two sets of your Em chordal shuffle and then,
when you come to the Am line, play one of these Am to D progressions.
Then it’s back to one Em.

Okay, we’re almost finished; all that’s left is the next to last line of the verse.
Since we’ve been basing much of our arrangement on the recording, let’s
examine how these two measures (one of D and one of C) are played.

Following along with the recording once more, I find that really accenting
the first two beats of the D packs a lot of punch. Occasionally, I will throw in
a little flourish, say an arpeggio based on a Dsus4 or Dsus2 (or both), but
quite often I’m content to leave the last two beats as a rest.

For the measure of C, I switch my rhythm again to accent the lyrics. This
involves playing strong eighth notes on the first and third beats, much as we
did in the Am shuffle. But on the third beat, I like to also mimic the vocal
line, which slightly dips a little in tone. One good way to do this is to throw in
a Cmaj7add9 voicing on the downbeat followed immediately by a regular C
on the upstroke. This is nowhere near as difficult as it sounds. In fact, you’ll
laugh at how easy it is. To play a Cmaj7add9, you play a normal C chord
but leave the B string (major 7) and D string (add 9) open, like this:

And here’s how these two measures look:

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See? Nothing hard here, is there? So let’s go back to our original TAB of
the song and throw in our new riffs whenever we see the appropriate chord.
For the first two lines of any verse, we will play an Em shuffle. Then the Am
shuffle and then one more Em. Finish it all off with the D to C transition and
one last Em shuffle and you’ve got yourself a song.

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Again, the main point of this lesson is to show you that sometimes it is
possible, even desirable, to play something other than what the TAB
dictates. Over the course of these lessons, and the ones on
the Intermediates’ page, you will get a chance to learn what kind of chord
substitutions, embellishments, whatever, work and in which circumstances
you should feel free to use them.
I hope that this has been fun for you. If you’re interested, we will be
continuing these topics in the upcoming lesson Moondance, which will be
online soon on the Intermediate’s page.
As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,
concerns or songs (and/or riffs and solos) you’d like to see discussed in
future pieces. You can either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email
me directly at
Until next lesson…

Happy Christmas (War
Is Over) – John
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Easy Guitar Songs, Guitar Strumming Lessons

In addition to being topical (both in terms of the season as well as in regard

to the “topic of the month), John Lennon’s Happy Christmas is a good way
to follow up on some of the lessons we learned last time out. As you recall,
we used Riders On The Storm to examine the use of chordal riffs in place of
a single chord. Today we will do more of the same, plus we will tackle that
old “so what do I strum?” bugaboo and then throw in some simple basslines
just in order to have too much to learn at once.
These files are the author’s own work and represents his interpretation of
this song. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or

The Basics
Simply for the sake of driving you all crazy, let me say that there are lots of
ways to play this. I’ve chosen the key of A major because I think it will be
easier than the other keys for most of you and still pose some challenging
Throughout the second and third verse, and then again at the very end of
the song, you will hear a second melody line being sung. This is called a
descant part, in case you are interested. This is a musical device often used
by songwriters to make a song interesting. The second melody is often from
another part of the same song (the verse sung at the same time as the
chorus, for example), but it can also be a totally unrelated melody made up
for the occasion or even a melody from another song. Here the descant
follows along with the chord progressions of the first four lines. For the
outro, though, it only plays through the first two:

You’re going to want to keep this descant melody in mind, because we’ll be
incorporating it (or a harmony of it) into our strumming pattern, as you will
soon see.

Happy Christmas is played in 3/4 time – there are three beats to each
measure instead of the usual four beats in most of the songs we hear.
Some people find this time signature a little tricky to strum, so let’s take a
moment to go over it.
I love playing waltzes. They provide a great opportunity to work not only on
your general strumming, but on basslines as well. The easiest way to play
one is hit just the root note of the chord on the first beat and then follow up
with the full chord on the second and third beat, like this:

The strumming of Happy Christmas is not far different from this. For the
verses, let’s play a sweeping downstroke on the full chord on first beat of
the measure and then follow it up with two sets of down-and-up strokes
(eighth notes) for the second and third beats:

You’ll want to practice this on each of the chords in turn. Except for the last
line in the chorus, each chord is played for four measures of three beats.
The final line of Em, G, D and E are all two measures each. Believe it or
not, you can now go ahead and play the song. Check it out. When you’re
ready to do a few more interesting things with the strumming, come on back
here and we’ll move on…

The Ornamentation
To give the song a little life, we’re going to come up with a chord
progression that allows up to mimic the descant part as we play. For the
most part, this will involve using chords such as suspended fourths and
seconds as well as the occasional major seventh. Let’s look at the melody
line of the descant part during the first four lines of any given verse. We’ll
also look at a harmony line of thirds:

You can see that during the first two chords the melody is root, major
seventh, second and root. What I want to do is to “decorate” my chords with
these notes. In essence I am creating new chords but they are all based on
my “core” chord of A, Em, D, etc. And while I am finding a chord pattern that
flows smoothly with the melody line, I also want one that is not too hard to
play. Sometimes I need to grab the note from the harmony line instead and
graft that onto the core chord. Sometimes I may use a different third and
sometimes a combination is in order. For the A chord, I’ve decided to go
with the following pattern. Note that my first strum is not a complete one – I
deliberately miss the high E string so that I can emphasize the C# note
(second fret on the B string):

Here I am using the notes a third up from the descant melody. I could just
as easily use the melody itself, but, to me, it doesn’t ring out as clearly in
the range where I would have to play it, namely on the G string. More often
that not, it’s the notes on the first two strings of the guitar which attract all
the attention.

The B minor progression is the one I have the most difficulty with. Neither
the melody nor harmony is particularly easy to finger from a first position
Bm chord. I decide to keep the open A in the bass for simplicity’s sake; a B
would be nicer but this certainly will do. When I play the whole pattern, I
have to take care not to hit the high E string until I want the E note in the
third measure:

When we get to the E chord, there are many ways to go about it. Since I’d
been doing the descant’s harmony line so far, I decided to keep doing it and
I think it led to a nice and simple progression:

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When the song modulates to D in the third line, everything becomes much
nicer. I can follow the melody line straight through this section and the only
tricky spot is nailing the D# on the fourth fret of the B string during the
second measure of Em. Please note that since the melody line is all on the
first two strings, I opt to do all of my second and third beat strumming on the
middle/lower strings of the guitar. Again, this brings out the part I want to
stress without muddling things up.

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Did I mention I love waltzes? When we get to the chorus section, I go back
to using a more “traditional” strum – the bass note on the first beat followed
by eighth notes of full chords to complete the measure. I’ve also switched
the key signature (for the time being) to D major, since the song is now in D
(if you’re interested in this check out the guitar column Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-
Changes). To make things more interesting, I alternate the bass note in
each of the first three measures (using a hammer-on for the first beat of the
second measure) and then in the fourth measure I throw in what’s called a
“walking” bassline:
Walking basslines are a lot of fun and very easy to do in 3/4 time. Starting
with my chord’s root (G) on the first beat, I hit the A note (open A string) on
the second beat and then the B (second fret on the A string) on the third.
This allows me to nail the A again on the first beat of the next measure and
resume my waltz strumming:

At the end of this section I do a descending bassline from A to F#, fully

aware that E is going to be my next root. Another thing I really like about
playing the bass notes on this song is that the vocals here are also straight
quarter notes so it makes things very dynamic with everyone on the same
page rhythm-wise.

For the final section, I have to stagger the bassline a little bit because of the
Em to G change in the second measure. I do this by playing a full chord on
the first beat and then switching to the single bass notes. When I finally
reach the D again (and note the key signature changes once more) I finish
with a bassline that is actually an arpeggiated D major chord, which leads
me to an E major chord which signals a return to the original key of A:
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I want to point out that I will often play the second fret of the low E (sixth)
string by grabbing it with the tip of my thumb, especially when playing in a D
chord as we do here.

Okay, we have all the pieces. Shall we put it all together? Here’s the first
verse all written out for you:
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this song and that you put it in your repertoire.
And since The Joy Of Guitar is our topic du jour, I’d like to thank all of you
who have taken the time to share with me the joys you have been getting
from learning the guitar. I hope that you, too, are sharing with others and
getting the joy of both playing and teaching.
As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,
concerns or songs (and/or riffs and solos) you’d like to see discussed in
future pieces. You can either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email
me directly at
Until next lesson, and hopefully always…


Beginning the Quest

for Tone Part 2 – How
To Buy A Guitar Amp
JEREMY LEDFORD Guitar Lessons Buying a Guitar and Other Equipment, Guitar
Amplifiers and Effects

This is the second installment on how to annoy your parents, siblings and/or
neighbors. We will focus on the intermediate player and go a bit deeper into
the quest for tone. It is both easier and more difficult to choose an amplifier
at this level of skill. It is also a bit more expensive, in most cases.

Remembering the lessons learned in the first article (Beginning The Quest
For Tone Part 1), the intermediate player will now know roughly what is
desired in his/ her quest for tone. Forming, joining, or already being in a
band may be a consideration, so power becomes more of a concern. Your
budget has probably increased, too, so a hole may be burning in your wallet
(or purse, we have to be Politically Correct here). Do I really need a good
clean sound? Do i want alot of switches to play around with? The list can go
on and on. These are all hard decisions to make amd time must be taken
so you spend your money wisely.
With the intermediate amplifier, things can start to get expensive. It can be
very easy to get to $1000 in the your quest. I don’t recommend a half or full
stack. A stack is 1 or 2 cabinets with 4 12 inch speakers and a head (this is
an amplifier without speakers). Too hard to lug around. A more powerful,
chock-full-o-tone 1×12 combo or even a 2×12, are my suggestions. They
are much easier to transport, and can get as loud as a half stack in some

How much power do i really need? In my experience, 50 or 60 watts of tube

power is all you really need. With solid state amplifiers, 100 watts should be
sufficient for anything that may come up. If more volume is desired or
needed, a second speaker cabinet can be added or miking of the amp can
be done, for playing in large halls.

To tube or not to tube? This is a very relevant question at this point. And a
very tough decision. Tube amplifiers can and will show the mistakes and
bad habits that have been picked up, especially the lower gain (distorted)
models. But they will usually make you a better, more rounded player. If a
tube amp is purchased, maintenance will become a factor because the
tubes will age and burn out. Responsibility will have to increase.

What kind of power tubes? 6L6, 5881, EL34, 6550, EL84, 6V6? What kind
of preamp tubes? Only one type, the 12AX7, is used in most currrent, mass
produced guitar amplifiers. Others types are sometimes used by the more
expensive, boutique amplifier manufacturers. The reason for the lack of
diversity in preamp tube types is purely economical. Back when 12AX7’s
were first starting to be used, they were cheap, plentiful, and didn’t sound
too horrible. The same goes for today.
So, what power tube do i want? Personal tastes are key here, but I can give
you an idea of what to expect from each of the power tube types. I highly
recommend more reading about the specific type tubes listed here. More
detail can be found elsewhere on the web.

 6L6-This is a hard vacuum tube and be described as “hard hitting”. They

have decent harmonic content and are great for guitar amps. They also
last for a while. Mesa uses these for the Rectifier series of amplifiers.
Expect 40 to 60 watts out of a pair.

 5881-A variant of the 6L6, slightly lower output.

 EL34-These tubes have a soft vacuum. This is the sound of countless

recordings. Think AC/DC, Van Halen, Hendrix. Marshall uses these
tubes, for the most part. Expect 20 to 40 watts out of a pair.

 6550-These tubes can be found in quite a few Marshalls. A bit harder

hitting than 6L6 types. These can last a long time, especially the N.O.S.
(New Old Stock). Expect 40 to 70 watts out of a pair. Not used much in
guitar amps.

