Tutorial: Four Techniques to Improve Your Solo Playing

Once you have been creating your solos out of scales- and scale positions, using alternate picking, it is time to spice up  your solos with some different techniques, techniques which will add more spice and drama to your solos.
For this article a look at four different techniques which you can add to your alternate picking style. All four techniques will add some extra flavour and taste to your solos, they will also make your solos come alive with dynamics as they will break up the regular sound of your alternate picking style.

       Hammer-On/ Pull-Off:

The hammer On and Pull Off technique can be used within chords or just for single notes on their own. Practise their sound in isolation over first one string. Try to get a smooth and clean sound, try to control the sound and do not let luck play part in gettting the sound! You want to use the sound of them at any time you want to use them, be patient until you can play them clean and at will.

      Tremolo Picking:

Tremolo picking is the sound of an alternating pick moving rapidly over one note. When you do it right it will give you the idea that the tempo has moved up and will make you feel you are playing at higher tempos. But do not be fooled, the beats per minute have not moved up! It is a great technique to add extra flavour to a phrase.  Practise its sound with scales and even bends. It may take some time to get the technique to sound natural and not too stiff, relax your wrist and just play them first at slow tempos.

      Sweep Picking:

Sweep Picking over arpeggios which cover larger parts of the fretboard are hard to sound smooth and clean. Try the technique first over two strings, then try it over partial Barre chords where the strings are all across the same fret. Once you get a feel for them try playing them over arpeggios which move along the fretboard. Combine Sweep Picking with other forms of picking such as alternate picking or straightforward downpicking. The Sweep will sound smoother compared to the other forms of picking, use it in combination of Hammer-on’s and Pull-off’s and you have a winner in your hands!


Use them at the end of your phrases, or start off a phrase with a bend and travel up to the higher frets of the fretboard to repeat the same bend but now at a higher postion.
You can bend into chordtones to understate the chords which are being played, combine bends with tremolo picking to add even more drama to the same phrase.

With all these four techniques metioned above, play them first on their own if you are not familiar with them. The Hammer-On and Pull-Off will be common, also the Bend.  Try any of these techniques in various places across the fretboard, and also play them in areas where you do not normally use them, especially bends, why not try them in low areas, they will still sound great if you play them clean and smooth.

Keep at it and hope to see you soon again for more updates.


Tutorial: Easy Sweep Picking Chord Shapes

Sweep Picking is the technique where your pick travels from one string to the next one in one go. The less strings you use the easier the technique is. Sweep Picking is also easier when you pick across various strings which are all across the same fret. Sweep Picking chords is also sometimes called Raking the chords.

When Sweep Picking chords try to avoid the sweep sounding like a strum. The Sweep does have a slight hesitation where you can hear the indiviual string. Strumming a chord you may not hear the sound of the individual string. The quicker your sweep is the less noticeable is the sound of hesitation. Sweep Picking can be used in all kind of styles, it is just one of the handful of techniques you can use to spice up your playing. The chord shapes used for this tutorial will give you access to a smooth sound, which should not take you too long to master.

The first minor chordshape is related to the Em chord shape, but now played on the 5th fret as a partial Barre Chord. The second chord shape is related to the E but this time played as a partial Barre chord on the 8th fret.

            Am      C

      E —-5—–8—–

      B —-5—–8—–

      G —-5—–9—–

      D —-7—-10—–

      A —————–

      E —————–

  Play the chords in the following manner:

                      Am                                                                 C

                                          sw—ee—-p                                                 sw–ee–p
                 Bass             Down    Up    Down                           Bass           down

Count           1               and        2      and                                3               4

Notice the two chords are played as one bar and the C receives only the last 2 beats of the bar. Each chord starts off with a bassnote then followed by the sweep.

