Five Practical Tips for Playing Cover Songs

20140210173121IMG_5216For this article five practical tips to help you along to get better with playing coversongs. These ideas will work both for the  solo singer/songwriter or the singer/guitarplayer who plays in a band set up.

The first thing to think about is the key of the song: Once you have the taps, chords and lyrics for the song you may still find the song hard to sing and/or play. Transpose the song to a different key, go down-or up  half a step and see how the song now plays and sings? Does the song have any parts you cannot sing comfortably? Work on it and find out if it is the key of the song or maybe it is you who is doing something wrong?
Changing the key of the song is not a crime! Sometime musicians feel they need to stick to the original key to stay true to the song. This is all fine as long as you can sing and play in the same key, if not, change key and see how things go. The key of the song will not drastically alter the character of the song. Better to sing and play in a key which is right for you instead of battling on with the song in a wrong key.

Once key is right check out the recorded version of the song against your version: Do you have all the riffs, chords and little arrangement ideas? Sometimes a song only needs the words, melodies and chords to carry, sometimes you may need to put in a few extras to make the song work.
If you are playing on your own you may have to make your own arrangement to give the song a better feel, again this is not a crime since it will only make the song sound better!

The next thing to think about is tempo: You may actually want to speed-or slow the song down to get a better feel. Experiment with how the song plays and feels like, see what you like best. Relatively inexperienced players may want to stick as much as they can to the original tempo of the song, but sometimes this tempo may be wrong for you. You only find out when you play the song and try various tempos. You can record yourself and listen to how your version sounds like.

The next idea is related to what I mentioned before about arrangement and little ideas. Try to play the song as much as you can with your style of playing, this will make the song sound natural to you and your audience. Experiment with feel, tempo, stops and arrangement. It takes time to find out how you may want to play the song. Even if you decide to stick to the original, your version will still sound different because of difference in voice and difference in equipment being used during recording of original song.

The last idea may sound obvious to most of you but you will be surprised how many people actually keep reading chord charts and lyrics when it comes to playing songs. Learn the song as much as you can, it may take time, but playing from the heart gives a much better feel than playing and reading from a sheet of paper. Once you know a song you will feel how the song plays and you will become one with the song.

Good luck and hope to catch you soon again,

Guitar Lesson: Get to Know the Feel of Your Guitar

The feel of the guitar is determined by various factors, I will explain some of these in detail in this short article here. It is the feel which make people love or hate their guitar. Different guitar players will love different feels. No guitar is the same, but there are guitars which have a similar kind of feel.
It is the feel of the guitar which will make you play in a certain way, or invite you to play in a particular way. Experienced players can play with any guitar, but there is still something like ” a guitar which will invite you to play like x”
Let me now have a look at what makes up the feel of your guitar.


The neck of the guitar plays an important aspect in the overall feel of the guitar. Necks come in various shapes and sizes. Older guitars tend to have thicker shaped necks, but this is not always true. Thin necks may make you feel like playing faster. Necks come in various shapes such as V-shape, D-shape and C-shape.
Apart from the size and shape of the neck there is also the factor of finish: Some guitar necks have a glossy finish, some guitars may not have any finish at all. A glossy finish may make up for a slippery feel, but again, this is not always true. Applying guitar polish to the neck of your guitar may not be a good idea, as this will also make your neck feel very slippery. Of course if you like that feel, go ahead and apply as much finish as you please.
A worn-in neck will have a different feel as well. Some older, vintage guitars may have some of the neck finish worn off, this again will create a different feel compared to a relatively new guitar neck.


Like the neck, the fretboard plays a big part in the overall feel of the guitar. Fretboards come in different sizes and most of them are curved. Sometimes you may come across a fretboard which is almost flat which makes up for a unique feel.
The wood of the fretboard plays a part as well: Is it made out of the darker Rosewood, or is it a Maple type of fretboard? Different types of wood feel different to  your fingertips.
Is the fretboard worn-in or does it have a new feel? Is the fretboard dry? To overcome this feel you can use some fretboard oil, this will give the fretboard  more of a worn-in feel.
As mentioned before about the neck, older fretboards will have a different feel. A fretboard which has been played in well may also have some roadwear like areas where the wood is worn off a bit from heavy playing. String bending will wear out your fretboard quicker as the strings scrape across the wood of the fretboard.