 EL84-These are a 9 pin miniauture type power tube. Very similar in

sound to an EL34. If run hard, they can be short lived. These are used in
quite a few of the lower wattage combo amps. Expect 10 to 25watts out
of a pair.

 6V6-These can be found in some of the Fenders. Similar to the EL84,

but have a cleaner sound. Could be described as “bluesy”. Expect
around the same power from a pair as EL84’s.

For the preamp tubes, I wouldn’t worry about it. They rarely need to be
changed and today’s amplifiers are designed around currently
manufactured tubes. There are more factors in deciding which tube amp,
such as tube rectifiers, effects loops type, etc.

Tube rectifiers? These are found in some of the higher end amplifiers, such
as the Rectifier series by Mesa, Marshall Jtm-45 and the Fender Prosonic.
They have a different sound than the silicon diode (solid state) rectifiers
used by the majority of amplifier manufacturers. It can be described as
“sag”. Refer here for a better
description of what the rectifier does and what the differences between tube
and solid state rectifiers are. For a definition of the different type of effects
loops, go here.
If you don’t want to deal with tubes just yet, there are many solid state
amplifiers available. They can sound great, and you don’t have to worry
about maintenance. Digital effects such as delay, echo, flange, chorus.
phaser, etc., are commonly found on today’s intermediate amplifiers. Some
even digitally model tube tone. I have used them, and they are not bad for
the money, especially with the effects that they have. Some even have wah
available with the addition of a dedicated floor controller. Great for gigging.

Here a few suggestions and places to look for Your tone:

 Marshall DSL 401-Great for that classic marshall tone.

 Peavey Classic, Delta Blues and Ultra-Excellent bargains.

 Peavey Bandit-My fave for solid state.

 Line 6-Great for the gigging guitarist that needs a range of tone.

 Johnson-Digitech’s modeling amps. Again, great for the gigging player.

 Fender Hot Rod series-excellent choice for the more mellow player.

 Waller-This is a new amplifier company. All solid state designs, but have
a very nice feel and tone to them.

I’m sure I have left quite a few amplifiers out. But the rules are the same:
power, tone, and features are the things you need to consider.

At the moment, I am running a Peavey VTM-60 head into an Electro-Voice

loaded 4×12 speaker cabinet (heavy!!). This is for my normal distortion
sound. I heard one a few years back and just had to have one. It is a one
trick pony, though, so I have to use other amps for different sounds. For my
clean tones and a super heavy sound, I use an Ampeg SS-140C. This was
the second amplifier I ever owned (not this particular one, however). Great
clean tone, and a brutal distortion when set up right. I run this into the
power amp of the VTM. This is quite a bit of stuff to haul around and it isn’t
easy to switch them back and forth without alot of noise. My next amplifier
purchase will probably be one of the modeling amplifiers. I need a greater
range of tones that are easily accessible, especially for gig type situations.

Decisions and compromises will also have to be made with how you
achieve your tone. One amplifier will usually not do it all (the modeling
amps can come close). What is more important to your sound? Distortion or
clean type tones? Would your rather purchase an amp with a great clean
tone and use a pedal for distortion effects? Accept the fact that your amp
doesn’t have a good clean channel and deal with it? This all comes down to
the specific uses your amplifier will have to address. It is a case by case

Choosing an intermediate amplifier, be it your 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th one,

can be difficult. Greater playing diversity, maturing ear, tube or solid state,
more power, etc. all become factors. Take your time and remember,
purchase what you want and listen to your ears!!!

JAMIE ANDREAS Guitar Lessons Tips on Learning to Play Guitar

I think very likely there exists a very common mis-conception about this
word that we hear all the time, and one that I use often as well: relaxation. I
will make my best attempt to bring your understanding of this subject up to
a higher level.

No, it is not true that good players experience a “complete relaxation” when
they play, at least not in the sense that many people think of when they use
the word “relaxation”. People tend to think of a very passive state, as we
might think of in going to sleep, or being hypnotized. Often, this elusive
state of “relaxation” is described as such a thing, which is very misleading
to those trying to grasp it. It makes them wary of any sensation of “effort” in
their playing, and this wariness makes them reject certain approaches and
inner sensations that are quite appropriate, and would, if pursued, lead to
further development of ability.

First of all, understand this: relaxation is not a state, it is not a condition that
you experience. Relaxation is an activity, relaxation is something you do.
The failure to perform the action of relaxation does result in a state or
condition which we might call “discomfort” or chronic tension. The state that
result from performing the action of relaxation may be called “poise”,
balance, or “comfort in action”.

Relaxation is something we are either good at, or not so good at.

Relaxation, like so many abilities, such as thinking, is something some
people never do, and also, again, like thinking, it is something many people
believe they are doing when they are NOT doing it.
Look at the word: re-lax. The prefix “re” means to “do again”, as in repeat
and repetition. What are we supposed to be “doing again”? “Laxing”, that’s
what. Lax means “loose”. The word “relax” is pre-supposing we were loose
to begin with, and then, we made some kind of effort, which, when it comes
to motor activities, means a contraction of muscle tissue, and then we “re-
loosed”, or relaxed, and returned that muscle to it’s original condition of
“laxness”, or looseness.

Well, the fact is, many people are NOT loose to begin with. Many people
are chronically tense, playing guitar or not. Many people are chronically
tense in all the muscles of the playing mechanism during playing, and for
these people, there is no possibility of “re-laxing”, since there is no
looseness to return to.

Now, you ask “how can I develop this ability if it is not covered in your
book”? Well, everything about my book is designed to develop this ability.
Everything in my book is designed to DEVELOP this state of looseness,
and then train you to return to it after making an effort. (And also to train
you to make the smallest effort possible!)

Look at it this way: a person who is chronically tense is like a person who
has no “awareness” of their actual condition. They have no communication
with their own body. They have no “wiring” between their mind and their
body. That is why so often people think they are relaxed when they are not,
they think they are loose when they are not. They don’t know what loose is,
they have never felt it. Someone with their muscles obviously in knots,
perhaps their shoulder up to their earlobe, will happily and sincerely report
“Hey, I’m relaxed”! In reality, they are not feeling anything, and they assume
this state of numbness is “being relaxed”. They might as well be under
general anesthesia!

The way this wiring is created is through the power of the mind, through
attention to the body while practicing. Real attention, not “thinking about”
the body, but BEING the body, “thinking AS the body”. The second principle
of correct practice states “practicing is the infusion of conscious awareness
into the body through the mechanism of attention”. Everything about my
book shows you how to do this, IF you actually DO what I tell you.

It is important to understand that this “looseness” of the body, and this

awareness of the body is a natural thing; every child has it. However, it can
be degraded, and it can be lost. Just as it can be developed through
attention to the body, it is lost through in-attention to the body, and this in-
attention to the body is what most people learn as children, and begin to
practice with great fervor. It happens because attention begins to go
elsewhere then to our “beingness” in our bodies. It goes into our
“beingness” in our minds. As the years go by, we identify not with our
bodies, but with the mental and emotional operations going on between our
ears, that we call “ourselves”. And a lot of these mental and emotional
operations are pretty screwed up! A lot of them are full of tension, negativity
and conflict, and the quality of all this energy manifests in the physical body,
and that is why there are so many up-tight, constricted people walking

So, when someone picks up a guitar and asks their body to start learning
and doing all these new things, all of this history comes into play. Of course,
we are all going to find ourselves somewhere along the spectrum here, and
we will each have our own particulars to deal with, but I have laid out in
general what we all go through, and what we all must deal with.

Copyright Jamie Andreas, Guitar Principles.

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Guitar Noise, head over to our Facebook page or mes

Easy Guitar Riffs of

the 80s
PAUL HACKETT Guitar Lessons Guitar Lessons for Beginners, Guitar Riffs for

Some things get better with age. Old sneakers, a well worn pair of jeans,
classic cars, art, cheese, and sometimes even music. Oldies, retro, classic
rock – whatever you call the music that you are nostalgic for – it is likely to
be a perennial favourite. Whatever can be recycled and resold eventually
will be. And history will always repeat itself.

After my first lesson on easy guitar riffs I felt like I had left something
unfinished. It seemed as if I had written something more about music
history than playing guitar. References to contemporary music had been
neglected. And while there have been a lot of great and memorable rock
riffs in the past decade, it only seems right that I should address the
question how did we get where we are. So before we explore some
contemporary guitar riffs I want to go back to the eighties.
When I started to search for memorable riffs from the eighties not many
came to mind. Not at first anyway. But once I managed to forget about
Culture Club, Duran Duran, Phil Collins, Lionel Ritchie and all the pop
music that seemed to dominate, the rock riffs came back to me. And I only
needed my guitar in hand for a few minutes before I was able to figure out
the following selection of riffs.

Any look at the music of the eighties is probably going to dwell on bands
that didn’t survive. It was a decade where pop music and fashion thrived.
Nowhere is the excess of this culture captured better than the
album Kick by INXS. The catchy pop songs they produced included some
simple riffs such as New Sensation and Devil Inside.

Also notable is the four note riff that follows the chorus in Never Tear Us
Apart. It is so simple, yet anyone who has heard the album, or better yet,
INXS’ live album from Wembley Stadium knows the power and resonance
these simple notes hold.
The 80s could very well be the decade of the sell-out. Groups like Genesis
and Yes, once known for writing long progressive rock epics, began turning
out radio friendly 3 or 4 minute songs. In 1983 Yes released the
album 90125 and earned a new fan base thanks to the riff driven hit Owner
of A Lonely Heart.
Ever seen the Sean Penn movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High? It was
before he married Madonna. If you don’t know what I’m talking about read
on. In this movie they have a few jokes about Pat Benatar look alikes. If you
don’t know what Pat Benatar looks like forget about it. But, she is famous
for a song I can only describe as ultimate eighties. In 1980 she became an
overnight star thanks to her album Crimes of Passion and the song Hit Me
With Your Best Shot, a basic song with a riff comprised entirely of power
While Sting was still a member of The Police he consistently turned out
good hit songs. Perhaps his biggest hit of the 80s was Every Breath You
Take. This song was given a new life a few years ago thanks to a cover by
Puff Daddy. It is a rather difficult song to master for physical reasons alone.
You are required to stretch your left hand across 5 frets. To sound like the
recording you should also subtly apply some palm muting.
Are you ready for something a little heavier? One of many formerly-famous
heavy metal groups is the German band Scorpions. While many may
remember them for their emotional ballad Wind of Change, you may want to
take a look at some of their older material. Check out their live album World
Wide Live. On it you will find, The Zoo.
Here’s a song you may wish you didn’t know. It is My Sharona by The
Knack. The opening riff simply consists of G octaves. It’s a little
embarrassing actually.
OK, here is another ultimate eighties hit. Not at all a rock riff but I couldn’t
resist including it. It comes from the album Thriller by Michael Jackson.
While Beat It may not be your cup of tea it does have a pretty decent guitar
solo. Can you guess who played it? I’ll give you a clue, it is someone else
mentioned in this lesson.
Remember Bryan Adams? Of course you do. He is one of the few people
here that is still making music that people know about. He was a bit more of
a rocker back in 1984 when he released Reckless. Run To You is an
example of another simple yet effective riff.
I can not talk about 80s guitar without mentioning Van Halen. While any one
of their David Lee Roth era songs could contain a memorable riff (DLR
another 80s icon), let’s look at something from his last album with the
band 1984. As one reviewer wrote, this is where the band really reached
their highest potential. Though Van Halen riffs are usually more than a
handful for the beginner, I thought I’d include at least one.
It was 1987 when Guns n Roses came out with Appetite for Destruction, an
album which popularized hard rock riffs again. The band was a musical sign
of the times, symbolizing a lot of what was to follow. Sweet Child ‘O Mine is
another rather simple riff. To play like the original you will need to tune all
your strings down a half step.
If you would like me to teach some specific riffs in a future lesson you can
email requests to me.

