Learning to Play the Guitar: Beginners Guide

A lot of people learn to play the guitar on their, or at least they make a start with playing the guitar on their own. It helps if you are disciplined and have will power. For this short article a few tips for those who like to do it on their own.

                           Use of Fingers:

Most people will dive in straight away with learning to play chords. Chords, because they have found them in their favourite songs, and most people like to play what they know. Playing chords is fine, and they will take time to sound good simply because you are fretting more than one string.
In the beginning you need to work on your fingers to get them to work for you. To get your fingers to work play simple single string ideas over just one string. You can play anything on the high E string. Just play a few notes with your index finger. Once you can press the string down with your index finger progress to using your middle finger. Play similar ideas as what you did before. Progress with this kind of approach until you have covered all four fingers of your fretting hand, including your little finger. Do not forget this finger as it is an important one and a lot of intermediate players of the guitar need to work on this as they have ignored using it right from the beginning.

                       Chords and Wrist of Strum Hand:

Once you can play a few single string ideas try your hand at open string chords. They are called open string chords because they are a mix of fretted notes and open strings. All the open string chords can be found in the first position of the guitar. Try to fret a G and Em and then move from one to the other one. In the beginning it will take time to move from one to the next chord. Strum each chord with a down stroke. You can use a pick or just use your thumb.
Once you can hold down your down strums try upstrums, look at your wrist of your strumming hand, try to get it relaxed and nice and easy. This will take time as the wrist of the strumming hand is stiff with most beginners. The movement of the wrist is quite specific for playing the guitar, hence your wrist not being used to the movement it needs to make. You can even use a mirror to see how your wirst looks like. Look at the wrist of experienced guitar players to get and idea how to use your wrist. Remember everyone does have a different body, so looking at other guitar player’s hands should only be used as a guide. There is no such thing as wrong body or hand, anyone can learn to play and use their hands accordingly, but you will need to work on getting your hands (and fingers) to work for you.

                     Chords: Picking and Strumming:

One you can hold down a few chords and strum these chords, try to pick those chords. Picking is where you play one string at a time. It is with picking that you will start to notice how important it is to play all those strings clearly. Your strings need to sound clear and not muffled. Againg you need to play and play to get your chords to sound clear.
A good song to learn for picking chords is “House of the Rising Sun”.  The song contains five open chords, once you can play this song you are on your way with using those chords to how you would like them to sound like.

                    Beyond Picking and Stumming:

The guitar can be played to fullfil many different tasks within the field of playing music. Most people will only cover the basics of playing, It may give them enough satisfacion. For those who are really keen there is a world of knowledge to digest: Look at as many guitar hand books as you can, read about your favourite guitar players, see what they used to learn how to play the guitar. Start reading books about guitars, find out why certain guitars play, and sound, they way they do. If you are interested in electric guitar, there is of course the amplifier and various effects you can use to make the guitar sound different. Playing with effects is a skill on its own, and again, it will take time and effort to master the use of it.
If you stick with it playing the guitar is for the rest of your life and as long as you keep yourself occupied there is plenty to be learned. Those who will claim “I know it all” may need to look, and listen, again at what it is they really know.

Happy exploring.
Eddie

Installing Humbucker on Stratocaster: What You Can Expect

Since the Stratocaster does have three pick-ups you may like the idea of swapping any of those single coils for one single coil size humbuck pick-up.
Single coil size humbuckers do have the advantage of having the same size as your single coil, no need for extra routing in the body of the guitar to make the humbuck fit.
Companies like Dimarzio and Seymour Duncan do a large range of single size humbuck pick ups. I mention those two names as they seem to be popular and therefor easy to get hold of.

Once you have installed your humbuck (either neck or bridge) you will notice the difference straight away between the humbuck sound and the single coil sound: The humbucker will sound a tad duller but also fuller when used with a clean guitarsound. Switching between the humbuck and single coil will let you experience the difference between the two different sounds. You will be amazed how bright single coils sound. They can still cut through in the mix, but their sound is sharp and bright.

Using distortion (or gain) on your amp you will find that the humbucker will be smoother and softer in sound. Yes it will give you that singing sustain, even on a bolted on neck Stratocaster.  This may be a fun experience if you are used to Les Paul type of guitars to get you that kind of sound.

Once you have installed one humbucker you may even like the idea of installing another one, either in bridge or neck postion, depending on where you did put your first humbucker.

