Archive for February, 2010

Songwriting and the Guitar

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

We all take up the guitar with the idea that someday we can play our own music. At first, the guitar is broken down into its sheer basics. Then, we slowly progress into chords, “hammer-ons”, “pull-offs”, and all the other skills needed to play along with popular songs. However, you’re never a “true” guitarist until you can play your own material.

Welcome to songwriting and the guitar; your guide to not only making great music, but great music that highlights the guitar. Writing songs takes a lot of time and effort. It’s true that practice will make you better, however some people are just born with a “natural ear.” They know what sounds great and when to incorporate it into the song.

In terms of songwriting, too many people focus on the finished product before they take into account all the components of songwriting. In order to master the craft of songwriting (and it is a craft), one must first master the basics. The song is generally broken down into different sections or components. When these components are fused together, a song is born. Your job is to combine all of them into a single masterpiece.

YouTube Preview ImageI like to compare a good song to a shake. The banana may taste alright in itself, but when you blend it with some berries and cream; the end result is a fantastic tasting combination. Thus, you may have a talent for writing lyrics, but the lack of a good sound will dull out the content. Here are the basics components of songwriting:

The first section of the song that the listener will hear is called the verse. The verse is the heart of the song, because it informs the listener what the song is about. A talented songwriter has the knack for creating a captivating sound along with imagery and details contained in the lyrics. The verse usually keeps a very natural and steady melodic flow, thus allowing the listener to connect with the lyrics.

The verse generally leads into a bridge and/or chorus. Some songwriters also refer to this part of the song as the “hook.” The chorus is the emotional high point of the song. The chorus is often repeatedly three to four times throughout the song, so it’s often very catchy and easy to sing along with. The chorus sums up the entire theme of the song. The chorus also differs melodically than from that of the verse. The main focus for the melody of the chorus is to create a bit of contrast between the verse and the chorus. This will give the listeners something to look forward too, but also will give them a sense of tension and release.

Songwriters love to mix the guitar into both the verse and chorus. Sometimes the guitar merely serves as a rhythmic backbone, while other times the guitar leads all the other instruments in the melody. The power of the guitar is also effected by the genre in which you play - as it will take much more precedence in metal/rock, when compared to country for example. Metal and Rock are renown for the guitar solo. Is is here where the guitar really takes off into an independent journey which represents both creativity and skill.

If you really want to become a master songwriter on the guitar, one should learn from the experts. Dial into your local radio station and listen to what’s hot. Songs are played over and over again on the radio because they are hits. Why are they hits? Because the songwriting is phenomenal and has the ability to connect with the audience. Aspiring songwriters should also reference music theory and the basics in order to gain a true understanding and appreciation for music. Also, Ultimate-Songwriting is a terrific one-stop reference.

Understanding the 12 Bar Blues on Guitar

Friday, February 26th, 2010

The 12 bar blues in the most basic form aren’t difficult. Sure some of the great blues guitar players use a lot of technique, but in the basic form any beginner can understand the theory behind it. In this beginner lesson I’m going to show you how to find the chords that go into making up a 12 bar blues progression, the pattern and way to play those chords and also a couple of tips on where to find the chords on the neck.

So before you can start playing anything you need to know what chords you’re going to be putting together. Since the 12 bar blues is a simple pattern you can learn it’s easy for you to determine what chords you must play in a given key.

You need to find the first, fourth and fifth notes that are in the scale for the given key you want to play in. If you know your scales well then this won’t be a problem, if you’re a little rusty on this no problem the net has all the resources you need. The first note is just that the first note in the scale and so on each note counts up one as you go down the line.

Once you’ve figured out which notes are what number and you’ve chosen the first, fourth and fifth notes we can plug those in as chords in the following 12 bar blues pattern:

1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 4 – 4 – 1 – 1 – 5 – 4 – 1 – 5

The 12 bar blues always follows this same pattern above. The numbers of course correspond to chords that we find in the first part of the article. Each number stands for one measure, and there are 12 in all making it the 12 bar blues. The length of a measure could vary, if we assume we’re playing 4 beats per measure then we’d give each chord 4 beats for each bar.

