Your Set Up and Your Own, Unique Guitar Style

For this article I will start offf with a statement: Your Equipement such as amplifier and pedals and other effects and your guitar should inspire you to achieve the sound you want to make.

The sound you want to make? Do you know what kind of sound you want to make, or in other words the kind of style you want to play? Maybe you want to play various styles, and each of those styles may have their own guitar sound.
Not many guitar players do know what kind of sound they want to make when they are starting out. Usually people start off with the music they know, or what they have been exposed to. Once they have been playing for a while and have discovered a few things along the way, they may start to think about the equipment they use and how well it helps them to achieve the sounds they want to make. This is where we start off with this article:

Making music and playing the guitar is a journey, or at least it is for many of us, along the way you find out what you are good at and what you  are interesed in, what is possible and what kind of opportunities come along your way. The gear you use should reflect that but there are are varous approaches and for this article I want to outline a few of them:

                           Upgrade your Equipment:

This approach does have little to do with musical style or preferences, it is more like: Start out with beginners kit and upgrade to get better sounds, but the sounds may not be geared towards a certain musical style. Nothing wrong with this approach, since it is all part of the journey. People may change their amps and guitars after one year of playing to get up to the next level. The new amp and guitar probably will feel better but still, most of those people will have little knowledge of what they want to play, anything better will do for now.

                           Universal Set-Up: Various Guitars, Amps and Effects:

The players who did upgrade their equipment after one year may discover, after maybe five years or so, that they are interested in playing Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll 50s style and some Blues Rock. What kind of amp would be good to cater for that style, what kind of guitar?  Most Blues players do not play with many different tones, most of the tones they use come out of their fingers, guitar and the amp. I know, this is a general observation but still there is some truth in it. Most Blues guitar players tend to use classic guitarmodels such as Fender and Gibson Les Paul. Again, this is a somewhat simplification, but the truth is those guitarmodels can provide you with a wide range of sounds, and most of those sounds are very useable in guitarstyles such as Blues, Bluesrock and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Okay, so with a basic, good amp and any kind of Fender or Gibson Les Paul you should be on your way to achieve the sounds you want to make in the styles mentioned above. What about if the guitar player is also interested in Jazz Rock, or Fushion or Jazz or Shred style. Can the same equipment help to achieve any of those sounds? It would be possible but you may need to adapt a few things and this is where various guitars and amps may come in:

                         Set-Up for the Guitar: String Gauge, Action, Fret Size:

Most Blues players will use a heavier string gauge compared to the typical shred style guitar players. When you play with heavier strings you may want to raise to action a bit. Raising the action will help the strings to breath and it will give you more tone. A guitar with a higher action will make you play a bit harder, it is natural since this is what you need to do to make the strings come alive. If you have been playing with higher action the playing harder will become a natural habit, but if you have been playing with thin strings and a low action you will need to adapt your style to get the best out of the set-up of your guitar.  Listen to some of the older Blues guitarists and most of them will play with a stronger attack compared to younger players who may use thinner string gauge and lower action.

The fretsize of the guitar may more be personal preference and will not do so much for your tone, it does have an impact on the feel of the fretboard of the guitar. Older guitars were usually set up with thinner frets, but this is a general observation as various guitar companies used different size fretwire over time. Today there is more choice, and information, with regards to the feel of the guitar. The feel is a personal thing, if you have various guitars you may want to set them up in different ways to achieve a different feel and to improve their playability for the styles of music you have in mind.  Is it possible to use one set-up and still be able to play various styles? Let us have a look at this question in detail:

As mentioned before: a guitar with heavier string gauge and action will make you play harder, is this kind of set up suitable for playing styles which require a legato style with a smooth distorted sound? If you are good as a player, you will be able to make any set up sound like how you want to play and sound, but some set-ups may be not inspiring to play with.
If you have varous guitars you may want to set them up differently according to the style of music you want to use that guitar for. Having said that, it is easier to swap amps and pedals w hile keeping the guitar and set-up the same:

                         Amps: Hybrids and Single Channel Amps:

Most vintage style amps of the past were not good at giving you many tones, Fenders may be a bit better compared to Marshalls but still, once you use a Fender you know you are playing through a Fender since it cannot give you those lowdown dirty sounds of older style Marshall amps.
Modern amps today come in a lot of styles and variations and most of them can do more than one tone. What kind of tone you want is up to the style you want to play: A simple basic amp may be just what you need when it comes to playing Blues and Blues Rock. You can augment the amp with a handful of pedals to change your sound a bit.
When it comes to Fushion and Jazz, you may want to use an amp with more tonevariation, but again, all of this depends on your own vision and experience.