Happy Playing,
Eddie

The Acoustic Tone of Your Electic Guitar: It Starts Right Here!

For this short article a few insights about what kind of acoustic tone your electric guitar produces.

Acoustic tone from an electric guitar you may wonder. “Does the sound not come out of my amp?” Yes it does, hopefully, but the guitar which produces the sound coming out of the amp does have an acoustic tone as well, and this tone also controbutes to the overal sound of the electric guitar.

If you have a few electric guitars around try the following: Tune all the guitars up and play the same musical ideas on all of them, play without using the amp and just listen to the tone, go with your ear near the body, even put your ear on the body and listen, put your  ear to the neck of the guitar and listen.

Good, quality guitars will produce and even tone, not matter where you listen, you will hear a similar sound. Lesser quality guitars may not sound even in all places: The neck may produce a different tone compared to some parts of the body.
There is no difference in fixed bridge guitars and guitars equipped with tremolo units, even Floyd Rose guitars will give you these results.

Try using a slide: This will give you the most natural sound of string and wood combined: The string will be amplified by the wood and will produce an overal tone. When you play using a pick, or fingers, there is the attack of the strike of the string with the pick or finger, this will also contribute to the sound. Listen through this and see if the sound is similar to the sound when using a slide.
Quality guitars will produce a somewhat similar sound when using slide or fingers or pick.

The tone we just looked at get amplified by the pick-ups and amp. Lesser quality guitars the acoustic tone may not be that great, may lack a bit in bass or body, may be too light or whatever you feel is lacking. The pick-ups may make up for whatever was lacking in acoustic tone. They may add more brightness, bass and spark to the overal sound coming out of the amp.

The amplifier is the final part in the overal sound of the electric guitar: A quality amp you will be able to compensate for whatever weaknesses the acoustic tone of your guitar had and you may be able to get a happening tone.

Once you know what is lacking acoustically from your electric guitar you may be able to cure this matter without any additional help of amplifier: You could change the neck of the guitar (depending on what type of guitar your have) You may be able to change the body of the guitar (again depending on the type of guitar you have)

Modifying an electric guitar to your own needs is all fine and well: It takes time and effort and money, it may be better to find a guitar which is fine from the start, and produces a happening tone without any worries.
If you have never altered any of your guitars, any custom work you may undertake may open your eyes and mind to whatever is responsible for the tone of your electric guitar, It cetainly is a interesting and satisfying process.

Happy Tone Hunting
Eddie

Slide Guitar Tips for Beginners

When you are new to playing slide guitar there are a matter of issues to look at. You may have questions like: “Do I need to use open tunings?” What kind of slide should I be using?” How should I set up my guitar for playing slide?”

 

Before we go into any of the issues above let me go more into detail about why to play slide? There are some guitarists who have turned playing slide guitar into a career. For those playing slide is all they do. Then theres are the guitarists who are good at using a slide, they use the slide as a variety in their sound, just like an effect or a different technique. Playing slide is just a part of what they can play.

When you are new to playing slide you may want to spend some extra time with the slide to get some chops under your belt, to develop a clean technique ect. Once you get the hang of it, it is like any technique, you will be able to use it at will.

                  Technique:

You can use the slide on your ring finger or little finger. Personally I like the idea of using pink because it keeps your other three fingers free for fretting ideas. Using your pink will give you the ability to play melodic ideas with your fingers and to use to slide next to those ideas.

When starting out, playing ideas on the high E string first, try to play as clean as you can: Use the slide only on one string: This may be a bit tricky when you only play over the high E, because all the other five strings will get in the way. Use the top end of the slide. Once you can play in this manner, playing over more strings will be a lot easier. Try to control the sound as much as you can.

Slide with the slide right above the fret to get the right note, listen carefully and learn to play in tune all the time. Start slowly, once you get the hang of it speed up your ideas.

Learn to play with vibrato, this will make the note sustain and is a natural part of playing slide guitar, the better your vibrato technique the better your silde playing will sound like.

Keep your other fingers of your fretting hand curved while you use the slide, this will mute all the unwanted noice you create. Keeping your fretting fingers curved over the strings will mute any unwanted noise. Again, this may feel unfamiliar and strange at first, keep at it, once mastered you will have a great sounding clean slide techinque.