Keep riffin’.

Also check out… Easy Guitar Riffs and Guitar Riffs of the 90s

Easy Guitar Riffs

PAUL HACKETT Guitar Lessons Guitar Lessons for Beginners, Guitar Riffs for

My fascination with guitar riffs goes back a long way. I was still only playing
the air-guitar and washing dishes in a restaurant when I ordered a tape
from TV called “Guitar Rock.” It was a riff-laden collection of sixties and
seventies guitar tunes. It really smoked on that back kitchen tape player.
Around the time I gave up my job washing dishes I also gave up my air-
guitar for a real guitar. In my mind I could still hear all those Guitar Rock
tunes calling me. There was Smoke on the Water, All Right
Now, Layla, Purple Haze, and so many more.
It was an early and pleasant surprise as a guitarist to find that many of
these songs were some of the easiest ones to play. They were a great
starting point for me as a beginner because I developed a repertoire of
recognizable and popular songs in a short time. With this lesson I hope they
can do the same for your playing as they did for mine.

The great thing about rock guitar riffs is that once you learn them you can
amaze your friends. Everyone can recognize and appreciate a good riff if
you play it right. Also, playing riffs takes a detour around learning to play an
entire song, which can be a daunting and sometimes impossible task for a
beginner who is probably playing by him or herself. Fortunately, some of the
most recognizable guitar riffs of all time are also the easiest ones to play.
Here are some catchy rock riffs straight from “Guitar Rock.” Every rock
guitarist should have these songs in their repertoire.

Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple (1972)

Layla – Derek and the Dominoes (1970)
Aqualung – Jethro Tull (1971)
Heartbreaker – Led Zeppelin (1969)
Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin (1969)
Iron Man – Black Sabbath (1970)
Paranoid – Black Sabbath (1970)
Sweet Emotion – Aerosmith (1975)
All Right Now – Free (1970)
Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix (1967)

Where to go from here

Once you have a large catalog of riffs you can play I recommend you start
trying to come up with some of your own. Who knows, maybe you will be
responsible for the next Takin’ Care of Business or Satisfaction. You will
find some guidance in terms of writing songs using riffs in David Hodge’s
column “A” Before “E” (Except After “C”). Here is a sample of what David
has to say:
Most songwriters tend write the music first, either by coming up
with a riff or chord progression or by harmonizing a melody. A-J
discusses creating chord patterns in his latest article (A Simple
Song). Riffs tend to follow the same idea, which makes sense
because a riff is simply a pattern of notes (usually) derived from
a chord or a scale within a given key. Some “riff” songs consist
of the same riff played repeatedly over changing
chords. Eminence Front by the Who or Blue Oyster Cult’s (Don’t
Fear) The Reaper are examples of this style of writing.
Another method of “riff writing” is to come up with a cool riff and
then transpose the notes to fit the chord changes. This is
nowhere near as complicated as it sounds. Let’s look at the
Beatles’ Day Tripper as an example (and I’ve copied this
version straight from the Guitar Tab site). You can see (or hear)
that riff two is exactly the same as riff one except that riff two is
played in A while riff one is played in E.
Day Tripper – Beatles (1965)
If you are interested in learning more about riffs you can read the entire
lesson A Before E (except after C).
If you are looking for help on the subject of writing songs there is more than
enough information on the songwriting page.
You have probably noticed that many of the riffs shown here are from the
late sixties and early seventies. If you would like to see a lesson on riffs
from more recent years just let me know which riffs you would like to learn.

Also check out… Easy Guitar Riffs of the 80s and Guitar Riffs of the 90s
Where Did The Guitar Tab Go?
On February 11, 2010 we received a letter from lawyers representing the
NMPA and the MPA instructing us to remove guitar tab and lyrics from this
page. You can read more about their complaint here. Alternatively, you can
still find this complete article with tab and lyrics archived here.

Easy Riffs of the

MATT HEGER Guitar Lessons Guitar Lessons for Beginners, Guitar Riffs for

The music of the 90s, particularly the first half, has always struck me the
hardest. I’d sing it loud in the car, the shower, at work, wherever I was and
these were naturally the first songs I learned on guitar. And just as Paul
couldn’t go without posting 80s riffs (Easy Guitar Riffs of the 80s), I must do
the 90s.
While many guitarists complain about the lack of solos in 90s alternative
rock, they contain many intense and memorable riffs. These songs have
become essential to any guitarist’s playing library.

NOTE: Many of these songs are actually played with the guitar tuned a half
step down. To sound like the recorded version, you may want to try this.

Nirvana is the band for all beginning guitarists. Kurt Cobain put high doses
of emotion into his playing, and kept everything simple and straightforward.
The first riff I ever learned to play was the intro bass riff in Come As You
Are. Only slightly more difficult is the band’s first smash hit.

Weezer found themselves the spotlight early in 90s with their first self-titled
album, now known as the Blue Album. Their songs were sincere and
humorous glimpses into their average lives. Their second album, Pinkerton,
didn’t do as well on the charts, but gave Weezer an almost cult following.
This is probably Weezer’s first hit.
Punk rock’s own illegitimate children, Blink 182, have been shunned by
their punk fathers, though their style obviously came from that genre. Blink
182 made punk popular (much to the dismay of punk) without ever playing
all six strings at the same time. Their best album, in my opinion, is Dude
Ranch. It is filled with quirky lines about girls, getting drunk, and
masturbating. Dammit is from that album.
The rapper Everlast stopped jumping around and did some solo work.
Formerly in the House of Pain, he picked up a guitar. He played rhythm
under rock legend Santana for one excellent song, but not before releasing
his own album.

Originally known for hard and fast metal with plenty of social outrage,
Incubus started to, as David Hodge puts it, “genre dance” (Do You Genre
Dance?) While the band switched from their metal style
on S.C.I.E.N.C.E. to their much softer and slightly hip hop style on Make
Yourself they threw in this little number. It’s chock full of fun bends. You’ll
need to listen closely to the original to get it right.
What guitarist can get away without knowing a little bit of Dave Matthews?
My roommate in college learned to play Crash flawlessly in about 2 hours…
without ever picking up a guitar before in his life. It took me a little bit longer.
(Another fun thing about this song: If you only play the bass notes it’s the
same melody as a clock chimes before each hour.)
This Smashing Pumpkins riff is quick, easy and beautiful. I also have
spotted many errors in guitars I would have bought with this song. That’s
always appreciated.

Throughout the 90s, Live has stayed fairly low and yet always has been a
presence. With mild success in the album Mental Jewelry, they hit the
mainstream with Throwing Copper and the hit song Lightning Crashes.
Lastly, the Chili Peppers. At the peak of their long (and at this moment, on
going) career in the music industry, the Red Hot Chili Peppers brought
us Under the Bridge. This song is right on the coattails of Stairway to
Heaven to become the intro most often played by novices in music stores.
And what a great intro it is!
Put a capo on the second fret to play it, and once you have enough practice
you can try it without the capo. Enjoy!

Also check out… Easy Guitar Riffs and Easy Guitar Riffs of the 80s
The Fundamentals of
JAMIE ANDREAS Guitar Lessons The Joy of Music

The subject of Fun is one of the most serious topics we can discuss. One of
the greatest achievements of my lifetime has been the maintenance of the
capacity for fun from early childhood. Another has been coming to an
understanding of what Fun is. And so, Fun is the cornerstone of my life, and
the foundation of everything I do.

I know that I am sometimes perceived as a serious dude, talking about

Principles and other not-so-fun topics, but when you know what Fun is, then
you will see why even serious, or thought inducing, weighty matters can be
Fun. I want to talk about this subject because it is vital to making progress
as a guitarist. In fact, you cannot MAKE any progress as a guitarist, unless
you know how to have Fun. We “play” the guitar. You cannot “play” if you
don’t know how to have fun. It’s true that “practice” sometimes seems like
“work”, but you will see that work is not the opposite of play, or the opposite
of fun. Work can, and should, be Fun.

Now, Fun is a funny thing. For some people, going out dancing and drinking
all night is fun. For others, that would be torture, but sitting quietly and
reading a book on philosophy is Fun. For some people, jamming on the
electric guitar for hours is fun, for others, sitting with a metronome for an
hour of disciplined practice is Fun (and yes, the same person may find each
of these things to be Fun at different times). For some people, having to
solve difficult problems requiring great thought is Fun, and for another, it is
nothing but a headache. So, what is going on here?

The fact is that anything can be Fun for some person or the other. However,
the particular things that we find to be Fun say everything about who we are
as people, and what our level of personal development is. However, there is
one common denominator that is always present when a person says “this
is fun”. That common denominator is “creative enjoyment”. Fun is creative
enjoyment. Einstein working out the theory of relativity, or Michael Jordan
shooting a basket; both are having Fun. Both are “creatively enjoying”. As
long as this quality is present, ANYTHING can be fun. Without this quality,
NOTHING is fun.
What is “creative enjoyment”? Well, “creative” is almost self-explanatory. It
is basically bringing something new into the world. It could be a dinner, an
idea, a blanket, a building, whatever. Whatever is being created, it involves
bringing something “out” of yourself, and giving it some kind of form on the

The universal human urge to be creative stems from the one characteristic
that always accompanies a creative act: a pleasurable energy sensation in
the inner being. The person who knows how to have Fun is the person who
knows how to be good to themselves, how to give themselves pleasure,
how to make themselves happy.

Everyone is inherently creative. All children are naturally creative. However,

creativity carries with it a certain “natural aggressiveness”, and “natural
assertiveness. To be creative is to affirm and assert oneself, to use one’s
power. Many children have this natural assertiveness conditioned out of
them as they mature, and so they cannot find their creative powers when
they have become adults. They also cannot find their ability to have Fun. In
fact, I have met many adults who actually believe that adults are not
supposed to have Fun! When I am teaching such a person, I have to try to
re-connect them with their lost ability to have Fun. Sometimes I can, and
sometimes I can’t. Some people will not allow it; giving themselves
pleasure, and having Fun, makes them feel guilty.

And enjoyment? That is a very interesting word. “En-Joy”. According to the

dictionary, “en” means “to put into”. Now, this is a very key understanding.
People usually think that things are enjoyable in and of themselves, as if
“joy” positively radiates from various things, and we merely have to bask in
the “joy” that shines out of them like sunlight. A new car, a million dollars:
wow, what happiness, what joy! And yet, we often read of millionaires with
lots of money and fleets of cars, who kill themselves after falling deeply into
despair and misery for one reason or another. So, obviously, there is no
“joy” emanating out of any of these exalted “things”.

When we en-joy something, it is because of what we are putting INTO it,

not what we are getting OUT of it. “It” has nothing to give us, until we give
“it”, us! What we put into it is the Joy that is already inside of us! Well,
obviously, you must already HAVE this Joy inside of you before you can put
it into something. That Joy is the native Joy of simply being alive, simply
existing, along with everything else. We would all do well to check up on our
personal “Joy Quotient”. If it is low, or missing entirely, we should find out
where it went. We won’t find it gone to anywhere outside of us, only buried,
perhaps smothered, deep within.

Someone who has nothing they enjoy, simply is empty inside. The reasons
why this happens would require other essays, but understand that an artist
MUST have an inner fullness that is brought out, and combined with “the
world” in a creative way, and VOILA, art appears. Music is written and
played and sung, because someone has the capacity for “creative
enjoyment”, for FUN.

