Working with Cover Songs: Make them Fit for Your Own Style of Playing

Most beginners, when playing a coversong, will just get the chords of the song and play the song as close as they can to the original version of the song. Nothing wrong with that you may say? No, indeed, but changes are your singing voice does sound different compared to the orginal song you are covering.  As far as the backing of the song, the song will probably have various sounds coming from bassguitar, guitar, keyboards, drums and other instruments. To get as close to the feel of the orginal song your guitar will need to sound like all those various instruments together. How do you do this? You find your own way by giving the song your interpretation.

To get to your interpretation you may need to experiment with various feels of the song, you may need to alter the song structure: You could leave out some verses of the song, add in a little solo and repeat certain parts several times to make the song fit for your style.
At first it may be a good idea to sing and play the song as close as you can to the orginal, then start experimenting with what you can do to bring the song alive. You need to bring the song alive, this is what really matters. To check if you are on the right track you can play and sing the song while you record the results. Listen back and be honest, is the song pleasing for the ears? You can play the song back to your friends and ask for their feedback.
In most cases you will need to rework the song because you are not the original artist, you need to find your own feel to make the song come alive. You can watch other cover bands and solo singer/songwriters to check to see how they do this. When you listen you may not even be aware that they have changed the song to make them fit for their feel. Very subtle adaptions are often the best as you do not want to stray to far away from the original.

Enjoy your playing and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie 

Guitar Tutorial: When Starting Out with Learning to Play the Blues

For this article a few snapshots which may make life easier when you dig in those strings to get those riffs to come alive.
Most of these ideas do not only apply to blues, they can be used for any form of improvised music and working out solo ideas.

                    Learn to play a theme

Very important, the theme is like a main riff, or melody which introduces the song. The theme is often followed by improvisation which is meant to be as a variation on the theme. This kind of approach has been used often by Jazz standards but most forms of electric blues uses these ideas as well.

If you can, work out the theme by ear. Why? Because you will find out where the melody is played on the guitar. Once you have the theme, play it in various places. Figure out what makes the theme work, think about rhythm of the notes and what kind of notes are being used. With the kind of notes I mean the intervals: Is theme played in octaves or is it powerchords or…………….  Think of “Sunshine of your Love” this can be played with powerchords, but you can also use octaves. Different artists have played this idea in different ways. Make sure you know what is behind the riff, it does help instead of just blasting out the notes and not really knowing what is behind those notes.

                   Learn One Solo Idea

Once you have your theme look at some of the solos, take an idea you like best and learn this note for note. As with the theme, play this solo idea in one position, then move same idea around in different positions. Do not jump positions like, play one note in one position and move up to twelfth position for next note. This makes for sloppy playing and does not sound good. Play the solo first slowly and clean, speed up your playing once your technique is in place. 
Similar as with the theme, ask yourself why certain notes are being used: Are the rootnotes? 5th or b3rd or blue note or……………? The understanding of the notechoice will help you with your own playing.

                  Learn to Swing

Very important, you need to play with the right rhythms. A solid rhyhm from the backing band will inspire you to play over a song. Sloppy rhythms will make up for solos to sound weak and wrong. There are quite a few major artsist who depend on the strenth of the playing of their band. In any band situation anyone should be strong with their sense of timing and rhythm. When you play on your own always be aware of the feel and rhythm of the song. Playing along with recordings will help you to develop your sense of rhythm.

               Pace Yourself

Once you start to work out solo ideas from other guitarplayers it is easy to get overwhelmed: You hear all these great ideas and you want to grab them all and learn them all at once in one evening. Wrong!! B.B King once mentioned that he was happy to pick up one idea a day. It is better to learn one idea, make sure to understand this idea and run with it. Once you have that idea in your head and under your fingertips, you will be able to use it at will at any time.

Enjoy working out solos and hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

Reading Music and Playing the Guitar

Most people who are new to playing the guitar will get introduced to reading music by a tutor or a teacher. Experienced players who have been playing for a while may wonder why they should learn to read music since they know how to play the gutiar. For this blog a few ideas related to the topic of reading music for the guitar.

Let me start of with the answer to the question: “Why should I learn to read music?”  Reading music or not being able to read may be a typical thing for guitar players, since a lot of people will learn to play the guitar by using and handful of chords and just play with them.  Then there is the culture: The guitar, in the past, was typically an instrument which was learned by watching other people play, just pick up ideas from the ones who were around you. A lot of the older blues guys who grew up in the 1930s learned to play that way. It is a natural way of learning and works very well, as long as you are surrounded by other guitar players.