                 Finger Stlye or Pick?:

Try using both your fingers and a pick. Ideally develop a technique where you can hold the pick while not using it and use the rest of your fingers for fingerstyle ideas. Once you can do this you can flick between using a pick and using your fingers. If you have not used your fingers much for playing fingerstyle you will find at some stage your fingertips may start to hurt because your fingertips may be a little soft, Keep at it and your fingers will accustom themselves to your needs.

                Glass or Brass Slide?:

The kind of slide you use is a simple as your choice of pick: Try various types of slides, find the once you like the sound-and feel of. Brass slides sound softer than Glass ones. You can make your own as well, just experiment with what works. I would not try too much of the Zippoo Ligher idea, as it takes a few fingers to hold the lighter, also the microphone stand may give you less desired effects compared to a dedicated slide.

               Guitar and Set-up:

Ideally your guitar should be set up with the action a little higher than how you would normally like it. This is one of the resaons why I have all my guitars set up like this. It means any guitar is ready for playing slide and none of them will give that sound of hitting the slide on the  metal frets. A higher action will give your guitar a better sound, you may want to try this idea as well. Once you can play, a higher action will not have any impact on your playing ability. Try it.

Another way is to keep a guitar set-up for slide playing, You may also want to keep this guitar in a different tuning compared to its standard norm of  Low E, A, D, G, B and high E

The string gauge to use runs along similar lines of the action: Thicker strings will give you a better and fuller sound regardless whether you use a slide or not. It may be an idea to go up a gauge to explore your sound a bit more. Thinner strings may make it harder to keep your slide playing in tunne: You need to put a slight bit of pressure on the slide and this may sometimes be enough for the string to bend ouf of tune a bit, the thicker your strings are the less issues you will have with this.

                Tuning:

There is the idea that for playing slide you need to use different tuning. Just because Ry Cooder does this for most of his songs, does not mean you need to do this as well. If you have never explored any other tunings you should try some different tunings anyway, even if you do not want to explore slide playing.
Personally I like the idea of using the slide as a different sound, and a different mode to your playing.  Alternative tunings limit your options, once you have explored some of them you will find out how you can use them. Slide playing can be done with any tuning, it may be better to incorporate the slide into your exhisting style of playing.

Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Your Pick-Ups: Humbuckers and Single Coils

As most of you will know, most guitars do come either with Humbuck- or Single Coil Pick-ups. Some type of guitars mix both pick-ups but most of the time it is either one or the other.
When it comes to changing pick-ups, you can actually do this yourself. What about putting single coils on a Les Paul, would it sound good? You need to try to see what it sounds like!

The big differences between Humbuck-and Sinlge Coils is: A Humbucker is darker and thicker sound, Single Coil is much brighter and tinner in sound. Some people may perceive a Humbucker as louder in output. Personally I think this depends on what you are accustumed to: Some Single Coils may also give you a high output. Once you put a Humbuck pick-up in a guitar with Single Coils you can actually test this theory for yourself.

Using Humbuckers and Single Coils with a distorted amp will give you different results: The Humbucker is smoother in sound because of its thicker and somewhat softer sound. A Single Coil is brighter and tinner. A Single coil put through a distorted amp may still cut through a mix of bass and drums when it comes to playing single notes. It all depends on how you play and use your pick-up settings: The Bridge pick-up is usually quite bright and will certainly cut through the mix regardless.

                  Getting the Balance of your Pick-Ups Right:

To check the level and balance of the output of your pick-ups you can check by doing the following: Play a chord and switch between pick-up settings: You want the hear the sound changing, you do not want one pick-up to be much louder than the other one. Be careful with the height of the bridge pick-up: This pick-up is naturally higher in output, because of its location–The Strings do not vibrate much because they are close to the bridge, therefore the pick-up needs to be a tad higher in output to pick up the sound of the string. If your bridge pick-up is set too high it will overpower the other pick-ups. To overcome this you can lower the bridge pick-up a bit.

When you check for output level and balance of sound use a clean sound, once the balance is right you will get similar results when using distortion.

Happy Playing and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

1970s Fender Stratocaster: Unique or Rubbish?

Ever since the Fender company was taken over by employees from CBS around 1983/84 the standard American Stratocaster has been based, in sound and its bodyshape, on the original idease of Leo Fenders early 1950s Stratocaster. This statement is more or less true but you have to take it with a pinch of salt: Fender does make small changes to the design from time to time to suit the taste of modern players and to keep up with current trends.

