Three Reasons Why to Learn the Fretboard for Beginners and Intermediate Students of the Guitar

The fretboard can be a bit of a maze in the beginning. It is useful to see shapes and notes on the fretboard as soon as you can.
When you learn your first, open chord shapes it is useful to get to know where the Rootnote of each chord is. Start with the bassstrings first as a lot of chords start on the bass strings, especially those open chord, which any beginner will use. Some people may like the idea of having a fretboardchart around to see where the notes are.  It is a good idea to use that, but better is to make associations with chordshapes and particular chordnotes. As you get more experienced, your fretboardknowledge will grow, but you will need to make an effort, especially in the beginning.

Some of you may wonder why knowledge of the fretboard is so important?  It will help you when it comes to playing solos on the spot. You can use your chordshapes and play notes which fall into these shapes. These notes can then become part of your solo.
Fretboardknowledge will also help you with your songwriting: When you use a certain chord for a couple of bars you may want to shift that chordshape up to another place on the fretboard to create and inversion of the same chord. This chord will help you to give you another another sound.

After a few years of playing guitar on your own you may join a few friends to play music together, some of those people may be more experienced as you are. When it comes to playing songs they may say to you: “Play a D# instead of C in the first few bars of the intro” You would like to know where you can find that chord (or note) quickly to keep the flow going. Nothing worse in a situation like that when people say:”Oh I need to practise that a bit, I’ll have it next week”  You want to be able to play on the spot what is needed for the song to keep the momentum and the enthusiasm of the other guys going.

When you are on your own you can (and really should) spent time on your weaknesses with regards to the fretboard: You can make an effort to get to know notes on certain strings. Give yourself shortime goals like: “I will get to know all the notes on the D and G string within next few weeks” Get to know your own weaknesses and set yourself realistic goals to overcome them. In this way your can monitor the development of your own guitarplaying.

If you are a regular reader of this blog please let me know what you think of the articles. Which ones do you enjoy? What would you like to see more of? Are they helpful for what you need? You can use the contact page to give any feedback.

In the near future there will be more articles on pedals and amptones, I hope to get some videos done which will back up the articles.

Enjoy and hope to see you soon again.

Pat Metheny Special on Radio Two, Listen Here

On the link below you will find a special about Pat Metheny. (P.S Link will only work for next 7 days after posting of this blog!!) The programme has Pat talking about his early childhood years, the early 1960s and the dominance of the electric guitar in pop culture, his approach to improvisation, the organisation and planning of his bands, recordings and compositions, the early Jaco Pastorius years.
The programme does give you a snapshot of Pat’s music, but as anyone who knows Pat’s music, this guitarist does have many, many sounds and approaches of playing the guitar under his belt.

During the first few albums Pat’s guitarsound was quite natural, but soon he started exploring other guitarsounds  rather than the natural electric sound of the semi-acoustic hollowed guitar.
Here a song from his “Still Life (Talking)” album form 1987 where he combines that beautiful guitartone with the sound of human voices in his compostion. The rhythm of the drums emulate that steam train rhythm:

Enjoy and hope to see you soon again,

CAGED Chordsystem Explained for Beginners and Intermediate Students of the Guitar

CAGED is a system you may have heard of before in any of your searches for guitarinformation, but until now you may not have been aware of what the letters stand for.

CAGED symply stands for the Open Chords of C  A  G  E   and D.  The five open chords all put together into one, easy to remember, word.

The system is very useful for moving the open chords up- and down the fretboard. In one of the last articles of this blog I mentioned Rootnotes and how useful they can be. The CAGED system does not mean much if you are not aware of those Rootnotes.

Here are the Rootnotes for each open chord:  

                          C     Rootnotes are on 3rd fret A-String and 1st fret of B-String 

                          A    Rootnotes are on Open Ä-String and 2nd fret of G-String

                          G    Rootnotes are on 3rd fret of Low-and High E String and on the Open G-String

                          E    Rootnotes are on Open Low- and High E-String and on 2nd fret D-String

                          D   Rootnotes are on Open D-String and on 3rd fret B-String

As explained in previous articles on this blog, each chord can be moved up and down the fretboard, the chord will get its name according to the Rootnote of the chord. Just check where the Rootnotes are and you should be on your way to playing different chords using the shame shape.

                                      Putting CAGED To The Test with a Song:

A great way to improve your knowledge of the fretboard and to get better dexterity for each chord (moving open chordshapes along the fretboard will make them feel different, and some strings may not ring out because of the different wristpostion) is to play one song which uses only one chordshape for the whole song. Take a very easy song (most simple three-chord songs will do) make sure all chords are major and play each chord now using the same shape. You will need to move up-and down the fretboard, as the song will not hang on to one chord for too long.
Start with an easy chordshape.The D-shape should not to be too taxing for your fingers and wrist. Leave out the open D-string (you will need to barre the chord if you want to use this string as well) and simply concentrate on those top three strings of the chord.

