Guitar Lesson: Getting Into Playing Finger Style Guitar

For this article a few highlights and comments about finger style guitar, how it is being used and how you can apply it to your own playing style.

I use the term “Finger Style” here in a general way, read it for anything you can play using your fingers instead of a plectrum.

  Alternating Thumb and First Finger of Picking Hand:

Technique is a wonderful thing, it will help your fingers to play anything you want, but for this to happen your technique needs to be solid and grounded on a few basic principles for it not to let your playing down. A solid technique can be acquired through a lot of playing and consistency in your playing. Assuming that your plectrum technique is in place, let us take a same approach with finger style as what you already do with the plectrum: Play alternate picking style using your thumb and first finger. This idea will work very well for single string ideas such as melodies, riffs and licks. Go slow in the beginning, just play thumb for any note which is on the beat and for the off beat use your first finger. You can also use thumb all the way through for most ideas which are being played on the low E, A and D string.
Try just using thumb, then alternate between thumb and first finger. Try to be as precise as you can and set up a rule for yourself where you can come back to. After a while this method will become second nature and you will be able to play using your fingers in this way without thinking, similar as to how you use the plectrum now.

More Advanced Ways to Play Finger Style:

The alternating style between thumb and first finger is an easy way to grasp how to play finger style. There are many different ways to execute your melodic ideas using your fingers. A good way to introduce you to various ways of finger style is to look at some tutor books which deal with Folk style guitar playing, or Classical style. The advantage of using tutor books is that your reading skills will improve at the same time as well.

  Guitar Tone and Finger Style:

Using finger style will give you a different tone, for some it may sound more mellow or smooth, but your playing can sound smooth using a plectrum as well. Once you are used to plectrum- and finger style you have a choice over which technique to use. The music you play should decide on what sounds best.

For later blogs I will create a few examples which will demonstrate various ways how to use your fingers.
Stay tuned and hope to catch you soon again,

What Makes Up the Sound of Your Electric Guitar?

20140131140444IMG_3946The sound of the electric guitar is made up by all the different parts of the guitar. The most important part may be the pick ups, but all parts of the guitar work together to create its sound. For this article a quick overview of what all the various parts do for the sound of the guitar.

Fretboards come either in Maple or Rosewood, Maple looks lighter compared to Rosewood. Maple is actually harder than Rosewood. Untreated Maple may get dirty over time from being used.  Have a look at some older Fender guitars to see what this looks like. Most guitar players will think about their fretboard as something which creates the feel of their guitar rather than the sound of their instrument.

The body can be made out of one piece of wood or several pieces of wood. A guitarbody made out of one piece of wood will resonate better compared to a body made out of several pieces of wood.
The thickness and density of the wood also makes up for the sound: Wood absorbs the sound of the strings and denser woods may absorb less, but denser wood may add more depth to the sound. Thinner guitar bodies will add less depth to the guitar and will give you a thinner sound.

Is the bridge a floating one or a fixed bridge like Les Paul type of guitars have? Floating bridges do have less contact with the body, therefor make up for a different sound. Fixed bridge guitars do have a more direct sound, the body can react quicker with the sound of the string which makes up for a different sound.

Are you using a thin or thicker gauge of strings? Thin strings will add more twang and ring to your sound. If you are playing mainly chords you may like this sound, for playing single strings you may want a bit more body, thicker strings would be better for that kind of idea.

Pick Ups:
Probably the most obvious part people will associate with the sound of their electric guitar. There are Humbuck and Single Coil pick ups. Gibson guitars tend to use Humbuck pick ups while Fender type of guitars tend to use Single Coil pick ups. Single Coil pick-ups do give a brighter sound while Humbuck pick-ups will give you a fuller and thicker sound. Some guitars combine both type of pick-ups. It may be possible to customize your guitar for using both Humbuck- and Single Coil pick ups.

The nut can be made out of bone, plastic, brass or metal. All these different type of materials will do something for your sound. In the 70s and early 80s some guitars builders favoured to use brass as it was believed it would add to the sustain of the sound. Different kind of ideas are being used at different times. Tastes of guitar players also change over time.

Can you actually hear any of what I have mentioned above? Experienced players will hear the differences, and most people will be able to tell the difference once they have been explained what to listen out for when comparing a few different type of guitars.
What is the best you may wonder? There is no such thing, it is all about taste and what you want from your guitar. It is probably why most guitar players end up with various guitars which will suit for different playing situations.
Experiment with customizing any of you guitars may be fun: Start out with changing one part such as a pick up to see what the result is for your sound. Once you have changed one part you can carry on by changing anything else to see how it affects the sound. By doing this you may end up with a guitar you really like (or dislike…)  It is always a gamble but by changing one part at a time you get to see what the effect of the change does to your sound.