Let’s look at a short example of how to piece together a 12 bar blues progression in the key of A.

We need to first start with the A major scale. The scale looks like this:

A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G# – A

Picking out the first, fourth and fifth notes gives us A, D and E respectively. Next we add those to the 12 bar blues pattern we learned above, and it provides us with a progression that looks like this:

A – A – A – A – D – D – A – A – E – D – A – E

Finally take a few minutes to watch the lesson video below. I walk you through the 12 bar blues in the Key of A and show you where on the neck to play these chords and what feel you should give your playing. Once you’ve finished that I urge you to go grab your own guitar and give it a try.

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Want to sharpen you guitar skills? How you ever considered self study at home using a guitar instructional dvd? DVD instruction gives you the one-on-one feel of private lessons but you’re in control of when you learn and how fast you study.

Blues Guitar Beginner Lesson

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

For those of you who have seen the mildly comical movie Adventures in Babysitting, you’ll probably recognize the quote, “nobody gets outta here without singin’ the blues” from the film. At the climax of a chase sequence, the babysitter and the group of kids she is watching, appear to reach safety inside a busy underground club. However, there is one drastic difference. Everyone in the club is black, except for the babysitter and kids. The group attempts to dart out the back of the building, but an attendant of the club stops the group in their tracks and utters the infamous line – “Nobody gets outta here without singin’ the blues.” Long story short, the crew gets on stage and steals the show.

You too, can steal the show with an amazing beginner blues set. The Blues are one of the musical backbones of this great nation. It’s also a very difficult style to learn on the guitar. However, difficult never means it’s impossible. In fact, the web offers a number of great videos for beginners on the very basics of rhythm blues.

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Blues Lessons might possibly contain the greatest collection of Blues lessons on the web. The site also features some fantastic information in regards to the blues scales, pentatonic licks, fingerpicking lessons, as well as Blues equipment, styles, and artists.

One of the first aspects of the Blues you’ll need to learn is the special scale system the genre utilizes. The Pentatonic Scale is the key to any Blues solo playing. Below is a couple of quick exercises (along with photos), needed to learn the 1/5 Pattern on the Pentatonic Scale.

1. Notes on the fingerboard.

Notes on the E string


You’re now ready to learn the five patterns of the Minor-Pentatonic Scale. Each pattern is movable over the complete fingerboard (e.g. in the keytone G the first pattern starts on the 3rd fret, in the keytone A it starts on the 5th fret, in keytone C on the 8th fret, etc).

1st Pattern

Minor Pentatonic Pattern 1
In the keytone G (from the 3rd fret, because the keytone G is on the 3rd fret) the first pattern looks like this.


Practice: Play from the the high E-string to the low E-string and back. Use one finger for each fret. That means Index finger for the 3rd fret in the key of G, the Middle Finger for the 4th fret, the Ringfinger for the 5th fret etc.

Pattern Exercise

If you want to move the pattern into another key, just use the graphic above where you can see the keytones on the fingerboard.

Excercise: A simple Pentatonic-Lick (use bendings, hammer-ons as much as you like)


For more sensational information and lessons on the Pentatonic Scale, check out Blues Lessons catalog of Blues Scales exercises.

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JamPlay is a very versatile product which touches up on some of the beginner techniques. As always, you can also reference the wide number of blues lessons on You Tube.

Simple Tips to Stay on Course

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Taking up a new hobby is easy. Something has led you to want to try and explore something new. However, the excitement of a new-found joy, such as learning to play the guitar, can only fuel you for so long. Over time, you need something wholesome to stay par for the course.

Make no mistake about it; learning to play the guitar at an intermediate or advanced skill level takes a lot of consistency. One who desires to play the guitar well must remain disciplined to a demanding schedule. If you are not taking private lessons with an instructor, the time spent practicing  is 100% dependent on you. Fortunately, there are some very minor and subtle ways to stay dedicated to learning the guitar.