Once you have played the whole song with the D-shape chords, start playing same song again, but now using –for example– only the A-shape chord. Once you have finished whole song using the A-shape chord move along to another open shape chord to play same song again.

Once you have moved through all the open shape chords with the same song, you will find the G-shape probably the hardest. Maybe leave out the G chord altogether until you can barre the chord properly. 

                                        CAGED Works for Single String Melodies and Solos as well: 

When you want to use the CAGED system for playing scales, simply choose a chordshape, and start playing scale from Rootnote and play all notes until you have reached next Rootnote. You have now played this scale in one octave. Play in this position for a while for your fingers to memorize the position and feel of the new scalepostion.

Take one song and start improvising over this song by just playing scale within one chordshape. Once you get a feel for this scale and the new shape, move on to next chordshape and do the same until you have covered all the open chordshapes and their related scalepositions. All in all this may take you some time, but it is worth exploring some of these ideas mentioned here. Make them work for the songs you already play and apply them to any new songs you plan to learn in the future.

Enjoy and hope to see you soon again,


Practical Tips To Improve Your Fretboard Knowledge

Most beginners struggle with the fretboard during their first years of playing the guitar, not even beginners, intermediate players of the guitar do find it hard at times as well. Logical? Yes because the layout of the notes on the fretboard of the guitar is horizontal (like a keyboard) and vertical. Similar notes can be found in more than one place on the fretboard, this is a unique feature of the guitar not shared by the keyboard. It make the guitar flexible but also hard to master.

Before going into fretboard details here some basic musictheory refreshments:

              The order of the musical alphabeth is:

                                   CDE FG-AB C

All the notes move up-or down in this fashion: If you play an E, the F is the next note up, the D is the next note down.

The notes where you see a use two frets to get from one note to the next one (for example C and D or F and G)
The notes where you see no use only one fret to get from note to the next one (for example E to F or B to C)

What applies to single notes applies to chords as well. Very useful to know!

Next to knowing the order of the musical alphabeth, it is a must to know the names of the strings:

   (From low to high—-E  A   D   G   B    E—–)

When you look at the musical alphabeth you see the names of the guitarstrings reappearing: Each string is tuned to a particular notename. The lowest E is twice as low as the highest E. The tuning we end up with is very flexible for playing chords and single notes, similar as what you can do on a keyboard.
No need to ask yourself where those notenames come from, just memorise the notenames of the strings and learn how to use them.

  Notenames on the low E and A and Rootnotes of Chords:

Among the the first chords you will have learned in the beginning were most likely the G, E, C and A.
Each of these chords do have rootnotes (notes where chord is being build on) Getting to know where the Rootnotes for each chord are is a must: It will help you understanding your chords better, it will also improve your vision on the fretboard.
Most of the open chords you already know do have their rootnote either on the low E or low A string. Knowing where these notes are located is a start to getting to know all the notenames of the low E and A.
These two strings should be your first two strings you should master. Take it step by step and start with these two strings.

           Using notenames from open chords:

Instead of relearing what you have learned so far, why not use your knowledge to apply to new situations?
Here is a open A chord tabbed out:

  E  —-0—
  B  —-2—

  G —–2–           The open A chord does have two Rootnotes:  The open A string and fret 2 on the G string

  D —–2–

  A  —-0–

  E ——–

    Move up the open A chord to fret 5. No need to worry about barring, leave the open A alone by not playing it.
Once on fret 5, what was a Rootnote on the G string fret 2 still applies: On the G string on the 5th fret we have now a C note, this makes the chord a C instead of an A, but the shape of the A is still there. Very useful. Look at this example, learn from it and apply it to some of your other open chords as well. Always ask first where the Root of the chord lies. Once you know this you can build upon it.

    Do I Need to Know whole Fretboard?

Eventually yes, but it will come quicker than you think, but you may need to work a bit on it in the first place. Asking yourself questions about the chord-and notenames you play does help, it will speed up the process.

When you are a beginner, working with the low E and A string may be enough for now.
Depending on your development of your playing, the next stage could be the D and G string.
Find out ways which work for you, ask other guitarplayers and use your knowledge you already have about your chords to help you along the way.

Enjoy your journey and hope to catch you soon again,

Turn Your Guitar into Ukulele: Use Capo on 5th Fret

For those of you who are interested in buying a Ukulele, here is a  simple way to turn your guitar into a Uke. You can experiment with the sound and get a feel what it is like to play a real Ukulele.
This idea applies only to the Soprano-, Concert- and Tenor Ukulele.
For those of you would like to turn their Ukulele into a guitar I suggest buying a Baritone Uke, the Baritone is tuned E, B, G and D which is the same as the guitar minus the low E and A string.

