Guitar Lesson Expert GuitarsThere are hundreds if not thousands of styles of guitar that you could play, and yet fundamentally a guitar is six strings, stretched between a nut and saddle, allowing you to “fret” different strings at different points to make notes higher or lower. This is what makes fretted instruments differ from the piano or the harp. Interrupting the string at various fret points to make notes higher or lower across an assortment of strings is what allows the guitar to be such a great harmonic or chordal instrument for accompaniments, and simultaneously be an amazing solo instrument, stringing individual notes in interesting melodic lines.

How it all works, and the role your hands, body, mind, and heart all have in the making of music, will be the subjects of a variety of blog posts, videos, and podcasts here on the blog at

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Guitar Solos, have something to sayWhen we look at guitar solos, we might ask how are they built? Are they just a string of licks or phrases? What is being communicated? Is it some kind of musical code or is there a deeper emotional feeling that is being tapped? Does the solo give us insight into how the soloist is feeling? And what can it tell us about their relationship to the underlying song and its message?

Students are continually asking me how to craft their solos, and I began addressing that subject in the post However, I observe a lot of them do something that I believe is ultimately destructive when they play their solos. Because they are not yet confident in developing licks and phrases of their own, they begin their process by mimicking the solo licks, riffs, and phrases of the great guitar players of our time. On one level this has great value, because it is helping them to develop a musical vocabulary, and realistically, most of the things we do in life we do from a “monkey see, monkey do” perspective. However, I draw the line when it comes to implementing these exact phrases into their solos.

I went to see a developing music artist and was amazed by what I heard when he soloed. There were a bunch of licks that I recognized note for note from major artists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Alvin Lee, Albert King, and many more. These licks or riffs weren’t changed in any way from the original, no development or expansion, no alteration or elongation. They just played the naked original lick, but what was worse, they strung the licks together, out of context, linking their favorite player’s licks together with no rhyme or reason as to how they connected except for that they were in the same key. Continue reading »

Notes, Rhythm, AttackWhen I look at a great guitar solo, there are three main elements that the player is controlling to create an interesting and moving solo. Of course, there are more subtleties in elite player’s techniques, but I am talking about the principal elements that they are using to build their solos. These elements are the common denominator between all great solos, regardless of genre, whether the guitarist is playing electric or acoustic, or any other aspect of style. If you can begin to control and eventually master these elements, you will most certainly begin creating memorable solos during your own performances. Then with the requisite polish that comes from experience, your playing will graduate to ever higher levels of refinement as your mastery of these three elements becomes more and more “second nature.”

Element # 1- Note Selection

The first element is note selection, and it actually entails a couple of aspects to pay attention to. Every song is constructed with a chord progression and if you understand the requirements of what links chords together to make a harmonic progression, you have a massive head start. You need to know the key of the song so that you understand your master tonal center. You need to observe the cadence points so as to understand the strongest leading tones. And finally, you need to understand your desired sonic quality over the changes, meaning do you want a Pentatonic feel, or more notes as in a seven tone scale. Also which seven tone scale? When you look at the various modes, how do each of them relate to your chords.

If you’re having a hard time following me, let me give an example. If I was going to solo over the chords of the Van Morrison classic Moondance, I need to notice that there are two distinct sections of the song. In the verse section of the song, the chords go back and forth between Am7 and Bm7, and therefore it’s important to realize that because of the F# note in the Bm7 chord, I would need to use the Dorian mode in A as the basic array of notes to select in my solo. In the chorus section, the chords change to Am7 to Dm7 and half cadence on E7. Here I have two things to consider. The Dm7 has an F natural in it instead of the F# and so would require playing the Aeolian mode in A on that section until reaching the E7 chord, where I would either play a E dominant 7 arpeggio or use an A Harmonic minor scale. The point is that the shifts in chords require a corresponding shift in scale selection, because continuing to play Dorian would create a train wreck with an F# potentially played against a chord with an F in it. If I wanted to play from a simpler array of notes, I could use an A Pentatonic minor scale which has no sixth and therefore would have no F# or F to clash with the chords. This is all part of the choices the soloist gets to make, and precedes the actual selection of the individual notes to play in each phrase. Continue reading »

Guitar Lesson Expert Scale PositionsIt is absolutely imperative if you want to be a great guitar player, to learn how to play across the entire fretboard, both in playing solo and lead lines and in playing chords, inversions, and upper partials. Most scales and/or modes are played in a minimum of five positions. In each position, the root note or tonal center note is located in a different place on a different string, and the fingering pattern for each position is unique to that position. A lot of solo and lead line playing gravitates toward the top three strings in the higher registers of the guitar, and as you look at each position you have different notes at the top for each one, emphasizing different intervals and different sounds. Therefore, you get different sounds from phrase shapes you might create in each position. It’s because of this variety that it’s important to be able to solo in all positions in order to access the complete palette of sounds and relationships.

