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 

Tutorial: Guitar Solos? Start with a Melody!!

The typical approach to playing guitar solos is to react to a chordsequence. Nothing wrong there, it is a skill to play the right tones over the right chords. Instead of reacting to a harmony created by the chords why not play a melody which is independant from the chords? Creating a melody where you do not have to think about the chords gives you the freedom to play whatever you want to hear. Once you have a melody you can start thinking about which chords would support this melody, but let us for now focus on the melody first:

How do you create a melody you may wonder? You can play a riff you know and add some new notes to this riff which will turn the riff into something of your own. Instead of this why not start with material from fresh? Just play a few notes, hum these notes and see if you can expand these notes with something new which will turn the whole thing into a melody. Whatever you do you cannot go wrong as long as you play something you enjoy you are on the right track.

Once you have your melody the next step is to change this melody from time to time since we are playing a solo and not just one single vocal melody.
Start your melody and then progress with same melody in a higher position on the fretboard. As you progress change the notes from time to time, you can add little crazy twists to spice up the melody, things like harmonics or some bends, anything you can think of really. Listen to Jeff Beck who is a master at this game. Jeff’s playing is not so much about chords, it is all about melody, riffs and how to manipulate the melody with all kind of sounds. Sometimes these sounds come from effects, but most of the time the sounds come from his inventive use of hands and whatever he can think of the guitar can sound like. Try some of his ideas for yourself, get into the mindset of what to do and work on whatever you need that you cannot do at the moment.

Once you have some melodies and variations of these melodies look at how to expand the solo. One way of doing this is by adding some new harmonic ideas: Add in a few chords to spice up the melody, see how this changes the rhythm of the solo. Adding a few extra chords will turn the solo into a small composition. Small compositions are often more fun to play compared to a handful of riffs which do not have any musical connection. Small compositions do have the feel of a short song, they are also easier to play to an audience since they can hear something of a song.

You can build on creating a handful of these small compositions, play them from time to time and develop them into something even bigger, some of them may even become complete songs.

Good luck, keep listening and hope to catch you soon again.
Eddie

Guitar Tutorial: Intro “Sweet Child Of Mine” (Two Alternative Fingerings!!)

For this article the tab for “Sweet Child of Mine”, it is Slash’s most melodic intro up to date, even though the idea appeared out of a fingering excercise.

The original is in the key of E and the strings of guitar are detuned one half step. I have written out the tab. for the key of Eb, no need to detune, you can jam along with the original and all will sound fine.
The intro is made out of two parts and only the notes of the first part of each bar changes, the rest of the notes of the intro idea stay the same all the way throughout. If you are a beginner and find it hard to play the whole idea in one go I suggest you try playing only last part first, once you have it under your fingers then move on to the first part. Once you have mastered first part put both parts together and play them as one idea.
Above each bar are the chords which are there to accompany the idea, they are also the chords for the verse of the song.

  

     Db                                          x2         B                              x2          Gb                                       x2

  E———————–14———13—–   ——————–14—-13—-    ————————-14—-13—–

  B ——-14——————16——–14-  —–14—————16—-14-   ——-14——————16—–14–

  G ———–13–11———————–  ———–13–11—————   –11———13–11——————–

  D –11————————————   -13——————————   —————————————–

  A —————————————–   ———————————-   —————————————–

  E —————————————–   ———————————–   —————————————–

      Db                                          x2

  E ———————-14——–13—-

  B ——14——————16——-14-

  G ———–13—11——————–           Repeat Whole Intro Several Times

  D -11————————————

  A —————————————–

  E —————————————–

What I like about this particular fingering is that for the first bar you can see a powerchord of Db, there is a logic in the fingering and this helps you to remember where to put your fingers. The first note is a Db and if you play the first 3 notes of the intro as a chord you will get a Db powerchord. The logic ends there and there is a lot of movement in the fingering, something which makes playing less comfortable.
Have a look at the next fingering which is all in position, much easier. Make sure you use your pink for the very first note. Big stretches and all the notes jump strings, yes, good one to get smooth with your string skipping. Check it out:

       Db                                    x2           B                                  x2       Gb                                     x2