If one could play an older Statocaster from the early 1950s and compare it to a more modern companion one would be surprised how close they are in sound. The modern Strat may sometimes be a bit hotter in output, but the overal sound is quite close to the originals. Not only American Strats are close to the older 1950s guitars, a lot of copies also remain close in sound to the original as well. Maybe this observation is based on the desire of the Fender company to give people, who play a copy of the American Stratocaster, the idea they play the real thing.

The feel of the older Strats is harder to duplicate in newer Stratocasters, but the Fender company do their utmost to build replicas of 1950s and early 1960s Strats to cater for this need as well.

Reading the above one might wonder:”Do all Strats sound the same since most of them are based on the original, 1950s design?” There is one period where the Stratocaster started to sound very different and this period started from late 1971 until the early 1980s. Stratocasters of 1970 and early 1971 still have the sound, feel and look of the 1960s Strats, the ones after that period started to change in sound, feel and look.

As you are reading this article you may be well aware of all the changes that took place from around 1971. I will not go into detail about some of those changes but will add a few remarks about them and explain what it means:

                            Quality Control:

It was slipping because more and more guitars were ordered, as a result there is a lot of variety in bodyweight, finish, type of wood being used and overal workmanship. They were simply sent out to fullfill the orders, whereas in the past some of those guitars may have been called back for some extra work before being sent off, hence so much variety in feel, look and sound.

                Body Weight:

Often the 1970s Strat is perceived as heavy. Not all of them are heavy, this may be due to various woods being used. Not all of them are made out of Alder, there are also Ash ones and other woodtypes.
Why did Fender use different woodtypes? Maybe they wanted to use up all the left-over parts, which was a common workpractice during the years Leo was running the company.
Different body weigth may not make a guitar any worse or better, it will make them sound different. A heavier body weight may add more body to the sound of the guitar.

                Finish:

The finish did get thicker and thicker, especially on the later 70s guitars. An interersting obsevation is that finish was applied while they still needed to fine tune the sanding of the body. Maybe this means that some of those bodies were not sanded down as smooth as they could be, and all those little rough edges wear off easily over the years. Maybe an explanation why some of those guitars have that typical wear and tear on the finish?

             Pick-Ups:

From the ones I have heard it seems that the output of the pick-ups is lower and smoother compared to any of the 1960s and 1950s ones. More modern Strats, and even the copies as well, certainly have a higher output.
This smoothness of the pick-ups is not wrong, it gives them a unique sound. The typical Strat sound is there, but it seem to have a slightly different tonecolour.
            
A lot of the facts I have mentioned here can be found in the pages of Tom Wheeler’s book about the Fender Stratocaster. I made a review of this book in an earlier blogarticle a few years ago.

Happy reading and hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

Guitar Lessons: Learn to play into

 

Here are the chordshapes for the intro as used in the original key of the song:

   
                      Bbm        Db           Gb6

              E ——————————————————

              B —-6———-6———-4————————–

             G —-6———-6———–6————————–

             D —-8———-6———–4————————–

             A ——————————————————-

             E  ——————————————————-

The chords are being played with the following picking pattern:

                      Bbm                           Db                                Gb6               

           E  —————————————————————————————————

           B ——————6————————6————————4——————4———-

           G ————-6——–6————-6———-6—————-6——-6———6——-6——

           D ———8———————-6—————————4——————4——————-

           A ——————————————————————————————————-

           E  ——————————————————————————————————-

                        Playing Ideas:

    Play the intro in the key of Am using chords Am  G and F6. Play intro in open position and find various picking patterns.

Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again,

Eddie

Changing The Pick-Ups of Your Guitar: An Approach

Changing the pick-ups in your guitar makes sense when you can hear for yourself what you do not like about the sound of you guitar.

The sound of your electric guitar depends on the kind of amp you use, your guitar, the kind of pick-ups and the woods of the guitar.

Listening to a lot of music does train your ear to how a guitar can sound like. Once you know how a guitar can sound like it may still take some time before your hands can make that guitar sound come to its full potential.
Once you are fully aware that your pick-ups are to blame (and not your hands!) for its weak sound you may want to take matters in your own hand by installing better quality pick-ups to invigorate your electric sound.

