Use Your Tone Control and Pick-Up Selector to get Wah Sounds from Your Stratocaster

Getting wah sounds from a Wah pedal is great, but what about getting them from your guitar without having to use any extras? You can use your tonecontrol to illustrate your chords with some wah sounds. To get this idea to work best, close your tonecontrol —-make sure you select the right pick-up and right tone-control knob— and open it while the chord is ringing. This approach will also work with bends, open the tonecontrol while the bend is still ringing out, the bend will start to sound brighter as the tone control opens up.
The downfall with any of this is that you need a finger to control the tonecontrol whereas a dedicated Wah-pedal will keep your hands free for playing. The sound from a dedicated Wah  pedal is, of course, also a bit different.

The next Wah sound you can achieve from your Strat using the tonecontrols is as follows: Have the middle pick-up tone control wide open while keeping the neck-pickup tone control closed, now use your pick-up selector switch to flick from one setting to the other. The result will be a dark sound from the pick-up which tone control is closed to a brighter sound from the pick-up which tone control is wide open. This approach works well for sinlge string phrases and short chord bursts. Again as mentioned before, the downfall is that you need a finger to switch the pick-up selector.
If you practise some of these ideas it does mean you always will have Wah sounds ready from your guitar, even without having a Wah pedal connected to your signal chain, cool!!

Have fun and hope to see you soon again,

Using Shubb Capos: Pros and Cons

Anyone who has ever used a Shubb capo will have had a good experience with them: They are very convenient are easy to use, they are fairly small, they do not detune your strings and fit most areas on the fretboard.
Among the wide range of capos Shubb offers there will be one which fits your neck profile.
Personally I find the C2, which is designed for nylon string guitars, will fit most acoustic and electrics, although Capo is not designed for these kind of fretboardprofiles.

It is possible to use several Shubb Capos at the same time to create unique tunings or effects from your strings. I will create a blog around this topic including some playing examples to get you going with this idea.

Hope to catch you soon again,

Working Out Guitar Solos By Ear For Intermediate Students

Learning guitarsolos by ear can be a lot of fun, can also be hard as you may not be able to play all the notes of the given solo. Some of the notes may be played too quickly for you to hear them properly, some parts of the solo may be beyond your technical abilities at the moment.
In cases like the above you can take the part of the solo you can hear, often these will be the melodic parts, the parts of the solo which may sound the best. You can take those parts and play them on their own. If the solo is fairly long and contains other melodic parts you like, it may be possible to mix those, various melodic parts, into one solo of your own. Keep playing the solo to get the feel. Playing along with orginal song where the solo comes from will help as well, to get the feel of the solo going. Over time you may be able to hear (and play) the rest of the solo, just keep at it.

Working out songs by ear will not only give you new songs and solos it is also practical eartraining, something which is essential for any serious musician and guitar player.

Have Fun,

Playing Covers and Singing for Beginners: Work with your Voice

Playing and singing covers can be a lot of fun, but at the same time it can be a bit tricky as well.
When you start out playing covers you may use tabs and chords you have found somewhere on the net. Hopefully you can find the chords which are in the same key as the orginal key.

Once you do have the chords for the correct key you may want to start singing along with these chords. Hang on, can you actually sing in that key or…………..
A lot of beginners may try to get along in the key of the orginal song, even though the orginal key may be too low or far too high. The trick is to understand that you can actually sing (and play) that song in any key. It is far better to find the key which works for your voice, as your voice will sound more natural. You will end up with a song which you will sing better and the overal song will sound more convincing as well.
Over time you may want to change the key and at some point you may be able to sing the song in the orginal key.

Like with guitarplaying, mimicking someone else’s singingvoice requires skill. Look at the phrasing of the melody and the accents and try to get a feel for them as you sing the song on your own. You could first copy the orginal by singing along with a recording. Once you feel you know how to sing the song try to move away from the original and play the song on your own while you sing along with your own playing. Once you start playing the song on your own (without support of the original backing) it will probably feel a bit strange. Perfectly normal, as you need to get used to your feel of playing and singing the song on your own, make sure you get the vocal phrasing right and keep going. Over time it will start to sound (and feel) much better.


Boss PS-5 Review

The Boss PS-5 is a pitchshifter with contains several functions such as Pitch Shift, Harmonise, Detune, Tremolo Arm and Flutter. A good image and description of the PS-5 can be found here:

The Balance control (and its small concentric control) vary in function depending on the mode of the pedal, and also on how you have connected the pedal.

In Pitch Shift mode it is possible to play chords and single notes. Try the same when you are in Harmonist mode and the sounds may sometimes warble a bit. The Harmonist mode on this pedal may be the weakest function.