Today things are different: We all have acess to a lot of information around us, whatever you want to learn will be available in some form. All you need to do is apply yourself and find a method how to absorb the information you want to learn. When it comes to playing the guitar, taking up lessons with a teacher is similar compared to being around an experienced player. A good teacher will expose you to a variety of learning materials and learning to read is one of those ways.

What can you pick up from reading music? Once you get used to how the notes relate to the guitar you can go through various books which will explain you a variety of playing styles. Being able to read will give you access to music you may not have been able to play before. Reading music will also help you to understand music theory better and your overal musical knowledge will expand through reading as well.

Once you get used to reading music try to play from very early on with a feel for whatever it is your are reading. Music played from written notation without feel is like playing dead music. Putting feel into the music is important, and you need to learn how to put feel into the piece you are playing. At first you may struggle to get the right notes under your fingertips, once you know where to find the notes you can start to look at the feel for the piece. All in all it is a process: First get the notes so you can play the music smoothly, then play the piece with more feel. It is important to be aware that you will need to put feel into the music since you are working from a book or any sheet, you will not have an audio source around you to guide you to whatever feel the music needs. Experienced readers will be aware of this process but any player new to reading will not, and your teacher will be able to guide you through this process.

Enjoy your reading studies and hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

Develop Your Own Finger Playing Style

For this blog a few ideas how you can approach your fingerstyle technique for the guitar.

When people start out with the guitar, most of them will find playing with fingers easier. The plectrum is an alien piece of plastic in your fingers, and it needs time and practise to start to feel natural; fingers, on the other hand, feel natural as they are part of your body. You will need to learn how to use them to get the most out of them but for most people playing with fingers feel natural.

When you work on your own without a teacher or any form of support from outside, look into the various approaches of fingerstye playing: There is the classical approach with the rest-and freestroke, then there is folk style fingerpicking.
For beginners I would strongly recommend to get used to one form of fingerstye playing before moving on to the next approach. Get comfortable with the style you choose and make sure you can use it at all times.
Experienced players may want to look at a particular fingerstyle and develop their own style out of the various, conventional techniques.

When you look at developing your own fingerstyle technique you can look at what your playing needs and use your fingers in a way which will help you to get your playing to a higher level. Try various hybrid forms of picking which use thumb and fingers in a creative way. Make sure you develop your fingers well enough to get a full tone out of your strings.

Keep at it and hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

 

An Approach To Playing Chicago Blues

For this article a few tips what you can do to improve your guitarplaying in the style of Chicago blues. The term Chicago blues stands for electric blues in the style of Buddy Guy, Freddie King and a host of other guitar players including the guitar players who were influenced by these guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor.

            Listening:

Anyone who wants to get into a certain style of playing should listen a lot of music which is based on that particular style of guitar playing. Within the Chicago style there is a lot of variation, one thing the style does have in common is it does use a lot of guitar improvisation such as guitar solos. Possibly one of the reasons why many guitarists were drawn to this style in the first place? Listen to the big names first such as Albert, Freddie and BB King, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and listen then to more obscure names. Get a feel for how they play and what kind of approach they use for their bands to get the sounds they want.

          Pentatonic Scales:

Learn one pentatonic scale in one key. See if you can learn all five positions, three if five is too much. Stick to this one key. Learn to understand how the scale works, and how you can transpose the scale into any other key. Listen to the songs you like and find out how the scale fits in. Do not listen only to the guitar!!! Listen to the chords of the keyboards and the horns. See if you can hear how the song works, this will help you with understanding the song and how its sounds works against the guitar.

        Theme and Playing:

Take one song you like. Look for songs with a strong theme such as “The Hide Away” the songs contains several themes which vary in rhythm. Try to play one of them. If you cannot get all the notes try to get them as close as you can,. Once you can play one theme, try making variations on the theme by improvising with the notes and the rhythm. Once you can play this in one position move around to other positions you know and do the same.

Once you get used to this kind of playing why not set up your own theme and vary them in a similar way. Listen to a lot of blues to see where the variations come from and what you can do for yourself to make it sound like that.
Also listen to some Rock songs you like and try to see the connection between the blues and some more moderns styles of Rock.

        Acoustic Blues:

Once you get a feel for the electric sounds of the Chicago style, why not check out some older forms of acoustic blues such as Robert Johnson. Again, try to see how this style influenced more modern styles of guitar playing.