A similar thing happens in the domain of chord playing. Each inversion has a different element of the triad in the top voice, and so there is a different stacking of the triad notes and therefore there is a different sound even though it is the same chord. Learning to maximize your playing by learning all the inversions and partials will allow you to have greater flow in your voice leading as you change between chords. You can gain enough control to create harmonic sections that imitate string parts, horn parts, and more.

It is not enough for you to know that you need to learn all your scale positions and all your inversions, you need to learn them. And I don’t mean learn them intellectually, but in the core of your musical awareness and deep into your muscle memory. It is important that as you think and feel the part you want to play, the ability to render the idea on the guitar is effortless and fluid and connected to your emotions. Continue reading »

Guitar Lesson Expert Great Guitar Lessons story

When you consider what to look for in great guitar lessons, it’s really important to be aware of what you want in the process. You also need to clearly communicate what you want to the prospective teacher so that they can help you achieve what you want out of the lesson process. If you don’t tell your teacher what you want, they can’t possibly be expected to take you where you want to go, and your learning process may end up being unsatisfactory, and you might not feel like you’ve had great guitar lessons.

There is another very important aspect that I want you to consider as well, and that is the fact that a great guitar lessons, master guitar teacher may know more about what you need to know than you do. In the battle between what you need to know and what you want to know, I believe developing a great foundation for playing wins out every time. I’d like to offer you what I’ll call the “Million Dollar Story.”

Million Dollar Story About Great Guitar Lessons

I owned a big retail music store that sold guitars, amps, PAs, drums, keyboards, and also gave a lot of music lessons. I was one of the main teachers because I really love to teach, and I had a great reputation for giving great guitar lessons and students came from all around to study with me. One day I got a phone call from two young guys who were friends, and they wanted to take guitar lessons from me. They were going to car pool from some distance and so they wanted back to back lessons. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any back to back time slots. What we could offer them is that I had another teacher who had been my student, who had an opening at the same time as one of my openings, so the guys could come and have lessons at the same time, one with me and one with the other teacher. One of the guys was disappointed that he couldn’t have me as well, but they agreed and signed up. What happened then is really worth paying attention to. Continue reading »

Scales Degrees for Master Musician Transposing SecretsIf you want to transpose music like a master musician, there is only one secret, and it has to do with understanding music theory. Not necessarily the entirety of music theory, but at least knowing your keys and chords, and how that relates to the song you are attempting to play.

Every key is built from a scale, either major or minor. The chords in each key are built on each note of the scale and stacked in thirds (every other note) three notes high. Each note in the scale is assigned a number that is its scale degree, one through seven and then repeating itself endlessly. The way that the thirds distribute in a major key creates the following chords: a major chord on the first scale degree designated by a capital Roman numeral, I, a minor chord on the second and third scale degrees designated by lower case Roman numerals, ii and iii, a major chord on the fourth and fifth scale degrees designated by capital Roman numerals, IV and V, a minor chord on the sixth scale degree designated by a lower case Roman numeral, vi, and finally a diminished triad on the seventh scale degree designated by a lower case Roman numeral with a kind of degree symbol after it, vii°.

What we end up with in a major key such as C Major, are the chords C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, and B°, which relate to the scale degree labels I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii°. What benefits the master musician is that when you change keys to the next key in the Circle of Fifths, the key of G, even though the chords are G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F#°, their scale degree labels are still I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii°, relative to the key of G. Going through the process of knowing the seven chords in each of the Major keys, and yet understanding that they are each tied to a scale degree, makes transposing a breeze. In fact, you’re not even transposing. You’re simply playing the song’s scale degrees in the new key. Continue reading »

CapoWhen it comes to basic transposing and capo use for the guitar, your first question might be why do I need to know about that? Well, at the basic levels of music performance, there are two main reasons why understanding this concept and being able to use it are critical to your growth and development as a guitarist.

