Scales, Keys and Beyond

Do you find yourself often play in the same key when you are improvising or working with scales? Do you rely on scalepatterns or can you play your musical ideas freely without the support of any finger patterns?
For this article a handful of ideas to break out of the rut of scalepatterns and keys.

When you are starting out with playing solos on the guitar it is a good idea to memorise some scalepatterns. These scalepatterns will give you support and guidance during any of your solos. After all, it is  helpful to know, and to be aware of what you are doing on the fretboard while you are improvising.

Once you have mastered a few scalepatterns why not go beyond: Start off with a musical idea and follow this musical idea through to the next idea. In this manner you are “composing” a solo. Once you get stuck you may want to back track youself to see where you went wrong and to find out in which key you were playing. Knowledge of the key may help you to find you way back into your musical idea.

Any solo you will listen to responds to a song, it will reflect what goes on in the song and make a short, musical statement with regards to the song. The song is played  is played in a certain key, therefore the solo needs to obey to this key. 

How important is it to have knowledge of scales and keys? Listen to any solo, and see if you can sing back any of the notes of the solo. Each time you play a solo, try to sing the notes you want to play before you actually Play Your Solo.
Singing your notes before you play will make you play more melodically. No need to know the kind of scale and key you play in, once you can play what you sing all is fine. Having knowledge of the scale and key will probably help you with your notechoice, but still, being able to hear the notes you want to play first is more important.

                   Playing often in the same key?:

Most of the songs you are playing will be in common keys such as A, E, G, D or C. To break out of these keys try the following idea: Give yourself a note, try going for a sharp or flat. This note will be the key for your next solo. Now play a melody in this key.
If you find this hard, work on breaking down your scales, play them over two strings, especially those of you who have been playing scales over six strings. Find out where the rootnote is of the key, play this note in several places on the fretboard and start the scale from this rootnote. Once you can play the scale start playing musical ideas as this is more important. People listen to musical ideas instead of scales being played up and down the fretboard.

Keep on exploring and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

  

Song Writing: What Kind of Song??—-Story Song, Bruce Springsteen—-

For this article a snapshot into different kind of songs. I will mainly focus on the story-kind-of-song which most of you may know from people like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

If we can define a song like a story which is set to music you can trace the originals of this kind of idea back to a lot of folksongs from the British Isles and the Americas.
No need to list a lot of folksongs from this kind as the list would be long and confusing. Let me try to sum it up like this: There was Woody Guthrie with his guitar and voice and stories for the folks around him. The stories were for his audience, his children and family. His summed up what was going on around him, what was wrong at the time and what needed to be done about it. Simply really, or is it……..?

Then Dylan came along, gave it a different slant and he modified the songs for the change of the times, he even surrounded those stories in an electric setting, but that is another story really. What is useful to remember this modification for the song to the change of the times. Songs do not really change, stories are stories, some get dirtier, some get shorter but at the end of the day they remain a tale of what goes on today.

From Dylan to Springsteen is only a short walk around the corner. Bruce has recorded so many songs, played them on his own, with a band and………..modified them again and again. There are the love stories, there are the stories about growing up and stories, well you may not even know what they are about but the chorus keeps banging you on your head and the music lifts to words to a new height.

From this piont I can introduce you to some Springsteen songs. Why Springsteen you may wonder? Because his songs seem to fit the Story Song so well, most of them are long, there is a lot of variety in them, some of them do have a neat, hit-like sound while others remain more earthy and folky. Need to say more……………..

Okay now have a listen to this song, it is from his first album, this version is him playing song on his own:

Listen to how he introduces the song. Ain’t this typical “Man and guitar introducing song to his audience”?
The song itself does have a Dylan like sound at some point.
Here the album version, very 70s sound including the uplifting piano parts in intro and middle of the song.

The content of the previous song may have been obvious let us now have a look at this story here:

Maybe this is more what I ment with “Story Song” It is short snapshot in time about a woman, a man and where he is at the time, what he does and how he feels about what goes on around him.  Simple idea but there are a lot of words to listen to, a lot of images pass you by, but the roaring chorus of “Thunder Road” brings it all together. You may need to keep listening to the lyrics to hear what is going on next, but then there is again the chorus, the music and that sound and who cares what this thing is really about as it sounds good. Could you turn something like this into a single? Something with a stronger hook and more commercial sound to caputure the ears or an even larger audience? Have a listen to this one here:

Strong intro, including vibrato sound on low strings of the guitar—very 1960s ingredient, but who cares, it still sounded good in the 1970s—-
When Bruce starts singing you know this is not going to be 2.5 minute pop song with repeating lyrics in the verse, but the delivery of the vocal, almost pop (and soul) like with a lift in the melody and that stop and then the Oooogh shortly after that, all this in the very first 40 seconds of the song: Classic pop ingredient: Grap the listening by the throad and beg him/her to listen to what you have to say here. It is all there, but the content of the words and the kind of words? Still very folky but it works amazingly well here to give you the sound of an earopening, gritty song with sure popqualities including saxsolo in middle of the song, a strong chorus line with repeating intro, a modulating bridge which actually does not sound that cliche at all, even for today’s standards.
As with so many of Bruce’s songs you can hear he loves preforming and playing, listen to the extended end, he just loves to play and sing.