Have fun and hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

Guitar Tone and What Makes Your Tone

For this article a few highlights about your guitar tone.

Most beginners may wonder what is up with guitar tone. “Does a guitar’s tone not depend on the instrument and how well you play”? they may wonder. Well to an extend that is true but there is a lot you can do yourself to get a better tone.
The problem with the guitar is, you give anyone, who has never played, a guitar and get them to play one note or a simple, open string chord and they will get a sound. This is not the case when you think of a violin or a trumpet. With both those instruments you need to work on your technique to produce a sound. The guitar, on the other hand, seem to be this instrument which will give you a sound straight away. Get an experienced guitar player to play the same note or chord compared to any beginner, and both people will produce the same sound. Difference is the experienced guitar player will produce a better sound.

The tone of the guitar depend on your fingers, how you finger your chords and the kind of equipment you use such as guitar, plectrum, amplifier and any kind of effects in between amp and guitar. Let us have a closer look at some of those elements I mentioned before:

                  Fingers:

 The touch of your fingers will interact with the strings of your guitar: When you dig in harder on the strings, the strings will produce a fuller and louder sound. When you dig in too hard the strings will break up their sound and the tone is no longer any good. It is a fine line between the sound breaking up and producing a good sound. Playing as strong as you can is a good starting point. Again, this is something most beginners will get into at a later stage.

What I mentioned about fingers also applies to the plectrum: The plectrum acts in a similar way as your fingers, the difference is that the plectrum acts like a piece of plastic in between your fingers and the strings: It produces a brighter tone which also makes the strings sound louder as well.

When you are starting out with the guitar it makes sense to try to get on with both plectrum and fingers since you are new to playing the guitar. 
If you are used to playing with a plectrum you may want to try playing with your fingers since it produces a different tone: It is more mellow compared to playing with a plectrum. Once you get used to playing with your fingers try to get your finger technique up to the same level as you plectrum technique. Once you can do this you can let the music decide which technique is best suited for what you want to play.

             
               Equipment:

Once your plectrum-and finger technique are in place have a look at your guitar: When you are using and electric one, look at your pick ups: Are they weak and microphonic or do they produce a thick, full tone? Changing your pick ups on your electric can give you a different tone at the flick of a switch.

Looking at the kind of amp you use, does it have a preamp, or is it a single channel amp? Try playing with your fingers when you use a bit of distortion. Listen to your tone, see how different it can sound compared to when you use a plectrum.
Amps with a preamp will give you the ability to dial in a bit of extra volume which can give you a bit of distortion to your sound. Sometimes a tiny bit of distortion may just be what you like. A distortion- or overdrive pedal can also act like a preamp on your amplifier.

Use any distortion or overdrive pedals? Try to pick one which work best with your amp and guitar. If you have several overdrives, try them to see which one works best for what you want. You will find that over time your taste may change. It makes sense to have a few different overdrive pedals since all of them will give you a different flavour. 

Tone at the end of the day is a personal thing, there is something like good and bad tone, but in between those two there is a lot of variation and most of it will depend on your vision, experience, musical taste and style.

Keep on working on your tone and hope to catch again soon,
Eddie  

Learn to play riff “Seven Nation Army” for Ukulele

Most of this riff is played on the high A string apart from one note, which is played on the E string:

           Em                                    C                 Bm
          
           /           /            /             /             /     /          play this part twice before moving on to next two bars
    A    7—7—10—7—-5—-        3—-5—-3—2—-

    E   ————————–         ——————–

    C   ————————–          ——————- 

    G  —————————-        ———————

           G                                   A
           /               /                   /             /
   A  ————————      –0-0–0-0–0-0–0-0—-

   E  —3-3–3-3–3-3–3-3–     ————————–

   C  ————————–    —————————

  G  ————————–     —————————

Chordshapes:

         Em   Bm   G      C      A

   A  —-2—-2—-2—-3—-0—

   E   —3—-2—-3—–0—-0–

   C  —4—–2—-2—–0—-1—

   G —4—–4—–0—–0—-2—

Play the riff with a friend, one of you doing the single notes for the riff while the other plays the chords with the suggested rythm as indicated by the slashes.

Enjoy and hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

Tutorial: Play Your First Ukulele Chords

Here are three chords for those of you who are new to the Ukulele. You can play these chords strumstyle of pickstyle. Strumming the strings means you play all the strings in one go, picking the strings means you pick one string at a time.