Here is a sequecene which uses the same two chord shapes but it plays across the fretboard and uses more chords:

          Am  C       Gm   Bb     Fm  Ab           Am

All minor chords and major chords do have similar shapes.
The Am and C are given in the tab above, for the Gm use Am shape starting at fret 3. Play the Bb using the C shape but now at 6th fret.  For the Fm play Am shape at 1st fret. Play the Ab chord similar as the C chord in the given tab but now at the 4th fret.
Finish sequence with the first Am chord and let this chord ring out for one bar, by doing so you do create a tasty contrast with the previous Ab major chord and the sound of the A minor chord.

Play attention to your sweeps, play all bars similar as the first, given one in the tab.

Once you start to get the sweep happening for the chords try some sweep picking over two strings for your solos: Create some phrases where you combine sweep picking and alternate picking. Once you can do this, extend the range of the sweep over more strings, also increase the number of frets apart from your strings. Ingwie Malmsteen is the master of this technique, but also Mark Knopfler uses the technique, have a listen to the end of the solo in “Sultans of Swing” to hear some great examples of tasteful sweep picking.

Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again with more updates for your own guitar playing style.

Bass Guitar For Beginners

For this article we make a start with the bass guitar, we will have a look at the parts of the guitar and make a start with playing the bass guitar.

Most bass guitars will come with four strings, these strings are similar to the four bass strings of the guitar: From low to high they are named E, A, D and G

The strings of the bass guitar are thicker than those of the ordinary six string guitar. The strings can be played with the fingers of the right hand (left hand if you are a lefty) or a pick.

The bass guitar looks almost the same as the six-string-guitar with the difference that the bass does only have four strings, some bass guitars will only have one pick-up,  usually the body is bigger, same as strings, tuning keys and bridge. All of these are bigger and more sturdy compared to the six-string-guitar.

The bass guitar is usually played one note at a time. These notes are usually played to accompany the melody of the song, the notes form a strong basis between the drums and the rest of the melody of the music. The bass guitar can play solos or embelishments as well. The function of accompanist does not have to be a plain one: You can play with as much flair as you can, the better your technique is the better you will be at playing with the right flavour for the song.

Let us now have a look at playing some simple ideas on the bass guitar. We start off by playing the open E string. Play the string using your first and second finger of your right hand. The first finger is your index finger while the second finger is called your middle finger. Alternate using both fingers to play the open E string, as you play the string count One Two One Two etc. While you count One use your First Finger to play the open E, when you count Two use your Second Finger to play the open E string, alternate playing the same string twice. The E string is the thickest string of the four.

As you alternating with your first and second finger you can let your thumb rest on the pick-up of the bass.
If you are using an ordinary six-string-guitar to play these ideas, just rest your thumb somewhere on the body of the guitar, find a comfortable position for your first and second finger to rest on the same, low E string. It will take time for your fingers to feel comfortable, hang in there for now as this article is only a guide for now, a first introduction if you like on how to make a start playing the bass.

Once you have played a few times the open E string do the same for the open A, D and G. Use for all strings the same fingers: Finger One and Two of your right hand and play slowly those two open notes for each string. Do this untill you start to feel comfortable playing those open strings.

Okay now that you have been playing open strings let us now have a look at using fretted notes where you use your left hand to finger the notes on the fretboard.

On the E string you will get an E while you play the string as open string, now use your first finger (index!) of your left hand to play the note on the first Fret of the E string. This note is called an F. Press down the string close to the fret and use your first finger of your right hand to strike the string. Again use both index and middle finger of your right hand to play the F note, Play it several times. Now move up on the same, low E string, to the third fret. This note is the G, play this note in similar way as above by using, again, your Index and Middle finger, play the G several times. Go back to the F —first fret— and play the F several times. Then go back to the E and play this notes a couple of times.