As we go from child to adult, the particular things we find to be Fun will

change, and be added to. However, the intensity of that Fun, and the ability
to have it, should never diminish. Unfortunately, it almost always does.
There is no sadder sight to my eyes than the disconsolate child, moping
and moaning “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do”. This poor child is already
old, the spark has left, the inner fullness has turned to emptiness, and that
emptiness is projected outward, so that the world, full of so much beauty
and amazement, looks empty.

No, the opposite of Fun is not work, it is boredom, which is “apathy for

It can truly be said that the passage from childhood to adulthood, when
properly traversed, is characterized by the ability to transform Fun into
Work. The only difference between Fun and Work is that Fun is the creative
enjoyment of an activity which has no goal other than the activity itself, and
Work is activity that has a predetermined goal (Intention). That is why Work
can be Fun, because Work is simply Fun with an added dimension. Work,
like Fun, can be a form of creative enjoyment; it simply has a goal also. This
is the difference between practicing and playing. Practicing is Work (Fun +
Intention, or the goal to learn and improve), Playing is just plain Fun (we
play because we want to play, it feels good). Fun has no structure imposed
upon it from outside, Work has an imposed structure, that is why it is more

The properly developed adult should feel both a need for Fun and a need
for Work. For myself, I am switching between the two all the time. Even
sitting practicing, I may do some technical exercise for 15 minutes, with
intense focus and concentration, and then, I will feel the great urge to just
PLAY something and have Fun. Which I do. Sometimes, I just feel the need
to play for half an hour. Sometimes, I feel the need to Work for an hour.
One feeds into, and leads into, the other.
There are two types of students: one needs to learn how to Work, and the
other needs to learn how to have Fun. The first is more common. Most
people have never learned true Work. Most people’s relationship to Work
began as that most distasteful intrusion upon our personal time and energy,
when, as children we encountered that thing called “homework”. Yes,
homework, another word for “the demand to focus our inner resources upon
something to which we have no connection, and no desire for connection,
but we do so under threat of some type of punishment from all the Big
People”. Wow, what a wonderful way to discover how to “en-joy” life! What
a wonderful way to get a good attitude about Work!

So, many people I meet need to be trained to put out the level of energy
and focus required to learn the guitar as it should be learned. They simply
have never encountered something which made this demand on ALL their
physical, mental, and emotional resources. You can fake your homework.
You can’t fake your guitar practice, and you sure can’t fake your guitar

However, I will occasionally get the type of student who is happy to practice
exercises with the metronome all day, focusing on those fingers for hours
all day, every day. However, they never pick up the guitar to just play and
have Fun! How sad, how tragic! That is not how we get to be guitar players
or musicians. Musicians specialize in having Fun. We are Fun Masters. I
have to tell these people ” I am ordering you, as part of your practice, to just
pick up the guitar, play it, and have Fun! Remember, have Fun, that’s an

Often, beginners on guitar delay having Fun, putting it off until some time in
the distant future when they deserve it. This is not good. Fun, and music
making should come into the picture as soon as possible. Anyone just
learning to play should have two goals in mind: one, making sure the
technical foundation being laid is correct, and strong so that continuous
growth is possible, and two, making some MUSIC as soon as possible,
something, anything that that turns you on, that gets your emotional juices
flowing, whether it is Bach or Rock.

Yes, anything worth doing should be worth having Fun while doing it. The
United States Marines live by a Principle, their motto, “Semper Fi”, which
means “always faithful”. Here at Guitar Principles, I have told everyone
involved in the day to day workings of things (and “not-workings, such as
computers, printers, etc.!) to keep our Motto in mind. It is the Principle we
operate on here, our first Principle of Business, Work, and Life: Semper

Copyright Jamie Andreas, Guitar Principles.

A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Songwriting Lessons for Beginners

I found that when I bring a new song to my band mates, it can be a long
learning curve for the other guys. The song might start as a 3/4, with the
tempo at 100. Then, after 9 measures, it goes into a 4/4 at 115. At measure
36, we’ll hit a 6/8 at 140 for four measures, then… you get the picture. And I
have to explain the seventeen different chords to them (no, my songs are
not always like that). I found that after three hours in a practice room, we’re
about halfway through and something (at least one thing) isn’t the way it’s
supposed to be.

To save time (and not have to see the drummer dangerously twirling his
sticks in my direction), I came into the habit of giving them a recording of
just a rhythm guitar and an awkward voice (basically singing really low into
a microphone), but all timed and with a metronome running. I record these
using Cakewalk. Although now that I’ve discovered Guitar Pro, this is now
my main tool. Then I put everything into charts and give these to the guys a
week or so before meeting them with our guns ready. Works a lot better.
This way they have heard the song in advance and can tell me whether or
not they want to do it. A lot of what I write doesn’t make it to the F.R.O.G.
Incident as it simply doesn’t fit into the band’s context. Sometimes, as I
write the songs, it’s hard for me to see if a song fits or not. Also, sometimes
I think a song won’t fit and the guys love it and want to do. So I give them a
copy of everything I write.

With the chart, we can now all read it and play the song at the same time
whilst making the appropriate changes at the appropriate places.

Most musicians don’t work with charts, and I’ve only recently started doing
so myself. I regret not having used them before.

A chart is like a building plan of the song. Some musicians like a detailed
plan, that is, actual notes for all instruments. Most musicians you’ll play with
can’t read music so they don’t care. The musicians who can read, though,
should be able to get along quite nicely with a well-built chart.

First line is the title, second the songwriter’s name. At the bottom, always
put the copyright notice (e.g., © A-J Charron, 2001. Just in case someone
forgets their copy in the practice room or on the bus or what-not). In
between, sketch the song out.

Put the initial tempo and time signature. Then write down the chords to the
intro. In the margin, write “Intro”. Then, leave a space and write the first
verse (or chorus if this is how your song starts). You should basically write
the chords and perhaps the first line or so of lyrics to help situate them. A
good way of doing so is to write up a few measures using only chord
notations (see example). Leave a space and write the next part of the song
(verse, chorus, instrumental, etc). Always identify the section in the margin.

Also, always clearly mark time signatures and tempo changes.

The chart should not be more than a page long. This so that everybody
doesn’t have to stop halfway through the song to turn the page around…

Here is an example of a chart for one of my band’s (the F.R.O.G. Incident)

This is the title song from our upcoming album. It doesn’t have many tempo
or key changes. It’s six and a half minutes long and fits well within a page.
Of course, you don’t have to make your charts just like this one.

I did this one on the computer as I wanted it to be clear to show you just
what I meant, but, unless I’m working with Guitar Pro, I never write them up
on the computer. It’s quicker to doodle one and photocopy it after.
You don’t have to actually write the measures, you could, for example, write
“Fmaj7-1 measure, Dmadd9-1 measure, play twice. If this works for you
and your band, then go ahead. As long as everyone involved understands
what’s written, then that’s fine.

Using this method, you can bring a song into the band even if the guys
have never heard it before. Start playing it and they’ll be into it before you’re
halfway through it, and making the appropriate changes.

Favorite Songs
LAURA LASLEY Guitar Lessons The Other Side

Over the holidays, I was talking to one of the music teachers at the school
where my kids take their lessons. He teaches clarinet, saxophone, flute and
bass clarinet and he plays all of those instruments in the bands he’s been
in. One of the questions people always ask him is, “What’s your favorite
song?” His standard response is ” I don’t have one”. This is usually met with
some incredulous stare and the disbelief that a musician doesn’t have a
favorite song. We chuckled over his story, and had a wonderful discussion
about why he doesn’t have a particular favorite.

One of the beautiful things about playing an instrument is that it can voice
different moods. Different instruments also bring a certain flavor to the song
you are playing. Hearing something on a sax is different than a flute.
Certainly you get a different sound depending on the type of guitar you are
playing (classical, acoustic, electric, bass). Even the maker of your guitar
determines the sound you produce. The way an acoustic is crafted, from
the woods used, to the way the box is built, how the neck is set, these all
determine the sound of that guitar. For the electric, the guitar’s pickups,
neck and strings all affect the sounds. Then there are the many toys out
there beloved by guitar players trying to achieve a different sound. You’ve
got the Pod, which can give you a different amplifier sound depending on
how you set it up. And all those gizmos that allow you to sound like a
clarinet, sax or piano, if you like. And don’t forget that all these devices can
be used in various, seemingly endless, combinations. Playing the guitar is
endlessly challenging and stimulating; once you figure out what your own
“sound” is like, you can then choose to modify it with different instruments
or accoutrements.
Just as the guitar can voice different moods, so can your mood affect what
you want to play. When I’ve had a tough or sad day at work, I reach for the
acoustic, and start playing ‘comfort’ tunes. These are usually songs that I
know so well that I play and sing without looking at the music, or songs that
match the mood I’m in. There’s nothing like straight 12 bar blues to really
emote with. I can play or play with the blues riffs for hours. Other tunes I
love include James Taylor’s Fire and Rain. Even on my worst days, I can hit
all the chords and rhythms in order to express my emotion through that
song. Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide is another such classic for me, and hit’s
the spot almost every time. Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Almost
Home and Stones in the Road are both songs that I’m working on now to
get the rhythm, syncopation and vocals gelled. One of my standard comfort
tunes, Winter, is something I’ve been playing for the last 22 years. I learned
it on the piano first, and it’s mutated into an acoustic guitar piece for me.
The beauty of the song is that it’s a David Hodge original, so no one else
(except Hodge) knows how it’s “supposed” to sound. And Hodge lets me
play it any way I like, which again reflects the mood my brain and fingers
are in.
Some days I just want to rock out, and then I pick up the Strat to play good
old rock n’roll. Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love, Smash Mouth’s All
Star, Melissa Etheridge’s Bring Me Some Water, Beatles, The Who, or
Rolling Stones tunes come to mind. While I’ve been working on Stairway to
Heaven (who hasn’t?) almost exclusively on the acoustic, I note that it
sounds much closer to true on the electric. I actually prefer rocking out to
Melissa Etheridge on my acoustic, not my electric. Mellow or jumping tunes
can be played on either instrument, depending on the sound you want to
achieve, and, of course, the mood that you’re in. Of course, my argument is
that I really need an acoustic electric to achieve the Ovation type sound of
Ms. Etheridge. My family thinks I just want to own another guitar.
All instruments can be played solo or as a blend with other instruments
(same or different). A song you love playing in a group may lose some of its
punch or groove when playing solo. Or conversely, playing solo may bring a
different rhythm or approach to the same piece of music. The popularity of
MTV’s “Unplugged” demonstrates that the same song can sound quite
different yet be equally appealing. Songs can have a completely different
feel when played with others, or can be enhanced with the various layers of
other instruments. For instance, if you’ve listened to Landslide by
Fleetwood Mac, you can hear that the live version is recorded with a solo
guitar. The song is quite beautiful that way, but I’ve heard transformed into
a richer song with a second guitar. (In a gesture of shameless self-
promotion, see upcoming article by Lasley & Hodge on that very topic.)
There is something incredibly satisfying about playing with other musicians
in a jam situation (see our section on Jams). It’s marvelous, because you
don’t have to carry the entire rhythm and groove of the song on your own
shoulders. Somebody to Love is great solo, but is really great with everyone
in sync. Van Morrison’s Moondance is transformed with bass, saxophone
and drums.
Which brings me back to choosing a favorite song. I’m rather inclined to
agree with my music teacher buddy; I don’t have a favorite song. There are
so many great songs out there that it’s hard to choose. Plus, as the music
teacher and I discussed, it depends on what instrument you’re playing at
the time, and what mood you are in. My favorite song is usually the one I’m
currently working on. When you’ve sweated to figure out how to twist your
fingers into the chords required, then built on that to play the song with the
right speed and rhythm, then worked it to allow vocals in the right places,
and finally labored to fill the silences with some interesting riff or rhythm,
you have entered a love/hate relationship with the song. I become
obsessed with playing it over and over, and even then I can’t always
replicate the sound I want each time. The struggle and the resultant triumph
when the music becomes what you want to express is the joy of playing

I hope each of you finds lots of your own favorite songs with all of your
favorite instruments and continue to enjoy the pleasure of playing!

n.b. This column continues in a series dedicated to the female musician. As

always, I would love suggestions on topics you would like to see covered. If
you would like suggestions on how to play your favorite song, please email
me at or David Hodge at

Recording on a Budget
Part 1 – The
SCOTT HYSELL Guitar Lessons Home Recording Guitar

So, you’ve written and perfected a bunch of original songs, you’ve found a
bunch of guys that can actually play them, and you’re finally ready to lay
them down in a permanent form. Or maybe you just found a bunch of guys
that want to get together and play every old standard tune they ever heard,
and you need some sort of demo to give to club owners. Then again,
maybe you just want something tangible about your musical experience that
you can show to your grandkids someday. In other words, you’re ready to
make a formal recording of all that music you’ve been making. The problem
is, you’re probably worried or maybe even a little discouraged by the
potential costs involved, and you don’t know how you’re going to pull it off.
The truth is, depending on the quality and the quantity you want, a good
recording could just about clean out your bank account. It can be incredibly
expensive, but have no fear; it doesn’t have to be that way.

