Tips on How to Create an Effective Medley

20120605113613guyatone standingA medley is simply a mix of short songs, or song parts, to create a longer song which can stand on its own.
You may wonder why musicians decide to create a medley? Why not play a full song instead? Sometimes the full song may be too long, sometimes the song may contain a lot of filler parts and only the chorus may be the best sounding part. For this article I will give you a handful of ideas of what you can do to create a more effective medley which will keep your listeners on their tows.

To keep your medley smooth it is a good idea to keep your song ideas all in the same key. It will make it easier to change from one song idea to the next one. Simply choose a handful of songs which are in the same key and sound alike and experiment how you can move from one song to the other without having any gaps in your playing.
Instead of playing the full song, go for parts of the song which sound similar to the other song you want to add to your medley. Instead of having full song parts you can also look for instrumental hook lines or riffs.
A lot of 70s songs contain great riffs and most of them lend themselves very well to be put into one medley.

Once you have your medley of a handful of songs, experiment with any possible key changes to add a bit more interest to your medley. You may even want to add some tempo changes, this will make your medley stand out from the rest.

Enjoy your experiments and hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

12 Bar Blues For Ukulele

20111117111343eddieFor this article a handful of ideas of what you can do to create a 12 bar blues.
Blues has been, throughout the years, a great vehicle to experiment with: You can change the feel of the idea, you can make changes to the melody you play, you can add any riffs you like to enhance the chords with. Best of all, a blues is easy to adapt to your own style of playing, that is one of the main reasons why blues has been so popular throughout the years.

To get started you need to set up a chord sequence which has the sound and feel of a blues. The most popular device is the 12 bar blues: You take any three chords and divide them across 12 bars. Not sure how to do this?
Okay here is an example in the key of C:
C     C      C    C7
F     F      F    F7
C     C      C    C7
G7   F7    C    G7

Have a listen to some popular blues songs to get an idea of how you can strum those chords. Experiment with different strums. An effective way to get the right feel is to use a shuffle, it is not the only possibility but it works well. Another way is to have a listen to some Rock ‘n’ Roll and try to strum the chords with an energetic 50s vibe.

Once your chord sequence starts to sound like a real blues you may want to add some more spice to those chords. One way to do this is to add some riffs in between the chords. Again, have a listen to some of your favourite blues players to see what kind of melodies and riffs they play and see if you can copy some of their ideas. Once you have a simple riff just put it in between those chords. The main thing is to keep the feel of your strums smooth  while you add in those notes of the riff.
Being able to play melodic ideas in between your chords is a real challenge but it will help push your playing up to the next level. Just keep at it.

Over the next few weeks I will create more  blogs with  specific ideas for Ukulele.
Stay tuned and hope to catch you soon again.
Cheers,

Eddie

Improve Your Feel: Play Along with Recorded Music (Guide for Beginners)

20110504122530eddiePlaying along with music will improve your feel as you play along with experienced players. All you need to do is sit right in there with the recording. How do you do this? Just sit down and play you may say? Yes but there are a few things to think about if you are fairly new to this game.
For this article a handful of tips how you can get a better experience out of your “playing along” sessions.

Make Sure Your Are In Tune with the Recording:
In the days before the internet most guitar players actually learned to play the guitar by sitting down and working things out from records. This method of learning is a bit like sitting down with a master who will show you some of their playing tricks.  Okay, but now there is internet so what is your point? Yes, well now you have all those chord sheets (and lyrics–heh check ’em again will you?—) in front of you, you still need to develop a feel for how to play the guitar. One way to pick up different feels is by playing along with recorded music.
Make sure you are in tune before you play along. Should not be much of a problem but older recordings are in strange keys such as Eb or C#. Most of this is because of the recording process, or simply because the guitarists preferred to tune down (as so many did during the 60s and 70s) Be aware of this before you play along and make sure your guitar is at the same pitch. All of this makes playing so much more fun.

  Get the right Balance between your Guitar and the Recorded Sound:
What I really mean is: Do not turn your guitar (in case you play and electric) up too loud so you can no longer hear the details of the recording. Just get your guitar to sit in the mix of the record. Once you get it to sound as like you are playing on the actually recording you are in the ball park. The next step is to get your playing skills to a higher level so you can play from top to bottom along with the recording without making any mistakes.

Playing Your Own Solos Over the Recording:
Playing guitar solos is hard. You have hear this being mentioned before? Well, what about creating your own solos and to play them over existing recordings? This will guarantee you will enjoy playing that guitar night and day since all those lovely notes have found a place to live in.
The truth about guitar solos is: The better the backing is the better the solos will sound.
Get started by just playing a handful of notes and see how they fit in with your favourite recordings.
If you are an experienced player, copy the existing solos of the record and try playing them with a different feel. By doing so you will develop a better rhythmic feel for your single note playing.