With the Capo on the 5th Fret you get (low to high) a G, C, E and A string. This string combination is similar to a Soprano, Tenor and Concert Ukulele. The only difference is that the G string is the lowest string on the guitar, on the Uke this string sounds higher.

Now that your guitar is tuned as a Uke you can still use your common open shape chords. Watch out, the name of those chords has now changed:

Open D is now a G chord
Open A is now a D chord

Open C is now an F, Open E is now an A and Open G is now a C. The last three chords miss some of their lowest strings, here is what they will look like now:

                              C        E        G              
                     A  —–0——0——3——

Uke Tuning:    E  —–1——0——0——           N.B  Chordnames are as they would be on Guitar, for new
                                                                          Uke Chordnames, see above!!!
                     C  —–0——1——0——

                     G ——2——2——0——

When you start playing with using the Capo at 5th fret you will notice that the feel of the guitar is different: It feels a lot stiffer.  The sound is a lot higher too, sounds also a lot like a Mandoline and Banjo too.

You can still play whatever you used to play, just avoid the low E and A string since you would not have those on a Uke.
Once you get the hang of it you could try a real Uke to see what is sounds like.
Even if you are not really interested in Ukulele, this way of playing your guitar will make you more versatile and will give you a better understanding of the fretboard.

Have fun playing and hope to catch you soon again.

One Major and Minor Chordshape for Beginners

Getting stuck with your chords? Feel they all sound the same?

Here are two new shapes you may like to use from time to time:

             C           Cm

  E ——-3———3———————-


  G ——5———5———————–

  D —————————————–

  A —————————————–

  E —————————————–

N.B The root for each chord is on the G string 5th fret.

The chordshape is moveable, move it up two frets to create D or Dm.

Try the use them to see what you think. Both of them are fairly easy to finger and quite useful to use.

Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again.

Beginners and Guitar Effects

New to the electric guitar? Changes are you have a fairly small amp, maybe the amp contains a button for distortion. The distortion may be the only effect on the amp. For your next upgrade you may get an amp which does contain several effects. Great! Now that you have some typical guitar effects, such as distortion, chorus, flange and phase, should you not bother looking into stand-alone guitareffects? Are the effects on your amp good enough?

Typical guitaramps of today may carry some effects. Most of these effects will come in preset form, which means you do not have much control over how the effect sounds. Most stand-alone effects will let you have a choice over tone, level and degree of the effect (all depending on what kind of effect it is)

Once you get into playing with the distortion of your amp you may, at some point, find the tone of the distortion a bit limiting. It may not be able to give you the sound of your favourite band.
To overcome this issue you could try some multi-effect processors. These are boxes which carry many effects in one unit. They will let you modify the sound to whatever you would your guitar to sound like.

Stand alone stomp boxes may be easier, as they only house one effect in one box. These boxes are fairly small and simple to use. They are not only simple but very effective too: They will let you change your sound with the flick of a switch!
Once you have made your choice of what kind of stompbox you would like to have, you can compare the sound of that box to the sound of the effect on your amp. Changes are that the sound of the stompbox will be more flexable and inspiring than the sounds of the effect on your amp. Just what you need to keep you going!
Checking out several effects will also make you aware of how certain sounds are made on the guitar.
Most of the music you listen to was recorded with the use of effects, so no reason why you should not get into using them. It will open up a whole new world of possibilities for your playing.

Have fun and hope to see you soon again,

Coversongs and Beginners: Some Useful Tips

For this article some useful pointers for beginners to improve their skills to play coversongs.

All too often when people start out to learn coversongs they grab for some tabs from the net and get going with the given chords. Logical as the chords will give them the relevant information about the song they want to play.
What happens when the chords are wrong, or there are too many chords given in the tab, chords which are not relevant to the song?

One of the first things you should do when you are working with a tab: Check the chords against the recorded version of the song you want to play. Do the chords fit? If they do, use them and listen again to the recorded version.

Second thing you should do: Listen to the rhythm of the recorded version, do not only listen to guitar, listen to the drums, bass etc. The whole song does carry the rhythm. What you should do is find strumpatterns which work for you when you play the song on your own. The recorded version may have two guitars (or even three). Often those guitars together will form the body of the song. Again, try to find a rhythm which will carry the song on its own instead of playing a rhtyhm which forms only a small part of the song.
It may take you some time to find out what rhythm works, but it is a useful exercise, it will make your own playing (and understanding of songs and music) much better.

Once you have the chords and the stumpatterns of the song it may be an idea to start to change the shape of the chords. When you are completely new to playing the guitar you may not have any desire to this right now, because it may feel like starting all over again. If you have been playing certain songs for a while it may be an idea to look at different chordshapes, especially when you feel you tackle each coversong in the same way.

What to do when it comes to choosing different chordshapes is the material for next blog.