Step 1: Decisions,
The first thing you need to do when you’re ready to record is to decide why.
Seems simple, doesn’t it? On the surface, it is; but you need to remember
that your reasons for recording in the first place will greatly influence nearly
every aspect of the recording process, including the money. If you want a
recording intended for sale to the public, you will most likely need to go to a
studio and shell out some cash. However, for other purposes requiring a
little less perfection such as making a demo tape or making a keepsake for
yourself and your closest friends, a home recording can be just as satisfying
and a whole lot less expensive. Simply put, you can save a ton of money by
doing it yourself. In fact, buying the equipment needed to make a home
recording can easily cost less than paying for studio time to do only a
couple of songs. And best of all, you can use your equipment over and over
again until you’ve recorded and re-recorded everything and anything you
ever wanted.

Step 2: Take Inventory

Once you’ve bravely decided that you want to record your material on your
own, you need to do a realistic assessment of what equipment you already
have. Just walk into the practice room or (like in my case) all over the house
and look around. If you’ve been playing long enough to get to the point
where you’re ready to record, chances are you’ll already have a variety of
miscellaneous equipment lying around that can be useful. Many of the
things you’ll need won’t necessarily even be part of your band’s gigging
equipment. Just look to your home entertainment system, and you should
see a few helpful items. Don’t forget you’re doing this on a budget, so you
don’t want to overlook anything. For a basic idea of some things you’re
likely to need, check out the photo and list below:

Recording device for mixdown

 Cassette Deck

 Home Computer (DVD/CD Burner)

 Reel to Reel Tape Machine

 Mini Disc Recorder

 Multi-track recorder

 PA Equipment

 Effects Unit(s)

 Equalizer

 Mic stands

 Mixer

 Speakers

 Mics

 Cables (all kinds)

 Headphones
 Paper and Pencil

 Pillows, mattresses, sheets of plywood or Plexiglas

 Duct Tape (you always need duct tape)

The setup in the photo is about as basic as a recording setup should ever
get unless you’re planning to record something live directly to tape. Most of
the equipment is inexpensive, and most of it is really old (ever see a Roland
Space-Echo?), but I once used it to make a demo good enough to burn
onto a CD and distribute at shows. And the only cost (since I already owned
a Yamaha MT100 4-track recorder and a fair amount of PA equipment) was
the cost of a few blank cassette tapes.

After reading through the list of things needed to record, you may be
wondering why you need so many different recording devices. The truth is,
you don’t. You’ll only need one multi-track recorder and at least one other
recording device to complete the recording process, so use the best thing
you have. A DVD recorder would be great, but a cassette tape deck will do
the job if that’s all you’ve got. Again, you’re on a budget, so making do with
what you have is the name of the game. “Making do” is an art unto itself, so
don’t be afraid to be creative when coming up with the necessities. For
instance, for recording purposes anything can double as a mic stand. You
can use lamps, music stands, old drum stands, or even weird broom handle
contraptions held together with duct tape. Also, for budget purposes, a
home stereo EQ can be used to do the final mixdown. Don’t overlook those
cheaper mics either. They may have some usefulness when you’re trying to
track down enough mics to record the drums.

Step 3: Open the Wallet

(Just a little)
Chances are you’ve discovered you already have most of the equipment
you need in order to make your own recording. Your PA has provided most
of it, but you’re probably short one key piece of equipment, a multi-track
recorder. At this point, you have several choices you could make. Your
least expensive choice would be to find a friend who has one, and convince
him/her to let you borrow it or to help you make the recording. The main
advantage here is that either way, it ends up being free. The downside is
that you may have to deal with another voice in the decision making
process. Another choice is to find a music store that will rent you a good
recorder. The upside in this option is that you can probably get a much
larger more powerful unit than you would if you had to buy one. The down
side is that the longer it takes you to record, the more it will cost. The final
option is to buy the multi-track recorder yourself. The advantage here is that
you will be able to use it over and over at your leisure, and you will be able
to spend enough time with it to become an expert in its use. The major
disadvantage, as no doubt you’ve already guessed, is that it will cost
considerably more than the other options will. Of course, when you consider
that you may use it to record a whole lot of songs, in the long haul the
choice to buy your own multi-track machine can end up being the most cost
effective decision of all.

If you decide to buy, you will be faced with a very wide range of choices and
potential costs. At the time this article is being written, the American Music
Supply catalog lists analog 4-track recorders at around $300.00. On up the
scale, low-end digital 8-track recorders start at $400.00. Of course, the
prices go up and up from there. As usual, the more you pay, the more you
get, but even with a really inexpensive 4-track (combined with the
equipment listed above), you should be able to make a recording you’d be
proud to play for your family, friends, and even club owners. You need only
add one element – you.

Step 4: The Learning

The real key to recording on a budget is to learn as much as you can about
how the recording process works. Read everything you can about it, talk to
people who’ve recorded, and experiment a lot with your equipment. Some
of the digital stuff is fairly complicated to use, but the basic principles are
the same whether you’re using a huge and complex Roland VMBASIC72
digital recording system (over $6000.00) or a cassette tape Tascam
414mkll 4-track recorder (around $300.00). Keep at it, and don’t get
discouraged. Just like learning your instrument, you’ll get better at it the
more you do it. The best most expensive equipment in the world won’t
make good recordings if the person using it doesn’t know what he’s doing,
but lucky for you, a guy armed with the proper knowledge (and a little
ingenuity) can make great mixes on even the lowliest equipment. In part 2
two of this article, we’ll discuss some recording methods and techniques
that can help you do just that.
Playing the Guitar
While Singing – (Or
Singing while Playing
the Guitar)
A-J CHARRON Guitar Lessons Singing and Playing Guitar

A lot of bands have a lead vocalist who also plays an instrument. You listen
to a live album from them and you hear the instrument performed to
perfection and wonder how they do it. You’ve tried to sing while playing
your guitar and have discovered that it’s not an easy thing to do.

Reality check: most live albums you listen to are not really live. A live
recording is used, then the instruments are dubbed in the studio. Meaning
that a guitar track that’s not as full as the guitarist or producer would like,
will be re-recorded in the studio. This goes for all instruments and voices,
so that the end result is an album that’s not really live. Over 95% of live
albums are done this way.

I know of some that are really the live product, these would include all live
albums by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Steve Hackett and the Rolling
Stones. These ones are plainly obvious as you can hear the mistakes that
are made. Let’s face it: everyone makes mistakes live, even the best. There
are certainly more than the ones mentioned here, but remember that most
are not live.
So, by listening to live albums and trying to perform the songs yourself the
same way, you wonder why it is you can’t play a complicated solo while
singing. Often this can lead to doubting your own abilities. It shouldn’t.

A year or two ago I read an interview in Canadian Musician with Geddy Lee
(Bass and lead vocals for Rush). Geddy was talking about just this point.
He mentioned that first of all, once the album was recorded, the guys took
two weeks off to learn the songs. And learn to play them live. This is
because, on a studio recording, you might have five guitar tracks in a song.
Unless you have five guitarists on stage, you won’t be able to reproduce
this live. What you need to do is create one track which is playable for one
guitarist. And then adapt it to vocals.

As a bass player, Geddy was explaining that it was very difficult to play
bass and sing at the same time. It would be sort of like playing a solo while
singing, you can easily imagine the difficulties involved. So, he resorted to
playing, essentially, chord lines while singing.

There are some musicians, although extremely rare, who can play a solo
like Jimmy Paige, and sing something entirely unrelated at the same time. If
you watch Pendragon’s video Live at Last, it’s amazing to see Nick Barrett
soloing and singing at the same time. But, as I said, people like this are
The first thing to do, whether you are playing your own song or someone
else’s is to adapt the guitar track to the voice. Meaning, no solos while
you’re singing. Also watch out for picking. You may not, in certain
instances, be able to pick and sing simultaneously.

Suppose your picking is played in full times: 4 notes per measure in a 4/4.
Now suppose your vocal line has five syllables (for singing, always think in
terms of syllables). This means that you will have to sing five notes in that
measure while picking four notes on the guitar. Once is no big deal, but if
you’re picking 18 measures like this while never singing 4 syllables in a
measure, you will be running into trouble. Depending on your abilities, it
may or may not be done. You can adjust this by changing the picking
pattern. It could mean turning a finger-picking into a pick-picking or vice-
versa. It could meant the addition or subtraction of a not in the picking line.

If you’re using a distortion guitar, then you can make use of punches while
singing. Instead of playing a steady rhythm, you can hit the chords only
once, on the first beat and let it fade by itself. This is fairly simple and can
add a lot of power to a song or a part of a song.

Also very important is to know your drummer well. I remember one situation
where we were trying out a new drummer. He insisted on playing everything
in 4/4 while letting me play my 3/4s and 6/8s through his beats. It works, but
it’s an added difficulty. Playing with a new drummer takes a lot of getting
use to. It can take a few weeks before you fall into synch with him when
you’re playing an instrument and singing. This guy told me to start counting
the beats. So I’m playing the guitar and singing and I should be counting?
All at the same time? I told him to get lost.

This is to illustrate a point: you can do two things at once, but doing a third
one is nearly impossible. What you have to do is learn to play without
counting or tapping your foot. You need to get your playing completely in
tune with what the drummer is doing. You’ll realize after a time that if he
makes a mistake, you’ll be making the same mistake. But that’s cool,
because if he makes a mistake live, people are less susceptible to notice it.
And you should not be making any timing mistakes this way. Remember
that, first and foremost, your drummer is there to count for you. Practice
playing your guitar with him as much as possible.

So, you’re basically laying your guitar track on his drum track. Then you lay
your vocal track on the guitar track which has been previously adapted to
the vocals, I know it sounds funny, but that’s the way to do it. Once you’re
playing your guitar track without thinking about such things as counting,
you’ll be better able to sing.

A mistake most beginners make is to expect their live product to sound

close to the original. If a song has been recorded using 16 tracks, there’s no
way you can reproduce this with four musicians. Everyone would have to be
playing four instruments at the same time. The trick is to do the most you
can with what you have. Four musicians means four tracks, plus a sixth for

Also, remember that most people record their albums before having played
the songs with their bands. Meaning that everybody learns the song while in
the studio, usually, without playing together. The guitarist who is also lead
vocalist can play anything he wants as he’s not singing at the same time.