                       The Journey and Equipment:

When you check out some of your well-known favourite guitarists you may find out that they have been using different set-ups over the years People change their minds about what they like and also want to experiment with their tone to keep things fresh. You will notice some things may remain consistent: Some of the 80s style session guitarplayers may still use racks and poweramps since this is what they feel is best for achieving that kind of sound.
One way to look at tone is to think about the history of the electric guitar and amplification: What kind of tone was there in the 1950s and how good it this tone today? Can it be used to achieve what you want to do? Can you work with your playing style while still using a bacis guitarsound coming from a basic amplifier without too many effects and get a pleasing sound for your own needs? It is a question you need to answer for yourself!

Enjoy your own journey and hope to see you soon again for more updates,

Typcial Vintage Guitars Features

A few side notes on older, vintage guitars and how comfortable they are to play compared to current models.
I will break down a few facts related to parts of the guitar and compare these facts. Overal the breakdown of facts could be used as a rough guideline on how to approach vintage guitars compared to modern ones.


Most guitars these days will have fretboards with rounded edges, they feel smooth and comfortable for your fingers, compared this to older type of guitars this is not always the case. Older Strats in particular do not have rounded edges on the fretboard. The feel of the fretboards is very different compared to newer Strats. The size of the actual fretboard is different as well and Strats are notorious for their differences allround: Strats throughout the ages may all look similar but once you start playing them, and have a close inspection, you will notice the differences.


Fretsize these days may be a bit bigger than on the older guitars, but this may depend on the model of guitar you are looking at. Some guitar players feel bigger frets will feel more comfortable and will help your playing. If you are only used to one fretsize you will not know the difference. There is a difference in feel, and what feels better depends on your taste and experience.

                 Output Pick Ups:

The output of the pick ups of current guitars may be higher than those of older models, but again, this could depend on the model you are looking at. When you are dealing with a vintage guitar and you feel the pick ups are weak you need to consider the fact the electronics and the pick ups have aged: Pick Ups do have coils with copper winding, they age over time, sometimes this may be a good thing at other times you may feel the guitar is lacking something. It is possible to get the pick-ups rewound if you would like to keep using the same pick  ups. You may be able to get them rewound to same specks. Doing so will, off course, make a difference to the sound of the guitar. Try to play the guitar for a while to see how you get on with it before you decide to make any changes to the actual current pick ups.

                 Neck Profile:

Older guitars may have thicker necks which may not suit your style of playing. In the past there was less choice in how you wanted your guitar to be: You just got on with whatever you had and that was it.
One way to look at the neck size is to think about various styles of music and the changes these styles brought to guitars in general: The fast, shred guitar styles of the 80s made guitar players request for ultra slim line necks. 

               Customization of Guitars:

From the late 70s onwards guitar players started to adapt their guitars to their own, unique playing styles: Heavy Rock guitar players often swapped their pick-ups for higher output pick ups, vintage style bridges–as found on any standard Stratocaster—were often changed for Floyd Rose style bridges which enabled the player to preform the heavy dive bombing tricks which became part of the Metal Style of playing.
Some of these customising trends found their ways into the regular guitar models of the day, and that is why the guitars of today often have higher output pick ups and thinner necks and some other features which used to be less standard for older type of guitars.


Older style guitars often have a thinner finish, and that explains for some of the typical wear on the finish you may come across on the necks and the bodies of the guitars. Fenders, until the late 70s had sometimes a mixed finished job: On the back of the body the finish may look a bit thicker compared to the finish on the sides and the edges of the body. Some of the finish was even used to smoothen out any irregularities in the woodwork of the body. Over time these areas of the body will show that typical wear and tear you will see on some guitars.


Are older guitars any better than newer ones? One way to answer this question is to compare older guitars with older cars: Are they any better than newer types of cars?
Why would someone want to check out older guitars? If you are interested in electric guitars you may want to find out how the earlier guitars were compared to newer electric guitars. The electric guitar soldid body guitar has only been around since the early 1950s. It is possible to find an early model to see how they were made in past and to see how well they play.

Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again,

Singer Songwriters and Learning Songs: Reading Chord Charts and Playing by Memory

What approach do you take when you want to learn a new song: Use any chords you can find, use tabs or books or learn the song by ear?

Learning a song by ear is far the best method, but also the one which will take the most of your time: By the time you figured out the song you will have a good idea about the groove of the song, the sound of the drums and what most instruments play. It may have taken you some time but the song is now in your system, you have played along with the song while working out the riffs, or chords, and you really do know the structure of that song.