Beginners and Intermediate Guitar Players: What To Look Out for when Buying Another Guitar

For this article a few short pointers what to look out for when buying another guitar.

Buying On Line:

Usually hard to try before you buy. Once your guitar has arrived put some new strings on it, especially when it is a used guitar. New strings should bring out the tone much better than old, dead strings.

Play a few chords, if the guitar is electric, first play without using amp. Look for resonant woods. Usually you will find out very soon how well the guitar resonates. If guitar does not ring out that well it may still soud fine when using it through the amp. Hopefully pick-ups are not too bad.
Once you amplify, and guitar still does not ring out that well, time to pass the guitar on, unless you really like it.

Usally a guitar will speak to you in the first few minutes. One chord is all it takes usually (similar with amps).

Buying from a Shop:

When you looking for an electric, bring your own amp to the shop, and try out the guitar with your own amp. Better would be to take the guitar home and try in your own environment without any pressure. Some retail-outlets may let you do that, you may have to pay a bit extra, but it may be worth it.

If you are new to guitars, bring a friend, who knows about guitars, along with you and let him/her try out the guitar of your choice.

If you are a beginner, you cannot really make many mistakes, all you need is a guitar to play with, and hopefully it is something you can grow with for a little while until you get better.
Experienced players may find it easier what to look for. Any person will have his/her own opinion. Sometimes this can be useful, but the bottom line is: “Do I like the sound of this guitar or not?”

Why you like a certain guitar may be related to issues you are not aware of:
Make of Pick-ups, kind of woods, the set-up for the guitar etc. All issues you can educate yourself on, but they are also things you probably will get better with over the years to come. 

Guitar Shape:

This is the last thing to worry about. I know, we all have our own personal preferences what we like in terms of what is pleasing for the eye. Find someting you like the look of, and see how it sounds. If it does not sound good, try another one of similar looks, or something completely different.
The looks of a guitar are not really that important, the guitar should feel good in terms of weight and balance. Some guitars are better with this compared than others.
Stratocasters are usually very well-balanced guitars to play, but this does not mean other types of guitars are no good. See what feels good to you and go with your instinct.

New or Used?

Depends on your character. I do know people who do not like the sound of the phrase “second-hand” personally I have no issues with that. Used guitars may be played in a bit, may feel better, but new ones can also feel very good right out of the box. Make sure if there is any back-up serice if you are dealing with a retail shop: Guitar may need some simple maintenance work and a set-up to come alive. Any good retailer will help you with these basic kind of issues as they are happy to keep you as a customer. Just ask before you buy.

Happy shopping and hope to see you here soon again,

Guitar Lesson—-Main Riff Edwyn Collins “A Girl Like You” for Absolute Beginners—-

For this article I will guide you through the main riff of Edwyn Collins “A Girl Like You” hit from 1995.
The main riff is adapted for people who do not have too much experience with the guitar yet, which means no stringbending, being able to use open strings and be able to play all the notes in the first, open position of the fretboard.
The lesson is backed up by two videos, part one deals with learning the riff, in part two I show you which chords will work to back up the riff, very usefull if you would like to play the riff with some of your guitarplaying friends.

Here is the tab. for the main riff:

                                 Am      Am        Dm         Em                    Am         Am       Dm     Am

                                  /          /           /             /                       /             /        /          /

  E ———————–0———————-3—–0——————0—————————–

  B ————–1—3——-3—-1——–1——————–1—3———3—-1——0———-

  G ———2————————-2–2——————-2————————–2——-0—2–

  D ——————————————————————————————————-

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

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

Listen and watch video Part One for feel and which fingers to use:

Check out now Part Two for the chords:

         Playing Guitar on Your Own?

Sing the riff (Hum or nah nah nah, or la la la etc.) play the chords so you get the full idea of how it sounds when playing with two guitars.

       Access to looping pedals/devices? 

Loop the riff on your machine and play the chords on the guitar.

The suggested strums in the tab. are basic, they are there for those of you who just started out with the guitar. If you are more experienced experiment with different feels and also try  the chords in different positions of the fretboard. If  you watch Part Two you can see that I quickly leave the open chords to play partial chords in different positions on the neck.

The original riff of this song is in the key of Cm instead of Am, try transposing the tab. to  thekey of Cm to get more milage out of the riff, similar for chords, transpose them to  the orginal key.
Edwyn’s version also uses some stringbending, which I left out, see if you can play the riff while using some stringbending as well.

As for effects, the original sound of the riff uses a Fuzz. Not sure which make (have not done the research yet………….)
I tend to use the Boss FZ-2 and the sound of this pedal comes very close to Edwyn orginal. FZ-2’s are from the 90s, and this song is from ’95, so maybe Edwyn did use one of those? Who known eh?

Okay, have fun with this little riff here, and hope to see you soon again.