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!
Eddie

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.
Eddie

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,
Eddie

Improve Your Solos: Basic Guide to Essential Guitar Techniques

For this article a list with short ideas on how to improve your ability to play solos on the guitar. The list can be used as goals, something to focus on during your time while you work on improving your solo skills for the guitar.

    Melodies/riffs and Scale Patterns

Most guitar players will get introduced to Pentatonic Scales at some point. There is a major and a minor version of the Pentatonic Scale. Once you get introduced to a scalepattern learn to use it for anything you play: Do not simply play the scale back and forwards, use it to make melodies and riffs. If you have trouble doing so, go back and try to find out what is causing you trouble. The scalepattern should make it easy for you to play over any song, since the notes will fit the key of the given song. Playing melodies on the guitar with scalepatterns is a very common technique a lot of well-known guitar players use. Get smooth with it from the moment you get introduced to Scalepatterns. 

   String Bending

Being able to bend a string is not only for guitar players of Blues and Rock, it is a technique which can be used in any style of playing. String bending gives you this unique sound which is typical for stringed instruments such as the guitar. You can bend strings on a steel string guitar or an electric string guitar, you can even bend strings on a Soprano Ukulele. The sound of a bended string on a guitar sounds somewhat like someone playing slide on a guitar using a bottleneck. There are different kind of bends such as single string bend or double bend. The single string bend is the easiest to play, the double bend is the most useful to learn since it gives you a lot of sustain and strength for your individual notes.

  Hammer On

The Hammer On gives you the ablitiy to create variety in your single string playing. They can be used during fast runs up-and down the fretboard. Work on getting them smooth into your overal playing style.

  Pull Off

Like the Hammer On, the Pull Off can be used to create variety is your playing, it will create a different dimension to your overal picking technique.

   Slide

The Slide can be used to bring a different element to your single, string sound. It creates sustain and makes your playing smoother and stand out from the rest. Instead of playing fast notes you can concentrate on smooth phrasing by using slides in combination with well chosen, single string ideas.

   Bonus Extravaganza— TWo Handed String Tapping—

This technique may only be for the brave. Once you start looking into it  Two Handed String Tapping is actually not as complex as what is sounds like. By using it you can make your playing sound less common. The trick is to use this technique not as gimmick but to use it to make phrases stand out from the rest of your melodies.

Looking at the list you may think it is a very short list. Indeed, and any player of any ability is able to use any of these techniques. The better you will become the better any of these techniques will start to sound. Use all of those techniques at any given time and keep working on them as they will make your playing stand out from the rest

Happy Playing and hope to catch you soon again!
Eddie

Beginner and Intermediate Guitar Players: Checklist What To Work On To Improve Your Guitar Playing Skills

For this article a handful of tips for what to work on to improve your own guitar playing.

       Musical Alphabeth

Most people will have heard about it. The  Musical Alphabeth is the order of the notes as they appear in music. Knowing the order of the notes is one thing, being able to apply it to your guitar and your playing style is another. Make sure you understand how the alphabeth works and what it means for your chords and notes you play at any place of the fretboard. If you do not know what it meant by the Alphabeth please read up about it on this blog or any other place on the net, or any music theory related book you can find.
When it comes to learing the notes on the strings of the guitar, start off by learning the notes of the low E string, once you know them look at the notes on the A string. Once you get to grips with them have a look at the notes on the B string. Over time you will learn to associate notes with where you fingers are on the fretboard. Knowing the notes you play will help you with your understanding of the fretboard, it also makes learning new songs easier.

      Basic Chordshapes

Make sure you can play most of the open chords, get a grip on the most common barre chords and be able to use chords such as 7ths and Sus4 chords. Look at variations of chordshapes you already use, the more different chordshapes you know the better you will be at creating different sounds with the guitar, do not just stick with the open chords simply because you can, try to venture out to get different chordshapes under your belt.

       Single Notes

Be able to use your fingers in such a way that you can play simple, single string notes and riffs. Playing the guitar is more than just playing chords. Most beginners find playing one note at a time easier than playing chords. The guitar gives you the ability to play single notes and chords, try to make a habit of working on your single note skills. You can play any melody of any song you know, or just play a part of a melody you know. Hum the melody first, then try to find the first note you hum, play this one note on the guitar and you are on your way to master the rest of the melody.

I have kept this checklist on purpose very short. I feel it makes it easier to concentrate on what you need to work on. Once you start digging in you will find there is so much to be learned and if you  really are into the guitar there is always something new to be discovered each time you play.

Good luck and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Guitar Lesson: Picking Technique Right Hand— Up and Down Strokes—-

Anyone who has played guitar for a while will have heard of the term down-and up picking. For this article a short brief on what they are and how to use them.

Down picking is simply a downstroke of the pick on any of the strings of the guitar. Down picking is the most natural movement of the pick as the pick will want to move downwards on any of the strings. The opposite of the down stroke is the up stroke: You stike the string with an upward motion of the pick. The up stroke may take you a little longer to get smooth, as this techique feels less natural as opposed the down stroke.
Both down-and up stroke have their place in the picking technique of your right hand, they need to be practised individually for you to be able to use them at any time.