What about learning a song from your screen? Nothing wrong, but keep listening to the song, do not just get the words and keep reading the chords while you play. Try to get away from the screen, or paper or whatever memory aid you are using. Learn the song, play the chords and listen to the sound you are making. Get the chords to ring full and just play. You can play while you sing, you can also listen to the chords while you just play and not sing. By doing so you help to get the song into your system, and once you do know that structure of the song you will be able to play better.

When you play with other people, try to memorize the song as much as you can. Once you have done this you will find the playing experience more rewarding since you can feel where your parts fit in the context of the rest of the band, or ensemble.

Enjoy your playing and hope to see you soon again,

Working with Cover Songs: Make them Fit for Your Own Style of Playing

Most beginners, when playing a coversong, will just get the chords of the song and play the song as close as they can to the original version of the song. Nothing wrong with that you may say? No, indeed, but changes are your singing voice does sound different compared to the orginal song you are covering.  As far as the backing of the song, the song will probably have various sounds coming from bassguitar, guitar, keyboards, drums and other instruments. To get as close to the feel of the orginal song your guitar will need to sound like all those various instruments together. How do you do this? You find your own way by giving the song your interpretation.

To get to your interpretation you may need to experiment with various feels of the song, you may need to alter the song structure: You could leave out some verses of the song, add in a little solo and repeat certain parts several times to make the song fit for your style.
At first it may be a good idea to sing and play the song as close as you can to the orginal, then start experimenting with what you can do to bring the song alive. You need to bring the song alive, this is what really matters. To check if you are on the right track you can play and sing the song while you record the results. Listen back and be honest, is the song pleasing for the ears? You can play the song back to your friends and ask for their feedback.
In most cases you will need to rework the song because you are not the original artist, you need to find your own feel to make the song come alive. You can watch other cover bands and solo singer/songwriters to check to see how they do this. When you listen you may not even be aware that they have changed the song to make them fit for their feel. Very subtle adaptions are often the best as you do not want to stray to far away from the original.

Enjoy your playing and hope to catch you soon again,

Guitar Tutorial: When Starting Out with Learning to Play the Blues

For this article a few snapshots which may make life easier when you dig in those strings to get those riffs to come alive.
Most of these ideas do not only apply to blues, they can be used for any form of improvised music and working out solo ideas.

                    Learn to play a theme

Very important, the theme is like a main riff, or melody which introduces the song. The theme is often followed by improvisation which is meant to be as a variation on the theme. This kind of approach has been used often by Jazz standards but most forms of electric blues uses these ideas as well.

If you can, work out the theme by ear. Why? Because you will find out where the melody is played on the guitar. Once you have the theme, play it in various places. Figure out what makes the theme work, think about rhythm of the notes and what kind of notes are being used. With the kind of notes I mean the intervals: Is theme played in octaves or is it powerchords or…………….  Think of “Sunshine of your Love” this can be played with powerchords, but you can also use octaves. Different artists have played this idea in different ways. Make sure you know what is behind the riff, it does help instead of just blasting out the notes and not really knowing what is behind those notes.

                   Learn One Solo Idea

Once you have your theme look at some of the solos, take an idea you like best and learn this note for note. As with the theme, play this solo idea in one position, then move same idea around in different positions. Do not jump positions like, play one note in one position and move up to twelfth position for next note. This makes for sloppy playing and does not sound good. Play the solo first slowly and clean, speed up your playing once your technique is in place. 
Similar as with the theme, ask yourself why certain notes are being used: Are the rootnotes? 5th or b3rd or blue note or……………? The understanding of the notechoice will help you with your own playing.

                  Learn to Swing

Very important, you need to play with the right rhythms. A solid rhyhm from the backing band will inspire you to play over a song. Sloppy rhythms will make up for solos to sound weak and wrong. There are quite a few major artsist who depend on the strenth of the playing of their band. In any band situation anyone should be strong with their sense of timing and rhythm. When you play on your own always be aware of the feel and rhythm of the song. Playing along with recordings will help you to develop your sense of rhythm.

               Pace Yourself

Once you start to work out solo ideas from other guitarplayers it is easy to get overwhelmed: You hear all these great ideas and you want to grab them all and learn them all at once in one evening. Wrong!! B.B King once mentioned that he was happy to pick up one idea a day. It is better to learn one idea, make sure to understand this idea and run with it. Once you have that idea in your head and under your fingertips, you will be able to use it at will at any time.