Have Fun and hope to see you soon again,

Floyd Rose Bridge, Locking Nut and Changing Your Strings

20131215184822eddie 2For this article a few ideas about how to change your strings for guitars using a Floyd Rose bridge and a locking nut.

Most guitar players will cut the ball end of their strings and attach this end of the string to the locking mechanism at the bridge, they will then tune up the string the regular way. This is a good method and works perfectly well. What about when you break a string?

On most Floyd Rose bridges the string tends to break at the bridge, just like with any other type of bridge. The advantage of the Floyd Rose system is: Break a string, and just reattach that same string where it broke off. All you need is a string which is long enough to reach to your bridge. Instead of cutting the ball end of the string keep it there: Thread the string through tuning post with ball end remaining at the end of tuning post. The clear end of the string is the end you use to attach to the locking mechanism of the bridge. There are a few advantages to this: You do not need a wire cutter to cut of the ball end and you can reuse the string once it breaks. Disadvantage is you have a lot of string left over at the headstock, they can make a bit of a mess. You can wrap them up and stick the remaining bits underneath the strings which come from to tuning peg going to the locking nut.

Most strings tend to break during string bending and whilst using the tremolo bridge, it is just the nature of strings as they loose their flexibility over time. String bending and moving the tremolo bridge up and down does also wear out the strings quicker. Sometimes strings break because there are sharp edges on the nut-or bridge end. These sharp edges appear just as a normal sign of wear and tear from the strings moving over bridge, nut,  frets and fretboard.

Good luck and hope to catch you soon again.

Use Preamp for your Acoustic Guitar

20131107154301eddieA typical situation to amplify an acoustic guitar is: plug straight into the mixer of the P.A or the amp. For an acoustic guitar  equipped  with a good pick-up this situation will work well. What about if your pick-up is not that good, sounds a bit metallic or……………..?
Instead of plugging straight into the desk or amp you could first plug into a pre-amp. A pre-amp will let you colour your acoustic guitar sound to whatever sound you want. You may want to aim for a natural, acoustic sound, or you may want to achieve a different sound from your acoustic guitar, a sound which may work better in a setting of drums and bass. Whatever sound you want you can probably get if with the help of a pre-amp.
Acoustic guitars which do have a build-in preamp may not need any of this, but if you are not happy with your sound than look into using an outboard pre-amp.
As for what kind of pre-amp to use, there are a lot of them available: There are dedicated acoustic guitar pre-amps and there are pedals which you can use for other situations as well. I like the Tech 21 Sans Amp range, you can use them for almost anything you want to colour and amplify. Just look into what you need and experiment to see what sounds right for you.

Good luck and hope to see you soon again,

Boss AW2 Explained in Plain English

20140329132756IMG_4372For this article a short brief on the Boss AW2 Auto Wah pedal. It is one of the pedals which appears to be not straightforward to get good sounds. Some of controls work in tandem and set them slightly different and you may not get a pleasing sound at all.

The controls work as follows: Rate stands for the speed on the filter: It will give you slow or faster rotating sounds. To get those sounds you will need to open up the Depth control which controls the strength of the Rate control (how well you will hear the rotating sound).
Manual stands for the frequency, on the left you get bass and from the middle onwards the control will give you treble. The Sens control will let you open up the filter, but open it a little and you will already hear a difference in your sound.

Easy Setttings to get you Started 

Open up the Rate and Depth, do not open up the Manual and Sens control.  This setting will give you a filter wah sound. You can set the Rate and Depth at any setting, but you need to open the Depth control up a bit. These controls work in tandem so close the Depth and the Rate control will not give you anything!

Next is the opposite: Leave Rate and Depth closed and open up the Man. and Sens. control. This setting will give you auto wah.
A variation on this sound is: Leave Rate, Depth and Manual controls closed but open up Sens. This setting will give you dynamic auto wah.

Open up only the Manual control while closing all the other three controls will give you Static Wah sounds.

These are just some settings to get you started, experiment for yourself keeping in mind how the controls work to get the best out of the pedal.
One nice sound is to get that rotating sound underneath all your playing: Just use the rate and depth control and play softly with your dynamics, play harder and the rotating sound will kick in when you pause on your notes (or chords).

Enjoy and hope to see you soon again for more.