Look at the following:

E    E   E   E     F   F   F  F     G   G   G   G    F   F   F   F      E   E   E   E 

You can treat these notes as chords and you start of on the bass by using the open E strings, then alternate the open E several times, move on to the F, which is on the First Fret and you use your first finger of your left hand to play this note. Play again the F by using Index and Middle finger in alternating fashion to play the F note, Move on to the G, again use Index and Middle of your right hand and play in similar way as explained above. Your goal is to play those three notes fluent and clear: Make them sound full and clear. Once all notes sound clear make sure you can move from one to the other fluently without breaking up the sound of each note.

next time we will look at using more open- and fretted notes.


Using Boss OD-3 and MXR Dist. + as Treble Booster for your Amp

Boss OD-3 and the MXR Dist + are great pedals to create a slight boost to your amp. It may be just the sound you want  to add a bit of boost to your single string sound or a bit of bite to the sound of your chords.
The OD-3 can give you a lot of variety in sound by opening up the Drive control. When you are just after a bit of boost the Drive control can be kept down to a minimum, all depending on the kind of amp you use, to give you that sound. Opening up the Tone control will create more volume and treble to the overal sound.

The OD-3 is very consistent: Whatever kind of amp you use, small, big, valve or transistor or whatever… you will get similar results. I have even used it through a mixer using headphones and the results are very similar as to what you hear when using an amp. The difference you get from using different amps does come from the amp rather than the OD-3 itself, very good!!

The tone is of the OD-3 is very Marshall JCM 900, I have mentioned this before in other articles. This is good if you like the sound of Marshall, if you after a booster which will not colour your sound the OD-3 is not for you. Boosters which will not colour your signal are uncommon, nearly any pedal you will find will add some kind of colour to your signal even though it may be subtle.

The MXR Dist. + will give you a clean boost if you keep the Dist. control down, just open up the output. The pedal does not have as much output signal as the OD-3, if you want more signal you will need to open up the Dist. a bit, which will add a bit of crunch. The Dist. + does create a fantastic sound on your bass strings, use if for riffs or powerchords which need just a bit of humph, and you will love the results. The overal sound of the Dist. + is general, it does not mimick any kind of amp, and the sound is neutral is a way, which is not bad at all.

Both OD-3 and Dist. + respond well to a Humbuck or Single coil pick-up: The character of pick-up and pedal remain noticeable.
The OD-3 and Dist. + are just a few pedals to mention you can use as treble booster, there are plenty more pedals around which you can use as treble booster. In the next few weeks I will review some other pedals which can also be used as treble booster as well.
Hope to see you soon again,


Sound Tutorial:Treble Boosters and How to Use Them For Your Amp

A treble booster can turn your amp into overdrive, this kind of overdrive tends to be natural and is basically created by adding more treble and volume to the amp. Trebleboosters used to be populair in the late 1960s and early 1970s at a time when most amps where single channel amps The only form of distortion available then was Fuzz or turning the volume of your amp on full. Using a treblebooster gave you more control over the volume and overal distortion sound of your amp.
These days, when most amps will come with some form of distortion and/or channelswitching, treble boosters can still be useful as they can give you a, somewhat, natural kind of overdrive.

Looking at trebleboosters, it is possible to turn your overdrive pedal into a treble booster, all you need is a pedal where you can control the amount of gain, volume and tone and you are there. Some overdrive pedals may be better at this function than others
For the next few articles I will review some overdrive pedals which work well as treble boosters, the pedals I will review will be the Boss BD-2, Boss OD-3, The MXR Distortion +, DOD FX 55-B and the Peavy Dirty Dog

When looking into treble boosters for yourself consider the amp you are usings, the pick-ups of your guitar: Singles or Humbucks and the kind of sound you want to achieve.
Some of the pedals I will review work well using valve amps or transistor, some pedals actually preformed very similar while using these different kind of amps. A bonus some may say?!