  E  ————————14—–13—    ————————14——13—  ———————-14——13——

  B  ——-14—————–16——14-  ———-14————–16——14  ——-14—————-16—–14–

  G ————-13————————  —————13——————-  ————13————————

  D ——————16——————-  –13—————16————-   –16————16——————-

   A–16————————————  ———————————–    —————————————

       Db                                       x2

   E  ————————14—–13—-

   B ——-14——————16——14

   G ———–13————————–

    D —————-16——————–

    A–16———————————–

    E —————————————

When you carefully check the new fingering you will notice that the last part remains the same, also the second bar has not changed at all! It is mainly the first bar, the third and last bar which receive a different fingering.
Try both fingerings to see which one you like best.
Whenever you work out solos, riffs or intros look beyound the notes to see what is going on, which makes it also easier to play eventually.

The album “Appetite for Destruction” does contain many, many good riffs and intros, again I feel Slash has not being able to improve on his compositional ideas, his playing, on the other hand, has improved. Check out his latest soloalbum “World on Fire” and you will notice how smooth his solos and speed are on that recording.

Enjoy and hope to see you soon again.
Eddie

How To Maintain a Healthy Guitar Technique

How do you keep your fingers in shape, especially during those times you may not play that much? Playing daily is the best thing you can do to keep your fingers (and mind) in good shape, but there may be times you will not have much time to play or the things you play are very different from what you used to play.
For this article a handful of tips of things you can do to keep yourself on top of your game.

Let us start off with the most obvious, your fretting hand, here some simple ideas of what you can do to keep all those fingers working independantly.

                        Fretting Hand Ideas:

The aim is to be able to use the fingers of your fretting hand in any way you want. They will be ready for whatever you want them to play. You can work on any set of fingers, the most obvious one is four fingers in a row. You can play any note anywhere on the fretboard and just go up four notes in a row. Once you have completed your four notes, move along with the next set of four notes and carry on until you have covered the whole fretboard.  You can play this idea on one string or play it on several strings. This excercise is not only good for your fingers, it gives your wrist a good work out as well: higher postions will ask for a different wrist position.
Do this excercise for a short time, also good one for warming up.

Next, play single string skipping ideas, good for coordination fingers and hand and wrist. You can design your own ideas, just think that you need to skip strings regularly. String skipping is the one thing which asks a lot of concentration and coordination. Most beginners will find it hard in the beginning as they will stumble over the notes as they move up to the next set of strings.
Instead of making your own stringskipping excercises you can also look at some riffs or solos which use string skipping. The intro of Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” is a great example of some fine string skipping. You will find the tap for it somewhere on this blog.

Because your fretting hand does not only play single strings you can also try some chordshapes: You can go for chordshapes you do not know, get one chordshape and move this shape along up the fretboard. It is a good idea to hear the tonality of the chord change: You move same chordshape along fretboard but the tone of the chord will change according to the fretposition where you play the chord. 

Instead of working with one chord why not take a handful of chords, create a sequence of chords which sound good together. You could create your own chordsequence or take part of a chordsequence from a song you like. Play the chords with various strums and also try to pick the chords, either using fingers or a plectrum. Try to vary the tempo, remember you are not really playing a song just do some work-out for your fingers, so push yourself, try strumming as fast as you can until you have reached your limit and the chords will no longer sound good. This idea is also good feedback to find out where your are with your technique at the moment.

Let us now have a look at some ideas which will improve the technique of your strumming or picking hand
                  
                     Picking Hand:

What I mentioned before about independance of your fingers of fretting hand applies also to your picking hand, especially if you use fingerstyle: Make sure you can use all your main picking fingers. Not many guitar players use their pink during fingerpicking, I will leave it up to you if you want to devote extra time to that one. 

An easy, straightforward picking pattern is to pick the strings one by one in a row, do this with a set of chords, just play your strings from low to high, and play it then backwards. If you are playing this idea using fingers why not try it now with a plectrum. Use same pattern but now using a plectrum.

What I mentioned before about stringskipping applies also to your picking hand: String skipping is a great workout for both fretting-and picking hand, check out some more ideas to get you going.