Make the Most of Your Musical Gear

20121123093437eddieMost people reading this will have dedicated guitar gear like guitaramps and effects such as distortion- and reverb pedals.
What about using some of that gear for different purposes? Distortion pedals may work very well for bass and keys or maybe even vocals if you like that kind of sound. The key is to experiment and look at what you need and see if any of your exhisting gear will give you the results you are after.
Have a look at any of the following and see if you can try it for your own purposes:
Guitar amps:
Work only well for guitar? Well yes and no, the thing is the speakers: Most guitarspeakers do carry a lot of mid. Guitar comes alive in the midrange hence guitar speakers being heavy on midrange. Try playing a bass through any of your guitar amps and you will find that the sound is not as low as through a dedidcated bassamp. You can acutally tune the speakers with an EQ. Parametric EQ’s are great at doing this job since they are simple and usually a little twist will do the trick. Once you have tuned that guitaramp it may sound fine for vocals and anything else you may have planned to amplify.
A few small guitaramps may even work as a little P.A system. Do use a mixer if you plan on using the amps for vocals since microphones need a little more power and the preamp on your mixer will be able to give those vocals a lift before they hit the guitar amp.

Reverb effects:
Most types you use for guitar may be fine for vocals as well. Dedicated reverb effects for vocals usually have a lot of different reverb patterns, typical guitarreverbs will have less variation. Try the sound of your guitar reverb and if you like it for vocals you have a winner!
Mixers can be used for a lot of purposes, once you start using one you will find a lot of different applications for it. Try it for your guitar: Just plug in straight into the mixer and use it as a guitar amp. True, a guitaramp does colour your sound a bit, a mixer may give you a dryer sound but you may like that sound at the same time. All of these variations will make you appreciate all the different ways there are to amplify your guitar.

Have fun and hope to see you soon again for more.


Why Excercises are Usefull for Your Guitar Playing

20110723095834eddieExcersises come in different forms, you can play scales which are good for your technique and finger memory. You may be able to use some of the scale patterns for your improvising or composing melodies.
You may find some harmony excercises like variations on chord types you already know. Some of these harmonies may help your ears to hear different tones from the usuall chordtones you play.

When you work with excersises try to understand what is underneath the excercise. Once you understand what is underneath the excercise you may be able to apply the information to a different siuation.
Overal going through excercises regularly will make you aware of what is going on fingerwise and it will open up your mind for particular cliches in any kind of musical style.

Keep at it and good luck.

Hope to catch you soon again for more.

More String Bending Power For Your Acoustic Guitar: Use a Plain G String

20131129174824eddie 3When String bending is part of your playing style you may like this idea: Change your Bronze Wrapped G string for a plain G string.
What will this do for your sound? When you bend the G string it will remind you of the sound you get when bending a G string on an electric guitar, you will have a more stingy sound compared to bending on a bronze wrapped G string.
Using a plain G string will extend your range of bended notes. True, you can just bend notes on the E and B but your range is limited. Using a plain G will make your string bending more like you are playing a regular electric guitar.
What will you loose? A bit of body since a plain G will add a bit more ring to your overall sound. You may just want to try the idea as an experiment and for those occasions when you feel you do need those bended notes. Give it a try and see what you think.
Will this have any effect on your intonation, action of strings etc.? No not really, in fact beginners may like the idea since a plain G may be easier to use in the very beginning since the average gauge will be thinner compared to a Bronze wrapped G string.
The Set of strings we have come to see as “standard” has evolved over the ages from guitarists playing and using what is the most usable and balanced set of strings, it does not mean you cannot change the convention and find out what you like for your own playing style. Until sometime in the 60s a wrapped G string was common for a set of electric guitar strings until guitar players discovered that using a plain G was much better for string bending.  Just experiment and think what you need for your own playing.

Have fun and hope to see you soon again,

Amplify Your Acoustic Guitar to Enhance its Tone

20130613094009eddieThe acoustic guitar comes as it is: Strings, bodyshape and neck. The tone of your acoustic guitar will depend very much on the type of wood, the bodysize and the kind of strings you use. Experimenting with different type of strings can give you a brighter or duller sound. The Elixer type of strings are very bright whereas some other brands may give you a less brighter sound.
Once you have explored the options of various string types to alter the tone of your acoustic guitar there is one more thing you can do to change its tone: Amplify the guitar.
By amplifying the acoustic guitar you can explore the sound of the pick-up  and the amp combined with the natural sound of your acoustic guitar.

Straight Into Mixer or……………….

