Guitar Lesson Expert|Why isn't that kid in a band

For all the years that I have taught guitar, I have shared the same message, urged the same approach, and begged students to consider the same mindset, and that is one of balance. Bring together all the elements of music in your playing. Be the conduit for the totality of the song you are playing. And beyond any limitations of words that can be spoken, I have found that this little anecdotal story communicates that idea better than I ever did.

For a good portion of my teaching career, I also owned and operated a large musical instrument store. It was principally a guitar store, but it had so much more than that. I knew that high quality instruments and the best amplification was an almost unreachable fantasy for many of the regular kids that came in and hung out at the store, so I was generously willing for them to come into the store and try different guitars and amps to stoke the fires of their musical dreams.

I had built a sound proofed amplifier room with Marshall, Fender, Randall, Ampeg and other great amps there for the trying, and there were Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, and more guitars to complete that sacred bond of guitar with amp in pursuit of the perfect tone. As long as there wasn’t a customer at any given moment needing to try out an amp or guitar in the room, I allowed the young guys who hung out at my store to cut their teeth, as it were, on the many combinations of sounds. Continue reading »

Guitar Lesson Expert student-Business People

One of the most important attributes that a good guitar student needs to have is an understanding that hard work pays off. They need to be an action taker and less of a day dreamer. While I believe having a dream, a strong vision of what you want is really important, spending a lot of time fantasizing about that dream instead of actually doing the necessary things to make it come true is counterproductive.

So whether this surprises you or not, one of the groups of best guitar students is successful business people. These have historically been among my fastest developing and most successful guitar students. And let me tell you why I think that is.

Most of the business people who have come to me for lessons over the years have roughly the same story. They had a love affair with the guitar in their teens but didn’t have the opportunity to follow through with it. They absolutely love music; it’s a big part of their life. They may have even played guitar as a teen, but through no fault of their own, didn’t get good enough fast enough. Maybe they didn’t hang out with a group of people who also valued and played music. Maybe their parents didn’t support the idea of them playing. Or maybe they just never found the right guitar teacher.

Whatever the reason, life happened. They graduated High School and went to college. There was a lot of pressure to succeed. They wanted to develop a successful career and they invested their time in becoming doctors, lawyers, architects, psychologists, and many other professional endeavors. Many did things with their hands and became land developers or construction contractors. Still others had the entrepreneurial spirit and developed exciting product ideas and built successful companies and sales organizations around those products.

Whatever the path, it always seems to have played out in a similar way. They met their spouse in college or soon after, got extremely successful in their business, and raised a family. But another important thing also happened…they never shook that deep-rooted feeling of wanting to play the guitar, to express themselves through music.

So fast forward several years, and that successful business person has finished raising their kids and has some time on their hands, and that dream, that vision of playing the guitar is staring them right in the face. A good number of them seize the moment, do some research, buy a guitar, and set out to learn to play. In most cases, the success that they have had in business was a result of a great education or a mentor or developmental coach or consultant. These people understand that they can accelerate their learning curve by seeking out a great guitar teacher to guide and direct them in their process.Guitar Lesson Expert teaching business student

They know that just about everything that they achieved in their careers was well earned and was a result of hard work and effort. Of course, it’s going to be the same way with learning to play the guitar, and that’s why these “late bloomer” successful business people types are such great students. They seem to know that they will get out of the process only as much as they put into it.

And the truth is that there is a one to one correlation between practicing and becoming accomplished on the guitar. These people go after what they want, and they really enjoy it while they’re going after it. There really is a great deal of pleasure in the process and fruit on the tree as a result of learning and practicing.

If any of this sounds like you, only instead of seizing the day, you’re still sitting on the fence wondering if all this is really possible, I’m here to tell you that by grouping, these successful business people have the highest percentage of success playing the guitar among all my students for as long as I’ve been teaching. If you want it for yourself, you’ll have to begin the process, and I assure you, opportunities to learn and grow on the guitar are all around you.

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 »

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