The Detuned mode can give you a sound which may remind you of a chorus sound. It is possible to vary the amount of detuning you apply. Check my demo for this mode here:

Furthermore there is a Flutter and T-Arm function on the pedal. The T-Arm function simulates a Whammy bar sound of the guitar: You can press the pedal to mimick Whammy bar sounds, it is possible to Whammy down or up depending on the sound you would like to achieve. It is possible to recreate natural vibrato arm sounds, but it is also possible to create more artificial sounding effects. Whole step down tuning (like Pedal Steel Sound) are also possible and sound very close to the real thing. You may have to look at your playing technique to get the right feel for the pedal to sound natural.
The Flutter mode simulates Tremolo arm of guitar going up-or down and then coming back to neutral position while vibrating. Boss VB-2 does have a similar kind of sound.
Made a short video which demoes some of those sounds:

Happy Playing,

Scalestudies for Beginners and Intermediate Students: How to Approach Them?

For this article a few pointers about how to approach your scalestudies.

         New To Playing Scales?

When you are completely new to playing scales you should first learn more about scales, this so you know what you are playing. Learn about the framework of the scale, learn the pattern (memorise it!)
At this stage you should just play the scalepattern, try to use the right fingering, you should be able to get a smooth sound after you played the scale for a little while. Try to get used to the sound, play the pattern without thinking too much and just listen to the notes, get the notes to sound full and similar, make sure no notes are jumping out when you change strings, they should all sound equal and full.

Once you feel familiar with the given scalepattern move on to another pattern of the same scale. Most likely this scale will be in a different position, again get use to playing the pattern, make it sound good, memorise it and play.

Making music and improvising is not about playing patterns, the patterns are there just as a guide, you use the suggested pattern to make your own phrases, melodies, riffs and licks. Once you will get used to the process you will start to love what these patterns can do for your playing.

         Been Playing Scales for a while?

Okay time to look what we have here. How good are you at playing the scale anywhere? Playing it from any give note, not just the Rootnote. Can you play the scale over one string?
When you are not sure what I mean here look at your scalespattern again as a tool of inspiration for technical excercises: Start playing the scale over one string and play patterns using three or four (or maybe just two) notes at a time. Try this approach for all your strings. Why? Because playing on your bassstrings feels very different compared to playing over the thinner, melody strings such as the G, B and E. Get good with all your strings and the whole fretboard, your playing will start to sound so much better, you will also become freer (your overal goal!) at playing anything at will.
If you have only played your scales in position the approach I mentioned above will make a change in your playing. Once you start with it you may feel you can no longer play what you used to play, perfectly normal, stick with it and carry on as soon you will be able to play what you used to do before and even more!

Good Luck and enjoy!

Playing Cover Songs for Beginners: Adapt Them For Your Needs

For this small article a few pointers about what you can do to make your coversongs sound better.

Most beginners will start out with playing songs they know, they may look for some tabs or get the chords for the song they would like to play.
Once you play through the chords you may feel there is something missing: The introduction to the song contains some single notes, is this little melody in your given tab, or is it left out to simplify the song? The chords are all wrong, or they seem to work but they do not sound anything like the ones being played in the song. Look again for another set of chords. Maybe the chords you have found are simplified, they may be in a different key from the original song. The original song my contain barre-chords, at the moment this may be too much for you yet, so the chords you may have found may not be playable for you at the moment. Look for a simpler version of the song which still reminds you about the sound of the original song.

Whenever you want to play a song by someone else, first listen to the original song, make sure you know how to strum the chords. In case you want to sing the melody as well, check if you can sing along with the chords, is the melody not too high? Maybe you need to transpose the song to another key for you to make it possible to sing along with the chords. Trying to sing a melody which is too high for your voice is not going to work, you will strain your voice by trying to sing in this manner. See if you can bring down the key and sing the same song again but now with the newly, transposed set of chords. The song will probably sound a lot better in this new key.

Playing songs is all a matter of doing it. You will find that the songs you started out with will sound so much better after you have played them for a few months. Once you have a repertoire of about 20 songs you will find that some songs will sound more natural for you to play and sing. Look at what kind of style these songs are and carry on playing more songs of this kind. It will make you understand the style better and you will also develop more as a musician, singer and guitarplayer. Once you feel you understand the style you have been playing for while it may be time to move on to another style to broaden your horizon and to keep up your interests in the guitar.

Good luck,

Boss VB-2: What it Can and Cannot Do

The Boss VB-2 is a vibrato pedal which came out in the early 80s. It was the first primitive Whammy bar pedal of its kind which can mimick the vibrato-arm of a Stratocaster.
Among the controls are a Rate, Depth and Rise Time control. The Rate knob controls the speed of the vibrato, the Depth control makes the effect more noticeable. The Rise-Time can be applied when the effect is in Unlatch mode (more about this later) It controls the time for the effect  to come on when the pedal is being pressed down. This control is very subtle. On the whole the VB-2 is a primitive pedal, but used in the right way, it can be a very effective and creative tool. The effect can be switched on to be used at all times (like any standard Boss pedal) or it can be applied when being stepped on: Use the Unlatch mode and keep pedal pressed down to apply vibrato effect, once you take your foot off the pedal, the vibrato effect will be gone. Using the the VB-2 in this manner is great for mimicking vibrato-arm effects on chords or phrases or bends. There is a bypass mode, in this mode the signal is being bypassed without the VB-2 still being in the signal path.
The pedal does use a Boss ACA powersupply, when the pedal is daisy chained with other effects you are able to use a Boss PSA powersupply.