Often you see people going straight into the mixer of the P.A  This may be the easiest and quickest option to amplify the acoustic guitar but what about using an amp? When you use an amp you can mix the tone of your guitar with the sound of the amp and its speaker.
Does going straight into the mixer not do the same thing? No, because the mixer only works with your pick-up of your guitar and then sends that signal to the P.A  The mixer does have some toneshaping capabilities, but a guitar amp does add more character to your acoustic guitar.
You can use a guitar amp, then send this signal to a mixer and then to the P.A. This kind of set-up will certainly give you an inspiring sound since you combine the amp, ampspeaker and mixer.

If you can try any of the above set-ups for yourself: First go straight into your mixer and see what your guitar sounds like, then use amp combined with mixer. Use the line-out of your amp to go into the mixer to get the best results.

In my above observation I did not go into detail about what kind of pick-up to choose. There are different type of pick-ups available and all of them have their own sound. A lot of people may prefer to get an acoustic guitar which already does have its own build-in pick-up. With guitars like this you can still experiment to see if you like the sound of the pick-up: Simply install another pick-up on the guitar and see what your guitar sounds like now. Sometimes it may be better to get an acoustic guitar of which  you like its acoustic tone and add a pick-up at a later stage.

Pick-ups on an acoustic guitar are a convenient option to amplify the guitar. Miking up the guitar is often not an option when you play live, since the extra microphones may get in the way and may also cause extra, unwanted feedback.

Experiment to see what is good for you.
Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again.

Practical Tips For Your Sound Check

20140314143459IMG_4371A sound check may be obvious, just check volume of various instruments and vocals and play. Yes it is indeed as simple as that but still a lot can go wrong if you do not have a good sound balance. Most mistakes often come from being rushed on stage, not having enough time to go through all the various check with the result that your playing is a less enjoyable experience. Most of these issues can easily be fixed. For this article a few practical tips about what to do to save your skin during those awkward moments.

Sound checks do take time, the more people are in the band the longer it will take, then there is the equipment and the size of the venue. Most professional bands, when it comes to sound checks, have their own crew who deal with the setting up and checking the sound. For arena gigs the setting up of equipment will start during the morning and the sound checks will start sometime in the afternoon, long time before the venue will open its doors. There is plenty of time to get things right and the try all kind of things with the sound.
For most DIW gigs you will not have that luxury, you need to know quickly what to go for and do it on the spot before you play. If you are the only act which is playing on the gig things are a little easier as you will have more time. If you  have your own sound system make sure you are familiar with all the ins and outs of the technical possibilities.  The simpler your system is the better, but certain technical features are quite useful: Things like effect loops and hook-ups for extra monitors. To familiarise yourself with your sound system do use it often, do not wait until you have a gig and then start using it. Try to use it as much as you can in other situations just to get used to its sound and how it all works. If you can set up- and operate your system with your eyes closed you will have a lovely playing experience each time you play a gig.

Lets us have a quick look at what to check for during your sound check: Check for balance of vocals between instruments (and other vocals if you are using any backing vocals as well) Think about the playing, are there any solos being played during songs?—single strings will need to be loud enough to be heard. Experienced guitar players will know how to counter act for these situations as you can balance your sound on your amp and guitar, but what about if guitar goes straight through P. A? In cases like that it is important to get a good balance between the various levels of the guitars. When you check sound levels play parts of songs, play parts which are the loudest and then play songs which have a lot of quiet parts. Try to get a good balance between all these various sounds. If you have a sound engineer issues like what I mentioned above will not be an issue as they can be adjusted during playing. Often DIW gigs will not have a sound engineer and you have to do it all yourself on the spot, adjusting during playing is not possible since you are involved in the playing part of the gig, so you need to get the sound right before you start the gig.
Okay so far so good, most of what I mentioned above may be obvious for most of you. What about duos? Not many instruments and vocals involved so sound check should be easy? Yes it is, but still think about various things I mentioned above and try to do a quick sound check as I mentioned above.
When do you  need to check sound? Each time you play together as a band, duo or trio. If you do not do it you may need to play song twice and adjust your sound each time, you can avoid this and save time by checking the sound before you play.
What do you do about less perfect set-up? Things like: There is only a main P. A and the microphone and players will be behind the main P. A speakers. This set-up means you will not hear yourself very well. It can be easily solved by moving one of the main speakers. Try placing one of those main P. A speaker behind you so you will hear the speaker. If you do it right you will not get feedback from the microphone, just check it and be careful with overall volume level and placement of speaker.

The main thing is being relaxed before you play, think before you play and just go and enjoy while you play. Good luck and hope to catch you soon again, Eddie