Frets come in different sizes, and over the years different guitar companies have used different types of fretwire to cut out the frets. Thin frets will almost make it feel like you have no frets at all, thicker frets have a different feel and for certain types of playing some guitar players will prefer these.
Some guitars do have a binding across the fretboard, on these kind of fretboards you do not feel the ends of the frets. Guitars without any fretboard binding give you a less, glossy feel.
Are the frets new or worn-in? Heavy string bending created dents in your frets. If your frets get too worn out you may want to get a fretdress. During a fretdress your frets all get levelled to the same height which will make them feel like new again.
It is possible to get your frets levelled several times before they will need to be replaced by a new set of frets.


The kind of string gauge you use will make a difference in feel (and sound) to the guitar. Thick strings do have a different feel compared to thinner strings. Some strings do have a coating to preserve their sound. Again, coated strings do have a different feel compared to more traditional type of strings.
The height (action) of your strings also plays a part: Some guitar players like to play with a higher action. Higher action will give you more volume to your strings since the strings need to travel further to the fretboard. Low action will give you less volume. A high action will also mean you need to play a little harder to make those strings move. All of this makes up for a different feel (and sound).


Last but not least, the size and weight of the body will make up for the overall feel of the guitar. It may make less of an impact on the overall feel compared to any of the factors I mentioned above, it still does have an impact on the feel.
Some bodies are made out of light woods, which will make the guitar more “acoustic” since the body does not have any weight and depth to put behind the sound of the string.
Again, light sounding bodies do feel different compared to heavier types of guitar bodies.


How you can you actually find out any of what I mentioned above for yourself, and does it make much of a difference in your playing? As mentioned before, feel is a personal thing, experienced players will notice it straight away: You pick up a guitar and you know how it feels like, and you also know it you like the feel or not.
If you only have one guitar you will need to compare you guitar with the one of a friend to see how different yours is compared to the one of your friend.
The best thing is to compare similar guitar types since the overall idea of the guitar should be similar but the difference will be in the details such as neck shape, fretsize and body weight.
Over the years newer guitars have come with a better overall feel, some older, vintage type guitars do have a more primitive feel compared to some of those newer ones. Even new reissues do have a more modern feel compared to the older ones.

The checking out of various feels of guitars is all part of your overall knowledge of the guitar and it will make you more aware of what  is around in the world of guitar.

Enjoy and hope to catch you soon again,

Mark Knopfler Talks Openly About Last 40 Years Here On BBC Radio Two

For those of you who do not want to listen to the full two hour set, Mark talks about the first years before Dire Straits, his time during Dire Straights, and collaborations with other people such as Dylan, and others, his writing for film music  ( Mark Knopfler doing film music should be not surprise when you listen to the Love Over Gold album)

Then there is talk of the time of the solos albums after disbanding Dire Straights, the new album Tracker, his approach to playing the guitar and song writing and some of his other passions.

It is a good programme. The picture you get of Mark is not that different from the things he has given us in previous interviews, he is consistent in what he says and how he comes across.

Personally I think Marks style works well if he plays in the setting of keyboards and full band. His solo style is based on playing a lot of embellishments which work best in a full band setting. His last album does have some of the sound of the first Dire Straights album, something he has not always done on any of his more recent solo albums.

Check out the link and enjoy.
Hope to see you again soon,

Tuning Explained for Experienced Guitar Players

Tuning you may wonder, is it not as simple as using your electronic tuner, play string and tune up? Yes but once students have done this I still need to check their guitar to see how well they tuned up. So what is up? Can they not read the tuner? Do they play wrong strings or………….? It is a mix of all those things and usually what it boils down to is not understanding how a guitar responds to a tuner.