Once an album is complete, everyone goes home and learns their parts for
the live show. That’s how it’s normally done and that’s how you should do it

If you will be playing a cover song, it’s OK to learn the actual guitar tracks,
but it’s better if you don’t. See what’s happening and figure how you can do
this live. If in an instrumental section you have a rhythm guitar happening
and a solo, you obviously can’t play both at the same time. If you have a
keyboard player, then the two of you should work at exchanging solos and
rhythm patterns. If you don’t then the bass player should cover as much
chord territory as is possible while you’re playing a solo.

The same goes for singing. You can’t play as much as would like, so the
other musicians in the band should cover your guitar parts as much as
possible so that the song doesn’t sound too empty.

Of course, and I know I’ve said this a lot in the past, but it’s a simple fact
that the more you do it, the better you’ll g

Moving On Up
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Guitar Columns by David Hodge, How to Play Guitar

Let’s get serious and take a long look at a question we get asked a lot how
to take the next step in becoming a better guitarist. It doesn’t matter if you
are a beginner or an intermediate or even an experienced player, we all
want to improve on the skills that we have. And as I’ve said before,
sometimes the quickest way to improve is to simply be aware of what you
already know.

Here at Guitar Noise we’re always up for an ambitious undertaking. Over

the next number of columns we’ll be examining the basic chord and
fretboard theory that we already know and then use it to take that next step
in playing. You’ll find how easy the concept of “moveable chords” can be
and also learn your basic lead scales. We’ll then examine how these two
techniques are used to come up with simple “tricks” to create fills, riffs and
leads. We will not only analyze other guitarists’ leads, we’ll also come up
with some of our own.

To make matters even more interesting, these columns will crossover with
the upcoming lessons on both the beginners’ and intermediates’ pages.
And that’s not to mention a few surprise columns (and co-authored pieces)
that some of you have been clamoring for.

So let’s hunker down and have some fun. To paraphrase our Performance
phrase, “Come on in and play!”
And, lest we forget:

These files are the author’s own work and represents his interpretation of
this song. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or

Some of this initial stuff we have touched upon before. If you’re so inclined
you might want to reread (or read for the first time) either Theory Without
Tears or The Power of Three. If you’re really ambitious and want a little
taste of what we’ll be exploring, then also read Multiple Personality
Disorder. Just please do me a favor and make certain you know two things
before we move on: the fact that all chords start out with a triad of root, third
and fifth and the difference between a major and a minor chord. Are we
cool with that? Whether you like it or not, in order to improve you have to
learn something…
To me, in all seriousness, here is the difference between a beginner and an

An intermediate guitarist is one that has started to think for his or herself.

He or she makes observations and then experiments in coming up with new

things. It doesn’t matter if it’s as easy as a change in a strumming pattern,
playing a Dsus4 instead of a D or playing a riff learned from one song
during a different song because it has the same chord progression as the
first. Whether this guitarist realizes it or not, she/he has taken the first steps
toward developing a personal style.

Think about this: what makes a guitarist “good” or even just “interesting?”
Often it is the little touches being thrown in here and there. A good guitarist
makes the simple things interesting. He or she comes up with ways to make
you want to listen to things. It may be nothing more than playing one chord
in a different place on the fretboard, which is what today’s lesson is all
about. I want you to forget about everything but the first three strings of your
guitar. What we want to do is to look at the six basic chord shapes that
occur on these strings.

Okay, we know that the two most basic kinds of chords are the major chord
and the minor chord. We also know that they both are constructed by using
the root, third and fifth of their respective scales or by starting with the root
and stacking the correct thirds onto each other. Are you with me on this?
Now let’s think logically for a minute. If we want to play a chord that has
three notes on three strings of the guitar, it stands to reason that each string
has to have one note of the triad, correct? If the root is on one string, then
the third and the fifth need to be on the other strings. That seems
reasonable. We can also come to another conclusion – if we have each
note on one string, then we will have three possible ways to play chord.
These will be based on upon which string we’ve placed the root:

Remember that even though we have three (as yet unknown) shapes, we
will have two forms of each shape – one for the major chord and one for the
minor. But because you already know the diffence between a major an a
minor chord is in the third (the root and fifth are still the same), you’ll see
that there’s not all that much difference between the two forms of each

The really cool thing is that you already know these shapes! You just may
not realize that this knowledge is already in your mind and in your fingers!

Form 1 – “the E Shape”

What do you, personally, know about your guitar? Do you just make the
chords according to the TAB or charts and think, “I know how to make a D
chord!” or do you also take the time to know what notes make up that
chord? A lot of people think that music theory is hard, but most of it, the
stuff that can make you a better guitarist, has always been right at your

Think about the simplest chords you know, the ones we call “first position”
since they usually involve the use of open strings and are formed close to
the nut of the guitar. Which of these chords have the root on the first string?
Most likely, you can think of two: G and E. Maybe you thought of Em or F
as well. Now let’s look at these chords and remember that, for today at
least, we are only concerned with the notes on the first three strings:
You can see that, of these chords, the G major (in the first two forms) will
not suit our purpose because it contains only two of the three notes of the
chord on the first three strings. Depending on the variation you use, you will
have either G, B, G (two roots and a third) or G, D, G (two roots and the
fifth). But the G in its barre chord form as well as the first position E, Em
and F work fine. These chords all have a root, third and fifth each on a
separate string. I call these “E Shape” chords. Here are the major and
minor forms of this shape and we’ve taken the trouble to show you where
the root (R), 3rd and 5th are:

Those of you familiar with barre chords will recognize them as the top half
of E major and E minor styled barre chords (and if you want to see a chart
of those, you can find one in the column But Then Again…).
These chords, or more precisely, notes taken from these chord shapes, are
used to do a lot of leads and fills, especially when changing from V to I or I
to IV in music. Here is an example from the chorus of Van Morrison’s Wild
Even though this fill is played only on the E and G strings, the E Shape
chords of D, C, Bm and Am are what makes it work. When playing a run
like this, I find it easiest to anchor your middle finger on the G string. This
way I can use my index finger for the E string on the major chords (D and C
here) and my ring finger for the minor chords (Bm and Am). By minimizing
my hand movement I get both smoothness and speed.

Form 2 – “the D Shape”

Now let’s find some chords with their roots on the B (2nd) string. D, Dm and
C fit the bill nicely:
To me, a C is a D shape chord. You’ve simply run out of room on the neck
of the guitar! Anyway, here are your D Shapes for anywhere on the neck:

In the intro of the Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses, you can hear the lead guitar
using notes on the E and B strings that have been derived from the D

Again, it’s really important to remember that all these shapes have both a
major and a minor form. That’s why there’s a total of six of them. In this
short lead line, we use the minor shape to get the two notes in the Bm and
Am chords and then revert back to the major shape for the G. Here, since
we are only using two strings, I find it easier to use the same fingers for
each shape – the middle finger on the B string and the index finger for the

A lot of people like to use D shape chords. Here is the introduction to The
End Of The Line by the Travelling Wilburys:

Notice how in the last phrase, we use chords in both the D shape (G, A and
the final D) and the E shape (the first D and the Em) to climb up the scale. If
your guitar doesn’t have a cutaway and that last D shape is hard to reach,
do what I do and use the E shape D instead. It still sounds fine, especially
on a twelve string.

Also, on this particular example you can use your open D and A strings to
serve as a drone. The D shape lends itself nicely to this, particularly if
you’re playing in the key of D or D minor.

Form 3 – “the A Shape”

The final shape has the root of the chord on the third (G) string. A and Am
are the chords you probably already use with this shape:
Remember that when you slide this up the fretboard, you have to account
for the open E string by placing your finger on it at the proper place, like

Probably the best known use of A shaped chords is in Stairway To Heaven.

This takes place in the “…and it makes me wonder…” interludes:

This starts out with typical first position chords but then the final four chords
of the progression are played up the neck. The G is a D shape and the D
and C are done with the A shape.

And finally, just to give you more to think about, here, in Supertramp’s Even
In The Quietest Moments, you can see all of these shapes in use:
And if you want to see a other good examples of the use of these chord
shapes, check out the next Easy Songs For Beginners lesson, Love The
One You’re With. And the upcoming song on the Intermediate’s Page,
Supertramp’s Give A Little Bit, explores this technique with even more
depth. I hope that you will check out these lessons and see exactly where
and how you can use these moveable chord shapes to improving your own
playing. Whether you are looking for a way to come up with the same chord
voicings you hear on a recording or looking to make an arrangement of a
song, whether you are trying to come up with a little riff or fill or even just
use an old chord in a new way, these three shapes will give a place to start
learning more about how to improve your playing.
Now it’s good to point out that when you use just parts of these shapes, you
can blur the distinction between them. For instance, in the earlier example
Wild Night, I could say that the chord progression D, C, Bm, Am (all in E
shape) might just as easily be D (E shape), C (E shape), G (D shape), F (D
shape). If you noticed this then pat yourself on the back – you’re starting to
think. The fun of theory is seeing how different chords relate to each other.
After all, changing one of the three note of one chord gives you a different
chord. This is one of the many things that we will be looking at as we
expand upon this topic, but for now, I think we’ll stop here to take in all that
we’ve learned.

Whether you know it or not, you now have a really good reason to learn
where the notes on your fretboard are. Not to mention learning the notes
that go into a particular chord. Don’t go crazy thinking that you have to learn
every note first. Simply take the time to reflect on what you are doing. Take
the chords that you use most often – G, D, C, E, A, Bm and such and learn
where they are using each of the three shapes. Here’s Bm. for example:

Learn one a week if that’s the easiest way for you. Write out the ones you
use a lot – it’ll help them stick in your mind if you figure them out yourself.
And, believe me, you’ll learn it a lot quicker if you use it in a song that you
play a lot. Take Margaritaville or one of the other lessons on the Easy
Songs For Beginners page. You’ll be surprised how quickly it comes to you
when you use it for real instead of just thinking about it.
As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments,
concerns or topics you’d like to see discussed in future columns. You can
either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email me directly at
Until next time (and always)…

Landslide – Fleetwood
LAURA LASLEY Guitar Lessons Easy Guitar Songs, Guitar Song Arrangements, The
Other Side

One of my favorite songs is Landslide, which was written by Stevie Nicks

when she was with Fleetwood Mac. When I first got the Guild, I bought a
Fleetwood Mac songbook and attempted to learn the song. I was
discouraged by the chords that were written out, and was unsuccessful at
deciphering the box code. The first few lines looked like this:

 Using a Capo
 Revisiting The Capo
 More easy guitar songs
At that point in my life I was more a pianist than a guitarist and when I saw
Eb, Bb, Cm in the notation, I thought, “Forget this!” So I tucked the song in
the back of my head, and when I began to take lessons, I begged my
teacher to help me with the song. It turns out that this is a very simply
song…if you use a capo! For those of you who don’t know what a capo is, it
is a wonderful device that let’s you change the key without changing the
chords (see The Underappreciated Art Of Using A Capo). The chords are
really quite simple; they are C, G/B, Am, G/B, with that pattern repeating
over and over again throughout the “verses.” Then there is this little bridge
where she sings, “Well, I’ve been afraid of changing”. Luckily, it’s a very
little bridge and the chords are mostly simple, thanks to our friend Mr. Capo.
G, D/F#, Em and then you plunge right back into the C, G/B, Am, G/B
pattern. So here it is:
In addition to learning the chords for Landslide, I was challenged to learn a
picking pattern for my right hand. Over time, I’ve found that I have modified
the pattern I was taught (which mimics the album). I was pleased to
discover that the song still is true, even with a slightly different pattern. It’s
evolved into something easy to play, and great to sing with.
To play along with the recording, you want to put your capo on the third fret,
but I use the capo on the 4th fret (making the song in E instead of Eb) to fit
my vocal range. The pattern that my guitar teacher wrote out for me is as
I ended up changing the pattern to something that my brain and fingers
could actually replicate comfortably and allowed me to sing as I played. I
also tend not to repeat the lower notes, as my singing voice is on the low
side. What I actually play is:
“Landslide” was one of Stevie Nicks’ first writing contributions to Fleetwood
Mac, first appearing on their 1975 self-titled album. Nicks said she wrote the
song in Aspen, Colorado while trying decide whether or not to go back to
school or continue working as part of Fleetwood Mac. The lyrics use a
metaphor of the physical world to powerfully describe the author’s feelings
of things crashing down in her personal life.