Here are the shapes for the three chords :

            C          F             G7

 A ——3——–0———-2———–

 E ——0——–1———-1———–

 C ——0——–0———-2———–

 G ——0——–2———-0———–

 Strum each chords once with your thumb before you move on to the next chord. 
 Another way to play these chords is to pick each string once instead of playing all the strings at the same time. This style is called pick-style.
Try it and see what is sounds like, try to play  the chords as smooth as possible.

Enjoy an hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie 

Why You Should Practise Guitar Daily

For this article some insight into your daily practise for the guitar. Those of you who use improvisation may find it particularly useful.

Practising the guitar daily makes sense as it keeps you on top of your game. Making music and playing the guitar is a skill and playing daily will keep you in touch with these skills.
Most of you who have been playing for a while will know what to work on, just look at your playing and find something you are not that good at and look at how to make it better.
For those of you who do not know what to work on here is a short list with areas anyone should look at:

     Visualisation of Fretboard:

With this term I mean seeing where your triads are on the fretboard, see your chords (major and minor), break them down over sets of three strings as triads are made out of three notes. Once you can see them you will start to see more. Learn all the inversions as well, again break them down over sets of three strings. Once you can do that you will realise where some of those well-known barrechord shapes come from.

Next to seeing your chords there are scales: Break your scales down in octaves, and visualise them against your chords, this will help you formulating arpeggios on the fretboard.
Once you start to see chords and scales why not look at whole chordprogressions since you be playing solos over them? Work out the most common chordshapes for regular chordprogressions, it will help you to find the right notes when you need to play over these chords.

Visualise target notes for your solos: You can use particular notes to highlight a chord in your solo, find this note in various places and be able to weave around this note with other notes.

     Not Know What To Practise?

If you are not sure what to do make sure you can fall back on a practise routine. Whatever you do, all helps. It is a good habit to reinforce what you can do. Whatever you play, make sure you can do it well and that your playing is consistent.

     Equipment:

If you have various guitars, make sure you play them all regularly. Get them all set up properly so all of them will be a favourite.
When it comes to amps, same as with your guitars, make sure they all work properly and get to know what sounds they can make and find out what you like about them.

Effects: Again as with your amps, get to know what they do and be able to control your effects for the sounds you like.

    Inspiration:

We all need inspiration and to keep you inspired you can read about other guitar players, read about what they do and how they do it, what kind of equipment they use and what their vision is when it comes to playing the guitar, songwriting and improvising.

For next blog: Pedals which sound good with Marshall JCM 900 SL-X
Hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

Distortion Pedals,Why Do We Have Them and Why Were They Created??

If you like your distortion pedals you may like this article. I will give a short outline why distortion pedal where created and why some distorted amp tones still sound better than any pedal can ever do.

Before we look at the pedals we first need to look at the amps: The most common guitar amps today do have a distortion channel and a clean channel but there was a time when guitar amps only had one channel, even those vintage JTM Marshalls of the 1960s!

The need for a pedal to create somekind of overdrive was normal considering the amp could only give you clean tones. Those clean tones could be manipulated by turning the amp’s volume at max. Now what about creating a device which would actually do the same without turning the amp’s volume up? This is were the early treble boosters came into the picture. Treble boosters were the early overdrive pedals of the 1960s. The pedals did get better during the years and gave you more tonal options to create whatever you wanted, but the amps got better as well: The early amps were still single channel, and you still had to turn them up to full to get some kind of overdrive. Around 1976 Marshall added a Master volume to their amps…………………………………..
now it was possible to get distorted tones at listening level. Well not everyone agrees but from that moment onwards most amps started to come out with options of various channels to create different amp tone at a much lower volume level.

Okay now back to the pedals: Most amps today are more sophisticated than the ones guitar players used in the early 1960s, so why actually bother with a distortion pedal? Good question. The obvious answer is: The pedal may produce a distorted sound which augments the sound of the amp or………….it may produce a sound which makes the amp sound worse.

To check how well your distortion pedals work with your amp do this little test for yourself: Check any distortion pedal you like through your amp, see how tight the distortion is compared to the distortion of your amp. Dial in as many variations of distortion your amp has and listen. Now do the same with your pedals. What you will find is: A typical pedal may sound weaker and less tigtht compared to the sound of the amp on its own. 
When you do this test, try the same but now with a different kind of amp. Similar results? Probably not, so keep those pedals as some do sound great with a particular amp, while others do not.

For next blog: Which distortion pedal sounds good through Marshall JCM 900 SL-X

Hope to see you soon again,
Eddie