 

                   How do you go about changing the sound of your Pick-Ups?

 Try to ask yourself what is missing from them, you are the person who plays the guitar so hopefully you will be able to give an aswer to your own question why this guitar does not live up to its dream.
Once you know what you want the search for the right pick-up is so much easier. Yes there are hunderds and hunderds of pick-ups to choose from, but they all do the same thing: They amplify the sound of a vibrating string, each pick-up will vary in strength but that is it really. You can ignore all the talk about style and what other kind of jargon is used to market those pick-ups to you, all you need to know is what you want, and hopefully this desire is based on your listening-and playing habits.

                     The confusing approach?:

Buy a  complete set of new pick-ups, whatever type and whatever brand, play for a bit and listen and not being sure to how these new, pick-ups differ from your own, original ones: You may not be ready for this, if you can not hear it straight away. Not to worry, maybe you wanted to change too quickly, maybe you should keep on playing with the original pick-ups for some time, maybe they are not all that bad, maybe your guitar playing ability is lacking to make the guitar come to its full potential.

                    Another equally confusing approach could be:

Change pick-up, play for a bit, but still not happy, buy another pick-up and carry on with this approach until you really get fed up with it all and turn back to your own original pick-ups.

                   The Happy Approach?:

Record the sound of the pick-up you WANT to change. Install new pick-up and play. Happy? No sure? Listen back to sound original pick-up, go back to sound of new pick-up to hear how different it is. Maybe sound is not too different? Maybe sound is too much for you? At least you know what it is you like, or do not like. From here you can modify your change. Hopefully you will like what you hear after first play. If you do like the sound maybe you should stay with this pick-up instead of wanting to try diffent pick-ups. If it sounds right at first it will be right, at least for now how you are a  guitarplayer, with the gear you use and the kind of music you play. 

Happy searching and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Treble Booster, Single Channel Amp and Playing Solos

Playing many solos in your band and do not like the use of distortion pedal to cut through the mix?
Why not try  using a treble booster?
The nature of a treble booster is to add treble to your sound, which will make your single strings cut through in the mix of drums, guitars and bass. Often changing your pick-up to the bridge pick-up may be enough for this idea. In case the pick-up does not have the desired effect you may want to use a treble booster. It will simply make your single strings sound louder.

                      Treble Booster, Which Treble Booster?

You can use a dedicated treble booster (they were popular in the 60s when distortion pedals where virtually non-exhistant) or if you have a Wah (or Auto Wah) you can use this as well: Push the wah all the way down to boost the treble and you are there, simply step on your Wah when you need to be heard! No need to rock the pedal back and forward, simply keeping the pedal in one position is enough for now.

Another way to add treble to your single string sound is using a EQ pedal: Graphic EQ’s may be the best for this kind of approach. Set the EQ up to boost the treble registre, and switch pedal on when you need your sound.

Once you start looking into how to boost your sound you will find a lot more ways instead of simply stepping on a distortion pedal. Distortion pedals have their place but they change your overal sound, and if you do not like this you do need to come up with another way to get that extra bit of boost to your sound.

 

Happy playing and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Floyd Rose Bridge and Changing Strings

Changing strings on a Floyd Rose bridge guitar needs a bit of care compared to changing strings on your standard, fixed bridge electric guitars: 

Change one string at a time to avoid having to tune up for a long time. Even when you take this approach you will still need to tune longer than on any standard fixed bridge guitar, or even a Fullcrum tremolo bridge such as the Fender Stratocaster.

To tune up the strings, use your tuning pegs first, make sure you unlock the locking nut. Once all strings are tuned up with the tuners, fasten locking nut and finetune your strings with the fine tuners at the bridge.

Once you have followed this approach you will find your strings will stay in tune.

                                                             Strings:

Most guitar players will cut the excess bit of string left at the tuning peg. If you are using a Floyd Rose bridge it makes sense not to cut this excess bit of string: Break a string (it usually will break at the bridge) you can unwind the string and refasten at the bridge end. It will save you getting new strings for each moment you break one individual string.

Floyd Rose bridges have their own sound and you do not need to be a dive bomber to appreciate their sound and feel: The tremolo arm does have a lot less flutter than any Fullcrum Strat Tremolo system. You will even notice this when using the tremolo arm in a subtle manner.

Enoy and hope to see you soon again,
Eddie