Not every story song needs to be a rambling vehicle full of roadcrashes with cries full of anger, some of then can also be tight, neat, sweet and punchy.

Enjoy and hope to catch you again soon,
Eddie

Boss DD6 in Warp Mode= Pedal Steel Effects

The DD6 is the only pedal in the Boss Digital Delay Compact pedal range which offers the Warp Function.
To engage the Warp Function you need to press on the pedal while the DD6 is switched on. The result is extended feedback, which sounds like infinite repeats from the last idea you played.

To get Pedal Steel sounds out of this function you need to develop a feel for how to work the pedal in this mode.
The result of the sound will depend greatly on your playing style, how much you understand what you are after and the setting of the pedal.

The settings I use for this sound are as follows:
Using a clock where 12.00 is half way up for the controls my settings are:
Level: 11.00     Feedback: 9.00  and Time: 9.00

Level is not that important, Feedback and Time are, but it all depends on how you play.

           Watch out for the following:  Press pedal too early and you get repeats, which is not what we are after.

          How Do You Get Pedal Steel Sounds?:

Play a phrase, press pedal while the sound decays, the result will be extended echo without repeats of the note (or chord) You will get a glassy echo which almost sounds like a Pedal Steel.

You can try this with chords, bends or even a Slide.

One drawback is: when you keep the pedal pressed down for too long you will hear a digital afternoise, which does not sound pleasing to the ear. Develop a good technique for how to work with this sound and you will not hear any digital afternoise.

Using a compressor does help to sustain the sound, overal the compressor makes the sound fuller, but also a bit noisier.

For anyone who knows the Boss compact pedal range, the sound as described before reminds me somewhat of the Feedback sound from the DF2. The DD6 does have a similar feel when you use the Warp mode, the sound result is sustain rather than feedback.

At some point I hope to make a video where I will demonstrate this particular sound of the DD6, in the meantime keep on playing.

Hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Guitar Lesson: Using Two Capos at the Same Time to get the Sound of an Open Tuning

Playing with a capo may be fun, you can easily transpose your songs while still using the same open chord shapes as you played before.

What about using two capos at the same time? The advantages of this are:

        ~ Creating Slash Chords with any Bassnote you need

        ~ No need to retune guitar to get open chordshapes

        ~ You  are able to play chordshapes which are not possible in standard tuning without use of any capo

         ~ Almost any Capo can be used.

In short, the idea of using two capos is as follows:

First capo is used in lower postion over all 6 strings. This capo mainly frets the low E String. This will become the note where we pitch our chord against which is fretted by the second capo.

Second capo is used to hold down only four strings. Watch out, not all capos will do this, the Kysler type (the big clamp ones) seem to be ideal for this. Another thing to watch out for is not to scratch your neck too much. You can use a cloth on the part where the metal is touching the back of your guitar neck.—The Capo is no longer touching the whole of the guitar neck since we only get the capo to hold down four strings!!—- All Capos are different, you need to experiment to see what works, it also depend on neck of guitar. The shape of all guitarnecks is different, but most guitarnecks will let you capo only four strings. It may be easier to use the scond capo further up the fretboard, in lower postitions capo may come off the fretobard if it only holds down four strings. Again, find out for yourself what works to get a feel for things.

Here is one example to get you going:

Capo first capo on first Fret, this capo holds down all six strings, next capo is at fifth fret, and covers only the first four strings. The second capo creates an A-shape C barre chord with the added 6th on the high E string. First Capo hold down a F note on the Low E and a Bb on the A string.
You can ignore the Bb on the A string. The A string can still be used for fretting notes. You can still play a C at the 3nd fret  The C can be used to give the Rootnote of the chord. The low E string creates the fourth of the chord. In a way you are playing:  C/F

Experiment what kind of melodic ideas you can play now while the two capos hold down the notes as mentioned before.

Ones you start to see what the two capos can do you will love it.
Remember this is not a short cut to get better sounding chords, it is just a different method to get some ideas going for another way of playing the guitar. In a way using the two capos is limiting as a lot of your fretboard is taken up by the use of the two capos. Do not use this idea if you want to play through a lot of different keys. It may be better to treat this idea as another way to play with open tunings with the advantage of not having to retune your strings to another pitch.

Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Song Writing and Chords

Most guitar players who start out with songwriting will start out with chords, logical as most guitar players start out with playing chords in the first place when learning to play the guitar.
After people have written their fist few songs they may start to feel: “I need use more complex chords, chords such as extended chords which contain 9ths, 11ths and 13ths”. 
Learning about chords, their basic construction and what to do how to extend them is not wrong but most of the songs you like have been written with basic chords. Chords can be played in various ways and how you put those chords together is another matter. Too many “pretty chords” in a song may be a bit too much. Select them carefully for them to make a contrast against the rest of the harmonic landscape of your songstructure.

A useful approach to songwriting is to use all what you know and to use it at its best: Once you have a chordsequence experiment with the strums: Does each chord need to be played for one bar or should I try playing two beats for a few chords? Experiment with the arrangement of your song: It is a common feeling to be happy once you have your order of chords, there is this feeling of accomplishment. Great, but maybe the songstructure could do with some extra work? Record the song for yourself and listen back to how it sounds like. When you listen to your song keep the listener in mind. Is the song fun to listen to?

if you have only written a handful of songs do not worry so much about what I mentioned before, as your songs will start to get better the more you write.

Over the next few articles I will give a few pointers as in what may be a good approach to writing, giving you a few more, extra techiniques you may want to try out for your own writing.

Keep on reading and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Guitar Lessons: Playing Slash Chords for First Inversions

Last article was about Slash chords, this article will deal again with the subject of Slash Chords.
Slash Chords are great for playing first inversions of your chords.

What are inversions? an inversion of a chord is where the notes have been grouped in a different order compared to the Rootpostion of the chord. Each three chord note does have two inversions.
Here is a example of C major and its two inversions:   

Roootposition; C        First Inversion: E    Second Inversion:     G
                        E                                  G                                      C
                        G                                  C                                      E

If you play these chords in a linear way you will discover that the Rootposition of the chord appears again after you have played the Second Inversion. 

Here an example of Aminor (relative minor for C major) and its two inversions:

Rootposition:   A       First Inversion:   C          Second Inversion:    E
                        C                                   E                                           A
                        E                                   A                                           C

Okay let us now create a first inversion on the fretboard of D major.
The notes in D major are     D
                                         F#
                                         A

To create a Slash chord which uses first inversion of D we need to use the F# in the bass.
Here is one way to finger this chord:

          D/F#

     E——2——

     B——3——

    G ——2—–

    D——-0—-

    A————-

    E——-2—-

F# is on the low E, the open A is not used, Root is on the D, but not longer the lowest note. Rest of the chord is similar to how most of you will play an open D chord. Using the low open A string whilst not playing the F# on the low E string will give you a Second inversion.

Here the same Fist Inversion of D as Slash Chord but fingered higher on the fretboard:

                        
              
                         D/F#

  E—————————————–

  B—————-7————————

  G—————-7———————–

  D —————7———————–

  A —————9———————–

  E —————————————

This fingering of the D chord uses the A-shape and does have the F# in the bass on the low A string, another F# can be found on the fret 7 on the B string. The Root of the chord can be found in the middle: fret 7 on the G string. The fifth of the chord, the A, is on the 7th fret of the D string.

For all your own experimentation, it does help if youi know the notes of basic triad (Root, Third and Fifth) chords such as C, G, D, A, E and F because these chords will appear often in your own playing.

Try creating some Slash chords for yourself to get different sounds from your chords, try them along the whole fretboard instead of only sticking to first postion chords. Most of the first inversions can be fingered in a fairly easy way.

Good luck,
Eddie 

Song Writing and Slash Chords

Slash Chords are chords where the bassnote changes. You may have seen something like this: C   C/b  Am    For this example you play a chord of C for one bar, then lower the C bassnote to a B while keeping the rest of the previous C chord in your fingers. For the last chord you play a Am.  If you obseve the movement of the bassnotes you will notice they fall down step by step, they form a little melody or movement on their own.

Slash chords are great for adding some spice to your chords.
The opposite of using Slash chords is using pedal notes: Keep one note (bassnote) the same while you change the rest of the chord. Take this idea a bit further and you get to drones: One note (or a few) which serve as harmony for the rest of your melody (or improvisation). Drones are used often in Indian Music. Some African music also uses this kind of idea.

Happy Playing
Eddie

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