Enjoy working out solos and hope to see you soon again,

Reading Music and Playing the Guitar

Most people who are new to playing the guitar will get introduced to reading music by a tutor or a teacher. Experienced players who have been playing for a while may wonder why they should learn to read music since they know how to play the gutiar. For this blog a few ideas related to the topic of reading music for the guitar.

Let me start of with the answer to the question: “Why should I learn to read music?”  Reading music or not being able to read may be a typical thing for guitar players, since a lot of people will learn to play the guitar by using and handful of chords and just play with them.  Then there is the culture: The guitar, in the past, was typically an instrument which was learned by watching other people play, just pick up ideas from the ones who were around you. A lot of the older blues guys who grew up in the 1930s learned to play that way. It is a natural way of learning and works very well, as long as you are surrounded by other guitar players.

Today things are different: We all have acess to a lot of information around us, whatever you want to learn will be available in some form. All you need to do is apply yourself and find a method how to absorb the information you want to learn. When it comes to playing the guitar, taking up lessons with a teacher is similar compared to being around an experienced player. A good teacher will expose you to a variety of learning materials and learning to read is one of those ways.

What can you pick up from reading music? Once you get used to how the notes relate to the guitar you can go through various books which will explain you a variety of playing styles. Being able to read will give you access to music you may not have been able to play before. Reading music will also help you to understand music theory better and your overal musical knowledge will expand through reading as well.

Once you get used to reading music try to play from very early on with a feel for whatever it is your are reading. Music played from written notation without feel is like playing dead music. Putting feel into the music is important, and you need to learn how to put feel into the piece you are playing. At first you may struggle to get the right notes under your fingertips, once you know where to find the notes you can start to look at the feel for the piece. All in all it is a process: First get the notes so you can play the music smoothly, then play the piece with more feel. It is important to be aware that you will need to put feel into the music since you are working from a book or any sheet, you will not have an audio source around you to guide you to whatever feel the music needs. Experienced readers will be aware of this process but any player new to reading will not, and your teacher will be able to guide you through this process.

Enjoy your reading studies and hope to see you soon again,

Develop Your Own Finger Playing Style

For this blog a few ideas how you can approach your fingerstyle technique for the guitar.

When people start out with the guitar, most of them will find playing with fingers easier. The plectrum is an alien piece of plastic in your fingers, and it needs time and practise to start to feel natural; fingers, on the other hand, feel natural as they are part of your body. You will need to learn how to use them to get the most out of them but for most people playing with fingers feel natural.

When you work on your own without a teacher or any form of support from outside, look into the various approaches of fingerstye playing: There is the classical approach with the rest-and freestroke, then there is folk style fingerpicking.
For beginners I would strongly recommend to get used to one form of fingerstye playing before moving on to the next approach. Get comfortable with the style you choose and make sure you can use it at all times.
Experienced players may want to look at a particular fingerstyle and develop their own style out of the various, conventional techniques.

When you look at developing your own fingerstyle technique you can look at what your playing needs and use your fingers in a way which will help you to get your playing to a higher level. Try various hybrid forms of picking which use thumb and fingers in a creative way. Make sure you develop your fingers well enough to get a full tone out of your strings.

Keep at it and hope to see you soon again,


An Approach To Playing Chicago Blues

For this article a few tips what you can do to improve your guitarplaying in the style of Chicago blues. The term Chicago blues stands for electric blues in the style of Buddy Guy, Freddie King and a host of other guitar players including the guitar players who were influenced by these guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor.


Anyone who wants to get into a certain style of playing should listen a lot of music which is based on that particular style of guitar playing. Within the Chicago style there is a lot of variation, one thing the style does have in common is it does use a lot of guitar improvisation such as guitar solos. Possibly one of the reasons why many guitarists were drawn to this style in the first place? Listen to the big names first such as Albert, Freddie and BB King, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and listen then to more obscure names. Get a feel for how they play and what kind of approach they use for their bands to get the sounds they want.

          Pentatonic Scales:

Learn one pentatonic scale in one key. See if you can learn all five positions, three if five is too much. Stick to this one key. Learn to understand how the scale works, and how you can transpose the scale into any other key. Listen to the songs you like and find out how the scale fits in. Do not listen only to the guitar!!! Listen to the chords of the keyboards and the horns. See if you can hear how the song works, this will help you with understanding the song and how its sounds works against the guitar.

        Theme and Playing:

Take one song you like. Look for songs with a strong theme such as “The Hide Away” the songs contains several themes which vary in rhythm. Try to play one of them. If you cannot get all the notes try to get them as close as you can,. Once you can play one theme, try making variations on the theme by improvising with the notes and the rhythm. Once you can play this in one position move around to other positions you know and do the same.