Down strokes are often used for musical ideas played on the beat of the music as opposed to playing on the off-beat of the music. Count simply 1  2  3  4  for the four beats in a bar, playing on any of those beats means you play on the beat of the music. Count now  1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. The “and” in the four beats are the off-beat of the music, for the off-beat you can use the up-stroke of the pick. The up stoke does have a skippy sound compared to the down stroke: try picking only the off beats of your open, high E string to experience this feel. Do now the same but only picking the down beats on the same E string. Notice any difference? The down beat will feel more natural, the off beat will feel more jumpy.  

Other examples where down strokes are being played are sweep picking and string skipping. Both sweep-and string skipping are techniques where you skip strings quickly, it makes sense to use the down stroke of the pick as the similar motion of the pick creates a smoother sound.

There are times when up and down strokes are  being used at the same time, this technique is called alternate picking. This style of picking can be used for musical ideas which are being played at higher tempos. The alternate picking style will give you a smooth down and up motion which will keep the flow of your notes moving forwards gracefullly.

The Tremolo is another example where you use alternate picking.Tremoloes provide a steady stream of notes which will make your note sustain for a while. Tremoloes can be played for one note at a time or a succession of notes, the effect will be the same, the notes will sustain.

Practise all these different forms of picking individually to get comfortable with any of them. Some of these forms of picking may take a little longer for them to become natural and smooth. Stick with them and get a feel for when to use them at the right time.

Ejoy and hope to see you soon again,
Eddie 

Songwriting Lesson: How to Start and Develop Your Lyric Writing

For this article a short article on how to start-and develop your lyrics.

It helps to have a clear idea what it is you want to write about. Once you have your topic what you want to write about, you can brainstorm about the subject: Think about as many things as you can associated with the subject you want to write about. Write all the idea down which come up during your brainstorm session. Do not be too critical as these ideas are only there as ideas. You will end up with a lot of ideas which you may not find useful, but for now just write down anything which comes into your head.

Once you have gathered enough brainstorm ideas look at your list and choose the ones you like most of all.
The next stage is to develop the ideas you like. Develop your loose, brainstorm ideas by turning them into a short story: simply write a few lines which expand the single brainstorm idea, do it in such a manner that each brainstorm idea becomes a little story. How long should this story be? Not too long, a few lines will do. It is not about the lenght, it is  about what you say and how the story sounds like.

Now that you have written your short stories around your loose brainstorm ideas, see if you can connect some of the stories you have made up. You do not have to take all the ideas you used in your stories, connecting some of the stories is enough. Once you have connected a few stories, you may want to rewrite the whole idea again to make it fit better for the purporse of your song.

Be creative with your writing: You story does not have to be chronological in order, it also does not have to be logical, you may want to use nonsense words, words which simply sound good. Think of your writing as a song and not poetry or a short story. The endresult of your writing will end up as words which will be sung and therefore they need to sound good. A good lyric is one which makes sense logically and sonically. For now you goal is to make it work.

                           Style and Tradition:

If you work with traditional styles such as blues and folk music your lyrics may need to reflect this and you may want to stick to the  wirtings and traditions of these styles. You can still be creative with your writing but you also may want to observe the cliches of these styles for your writing to sound natural and clear.

Your writing will get better overtime and you will also understand better what it takes to create better lyrics. Over time you will write better lyrics, all you need to do is stick to it and not to give up. Once you have finished a lyric do not edit and rewrite it too often. If you are still not happy with the original idea it may be better to start with a new lyric instead of rewriting an old one.

Enjoy your writing and hope to catch you soon again.
Eddie

The Musical Alphabeth and What It Means For Your Fretboard

You may have heard about the term “Musical Alphabeth” it works similar as the normal alphabeth we use for everyday speech and written communication. The Musical Alphabeth usually starts with a C and the order is like: C-D-EF-G-A-BC.

Why is it useful to be aware of the order of the notes? Because it helps you seeing where you are on the fretboard, it will also help you with moving chordshapes along the fretboard: Play a D chord and move it up two frets and you will get an E chord for the simple fact that E is the next note after D.

When you look at the oder of the notes I gave you earlier on you notice that I put a – inbetween the C and D,  F and G and G and A.  The – means you can raise the note to get a #: Play a C anywhere on the fretboard and go up one fret and you will get a C#. You are able to do this with any note where you see the –

Being aware of the order of the notes gives you the ability to name notes anywhere on the fretboard. Have a look at the following example: Think of the low E string and play the first fret on this string, this note is an F because it is fretted on the first fret and we use the E string, go one note up after E and you get an F. If you were to play the second fret on the E string you will get an F#, but let us forget the sharps for now. Let us play the fifth fret on the low E: The fifth fret gives you the A note——2nd fret would be F#, 3rd fret would be G, 4th fret would be G# and the fifth will give us the note of A. Keep refering back to the order of the notes and start from the notename of the string which you use and count up whereever you are on the fretboard.