Stay tuned for next few articles about treble boosters,

What You Did Not Know About Your Least Favourite Guitars

When you open up this blog you may wonder what this article will be about? It is for those guitarplayers who have a favourite guitar but next to this one favourite axe they may have quite a few other guitars which they may not know so well. Each guitar is unique and has the potential to become your favourite axe. For this to happen you need to make sure that all your guitars play as well as they can, get them set up properly and maintain their set up over the years.
Let us now have a look at what you can do to discover the sonic potential- and feel of each of your guitars

Each guitar is able to preform any type of music you like, but some guitars may be more suitable for certain types of music. Want to get an over-the-top Rock sound? Well a Les Paul and a Marshall will serve you well, this is not to say that a Stratocaster could not give you a similar vibe, but the Les Paul may get you quicker to that sound.

A good test to find out how well your guitars suit whatever you play is to play something you really enjoy playing, now play same idea on another guitar, use same amp, change only guitars. Keep on playing and be honest: At some point you will find a certain guitar will sound better for whatever it is you are playing. As you play, be as open-minded as you can about the guitar: Does this guitar sound well for what I am playing? Does the guitar feel good for what I am playing? The guitar you play at the moment may not be suited for the idea you like to play (it may lack in sustain or treble or whatever) Maybe the guitar may want you to play something else? and that something else may be unique for that particular guitar.
When you approach your guitars with that mind set you may find outt hat each guitar does actually contain something unique and you may just want to pick them up for that feature.

Enjoy your playing and hope to catch you soon again,

Effect Pedal Review: Vintage Electro Harmonix Clone Theory

The Clone Theory is one of those larger sheetmetal effect boxes Electro Harmonix produced during the 70s. The Clone Theory was produced around 1977. It is basically a Chorus pedal which can give you Vibrato and Flange sounds as well.


The pedal does have three Jack Sockets: One is OUTPUT, there is a DIRECT OUT and the last one is INPUT.
Next to these three Jack Sockets there are three Controls: One for CHORUS/VIBRATO another one for RATE and last control is for DEPTH.

There is also a small toggle switch which gives you the option to change your sound from CHORUS/VIBRATO    to  VIBRATO/FLANGE. The switch acts as a filter to give you variations in sound rather than giving you proper Vibrato and Flange.

All the sounds are very thick and crude even the Chorus which sounds mechanical and robotic, nothing like a Boss CE1.

The pedal is quite noisy, which is the case for most of the older Electro Harmonix pedals. You will not find this a problem when you play.

It seems that Electro Harmonix made a few variations in their effects which could produce Chorus, Vibrato and Flange sounds.
The Electric Mistress does contain some Chorus sounds which are similar to the sounds of the Clone Theory, but the Flange sounds of the Electric Mistress are very different from the one found on the Clone Theory, the Clone does have simpler sounds and gives you less options than the Electric Mistress.

Happy Playing and hope to see you again soon,

Guitar Tutorial: How To Create Variations in Your Guitar Solos

Playing solos on the guitar can be quite satisfying for your ears but where do you go when you feel that all you ever play sounds similar. Now that you have learned a handful of Pentatonic Scale Positions where do you go to make those solos stand out and sound better?

                                 Mix Melody and Bass Strings:

True, the guitar does only have six strings, and the low E, A and D string can be considered as bass strings, the G, B and High E are your melody strings. When you play solos why not combine your strings? Play a musical idea using the High E and B string, then jump to the lower strings to play the same idea. Sometimes a riff may sound better when played mainly on your bass strings. Why not use a Fuzz to make those bass strings really sing?

                                Using Different Postions:

When it comes to playing postitions the 5th position is the easiest to play in, but when you play in the 5th position all the time it is time to learn other positions! Play a riff and play it where you only use open strings. Open strings do have their own sound and sometimes a riff played with only open strings may sound fantastic. To get more variation in your sound, move the riff around over the whole fretboard. Certain positions will sound better than other postions. You may not be able to play the whole riff in particular positions. Each position will feel different and certain techniques, such as stringbending, may sound better in higher positions. Explore your riff and find out where it sounds best to your ears. Changing to a different gauge of strings may give you a different outlook on which position sounds best for whatever idea you are playing. Keep exploring all you sonic potentials.