                 Extra Techniques:

Most of the fretting hand ideas I mentioned before can be played straightforward with down and up picking, but why not use any hammer-ons and pull-offs, again they may need some extra practise to get them smooth in your system.

Bends: Because you do not want to be one of those guitarplayers who will say “Aouch” after each bend, especially those ones in the lower regions of the fretboard, make sure you stay on top of your bends: Bend all over the fretboard, use double and single bends and make sure you can do them on any of your high E, B and G string. Bending on the D string? Depending on your taste, the wound strings do not ring as long as the plain strings and bends sound different, but it will all depend on what you need, bend on the D as well as the tension is higher and will help strenthen your fingers.
If you have never used any string bending do not go over the top as string bending will rip the skin of your fingers if your fingers are not use to it! To keep you fingers used to stringbending, play bends regularly to keep the hard skin of your fingers in tact. 

Most of the above ideas will give you good feedback on the shape of your fingers, make sure you use the right guitar technique, it will make you think about guitar heroes in a different way. There is not magic about playing guitar well: You need to play and play and play and love what you are doing.
Playing at amazing speed? Again no mystery, it is all about coordination of your hands and fingers and musical ideas and some ideas will lend themselve to be played at blazing speed, use it a variety instead of geting hooked up on becoming a speed monster.

Hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

Guitar Tutorial: Working Out Guitar Solos and the Fretboard–a Guide to What to Do–

Guitarsolos and where to play them on the fretboard, do you have this often? Work out a guitar solo, or riff, and all seem to be fine apart from a few notes or sounds. Why are those notes not right? Where will they be played? What the heck is going on? If you ever had any of those situations keep on reading because this article may help you.

You can work out of your favourite guitarsolos by ear (by far still the best method….!!) or use any tabs you can find (check them !!) or books. Check the sound of your solos against the original. Are you getting all the right notes and sounds, sounds such as bends, artificial harmonics or whatever? Keep thinking about what is going on in the solo: What key is the song in?, what are the chords behind the solo?, play those chords, get familiar with the rhythm of the chords and song as it will all help you to play the actual solo with a better feel, you will also play more convincing because you are on top of your game.

                     Notes and Fretboard Positons:

The guitar is this wonderful instrument which gives you the same note in various places. Often this is a blessing but sometimes it can be a pain as well. When it comes to working out solos it is this fact which sometimes puzzles you: Where the heck did they play this solo and why? Sometimes you hear the sound of bends within some fast runs, most of the notes may be played in lower postions but the bends may be higher up the fretboard. Certain notes will sound better in particular places, even though you may play the same notes but they may not sound similar.

Do not worry so much about equipment, you can work out your solos on an unamplified electric guitar, and once you have found the right position you will get the same sound, even though you do not not that million dollar set-up your favourite artist uses. It is just about the notes and the right position, the gear will only put the icing on the cake.

                   Detuning:

You do not need to detune you guitar to get the same sound of a detuned solo, it may help to detune in the beginning to familiarise yourself with what is going on. Once you know what is the score you will be able to play the same solo on a standard tuned guitar. Detuning is great and may help you achieve a darker sound, but if you use standard tuning most of the time you may want to keep your tuning as it is.
Most bands who use detuned sounds will play a whole set of songs in that tuning, which is fantastic, but if you play in a coverband you may only play a handful of songs which are detuned in Eb, so you might as well keep your guitar in standard tuning and play everything a fret down. Keep thinking what is going on. Most of what I mentioned before applies to guitarplayers who detune all their strings a half, or whole step down. I am not talking about dropped D, or C or whatever tuning as that is far simpler: Just detune one string while rest stays the same. Easier to detune one string on a set instead of all six! Just see what is practical for you, but do not copy the detuned idea simply because that is what is going on in that particular song.

               Corrections and Alterations:

Learn a solo a well as you can and get it smooth. Once you can play the whole solo check the fingering and the postions. Does the solos jump up and down a lot on the fretboard? Could you play the solo in one position instead of moving up and down? Often solos are about sound and convenience: Fingering should be staightforward, if not check position!!