1. Learn with a Friend

A lot of people will seek a friend to teach them the guitar, but very few will seek someone to help learn the guitar with. There are several benefits to learning a new musical instrument with a friend, namely the issue of accountability. When you learn to play guitar alone, the only person who will challenge or hold you accountable is yours truly. However, when you learn with a friend, you both should (and will) push each other.

2. Reference You Tube

You Tube is filled with plenty of garbage that will never advance your brain cells, however the site also offers a nice selection of informative and instructional footage. This is especially the case when in regards to learning to play the guitar. You Tube is absolutely filled with home-made videos (some better than others) which show you everything from how to play the G chord to nailing the solo in “Free Bird”, like this one for example:

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Whenever you are having a frustrating day with the guitar, reference one of your favorite video lessons on the site. Something made you appreciate or enjoy this particular video and you’ll likely rekindle that desire to play again after you watch it.

3. Follow a Guitar Blog

As is the case with You Tube, the internet is riddled with blogs. And just like You Tube, some are much better than others. Regardless, you should subscribe to at least one or two informative guitar blogs. The content is often added weekly (if not daily) and is filled with plenty of useful material relevant to learning to play the guitar in today’s world.

4. Join a Forum

Guitar forums bring together individuals of similar interest from all over the world. Forums are very resourceful for a variety of reasons. Exhibit A, forums are terrific for questions and concerns you encounter during the learning phase. If you are stuck on a particular lesson in the book, it’s very difficult to ask the book for any other advice not included in the contents. However, a forum can help solve your dilemma. Please keep in mind that forums are not bulletproof, meaning that not everyone’s advice for the solution is plausible or even true. Make sure you also do your own research, as everyone can pretend to be an expert online.

5. Make a Financial Commitment

The guitar is an investment in itself, but you should take it a step further. In today’s day and age, not everyone needs a private instructor. However, you should invest in some type of course to help direct your efforts. This could range from a standard book on learning the guitar to something as detailed and complex as an actual online course. If you are interested in something like this, check out JamPlay or Learn & Master Guitar. Both of these courses are highly recommended by guitarists.

Intro to Major Chords – E and G Major

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Chords are exciting and difficult for beginners. They’re exciting because it means you’re getting closer to playing a full song, they’re frustrating because you’re going to need your fingers to move in ways they have never had to before.

There’s a lesson video below that fully explains the tab and shapes for these chords. It would be good to read through this brief article and then also watch the video.

Tips Before Starting

When you first learn chords proper technique is important. Remember to use the tips of your fingers and keep your thumb flush on the back of the neck.  Also below I talk about finger numbers, your fingers are numbered one to four starting with your index finger (1) to your pinky (4).

Let’s get started…

The E major Chord

E – 0 –
B – 0 –
G – 1 –
D – 2 –
A – 2 –
E – 0 –

To play the E chord you use your first three fingers. Finger two is placed on the 2nd fret of the B string, finger three is placed on the 2nd fret of the G string and your first finger is placed on the first fret of the D string. Play all six strings when you strum.

The G major Chord

E – 3 –
B – 0 –
G – 0 –
D – 0 –
A – 2 –
E – 3 –

To play the G chord you also use the first three fingers on your hand. Place your second finger on the 3rd fret of the low E string, your first finger on the 2nd fret of the A string and your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the high E string. All six strings should be strummed when playing the G chord.

Practice Tips

When learning chords proper technique is a must. It takes time for your fingers to feel comfortable making these shapes on the guitar neck. I suggest start by making the shape correctly then squeezing your hand and fingers and then releasing them. Next make the shape again and repeat. This will help create muscle memory in your fingers.

Also learning to play slowly and then adding speed and changing between chords is better then trying to do it right away and getting frustrated. All things worth learning take time!

Interested in learning more beginner guitar chords and techniques? Why not consider trying a beginner guitar dvd? Self study programs such as dvd and online videos are quickly becoming the new private guitar lessons of the 21st century.