Getting to know the names of your notes on the fretboard is very usefull for all kind of playing situations, it may be an idea to learn the notes of the low E and A string. After a while you will not longer need to think about the notenames, the fretmarkers (the white dots or block on the fretboard) will help you to navigate your way around the fretboard.

Happy playing and hope to catch you soon again.
Eddie

Songwriting Lesson: Use Major 7th Chords

For this article a tip on how you can use major 7th chords in your songs.

Major 7th chords are triads with an extra note thrown in which give the chord a different colour. The major 7th sounds a bit dreamy and open. They are great chords for resolving into another chord.

Let us have a look at the following example of how you can use a major 7th to great effect in a very simple two chord sequence:

          Gmaj7             C

    E —-2———–0—————-

    B—-3————5—————-

    G —4————5—————–

    D —5————5—————–

    A ———————————–

    E ———————————– 

The notes in Gmaj7 are G,B, D and F#.  The F# is the maj 7th of the chord.

The notes in a C chord are C,E and G.

In the given example the F# is the maj7th of the G chord. It can be found on the high E string. The note falls down to the open E of the C chord.
The D of the G chord is on the B string and this note moves up the  E of the C chord on the 5th fret of the B string. The B of the G chord, found on the 4th fret on the G string moves up to the C on the 5th fret of the G string. Notice how the Root of the G chord, found on the 5th fret of the D string of this chord shape, remains the same when the G move to the C chord.

You can be creative with your chordshapes. Look at the next example what I use for my C chord.  I Kept the G maj7 the same as in the previous example.

             C

     E —–0————–

     B —–1————–

     G —–0————–

     D- —-2—————-

     A ———————

    E ———————- 

The effect of the different chordshape for the C chord is now that three notes have moved down instead of up, use both versions of the C chord to hear the difference in sound between the two of them. Keep the G maj 7 the same all the way throughout.
The low E on the C chord, which is the 2nd fret on the D string is very noticable, it gives the chord a low boost.

Experiment for yourself using maj7th chords and try to resolve the chord to another chord which is close to the maj.7th you played before to get the best effect out of the chord.

Hope to catch you soon again.
Eddie 

Bookreview: Metallica, Justice for all–The Truth About Metallica–by Joel McIver

For this article a bookreview for a book about Metallica  simply called: Metallica  Justice for all — The Truth About Metallica– by Joel McIver. The book came out in 2004 and covers the years in between the albums: Kill em All from 1983 up and till the St. Anger album from 2003.  Here a link to the wiki page of the author: http:///en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_McIver
The author is a diehard fan from the first hour but he remains critical about the band their progress and their music.
The book contains pictures of the different line-ups of the band throughout the years, there is even a picture of the horrific coach crash which claimed Cliff Burton’s life on the 27th of Sept. 1986.

    Layout of the Book:

The book starts off with a foreword and introduction which explains the motives for writing the book. After the introduction the book is simply lay-out in chronological order starting with the years before 1980 and finishing with 2003. The book is build up around truth statements which the author explains, analyses and answers in the pages in between these several statements. The statements are: The Truth about Trash Metal, the Truth about Cliff Burton, the Truth about Master of Puppets, the Truth about the Black Album, the Truth about Load and Reload, the Truth about Napster and finally the Truth about Metallica.

Like any book of this content there is a lot of filler, detailed information about tours, a break down of each song for each studio album the band ever recorded, a breakdown for each year with info what each individual bandmember was up to. All this may be interesting for the die hard fan but may not be for everyone.

For most music fans around the world the names Metallica and Napster will sound familiar, the section in the book about this episode may shed some light on the fine workings of the machine called Metallica. It certainly is an interesting read how one band started off a debate about free downloads and the sharing of music on the net.

Personally I find the early chapters of the book the most interesting, which contains the sections about the struggles of the band, the change of bandmembers and the detailed info of American Trash Metal bands in the early 1980s in comparision to the early Britsish bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene. All of this gave us the roots of Trash Metal and all the other sub genres of Metal we know these days.
Anyone who is a casual fan of Metallica and enjoys intense, heavy guitarbands will enjoy reading these early pages of the book as it gives you a snapshot of the early 1980s history of Heavy Metal bands..

The last few chapters of the book read very much like the contents of the documentary Some Kind of Monster dealing with the new bassplayer Robert Trujillo, the crisis the band found itself in at around 2001-2002 and the release of the St. Anger album and the fans response to the album.

About the music of Metallica I have to say that I find it interesting that some people claim the earlier songs are so much better than what came after the Black Album. Just an opinion I guess. Personally I enjoy all of their work, the songs from the later period may be less heavy and intense, but some of the trade mark riffs and sounds and solos are still there.
If you do have an interest in Metallica give this book a try as you may come across some information you have not heard or seen before.

Enjoy reading and hope to catch you soon again for more.
Cheers,
Eddie