              Stylistic Features:

If you have a look at several solos of the same artist changes are you will see particular techniques and sounds being used which come back often. Get to know how your favourite artist plays, what kind of techniques he/she uses and get familiar with how to use these techniques for yourself. Try to hear what is going on: Often you can tell where a solo is being played by just listening to the recording, you can hear all the bends, string tapping ect. just listen to the solo carefully before you  start to play the solo yourself, as you listen ask yourself questions about position and techniques being used.

             Finally:

Once you can play a solo correctly, know what is going on keywise etc. why not play the solo in your own style. Use similar notes and phrasing but now with your own feel and techniques, let go of the stylistic features of the given artist and play the solo your own way without loosing the integrity of the notes and the overal idea behind the solo.
A solos is more than just a variation in the song: Some solos will restate the vocal melody while others are small compositions on their own. Listen to a lot of solos by various artists of different styles to get a good idea of what is possible.

For next article a few fingering variations of Slash’s  intro of “Sweet Child of Mine”

Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again for more updates.
Eddie 

Sample Settings DOD FX55-B Supra Distortion

Here some sample setting for the DOD FX55-B Supra Distortion you may like. Use them as a guide, you may have to alter any of the controls to get the desired sound depending on your guitar and your amp settings.
I have included a guide to what kind of pick up you can use, but again, use this only as a guide.

Amp was set for trebly tone, but just set your amp to how you like it and then tweak controls pedal to get the desired sound.

The controls of the pedal are easy to set: Use the 11 dots of the controls and point them in the right direction to get the right setting.

Before I go into the settings here a tonal reference to some sounds you can achieve with this pedal:
The Who, Metallica, Punk Rock, Satriani and Jack White.

                    Fuzz   

Sounds great when using a Humbuck in neck position. Listen to your bass strings in particular!!
This sound is good for playing riffs on your bass strings or any powerchord ideas

  Level: 11      Tone: 4     Dist.: 6

                   Treble Boost

Great for adding a bit of grind to your sound, will work with any pick up setting and any type of pick up.
This sound is good for chords and riffs.
I call this “Treble Boost” setting as it will boost your clean sound but will also add some dirt to your sound. You can change the setting of the Tone control, as this will not affect the amount of dirt you will get, great!!

  Level: 11       Tone: 11    Dist.: 1

                  Fuzzy Punk Rock

Great for chords and riffs in between your chords. Play it downright rude and dirty.  Will sound great with bridge Humbucks, but try any pick up as the setting will not let you down! You will get a nice, solid sound with lots of attitude.

 Level: 11       Tone: 4       Dist: 7

                  
                  Maxed Out Fun

This setting will work with any pick up setting and any kind of pick up. It is great for achieving a singing tone from Neck Humbucks, just let it sustain for days!

Level: 6         Tone: 4      Dist: 11

The  tone of the DOD FX55-B reminds me a lot of the MXR Dist. + (and in some ways of the Pro Co Rat). Some of you may feel that this tone is the general distortion tone without too much character. What I like in particular is that the pedal can make your bass strings distort while the rest of the strings remain fairly clean. When you try this with a Boss OD-3 or SD-1 or BD-2 the sound of all your strings will distort. From an engineering point of view the Boss models are more sophisticated and may also offer you more tonal options compared to the DOD FX55-B

Hope you enjoy some of these sample settings here and hope to see you soon again for more sonic updates.
Eddie

Review DOD FX55-B Supra Distortion

The DOD FX55-B is a distortion pedal  with a few extras thrown in: The pedal can give you a boost and it does contain a extended treble boost when you max out the distortion control.

The pedal does contain three controls: Level, Tone and Distortion, nothing unusual there for a simple distortion pedal like this you may say. True, but this pedal can do more then what it looks like:

                Using Pedal as Treble Booster:

Any distortion pedal which can give you a clean boost is a great pedal in my book. This one will give you a clean boost with some edges of distortion, depending on what kind of pick-ups you use.
Boost the Level and Tone to the max, keep Distortion control down, set up your amp for trebly sound and play: Your amp will distort a little depending on your pick-ups: Humbucks will give you a crunchy tone while single coils and other less, hot pick-ups will give you a slight crunchy tone, depending on your picking style. The tone you get is just a broken up amp, good for any old-style distortion.