The first main consideration for transposing and capo use has to do with the singer’s voice, whether the singer is you or another individual. Singers are all unique and have varying ranges, which means some sing higher and some sing lower. That means everyone will not be able to sing the same song and sound good in the key the original artist recorded it in. In order to take the chords to the original song, whether you got them from the sheet music, from the Internet, or you learned them by ear, and move them into the right key for your voice or the singer’s voice, you need to transpose and/or use a capo. I will teach you how to do that a little later in this article.

The second reason for basic transposing and capo use for the guitar is that depending on your level of skill on the instrument, you may not be able to play all the chords in the song, or at the least there are some chords that are easier for you to play than others. Using basic transposing information and basic capoing, you can essentially re-design the song so that it is easier to play. I will also be teaching you how to do this in today’s article. Continue reading »

Guitar Lesson Expert musical notesThis is the third post in a series of discussions on how to practice, for improving your guitar playing. If you missed the first or second article, you can access them at How to Practice, Part I and How to Practice, Part II. I can’t possibly over stress how valuable this information is if it is learned, internalized, and implemented in your practice routine. It will definitely make you a better player.

This article is almost a bridge between the How to Practice series and the soon to be created, What to Practice series. It deals with analyzing and practicing most of the varying internal rhythms between notes and their time valuations, and so even though they partly describe what to practice, you can use this concept against any scale or mode, or linear combination of notes.

We are going to begin by looking at how the notes you play sit against the clicks of your metronome, and we are going to use how we handle the space between each click to play combinations of both duple and triple meter. Continue reading »

This is the second of a series of three discussions on how to practice, for improving your guitar playing. If you missed the first article you can access it at How to Practice, Part I. I have had remarkable success guiding students through these processes to maximize their progress in learning the guitar and maximizing their ability to express themselves in any genre.Guitar Lesson Expert, Consider the Beat

This discussion is about one of the biggest traps that guitarists find themselves falling into, and what to do about. This one concept is virtually guaranteed to make you a more in demand asset to any music group you ever play with.

Over the years, it’s been my observation that as guitarists are practicing their instrument and working to improve their skillset, they generally sit in their practice area and play alone. There is an inherent difficulty with this approach. Unless the guitarist has mastered the ability to have perfect meter and locked in tempo, they tend to meander in an almost rubato way. This is not necessarily problematic if they are destined to play solo every time they perform, but it is the kiss of death if they intend to play in an ensemble of some sort with other instruments.

When musicians perform together, they must play as a collective. The referent that they must use to hold the performance together is the beat, the meter, rhythm, and tempo of the song they are performing. If any of the players in the ensemble can’t lock to the pulse of the music, the overall performance begins to disintegrate and sound sloppy. Guitarists who spend the majority of their time playing by themselves seem to be the worst offenders. They have to learn how to play in the pocket, or groove, and since all of their practice time has been spent playing loosely in their own world, this is not so easy for them to do. Continue reading »

Guitar Lesson Expert. How to Practice on GuitarWhen guitarists consider how to practice on guitar, there are a couple of main focal points that I’d like to concentrate on in three consecutive posts on how to practice for guitar. The first, and possibly the most important concept I’d like you to grasp is to play within your means. What I mean by that will become clear as I tell you a little story.

I had a very talented student whose name I will withhold. He was used to playing at a pretty high level. He also had the type of personality that wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. In other words, he wasn’t particularly patient. During one of his lessons, he let me know that he really wanted to learn the Jimi Hendrix classic, “Little Wing.” I knew that this piece was a departure from his regular playing style, in that it wasn’t a single line solo part, nor was it a typical rock accompaniment. Hendrix had developed a kind of fluid, chordal, embellishment style of playing that was hyper-focused and really upfront in the song. I knew that this student was going to have to learn an entirely new approach to playing a non-jazz, kind of chord-melody style.

I went ahead and transcribed the song for him and began to teach it to him with all the different inversion approaches, using double and triple stops. As I taught him the song, it became clear as it is with almost every advanced song, that some of the measures or bars were easier for him to play than others, and some were downright difficult. Unfortunately, this student’s impatient personality took over, and the rest of the story became a fairly predictable outcome. Continue reading »

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