While most listeners are familiar with the popular Dixie Chicks cover version
from 2002 – “Landslide” was also recorded by The Smashing Pumpkins as
the B-side of their big hit “Disarm” in 1994.

On the “bridge” section of the song, when I play the pattern for the Em
chord, I tend to play the B (second string, second fret) instead of the double
octave (lowest Em) because it sounds good to me. Part of making a song
your own is sorting out the different melodies and harmonies in your head
and playing what feels right to you, in the space you have for the note.
There is no wrong way to play the pattern, within the chord. The joy of
learning Landslide is that there are many different finger style patterns that
fit the basic feel of the song. Experimenting with what feels and sounds
good to you is part of the fun of playing. I’ve noticed that how I play the
song has changed over time, and that occasionally hitting the high E (1st )
string brings some higher note harmonies into the picking pattern. Although
I try to be consistent, I do occasionally change the picking pattern to suit my
I’ve been playing Landslide solo for years. One of the reasons I took up the
guitar is so I’d have another instrument besides the piano to accompany my
vocals. The song is amazing, as I never get tired of playing or singing it.
One day I had occasion to be in David Hodge’s house, with guitars in both
of our hands. He lives 1000 miles away, so this doesn’t happen as often as
I would like. I started to play Landslide, which David knows is a standard for
me, and he surprised me by playing the most beautiful counterpoint to my
now standard picking pattern. I was thrilled at how wonderful the song
sounded with the second guitar.

My own guitar playing has been a matter of two philosophies – keep things
simple and try to bring a different voice to the proceedings. Since Landslide
is a fairly uncomplicated song, I wanted to add to Laura’s pattern without
detracting from either it or her vocals. This was best accomplished by
mimicking her pattern but overlaying it with higher voicings. Since her
pattern never ventured to the first (high E) string, I put the “melody” of
pattern there and let it rise as the vocal melody fell.
You can hear how my part emphasizes different notes than Laura’s pattern
but holds the same rhythm. In essence, it sounds like someone is playing
an impossible-to-finger chord pattern on one guitar. Here I use my thumb
and middle finger to pluck the opening notes while my index finger plays the
B string on the offbeat and my thumb plays the G string on the second and
fourth beats.
Since Laura played her bass note only on the first beat, I also threw in an
additional one (again with the thumb while the middle finger plays the high
note) on the third beat. On the first G chord I use the open D string as the
bass note on first beat (while Laura played the B note on the A string) and
then the G note on the low E for the third beat. The Am chord becomes a
half-barre chord on the fifth fret (I usually use my ring finger for this). I also
used an alternating bass line on this measure, playing the open low E on
the third beat.
Since, for the most part, there were no vocals during the last measure I
threw in a little fill to add some movement to the music. It’s not very fancy,
just a descending scale from B to F, which leads to the open high E that
starts the pattern. The open G string serves as a pedal point to keep the
illusion of the single guitar going. From time to time, depending solely on
my mood, I would vary this last measure slightly by breaking up the rhythm
of the descending notes like this:

On this last measure, the initial stretch might be a little much, but since it is
high up on the neck (with the capo on the fourth fret, this is actually played
on the seventh and eleventh frets) it is not as difficult as you might think.
Back to you, Laura…
Thanks to one of our faithful readers for suggesting this song as a topic. I
hope you enjoy this song as David and I have, both individually and as a
duet. Have fun with it!

n.b. This column continues in a series dedicated to the female musician. As

always, I would love suggestions on topics you would like to see covered. If
you would like to suggest another song for a lesson, please email me at or David Hodge at

So You Want to Play

Guitar, huh?
ALAN HORVATH Guitar Lessons Tips on Learning to Play Guitar

Let the lessons begin …

Whether you are really serious about becoming an accomplished
professional, or just want to play for fun … if acoustic guitar techniques are
what you’re after, this site can bring you some information that you may not
be able to find anywhere else. I say that because I play in a style all my own
… and also, because my focus has been on acoustic instruments — and
only acoustic instruments — for more than 3 decades. I don’t mean to brag
… I personally don’t consider myself much of a “guitarist” or “musician” —
though I’ve received high praise from some of the best … it’s just that I
don’t think much about the mechanics behind guitar techniques, or about
the music theory behind the glory of a particular riff … I just like to play.

Basically put, I’m not one for imitating others. No big deal … I’m not putting
the idea down … I just happen to prefer interpretation over impersonation.
The only time I ever wanted to play a song EXACTLY the way I heard it,
involved a song by Leslie West (Mountain) … it was in an open tuning … it
was an instrumental … it was 1970 … and it was one of the most
complicated pieces I’d ever heard. I don’t remember the name of the song,
but it wouldn’t be hard to find — it’s the only acoustic instrumental to be
found on any of Mountain’s albums, as far as I know. I kind of wanted to
prove to myself that I could pull off the “musician” thing and play, note for
note, exactly as Leslie did. And I did. It took me about 3 days. Bravo,

How I Started …
I started playing when I was 12 or 13, using a standard tuning …
E.A.D.G.B.E — and my first 8 hours of playing involved me writing my first
song, too. It was rather on the involuntary side, and I didn’t have a clue
about what I was doing! I just strummed the top 3 strings (…G.B.E) while I
placed my index finger on the 1st string/3rd fret … strum a little … then, the
2nd string/1st fret … strum a little … etc., etc. It was really quite silly, but
nonetheless, I had a great time! And, I wrote a beautiful song about Janet
Kinlin … titled “Four O’Clock Blues” — mostly ’cause it was 4 a.m., and we
had just broken up.

Next thing I did was buy some song books — Bob Dylan … Joni Mitchell …
and some obscure old Blues stuff, with songs by guys with funny names
like Muddy Waters and Lead Belly — where I learned some really cool
techniques, like “hammering on” and “pulling off.” But the reason I bought
them was the “pictures” of chord fingerings that were placed above the
lyrics — right where the chord changes occurred. That made a lot of sense
to me. You’re familiar with those “pictures” right? … the ones that look like
When The Student Is
Ready, The Teacher Will
It’s funny how you always wind up talking to another musician who has the
answers to the questions you’ve most recently been carrying around with
you. I met a guy at Rutgers University once, who played like a god! A true
“musicians’ musician.” He played his guitar in a wheelchair … and he was
missing TWO fingers on his LEFT hand! … think about THAT and then just
TRY to complain about the five you’re sporting! I could write a book (as the
saying goes) about the musicians who’ve captivated me in such significant
ways. But, I guess my point is, there are no obstacles but yourself … and
your next “lesson” is *usually* staring you right in the face.

I had teachers of another sort, too … from some really cool TV shows on
“educational TV” … Channel 13 in New Jersey (“the 7th channel” — we’re
talkin’ 1966, ’67, ’68) … Pete Seeger had a show — I remember seeing a
very young Dylan on that show, talking about playing and writing. Andres
Segovia had a show too, or made appearances on a show, that taught
classical guitar — I watched that one religiously! And lastly, I remember a
girl who taped a show out at KCET, in Los Angeles — I think her name was
Laura Weber — she had a sort of mischievous smile … and taught folk,
rock, and blues guitar techniques. Man, I learned a lot from her!

If the idea of formal, structured lessons turns you off … as it does me …

you can conduct your own concentrated search for the “bearers of
information” that God will surely send your way. Whether it’s through a
website, a television show, an instructional video, or best of all, a player
who is more advanced than you are … your next step up the ladder of
learning shouldn’t be too hard to find.

I met a most wonderful artist years ago … Ronnie Ostrow. Ronnie was very
actively teaching fingerstyle guitar and performing his original songs in the
New York/New Jersey area, with a rather large following. We were good
friends and spent a lot of quality time together. One day he picked up his
guitar and played the most amazing song I had *ever* heard him play … I
mean, I was slayed! I said, “WHEN did you write that, Ronnie?!!” And he
replied, “Just now…” with that very special ex-Trapist-Monk grin of his. And
then he went on to make a very interesting statement … he said, “Alan, how
would you like it if I decided to teach you absolutely everything I know about
being an artist?” I said, “Man … I would cherish it!” And he immediately
replied, “Okay, I want you to be here every Thursday at exactly 2 p.m. …
and if you are ever even one minute late the whole deal is off. … NOW,
how do you feel about it?” I said, “Like crap!” He put his guitar down with
that same grin and said, “Let’s go get us a cup of coffee.” He sure knew
how to make a point!

I Took Guitar Lessons …

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a strong distaste for
anything that portends to be “written in stone” … i.e. schools … organized
religion … clubs, fraternities, and cults … rules and regulations, and those
(especially) who think they have the right to impose such on others. In my
world, there is no set way of doing anything. All things are possible with
God … and all things are *not* possible with Mr. Schoolhead, Ms.
Diploma.equals.success, and certainly not with Cap’t. I. M.
Heretobustyerass! So … I’d rather hang with God. To me, that means
finding your very own path through these woods we call Life. And even
though it’s most popular, looks safer, is all lighted up, and cuts right through
the woods, that big well-traveled highway also keeps you from knowing the
woods at all. Usually, I get just close enough to see what’s happenin’ there,
and head straight back towards the thicket! Does that make any sense to
you? If it does … well … good luck. :o)

Very understanding of my nature, my dad knew I liked to carve my own way

through things, and made sure I at least made the attempt of giving lessons
a try -“If you don’t like it, that’s okay …” he said, “… but at least give it a
shot, eh?” And so I did. I told my teacher I wanted to learn to play rhythm
guitar, and he started teaching me to play something that sounded like
“Mary Had A Little Lamb” — on the high E-string! Hello? Anyway, I tried to
push this guy’s envelope and it ripped, so I told dad to save his hard-earned
cash. He was cool. He was always cool.
My desire was so strong that you couldn’t stop me from learning if you tried!
What else is there but desire? Can anyone teach you without it? Well, I’m
assuming since you’re here, you’re of the same cut … and are here, looking
for ways of learning some stuff on your own.

I have nothing against accredited schools or instruction, mind you … but, I

certainly think it can get more attention than it deserves. A lot of musicians
have been discouraged from playing at all by taking that route, and many
others are playing with all the technical skill anyone could ever want, while
boring people to death for want of some heart.