First of all let me make the comment: A guitar can not play perfectly in tune. It is due to the nature of the instrument. Not a problem as your ears get accustomed to how the strings sound once they have been tuned up.
The tuning of the guitar does get effected by scale length, fret size, height of action, intonation and how hard you play the strings. It is not my intention to make matters too technical. I only mention some of these issues to make you aware why guitars cannot perfectly play in tune.

Okay let us now go back to the tuning: How do you actually tune your guitar?, what is a good method? Before the invention of electronic tuners (late 70s) you would need to tune to a note from another instrument, like a keyboard, or maybe use a pitchfork—-a metal fork which resonates one note once the fork is lightly touched— Once you have that one note you tune the rest of the guitar to that one note. This system is called Equally Tempered Tuning. Any inefficiencies in your tuning will be divided equally across all your strings and fretboard, this makes up for a more musical tuning and is more pleasing for the ear.

Which one note do you need to tune to? You can choose to tune to your A string, and tune the rest of your strings to the frequency of that note. Personally I like to tune up to the first E string: It is your highest string and tuning up to a high note seems to be easier.

So what do you do?
Step 1: tune the first E string to a tuner or anything which can play the sound of the high E string. Do not play the string as an open string, no do play the harmonic at the 12 fret. Why using a harmonic? Because it is a pure tone. Strings produce overtones, which are a mix of several tones. Your tuner likes to hear a pure tone and pure tones make it easier for the tuner to work correctly.

Step 2: Play the B string at the harmonic of 12th fret and tune this harmonic to the  note of the 7th fret on the E string.  Once in tune this note will sound the same as the harmonic at the 12th fret of the B string.

Step 3: Play the G string (3rd String) at the harmonic of the 12th fret, and tune this note to the note on the 3rd fret of the E string. Once in tune this note will sound the same as the harmonic at the 12th fret of the G string.

Step 4: Play the D string at the harmonic of the 5th fret and tune this harmonic to the note on the 10th fret on the E string. This note will produce the same note as the harmonic on the 5th fret on the D string.

Step 5: Play the A string at the 5th harmonic and tune this harmonic to the note on the 5th fret on the E string. Once in tune both notes will sound the same.

Step 6: Play the low E string at the 5th harmonic and tune this note to the sound of the first open E string.

Once you have finished all steps you may want to check all the steps again. Do not retune the first E string one you are in the process of  tuning the other strings as it will mess up the whole system.

The tuning method I have explained above means you need to tune by ear: The first E string is tuned to a reference note, or an electronic tuner, and all the other notes are tuned by ear to the E string.
Once you have tuned up in this manner you may want to use your tuner to check how your strings will register according to your tuner. What you will find is that some strings may be a little out according to your tuner. This is not because of the tuner is broken, not it is because of the guitar and what I mentioned above about it not being able to be tuned up perfectly.

You can actually use the tuner for the Equally Tempered Tuning as well. You will need a tuner which does have a needle.
Here is how I do this:
Step 1: Play harmonic at 12th fret on first E string and use your tuner to tune up.
Step 2: Play harmonic at 12th fret on B string and use your tuner to tune up. Play the 7th fret on first E string and look at your tuner what it says. It should read the same as when you played the harmonic on the B string. The reading may be slightly different but not too much.
Step 3: Play harmonic at the 12 fret on G string and tune up with your tuner. Play on first string the 3rd fret and see if your tuner gives you the same reading.
Step 4: Here is where this system does not work!! You can tune up harmonic on the 5th fret of the D string, and your tuner should give you a correct tuning, play the 10th fret on the E string and your tuner will give you a reading of being 50 per cent out compared to your previous reading. Once you know this you will be fine and can trust it.
Step 5: Play harmonic at the 5th fret on the A string and use tuner to tune up accordingly, now play on the first E string the 5th fret and your tuner should reading close to what you had before for your A string.
Step 6: Play harmonic on the low E string and use tuner to tune up, check this reading with the open first E string, and your reading may be close. Usually the low E string, when using your tuner, may read a bit sharp, to compensate you can tune a bit lower. Check with your ears to see if  your reading sounds like what your read!