Once you get used to this kind of playing why not set up your own theme and vary them in a similar way. Listen to a lot of blues to see where the variations come from and what you can do for yourself to make it sound like that.
Also listen to some Rock songs you like and try to see the connection between the blues and some more moderns styles of Rock.

        Acoustic Blues:

Once you get a feel for the electric sounds of the Chicago style, why not check out some older forms of acoustic blues such as Robert Johnson. Again, try to see how this style influenced more modern styles of guitar playing.

Have fun and hope to see you soon again,

Guitar Tone and What Makes Your Tone

For this article a few highlights about your guitar tone.

Most beginners may wonder what is up with guitar tone. “Does a guitar’s tone not depend on the instrument and how well you play”? they may wonder. Well to an extend that is true but there is a lot you can do yourself to get a better tone.
The problem with the guitar is, you give anyone, who has never played, a guitar and get them to play one note or a simple, open string chord and they will get a sound. This is not the case when you think of a violin or a trumpet. With both those instruments you need to work on your technique to produce a sound. The guitar, on the other hand, seem to be this instrument which will give you a sound straight away. Get an experienced guitar player to play the same note or chord compared to any beginner, and both people will produce the same sound. Difference is the experienced guitar player will produce a better sound.

The tone of the guitar depend on your fingers, how you finger your chords and the kind of equipment you use such as guitar, plectrum, amplifier and any kind of effects in between amp and guitar. Let us have a closer look at some of those elements I mentioned before:


 The touch of your fingers will interact with the strings of your guitar: When you dig in harder on the strings, the strings will produce a fuller and louder sound. When you dig in too hard the strings will break up their sound and the tone is no longer any good. It is a fine line between the sound breaking up and producing a good sound. Playing as strong as you can is a good starting point. Again, this is something most beginners will get into at a later stage.

What I mentioned about fingers also applies to the plectrum: The plectrum acts in a similar way as your fingers, the difference is that the plectrum acts like a piece of plastic in between your fingers and the strings: It produces a brighter tone which also makes the strings sound louder as well.

When you are starting out with the guitar it makes sense to try to get on with both plectrum and fingers since you are new to playing the guitar. 
If you are used to playing with a plectrum you may want to try playing with your fingers since it produces a different tone: It is more mellow compared to playing with a plectrum. Once you get used to playing with your fingers try to get your finger technique up to the same level as you plectrum technique. Once you can do this you can let the music decide which technique is best suited for what you want to play.


Once your plectrum-and finger technique are in place have a look at your guitar: When you are using and electric one, look at your pick ups: Are they weak and microphonic or do they produce a thick, full tone? Changing your pick ups on your electric can give you a different tone at the flick of a switch.

Looking at the kind of amp you use, does it have a preamp, or is it a single channel amp? Try playing with your fingers when you use a bit of distortion. Listen to your tone, see how different it can sound compared to when you use a plectrum.
Amps with a preamp will give you the ability to dial in a bit of extra volume which can give you a bit of distortion to your sound. Sometimes a tiny bit of distortion may just be what you like. A distortion- or overdrive pedal can also act like a preamp on your amplifier.

Use any distortion or overdrive pedals? Try to pick one which work best with your amp and guitar. If you have several overdrives, try them to see which one works best for what you want. You will find that over time your taste may change. It makes sense to have a few different overdrive pedals since all of them will give you a different flavour. 

Tone at the end of the day is a personal thing, there is something like good and bad tone, but in between those two there is a lot of variation and most of it will depend on your vision, experience, musical taste and style.

Keep on working on your tone and hope to catch again soon,

Learn to play riff “Seven Nation Army” for Ukulele

Most of this riff is played on the high A string apart from one note, which is played on the E string:

           Em                                    C                 Bm
           /           /            /             /             /     /          play this part twice before moving on to next two bars
    A    7—7—10—7—-5—-        3—-5—-3—2—-

    E   ————————–         ——————–

    C   ————————–          ——————- 

    G  —————————-        ———————

           G                                   A
           /               /                   /             /
   A  ————————      –0-0–0-0–0-0–0-0—-

   E  —3-3–3-3–3-3–3-3–     ————————–

   C  ————————–    —————————

  G  ————————–     —————————


         Em   Bm   G      C      A

   A  —-2—-2—-2—-3—-0—

   E   —3—-2—-3—–0—-0–

   C  —4—–2—-2—–0—-1—

   G —4—–4—–0—–0—-2—

Play the riff with a friend, one of you doing the single notes for the riff while the other plays the chords with the suggested rythm as indicated by the slashes.

Enjoy and hope to see you soon again,