Once you will get started with some of the above ideas you will soon get hooked, it will improve your playing very quickly, yes it will. All you need to do is to make sure you are playing the right thing which fits into the recording.

Have fun and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Rhythm Guitar For Beginners

20140131140444IMG_3946Rhythm guitar is all about playing chords, it is about how you play your chords ( what kind of fingerings you use—voicing is the correct term here—-) and what kind of rhythm you use for playing those chords. Simple eh? Most beginners need to work first on getting their chords clean. As they work on this they may ignore the rhythm of the chords. Okay I understand, as there are so many things to think about in the beginning. The key is, being aware, being aware of the songs you listen to, What goes on music wise? What makes those songs sound the way they do? In most cases it is the rhythm, it is the way how the chords move from one chord to the next one and how those chords gel with the bass line, melody and the drums. All of this is called the groove, most beginners need to work on this, even  more experienced players will often benefit from concentrating more on the how the groove is being played in a particular song.
A good way to get into the zone of what a good groove can sound like is to listen to some old Stax and Motown songs. A lot of the recordings  from this period were played by the same group of backing musicians such as Booker T and the MG’s. If you are not familiar with some of the music from this period (late 50s till early 70s) check it out as you will pick up a lot of ideas from what you hear.

Rhythm guitar is often overlooked, some people may even think it is a simpler form of playing guitar since playing single note solos is a more exciting sound. The truth is: Rhythm guitar is the start of your playing, the better you understand it the better your future solos will be.

Once you start playing with other people it is useful if every player can hold the rhythm. In a band (or any collective form of musicians) any instrument should support the rhythm, if this is not the case the band will not be as strong as it could be.

I mention all of this to support the idea that playing rhythm guitar is as much fun as playing guitar solos. Listen to a lot of different music to get a good idea of what is possible and experiment with your own playing to get some of those sounds under your finger tips.

Happy playing and hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

Guitar Lesson: Using Bass Notes Underneath Your Chords

20111003142223eddieOnce you get to grips with playing your chords fluently you may want to progress to make these chords progressions stand out. Playing chord progressions on their own is fine, but it helps if you can sings along with whatever you playing. The singing will help the listener that they are hearing a tune instead of listening to a harmonic back drop of chords.
If you do not want to sing there are several things you can do to make your chords stand out and give them the idea that there is a song in there. Playing bass notes along with your chords is one of those things you can do. For this blog I want to give you a few examples of what you can do to guide those chords along with some bass notes.

The first example here is a C chord with a handful of bass notes. The first bass notes is the fifth of the C chord.  Check for the timing and feel which is indicated by the counting underneath the progression.

               C                            C
E ———————————-

B ——–5——————5—–

G ——–5——————5—-               repeat the same bar over and over again

D ——–5——————5—                  try to play as smoothly as you can.

A ——————-2–3——–                Observe that the C chord is played by using the “A” shape.

E –3———-5—————–

1     2        3      and 4   and

Here is the same chord now played using a partial “E” shape higher on the fretboard. The bass notes which guide the chord along give you a similar idea as the first example.

                     C                                      C
E  —————————————————–

B ——————————————————

G  ———–9————————9—————       Again, try playing this several times

D ———–10———————–10————–

A —————————7–8———————-

E —8———–10————————————

1         2        3           and 4      and

Here a progression which uses four chords within two bars. The first bar is repeated twice before it progresses and finishes with the next bar:

               Am                          G           x2                       F                                 G
E  ——–5—————————               ——————————————

B   ——-5——————-3——-                ——–1———————-3———

G   ——–5——————-4——                ——–2———————-4———

D  —————————–5—–                  ——–3———————-5———-

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

E  –5———7——-3————-7–              —-1———5—–3—————-7—-

1       2    and        3        4         and                  1     2       and   3            4          and

Notice the Am chord uses the “Em” shape   while both the G and F chord use the “F” shape.

Try using some of these ideas with your own chord progressions. Find bass notes which are not too far away from the chords to achieve a smooth sound.

Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Guitar Lesson: Slide Guitar for Beginners

 

For this article a few short tips on how to improve your slide playing.
Check out the video,  most of what I will mention here is featured in the video as well.

  What kind of Slide?

There are glass, bronze and metal slides. All of these do give you a different tone. Experiment with various ones to see which ones you like best. Slides also come in various sizes, same here, experiment to see which size you like best of all.