Overall using electronic tuners is a good thing, but check them  with your ears and try to understand why your hear sometimes different things to what your eyes are reading.

Good luck and hope to see you soon again,

Blues Tutorial for Beginners: Guitar Solos over Blues Progressions

For this article a few tips on how to get better with playing solos over common Blues progressions. Once you understand these ideas you can apply them to other songs of a similar nature.

A general Blues progression usually has the following chords: I IV and V.  The Roman numerals imply the chords of the key. In the key of A  you will get the following chords: A  D and E.

Most Blues songs you will find will not always follow this progression, but it is a good starting point, it will certainly tune your ears to what notes will sound good.

I IV V progressions can be played in a major or minor key. Try the following with your solos:

In a minor key play minor ideas over the first chord, but for chord IV and V play major ideas, like the arpeggio for each chord. It will give your solo ideas a brighter sound and it will lift those two chords.

When playing in a major key, use minor for all three chords to achieve a darker sound for your solos.

Once you start to understand you will love playing blues as it is a style you can always come back to and experiment with feel and note choice. Once you get comfortable with this you can apply it to any style.

Good luck and hope to catch you soon again,

Reverb and Fender Twin Reverb: Use Boss DD7 to Copy Reverb of Fender Twin

The Fender Twin Reverb amplifier is well-known for its lush reverb sound.
To make the best of this sound use this technique: Stop the sound of your strings like when playing chords and listen to how the reverb carries on your sound.

You can mimic this sound by using a Boss DD7:  Set the mode to 50mS, put Feedback control somewhere around 10 past 12 o’clock  ( 12 o’clock is where control is half way up), put the Delay Time control in a similar place and see what sound you are getting. If you feel you are getting drowned in reverb adjust your controls. The reverb sound should enhance your sound and not give you the idea you are playing in a cathedral.

For most realistic sound use the following set-up:

Use a Pre-amp which sounds bright and emulates the Fender sound, put the DD7 after the pre-amp. Use both outputs of the DD7 and connect them to two channels of a mixer. Connect the mixer to a P.A system (or two guitar amps). By connecting both outputs of the DD7 you have more control over the delayed sound: It will sound fuller when compared to only connecting to the mono output.

Digital Delays are bright and to copy the sound of the Twin Reverb this is a good thing. Analogue delays will work as well but a digital delay gets closer to the real thing.

Good luck and hope to catch you soon again,


Acoustic Guitar Lesson for Singer/Songwriters: Try Using Different Keys For Your Songs!!

It is amazing what a key can do for the songs you play: Change the key and it can make the song very different.
Changing key on the guitar is relatively easy: You can use the same chord shapes and simply use a capo to move the shapes up-or down the fret board.

Certain well-known songs are often played in the same key, by changing the key of the song you can give them a fresh feeling. Try it!!

Good luck and hope to catch you soon again,

Young Children and Guitar Lessons: Try a Baritone Ukulele

When you are thinking of getting any of your children to learn to play the guitar think about their age: Children under 8/9 years old tend to struggle with motor skills when it comes to playing the guitar. Holding the guitar is often a problem as well, even when the guitar is a small one.
In cases like this the Baritone Ukulele may be the answer, since the Baritone Uke does have the same first four strings as the guitar. The advantage of this is: The chordshapes for both guitar and Uke are the same.
Anything which your child has learned on the Baritone Uke may be transferred to the guitar once your child is a little older.

Since not every child is the same it still makes sense to start out with guitar and see how your child gets on with the instrument. If holding of the guitar is too much of an issue try a Baritone Ukulele.

Cheap Baritone Ukuleles can be bought for a similar price as a cheap small guitar. The Baritone Ukulele can also be used as a small travel instrument.

Good luck and hope to see you soon again,