Comparing the effect with a Tremolo unit, the VB-2 is more crude and fuller in sound.Most Tremolo effects (or amplifiers) use variation in volume to obtain the Tremolo effect. The VB-2 uses variation in pitch, hence the pedal being more crude and less subtle in sound compared to a Tremolo effect.

The Vibrato effect is obtained in the VB-2 by varying the pitch of the sound: The pitch of your original sound goes down first before it comes back up again therefore it is possible to mimick the sound of a guitar with a vibrato arm first being pressed down before it comes back up again. Sounds which mimick the vibrato arm just holding up-or down are not possible. The VB-2 will always return back to original pitch, and this may be one of its limitations.

Guitar Players who use the vibrato-arm of their guitar regulary will enjoy using the VB-2. The VB-2 does not have to substitute your vibrato- arm, you can use it happily along with your vibrato-arm to create some extra vibrato effects.
Do not have a guitar with a vibrato-arm? No worries, the VB-2 may do the job of giving you the idea that you are using a guitar which does have a vibrato-arm.
Want any dive-bombing? The VB-2 may be a bit limiting on this side, the Boss PS-5 or PS-6 may be a better choice for you.

Happy Pedal Hunting.

Songwriting for Beginners

For this article a short brief about songwriting, what it is, when you can start with it and the process of various forms of writing.

A question I get often asked as a teacher is: “How long should I have been playing the guitar for before I can make a start with writing my own songs?” The question is simple to answer: You can start when you are able to put a musical structure together, this can be either a chordstructure or a melodic structure. A song is a musical structure which makes a statement. It can can be long or short: Three chords could form a song, sometimes two chords or even one chord may create the same song.

Writing songs is more about creativity rather than being a very skilled musician. The more you do it the better you will get at it. No need to know a whole lot of rules or conventions, just work with what you know.
Most people will start off with what they can do at the moment, once they get really interested in writing they want to learn more about theory and some general songwriting rules. Listening to music does help a lot, as the listening forms part of your learning process. The better you are at playing your instrument, the better you will be as a songwriter, although this is not always the case.

        Different forms of Songwriting:

 ~Writing and Performing on Your Own

Guitarplayers who write and play on their own, the early Bob Dylan during the early 1960s fitted this bill.
Writing and playing on your own does have its advantages: You can play whatever you want, no need to explain to other musicians what goes on in your song, you can also make them as unconventional as you want: Play 8 bars for first verse, second verse does contain 10.5 bars. Not saying you should work like this, but you could as noone will really be bothered about this as long as the song sounds good.
Changes are, people who start out on their own will, at some point, hook up with other musicians, and  during the process they will have picked up some music theory and their writing and playing will have improved over time.
Some songwriters will never develop any desire to play with a band and prefer to do it all on their own.

To write and play on your own and to keep an audience interested you do need to be very good, logical, since you are the only person who needs to produce all the sounds and singing. How long will an audience stay interested in listening to just one person? Try it and see how it goes.

~ Writing for a Band

This is a different kind of songwriting, although you could approach it in a similar way as writing on your own: Write traditional songs with strong lyrics and melodies and fit a bandarrangement around this song instead of just your own guitarplaying.
Apart from traditional songwriting a band will offer the writing guitarist other opportunities: There are more musicians to hold the chordstructure together, and not all players need to play the same chords. No need to write strong melodies (athough it does help if you can) you could also use sounds and effects to get a musical statement accross. As a guitarplayer who also sings, you may not need to play guitar all the time, just  sing and play a few odd notes (or chords) here and there since the rest of the band does carry the song (hopefully)

The songwriter who decides to work with the bandformat may need to know how to lead the band. If there is no bandleader as such the band may all work together on the songwriting, within the band there may be some musicians who provide the lyrics, others may take up the role of singing while the rest of the band performs the given music.

As a songwriter you may want to work on your own: Get the songs together first, demo them for yourself on a simple recording device, then try to form a band who will help with the perfomance of the demoed songs.
There are songwriters who will decide on using a different band for each new writing project, all depending on how the writer would like to work.

        Get Some Inspiration First:

After you have read the above you may get into the mood for some songwriting. Why not check out first what some of your favourite artists have done? Did they start out with a band straight away or was it first strumming guitars on their own? Often it does get you into the mood to read about how other musicians have travelled the path you may want to walk on youself.

Happy writing.