Amateur or Pro?
From Day One, I was playing six to eight hours a day … maybe more. It
was all I thought about! In a year’s time, I began teaching stuff to the older
guys who originally taught me some of the ropes. And after two years, I won
2nd Prize at the local 4-H Fair — a handmade classical Garcia guitar with a
hardshell case — (1st Prize went to a folk-trio; a phatter Garcia). And it
wasn’t long after that, I was playing original songs at open mic nights at
local clubs and coffee houses. If you are going to become a pro player,
that’s how you’ll know — you won’t have time for anything else. Period.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself picking away at it for an hour here,
and an hour there, my guess is you won’t be going pro with your efforts. But
hey! What’s wrong with that? At least you know you won’t be starving to
death most of your life … or experiencing the great, unbelievably painful
and unbearable levels of frustration that God has reserved solely for his
beloved “artists.” You can live a normal, happy life and have lots of fun
being in the spotlight at all the parties … and instead of developing work-a-
day-willie ulcers, you can avoid such anxieties through the wonderfully
healing experience of self expression.

Either way, if you want to be good, you’ll have to be persistent about it.

Where Do I Begin?
Right here. By doing just what you are doing.
But, first of all, learn how to tune your guitar will ya? :o) Most of the guitars I
pick up that belong to “beginners” are so far out of tune, I’m sure they’ve
made no progress. You certainly can not enjoy playing chords that aren’t

Learn to know when the pitch is sharp or flat … take some time to twist a
tuning peg around and listen to a note move to the flat or sharp zone so you
become familiar with which is which. Do this by fretting the D (4th) string at
the 5th fret and playing a G note, while you twist the G (3rd) string above
proper pitch … then down to match the exact pitch … then below it … and
back up again. Do this a million times.

Also, join some discussion groups … ask questions — there’s no such thing
as a stupid question — you’ll be surprised to learn how eager other players
are to help you. My favorites are and … check them out – you’ll see me

Purchasing A Guitar…
My advice is: Forget what you think you know, and what you think you don’t
know; make a written list of every music store within a 30-mile radius of
your home; don’t bring any money with you; visit each and every guitar
retailer you found; play everything you see that represents the kind of axe
you want (probably 2-5 guitars per shop); center yourself as you play each
one; notice how you feel … physically; notice how you feel … emotionally;
LISTEN to the instrument! Is it happy? Is it gutsy? Does it have the “voice”
you thought it would? If it doesn’t, then move on. Use your head … and use
your heart. When you have finished taking your inventory, there will be one
guitar that you just can’t get out of your head. That’s the one! Problem now
is, you also know how much it’s gonna cost you. Don’t be fooled though –
the last time I did it, I found my Washburn … and it was literally half the
price I would’ve willingly paid for it! Stuff like that always happens to me. I
think if you go out there LOOKING for a hidden treasure, you’re likely to find

Okay? Okay. Here’s lesson number one — It’s a very crucial part of your
kick … I know – you just want to fly off with big, beautiful wings and have
your way with the sky! Man! What else is there?! And you feel that way
because you KNOW that sky is yours! But the funny part is, before you can
be so free, you’ve got to wear some chains … in order to understand
something of the weight and the laws of gravity. Tame the flesh … free the

It is through discipline
itself, that freedom is born

The early basics — like, “learning to tune your guitar” … or, it’s evil twin,
“learning to play in time” (don’t worry about the “evil twin” right now; that
comes after you begin switching chords and playing progressions) — can
require what seems to be an overwhelming amount of discipline! These
excercises can become monumentally boring in a very short span of time!
So rather than beat yourself into the ground, creating a negative experience
out of what should be an enjoyable one, I suggest you pace yourself.

Break your sessions up into three or four 45-minute workouts a day …

broken up by 30-minute (minimum) respites … do something else, and do it
in a different place; go out for an hour or two and come back refreshed, and
you’ll more than double your learning curve! You should become a
proficient guitar tuner in a few days … displaying an intermediate ability in a
few months … and as good as you’ll ever be in a year or so.

One final note: Learn to play one song at a time. Pick a song that is
very,very important to you, and play it over and over again – until you’ve
ironed out every kink you can find. I’d much rather hear someone who can
only play one song, but make me go, “Wo!! Way to go!!!” … than to hear
someone who knows a kazillion songs, and it’s like, “er, well, kinda, but not
really! … thanks for wasting my time.” You know what I mean.

Remember that bit (above) about “Flesh & Spirit”? Well, it’s the flesh that
requires the discipline … mostly so that “it” will perform it’s task without
further supervision … THEN the spirit may fly! For example, I write a new
song and in the first 48 hours I’m entrenched with it. I play it and sing it
probably sixty to a hundred times a day – the first day or two, anyway. I’m
getting to know how it moves … from the first measure to the last …
memorizing … familiarizing … falling in love with it’s movements … moving
it into my being, until I’m not thinking OF it … but FROM it. Then — when I
know that song so well that I don’t need to be conscious of it’s movements
anymore, I am suddenly able to find it’s “perfect performance” …

Now, that having been said, let’s see you get to work! __ ; – P __ I’ll see ya

HANS FAHLING Guitar Lessons Jazz Guitar Lessons

If you’ve heard of arpeggios, you have probably wondered how they could
possibly be used for improvising on the guitar?! This column talks about the
use of chord tone structures as a grid for progressively adding the in-
between elements, such as passing tones, bebop sequences and many
more important musical building blocks of improv. We will illustrate how
modes are arrived at in the context of chromaticism, metric control, and
bebop scales.

Let’s take a modal chord progression and progressively layer the tools we
will need to create to get to those above-mentioned in-between elements.
Here is a chord progression taken from Coltrane’s Impressions:
||—- 16 bars of Dm7 —||— 8 bars of Ebm7 —||— 8 bars of Dm7 —||
Let’s examine the first of the two chords: Dm7; here’s the arpeggio at the
fifth position (that is, starting at the fifth fret on the neck):

In a different layout (root on 5th string, 5th position):

Looking at the “partials,” the notes that make up this chord, we have
the root (D – all of which are circled on the fret chart), the b3 (F), the 5(A),
and the b7 (C). These are arranged in a range of just over two octaves with
the lowest note being a fifth and the top note a seventh.
Practice this form on the guitar for a few moments, starting at first very
slowly on the lowest root, playing to the top note, back down to the lowest
note, and back up to the root. Always use alternate picking! It helps to
realize that this is the same as a D minor pentatonic scale with the fourth
(G) omitted.
Once this gets easier after a few minutes (or however long it takes to
practice to the point of the arpeggio becoming automatic in your
movement), play a Dm7 chord voicing before and after you play the
arpeggio; this is helpful, because it creates a reference point to something
familiar. Start the arpeggio now on not only the root, but the other partials
(third, fifth, or seventh) as well.

With chord tones you are able to truly reflect the sound of the changes in a
tune. The notes in-between give you options as to how to color your lines.
Notice how the chord tones (boxed) in the illustration below fall on
the strong beats (1, 2, 3 ,4 ) and the passing tones on the weak beats; also,
the passing tones in this ascending line approach the chord tones by half
steps, practically functioning as leading tones to the chord tones.

Practice this approach now in similar fashion: Slowly from the lowest to the
highest notes in this position; make sure to play the notes of the arpeggio
(the boxed chord tones) with down strokes, and the passing tones
with upstrokes. It is amazing how fast you can get at playing this type of
phrase with alternate picking – but take several days to slowly build speed;
start the phrases on different notes – down beats as well as up beats, but
be aware of metric placement:
The most common choice for the downward movement is the use of
the Dorian scale (add major 7th) as illustrated blow:

In some circumstances, the following scales [with differences to dorian

indicated] need/can to be used:

 Aeolian (add major 7th) [step 6 is minor]

 Phrygian (add major 7th) [steps 2 and 6 are minor]
 Melodic Minor [a special case that will be discussed in the following]
It will take a bit of time and practice to assimilate the elements illustrated
above. But it will be very rewarding to then move on to the application part
with taking a play-along track (self-made or a recording of So What by Miles
Davis or the song Impressions by John Coltrane) or with a musician friend,
and to try a few improv techniques.
Briefly apply the same practice steps to Ebm7 by moving everything up one
half step. Then play along with the music using the elements elaborated on;
make sure to change after 16 bars to Ebm7 – the arpeggio, the passing
tone layout, the resulting Dorian bebop scale.

Take time to get used to the new tools, and focus on the metric placement
of the notes. You will notice how your consistent practice with careful regard
to up and down strokes has paid off by giving you control over what notes
to play when. The important chord tones will reflect the changes in your
playing, enabling you to resolve your lines carefully and true to the
harmonic background. With consistent practice this metric control will be
accompanied by astonishing facility and speed and greatly improve your
alternate picking.
Love The One You’re
With – Stephen Stills
DAVID HODGE Guitar Lessons Easy Guitar Songs, Guitar Strumming Lessons

I am hoping that some of you have read my last column, Moving On Up. In
today’s lesson, yet another (very) old chestnut from the early seventies,
we’ll be seeing practical applications of the chord shapes learned there. For
good measure, we’ll toss in a few (very) easy fills and then also look at how
we’d play it in Drop D tuning. Sound okay?
Shall we also get the other “usual” stuff out of the. way as well? Yes, there
are (many) other ways to play this song. Yes, I’m sure that this will cause
lots of people to exclaim, “That’s not the right way!!” Yes, I still don’t care
about all that. As I said just a paragraph or so ago, this lesson is meant to
show you a way to use moveable chords so that you can go on to use them

This is from one of Stephen Stills’ early solo works. Possibly his first but I
cannot tell you that for sure. While I have a lot of dates and chords and
numbers in my head, I still do not trust my ability to keep them straight.

All right, then. We’re going to play this song in the key of D major, for
reasons which will (hopefully) become apparent as we progress. There are
only four chords in the song. In this key, they are D, G, C and A. Technically
speaking, there is a Cmaj9 (a C major chord with B and D added) which is
used in the OUTRO, but you’ll see that it is so easy to play you’ll laugh at
me for calling it a chord.

The major hook of this song is the four measure D – G – D – C – D

progression that makes up the introduction and verses. It is a matter of both
rhythm and chord voicings. Let’s look at the rhythm first. Before delving into
the somewhat harder stuff, we should get the main pattern down pat. You
will find that most complicated rhythm patterns are minor variations of
simple ones, so if you nail down the simple one, you’re halfway there! And
here’s the simple one:
Remember that when faced with something that seems difficult, fall back to
the easiest ground possible. For me, that is thinking of four downstrokes to
make up the four beats of a measure. Then, I add up strokes on the
offbeats (the “ands” if you count it “one and two and three and four and…”)
so that I am playing straight eighth notes. Then I start taking things out. It’s
almost become second nature for me to kick out the first offbeat. On the
second beat I do a downstroke while muting the strings with my strumming
hand and then I come back with an upstroke on the second offbeat followed
by an immediate downstroke on the third beat. Repeating this process gives
me a driving rhythm guitar part, which sounds very strong when you play it
quickly. And this is a fast song! But please, please, please, remember to
start out as slowly as you have to in order to get things right. The strummed
chords (in capitals) will almost seem like a train going down a track when
played with the silent or muted strokes (in parentheses) – “ONE (and two)
AND THREE (and four) AND ONE (and two) AND THREE (and four)

If you’re still not sure that you’ve got it right, try this: without your guitar, tap
out the rhythm on your knees. Use your strumming hand to beat the fully
strummed beats and offbeats on one leg and your other hand (on your
other leg) to quietly tap out the silent or muted ones. When you have it
safely and securely fixed into your head, then try it out with the guitar. First
only play it with one chord (D would be a good choice) and really get the
feel of it before you try to do it while changing chords. This may seem like a
lot of overkill, but when you think about it, anytime you’re playing the guitar
there is a lot going on. Rather than let yourself feel overwhelmed or get
frustrated, break things down into smaller parts that you can deal with
before trying to tackle the whole thing at once.

Once you are confident with this rhythm, then try this one:
Because this rhythm is a little more complicated, I usually hit everything
from the third beat onward with upstrokes. For me, I now know to pay more<