              Full Tilt Distortion:

Max out the Distortion control, while Level and Tone are set to your desired levels. This setting will give you a boost in your distortion with an extended brightness. Back off the Distortion control and your tone will get darker. The maxed out sound is great for powerchords, riffs or anything in between. The sound is classic 80s, 90s. It is usuable in a wide range of styles, but if you are looking for modern, heavy bass distortion, this pedal will not give you that sound.

              Fuzz:

Fuzz from this pedal, really? Yes, its sound reminds me of  primitive Fuzz, especially on the bass strings. I use a 0.56 for low E and 0.46 for the A while rest of strings are standard 0.11.  I get a Fuzzy sound on the bass strings while the rest of the strings still sound fairly clean when I set up pedal for treble boost. Nice one!!

Does it matter much what kind of pick-ups and amps you use?

You will get different results with humbucks compared to single coils, but you do get that with any, moderate gain dist./overdrive pedal so this one is no different in that respect.

The pedal is consistant with its sound when you use different amps: Pedal preforms similar with most amps and speakers, the differences you will hear are due to variation in amp and speaker and are not the result of pedal preforming differently.

Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again for more updates for guitarsound and guitar techniques.
Eddie

Create Your TransTube Amplifier For Improved Clean Sounds

For this article a few ideas how you can combine a Transitor amplifier with a Valve (Tube) amplifier to get a better, complex clean sound.

The idea of Trans Tube amps is not new, in the 1990s Peavy came up with a line of amps which listened to the same name: By doing so Peavy’s idea was to give transitor amps the feel (and sound) of Tube amplifiers.

The idea explained here is the opposite: Use the clean sound of a transitor amp to achieve a better, clean sound for your valve amp.

             What Kind of Amp?:

Ideally use a simple, one channel valve amp which does not use complex tone controls. The overal sound of this amp may be good but it may not give you many tonal options for your clean sound. Match this valve amp with a transitor amp of which you like the clean sound. Make sure the transistor amp does have an output socket.
The more basic your valve amp the better. When you start using a complex valve amp you defeat the object as the clean sound of the valve amp may sound great anyway.

            Now You Have Your Amps What’s Next?:

Plug you guitar into the transistor amp, set up sound to how you like it. Use another cable from the output of the transitor amp to the input of the valve amp. Set the tonecontrols of valve amp for basic setting. Listen to both amps with regards to volume, make sure the transistor amp is not set too low, match the valve amp’s volume with the level of the transistor amp. Once you have the levels right you should experience a difference in the sound of your valve amp: The tone may be thinner, but it also will sound a little cleaner compared to using the valve amp on it own.
Basically you amplify the sound of the transistor amp by using the valve amp.

To check the difference in sound you can unplug your guitar from the transistor amp and go straight into the input of the valve amp. Once you hear the difference you will start to appreciate the results of both amps mixed. Remember to plug your guitar into the transistor amp, only the cable of the output of the transistor amp is used for the input of the valve amp. The guitar’s signal hits the preamp of the transistor amp first not the other way around. You can experiment with connecting the amps the other way around, but remember, the idea was to improve the clean sound of the valve amp. Connecting the amps the other way around may give you a sound you may like but it will not improve the overal, clean sound of the valve amp.

Enjoy your experiments and hope to catch you soon again here for more, tonal ideas.
Eddie

Create You Own MiniStack Amp

A stack is basically an set of speakers with an amphead on top of it. When you own several small amps it is possible to create you own, small stack. All you need is 2, or more, small amps. The amps do not have to be of the same make or model, you can use anything you have at the moment.
You will need a Y-cable which will run from your guitar output to the input of both amps. Instead of using a cable you can also use a Boss LS-2 lineselector. This is a pedal which will help to connect your guitar to several amps, or pedals, or other devices.

The advantage of playing through several amps will give you a unique sound: The sound is more complex compared to using just one amp. You guitar signal travels through several speakers, hence you do have a higher output signal and the sound is more complex compared to using only one speaker.
It is possible to set up each amp for a different sound, this will even create a more complex sound.

Once you start using several, small amps you may become interested in using larger amps. The Ministack is only one step away from playing through a larger ampset.

Enjoy your experiments and hope to see you soon again for more updates.
Eddie