What finger should I use for wearing the Slide?

Wearing a Slide on your pink will leave your ring, middle and index finger free for playing. Using the Slide in this way will leave your other three fingers free for playing chords, riffs and other melodic ideas to enhance your Slide playing.

Position of fingers fetting hand:

Once you start using a Slide, keep your other fingers at all times muting the strings behind the Slide, doing so will give you a cleaner sound, it will also make your Slide notes sound fuller. Slide playing is all about getting a good tone, work on this and be as precise as you can during your practise sessions.

Using Your Fingers:

Play finger style as much as you can when you use a Slide, use only a plectrum when you must. If you do not yet use finger style it may be an idea to get some finger style playing underneath your belt. Check out some of the Slide guitar masters, most of them play using finger style as it tends to work better in combination with the Slide tonewise.

Getting Started with Easy Chord Shapes:

The “A” chord shape may be the easiest to start out with for your Slide playing. I do give you some playing examples in the video, try them to see if they work for you. Some of the most well-known Slide classics also use this chord shape, have a listen and check out some of those songs to see if your recognise the sound.

Once you have some basic Slide technique underneath your fingers work on creating your own Slide style.
One idea may be to play whatever you like without using the Slide and then try to incorporate the Slide into some of these musical ideas.

Have fun and hope to see you soon again.
Eddie

Tips for Beginners How to Learn the Fretboard

20131102154731eddieA typical question beginners often ask: “Do you really have to know the whole fretboard?” or they will make a remark like: “I first need to know all the notes on the fretboard before I can move on to improve my playing”  Let me answer some of these questions by giving you some tips on what to do and what not when it comes to learning the fretboard:

First of all: You do not need to know all the notes of the fretboard to be able to play the guitar in a creative way. Knowing the notes will not harm with you creative playing but it is not a must to first learn all the notes and then to play music.  We do not learn to speak our mother tongue by first studying literature and grammar of the English language. You learn to speak as you go along, and your language skills will improve the more your practise the language. Same thing with music: You get better by playing. Setting goals for yourself will speed up the learning process and getting to know the notes of the fretboard could be one of those goals.

  Low E and A String:

Make a habit of getting to know the notes on the low E and A string. Most of this can be done by getting to know the Root notes of some of the chords you play: Get to know where the G is in an open G chord, The E in an open E chord, the A in an open A chord etc.
You will find once you get to know the notes on the low E and A, the other strings will follow: The notes of the high E string are the same as the ones on the low E, only three strings left to learn!

Playing Riffs and Melodies in Different Positions:

Play all your favourite riffs and melodies in various positions. This will help your technique and knowledge of the fretboard. It is a fun way to learn as well, since you are playing material you already know.

Sight Reading Using Tutor Books:

Most tutor books will start in the open position. Once you are familiar with the notes in this area move the melodies from the book up into another area of the fretboard. Try to play the melodies in as many positions as you can. Once you get comfortable doing this you will start to see the logic of how the fretboard works.

Keep working at it and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Rhythm Guitar Tips

20140222153811IMG_5187For this article a handful of tips of how to handle playing rhythm guitar in various musical set-ups.

  Playing Guitar in a Duo Set-Up:

In this scenario there could be two guitars, a bass and a guitar, one guitar and vocals, keyboards and one guitar etc.
In a case of Bass and Guitar the guitar will need to carry the rhythm and the song as much as possible since the guitar is the only chord instrument. It is important to play the rhythm and the chords as clear as possible. If you are inexperienced guitar player do set yourself the task to get your rhythm playing as strong as possible. Being able to carry a song on your own will put you into a better position to play with other musicians.
In a case of two guitars in a duo set-up you can be a little more creative with your playing since there are two guitars to carry the rhythm. It is possible to embellish the chords with various riffs and melodic ideas to create a larger musical palette.
A set-up of keyboards and one guitar can be tricky: Keyboards have a large range and as a guitar player you need to check where the keyboard player plays his/her chords.  Try to get an equal balance in the sound without having too much bass or high end. Playing chords on the top E, B and G string may be a good idea as this will give the keyboards more room in the low and mid range.

  Playing Guitar in a Trio Set-Up:

This could be simply Bass, Drums and One Guitar, or it could be Keyboards, Bass and Guitar, or Two Guitars and one Bass.
If you are the only guitar player there is a lot of room to play whatever is needed. It helps to mix rhythm playing with some single string playing since it will break up the monotony of the chords.
Whenever you play with a Bass player, it does help to keep those bottom E and A free for the Bass, try to play your chords using your inner strings and the top three strings. Keeping the music clear and uncluttered is a good idea.