Have fun and hope to catch you soon again!

Guitar Tutorial: Improve Your Sight Reading Now!!

Sight reading is the skill to read notated music on the spot without learning to play what it is you are reading. You read the notes as they are written down on the sheetmusic and transfer this on the spot to the fretboard of the guitar.
Being able to read music is helpful for learning new techniques and new pieces, it will help you understanding rhythms and music theory better. It will improve you to be a better guitar player.

When you are new to sight reading get yourself a simple, basic tutorbook and just start playing. Most of the tutorbooks will come with a CD to give you an idea what the sheetmusic sounds like. In the beginning you will need to start to learn to names of the notes and where you can find those notes on the fretboard of the guitar. Most of the pieces you will learn in the beginning are written for the open-and first postion. The open postion uses a lot of open strings, the first positon is the next position up on the fretboard from the open postion.  Once you start to understand the notes try to play the pieces, you have just learned in the open postion, in a higher postion on the fretboard. Find the first note of the piece, play this note in any higher postion and then try to find the other notes. Go slow in the beginning. Before you know it the fretboard will open up and you will start to see the notes all over the fretboard.

Instead of working with dedicated guitartutor books you can also use the material from guitarmagazines, tutorbooks for violin and flute. The music found in violin-and flute books can easily be translated to the guitar since the violin and flute are both instruments which can play single notes.

Try any of the above suggested ideas to inspire your playing, remember the reading is only there to help you to tap into other forms of music and techniques. Give it a go and keep at it.

Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again for more ideas to stimulate your guitar playing experience.

Guitar Distortion Pedal Review: Boss PW-2 Power Driver

For this article a short review about the Boss PW-2 Power Driver. The PW-2 gives you a very specific sound, although it is possible to tweak the pedal to get different tones. The pedal contains 4 controls, One being Level, the next one is a Bass control (named FAT) the third control is for Mid (named MUSCLE) and the last control is for the Drive.
Giving the controls uncommon names is something of the mid to late 90s: There is DOD which did it, the Dirty Dog Peavy Pedal also uses uncommon names for typical guitar controls such as tone and drive. Do not let these names put you off from trying the pedal, it is just something funny and you can easily get used to it!

The PW-2 is quite a unique pedal. I feel the pedal is great for alternative rock and grunge, but if you wish you can use it for any other sound and style. Let me explain the various sounds in detail:

Keeping the FAT, MUSCLE and DRIVE all down and just using LEVEL will give you a crunchy sound, it also shows this pedal will not give you a clean boost!

For basic tone, turn all controls to 12,oo noon. If this is too much for your taste, turn down the DRIVE. Still too much? work with the FAT to reduce, or boost the bass. Use the MUSCLE to cut midrange or to boost it.

Turning the FAT all the way up will give you a bass boost without the pedal getting to sound too muddy. It works very well all depending on the sound- and settings of your amp.

Turning the MUSCLE all the way up will give you a Mid boost, turn this control down and you will hear more Treble.

By opening up the MUSCLE you will not get Marshall, no this pedal is not another OD-1.
The sonic character of the PW-2 comes close to an Electric Harmonics Big Muff: It sounds crude but pleasant at the same time.

Big Muffs are often mentioned in context of Fuzz, trying the Fuzz test with a Strat using the PW-2 gives great results: Turn tonecontrol down and just play. As extra I kept the FAT and MUSCLE controls all the way down while going for the Fuzz sound, the sound was very tight and pleasing. Sounds more convincing compared to micking a Fuzz on a DS-1.

When you read several reviews on the net you will see that some people feel the PW-2 can give you Blues, Metal and other sounds. Personally I feel the pedal is best at giving you crude, distorted sounds in a sweet way. All the variations on this tone are very useable and pleasant on the ear. Fans of Sonic Youth will love this pedal!

Happy Pedal Hunting and hope to catch you soon again,