Playing Guitar in a Quartet Set-Up:

This could be: Two guitars, Bass and Drums.
Whenever you are playing in a Two Guitar set-up try to see the rhythm guitar as one: Divide rhythm roles between the two guitar players, when you do it right it can create a large sound where one may not be able to tell who plays what. Most of the Rolling Stones music is like that, especially the songs from the period when Ronnie Wood joined the Stones: Keith and Ron can swap roles easily and they are also good at playing each others parts, which is a good skill to aim for.

  Conclusion:

I have only given you here a few typical set-up examples and how you can to deal the rhythm guitar in that particular set-up. The bottom line is: Keep thinking what you do, whatever the musical set-up your are in. Try to avoid going on auto pilot since the music may suffer as a result.

have fun and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble and Clones

20130926135626IMG_4407_orginalBoss’s mission has always been: Give musicians access to sounds,  normally available in the studio, in a compact effects unit.
The first effect processors Boss produced were not like the compact pedals we know today, they looked like this one here:
http://www.unaudio.com/media/assetlibrary/
Among the first three effect pedals they made in the late 70s the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble was one of them.
Its sound is based on the Chorus found in a Roland Jazz Chorus amp. In a way this Chorus sound is one of the best Chorus sounds we have available today: The CE-1 sounds lush and feels like it is part of your amp instead of playing through a separate Effects unit.

Like most of the effects from the 70s the CE-1 does have an input control for your signal, which makes it like a proper preamp. Do not expect that you can overload your amp here to get some nice over-driven sounds because the distortion you get is hard clipped and sounds far from nice. There are some other pedals from the same period which will let you do this and you can get some nice, unexpected,  over driven sounds out of them.

Back to the CE-1: It is a pedal which gives you chorus and vibrato. When I say vibrato it should really read tremolo. The Chorus will go up in speed and intensity when you rotate its control. There is a LED light which lights up at the tempo of the chorus unit. You do have the option to select either Chorus or Vibrato. The Vibrato sound takes off when the Chorus leaves: It can go much faster.

The sound of the CE-1 has been used in many pedal which try to clone the CE-1: Most pedals will compromise on the options—-they will give you chorus and when you go up with the RATE control the sound will go into Vibrato— Boss CE-2 is a prime example of that idea. Unlike the CE-1 most of the clones which fall in this category will not let you switch between Chorus and Vibrato sound: You will get the different sounds by changing the controls. The DOD FX 80 Stereo Chorus is a similar pedal, the pedals can be seen as a straight clone of the CE-2 rather than the CE-1, even its colour is similar.

There are also some clone Chorus pedals which will only give you chorus, and when you max out the controls you will get that seasick sound. The Coron CS-1 is one of those chorus pedals, this one comes even will an LED which works on a similar basis as the LED found on the  CE-1. Another pedal in this category is the Rockson  Ch. Chorus pedal: Only chorus sounds here, but both the Rockson and the Coron do sound great, and both these pedals are far more compact that the CE-1.

Happy Playing and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Comparing Boss PW-2 with Electro Harmonix Big Muff

20131021140024eddieThe Electro Harmonix Big Muff is a classic distortion pedal which carries that characteristic Fuzz tone. It’s tone control is unique and can give you many different sounds from dark, muddy bass to bright and trebly sounds and everything in between. Its sustain control gives you unique overtones which gives you the idea you hear a tone above the one you are playing. So far the facts about the well-known Big Muff, now over to a lesser known fact:

Boss’s Power Driver (PW-2) is loosely based on the sound of the Big Muff: It does have two tone controls: one for bass and one for mids, the Drive controls acts like the sustain on the Electro Harmonix. Keeping both the Bass, Mid and Drive  control down you get a similar sound as on the Big Muff: It sounds less wed and sounds almost like a regular distortion pedal. Opening up the Drive makes the pedal sound fuller and bigger, but it also exaggerates your sound, similar as with the Electro Harmonix. The Bass and Mid controls are called FAT and MUSCLE respectively.

On the plus side: The Power Driver is smaller than the Big Muff, may be easier to fit on the average sized pedal board.
The Power Driver does have a lot of bass when you open up the FAT control, this may sound similar to one of those Russian Big Muffs from the 90s.
Again, as said before, the PW-2 is loosely based on the sound of the Big Muff, comparing them side by side the Electro Harmonix does sound fuller and more organic compared to the smaller PW-2.

There are about nine different versions of the Big Muff, I used a recent version for my tests.
Check both pedals out if you get a change, they both sound good and will keep you playing for hours.

Happy playing and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie